Is 1UP even a valuable item?

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Hisymak
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Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Hisymak » Wed Feb 27, 2019 13:05

After playing Commander Keen for longer time, I really started feeling that 1UPs are really... pointless items.
The whole concept of counting lives, losing live after death and game over when running out of lives becomes useless when you can freely save and load game any time without limitations. This way, once you die, you will simply reload back and continue without losing any lives.
When I started playing Keen as very small kid, for some short time period I really played Keen without saving and loading regularly, restarting a level after death. But very soon I learned to save and load game, and realized I could completely overcome the lives system. Saving and loading game was also a real necessity, because some levels were really hard and easy to die in them at some critical/hard places. So I would for example need to restart and re-play almost completely whole level when I died near the exit. Playing without saving would be extremely tedious and time-consuming, and really often I needed to repeat some place in a level even 10,20,30 times after I finally passed it. Without saving and loading inside levels the game would become practically uncompletable (and that was also main reason why I never managed to finish Keen2 and Keen3. The levels were hard and without saving in them I could simply not beat them without herculean patience).
Not forget to mention that sometimes I tried to play Keen as no-save challenge. That was probably the original intention of the lives system. It was pretty possible in the early and easy levels (both villages, perilous pit, lifewater oasis), but in larger levels when I died and needed to replay whole level, I soon ragequit this approach.

But back to the 1UP item itself. It is, in fact, considered a "rare" and "valuable" item, and mostly can be found in secret and hard-to-reach places, sometimes multiple 1UPs in super secrets. But, actually, finding a 1UP in a secret feels very underwhelming to me. I consider lives being just items to collect without any practical use. Pretty simply something like score. Once I finish the game, I can look at the number of lives I have (usually I have someting about 30-40) and add for example 10000 extra points per a live. However, the number of lives even does not count in the high scores screen, so the number of lives you end game with won't add you any extra score and advantage at all. So that's it!

And some additional note. I'm currently playing Antroxian Realm mod which features mid-level checkpoints. I take advantage of that and do not save inside levels. Here the lives make more sense and I'm actively seeking them as they are important for my progress. But still, when I died several times at some place and needed to always re-play relatively long part of a level after last checkpoint, I ragequit too.

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Roobar
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Roobar » Wed Feb 27, 2019 14:16

Well, technically, you are right. But there are a lot of people who like to challenge themselves and make speedruns and playthroughs. People like to compete and break records. In that regard they learn the games inside-out and can play without saving. If you find a particular level hard and you ragequit, others may find that level challenging and keep trying. For them lives matters when they try to play without saving. So you can look at it as a matter of choice - a game that can appeal to both casual and pro players.

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by K1n9_Duk3 » Wed Feb 27, 2019 21:33

You can also abuse the 1UP system and die on purpose near the end of a level, which allows you to collect all the ammo and bonus items in the level multiple times. But if you don't care about high scores or you already know how to find more than enough ammo in the levels anyway, there's not really a point in doing that.

I agree that (apart from the exploit I mentioned above) the 1UP system in all the Keen games is completely pointless. All it does is punish the player if the player forgets to save. You never have to lose a life in any of the Keen games if you save after every level, since loading a game comes without any disadvantages. Well, you need to bring up the load game menu yourself, but that's just a very minor inconvenience.
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Commander Spleen » Fri Mar 01, 2019 3:20

It's something that bothered me for a long time, along with what K1n9_Duk3 mentions about the impact of multiple extra lives on the scoring system. This is why all my mods now feature unlimited lives and per-level scores that you only keep when you complete the level.

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Roobar » Fri Mar 01, 2019 10:33

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Syllypryde » Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:16

I can understand why a lot of people see the 1UP as pointless. But if you play games as they were intended to be played they would become more valuable. Saving, most especially in-level saving makes most Keen games way too easy. To me it is almost like playing with cheat codes all the time. The original intent of saving within video games was when you don't feel like playing anymore, or if you have to go to bed to get up for work in the morning, you can play the game again later without having to completely start over.

