My TF2 Map, Thunderclash, part 2

So six months ago I posted about a map I was working on called Thunderclash. This map was of a mode of my own creation called Timeline (Well, it was called Advantage originally, but Timeline is better) which sought to solve problems I saw in KOTH and 5 Point Control Point maps like Granary, Well, or Blackmesa. Designed specifically with the mode in mind, it was an elaborate proof of concept. However, as the semester started up I found myself with less free time, and what free time I had ended up being spent watching Whiskey Media content or playing a variety of video games, plus purchasing Starcraft II right after returning from a vacation didn't help the map get made either. That said, while I am one who has abandoned many many great ideas in the past due to lack of time or more likely another new idea, I can't help but regret abandoning Thunderclash because whenever I looked at the layout, I remembered how brilliant it really was. 
 
So the other day, as the holidays are closing up and I finish up the 5 or so games I decided to play through over the break (Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Darksiders and  Alan Wake namely)  I got the urge to step back and give it another shot.
 
So then, the map and the mode. I'll start with the mode. Way I saw it, KOTH has a simple problem, and that it's very static. There's never any place in KOTH where there is a dramatic shift in the action, no place where you say "Alright, I've captured X, now I need to push forward more before they are ready for us" because once you've done X in KOTH you're done, and all that's left is to see how long you can sit. Meanwhile, in 5 point CP maps a lot of games would end up being big long stalemates where two teams would exchange the central 3 points for a half hour until one, by some miracle, managed to push all the way. Way I saw it, most of the conflict was over the middle 3 points, yet it doesn't really contribute to the result of the game in the  grand scheme of things. 
 
 The mode was designed to fix that. Instead of 5 points, it had 3, and instead of saying that once all 3 are captured one team wins, instead there are 2 timers, and when one team has all 3 points, only their timer counts down. Otherwise both timers count down. This way, the games would become more about gaining an advantage over the other team and forcing the disadvantaged team to be on the offensive, because it not merely a matter of "We have to stop them from taking our point or we'll lose instead of stalemate" it's "We have to push forward, or we'll lose." Additionally when you capped the center 30 seconds would be added to your opponents timer, meaning that a true advantage would be over 30 seconds, i.e. you could lose the center and still win if they didn't get any farther.  
 
The map was designed to be a proof of concept of this mode, focusing on giving attackers of any point a variety of attack routes, whether they were in their own base or their enemies. For its center point, I looked at Black Mesa's Center point and took elements from there, while still building a more open point with a variety of good flanking routes. For the base, I went through several iterations as I struggled to find a design that was both simple, and offered a good variety of routes such that the point would be hard to hold, but not impossible to take. After giving it one last redesign, I think I've got it down though. The map is called Thunderclash, and uses stuff from the Swamp pack, idea being it'd be set in either a disused laboratory or a decrepit mansion, which I'd think would make sense for a bog. 
 
Here's the most recent and hopefully final layout. For previous ones you can look in the previous blog. Darker regions indicate higher areas, the water is shallow apart from a single area where you can swim into a building, and there are some ramps that are expressed as a rectangle of the high color outlined with the low color, but it's not consistent as I only started doing that today. Also the map is mirrored. 
 
That's about it, just have to build it now. By it I mean the base since the center point is (and was at the time I bought Starcraft II) just about completed. Only issue now is my laptop seems to have trouble compiling it since it isn't great, and it's not rendering the water properly for some reason. At this point I'm hoping the design is strong enough that someone would be compelled to help me build it and make it pretty at some point, but in the meanwhile I'm trying to stay optimistic and just build it so I can see if it works as a map soon.

3 Comments

DKC Forever Wishlist

I've been thinking a little about the sequel to DKC Returns (which I hope is named Forever, its sequel being called DKC and Robin naturally) and I'd like to put down a quick list of the ten things I hope to see in it come November 2012 or whenever it comes out. 
  
