Counter-post to the thread on the PCKF

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
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Counter-post to the thread on the PCKF

Post by XkyRauh » Thu Aug 03, 2006 8:27 pm

Alright, K:M regulars. I posted a thread over at the PCKF's infant-sized Modding forum, asking non-modders what they want to see in a mod. Here's your space to return fire: What do we want in a mod? What do you look for, what do you get excited about? :) What keeps you coming back for more mods?

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Post by KeenRush » Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:16 pm

I personally like how the original Keen game engine is used and tweaked to something different; how the original game is modified anew. And most of all, I like limits. Modifying the original game sets certain limits, and I like to see all kinds of cool things possible within these limits. I'm not interested in the fan games at all. Mods are something different. They have more Keenishness in them. And not only because they use about 99.9% the same great binary than the original games. :)

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Graphics, story, levels: exploration and mystery

Post by CommanderSpleen » Fri Aug 04, 2006 1:16 am

The graphics and story tend to be the two main contributing factors to my enjoyment of a mod, with level design following closely.

There are some mods where, as soon as I start the game, or enter the first level, I'm just awestruck at the artwork and sit there for a minute staring, jaw agape. If a mod can keep introducing new things like that throughout, it's got me hooked.

However, if they simply recycle the same graphics through every level, and indeed across the entire map, I tend to lose interest. Although somehow XkyKeen 1 and 2 held my interest fairly well even though most of the levels have the same graphics--perhaps due to the interesting level design?

The storyline is important. I want to feel like I'm part of something that's really happening, with an air of mystery. This is one reason I'm not so fond of Benvolio's mods--his stories tend to put the characters in situations they just don't seem to fit (musical Keen made no sense to me). Though they do have a certain charm to them, it's just not enough to keep me playing the game through to the end.

The original games didn't really mention the underlying villain until the end of each trilogy. If I'm told "Mort's trying to destroy the Universe again--go destroy his hideout" it doesn't leave much to the imagination.

The map needs to be more than just a representation of the levels, too. It needs to feel alive, and there need to be things that are difficult to reach but right in front of me. I want to be taunted with undiscovered mysteries.

Huge, difficult levels that I need to repeat a hundred times before I get it all right in one go just don't appeal to me. They shouldn't be a walk in the park (though I'm sure there's room for one or two levels of that nature) and don't necessarily need to be small.

But if there's a series of five monumental challenges that have an 80% chance of killing me first try, and the same again after I've repeated them 10 times and lose patience, making more mistakes, I'm going to get bored and possibly angered quickly.

I broke most of these rules with the Monky Business beta, but I intend to base the final release more around exploration than annoying obstacles.

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Post by Freeyorp101 » Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:09 am

Level design and graphics pose the greatest interest for me.
Huge, difficult levels that I need to repeat a hundred times before I get it all right in one go just don't appeal to me. They shouldn't be a walk in the park (though I'm sure there's room for one or two levels of that nature) and don't necessarily need to be small.
I actually enjoy tricky levels, though I may be the minority with that.


Single time artwork is brilliant: the starting position of xkykeen1 was great, and to start with I wasn't too sure what was going on! :) The tantalus machines in keen2 were great at first, though after they repeated enough I started to lose interest.

The mangling machine in keen3 was one of the best single occuring graphics in the origional keen games I thought.

Plotline twists are great, particularly with humor. The oracle janitor in keen4 and the double parking joke in keen5 was brilliant.

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Post by KeenRush » Fri Aug 04, 2006 9:22 am

Yeah, forgot to mention, perhaps because it seems to be obvious, level design is a big factor. It's interesting to see all kinds of neat level designs. XkyKeen2 is worth a honourable mention.

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Post by levellord » Fri Aug 04, 2006 11:52 am

In order of importance:

1.) A good and sensible story. This fires my imagination and makes the rest of the game more fun. Or less.

2.) 'Just so' levels. Not too hard, but not a cakewalk. This makes playing the actual game either bearable or a nightmare.

3.) Good graphics. I like eye candy

4.) Inventiveness. Little surprises and easter eggs that pique my curiousity and make me think 'why didn't *I* think of that?!'

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Post by XkyRauh » Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:06 pm

I'm absolutely amazed to hear the primary response so far is "Story!" ... I'll have to get my nuts and bolts in order, in that regard.

What draws me to a mod, more than anything, is level design. A level that has a particular flow, or pacing, will keep me playing even if it kills me time after time. Hiding from the Sky, Keys of Krodacia, and Search for the Sentinel all had parts in them that had me genuinely feeling a groove, eager to get on to the next level.

Art direction is fantastic as a one-shot "ooh, ahh" type thing--the entire concept of Lego Keen, the ideas presented in parts of the Norp trilogy, and even Bunny Basher made me grin enough to warrant exploring the whole game. I suppose in this regard, LevelLord's mods are at a huge disadvantage, because seeing recycled tiles/sprites/etc. tends to diminish my interest.

Needless to say, a level built around an artistic idea will make me smile--especially if it's not necessarily immediately obvious. Certain elements of the Monky Business beta and the quirky art style of the Ian Burton Adventure have got me excited for potential levels which defy all logic.

Individual dangers within a level, in my mind, are insignificant, because they are a part of the overall whole of the presentation--here is a level which consists of X, Y, and Z, but is itself an entirely whole product. Levels which tend to concentrate on each individual danger as its own feat drive me insane. Yes, this is an admission that I still have no chance of defeating Episode Smile. :) I'm no match for 30,000 individual challenges, if that makes sense.

