Checkpoints

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Levellass
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Checkpoints

Post by Levellass » Sun Dec 24, 2017 21:56

A discussion on checkpoints in Keen levels originated in the Planet of Agony thread after Ceilick's post. At Ceilick's request, I've moved that conversation to this new thread. --Fleexy

This is a big issue for me right now, it's delaying the release of my mod while I consider it.


First, Galaxy. In galaxy checkpoints are almost pointless. You can save at any time, I for one never used the points because, why? I can just load my game and have my life and progress all there. As such I'm amazed Atroxian had them and interested in what people think. (As I may include them in my mod.)

In Keen Vorticons checkpoints make a lot of sense; there's no in-level saving so your only option is to restart the level when you die. That can be very VERY bad, and I think it's a drastic limitation on what you can do. You cannot make a level too large, to winding or too difficult without seriously aggravating your players. Anything that takes more than 5-10 minutes to complete is going to be hell to die near the end of. (And it pushes you to make the level hard to start but easier to finish.) Likewise very tricky but rewarding sidequests will be avoided since (quite likely) death erases all progress.

With Vorticon checkpoints more flexibility is added. The modder can create points in their levels where the player can, if they wish, save their progress. There's a cost (Lives) so death is not consequence free. (And a good modder will make it such that there is significant progress between points, so each are rewarding and death still has a punch.) To me it opens up so many options.


This brings me to my galaxy mod; I am considering three basic options, the first is leaving things mostly as-is; save and load games whenever. There needs to be a cost to them however since they render the lives system pointless. (Look at Shikadi Network, does he EVER restart his levels? No, he loads a game before Keen is even offscreen.) This is why I have in my last modette a save-scumming detector that prevents game saving being used to beat a single obstacle.

Second would be checkpoints like Atroxian Realm, but with game saving as it is that's rather pointless unless saved games did something like restore at a checkpoint of the start of the level.

Third would be the ability for the player to set up a 'marker' whenever they wanted, at the cost of a life. Dying wouldn't cost lives but would return the player to this marker. Loading a game would go to the level start. So the player could save their progress level-by-level but would have to ration their lives (Or marker points) to set markers in challenging parts of the level. This would, I feel, make lives important (As once you were out you couldn't make any more markers.) and make players take game saving seriously.

What does everyone think?
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Nisaba
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Re: Planet Of Agony (Keen 1 mod)

Post by Nisaba » Mon Dec 25, 2017 1:08

Levellass wrote:
Sun Dec 24, 2017 21:56
This brings me to my galaxy mod; I am considering three basic options, the first is leaving things mostly as-is; save and load games whenever. There needs to be a cost to them however since they render the lives system pointless. (Look at Shikadi Network, does he EVER restart his levels? No, he loads a game before Keen is even offscreen.) This is why I have in my last modette a save-scumming detector that prevents game saving being used to beat a single obstacle.

Second would be checkpoints like Atroxian Realm, but with game saving as it is that's rather pointless unless saved games did something like restore at a checkpoint of the start of the level.

Third would be the ability for the player to set up a 'marker' whenever they wanted, at the cost of a life. Dying wouldn't cost lives but would return the player to this marker. Loading a game would go to the level start. So the player could save their progress level-by-level but would have to ration their lives (Or marker points) to set markers in challenging parts of the level. This would, I feel, make lives important (As once you were out you couldn't make any more markers.) and make players take game saving seriously.

What does everyone think?
Well, Shikadi Network not only makes the archivment of these extra lives redundant but also kills the spirit of the game. Saving 5 seconds after level start, c'mon, you can do better than that. Why playing these games on hard difficulty when saving right before every obstacle? but that's a different story...