I have agreed in the past that you should lose everything you gained in a level when you die, such as points, rayguns, 1UP's and you are only awarded them when you complete a level. That would make points as well as 1UP's very valuable.

I try never to save in-level and also minimize saving between levels as well, to play the game the developer or the modder intended it to be played, and not be afraid of game overs or the difficulty. Like I said, abusing the saving makes the games too easy, and if you do this and then cry the game is too easy or boring, then you have no one to blame but yourself. It is the same situation if you use the cheat codes all the time. Don't cheat your way through the game and then cry the game is too easy.

I had a buddy who used to do this with the Grand Theft Auto games. He would cheat his way through the game and then complain it is was too easy. Of course, he refused to start over and play the game right. So in the next installment of the game (I cannot remember exactly which GTA games we were playing at the time), I enabled the 'people riot more' cheat code, which not only do the people riot and fight you if you try to steal their cars, but they also have weapons, even guns. I am not sure the cheat works the same way in all the games, but in one game in particular (I believe it was Vice City), but the only way to disable this specific cheat code is to start the game over. It stays enabled through your entire game. So one day when he tried to play his game, and couldn't get very far because random civilians were killing him, he had a fit because now the game was "too hard!"

Though personally, if I was modding my own games, I would still not eliminate saving, because I would allow players to have the option of how they want to play. But what I would do is like I said earlier, I would mod the game so you are only awarded points, rayguns and 1UP's when you complete a level, instead of dying dozens of times in order to build up lives and ammo.

I like checkpoints, like Gridlock did for Atroxian Realm, but personally, I would add a twist to it. I would mod it so you have a set number of tries to either make it to the next checkpoint or complete the level. If you cannot do either with a set number of tries (let's say 3 tries), you lose another life (along with the first 2 lives you lost after you made it to the checkpoint and failed twice), and now you have to start the level over.

If games are so hard you feel the need to have to cheat through it all the time, then maybe you should play games that suit your skill level as a player. If you happen to be the type of player that feels the need to cheat through every game, or for the topic at hand, abuse saving because you don't like to be challenged, then my question is why are you playing video games in the first place?
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K1n9_Duk3
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by K1n9_Duk3 » Sat Mar 02, 2019 23:08

Syllypryde wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:16
The original intent of saving within video games was when you don't feel like playing anymore, or if you have to go to bed to get up for work in the morning, you can play the game again later without having to completely start over.
That might be true, but there are many examples that demonstrate that as soon as saving the game was a thing, developers integrated that ability into their game designs. Some infamous examples would be Sierra's adventure games like the early King's Quest, Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry games, which contain countless cheap deaths or other "game over" situations that can only be avoided through trial and error. There's no denying that when the game displays the phrase "Remember: save early, save often!" in the Restore/Restart/Quit dialog after the game over screen.

But then again, those games were created for home computers. Extra lives come from arcade machines and were ported to home computers and consoles along with the game genres that used them. And I dare to say that in most cases the extra lives made it onto the PC because the people making the games were busy enough trying to make these games viable on the PC in the first place and couldn't afford to question this part of the game design.

Just to put this into perspective: The part of Softdisk where Carmack and Romero worked before they started on Keen was actaully called "PC Arcade" at some point. You can see that name in Dangerous Dave 1 and Catacomb 1. So there's definitely and arcade influence there and Keen inherited that. Literally. Large parts of the "PC Arcade" code library (released to the public along with the source code to Catacomb 1 & 2) were also used for Keen 1-3.
Syllypryde wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:16
If you happen to be the type of player that feels the need to cheat through every game, or for the topic at hand, abuse saving because you don't like to be challenged, then my question is why are you playing video games in the first place?
I can think of a couple of reasons:
- being interested in the game's story
- experiencing the awesome power of godmode just because you can
- focussing on "puzzles" (key/switch hunting or finding the exit) instead of combat
- focussing on combat instead of "puzzles"

I am not ashamed to admit that I'm absolutely not playing any action games for the "challenge". I pretty much always select the easiest difficulty level because I know that I'm easily frustrated and when I die, I will most likely just quit the game and do something else, regardless of checkpoints, quicksaves or whatever system the game uses. What I have never done is quit a game because it didn't "challenge" me.

