Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

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Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Fleexy »

Happy new year, PCKF! I'm excited to release a somewhat new kind of level pack: a collaboration between myself and Markeen.

Several years ago I released some development snapshots of Markeen, a random Keen Galaxy level generator. It's still very far from creating playable levels, but it can create rough structures and sometimes creates interesting level design ideas. I personally am pretty bad at level design, but I do know how to make a level playable, so I thought Markeen and I would make a good team. After a few years of intermittent work, we completed a Keen 5 level pack. More discussion is below, but here's the download link if TL;DR:

Download Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack
Extract the ZIP, copy in KEEN5E.EXE, and run PLAY.BAT in DOSBox as usual to play!

On July 11, 2017, I had my development version of Markeen generate 100 levels from a depth 5 (IIRC) profile based on the Keen 5 originals with just a couple obviously wrong tile combinations manually banned. These raw levels have only the foreground layer populated. I included them in the Originals folder in the download. As you can see, that version of Markeen creates some interesting ideas at the cost of ten zillion local tiling errors.

My job was then to pick a dozen promising levels from those 100 and make each playable and pretty. For each level, my process was roughly:
  1. Pick a level that's not too small, has a manageable structure, and contains an appropriate machine (or lack thereof).
  2. Give the level a border and a temporary uniform background that makes it easier to see platform outlines.
  3. Fix the most blatant tiling errors, mainly $FA17 generation-failure markers.
  4. Decide Keen's route through the level: connect switches, keys, and platforms, and punch holes through walls as needed.
  5. Fix most remaining foreground tiling errors so the level is playable.
  6. Add enemies to the infoplane.
  7. Balance ammo and point item placement, adding item sprites to secret areas.
  8. Decorate: give the level a background and fix pipe tiling errors.
I resolved to keep the level dimensions exactly as they were and run with Markeen's ideas as much as possible. The ideas I tried hardest to keep were unique arrangements, switches, correctly formed doors, and keyholders. The latter sometimes got a bit out of hand (I apologize in advance for the Security Accounts Manager), so as the project progressed over the years I became a little more willing to overrule Markeen. The Originals folder has a text file with the mapping of original-output to finished level ID so you can compare them and see what was whose idea (or I'd be happy to look back at a specific thing for you). For example, here's the first level originally and finished. There is no secret level, as I did not see the Korath teleporter in any of Markeen's output, nor did any of the levels look particularly Korath-like.

All levels, especially the last one, are designed to be doable without in-level saving. The range of the levels' difficulty overlaps with the originals'; I think I kept it reasonable, though it might be a half-difficulty-step harder overall.

There are no new graphics, story texts, or sprites. I did adjust the behavior of Shikadi Mines, but this is not essential. If you want a 100% pure "level pack" you can delete the mine-related patches from the patch file; the game will still be doable but the last level may be a bit tedious.

GAMEMAPS.CK5 is signed in a way that Abiathar will recognize as being authored by me (VeriMaps), in case there's ever any confusion about which maps file is my official release.

Thanks to the following people, resources, and other tools:
  • The KeenWiki patch maintainers, especially Levellass and Lemm, for the wealth of patching information
  • Long-time members, for being patient with me when I was clueless about patching (and in general)
  • K1n9_Duk3's recreated Keen Galaxy source code, which made it much easier to create new patches
  • CKPatch by Admiral_Bob and other contributors
  • Abiathar by, uh, me
And thank you for reading and playing! I'd love to hear your thoughts and would definitely watch any recorded play.
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

awesome, awesome, awesome!
a Fleexy original. Oh that's exciting! I immediately downloaded the package and will play the pack right away
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

Yay! This was a real fun experience. Especially when you keep in mind that the mayor part of the levels were generated randomly by an automated script. The unexpectedness of some sections gave me a good laugh, as Markeen's randomness created some very interesting sections I haven't ever seen by any other modder out there. From time to time I was like "oh wow, why would you combine such elements?" or "ha! that's strange, and neat at the same time", and "boy, that's clever! I need to remember that and use this structure for my own mods...". To me the overall environment had this alien technology kinda vibe as some areas where structured in a way I really wouldn't have expected them to be. Just to pick one out of so many neat areas, I choose this section where the key card seems to be within reach but yet is so far away.
Image
And I like how differently coloured tiles blend. BTW, the moving platforms in this level (level 10: Routing & Remote Access) were laid out in a clever way. The section down below build around the Slicestars was a very hard but also a very enjoyable challenge. I love these compact areas where a lot of things happening at once and where you have to time your next steps with skill and care.
Image

or take this pole chamber for instance. It is absolutely useless. But at the same time it has this little something that gives an instant smile. With a little bit of imagination you could also make sense of this very (stripper) pole... :evil it so funny how certain things got assembled.
Image