10. Make an option to turn off the Super Guide. Seeing Checkpoink show up whenever I died 8 times really made me hate him by the end of the game. That's a terrible thing to do to a character.
9. Make the Time Trial mode restart faster. No point in restarting if the timer isn't reset. Look at Super Meat Boy for an example of how fast a platformer should restart you.
8. Make the map less Mariolike. No red and blue squares! Flags at the levels if you want to get fancy, faces if you want to be traditional. Kongs walking around would also be nice.
7. Make Kong Letters give lives instead of access to hidden levels, add DK coins, Kremcoins for the lost world purposes, though they can keep Puzzle Pieces.
6. Fix the roll. You should be able to roll through dudes without worrying about hitting the 3rd dude even when you don't have Diddy. That's how it was in the original games, and it made the roll an effective attack for any situation. (You could keep rolling so long as you were hitting dudes was the rule.)
5. Snow. Really speaks for itself.
4. Use only DKC2 music for remixing. It was a real misstep I think not using any of it here, especially considering the inclusion of Volcano stages, which really could've used some Hot Head Bop.
3.  A Super Meat Boy styled dark world version of every stage after you get a Gold Metal on a level or get all the Kong letters or something.
2.  Squitter, Rattly, (playable) Squawks and transforming into an animal buddy. Squitter could make platforms beneath him as he walks or jumps if it has to be fast, and Rattly would be a perfect fit since this game already stresses jumping over rolling, which is basically what Rattly sections did. Squawks could work too because there's already flying, it just has less controls than Squawks did.
1. Have Donkey Kong kidnapped and make Diddy and Dixie the playable characters. This one is a little less likely, and I think a lot of people will think I'm crazy for saying this (if they didn't play DKC2 that is), but the removal of DK was one of the best and ballsiest decisions they made in the development of DKC2, and I think it would really help the franchise going forward if they were to do it again.
 
Overall I'd say that DKCR was very much a sequel to DKC in the same way that DKL was, expanding on the elements from it as if later games didn't exist, only problem being that DKC2 was the pinnacle of the series, and ignoring the progress made there was kinda dumb. Therefore, I feel while simply removing the flaws from DKCR would be a perfectly fine way to make a sequel, I feel they should definitely make an effort to draw a lot more from DKC2 than they did in this first go. 
 
So yeah, that's my list. I could go into detail point by point, but it's 2 days after Christmas and I really don't feel like it.

4 Comments

A map I'm working on, Thunderclash

So a while back I came up with an idea for a mode which combined the merits of CP and KotH maps and fixed a few of the problems I perceived with them. I sketched out several maps, and over Christmas I started building a map which would prove the mode in Hammer. It came together well across around two weeks in terms of structure and, to a certain degree, appearance. However, after Christmas my Harddrive failed and I lost all progress I had made on the map. I was playing less TF2 at that point and I really didn't feel like going in and starting over at that time. However, since getting back into TF2 for the Engineer Update, I've been thinking about the map and I've decided to give it another go.
 
So then, this mode was designed to resolve the problems with CP and KOTH that I perceived. In CP maps the problem is that too much of the time it devolved to a struggle over the middle 3 points where rarely will the attacking team manage to take the last point and win the game. Like in CP_BlackMesa, which I am quite fond of, the middle three points mearly change hands countless times across the course of 30 minutes. And while one team may be doing better, unless they manage to take that last point from the other they'll have nothing to prove it with. Meanwhile I think KoTH isn't dynamic enough. Basically, you're either trying to defend a single solitary spot or you're trying to take that single solitary spot and force them off it. There's a single set of entrances and exits and never an event where you say "I have to push forward now that I've done X." In KOTH, when you've done X, you've finished! Now all that's left is to sit down and see how long you can sit. 
 
Basically it works like this. Two countdowns are always counting down from say, 3 to 5 minutes. However, capture the middle point and you add 30 seconds to the other teams timer. Capture all 3 points, and only your timer ticks down. That's about it really. Simple, but I believe it rewards a team which manages to dominate their enemy consistently and encourages pushing for the team that's behind because if they do not push to the 3rd point they will lose.
 
I figure such a mode would have to have points which are easy enough to capture, but tricky to defend. That's the reasoning I have for the design of the central point I've done justice in Google Docs for this post. It's loosely based on the central point of CP_BlackMesa. The shade of the color indicates the height and the color sorta indicates material for some reason. Also, for what its worth, I'm currently going with a swamp motif for the map, with one side having a big laboratory and the other having the kind of wooden mansion you would expect to be haunted.
 

I've changed up the design since 7 odd months ago mind, in a lot of little ways, but it has most of the same ideas. There probably should be more cover in a few places, and I've forgotten where I wanted the health and ammo, but still I like a lot about this design. 
 
The part I never really got down I think was the base, though it probably went through more design changes than the outside did. In theory, I believed that if the local team were to be expected to reclaim the control point, their spawns should be positioned on opposite ends of the base and have access to enough paths such that they could attack from anywhere to reclaim it. I was never able to figure out how exactly such a base should look, though I won't say I wasn't close. 
 
So that's basically it. I'm starting building it soon, but I'd really like to nail down the design of the map before I start this time and get the base right.  Also, I wanted to see what folk though of the design and the idea.
14 Comments

Massive Donkey Kong Page Overhaul

 I've just dropped 650 points of work into the Donkey Kong wiki article since it was pretty poor for one of the most frequent video game characters there is. I think my article goes into the characterization of Donkey Kong more than some people will expect, explaining his character flaws and how he differs in some of the more recent games, but I think it's pretty solid anyway.
 
