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Those Extra Keen:Vorticons Levels

Posted: Fri Jun 17, 2022 8:35 am
by Pandakeen
First and foremost: I know there's a 32 level patch for all Vorticons episodes. BUT, I'm currently working on a Keen 2 mod that's designed around not using a single patch (other than text patches), much like Planet of Agony. And I kind of want to have more than 16 levels.

So anyways, in some early mods, like XkyKeen1, levels 22 and 29 were used for extra levels. There might be even more slots which work. And those seem to work in Keen 2 as well.
The most obvious downside is that they don't have DONE signs when completed. Trying to re-enter them causes the screen to fade in and out for a second without ever leaving the world map. But I'm wondering if there's any more downsides to them.

Though I can't find those posts right now, I think I remember seeing some people had issues with the extra levels back in the day. They don't give me any issues (other than the aforementioned lack of a DONE sign) for me in DOSBox 0.74-3 from what I've tested, but if this were to run on real hardware (of which I don't currently have access to) would it still work reliably?

I don't want to use it if it's too unreliable on real hardware.

Re: Those Extra Keen:Vorticons Levels

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2022 8:43 am
by Quillax
Back in this forum's early days, there was a good discussion about extra levels: viewtopic.php?t=195&sid=0817910888b99d6 ... de91fd2f59

I'd particularly like to highlight two posts, which point out the potential risks and side-effects of using extra levels without the 32-level patch:
adurdin wrote: Fri Jan 23, 2004 11:36 am The difference with the 30 level patch and just using other level numbers is twofold: (1) the 30 levels all get marked as "Done" when you finish them and retain this status when you save and re-load a game, and (2) you can *always* do them: if you just make other levels, you end up essentially writing the "Done" status of levels into a part of memory used for other variables, which results in not being able to enter some levels, or sometimes being able to enter levels more than once. Not good.
levellord wrote: Fri Jan 23, 2004 9:45 pm Indeed, this can have interesting consequences:

If a game is saved the level becomes 'undone' and can be re-entered.

The level will can be placed in two or more places in the map and will work if acessed from both of them, unlike 'normal' levels that sometimes go all cross tiled.

The levels I included are realitivly bug free; they can usually be done even if some of the regular levels are done, re-entry merely puts you back on the map, a small inconsistency for the versitility offered.

The teleporter patch has interesting consequences for these levels, turning them into teleports to random parts of the map.
From my experience, extra levels (without the patch) can be pretty unreliable, even on DOSBox. It seems that quite often, if I die (sometimes in certain levels), I'm unable to enter the extra levels, even if I've never played them before in my current run. Basically, the screen just fades in and out as if I've already beaten them. I haven't played mods like XkyKeen1 on "real hardware" (does Windows 98 count?), but I'd think it wouldn't be much different.

If you plan on adding extra levels, I'd always make them optional in case something like the issue I described were to happen. You could also make some levels out of two or three highly separate pathways, which would be like extra levels for the price of less. You could even make some levels change after each playthrough like what Hiding From The Sky did with the cave maze level. I believe that was done not through patching but with batch file code.

Re: Those Extra Keen:Vorticons Levels

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2022 9:42 am
by Pandakeen
Ah, okay. I didn't actually test it that thoroughly, so I didn't notice any of that stuff.
I would've simply used them for optional levels anyways, but it does seem like a bit of a hassle. Probably not worth it.

Re: Those Extra Keen:Vorticons Levels

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2022 4:56 pm
by Benvolio
I recall memory being a big issue with extra levels in mods in the early days. At the time I used Windows 98 (much as I love it, it's not original hardware!!). Also windows ME before I deliberately downgraded. My situation improved a lot when I figured out how to create dedicated boot disks using tricks such as HIMEM.SYS to increase memory available to games.

I did briefly play a few mods on ancient hardware - having transferred by parallel port from my modern PC of the time. Again memory was really a squeeze and mods struggled with extra levels. Fortunately it is mainly a case of the level being ignored by the game so technically it can still be a workable solution. Like you said yourself Pandakeen, best make those levels optional!