Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by proYorp »

Ooh! This is the one I helped with! :D :pogo

Ah, wish I could've been able to do more on my part but I've been completely missing in action for like a whole year. "Collab" is a rather generous term at this point. :crazy I think I only actually did like, maybe a quarter of the graphics, and most of those were just following a blueprint. But hey, it was a ton of fun working on this for the part that I did!

I love the name Sunset. That's a much better name than the working title IMO (which was Ancient Aliens, for those of you that expressed interest in the original "help wanted" thread; it's this one! ;) ), since that's such a key part of the aesthetic. Even more so now, it looks like.

It'll be interesting to go through and see all that's changed here. There was no story last time I did any work on this. The dialogue with the BwB is great stuff :lol , and omg the map dinosaur thing is named Skippy I love that. Such a perfect name. :D

This mod has so many cool new mechanics. I highly recommend for everyone to at least play just these first four levels, to see all the different main game modes. Tech demo stuff. 8) Don't be too intimidated, the first level is actually easier than Keen 1. :p

Has anyone done gameplay video of this yet? :D There's a lot of great reactions to be had here. Even if it's just raw DOSBox video, it would be very cool (and entertaining) to see how people first react to the new environments. And I'm sure KeenRush especially would appreciate the live feedback. ;)

Thank you to everyone who's left replies, reactions, and reviews! I'll see if I can get a chance to respond to some of them soonish. Keep 'em coming! :)
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Lower IQ than 314 »

proYorp wrote: Fri Mar 12, 2021 7:57 Has anyone done gameplay video of this yet? :D There's a lot of great reactions to be had here. Even if it's just raw DOSBox video, it would be very cool (and entertaining) to see how people first react to the new environments. And I'm sure KeenRush especially would appreciate the live feedback. ;)
Someone get Lingyan203 (LY203 Productions on YouTube) on this, stat!
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Benvolio »

I'm keen to do more YT content but I'm not good enough to play Sunset well...
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Gridlock »

I've been pretty guilty of working on Keen mods without actually playing other people's stuff. I have a huge backlog of commercial games to play, let alone Keen mods. With it being Keen Day, I resolved to play this, and I managed to finish it in one sitting (minus Pyramid of Pain; that level is too sadistic even for me).

At the risk of sounding pretentious, there's really a sense of artistry here that transcends what one might typically expect from a Keen 1 mod. I think the appeal for this kind of game, like most Keen Vorticons mods, is incredibly niche given the primitive graphics, PC speaker sounds, and lack of music. I'll admit that even I'm not always that interested in Vorticon mods due to these limitations. However, these aspects contribute beautifully to Sunset. I have a phrase I've used to describe this in a handful of other games: atmospheric minimalism. Sometimes, less is more. It's a bit like abstract art, where the world is more of a suggestion for your imagination to fill in. I think Keen 1 really excelled at this, and so does this game.

I think it also fitting that the story is so minimal here. In fact, the story texts seem to poke fun at the idea of expecting a story, not to mention that the font is (intentionally or not) pretty hard to read, so I didn't find myself really wanting to read the text. But I think that works here. A mod like this is more about evoking a feeling rather than trying to tell a coherent story.

The art here is really great. The color palette really contributes to the mood of the game, which is mysterious and alien, but also somewhat calming and surreal. I especially love the visual of Keen on the world map riding that creature (I think it was named Skippy in game?) while surrounded by pyramids. That imagery feels very iconic.

I particularly loved the early levels of this game, where the game evoked a really strong sense of discovery. Although, in other mods, it can be interesting to see how modders recombine the mechanics of the existing Keen games in new and clever ways, you rarely feel a sense of surprise because you already know the core rules that govern the original games. But here, by some patching vodoo I can't even fathom, it feels as though anything can happen. I don't need to list out everything, but there was a lot here that wowed me. As the game progresses, it was interesting how the levels transitioned to being less about discovery and more about combining these mechanics in more complicated and interesting ways. Although the tone felt a bit different by the end, I did really enjoy the progression to more complicated ideas in these later levels. The level Climbing Flames was particularly impressive for how it created multiple paths up and down while also utilizing the light/dark mechanic.

