Jill of the Jungle level design

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elecdude33
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Jill of the Jungle level design

Post by elecdude33 » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:27

So I was playing Jill of the Jungle recently, and it got me thinking about level design. I noticed a few recurring types of basic designs:

- Largish open area full of keys, passage with several locked doors (often four, it seems) that require all or most of the keys to progress through to either the exit or the next section of the level. Some variation uses gems and gates in place of the keys, but are otherwise the same concept.

-- Examples:
The Aerie (Level 5, Jill 3): A two-sided design with the doors roughly dividing the level in half. The left side has four keys in various places, the right, past the doors, has elevators, several apples, and a high-up platform with Epic logos.

The Jail (Level 9, Jill 3) has a part like this midway through the level, with three doors leading to the next part. Two keys are up in an area with vines and spikes, one is behind some destructible blocks to the left.

Level 12 (Level, uh... 12, Jill 3): Once you get past the initial area which has two keys and two doors leading to where the rest of the level opens up to you, this level is one huge version of this design. With four doors blocking the way to the exit, the player needs to venture in various different directions for the keys. With lots and lots of spikes that require a lot of precision jumping and the keys spaced far apart, this could be definitely be a candidate for the most difficult Jill Saves the Prince level. There is actually one more key than you need, presumably to make the level a bit easier.

Heck (Level 9, Jill 2): This is a level I find to be a fairly flawed execution of this type of design. The underground area is a large cavern full of destructible blocks, with the keys strewn about, mostly high up. There are seven locked doors between the player and the exit, and gathering the keys is not so much challenging as it is an irritating process of jumping and throwing the blades from the right places to be able to destroy the blocks and get to the keys. With so many doors and the likelyhood of missing jumps and falling to somewhere you'll have to make your way back up from, in my opinion this level edges into tedious busywork, only somewhat ameliorated by the fact that, if I'm counting correctly, there are actually nine keys.

- Somewhat similar to the last, using switches and columns/bridges for a more puzzle-based approach. Generally there will be several columns blocking the way, or bridges if the player has to head downwards, and corresponding switches either all next to/near each other or further apart so that the player has to run and jump between them. Generally, the player is required to figure out which switch corresponds to which obstacle, and which position the switch should be in to progress.

-- Examples:
- The Knight's Puzzle (Level 10, Jill 1) has this as its final part before the exit, with six switches next to/near each other that need to be in the correct positions to deactivate all the columns. Note that the first Jill of the Jungle has what seems to be a glitch where a column or bridge that is on the screen when its switch is toggled will appear to be unaffected until either the player scrolls it off the screen and on again or attempts to run/fall/jump through it. This causes this puzzle to be slightly more confusing than it would otherwise be.

- The Jail (Level 9, Jill 3) has a section like this after the large area/keys/doors section. Here, the switches are not right near each other, so the player has to jump and run around to them and back to the columns to check what effect the switches have had.

- The basic mostly-linear design, arguably not really a design template exactly, but worth noting, this design is most notable with the first level of each game.

- The level divided into sections by doors, in which there will be a locked door or gem gate and the player will be required to fetch a key or a gem in order to progress to the next section. The number of sections will vary, and it's not uncommon for one of the other types of designs to be used as a section, which leads to:

- Combinations of several types of design. Since this list is a simplification, it could be argued that most levels combine types, but I'd say that a distinction between levels that are mostly based around one of the designs mentioned and levels that clearly contain several of them could be made.

-------

Questions to ponder: did the designers ever have any of this in mind or is it just a coincidence or subconscious habits? Are there any other basic types of design in the series that I didn't think of? Do you agree that these design types can be seen recurring, or am I seeing something that isn't there? How do these compare and contrast with Commander Keen and other DOS games of around the same era? How about with console platform games of around the same time?

Hopefully somebody's interested in some of this...

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Post by Roobar » Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:44

subconscious habits is well described.

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Post by RoboBlue » Sun Jun 12, 2011 16:36

Maybe they just made all of the levels in one weekend, as happened with Keen 3?
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Post by elecdude33 » Sun Jun 12, 2011 16:54

RoboBlue wrote:Maybe they just made all of the levels in one weekend, as happened with Keen 3?
Could be.

