New Trilogy

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New Trilogy

Post by Wayniac » Mon May 25, 2015 6:56

I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Wayne and I have been a huge fan of Commander Keen since I was barely old enough to talk. One of my dad's friends brought it over and installed it on our first computer (CK6) and it was the first platformer I had ever played. I must have been about five years old at the time.

Not knowing at the time that it was the sixth one in the series, you could imagine my excitement when I became a little older and found there were several other CK games that I could play!

Fast forward to college -- I replayed Keen 4-6 every now and then because they're such great games... and then it happened. I graduated from college, joined the Air Force, and upon searching the internet for any hope of a new Commander Keen title, I found this site. And I learned of CK 7-9!!! (thank you Ceilick!) I immediately read all about them and was incredibly excited to learn that they are fan made and are widely accepted as the next trilogy in the series. That night I downloaded them all and FORCED myself to play just one level per day, so I could cherish the feeling of the new game. So I could hold onto the excitement and rediscover my childhood.

And I realized that I wanted to be a part of this great community. The problem was that I didn't have time to build or put work into my own mods. Why? Because I very much have the attitude that if I'm going to make a mod for a game like this, I'm going to do it right and I'm going to do it well. Period.

Fast forward to now. I live in Los Angeles and I'll be separating from the military to play poker full time in nine months. And loads of free time will open up.

I very much would like to create a trilogy. I am serious and I am dedicated. I want to do it and I want to do it well! My problem is that I'm somewhat lost on how to approach it all.

I have many great ideas, some of which I wrote down from back when I was only twelve years old. I used to have dreams about what I would do if I had the opportunity to make a Commander Keen game.

So I guess I am asking all of you for guidance. I want to stay as true to Commander Keen as possible. Is there a way I can run a possible storyline by people to throw ideas around? What about maybe recruiting some help?

As far as I know, "Mirror Menace" is the first part of the newest trilogy (please correct me if I'm wrong). I have devised a story that could easily fit onto the end of any trilogy and immediately allow us all to go right into the next three episodes.

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated!
"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden

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Post by troublesomekeen » Mon May 25, 2015 7:53

Hello, Wayne! Welcome to the forums! Tis a fine bonny post you made there. A pleasure to read, says I.
Remember when I first joined the community? I was all about making a trilogy. What lofty goals! What ambitious heights! But now pixels are my nightmare and I am unable to achieve my dreams. :sick

My advice is this. First and foremost. I cannot stress the importance. It's not about learning about code or sprites or tiles or maps. Right now, it's about familiarizing yourself with Keen mods. As you know, there is Keen Vorticons, Keen Dreams, and Keen Galaxy. I started out modding Keen4, but ended up working on and releasing a Keen2 mod. Modding Galaxy is more complex.

You've already played Keen 7, 8 and 9, which is the best start any keener can have. But you also have to play The Eight Accumulators, The Terror from Outer Space, The Ruin of Roib, Valentine Bash, Underworld Ultimate, Zoltan's Revenge, and Mirror Menace. Good Lord, that's a lot of games.

You know what the original Keen games are like. As you're playing a mod, it's important to notice what's been changed about the game, what can be changed, how much one can change. Take Keen4 for instance. The Lick hops after Keen and breathes fire. In Keen 7, the graphics for the Lick us replaced by the Slurple, and the behavior is slightly altered, namely the hop height. This is very basic. Perhaps too basic. But it is nonetheless the first baby step into modding Commander Keen. Unless you're a genius, it's about finding what other people have done and building off of that. It's about understanding the limits and boundaries of the Keen games and figuring out what you can do within these boundaries.

So what can you do within these boundaries? That question will be answered as you play these mods. Once you get to know how keeners change stuff, you can start planning your changes. What new creatures will there be? What will they behave like? They could behave very similar to the original creatures. Where does your mod take place? And during what time? You do have room to splash some text up on a red canvas (F1 menu) to tell your story, but it's your artwork, your levels, your creatures that do most of the storytelling.

Keep in mind that other keeners might have used your ideas already in mods created years ago. That's what happened to me, and it bothered me. But don't let it bother you. The continuation of a Keen storyline can branch out into countless different directions. Make your own version of Keen 7-9, or make a follow-up story like The Eight Accumulators. Put your own episode in between Keen3 and Keen4. Do your thing your way.

This is a great time to be keening because Fleexy has made (and is continually working on) a level editor called Abiathar. There's video tutorials, a manual, the community... everyone is here to help.

Look at me. I didn't know squat about keening. But somebody helped. Ceilick made a tutorial. Levellass and others helped with patches and the KeenWiki. I tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and finally understood how things work on a basic level. Now I know how to extract graphics and edit them, import them into the game, use patches, draw tiles, build levels, etc, etc. I learned how to do it. It's overwhelming, but it's possible. It is survivable. I am living proof of it. And thanks to Fleexy, all of this is easier than ever before. You don't have to be a genius. You don't have to have foreknowledge of hacking or modding. It's easy to make mistakes. It's time consuming. It's frustrating. It's rewarding. It's glorious. It's keening. You are Wayne. And by golly, you will be a keener.