I guess we should all be happy about the fact that gaming on the PC is way more customizable than the old arcade machines and everybody can play them how they want to play them. Video games wouldn't be nearly as popular if everybody had to play them the way they were meant to be played. And I'm pretty sure we wouldn't even have mods if everybody played the games the way they were meant to be played.

PS: If a game was meant to be played without saving, then it wouldn't give me the option to do that. It would give me a combined "Save & Quit" option instead of a "Save" option, and it would delete the saved game immediately after it was loaded.
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Commander Spleen
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Commander Spleen » Sat Mar 02, 2019 23:49

You're conflating save scumming, cheats and infinite lives. They are all separate concepts. You can still play levels legitimately with infinite lives, and it makes a big difference to Vorticons gameplay which only has world map saving. Nothing about infinite lives prevents the speedruns and playthroughs from having value. If anything it surely adds value for those who are interested in high score records and quantifying game completion given the scores are otherwise no more than a function of one's patience once you can get at least two extra lives in one level.

Lives are useful in simpler aracde games. Making progress in a Keen game and then having to reset it and play all the levels through again because of a few mistakes is not my idea of fun. And I don't have time or interest to refine my skills to be able to play the games blindfolded without hitting any death hazards, especially when it comes to the unforgiving level designs found in most mods.

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Gridlock » Sun Mar 03, 2019 2:22

From my experience designing Keen levels, it can be difficult to provide players with any items that have actual value. 1ups, raindrops/vitalin, and points all serve the extra lives system. Points have the extra purpose of leading to a high score, but that can be so easily abused that it really doesn't matter. Ammo has the most utility of any item, but it rarely falls into the sweet spot. If you have too little, the game feels broken, and if you have too much, the player might as well have unlimited shots. I find that the Keen games are less about providing mechanically significant rewards than aesthetically satisfying ones. It feels great to hear the sound of getting a 1-up and seeing the lives counter increase, even though it won't actually benefit most players.

Personally, I don't have the patience to honor the lives system while playing most Keen games. Keen's typical puzzle and exploration based level design doesn't mesh well with the penalty of losing your entire progress from making a single mistake. It's fine if you personally want to play like that, but for many it's just frustrating game design. Even when trying to make lives more useful in AR with the checkpoint system, I still think lives are rather useless. If you run out of lives, you have to start the entire level over again. If there wasn't a need for extra lives, I'd just give the player unlimited tries. In my other mod, the Alphamatic, I see absolutely no issue with using in-level saving. The design was never intended to be challenging for the sake of encouraging perfect runs. I wanted to have larger levels with interesting challenges, and since I couldn't use checkpoints, I think encouraging in-level saving is a necessary compromise.

It's important to understand that challenge is largely artificial, and level designers are typically poor judges of how difficult their levels really are. People who make games aren't looking for players to meet some artificial skill threshold; they just want to make a game that their target audience can enjoy (or just find an audience at all). It's critical as a game designer to accommodate a range of gaming preferences since different players judge a game by different standards. It's also important to realize that the way a developer might "intend" their game to be played and the way it can actually be played are distinct. If a play style is possible based on the game's design/mechanics, then it's a perfectly valid way to play (excluding obvious cheats). When the optimal way to play and the intended way to play diverge in a way that's detrimental to the player experience, then the fault rests with the designer, not the player.
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Roobar
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Roobar » Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:16

OK maybe we can find some more ways to make lives more valuable items:
- if hi-score can display how many lives you end up the game with
- on-line hi-score system
- achievement for finding all the 1ups in the game or achievement for not taking any 1ups after completing the game

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Syllypryde » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:32

I understand how people can see a problem with too harsh punishments within a game just for the sake of a single mistake or two, especially when sometimes a game is designed with blind hazards, suicide jumps, etc. to bring about cheap deaths from the player, who can only avoid these deaths through trial and error, luck and sometimes not even then. But I do have a personal issue with players that think it is somehow "unfair" to have to face any punishment or consequences whatsoever for mistakes or poor skill in playing a game.

