Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

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Dave216
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Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Aurora Bliss is finished! This should be a stable release with no game breaking bugs, but I don't have a lot of free time to playtest every corner of the map. Please do let me know if you encounter any big problems with the game! :p


All information can be found in READ ME file or F1 Help section!
I do plan to update some of the graphics, possible some levels as well.

Release video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emkdPnH-sGA

Direct download link
https://www.dropbox.com/s/20nmnucsth99f ... 1.rar?dl=0
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Benvolio »

Oh my GARG. I am utterly ecstatic at this! A well presented, humourous, original piece of modding greatness, sprung upon us with minimal warning.

The artistry is magnificant. The Depeche-Mode-y track in the first level is incredible, this is straight off Some Great Reward. And the colour scheme and dithering... absolute EGA magic.

My skills at playing Galaxy are at an all time low which is unfortunate. The only critique I would level at your mod so far is that is edges ever so slightly towards "big first level syndrome". I'm very guilty of this myself of course. But Keen originals taught us that a simple first level really settles the nerves. The problem solving itself is very enjoyable of course but theoretically a gentler preliminary level might ease the player in.

The graphical style is really to my liking. At times slightly rough-edged but artistically so, and never crude or shoddy. The colour scheme and atmosphere brings me back to all the things I liked in the 1990s. So many ingenious details... those silhouette trees are beautiful... a formidable onslaught of ideas and moods.

And I've only just gotten started. Well done, and, thank you Dave216.
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Nisaba »

starts the game.
launches into the BWB level.
listens to the level entrance sound.
Immediate grin of joy!

now I just have to find the things for the thing
Foray in the Forest progress:
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- Play Commander Keen on a GameBoy
- The Lynx Nyx
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Benvolio wrote: Mon Aug 01, 2022 19:36 But Keen originals taught us that a simple first level really settles the nerves. The problem solving itself is very enjoyable of course but theoretically a gentler preliminary level might ease the player in.
Thank you so much! It was really a stressful day and your feedback really cheered me up :)
I know what you mean about starting levels, since I designed the levels first, and the world map later.
Afterwards, I wasn't really sure where to place Keen since most levels didn't "feel" like a first level, let alone gradually increase in difficulty.
This is just one of those things I learned while making this mod and would address more attention to in the future.
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Ceilick »

I'm 4 levels in on easy mode and enjoying it so far!

Discovering the new creatures has been one of my favorite parts, I've only encountered a handful but my favorites so far are the Saptyr and whatever the cloud replacement is. Really like your creature designs, the Ventabilis is pretty cool from what little it can be seen.

The story is amusing but I'm about as unsure of what I'm doing on Aurora Bliss as Craig seems to be. Scrapping robots for the ship?

Level design is pretty good so far. I got a little annoyed in the hanging garden level but quickly realized it was much smaller than it first appeared. Levels are generally a good size, I've never really gotten lost, and they utilize space well. I haven't had any of what I'd call unfair deaths. I will say I'm not a fan of using level edges as borders and prefer to see a layer of tiles bordering the level where applicable.

There are a lot of tile and graphical 'errors'. I'm not sure if they are errors or intended, since as I mentioned in the preview thread, the art direction has a very 'messy' style where these kind of 'errors' might be intended to contribute to that style. Needless to say, I don't think it detracts from my experience.

Will update again once I've played more!
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Ceilick wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 20:07 The story is amusing but I'm about as unsure of what I'm doing on Aurora Bliss as Craig seems to be. Scrapping robots for the ship?

There are a lot of tile and graphical 'errors'. I'm not sure if they are errors or intended, since as I mentioned in the preview thread, the art direction has a very 'messy' style where these kind of 'errors' might be intended to contribute to that style. Needless to say, I don't think it detracts from my experience.
Story is meant to be goofy, but yes, I initially had the idea of BwB crashing on Aurora due to Craig's incompetence(it would make all the robot parts you're collecting to be more sensical) but given up on the idea and went with "burning the navigation controls" with a soda. Realistically, you would probably need only need one robot for the replacement parts.

I do plan to redraw all the temple tiles from scratch since I am not satisfied with how they look.
Could you be more specific with tile errors? Do you mean wall edges not aligned with the walls, ceilings and such?
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Ceilick »

I PMed you some screenshots highlighting what I'm talking about.