We also have a forum dedicated to moddy kind of things:
Poke around in some of the topics and read what kind of questions keeners have asked over the years.
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Post by Wayniac » Mon May 25, 2015 8:48

Thanks for the reply! I have quite a bit of experience in coding and working with computer related things. My degree is in Computer Engineering and while in the Air Force, my main job was programming various simulations (can't get too detail specific). And I've played the living crap out of Keen 1-9 (and Keen Dreams)! The mods I would want to make would be 4, 5, and 6 mods.

I'm aware that it is a lofty goal, but it is one that I'd really like to take on. Will it derail into something else? Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, but I'll say this -- this is something I've wanted to do for the last four years and now I'll have the time. I'm hoping that if my desire to do this wasn't killed off over the last four years, it won't be over the next four :)

Thanks for your feedback and advice!
"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden

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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Mon May 25, 2015 11:40

troublesomekeen wrote:You've already played Keen 7, 8 and 9, which is the best start any keener can have. But you also have to play The Eight Accumulators, The Terror from Outer Space, The Ruin of Roib, Valentine Bash, Underworld Ultimate, Zoltan's Revenge, and Mirror Menace. Good Lord, that's a lot of games.
I haven't even played Terror from Outer Space yet! :dead2

My advice would be to start with a vorticons mod, and mod very little.

Graphics (tiles, sprites, and menu stuff), levels, text. Making a reskin with a new story isn't so bad, but it still requires work. Levelpacks are even easier (you could make a levelpack in a day or two if you really rush it).

Medium level:
Adding new music and multiple tilesets, oh joy! ^_^ and a 32 level patch!

Enemy behavior, Keen's behavior, win conditions and game mechanics (basically anything that requires patches, which means knowing how to tinker with the hexadecimal in the .exe files in the exact right places in the exact right ways, which basically means going to keenwiki to find this stuff), sound effects (music's not too bad to add, but this... THIS, oh boy is it tedious to make pc speaker sounds, and you get only one sound file), complex backgrounds, because point items in Vorticons aren't sprites; they're tiles with the background on it, so you have to make sure it looks good with the background in your level. Complex backgrounds is even a problem in galaxy, not for the same reason, but because too many graphics and animated tiles on the screen causes it to crash.

I just finished Keen Meets the Meats and am open for business for a mod collaboration =) (this reminds me I haven't uploaded my Stardust level yet)
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Post by Levack » Mon May 25, 2015 20:37

I would advise reading Tom Hall's tips for level design.

Also avoid lots of long hallways to prevent LHS. (long hallway syndrm) :P

Maybe compare Keen 10's first version to the final version to see what not to do.

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Post by Wayniac » Mon May 25, 2015 21:46

Levack wrote:I would advise reading Tom Hall's tips for level design.

Also avoid lots of long hallways to prevent LHS. (long hallway syndrm) :P

Maybe compare Keen 10's first version to the final version to see what not to do.
Yeah. I actually watched an entire play through of Keen 10 on youtube side by side, first vs final versions. There's quite a huge difference!

Thanks for the tip!
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Post by szemi » Mon May 25, 2015 22:05

I'll release an ultimate revision of Keen 10 soon because of some crashes that happened on other computers, not only mine.

@Wayniac: Keen 11 is under development.
Yeah, piece of cake!

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Post by Gridlock » Fri May 29, 2015 20:46

Welcome to the forum! It's awesome to see your enthusiasm for Keen and your ambition to get involved in modding.

As others have said, it's a really great idea to familiarize yourself with the work of others, as this will give you an idea of what is possible with modding and may give you inspiration. There are so many diverse possibilities with modding that it may be tough to decide where to go with it, but I'm sure you already have a few ideas.

This where I get to the tough advice. It's one thing to have ideas, but to be able to implement them is where the real challenge lies. It's very easy to look at mods like Keens 7-9 and underestimate the monumental amount of work put into them. When you are modding, you have to put lots of time into every minute detail. Unless you are some crazy talented person, you'll probably encounter trouble with some of these tasks, and these can really bog down a project. Look at how long it took to release Keen 9 because of patching delays.

The biggest thing to keep in mind right now? Scope. Starting out with the intention to make a trilogy is way, way too ambitious. Don't be surprised if making a trilogy could take upwards of 10 years, depending on a number of factors. Heck, I've been working on a single mod for over 5 years now.

For the moment, I recommend starting small. A great way to learn modding is to start out by making levels and building out your skills from there. A good place to start would be either Keen 4 or Keen 5. Keen 5 might be slightly easier to work with from a level design perspective. I would recommend spending a good chunk of time familiarizing with the inner workings of Keen before you even attempt to make a serious mod.