It's also a neat feature to show the exit sign early on as you did in a couple of levels.
Image

Of course the randomness of the level design brought some downsides as orientation especially in larger levels could get quite confusing at times. It is somewhat hard to estimate your progress in bigger levels, as some memorable landmarks are missing. Take the Security Accounts Manager (level 6) for instance. Not only is this place huge, but there's also a large section right after the main fuse reactor. I had the impression that this optional path felt somehow tedious and in my opinion it wouldn't hurt to strip this part away entirely.
Image
On the other hand the sheer number of yellow keys in this level compensates for it. This felt like a neat idea to collect so many of them. I took a quick look at the patch file and was astonished that you haven't added any key gem related patches. So it seems that the engine can actually handle a multitude of collected keys, right?

I've also missed those final floor or ceiling tiles in a couple of levels which represent the border of the level. but this might be my personal taste. Besides that there are some required areas that can only be accessed via the impossible pogo trick... I haven't tested them on hard mode but this could become a problem...

However I greatly did enjoy the shorter levels a whole lot. They featured so neat puzzle ideas. If I had to pick two I'd probably go with level 2 and 5. From memory I enjoyed them most. But of course there are other great levels as well. But they might actually be my first pick.
Image Image

Also noteworthy is the layout of those bigger secret areas. Some are really well hidden, others felt very much rewarding and then there are those with a surprising exit path way like this one over here:
Image

Boy and the Shikadi Mine speed caught me by surprise. Scary! I can tell ya, my heartbeat was bumpin like, yo! But it makes absolutely sense to give them high speed, and not only because you have to navigate them throughout the whole level.

All in all this pack holds some cleverly designed and absolutely rewarding secrets. The overall orientation is somewhat hard in bigger levels. But the randomly generated level architecture shines particularly with regard to smaller levels or compact areas. Its quite interesting to see what neat ideas a random generator is able to produce. But of course you've put quite a bit of work into the final design to polish things.
Can you name which levels where most exciting for you to put together and which elements surprised you most while working with Markeen.

PS:
I also found a couple of bugs, but that's for a later post
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Fleexy »

Thanks for playing! I'm glad you had fun.
Nisaba wrote: To me the overall environment had this alien technology kinda vibe as some areas where structured in a way I really wouldn't have expected them to be.
I'm pretty happy with that vibe. My early failed attempts at Galaxy modding had a lot of very boring, regularly shaped linear parts; Markeen forced me to work with more interesting structures.
Nisaba wrote: BTW, the moving platforms in this level (level 10: Routing & Remote Access) were laid out in a clever way.
I was pretty proud of that level. Planning a route through it was tough, but Markeen had sprinkled broken tracks throughout with no clear way to loop them, which I took as license to do what I did.
Nisaba wrote: The section down below build around the Slicestars was a very hard but also a very enjoyable challenge. I love these compact areas where a lot of things happening at once and where you have to time your next steps with skill and care.
Markeen gave me the locked security door in the middle of nowhere, which contributed to the routing difficulty. I didn't want to trap the player if they forgot to take the keycard at the start of the level, so I punched through the wall at the bottom to create that challenge. There was a broken track tile right next to the originally solid wall, which was the inspiration for the one-way moving platform.
Nisaba wrote: Of course the randomness of the level design brought some downsides as orientation especially in larger levels could get quite confusing at times. It is somewhat hard to estimate your progress in bigger levels, as some memorable landmarks are missing. Take the Security Accounts Manager (level 6) for instance. Not only is this place huge, but there's also a large section right after the main fuse reactor. I had the impression that this optional path felt somehow tedious and in my opinion it wouldn't hurt to strip this part away entirely.
I agree. I wasn't a huge fan of that level's starting point, but IIRC it was the least bad choice that had the white machine. You're right that I should have included more memorable landmarks. Overall I tried to do something with every reasonably sized space Markeen generated, but when the level's area was >18,000 tiles it was probably time to draw the line and just solid-fill the extra space. (To clarify for others reading, the image depicts Routing & Remote Access rather than Security Accounts Manager. R&RA is about half the area of SAM.)