Still a couple things to do I suppose. For instance, the original page was largely random trivia put into a few sentences posing as paragraphs, I simply deleted a lot of stuff. It'd be a good idea to drop in some needless trivia at the end concerning the character's creation, his resurgence, and any other random facts that you feel isn't relevant but you might as well mention.  
 
Also, I don't like the default picture as it characterizes him as a dimwitted grinning moron, while the DKC games all characterized that specific character as a laid back and likable. Since DKC is returning I think it makes sense to slot in the much better looking DK render from the Brawl site. I'd do it, but that's for folk with 5000 points. Finally if anyone wants to write a paragraph or two talking the character through the Donkey Kong franchise before DKC, go ahead and put it right after the overview and before DKC. I wrote a decent paragraph in the overview summarizing the early games, but that's not much really. 
   
Oh, and someone who can add aliases needs to add "DK" as an alias because he's called that half the time he's referred to.

I've been doing some work with pages relating from the Donkey Kong series, like the Extra Life Balloon page for instance, but there's just so much that needs to be done. Even the basics need a ton of work. Diddy's page is hardly a paragraph, Dixies is 4 of 5 pieces of trivia. Some pages, like Donkey Kong Island, are just completely blank. It's just terrible. I'm gonna try to do my part, but there's a lot of DKC related entries out there and I can't right 300 points for every one of them.

5 Comments

The DKC Returns Wishlist

 I'm really looking forward to DKCR. It looks like it handles as well as a DKC should. It appears to have both the responsive controls I demand and the speed and beauty that I feel has always put Donkey Kong Country above its competition. But then I'd like just a little more. Something about the game doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's the dopey name, maybe it's the odd changes to the HUD that appear to be the exact opposite changes they made to Metroid, maybe it's the utter lack of Kremlings, but something about that game needs a bit more magic. I'd like to run through a few things that would propel this game to be one of my favorite games of all time.  

Squitter

 Animal Buddies are probably a given looking at how much they're banking on familiarity, so I'm looking for Squitter in particular. He was really the best animal buddy, whose web generation made him somewhat of a half step between flying and running. As I said in a prior blog that no one read, Squitter doesn't fly, he falls with style, and that is why he is completely awesome. 
 

Kremlings

 I understand why they decided to use new enemies. Actually, no wait, I lied, I have no idea why they decided to use new enemies. Especially ones that seem so similar to Jungle Beat's enemies. Maybe Nintendo told them they had to because Kremlings weren't fresh? Doesn't matter, point is I want Kremlings in at some capacity. Maybe there are camps of allied Kremlings on the map at which you, I dunno, play a dumb minigame? Get hints for secrets? Maybe turn in collectibles for Concept Art? Retro does love it some Concept Art come to think of it, not exactly unlikely that. Point is, I want the fact that Kremlings are not the enemy to be something that is given serious attention, not glossed over like the Kremlings never existed ala Jungle Beat
  
Edit: According to IGN's interview, there are no crocodiles in the game.  

K. Rool and some Ridiculous Vehicle

 K. Rool seems a bit unlikely now considering that there are no Kremlings in the game, but really I think that makes it all the more likely. Think about it. K. Rool has been did up as a mystery before. Go and dig up your DKC2 manual, it tried to drum up some false mystery of who the final boss was the same way the first did. DKC3 did the same thing except integrated it into the story, suggesting that KAOS was the new boss of the Kremlings. K. Rool could very well be behind the Tiki men's attack while acting as a Shaman. Fits his MO, stealing Bananas for no reason.  Plus explains the lack of Kremlings. This is the result of Kremlings finally saying "We're done waging pointless war on the Kongs. Later" ala DKC3. 
 
Second thing I want from him is a ridiculous vehicle. Not like him riding the hovercraft ala DKC3 or in the Flying Eggman Chair ala KoS, that's not really what I mean by ridiculous vehicles. What I mean is the flagship vehicle. The one fit for a King. The Gangplank Galleon, the Flying Krock, the Knautilus. Where ever he is, he better have a big ass ship. And it's gotta be a lot bigger than all the other ships we've already seen.  
  
One more thing, should K. Rool show up here he might have enough weight to show up in Fisticuffs in a few years time, which would be fantastic.
 
Edit: According to this, K. Rool is not making an appearance. Well, there goes that.

David Wise

 I always thought the prerendered graphics were only half of the DKC series' beauty. Since he's free from Rare and apparently not doing anything, I hope they managed to get him in to do the music. 
   
Edit: apparently David Wise is not in on it. Don't ask me where I saw this, probably the IGN interview. 

Hero Diddy Mode  

 Diddy Kong is awesome. Always has been really. He had the best game in the series, the best development over the course of the franchise, and a really nice hat. That's why Hero Diddy mode was awesome, aside from the challenge of a perfect run.  Also, yellow hat is a plus. I forget if that was always part of Hero Diddy Mode or only in the GBA version. While I'm at it, competitive multiplayer please!  If only for different color ties and hats. 
  

