DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
User avatar
XkyRauh
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:14 pm
Location: San Diego, California

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by XkyRauh » Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:48 pm

Now that we've finally made it to the rocket and used our Keycard to access the satellite base (which, for whatever reason, was inaccessible via the Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket) we are presented with two levels! Let's visit the Bloogbase Management District first (also on Abiathar) since it's the one I always skipped as a kid.

Of all the Keen6 levels, this is the one I'm least familiar with. It was simply too hard for young me. Given that only one of the two satellite levels was required to gain access to the Bloog Control Center, that meant this level was hardly ever visited, unless I was feeling particularly deft at dispensing justice with an iron hand. :)

I don't think I ever made it past the gun room in the middle of the map without cheating. Looking at the map in Abiathar reveals that those falling platforms couldn't actually fall into the goo, which is news to me--I always panicked and jumped as quickly as I could when they began sinking, making the timing of jumps around the shooting guns even more complicated. I remember feeling overwhelmed in that room. (Looking at the map, though, is there any reason to ascend the poles near the guns, other than the pizza slices? I suppose on Hard, the static platforms wouldn't be present, so a trip around the top would be necessary..?)

The background elements in this level, particularly the large electrified structure, are pretty cool--it's a shame the level blocks out whatever is casting a shadow on the far right. (What other reason would there be for those specific background tiles there near the edge and the sodas?)

This is one of the first levels that comes to mind when I think of points being laid out in a way that makes completionists gnash their teeth. Many of the points are placed inconveniently here, requiring slower or more methodical player movement to obtain them all. I always appreciate when a mapper makes points in arcs and trails that encourage player movement in a particular direction, or guide the player toward a goal. By comparison, many of the point shapes in this level seem intentionally difficult to collect rapidly.

The prospect of backtracking through the slimy gun room to get two additional pizza slices and a handful of other goodies is laughably weak--especially given the three hidden sundaes in the same room as the switch. I don't think I've EVER bothered. At least that secret is on par with the optional platform ride in Bloogwaters Crossing...

User avatar
Ceilick
Deputy Administrator
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 2:35 am

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Ceilick » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:54 am

I've always seen this level as super amateur, like this was someone who had maybe made some platformer levels before (or at least had a vague idea of how they should be) and kind of made a trail from one side to the other with some hazards along the way, maybe tried for something intricate in the middle, and then threw out some piles of points, all while ignoring the backdrop behind the foreground (or maybe it was dropped in at the end) resulting in an absolutely terrible aesthetic and lacking visual integration. I don't have access to the game so can't play this level to be sure, but judging by looking at the level alone, it seems that designer was unaware of the pogo stick mechanic and how it can be used to access items without using certain goplats and how the first goplat switch doesn't seem even necessary.

There is way too much solid cyan foreground at the start of this level. The secret areas don't justify or make it interesting, it's just poorly used space. If there aren't tiles to make the foreground interesting, at least raise the 'roof' of the level so we have more of the blue sky and vertical exploration (the goplat ride would be far more interesting if it took us up where we couldn't see from the platforms) and get rid of the stupid hazard tile ceiling.

In general I think this level would be more interesting if more of it were in the sky rather than in pits sunken into the background. This would help with improving the visual aesthetic and depth of field, and the sky is just more interesting and a unique place to explore in respect to the rest of the game.

The gun room seems overly difficult, particularly because on hard it looks like some goplats don't spawn and it is essential to ride the Gik? Is there anywhere else in the game where riding the Gik is essential? Between the radioactive floor, the wall guns, the gik, and having to jump to navigate, it's all kind of a huge spike in difficulty.
The prospect of backtracking through the slimy gun room to get two additional pizza slices and a handful of other goodies is laughably weak--especially given the three hidden sundaes in the same room as the switch. I don't think I've EVER bothered.
Absolutely this. Don't make me backtrack from the end of the level to the beginning. I'm not sure any reward is worth the tedium.

levellass
Posts: 2886
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:03 pm
Location: Ngaruawahia New Zealand

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by levellass » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:07 am

This level is a nostalgic one for me, not particularly out of any intrinsic goodness, it's just that it's associated with memories of the first time I got Keen 6, trading floppy disks with classmates back before the dawn of the 'net. It took months of planning to arrange or someone I hardly knew to copy the game and bring it to school so that I could myself copy it to my (friend's) 50MB hard drive. Then it was more planning to be able to play the game. At the time there was an awards ceremony going on across the street, I declined to go because I wanted to enjoy the game. I streaked through it on the first playthrough, not really completing anything but just enjoying the atmosphere. I randomly chose this level over Recreational, not knowing either. (Rec is another nostalgic favorite of mine.) The rocket, the space theme, the stuff in the background...all was fresh and new that summer as the sun slowly set through the window. When I got to this level someone set off fireworks. It was perfect.