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Post by Pokota » Sun Jun 12, 2011 17:26

With most, if not all, of the levels where you've got a chunk of area to explore and X number of keys to find before you can leave (Like 2.9), you'll find that (A) there is an extra key most of the time, and (B) nobody realizes this because the extra key is not in the path that they usually take to get through the level.
There was something here, but my yorp ate it.

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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Sun Jun 12, 2011 18:41

woah. when was the last time elecdude posted before this thread?
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Post by Paramultart » Sun Jun 12, 2011 19:23

Jill of the Jungle is one of the few games from my childhood which I liked as a kid and hate as an adult.

There are so many design flaws, and the engine is so buggy and terrible it's not even laughable.

Looking back, Epic Megagames (now just "Epic") is one of the worst things to happen to gaming. Their legacy started with a childish competitive mindset to compete with Apogee and ID, and they later would contribute to the epidemic of sluggish "realistic" game-play with their (way too) influential game Gears of War.

Jazz Jackrabbit doesn't even justify this.

I would be content if they had never been brought into existence.
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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Mon Jun 13, 2011 0:15

Games I liked in my childhood but hate now?
I know theres a few, but I can't really pick out and name them...
probably all the licensed disney games that weren't made by Konami and Capcom. And Bubsy. And all the sonic the hedgehog games made for gamegear and such (you know, there were bad sonic games before he went 3d).

Are we restricted to PC games here? Maybe spelunx... I used to be able to be absorbed in that for hours on end, but when I've come back to revisit it, it's really short and there isnt as much crammed in there as I thought there was. Then there's lemmings. L E M M I N G S :x
Do I have to link to that thread with the ending screen?

Seriously, you might think that its made up of clever, witty puzzles that make you feel rewarded for figuring them out, but trust me. More than half of them are solved by fantastic contrivances and spamming the staircases to a precision beyond the normal capability of a human being.
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Post by elecdude33 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:44

Pokota wrote:With most, if not all, of the levels where you've got a chunk of area to explore and X number of keys to find before you can leave (Like 2.9), you'll find that (A) there is an extra key most of the time, and (B) nobody realizes this because the extra key is not in the path that they usually take to get through the level.
Interesting point, I'm not sure I'd say that there's an extra key most of the time. I think most levels have the only as many keys as doors. I guess we'd have to check each level to be sure.

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Post by RoboBlue » Tue Jun 14, 2011 16:24

I can't comment a whole lot on the level design, having never beaten Jill, but I will say that what I played felt a whole lot like a tech demo or a beta. The levels just feel way too stark and empty, more like climbing boxes in a warehouse than exploring a jungle.
Then again, I'm probably unfairly comparing Jill to Xargon, a later game that I grew up with and loved.
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Post by tulip » Tue Jun 14, 2011 17:25

Jill's level design is in many aspects a copy and continuation of Commander Keen ideas, as you pointed out: key puzzles, switch puzzles...
what I liked about jill was the aspect of being able to change into a different creature.
Paramultart wrote:I would be content if they had never been brought into existence.
We never would've had Tyrian, the greatest arcade shooter of all time - or are you a Raptor pussy too?
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Post by Paramultart » Tue Jun 14, 2011 17:40

tulip wrote: We never would've had Tyrian, the greatest arcade shooter of all time - or are you a Raptor pussy too?
Nope. Major Stryker. 8)
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Post by ckguy » Wed Jun 15, 2011 18:16

Woaholycrap It's an elecdude33.

Sup dude. I've missed reading about your music purchases. You should hang out on the IRC channel. Probably only like 2/3 of the conversation would be 'where the hell have you been'.

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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Wed Jun 15, 2011 23:05

Oh, now I remember. The games I REALLY used to love but now hate with a passion is Super Mario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
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elecdude33
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Post by elecdude33 » Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:21

ckguy wrote:Woaholycrap It's an elecdude33.

Sup dude. I've missed reading about your music purchases. You should hang out on the IRC channel. Probably only like 2/3 of the conversation would be 'where the hell have you been'.
Oh hey, how's it going? I've mostly been keeping to myself to be honest, a lot of the time I just feel like either I don't have much to say or I don't know how to phrase it. Plus I've been in other corners of the internet (not so much forums, just reading stuff and such).

I might visit the IRC channel some time, I dunno, I'm not really much for IRC usually I guess but I could give it a try.

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