Level sizes were chosen by sampling normal distributions for the original levels' width and height, but I didn't take into account that very wide levels tend not to be very tall; the distributions shouldn't have been independent. Other problems are that there is a minimum width and height for the engine, and that autogenerated small levels often lacked any interesting features. These cut off the low end of the dimension distributions, increasing the effective mean.

I should also have allowed myself to combine multiple small Markeen levels into larger levels with scroll dividers. The Markeen profiler splits original levels at dividers, but the generator doesn't know anything about them, so it always generates the entire level as one section, which is why there are no dividers in the pack.
Nisaba wrote: On the other hand the sheer number of yellow keys in this level compensates for it. This felt like a neat idea to collect so many of them. I took a quick look at the patch file and was astonished that you haven't added any key gem related patches. So it seems that the engine can actually handle a multitude of collected keys, right?
I'm pleasantly surprised that you liked the multiple keys. This level is a blatant offense to #2 (and possibly more) of Ceilick's Ten Commandments and I was afraid people would miss one of the many keys in the gray area and have to backtrack a lot. In retrospect I think it would also have been a good idea to add background SGA signs next to the keyholders so the player knows how many of each color to look out for.

The engine does indeed support many keys; the variables are counters rather than yes/no flags. I believe the F10+I cheat grants 99 of each key so you can always cheat in enough keys for the level in one shot.
Nisaba wrote: I've also missed those final floor or ceiling tiles in a couple of levels which represent the border of the level. but this might be my personal taste.
Having the bottom of the level be open and deadly was sometimes necessary, though I probably should have found a way to make the deadliness clearer in Defense Tunnel Ahm. There were also cases where Markeen didn't leave me enough space to add a ceiling to the solid top of the level, but in other cases I just neglected to.
Nisaba wrote: Besides that there are some required areas that can only be accessed via the impossible pogo trick...
This is true and I should have mentioned it in the initial post. There are also occasional, usually but not always optional, parts that require understanding alignment. I suppose this adds to the difficulty and makes the pack require more experience. I tested every level on Normal and Hard; jump/pogo height is the same. Gravity is different on Easy mode, which makes both normal and pogo jumps higher, which should make these tricky parts more manageable.
Nisaba wrote: However I greatly did enjoy the shorter levels a whole lot. They featured so neat puzzle ideas. If I had to pick two I'd probably go with level 2 and 5. From memory I enjoyed them most. But of course there are other great levels as well. But they might actually be my first pick.
That's good to hear. I made the levels in the order of their ID, and at the beginning of the project I was still getting used to the level polishing process, so I picked smaller starting levels. I was concerned level 2 in particular was too small. For that reason, and because the core challenge (platform and switch for the keycard) was my invention rather than Markeen's, I considered replacing it at the end of the project, but decided to leave it in order to get the pack's initial version out for the new year. If some people actually like it I'm satisfied!
Nisaba wrote: Also noteworthy is the layout of those bigger secret areas.
These are all Markeen's ideas. It has no concept of route through a level, so it often creates open nonlinear areas, big solid regions with irregular holes, and unnecessary side areas. I usually had to decide which foreground tiles should actually be solid, but at least it made me incorporate nonlinear extra areas, which is something I struggled with on my own.
Nisaba wrote: and then there are those with a surprising exit path way
I completely forgot about that one! In the early stages of the project I tried very hard to preserve every space Markeen made (the before and after images of the first level line up very well). I suspect my thought process on that particular secret was "argh, there's no normal way to route this, whatever you say Markeen!" In later levels, especially big ones, I sometimes just solid-filled small holes that would be difficult to route.
Nisaba wrote: Can you name which levels where most exciting for you to put together and which elements surprised you most while working with Markeen.
Setup Bootstrapper (level 8) was a fun exception to my usual workflow. IIRC I decided the visual theme pretty early, inspired by the big pipes/columns next to the fuse machine serving as a boundary. It was nice to have a vision to work toward when routing and placing interactive elements.