I know many of you will argue that extra lives and such no longer exist in modern video games and you would be correct. But let us not forget that Commander Keen is not a modern video game. It is one of the original platform style games created in the early 90's. Yes, due to new modding programs created by the Keen community, we can not only enhance the original games, but also add new elements never before done in Keen games, including adding new game dynamics, and more modern features.

This is just a personal opinion obviously, but most modern video games are trash anyway. Most games are predicated on players being overwhelmed and over-impressed by the realistic graphics, but pay no attention to the poor game design, lack of a coherent story, one-dimensional characters, anti-climatic endings, and little to no semblance of realism. Keen is simplistic in most ways, and yes the graphics are laughable considering modern graphics, but it has many of the factors that make the game fun and worth playing. Most modern video games, once you look past the trojan horse, the graphics, you can see what little substance most of these games have. Most of them have little originality, most of them are just graphic enhanced rip offs of older, out of date, better created games. I rather play Doom or Duke Nuke 'Em than most modern day First-Person Shooter games.

I know I went off on a bit of a tangent there, so I will get back on topic. I did say that if I was a Keen modder I would not take out the option of saving, in level or otherwise. Plus at no point did I ever say I never used in-level saving myself. If I use it at all, most of the time it is just to practice at a certain point in the game I have trouble passing. Once I figure out how to do it, if I don't reach the end of the level and die, I will not reload the savepoint and start the level over and try to make in through without load or save again.

Plus I have also stated in the past that I've had to use in-level saving on certain levels:

Pyramid of the Forbidden on hard
Well of Wishes on hard
The Bloogdome on hard
Bloogville on hard
Cliff Hanger (Keen 7) on hard
Forest Skies (Keen 7) on hard
Defense Tower Surth (Keen 9) on hard
Defense Hall M (Keen 9) on hard
The Warpcore (Keen 9) on normal and hard
Dynamo Access Shaft (The Alphamatic) on normal
Alpha Explosion Dynamo (The Alphamatic) on normal
Impossible Palace (Keen 8 community mod) on normal and hard, in fact I skip this level completely, I hit f10-E and skip it so I can play Love Shack, because when the designer of the level created it and named it, he took it WAY TOO LITERALLY!

Plus there have been several mods I gave up on or never really played because I felt they were way too hard:

All Fleexy mods: Can't make it past level 1 on any of them!
All Keenrush mods: They are all fun up to a point, but most of them I got halfway through them and then could never get any farther on any of them
Keen Q: Can only make it past the first two levels, no farther after that
Keen S: Only a couple of levels
Trapped Keen: Only a couple of levels
All Keen community mods of Episode Smile: Even more ridiculously hard than the original!

Then again I am better at Galaxy than Vorticons, so if many of these games were made in Galaxy, maybe I could actually get past them. Scratch that... I did mention Impossible Palace didn't I?
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by DoomJedi » Sun Mar 03, 2019 13:58

I can related to all sides.

Lifes system looks arcade-outdated and punishes only forgetting to save. On my retropie I prefer arcade games just because I don't need remember saving, just "fake insert" more coins to continue, though feels unfair as I have no motivation not to get hit or not to die. With "arcade" emulator option I tend to play non-console versions of same game more, because constant needing to save progress after every challenge is annoying.

Though noone forces you to save...one can play it as hard as he prefers to. But many wouldn't see most of Keen if not for saving.
This what happens to me with so many retro games as the time, till modern emulators came with their save states.
Before - I never seen even second levels of many classic games and platformers (first time I ever saw second levels of Shinobi, or Ninja Gaiden or Strider or...). Is it worth it? To make a game most will never get to see most of it? Will they be willing to even pay for such?

I think restarting a level (limitlessly) is big enouph punishment (or even only to latest checkpoint), without need to restart the whole game.