I would vote for a combination of Checkpoints and loosing one life when loading a savegame. Otherwise checkpoints will get useless. Atroxian Realm invented this beautiful technique, but lacks for a good savegame solution. You can still bypass the "do I have enough lives issue".
As said before, the player should feel the need of exploring the level in order to gather enough points and extra lives, so she can trade them everytime she feels the need to load from a save state. In my opinion this would be a good combination of keeping the excitment high but also providing places to rest for a sec and take a deep breath.
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Zilem
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Re: Planet Of Agony (Keen 1 mod)

Post by Zilem » Mon Dec 25, 2017 13:33

Levellass wrote:
Sun Dec 24, 2017 21:56
In galaxy checkpoints are almost pointless. You can save at any time, I for one never used the points because, why? I can just load my game and have my life and progress all there. As such I'm amazed Atroxian had them and interested in what people think. (As I may include them in my mod.)

(Shortened to prevent a double wall post)
Isn't this really a Topic on it's own?

I like how Atroxian used the live tokens, as when you "respawned" at last checkpoint you lost a life token.

But if it costed you a life token, if you loaded a game while being in a game, in level or on world map
et might discourage save scumming as they they had the quit the "Quit current game" to not be charged a life token
which also means you can return to where you last stopped the game at no cost, like normal

(now upon reading Nisaba's replay to Levellass, I realize we pretty wrote the same idea <.<; )

Levels that earns you at least 2 extra life's, and give you the option to start the level over before exiting the game
opens the window to life token grinding, by the actual item, fragments (Droplets etc) and by points
at least points double it's requirement each time, if it was a fixed number that could get out of hands....
as any level that gives you say 2 lives, gives the player the option to grind up to 99 lives.

There also is the thing that Hairmonster does, where he trade in life tokens for Stunner ammo
an interesting use of life tokens,
kind of like a Warcraft warlock, Trade 15% of their Max HP to instant restore 20% Mana max

I think a challenge is supposed to mechanical hard, not artificial by numbers (especially if your power is also number based)
> not just more enemies, but a harder combination of enemies (threat assessment and target priority)
> not higher health pulls for your enemies and less for you, increased damage taken should be both ways (Metro 2033's Ranger mode)
> a More difficult arena layout (which you can't save doing)
> you have to dodge several enemy attacks and slowly take them the enemy (Boss/Champion fight)
> scaling down to amount of ammo you get from pickups, but that relay on an option to sneak by (like an unseen shadow), assassinating/subdue unaware enemies before they can alert others, a fall back melee weapon
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Re: Planet Of Agony (Keen 1 mod)

Post by PaquoCastor » Mon Dec 25, 2017 19:36

So I downloaded this a while ago, but just now played a bit, some interesting things here and there. I liked that red key on the second level, having to jump under the tiles like that. I got to the second half of three and four but finished neither.

I think Ceilick is right about checkpoints, I had more fun with Atroxian when I was ignoring them, some odd placement if you ask me (and my player greed.) Recently I've been stricken with the sweet allure of the quick save, thanks Doom. If long levels are necessary, then optional checkpoints would benefit a certain play style. I mean I love punchy levels myself (see Perdition's Gate for Doom II,) but I think BTSX-E1 did it right, a nice mix of different styles with good pacing. Makes the length and difficulty fell right. Episode 2 seemed to bog down in the middle due to the over-concentration of long and hard levels, even forgoing the secret slaughter map. Although "Bingo Pool Hall of Blood" did take me like a week to conquer.

Now I just would like to post my 0.02 on game design. First, a product is not finished if the author refuses to relinquish ownership. Second, the author should probably allow user stupidity. And Lastly, anti-anti-frustration features will make me throw away that product faster than anything else. What am I saying? More brusquely, Do not raise the floor, raise the ceiling. Speed runners can limit themselves, do not indulge in the poor impulse control of others. If an end-user abuses mechanics for an easier games, and complains, they are doing it wrong! (This goes both ways, btw. [won't save, game too hard, for example.])

That is to say: If you remove a base feature of a game as a modder, I expect an apology (as in the Apology) from the creator justifying the need, and I'll probably shelve it after an hour anyway, but that's my issue. And If I made a game I'd bet one response would be "I thought this was a game, not a tax form" when viewing the options screen.