Nothing wrong with the story, I just didn't know I was collecting parts from Robots until I met a robot and Keen's like "Sorry pal" :lol
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Ceilick »

Double posting because this really sucked me in in an unexpected way and I've just finished!

I gotta say, this mod really grew on me as I played and toward the end I had come to see it as a flawed masterpiece.

One of the things that really lead to my enjoyment is the level design. Being a new modder, I went into your project with some trepidation as to how difficult it might be and selected easy for that reason. But the fact is, as I played you really earned my trust as a player; your design always felt fair, I never got too lost, and I really enjoyed the emphasis on puzzle solving over avoiding obstacles. As I level designer myself, I felt I could learn a thing or two from your design. Even levels which featured more than four key games, which I generally frown on (I consider having more than four an indication that the level is too complex), felt fair and reasonable.

I love almost all the creature designs, and the new and old behaviors alike felt great for the most part. Madness is terrifying in appearance and behavior, and I love the design of the Tresculus Pests.

I'm proud to say I found the boys from the dwarf without the hint from the Temple doors! What can I say, I'm an explorer. Great secret level concept!

Speaking of the Temple of Doors, your design with all those doors makes sense now. It's a great puzzle and I judged it prematurely in the other thread.

Clever choice with the gas mask replacing the water on the world map!

I enjoyed the ending too, it felt just right for the tone of the mod.

So, why do I consider this a 'flawed' masterpiece?

Tiling and Graphical Errors: They are small and often easy to miss. Minor. But they are present and I think fixing them would go a long way in improving the atmosphere. These can be hard to spot and I suggest going through your levels zoomed in several degrees in Abiathar, looking for anywhere it's obvious the tiles don't quite line up , and then fixing it in the tileset either with some pixel modifications or including additional tiles for more seamless transitions. As a general rule, if you can distinguish the square shape or the edge of a tile just by looking at a screenshot, the graphics of the tile could use some improvement.

Level Borders: I think it would improve the appearance and gameplay-feel to add walls to the sides and a ceiling to top of levels where they would otherwise use the level edge as a border. This may just be my personal preference.

Information on the Planet: I went back a reread the story, and I missed a few details in my initial read. I think you capture the humor of Keen well, but man was I thirsty for some lore on what the planet Aurora Bliss is all about. I don't think the story is the best place for including such info though. Perhaps before all the creature profiles in the "Gameplay" section you could write us up some information on the planet and include more info on GoodProducts.inc. What are mysterious Ruri all about? Tell us more about this spooky twilight world full of Temples and exotic creatures! You give a short explanation of GoodProducts.inc in the snippet about the Jolly Bot; I suggest moving some of this into the section about the planet, if you decide to include such a section. Even just a few more sentences toward world building would go a long way![/list]

Background Variations: Some areas of certain levels felt as though they needed some additional detail objects in the backgrounds, especially indoor areas with the grey/dark grey pattern; I often felt additional posters or even just pixel variations like scratch marks or cracks in the walls would be a nice touch and enhance the atmosphere.

Level Design Flaws: I'm actually not sure if these are intentional or not. On easy mode I was able to use the impossible pogo trick to skip parts of some puzzles and levels. This usually resulted in minor shortcuts in certain levels, which may be acceptable for easy mode, but was most obvious in the Astra Temple when I was able to grab the green key gem immediately at the start and I think may have affected how I solved the level as a whole.

Overall, fantastic job! I'm thrilled to know you plan on going back to redesign what you feel needs improvement, and I hope my criticisms are valuable in that effort. If I can answer any specific questions to help, please feel free to ask here or via PM. And I'll absolutely be giving this a second playthrough on hard when a new version comes out.

Lastly, I'm left with the burning question: Do you plan to continue modding? You've demonstrated a lot of skill here and I'm personally hopeful you decide to do more!
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Ceilick wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 2:19
Lastly, I'm left with the burning question: Do you plan to continue modding? You've demonstrated a lot of skill here and I'm personally hopeful you decide to do more!
Thank you for such a detailed review! Yes, I do plan to make a sequel to Aurora, perhaps even more mods (depends all on my free time).
As you well know, modding can be really fun, but also takes ton of your energy and time.