Defense Zone Lincsol (level 9) was probably the most fun to route. Markeen provided all the door positions (albeit one barely formed), most of the keygem-door structure, and the entire alignment puzzle in the middle (even the little hole above the purple pole)! That starting point was a must-use.

Similarly, the long slopes in York Slopes (level 11) were so unique that I had to use them. It would have been even cooler if the core route was making progress up the slope through detours to the right half of the level, but the stuff on the right was too far away and there weren't really elements to block ascent of the slope. Maybe it'll be inspiration for another, more freeform mod level.

In terms of surprising elements, it was interesting which pieces Markeen liked to use more. It feels like (though I haven't rigorously counted) there are a lot more keygem doors and turrets per unit area than the original game. It's alright at using poles, even ones that go through platforms, but doesn't use switchable bridges super often and has trouble when it does.

It's also interesting that Markeen likes both irregular shapes and very long repeated elements, both of which were useful. It's very good at breaking up flat platforms with steps or slopes, making the areas more interesting that I would on my own. The repeated elements are visually striking (maybe contributing to the alien vibe) and sometimes helped define the gameplay, like York Slopes.
Nisaba wrote: PS:
I also found a couple of bugs, but that's for a later post
Ah, I probably missed a couple spots. Bug reports would be appreciated.

Thanks again!
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 Markeen forced me to work with more interesting structures.
I know exactly what you mean. I'm actually best in terms of level designing when I tweak and tinker with existing material. That's why I mainly focus on polishing given stuff or refurbishing abandoned attempts. Not only that I learn a lot by understanding a given structure, but also does it force me to come up with clever solutions for questions and problems I wouldn't have ask in the first place, which seems to be quite an exciting challenge for me.
With this in mind I think that Markeen could really become a basis for me to create future mods. But I guess I wouldn't be as strict about it as you are with this project, meaning that Markeen demands every pieces and bit. I might use it more as an inspirational source of some sort... we'll see. The bottom line is, that Markeen is indeed a very exciting project.
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 You're right that I should have included more memorable landmarks. Overall I tried to do something with every reasonably sized space Markeen generated, but when the level's area was >18,000 tiles it was probably time to draw the line and just solid-fill the extra space.
Due to my own project and the feedback of my beta testers I might keep some extra tabs on level size and orientation support. We as level designers face this challenge of knowing the bigger picture, which the players don't. And I know from experience that this is quite a hard task. Now given that Markeen decides the overall layout, things become even more difficult, as intuitiveness would be a way too complex feature to program in, right. To solve this issue my first guess would be to restrict the level size quite a bit. (Talking about the bigger levels here.) In my opinion this pack really shines at medium and smaller sized levels. The alien like feel does comes as unique selling point we haven't seen before.
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 I should also have allowed myself to combine multiple small Markeen levels into larger levels with scroll dividers.
Sounds like a neat idea.
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 I'm pleasantly surprised that you liked the multiple keys. This level is a blatant offense to #2 (and possibly more) of Ceilick's Ten Commandments and I was afraid people would miss one of the many keys in the gray area and have to backtrack a lot. In retrospect I think it would also have been a good idea to add background SGA signs next to the keyholders so the player knows how many of each color to look out for.
Yeah, some SGA signs next to those gems would make things more clear for the average player. And I guess something like a row of gem holders might help as well to get a better understanding of the main task. Something like so, you know:
Image
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 [...] I picked smaller starting levels. I was concerned level 2 in particular was too small. For that reason, and because the core challenge (platform and switch for the keycard) was my invention rather than Markeen's, I considered replacing it at the end of the project, but decided to leave it in order to get the pack's initial version out for the new year. If some people actually like it I'm satisfied!
This was a very good choice in my opinion. This level felt so much bigger for me than it actually is. The optional path down below is a real hard challenge. And I'm a big big fan of compact areas where so many things are happening at once. You always need to keep an eye for the Slicestars while navigating your way through. I also didn't switched the "a" switch at first as I thought that I had to find another switch to make the platform to the left move. So working my way back and forth two or three times was really fun. And due to the small size it didn't feel like backtracking at all, especially if you are up to explore every niche and inch of this place. I love it!
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 Having the bottom of the level be open and deadly was sometimes necessary [...] There were also cases where Markeen didn't leave me enough space to add a ceiling to the solid top of the level, but in other cases I just neglected to.
This led to at least one glitch:
Image

While talking about glitches here are some further tile info errors I came across:
Image Image
.
Image Image
Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 I tested every level on Normal and Hard; jump/pogo height is the same. Gravity is different on Easy mode
Side note: Seems like I've forgotten about that, as I've tweaked the source code quite a bit for FitF and have gotten used to all the changes made for this project...