The issue about saving...it's not retro-game versus modern game (as games), it's more battle of time periods themselves. We had much less games then, with more times and motivation to invest in each. Nowdays we don't have that patience, even with big selection on retro games on emulation software.
We don't learn to get too good in a game, and gaming on my retorpie is "pass an enemy/obstacle/challenge - and immidiately save", or die and reload. (Limited myself only in some game where it helt appropriate, like Ninja Kun, or where I had more chances to die while trying to save then if I don't save).
But if what would be an only game I have...I might learned to get better in it to pass it without saves (but then, as said - don't make level design of unfair deaths and faith jumps). But nowdays I get frustrated and move to another game, having tens of thousands of retro console games to choose from. Saves protect us from unfair challenges in bad level design. Games without saves should be 100% fair.

Keen mods are indeed too hard for guys like me, and I didn't finish any or almost any of the mods here (passed many levels on Keen 7-8-9 though), at many mentioned I didn't pass even first level or 2. I understand and accept long-time Keen diehards are making sets interesting for themselves to play, challenging enough...but hard on newcomers.

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Syllypryde » Sat Mar 09, 2019 6:30

I do understand that many of the mods might be way too hard for people new to Commander Keen. Those of us who have played Keen since the original games were released and have been members of the online Keen community for almost the beginning, or at least fairly close to it, have played the overwhelming majority of the mods, Vorticons and Galaxy, and have beaten most of the them. There have been a few mods I haven't beaten, the ones I mentioned earlier in this thread that were too hard, plus others that I haven't beaten simply because I was not a fan of them and didn't care to play them.

Dozens of mods took me years to beat, not because they were that hard, but because I would abandon them each time a new mod was released, most especially new Galaxy mods. Then I would eventually go back to those older mods and replay where I left off. If you asked me about the ending of a specific mod, most of the them I could not remember, because many mods I never played again after I beat them, even despite the fact I liked them enough to play a second time, third time, etc.

With all that being said, to revert back to the topic of the thread, I am one (possibly one of the only ones!) who very rarely if ever uses in-level saving, has to beat the game on all skill levels, has to complete all available levels, grab every point, 1UP in every level, etc. I don't just want to beat the game, I want to conquer it. As much as they suck, I am not afraid of game overs. To me, that just makes the game just that much rewarding when I do complete a level and eventually the entire game.

Though I understand why 1UP's are meaningless to many, they do have value to me.
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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Roobar » Sat Mar 09, 2019 14:30

Syllypryde wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 6:30
I am one (possibly one of the only ones!) who very rarely if ever uses in-level saving, has to beat the game on all skill levels, has to complete all available levels, grab every point, 1UP in every level, etc.
Sweaty, eh? But really, kudos to you! From time to time I also tend to do such things (like trying to find all 1ups and secrets), but I prefer doing so on medium. Sometimes I play on hard too though very rare, and almost never on easy (somehow I dislike the extended pogo jump height on easy).

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Re: Is 1UP even a valuable item?

Post by Commander Spleen » Sun Mar 10, 2019 3:57

Syllypryde wrote:With all that being said, to revert back to the topic of the thread, I am one (possibly one of the only ones!) who very rarely if ever uses in-level saving, has to beat the game on all skill levels, has to complete all available levels, grab every point, 1UP in every level, etc.
Completionist gameplay style would still be completely possible with infinite lives and per-level scoring so I don't see why a lives system should be a requirement. In fact, because you can theoretically max out the score on multi-1UP levels, I would consider that the only way to truly complete the game. Again, the high score in such a scenario becomes merely a function of spare time and patience. Unlimited lives means limited score, which means there's an actual scoring goal to aim for.
I do understand that many of the mods might be way too hard for people new to Commander Keen. Those of us who have played Keen since the original games were released and have been members of the online Keen community for almost the beginning, or at least fairly close to it, have played the overwhelming majority of the mods, Vorticons and Galaxy, and have beaten most of the them.
I've been playing Keen quite regularly for nearly three decades and still find most mods unforgivingly difficult such that I usually give up after a handful of levels unless there's something particularly engaging about it, and even then I may cheat through some of it. I play Keen more for the exploration and puzzle elements, not to master long pixel-perfect gauntlets.

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