Interestingly, it took me a while to notice how the levels filled in. I noticed that the levels seemed to progress from more introductory versions to harder versions, and I wasn't sure how you were enforcing that order. When I finally realized that new levels appeared on the map (I think) after completing old ones, that was a really neat discovery.

I found the difficulty mostly very well balanced, except for an odd jump or section here and there. But, I do play Keen mods with save states via a modified version of DosBox, so that does warp my perspective a little. I think save states are great for a game like this, because I can easily retry a section if I miss a jump or timing. I also really appreciated the lack of combat in this game. I generally prefer Keen games that are more exploration and puzzle focused, and I find the combat (especially in Keens 2 and 3) to be a pain. Keeping this combat free really contributed to my enjoyment of the level design. I can definitely sense the effort you put into making these levels accessible. The enemy and hazard placements mostly feel very restrained, more like Keen 1 than Keens 2 or 3.

The only two levels I didn't particularly enjoy were the ones where you have to navigate a dark mazelike level using the light generated by a bird/insect creature. Specifically the free-exploration ones; I really liked the twist in that one level where you instead have to follow and keep up with the creature. But for the two free-exploration ones, I kind of just felt like I was stumbling around in the dark, especially Black Vaults. I don't think I would have found the willpower to complete those without save states due to the occasional traps. And, although the light effect is a really impressive technical achievement, it isn't necessarily pleasant to look at for such a long time.

I know I've written a lot, but this mod deserves it. It's too easy for mods, especially esoteric mods like this one, to fall under the cracks these days given the sheer volume of things to play. But I really do think this is a masterpiece. Thank you to everyone involved!
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Ceilick »

I finally got around to playing this, and wow, that was unexpected, although perhaps that's to be expected from a Keenrush mod.

I found the top down gameplay in the libraries to be the most visually appealing and intriguing. The level design, while simple, was fun and had me exploring. This kind of gameplay is an amazing addition to Keen.

I didn't like the luma lightbug levels. I can appreciate the mechanisms behind the design, but boy was it a headache to play. I actually missed the suicide feature from Fall Up in these levels because of how frustratingly lost I felt. The best of these was the one where you have to follow the bug, mixing caution with speed. I enjoyed letting the bug know I wasn't fooled at certain moments, or when it sped up had me swearing, "get back here you!" :lol

The top down riding Skippy levels were simple, fun, and visually inspired.

The more standard platforming was well executed, if visually sterile (I suppose this is symptomatic of Keen Vorticons. There's a stillness and blockyness that I find almost unsettling). Really liked the water gameplay, and how the level design took full advantage of how things could change based on items collected. Routinely I found myself complimenting how very clever you were haha.

Overall, Keenrush, I think you demonstrate a mastery of redefining gameplay and level design. You're consistently able to offer new experiences and puzzles (or puzzles that feel new), and you've far surpassed the day's of old and reputation for "difficult" design (the difficulty here was perfect, honestly, despite my gripes about the lightbug).
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by proYorp »

Okay! So after finally having played the full release for myself last month, I'm finally getting around to responding to some of the replies on here. In hindsight maybe it wasn't entirely necessary to wait 'til after I played it for some of these, but whatareyagonnado.


Nisaba wrote: Mon Dec 14, 2020 14:57 DANG!
the colour palette is outstanding! excellent design choices
The palette was entirely KeenRush's doing, and I have to say, I don't think I could've done any better. :D The colors were so much fun to work with, and really gave a strong direction to follow, design-wise. Really sets the whole mood.


Benvolio wrote: Sun Dec 20, 2020 12:54 [a lot of words]
Wow, it looks like you put a lot of thought into this. I rate this review 5 stars! :crazy

I love most everything about this. There is so much ingeniousness, so much hard work and so much love for Commander Keen and its category of game.
I'm glad it shows. :) I definitely put a lot of thought and effort into the contributions I made. There was already so much potential in the aesthetic concepts, and I wanted to help make this mod the best it could be.

If I was slightly more meticulous I would check if [the font]'s been used in previous KeenRush mods - I suspect that it has.
Good eye! I'd forgotten about this, but apparently the font was modified (by KeenRush) from the one made for Planet of Agony.