On another note I'd like to ask whether or not you plan to through one of the other episodes at Markeen and work with the results. I have the impression that Keen 5 & Markeen work perfectly well together as the Omegamatic deals mainly with indoor areas. So the other episodes possibly won't turn out so well. I'm interested about your though on that. And have you already tested those episodes as well?


Thanks by the way for sharing your workflow with Markeen. For me, as a level designer, these are some valuable insights and interesting course of action. For the level of creativeness its always a good idea to leave predilections for certain layouts and stuff and go for something knew and challenging. I think do I learn quite a lot from your approach. Your thoughts about visual themes, interactive elements, working with secret pathways, dealing with irregular shapes, planing routes and all that is very valuable to me. Again, thanks for that.
Last edited by Nisaba on Sat Jan 08, 2022 12:08, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Roobar »

lol that looks really awesome! Markeen seems like a nice guy 😂 Curious to see with what designs has he come up with.

So I tried it and although it's cool, definitely not gonna making a recording of it. 98% of it would be me saving and loading. I barely made it to the second level.
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Fleexy »

Nisaba wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:34 While talking about glitches here are some further tile info errors I came across:
Thanks for the detailed reports. Markeen was very inconsistent about solid vs. not when forming platforms, leading to climbing glitches. I fixed most of these when making the levels, but clearly not all! I fixed the ones you showed in my local copy. I'm not sure if it's possible to avoid the slope collision glitches given how tile properties work in the vanilla engine, but I did add a fire helix at the top of CNG Key Isolation to prevent getting trapped outside the level. If/when I publish a new version with more substantial changes, these fixes will be included.
Nisaba wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:34 On another note I'd like to ask whether or not you plan to through one of the other episodes at Markeen and work with the results. I have the impression that Keen 5 & Markeen work perfectly well together as the Omegamatic deals mainly with indoor areas. So the other episodes possibly won't turn out so well. I'm interested about your though on that. And have you already tested those episodes as well?
Right, the enclosed areas help Markeen a lot. When levels are more open, Markeen adds more air, letting it get farther away from a structure and "forget" what it was doing. The resulting mixed platform styles are too different to look good pushed together like I sometimes had to do in this pack. Overall the levels are disconnected and nonsensical. Here's a random sample of Keen 4 and Keen 6 levels generated with the same protocol as my Keen 5 starters.

Edit: I therefore don't plan to make Keen 4 or 6 packs with the same approach. I might borrow smaller ideas from it in the future, like you suggested. But if I was going to work with whole autogenerated starting points, I would want to rethink the generation logic. I have some ideas for that, though not a lot of time to implement them.
Roobar wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 13:07 So I tried it and although it's cool, definitely not gonna making a recording of it. 98% of it would be me saving and loading. I barely made it to the second level.
Hmm, I may have underestimated the difficulty; maybe I should have warned of full difficulty step beyond Keen 5. Like Nisaba said, it can be tricky to account for the advantage I have in routing and seeing the whole level. Thanks for trying though!
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Syllypryde »

Fleexy wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 17:54 ......I'm pleasantly surprised that you liked the multiple keys. This level is a blatant offense to #2 (and possibly more) of Ceilick's Ten Commandments and I was afraid people would miss one of the many keys in the gray area and have to backtrack a lot. In retrospect I think it would also have been a good idea to add background SGA signs next to the keyholders so the player knows how many of each color to look out for.

The engine does indeed support many keys; the variables are counters rather than yes/no flags. I believe the F10+I cheat grants 99 of each key so you can always cheat in enough keys for the level in one shot......
To be honest, I believe Ceilick's rules for galaxy modding was more geared towards beginning modders to give them basic fundamentals and how to create playable levels. Most likely if a beginning modder tried to make things a little too complicated or attempted to stray too far from the rules, they would then create levels that are too confusing, too hard, or outright unplayable. A textbook example of this would be Gridlock's abandoned Keen 4 levelpack. As I have said in the past, it has great potential and I liked a few of the levels, but overall as Gridlock has admitted himself it was very sloppy as a whole.