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Re: Planet Of Agony (Keen 1 mod)

Post by Ceilick » Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:13

I'm not quite savvy enough with the new moderation controls to split this conversation to a new thread. I've alerted Fleexy to the need. Please bear with our digression, Keenrush!

When I mentioned Atroxian Realm's check points I didn't mean to suggest that system was a failure or a negative. Often it did prevent me from saving and instead utilizing that system for progression. But alleviating having to replay sections of the level is only half the problem, in my eyes. Even after reaching check points, there still came a point when I was getting desperate just to find the level exit, get that morale boost from accomplishment, and move on to see new things and overcome new challenges. None of the level design, challenges, or graphical sites I was seeing were entertaining anymore.

It should be noted that in-game saving removes that need/punishment as well, just in a more lenient yet withdrawing from the action manner (they player has to navigate menus rather than hot the check point and just keep moving). But the same issue persists; the more times I have to save in a level, the more likely I'm not enjoying that level and just want to get out.

Check points, and in game saving, do not alleviate the feeling of being trapped in a level with no feeling of progress or 'meaningful progress' (like if i passed challenge 11 out of 50, who cares, it's some progress, but there's so much left to do, this is too much work). If the levels are still too big, still feel endless, and still make us feel lost and without direction, it seems to me that no amount of check points or saves is going to fix that or make it fun.

While playing Planet Agony I utilized dosbox save states for the final level, and it really didn't alleviate the frustration and eventual unwillingness to explore or collect point items.

That isn't to say check points are bad; if you establish with your player that each level has a set number of check points (not too many!) so that they can measure their progress, and if the length of time and/or the challenges they face between each check point is reasonable (too hard or too long and the player is going to lose patience and just want to get the level over with), check points seem like they'll be awesome.

But that bring us back to what I mentioned; levels can only be so hard and/or long before they're not fun, there will always be a time threshold for each level in which, once it is passed, the level is no longer entertainment, and simply adding checkpoints to remove time spent replaying won't reliably fix this. The levels need to be designed with pacing in mind in the first place, and checkpoints may be able to extend a players patience, but I don't think they can give or reboot a player's patience if it's already been lost.

Obviously people have varying levels of patience and expectations for their Keen levels. My tolerance for time spent in a level is pretty low. But I think level designers need to focus on the player's psychology and patience threshold, designing the right sized and paced levels, before utilizing checkpoints as a band aid.

Maybe it's just nostalgia and from being a more patient and imaginative youth, but most of original Keen levels were pretty great. Keen vorticons didn't need check points because it's challenge to level length ratio was pretty consistent and light (most of the time anyway, I'm looking at you Cape Canavorta). Keen Galaxy had saves but did anyone need to save so often the levels lost the fun of exploration?

I'm not suggesting we never break the mold of the original games, but there was a level design philosophy there and it was fun to play.

Levellass, regarding your specific need, if you want feel you need a check point system I would suggest utilizing and improving on the Atroxian Realm system. Use a set number of check points that will be included in every level (no more than 3 I would think) and pace them in the levels according to the players perceived progress, measured in distance and difficulty. If it seems a level needs more than the number of checkpoints you set as the standard, that level probably needs modification or reduction.

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Re: Checkpoints

Post by hairmonster12 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 19:11

I happened to find the checkpoints in Atroxian Realm to be very useful, and ended up using them all the time. But that was because I didn't just play straight through the game. I would go back, re-play the level a few times and try to memorize everything so I could beat a level in under 30 minutes while recording a video. I know most people probably don't play that way, they just go through the game (which is totally fine, imo it doesn't matter what play style people choose, as long as you're having fun!) but the checkpoints can be a good thing if the player strives to use them. They weren't perfect, some easy levels had way more checkpoints than I needed and other HARD levels didn't have nearly enough, but in general I tried to beat that game without in-level saves and I was (mostly) able to thanks to the checkpoints. That's just my humble opinion of course :)

Taking away an extra life when I save my game is an interesting idea, as long as there are no Skypests around. That would just be cruel! :P
'Kay, so...

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