Glad you found the boys and I am really impressed with your exploring skills since none of my testers found them on their playthrough (they are not Keeners though) There is still one big secret that perhaps is a little tedious to figure out, but it's connected with the Color Temple...
There are some hints in the README file.
I think it would be cooler if I don't reveal what it is.

I'll definitely add walls next to borders to some levels. I as well prefer when levels have walls on edges, but some levels were VERY FRUSTRATING to design since the "Not enough memory to play background music!" error, so they were shrunk down, resulting in borders without walls. Rose Elysium was twice the size before I realized that there was no way to add any of my music without it showing that error. I did try all the other ways to prevent this from happening, but perhaps I just should've just composed shorter but catchier tunes, like Keen 4 has. Perhaps I was using too many "Waterfall animating" sprites, not sure.

You know, writing a lore of Aurora is a nice idea. Funny to say, I had it written somewhere but didn't know where to place it ingame. I'll add it in.

Interesting... I've never playtested the game on easy and kind of forgot that Keen does jump a little higher in Easy Mode. I'll make sure that platform isn't reachable without Rimmer. It's actually a very good thing you thought that levels were unfair :D , cause I never even thought about playing it on easy. I always thought : "well if it's passable on hard - it's passable on easy."
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Ceilick »

To combat "Not enough memory to play background music!", one option not listed in my tutorial is utilizing K1n9_Duk3's IMF crusher. This tool can automatically optimize IMF music and reduce the size of the file, reducing the memory needed for the song in game, without compromising the song. Download here: http://k1n9duk3.shikadi.net/imftools.html. Then create a batch file with the following, renaming the song file names of course:

Code: Select all

imfcrush.exe song-file-to-convert.imf song-file-output.imf /chunk
Then it's as easy as dragging and dropping the song file onto the batch file to convert it, and reimport to the game with KeenWave.
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Nisaba »

Another trick to tackle the "Not enough memory" issue is to outsource as many individual foreground tiles as possible into the background tileset, as this takes like only a third or so of memory compared to the foreground elements which also feature an additional infolayer. I did that trick to bugfix Bubbatoms Suburb Shenanigans for the most part. should work here as well.

this plus the audio optimizing steps mentioned by Ceilicks.
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Nisaba »

(double posting incoming...)

Oh wow, oh wow!

Now that's what I call a modding debut. My original plan was to look into a few levels and save the rest for next weekends. Little did I know. after just the second level I was sucked into the atmosphere of this mod and played through it in one session.
Where do I start with my feedback?

Story:
Unlike Ceilick, the story grabbed me right away. I first watched the scrolling Starwars text and then read through the story in the F1 menu with relish. The premise made me smile a lot. Actually, it was only a matter of time before someone observed Keen's secret machinations, wasn't it. Even if the Coke thing is a simple excuse for a planet stop, the narrative felt very plausible and authentic to me, possibly due to the lovingly drawn characters.
I think you've captured Keen very well, and Craig is also a cohesive character who I somehow immediately took to my heart. IMO the humorous undertone of this game perfectly captures the mood of the original Keen games.
The fact that Aurora Bliss ultimately has little to do with Craig didn't bother me at all. The dialogue in the BWB level had me laughing hard, and I was more than eager to explore the environment without that little clumsy fellow.

Colours:
Oh yes! I'm a huge fan of your colour choices. The basic idea of the worldmap is such a good mix of colours. The orange and pink combinations work fantastically.
Image Image
In contrast, the dark blue part of the planet with the poison green zones has created a very gloomy flair, which I like a lot. So much so that I'd love to have seen an additional level playing around with that thick green fog idea.
And oh my! Can we appreciate that door for a second, please. This is absolutely fantastic. I wish I came up with that idea beforehand. marvelous looking! so so good
Image

Creatures:
I've really played a lot of mods, and I'd argue that I can actually tell right away which creature served as the base (Levellass' products excluded). But you proved me wrong. Ventabilis took me by surprised and the first contact with Madness almost made me garg my pants. You've been very creative with the movement patterns. But also the appearance of these characters is very original, which gives life and character to the whole project. I for one always argue that the uniqueness of the population of a planet is the most important aspect of Keen Modding. If the characters seem alive and can tell a story and show their own motivations, you've got half the battle. And your characters are darn good.
Also, the accompanying text to Ventabilis is hilarious. I love your interpretation of the Dopefish. And the rose fields are a brilliant idea as well.
I would love to see the Lick and Berkeloid being altered even more. I'm sure you have good ideas, but maybe patching limits the possibilities.