But I also believe that if more experienced modders adhere too strictly to his rules that it could limit creativity and balanced complexity. Again using Gridlock as an example, I think most of us could say that he pretty much wiped his backside with most of Ceilick's rules when he created Atroxian Realm and we know that mod will always be considered a favorite of this community.
Even Ceilick himself has praised it, though he did add that there were things he would have done differently. It was Gridlock's willingness to bend or break those rules and his creativity to try things that haven't been done before that I guessed he would be the one to surpass Ceilick as the top galaxy modder, someone who would not only make up their own rules, but only make them work. But with Ceilick's return with Return to the Shadowlands as well as his plans to make this into a trilogy shows us he does not plan on going gentle into that good night. It is just a matter of time before someone surpasses Gridlock and maybe that someone will just be Ceilick taking his championship title back!

But to bring this post more on topic, this random generator that created these new levels is more than definitely a breath of fresh air, because it made me feel bad to consistently tell Fleexy that his levels are too dymn hard and I refuse to play anything he puts his name on. Fortunately I can say that is not the case anymore. Even though several of these levels might break Ceilick's steadfast rules, it won't prevent me and most likely many others from giving these levels the chance they deserve. I've only played through a few levels so far, but I like what I have played. I will definitely play it again.

I believe it is a big win for this community when modders not only try to be better than the rest, but more importantly, they are better than they were their previous mod and getting better with each new one. Though Keenrush is more of a Vorticon player and modder than for Galaxy, with his impressive creativity I think it would be interesting what he would come up with on his own galaxy mod. I am sure it would most likely be a departure from a lot of the rulebook as well. We all have to respect Ceilick for the major contributions to this community, including his galaxy modding rules. But on the flipside, it is not absolutely necessary they must be the be all/end all of modding.

Good Job Fleexy, keep in up!
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

Syllypryde wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 11:33 [...] Though Keenrush is more of a Vorticon player and modder than for Galaxy, with his impressive creativity I think it would be interesting what he would come up with on his own galaxy mod. I am sure it would most likely be a departure from a lot of the rulebook as well.
talking about breaking galaxy modding rules: let's not forget about Levellass' numerous outside-the-box mods like Space Evaders or Pak Een, and of course Mink's Puzzle Pack, NY00123's Tests Level or XkyRaugh's Save the Quillsheep. They all base on the premise to leave each and every modding rule behind and to push the limits as far as possible. And if you ask me, the results are really really interesting.
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

@Fleex:
I recorded my sessions and thought I would share them with you. At least for me it always feels rewarding to see other people struggle with my creations :p unfortunately though the videos are no-commentary recordings. But I hope that they still can give some valuable insights. All in all I decided to go for a Vorticon kinda playing style, meaning, that I tried to only saved my progress on the worldmap. So, ingame saving only happens when the level feels way to big, or I'm really struggling. At least that was the plan.

Here are the first 7 levels I've played. More will follow soon.
level 1 Entropic Bridge
level 2 Glimpse of the Void
level 3 Defense Tunnel Ahm
level 4 CNG Key Isolation
level 5 Defense Shaft Sors
level 6 Security Accounts Manager
level 7 Defense Zone Waksind

for convenience reasons I could also upload them on a video platform. Just hadn't had the time to do so. just lemme know which way you prefer to watch these videos.

BTW, can you say some' about the level names and how they came to be?
Foray in the Forest progress:
92% Programming || 95% GFX || 92% Levels || 98% Creatures || 90% Story || 94% Music || 95% SFX || 96% Extras

Other projects:
- Play Commander Keen on a GameBoy
- The Lynx Nyx
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Fleexy
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Fleexy »

Nisaba wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 20:32 I recorded my sessions and thought I would share them with you. At least for me it always feels rewarding to see other people struggle with my creations
This is great, thanks! You're good at finding secrets. I now understand what you mean about the level borders. Especially with the original game being consistent about enclosing the space, it can be hard for someone who didn't design these levels to know which level boundaries are significant. I'll see what I can do to improve this.

