Return to the Shadowlands

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Benvolio
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Benvolio »

I'd be interested in doing a little music. I've never composed tracks for Keen. But seeing as you mention midi files, these are something I could give a stab at. Are there any particular limitations i.e. number of tracks in the song, instruments, length? If a midi file was provided would that be something you could easily enough convert to the format used in Galaxy?
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by DarkAle »

Ceilick wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 15:52 I've had one song submission from DarkAle
Hope you'll use that track. Anyway, I'm still working on it and I'm also thinking about which instruments I should add
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Benvolio wrote:Are there any particular limitations i.e. number of tracks in the song, instruments, length? If a midi file was provided would that be something you could easily enough convert to the format used in Galaxy?
I'm not a composer myself, but here's what ancient wisdom from others I can pass on regarding composing for Keen galaxy games and Midi to IMF conversion:

https://keenwiki.shikadi.net/wiki/Keen_ ... IMF_Format
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K1n9_Duk3
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by K1n9_Duk3 »

Benvolio wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 18:30 Are there any particular limitations i.e. number of tracks in the song, instruments, length? If a midi file was provided would that be something you could easily enough convert to the format used in Galaxy?
There are MIDI to IMF converters out there. There's not really a limit to the number of tracks in the MIDI file, als long as the converter can handle it.

The most important restriction to keep in mind is the fact that the IMF music will be played back by an AdLib-compatible sound card, meaning you only have 9 voices/channels available in total, and one of them is reseverd for the game's sound effects. This means the song can never play more than 8 notes at the same time.

If you're curious, just give my converter a try (see link above). You don't have to actually use the generated output, but it will tell you how many notes were cut short or outright ignored during the conversion process. Since any other tool would have to deal with the same hardware limitations, the amount of lost notes should be pretty much identical no matter which converter you use.
Last edited by K1n9_Duk3 on Thu Apr 08, 2021 22:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Gridlock »

In my experience, it usually takes a while to master a MIDI file into the IMF format. That includes both instrument mastering and dealing with any technical problems. But I'm not particularly talented with music creation, so maybe others have better skills.

I mainly used IMFCreator for Atroxian Realm, with the only exception (I think) being Krilewood Forest. That program was more likely to result in dropped notes and glitches (particularly with percussion). Because Atroxian Realm was a memory-intensive project with some very large levels, I also had to make cuts to several tracks to reduce the size of certain tracks. Hopefully that wouldn't be an issue here.

Most of the time I spend on music is doing instrumentation and mixing. Depending on the track, sometimes it can be brutally hard to find the right instrument or combination of instruments.

You'll find that, at least by default, IMFCreator and K1n9_Duk3's have different sounding voices for the same instruments. I've found K1n9_Duk3's converter tends to producer a smoother sound, but sometimes it can be hard to find instruments with the same "power" as IMFCreator. Another benefit of K1n9_Duk3s converter is that the IMF file played via IMFPlay is exactly what you'll hear in game, whereas IMFCreator's preview is inaccurate to the final sound. And IMFCreator has other annoyances, such as frequent bugs and a preview tempo that is slower than what you'll hear in-game (560 tics is the correct speed but sounds slow in preview).
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Getting a little ahead of myself, but I drew these up as previews for this potential series:

Image

Image

I may alter the episode title font in each to be friendlier to the backdrop image.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by proYorp »

That is some smooth image editing. Took me a few minutes to even realize Keen's poses were swapped, and then it was mainly because the recolored raygun made me pay attention to it.

I like the comic booky title font, although yeah it is a little hard to read in spots (in the Keen 6 one, the black outlines of the text and the Bloog's eye kind of blend together. Maybe if there was another, lighter outline around the text it would be more legible). Nice to see some original design going into that; I don't think I've seen many levelpack title screens that use a font other than the default.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Gridlock »

Neat! I like seeing the Robo-Blue in the Keen 5 title screen. I'm wondering how many custom enemies you're thinking of using. I had considered doing some custom enemies in The Alphamatic, but I decided against going down that rabbit hole. I felt like once I changed one enemy, I'd have to change a bunch of them. Maybe it would be easier if there was a source code mod version of vanilla Galaxy games.

I know you haven't started on it yet, but I would be interested in seeing what kind of custom behavior you could do for a Robo-Blue.

Might want to check the spelling on "infiltration" in that title grahic :disguised
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Atroxian Realm: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3536
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

HA! Wow the spelling :lol

So I'm for sure going to replace one enemy, the Korath, and will try to sneak robo Blue in (and change the title screen otherwise). Replacing the Korath will be little Ampton's older brother Big Ampton (looking forward to revealing the design for this), and as for Robo Blue, I'm envisioning keen seeking missiles.

But as you mention, it WOULD be easier as a source mod.
K1n9_Duk3, who has helped significantly with a crucial patch for Return to the Shadowlands' story, suggested doing so, and Lemm suggested turning this project into an Omnispeak mod, which I'm heavily considering., depending on Lemm's ability to assist and if the community is interested in that.

Omnispeak, for those who don't know, is essentially a windows version of the keen galaxy games by sulix, NY00123 and lemm which plays virtually identical to the dos versions. Just no dosbox.

The upside to doing this is more flexibility making alterations, more memory, and adding additional code and sprites for creatures. I envision at least 2 additional creatures to keen 4, as many as 5 in keen 5, and 5 in keen 6.

Basically the only downsides is it's no longer a keen galaxy mod in the traditional sense, and again, no dosbox for those that consider that a downside.