The reason I'm giving you this advice is not to frighten you off but rather make sure you don't get discouraged if you can't immediately create your dream mod series. Keen modding is certainly not the hardest thing in the world, but it is more difficult and time-consuming than it may first appear. I might suggest aiming to finish one high-quality mod rather than an entire trilogy, at least for now.

With that said, good luck. There's plenty of people who can point you in the right direction if you need anything. If you want a place to start, I would check out Ceilick's Galaxy Modding Tutorial here: ... g_Tutorial

Checking out the Abiathar editor might also be a good idea.

The tricky thing about modding these days is that, while we can do much more than we could a few years ago, there are now so many more tools and choices, and this can make things quite complicated to keep track of. If you have any problems, you can come by the #KeenModding IRC channel and get help as well.
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Post by Wayniac » Sat May 30, 2015 3:28

I'm impressed by the amount of positivity in these forums. I have to tell you. Seriously, it's kind of amazing.

I am fairly familiar with the inner workings of Keen... I just haven't posted much in here. I've kind of just sat back and watched and read and experimented. I have spent time ready for when I get the free time I want and once my separation from the military was approved, I decided it's time to step in and make it happen.

I have a couple buddies who are interested in helping as well. It'll help to divide up some of the work. I'll heed your advice, though, and kind of take things one step at a time.

But I'm telling you, I will have a lot of time to devote to this soon enough. I'm very excited about all of it!
"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden

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Post by Fleexy » Sat May 30, 2015 18:31

Welcome to the PCKF! It's great to see new members get interested in modding so soon. Even nicer that you're already familiar with programming!

Some have said in this thread that you should wait until you've done insert task here, but I would encourage you to just jump in. Galaxy modding is a very large undertaking, and nobody gets all of it right the first try, but starting some self-guided exploration is always fun. The community and all of its documentation is here for you.

People have already mentioned some nice resources. Here's a list of my favorite destinations:
  • Ceilick's tutorial is a very nice summary of Galaxy modding, but it hasn't been updated in a while. (It still advocates the use of the old ModKeen EGAGRAPH editor rather than the more modern KeenGraph, for instance.) Still a nice place to go, especially for music and sound editing tips.
  • The Keen Modding forum is a very quiet place, but lots of useful patches and articles can be found there. Feel free to create an account and post if you have a question.
  • The KeenWiki is a shockingly complete encyclopedia on the Commander Keen games. It also has lots of patches (gameplay tweaks).
  • Ye olde Patch Index is the place to find patches that haven't been transcribed onto the KeenWiki yet.
  • The ModdingWiki has details on most common formats if you really want to get tinkering with low-level stuff. Careful, though, some information there isn't quite right, so take it with a grain of salt and do your own experiments to verify. If you create an account, you can update it with your findings.
  • CKGuy's is the place to go to download existing mods and level packs.
  • The #KeenModding IRC channel ([url=irc://]IRC protocol link[/url] | Mibbit online client join link) is where modders tend to hang out. It's kind of quiet, but if you say someone's name, it'll give them a little notification. Patience: it's a virtue. Someone friendly will help you in real time!
The Abiathar shameless plug section:
  • Abiathar is a level editor for Keen Galaxy and Dreams that can also do some other stuff. (Tileinfo, level song assignment, basic patches, initial workspace setup, etc.) If you have a question about or problem with Abiathar, please reply to the thread, private message me, or hop on the #KeenModding IRC channel.
  • The Abiathar video help YouTube series is where I demonstrate the use of various features of Abiathar, with voice-over. This is a reboot of an earlier series, so I'm still covering the basics. If you have a question, you can also leave a comment on one of those videos and I will either reply to you or make a new video about it!
  • The Abiathar manual is getting a bit out of date, but it might come in handy. (I hope to update it soon.) You can always press the question mark key in the program to see contextual help about the current tool.
Some long-time members who can help you:
  • Levellass and Lemm for new patches
  • Gridlock for seasoned advice on Galaxy modding
  • Syllypryde for level design tips and testing
  • NY00123 for file formats and programming
  • Anybody active on this forum can probably point you in the right direction
Again, I encourage you to start poking around with whatever tools catch your eye. If you run into a problem, post about it or join an IRC channel; somebody will help you. Keep regular back-ups of your progress - since we don't have access to the original format specs, our third-party tools sometimes mess up. (Fortunately, that seems to be pretty rare nowadays.) I use and highly recommend Dropbox. It syncs your stuff across devices and keeps every version of every file (even deleted ones) around for 30 days, so you can always roll back if something goes wrong.

Good luck and happy modding!


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Post by GoldenRishi » Tue Jun 02, 2015 23:45

Yeah, the stakes are very low with Keen mods/games. =P

In all honesty, it's a lot of work. It's a LOT more work than most people are aware of, tbh. But good luck, I hope you have fun!
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