Suffice it to say the map is one of the most beautiful I have seen and it really truly evokes the image of riding into the sunset with a vividness seldom achieved in EGA.
I do have to express my love for the world map. :D Though I did most of the final artwork for it, I have to give KeenRush the credit for the theming and aesthetic. A desert at sunset -- such a powerful combination visually. That was the first thing that was discussed when I started work on this, and it made quite an impression on me. It was always a key focus and was often in my mind when thinking about the mod (in fact the initial correspondence thread for the worldmap info ended up being used for basically the entire development discussion because neither of us bothered to change it :lol ), so I'm glad the mod ended up being themed and then named after it. I think the map turned out really well, and it's just nice to hang out in.

I am a fan of the fully open map design.
The level progression is done through time instead of space. :disguised

2) Overhead Adventuring

These levels are visually the most beautiful in the game. The enemy sprites are so amusing and fun to work around.
:D A lot of my artwork was for the dungeon/tomb levels. I did the primary floor and wall tiles, and all the sprite graphics there. But the beauty of the environment was present already with KeenRush's temporary working graphics -- the blue and purple and brown bricks and stones coordinated very nicely and crafted a deep atmospheric feeling all on their own. There was so much potential there, and I just did my best to bring it out.

I think KeenRush and proYorp have done a very good job in calibrating the difficulty of the new environments
The level design was solely done by KeenRush. I gave feedback on some things, and he referenced feedback received from his last mod as well, but I never touched the levels myself.

To have it all packaged into one mod was obviously a conscious decision of the modders
Again, I can't take credit for that. I think most things were already planned out by the time I signed on. This was primarily KeenRush's mod, I just helped out with some things. :)

Thank you so much KeenRush for sticking with Keen and with us and for applying your huge talents as an all round game developer to this cool niche community that clings onto existence decade after decade. Please keep modding - even if the next one is in 2025 or 2030. It truly is a worthwhile pursuit when you keep the standard this high.
Agree. :D Thanks KeenRush!

Of course proYorp also deserves immense credit- the exact contributions they made we don't precisely know but I will take KeenRush's word for it that perhaps some of the pixel art with the highest levels of finesse would be attributed to proYorp.
Well, I'm here now, you could always ask if you have any specific questions. :p

Let's see... I did most of the graphics on the world map, a fair bit for the top-down levels (as stated above), the background and main solid blocks of the Luma levels (and the Luma itself, which I named :) ), and a couple sandstone tilesets for the platforming levels. Surprisingly I didn't end up doing many of the decorative/detail tiles. I guess because those were saved for last to get the important stuff done first....

One of the first things I did was the pyramids on the world map. I was sent a mockup of pyramids in a desert, with long shadows stretching out from them and anything big enough to cast a shadow, a setting sun in the sky.... That alone was kind of mindblowing, and I hadn't even seen any of the new tech yet! Like the dungeon levels later on, I could see so much potential that it made my imagination run wild. So I did a lot of the final artwork in those areas, but the artistic concepts were designed by KeenRush.

I did not draw the larger bitmaps such as the title screen and story images, which look really cool. I'm a fan of the abstract use of color and the minimalist shapes shown there. Honestly it's probably a lot better than how it would've ended up if I'd tried to draw full dithered cutscene images (which is what I was thinking I would do). Shading is not something I have much experience with.

So, as for "finesse?" That's probably at least a little subjective, in this case. Different skills in different areas. Sometime I hope to master that minimalism stuff. I'm still learning. :)


TheBigV wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 21:33 When I got to the first level with the Luma, I questioned if I was actually playing a source code mod.
Ok I sincerely apologize to everyone in advance for this but i
this popped into my head and refused to not be made :D

It's all patching! The patchfile, by my approximations, looks to be roughly 3 times the size in kilobytes of the average patchfile -- and that's without any notation. :p I have no idea how most of this stuff works on a technical level. If I had to give a guess, I'd say that like a lot of surface-level modding (such as with XkyKeen1), it has a lot to do with clever reuse of existing resources. After all, there is some of that surface-level stuff going on here too. ;)


Anywho. I'll reply to more later. :slug Thanks again to everyone who's taken the time to write something here!

In other news, Shikadi-Netzwerk recently finished doing a playthrough of this. Check it out: ... -HhR8sZrXo
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