Any thoughts on this are appreciated!
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K1n9_Duk3
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by K1n9_Duk3 »

I think that any mods running in DOSBox are the most inclusive in the sense that anybody should be able to play them on their preferred system. DOSBox runs on almost any architecture and operating system. You simply don't get such a wide target audience with native code unless you're willing to invest countless hours into writing several ports of the game yourself.

And it's not just a matter of having a Windows version and a Linux version (or whatever). Modern compilers and code libraries are dropping support for older versions of Windows left and right, so even if you try to compile a 32 bit executable for Windows (which should theoretically be able to run on Windows 95 and later), chances are it won't even start on anything older than Windows 7 or 8. DOSBox on the other hand can still run on a 20 year old PC with Windows XP. And even if DOSBox didn't work, you still had the option of running the game using Windows' built-in virtual DOS machine or booting straight into DOS.

On the other hand, modding Omnispeak could provide clear advantages:

1. You don't have to worry about memory limitations, so your levels can be about twice as big as the DOS version would allow and you could place one instance of every actor type in the same level without running out of memory for all the required sprite graphics.

2. Music could be in any format and you wouldn't have to deal with the limitations of AdLib cards and the IMF format.

3. Simply downloading and running the game could be easier than installing and configuring DOSBox. Most of the people currently playing Keen mods already know how to do that, but a native program could appeal to people who aren't familiar with DOSBox. That is, of course, assuming that you provide easy access to the required builds/ports.


The question is what you're actually trying to accomplish. After coding for FITF for more than two years, fixing programming/patching bugs in Keen mods last year, and doing other stuff that I haven't told anybody about, I think I know the engine pretty well. FITF has over 600 sprites and about 40 different actor types right now, which might be almost twice as much as Keen 4 has. And we're still running 16-bit DOS code, so everything still has to fit into 1 megabyte of address space when the game is running. This goes to show that you can still do a lot with the DOS source code and some optimization.

Personally, I would prefer to see your mods released for DOS(Box). Even though I still use DOSBox for quick playtesting, I tend to do any serious DOS gamimg (i.e. full playthroughs) on a real DOS machine.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Multimania »

So, K1n9_Duk3 is absolutely right that a traditional DOS mod would probably be most compatible (at least for Keeners who already have DOSBox set up), and it's definitely possible to fit a few more sprites in with a bit of work.

That being said, Omnispeak-based mods should be reasonably easy to port, so long as someone's willing to do the compiling et al (for which there's an automated system for Windows and Linux). I'm pretty committed to making sure the base omnispeak code works on as many systems as possible. The current windows code does run on XP, and it should theoretically be possible to get it running on Windows 95/98 as well, though it'd probably require a separate .exe compiled against SDL 1.2 (and would lack some of the features which need newer libraries or hardware). There have also been ports of it to things like chinese handhelds, hobby OSes, and the original Xbox.

In fact, there's — still a bit experimental and buggy — support for compiling Omnispeak as a 32-bit DOS program, which will run either under DOSBox or on newer DOS machines (realistically, ~486 or later). If that was tidied up and finished, it'd have some of the advantages of DOS, but with less severe memory limits. Of course, you'd still be limited to EGA / Adlib, and a reasonable-for-DOS-machines amount of memory and CPU use if you wanted to support that.

Otherwise, there are advantages to either way: debugging is probably easier with Omnispeak, where you can use more modern tools, but Omnispeak also hasn't ever really been used for mods in this way, so there's probably a bit of tweaking needed to make it behave more like a standalone game.

Finally, the actual gameplay code (physics, enemy AI, etc) is very similar between CKSRCMOD and Omnispeak, so it'd probably be quite plausible to start with one and port to the other if you changed your mind.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Well, I won't be meeting my April deadline. Oops. :o

What's left?
Ending Sequence
Levels
Music

Level progress:
10 Levels at 100% testing ready
2 Levels at 75%
2 Levels at 40%
1 Levels at 15%
1 Level at 2%

Right now I need to dedicate most of my free time to a class I'm taking, which I hope to complete in the next week or two. Once that's done I should be able to redirect my time to finishing this.

Regarding the engine/platform, I've decided I won't be making a decision on this until the levels and minutia are complete. At that time I'll see who is willing to work with me on what platform and go from there. Since the only significant departures from the original Keen 4 in terms of programming will be 2 additional enemies (and the level design will work with or without them) and some council janitor tweaking, I'm hoping this won't be too challenging.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by K1n9_Duk3 »

Don't worry about deadlines, it'll be done "When It's Done". :dopefish

Let me know what you had in mind regarding those two additional enemies, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to figure it out a way to make it work.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Here's an update on things:

K1n9_Duk3 has taken on the programming for this project so that it is now a source mod! His contribution has made this a fundamentally better project, with additional features such as:
  • 3 new shadowlands creatures, including the " Stingaru" and Keen GBC's "Badoing"
  • 1 additional level, "Jungri-la"
  • Gameplay tweaks (such as 'better' treasure eater teleporting)
  • Better implementation of text and other misc changes (one change will items collected in a level will not be kept if Keen dies)
  • Bug fixes

17/20 levels are testing ready. I expect to have the remainder done in ~2 Weeks.
Remaining Levels:
  • Reflectalus: 40%
  • "Secret Level": 10%
  • Pyramid of Fear: 40%
Then comes beta testing, which hopefully will take no more than 2 weeks unless major overhauls are needed.

The ending sequence is about 75% done. Still have a few images to draw up.

I've had a couple music submissions which I'm thankful for but I'm being a bit picky with respect to things sounding like they could have been Keen 4 outtakes, so nothing new is officially included yet.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Only the music remains! It depends on my composer's schedule, but working with a tentative submission by next weekend, I hope to release this between June 5th and June 12th. Keep an eye out!
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