The level itself... eh. It's ok, but it makes some rookie mistakes. Not much else to say other than what's already been said. I have always hated the little grey boxes in the game... what are they? Why are they there? They just don't fit!

User avatar
XkyRauh
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:14 pm
Location: San Diego, California

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by XkyRauh » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:59 am

You mean the "OK" blocks? Yeah, they seem like an odd design choice.

Benvolio
Posts: 213
Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 4:44 pm
Location: Ireland
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Benvolio » Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:05 pm

The OK blocks remind me a bit of some of the (many) really crappy looking details from my own mods, and I can understand to some extent how they end up in the game. They probably drew that tile relatively early in the production of the game, and probably got used to its presence to they point that their minds ceased to take note of it and eventually didn't occur to them to remove or review. The graphical quality of the level otherwise is excellent as was the case for the whole of Keen6, with the blue gradiented background particularly appealing. I definitely agree that the level design is poor, whereas for the most part I would consider Keen6 to have had good level design. The important thing is that, given its relatively uninspired design, it is a reassuringly short level that doesn't add tedium to the game.

User avatar
Fleexy
Site Admin
Posts: 482
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:33 am
Location: Blogham Tower
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Fleexy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:31 am

Alright, let's take the other path through the space wall: the Bloogbase Recreation District. You can view this level in Abiathar Online or play it on Keen Modding Live!

User avatar
Nisaba
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:15 pm
Location: patch.pat
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Nisaba » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:53 am

ahhhhh FLEEEEXXXXYYYY!
once again you outdid yourself. awesome work. the full-screen button is excellent!
please allow me to ask for another feature. I'm still having problems using the [Alt] key without interfering with a couple of browser shortcuts. like the difficulty buttons it would be super helpful to have an optional button layout like:
  • [z] = pogo
  • [x] = jump
  • [c] = fire
the config.ck6 holds these kind of info if I'm not mistaken.

User avatar
Fleexy
Site Admin
Posts: 482
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:33 am
Location: Blogham Tower
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Fleexy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:41 pm

Ah, I had forgotten about that issue, thanks for the reminder. There's now another row of buttons that allows you to switch between the normal Control/Alt/Space layout and Z/X/C. If you're logged in (the exact way you do this is kinda janky and not public at the moment), it even remembers your preference. This works for all episodes. Note, though, that Keen Modding Live is still in development, so be prepared for stuff to break or get rearranged - I'm still working on it :)

User avatar
Nisaba
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:15 pm
Location: patch.pat
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Nisaba » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:26 am

ah, and I had forgotten that Z/X/C isn't the best option though cause not all keyboards use the standard QWERTZ layout. a couple of European countries use the QWERTZ layout instead. which means the Z button is not so easy to reach with such keyboards... if you could, please definite X/C/V instead. sorry for the inconvenience.

anyways, it's real good to hear that you are working on it. this is a truly fantastic feature. I always wished for such an option. this could be used for letting people playtest things or upload demos and so many other possibilities! I'm absolutely excited about this. good job so far! I'm looking for updates.

User avatar
XkyRauh
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:14 pm
Location: San Diego, California

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by XkyRauh » Sat Mar 24, 2018 6:42 pm

This level always felt so exciting and rewarding to me, when I first played Keen6. It felt like... I dunno, like I'd arrived at the pinnacle of Bloog technology and civilization. :) Falling into the first little pit and seeing the little yellow detail at the base of the "Eat at Joe's" restaurant always made me wonder--is that a Bip? An Elevator? A Flect hanging out and being shady? I dunno. But I loved that little yellow detail. The posters on the wall and the gradient background combine to make this level feel special, to me.

The level itself is pretty unremarkable, with the standard door-key gating and a simple layer effect to pad playtime. I never really played the left half of the level. Once I found out about walking IN THE SKY to get to the hidden exit, that was my choice route every time. Probably the reason I enjoyed the level so much was the novelty of the secret, combined with the rather low overall difficulty.

For what it's worth, I do find it interesting that only the right half of the level has detail tiles in the background--rips, tears, posters, decor... the left half is much more clean and sterile. Considering this is the Recreational District, I suppose I can understand why? If I were to change parts of the level, I'd definitely give the left side a more "lived in" feeling than it currently has.