So developer's notes for myself: Nail the story better... it's setting the stage for everything!

...and somebody kick the PCKF in the pants--not a single non-modder has responded yet! :(

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Post by Stealthy71088 » Fri Aug 04, 2006 7:18 pm

I like a good story. The story can say things the levels can never say, and vice versa. I often times wish there was more storyline information on the various sprites in a given mod. Xky told me sometime around when I got keen6 that according to the instruction booklet, (which didn't come with the game), the bloogs built almost everything following the designs of the fleex. He said the bloogs were clumsy, so keen probably was only able to get through because the bloogs made errors. That little bit of information was in my mind the entire time I played the game, and made the game much more interesting. I also like humor in the storyline. I wish there was some way to make the levels themselves funny, outside of an occasional message here or there.

In terms of level design, I like something different. I like seeing how patches and the engine can be combined to create something completely different from what was originally there. Or taking some concept that everyone knows about and tweaking it, using it in a different way from everyone else. I like seeing the limits of what appears to be possible being stretched and stretched. All of LL's mods reflect this, and I try to do this as well.

For graphics, I like to see the graphics evolve from level to level. I can be amazed by the graphics in the opening level, but when I find that it's all the same 4 or 5 levels later, it isn't as special as it was.

I'm always impressed by the sprite graphics. Sprites that have been heavily patched are always more interesting than non-patched ones, but for some reason, seeing a unique creature is always a + in my book. I've cheated in mods just because I wanted to see what the other sprites looked like.

Another thing about level design: I like every level to be different from the last. If they all have similar concepts, like Benvolio's often mazelike levels, I tend to get a little bored. (of who I have played through I think 5 mods, with plans to play more.) Ultimately the level design is probably the most important part of a mod, because the player spends more time in a level than anything else. Games that have levels which tell stories in themselves are rare, but interesting. For example, suppose you have a game in some dark possessed forest. In the beginning of the forest, you have nice, bright, healthy trees, similar to cosmo1 level 3 or Hocus Pocus2 level 7-9. As you go deeper into forest level wise, the trees become a little darker, and less friendly. At the center of the forest, the sky is pitch black, and the trees have come alive and look like they are trying to eat you. The Search for the Sentinel has something like this in its levels. In the beginning, the aliens on the planet (I forget what they are called) start a little annoyed with you. As time goes on, they try to rally together against you, attacking you with swords, armored with swords, and eventually even tanks. At the end of the game, you face a partially organized army on a battlefield!

Finally, I like seeing openings to areas that for some reason I can't enter until much later, but I know they are there. If someone made a game with levels that you could reenter after leaving, and keys that never left your inventory but could open doors, you could make it so you had to find the keys somewhere in the game, which opened up new areas in all the levels to explore. In one of these areas would be one of the 4 parts if it was a keen4 mod. That would be an incredible mod idea if someone wants to use it.

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Post by XkyRauh » Fri Aug 04, 2006 8:31 pm

Stealthy, some of what you're describing is often coined as "Metroid/Castlevania style exploration" gameplay, where the player is presented with an environment full of obstacles that are impossible to overcome in their initial state--but through discovery of powerups, keys, and general mastery of the controls, players become able to access new areas, even in places they thought they'd cleared.

To be honest, I think games like that are the absolute hardest to playtest, since you have to (attempt to) fool-proof each area against shortcuts... sequence-breaking and glitching can make these 4-hour explore-a-thons into 10 minute walks in the park if you don't put the full properties on the right tile(s).

We can't really do anything that complex with KeenMods, anyway--that's something FanGames are much better suited for, but then again, since they require heaps more work, they're even less likely to be produced. :(

The closest we can come, I think, to the "I can see stuff but can't get it" in our Keen games is to either hide a false wall very well, or put a key-door fetch quest. Keen4+ offers us switches and poles to toy with, allowing for really unusually placed secrets, but Keen1-3 really don't lend themselves to the 'explorative' gameplay types.

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Post by grelphy » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:33 am

I'd never really considered the story, but in retrospect, it actually makes up a big part of how much I like a mod. Mostly I look for keenishness - does this make sense? Would Keen/Mort/other character actually do that?

After that comes level design. Despite my own tendency to make tight, restrictive levels, I'm a big fan of the "big room" school of level design. With plenty of open space, creatures can come out of anywhere, hidden areas are actually hidden and not just hard to get to, and the entire game feels bigger, even if the levels are kind of small. More than any particular style of level though, I like to see puzzles. Mental challenge, not just reflex tests. Monky Business's door maze was a perfect example.

I put graphics and patching relatively low. Of course, very bad graphics ruin a mod, but I don't notice much difference between good graphics and OMFG!!! graphics.

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Post by Benvolio » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:59 pm

My main interest is graphics in a mod. More recently (the last year and a half) i've been more impatient with levels. I think my more recent levels are a bit more reasonable than my earlier ones, though i can fully understand how they can be annoying. What makes a mod good for me is striking, varied graphics. I also like things with a thematic relevance to each other in levels, like the toys in Ceilicks first mod. As for story, i nowadays sometimess don't even bother to read the stories of mods. The best type of Keen story is a funny witty one, such as Bazooka Wowbagger.

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