Level Design:
As Ceilick said, I too as a modder will grab&borrow some of your ideas. I love the deadend doors for instance. Using Save&Load, I entered each one to see what other ideas you had developed. Hello there, you flashing butterflies
Image
My spirit of discovery was not only triggered here. I also searched intensively for the Secret Level and was finally able to reach my goal with the ingame hint.
The puzzles are well thought through. Even though I'm not a fan of quick time events, I enjoyed them a lot, as in this very execution, they are challenging yet fair. This run-to-place-the-keys for e.g. was so much fun! Damn I enjoyed it.
Image
The Rimmer puzzles, on the other hand, took my teeth a bit out until I understood the mechanics. I should have read the help menu more carefully, I guess.
Image
Anyway, you use space very intelligently. I especially like the fact that you included several puzzles in a very small space, which overlap and have to be solved one after the other. This is a meaningful way of returning to an area but reaching certain places via an alternative route or from a different angle that were unreachable beforehand.
But what the hell is the Halls of Colours all about? I suspect that it is related to that rar file, but I still can't find a real clue... possible spoiler altert: I have played with the color codes, tried the colors myself and so on... am I on the right track?
Image

Overall a very enjoyable experience of a high quality product, that is. I was amused by the story, drawn in by the graphics, challenged by the level design and so much more. I would definitely be giving this a second playthrough on the next update.

Room for improvement:
Like already mentioned you could put in some effort to fix the Tiling and Graphical Errors, plus Level Borders would be appreciated.
In just a few levels I noticed a number of backtracking paths. Here a door or a bridge would be neat to reduce the need of backtracking the same paths over again. In other levels on the other hand you've already came up with neat alternative routes


PS: what's with that lost dingo? Levellass
Foray in the Forest progress:
92% Programming || 99% GFX || 96% Levels || 98% Creatures || 93% Story || 94% Music || 95% SFX || 98% Extras

Other projects:
- Play Commander Keen on a GameBoy
- The Lynx Nyx
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Nisaba wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 17:22
But what the hell is the Halls of Colours all about? I suspect that it is related to that rar file, but I still can't find a real clue... possible spoiler altert: I have played with the color codes, tried the colors myself and so on... am I on the right track?
Image

PS: what's with that lost dingo? Levellass
Yeah, you're on the right track :)
Colors are connected to *something something*
Which helps you with *something*

Hahhah the lost dingo is actually Trico from the Last Guardian.
Possibly out of place in a Keen universe, but played the game this year and placed it as tribute.
Last edited by Dave216 on Fri Aug 05, 2022 21:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Nisaba »

Dave216 wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 19:22 Yeah, you're on the right track :)
Colors are connected to [...spoiler...]
damn. That's the connection. And I've been wondering all along what these [...spoilers...] were actually good for.
if you can, please censor your last post to give others the chance to figure things out on their own

WAIT, WHAT?????
NO WAY
NOW THAT IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE COOLEST EPILOGUES EVER!
:mort

excellent soundtrack by the way
Foray in the Forest progress:
92% Programming || 99% GFX || 96% Levels || 98% Creatures || 93% Story || 94% Music || 95% SFX || 98% Extras

Other projects:
- Play Commander Keen on a GameBoy
- The Lynx Nyx
Dave216
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Re: Commander Keen - Aurora Bliss (RELEASE)

Post by Dave216 »

Nisaba wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 20:46
Dave216 wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 19:22 Yeah, you're on the right track :)
Colors are connected to [...spoiler...]
WAIT, WHAT?????
NO WAY
NOW THAT IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE COOLEST EPILOGUES EVER!
:mort

excellent soundtrack by the way
Ooops, said too much...Yupp, I've edited it.
Hey, so I didn't mess up the secret! At second I thought that the epilogue was not accessible, that I messed something up! So cool you've found it!! I am happy you didn't think it sort of ruined the main story :D :D

Thank you, saved the best music tracks for last :)
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