The right building has 3 floors, but they are all unique, with the bottom floor having an upper space, giving the building an irregular overall shape. The left building has 3 floors, but they are very similar/organized. How could we change the left building to make it more interesting?

User avatar
Ceilick
Deputy Administrator
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 2:35 am

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Ceilick » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:00 am

I really like this level and I think the numerous slopes really compliment the bip ships. I never noticed the sparse nature of the second half of the level, but Xky is right, there really should be some details over there. I actually really like the symmetry of the building on the left side, but what I don't like about it is how compact, full of enemies, and the upper and center path don't really lead anywhere interesting, and it would be hard to make them more interesting without really reworking the ending switch 'puzzle'.

User avatar
XkyRauh
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:14 pm
Location: San Diego, California

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by XkyRauh » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:23 am

Alright, then, let's get on with finishing Keen6. Before the final level, let's visit Blooglab Space Station! Check it on Abiathar Online, too.

The tri-color archway you enter on your way into the level always sticks in my memory as something that made this level special. It FELT hidden and secret, and this doorway (which I don't think appears anywhere else) really made the moment magical for me.

Looking at it in the editor, this level really doesn't do much that's special, but it took all of my favorite moments from Fribbulous Xax and compacted them into one small level, which added to my fondness: There's a platform ride over sludge for optional points (with the appropriate Hazard warning), a looping platform that goes into the wall, and an exit that's very near the starting area. I don't know why those things all tickle me, but I found this level to be nearly perfect length, and with enough surprises that it stuck in my memory.

This was the first game I discovered the Standard Galactic Alphabet in, and I remember eagerly trawling through Keen4 and 5 to translate everything. The big note at the end of Keen5 was the big payoff! I will say I find it a little frustrating that if you miss the platform exit from that area, you've no choice but to suicide on the spiky ball. I'm glad they added it, but I'm disappointed there wasn't a better solution. If ever there was a time for a door teleporter like Keen5, this would be the place! It could even spit you out where the Yellow Gem Blooglet was! (although the risk of getting Blorbed would be a random chance thing...)

This level also had my favorite moment in all of Keen: Blooglet Surfing! On the very last pole before the exit, I liked to time a slide-down to end up on the Blooglet's head, and let him carry me out to the Exit. :D

55Aavenue
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:19 pm

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by 55Aavenue » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:50 am

Ah, the tri-color archway! I found that very memorable as a kid too. The other thing that stands out in my memory is the three blorbs bouncing outside the level. On easy mode, I think these are the only three blorbs that appear in the game (unless I'm remembering wrong). So when I was very young and playing through the game the first few times on easy, they fascinated me. I remember thinking there must be a way to get out there and kept trying to find away outside the level. Little did I know that actual secret was below the blorbs, as I never found the Keen 6 SGA secret as a kid. My SGA translation came from Keen 3.

From a level design perspective I think it okay, not one of my favourites, but certainly not one of my least favourites either. Overall, I like it. One thing I don't like though, is how the blorb in the green gem room often bounces around behind the foreground in the top area where the elevator takes you. It gets up there a lot and and then you have to sit and wait for it to bounce out. If it gets up there while you're already there, you either die or jump quickly back out and wait. Sometimes when you enter the room its already behind the foreground and if you don't remember that room has a blorb on normal/hard, you ride the elevator up behind the wall and then unexpectedly die. I don't think a blorb is a good enemy choice for a room of this nature.

Regarding the secret SGA room, I agree that platform is not good exit method. Why not just have a regular door in that room that spits you out one of those duct looking things? This would make it only an exit door. This door exiting out a vent duct is used twice in the last level of Keen 6, why not here?

User avatar
Fleexy
Site Admin
Posts: 482
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:33 am
Location: Blogham Tower
Contact:

Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Fleexy » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:14 pm

Play this level on Keen Modding Live!

This is a really fun level! The atmosphere [insert joke here about there being no atmosphere in space] is cool - I think the station background is unique to this level. I seem to remember the music being cool too, though KML doesn't currently do the level's original music. Not having any Bloogs here was the right choice; the late-game creatures are perfect. Even the Flects, which also appeared back in the non-high-tech areas of the planet, have a cleanliness/elegance with their mirror. When creating levels, it's sometimes tempting to just sprinkle enemies around without regard for what fauna would actually be in the environment. This level does environment well.

I have mixed feelings about so much happening behind front tiles. The string of points on the ride to the green key was a nice touch, to let the player know movement is happening in a good direction. Unfortunately it's possible for Blorbs to bonk around unseen for a while and kill with no warning (except possibly bouncing sounds).

Post Reply