The videos also showed me a few more places with subtle tiling mistakes (mostly lookalike tiles with the "front" flag set or not), which I'm fixing where possible. I also noticed an inaccessible small secret area in CNG Key Isolation. I might want to rethink the secret on the left of Security Accounts Manager - IIRC I designed it as an alternate route down, but it would be better to provide a (probably much more visible) way back up to make sure the player can't get trapped at the bottom.
Nisaba wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 20:32 BTW, can you say some' about the level names and how they came to be?
Sure!
  • Entropic Bridge is the first level and therefore the entry point, the bridge, to the randomness/disorder (entropy) of this partially-randomly generated level pack.
  • Glimpse of the Void gets a strange name because it's so unlike any of the other levels, and gets its specific name because it's so open and almost devoid of platforms.
  • The defense tunnels/shafts/zones' names are weird inside jokes involving anagrams. Defense Zone Waksind is probably the best starting point to unravel the theme. :disguised
  • The fuse machine levels' names are Windows components. I was doing a lot of IT work around the time I started the pack and thought some components' names sounded pretty cool.
  • York Slopes is a silly reference to The Grand Old Duke of York that seemed to fit the player going up the distinctive slope during the level and then back down.
  • Galaxy Removal Tool is vaguely in keeping with the system components theme for the machines and also an accurate description of the QED.
Syllypryde wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 11:33 But to bring this post more on topic, this random generator that created these new levels is more than definitely a breath of fresh air, because it made me feel bad to consistently tell Fleexy that his levels are too dymn hard and I refuse to play anything he puts his name on. Fortunately I can say that is not the case anymore. Even though several of these levels might break Ceilick's steadfast rules, it won't prevent me and most likely many others from giving these levels the chance they deserve. I've only played through a few levels so far, but I like what I have played. I will definitely play it again.
Thanks for giving me another chance. :) I've changed a lot in the 13 (!) years since I joined, hopefully for the better in several ways. I still have a ways to go in terms of level design, but I'm glad Markeen seems to be helping me.
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Nisaba »

Fleexy wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:03 This is great, thanks! You're good at finding secrets.
You are welcome!
and yeah, I guess as a level designer I have a sense for secrets, even tough I might have missed out a couple of them...
Fleexy wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:03 I also noticed an inaccessible small secret area in CNG Key Isolation. I might want to rethink the secret on the left of Security Accounts Manager - IIRC I designed it as an alternate route down, but it would be better to provide a (probably much more visible) way back up to make sure the player can't get trapped at the bottom.
I also noticed that one or two 1up secret areas, I can't remember which, seem to be unmanageable. IIRC two of them require to drop onto a moving platform. Thing is, that you can't really locate Keens position as he walks behind foreground tiles. this makes things unnecessarily hard IMO. And indicator of some sort would be helpful, like, say, a pipe tube decoration element or something alike.

Ah, yes! the level names indeed felt like they all have sort of a deeper meaning / story behind them. neat references. Bootstrapper and brute force actually where those two quite obvious references that made me wonder about the rest. so, I might a hint concerning those anagrams. here's what I tried to decipher so far...
... defense tunnel ham?
... defense zone ills con? Collins?
... defense zone wan kid?
... defense shafts or so?

BTW, what's your connection to Prince Frederick?


the rest of my recordings. the last level was a bit frustrating. so, yeah... I might record another attempt, but for now it is what it is...
level 8
level 9
level 10
level 11
level 12

EDIT:
here's a worldmap tile error info vid
Foray in the Forest progress:
92% Programming || 95% GFX || 92% Levels || 98% Creatures || 90% Story || 94% Music || 95% SFX || 96% Extras

Other projects:
- Play Commander Keen on a GameBoy
- The Lynx Nyx
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Syllypryde »

Fleexy wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:03 ......Thanks for giving me another chance. :) I've changed a lot in the 13 (!) years since I joined, hopefully for the better in several ways. I still have a ways to go in terms of level design, but I'm glad Markeen seems to be helping me......
To me the biggest disappoint was your Impossible Palace level you made for the DITD levelpack, I was really looking for to it and never expected the name to be literal. It was extremely difficult on easy and near impossible on normal and hard. I did complete it on easy and normal (though on normal I had to use in-level saving close to 50-100x), I gave up on it on hard. Anytime I play the level pack I skip that level most of the time. On occasion I might give it a try just to see how far I can get.

Like I said, I will play your keen 5 level pack again and I plan to complete it.
Nisaba wrote: Wed Jan 12, 2022 19:16 talking about breaking galaxy modding rules: let's not forget about Levellass' numerous outside-the-box mods like Space Evaders or Pak Een, and of course Mink's Puzzle Pack, NY00123's Tests Level or XkyRaugh's Save the Quillsheep. They all base on the premise to leave each and every modding rule behind and to push the limits as far as possible. And if you ask me, the results are really really interesting.
Of course those mods are outside-the-box mods. I was referring to mods that use the same gameplay as the originals, but break the rules Ceilick had written.
What is Directive X_M?
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by Fleexy »

Nisaba wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:04 I also noticed that one or two 1up secret areas, I can't remember which, seem to be unmanageable. IIRC two of them require to drop onto a moving platform. Thing is, that you can't really locate Keens position as he walks behind foreground tiles. this makes things unnecessarily hard IMO. And indicator of some sort would be helpful, like, say, a pipe tube decoration element or something alike.
There are indeed multiple difficult secret areas like that, though the Security Accounts Manager is (perhaps as usual) the worst offender. Good idea about the pipes - I'll try to incorporate a better visual indicator, or perhaps just remove the extra area from SAM as it is already very big.
Nisaba wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:04 so, I might a hint concerning those anagrams.
You got the first two! They're all names of public figures that hold four different views on the same subject.

Perhaps in the future, after much more development, it may be more difficult to distinguish the contribution of Markeen's random process from that of a human level designer. :confused
Nisaba wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:04 BTW, what's your connection to Prince Frederick?
Heh, no connection - the level's route just reminded me of the rhyme "The grand old Duke of York / He had ten thousand men / He marched them up to the top of the hill / And he marched them down again." It's taught to children in some places, though I'm not sure why.
Nisaba wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:04 the rest of my recordings. the last level was a bit frustrating. so, yeah... I might record another attempt, but for now it is what it is...
You're doing really well! A lot of this level, including the yellow and red keys, is optional. Getting the mines from the upper left (or even the one from the lower left, though that's tricky) to the original area is sufficient; the rest of the level is just there for optional extra challenge or in case all the previous mines get exploded too soon.

I also noticed a few more small tiling mistakes and unreachable point items. Thanks again for recording!
Nisaba wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:04 EDIT:
here's a worldmap tile error info vid
If you're referring to the extra accessible 1x1 space "above" the defense tunnel corridors, I think this happens in the original game too. The blocking "security door" foreground tiles on the world map have to be covered by $D0xx infoplane values to be removed once the level is complete, but those values always set the foreground to the zero tile, leaving both spaces empty.
Syllypryde wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 21:20 To me the biggest disappoint was your Impossible Palace level you made for the DITD levelpack, I was really looking for to it and never expected the name to be literal.
Yeah, unfortunately that was still in my "don't know how to populate a level except with crazy hard maneuvers" stage. (Though FWIW the level name wasn't my idea.) In particular, I'm embarrassed to remember that I had trouble designing without floating hazard tiles... but in this pack I wished Markeen wouldn't use so many fire helixes and actually removed several that were placed too annoyingly. Personal growth FTW!

I think my first halfway-decent level contribution was in InsaLevs 1. Interestingly, people also said my level there had an "alien" feel, so perhaps I was the real alien all along. :disguised
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Re: Fleex & Markeen's Keen 5 Level Pack

Post by NY00123 »

Have been checking this out. I knew about Markeen beforehand, and it looks like it's been a while since the very first experiments were done, but we can see the potential for sure; Even if later manual edits are needed. The first two levels accessible from the world map are probably good examples of this, judging by the relatively small dimensions and the pits.

As a challenge, I've decided to try and complete each level without saving in the middle of the level, at least for the first few. I did save towards the end of Defense Tunnel Ahm, due to the potential challenges. I was eventually replaying the level until I could complete it without mid-saving.

I do have a few minor bug reports for Defense Tunnel Ahm:
- Not far from where you start, go to the left on the sloped floor. You'll first move diagonally, up and left. You'll later move down on a less steep slope, until you reach the edge and need to fall down. By appropriately jumping and moving to the right, you can get Keen into the sloped floor.
- To the right of the platform switch identified with SGA letter 'A' and the nearby pole, and above the laser cannon, there's a misalignment in the background tiles.

Either way, great to see Markeen finally showing its potential in a released level pack!
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