(Edit 1) Options for Motion Controls

 Shaking has been used successfully in other platformers for critical moves, however I hate that they're using it for rolling in this. It's terrible not because a shake is useless, as it worked in the SMG series, but because of the way a roll is supposed to work in a DKC game. You see, the shaking is a jarring experience, and one you don't have complete control over timing. It can disrupt accurate and timely use of the A button or even the Numchuck. This is okay in SMG because the spin it triggers kills your momentum, leaving you free not to worry about hitting the jump button or fiddling with the stick while you're shaking like a madman. 
 
 However, Donkey Kong Country is different. A roll adds to your momentum, and gives you the opportunity to get through a level a lot faster by rolling right through obstacles, even off cliffs, while being in complete control. Being distracted while making this move could mean missing your chance to midair jump, rolling right into a toothy enemy, or missing the actions of a very jumpy boss that's coming for you. That may cause players to be reserved with their rolls, which is the worst possible thing that can happen as, really, you should always be rolling.  
   

Edit: I have been told that it has Wiimote on its side support. Fantastic, I've already got one of my wishes confirmed.

 
 (Edit 2) New HUD 
Let me tell you how the HUD was in the original DKC series. Your bananas were in your upper left. Your lives were in your upper right. Your K O N G letters were right up top. And, if you were transformed, your health was in the lower left hand corner. Now let me tell you how DKC Returns has it. Everything's in the upper left hand corner in an ugly box. It's just fucking terrible. They need to put everything back where it belongs before the game is released. Seriously.
 
  

(Edit 3) Kick Ass Manual 

 The Donkey Kong Country games has always had fantastic manuals, and this game should be no exception. It has to feature Cranky bitching about modern gaming and denying the quality of the game. It has to show pretty pictures of the places you will go as well as the animal buddies you will ride and barrels you will use. Odds are slim with the status of the modern manual, but it could happen.
25 Comments

A Soliloquy for Squitter

I fucking love what they've done with Mario's Cloud Suit not only because it looks like it works really well, but more that it reminds me of one of the greatest animal buddies of all time, Squitter the Spider from the DKC series. He was one of the more interesting Animal Buddies, as really, fas I know, up until Mario Galaxy 2 there's never been another character quite like Squitter. Able to create platforms were ever he pleased, Squitter played like a cross between flying and walking. Not tied to the ground but still beholden to gravity. There was a finesse to using Squitter, jumping from web to web, shooting a mini-necky out of the sky in mid jump. Like Espresso he couldn't really jump on dudes, but thanks to his maneuverability and the effectiveness of his webshots, he never had to. 
  
There was a time where I thought about how one might've improved DK64, and the first thing on my list would've been put Squitter in it. Bringing that sort of gameplay, where you're not quite flying but not quite falling while also being in complete control into 3D would've been far more interesting than experimenting with what you can do with 5 different apes with slightly different moves. But then, when thinking about that, I never quite pieced together how exactly it should work. Seeing Cloud Mario fills me with joy because it looks like a lot of those ideas have been brought forward into the 3D perfectly. While I think that it's a bit of a downgrade having it just form beneigth your feet, and of course no projectile attack, I figure that's probably what it takes to actually bring the ideas into 3D. 
 
I'm more excited that I was yesterday for Mario Galaxy 2, but then that's what Squitter does to a game. It makes it awesome.

2 Comments

How to save Heroes

Heroes has been hemorrhaging viewers for a while now and have had little luck in bringing them back for a very simple reason. For one to watch new episodes of Heroes, at they should've seen every previous episode. This causes several little problems which are preventing any recovery from occurring. First, any new or former viewers would have to buy 4 DVD box sets to get to the point where they contributed to the ratings, which obviously is unrealistic. Second, even if you did manage to get them in the door with the first season, a show like this is only as strong as its weakest season, and as such a huge chunk of these new viewers would probably quit while watching the 2nd season. Finally, these new viewers wouldn't be as likely to notice the comics they throw up on the site, meaning they would get less out of the show overall and be less likely to stay. This all sounds pretty bad, but there are a few simple solutions.
 
First choice is put up the back seasons on Hulu and NBC.com. While one could argue that syndication is enough, with a linear show like Heroes you can't really start anywhere, and even then you can't miss an episode, limiting the amount of people that can be brought in that way. They need to open the show up and try to get as many people up to speed as possible. Second choice is rebooting the series. Jump 10 years and focus on a lot of new Heroes, like Season 2 was supposed to do. Now, this move wouldn't be popular among current fans, but it honestly could be just what the show needs. It would not only serve as a point of entry, but also help to remove a lot of plot threads which are honestly getting a bit stale at this point. Third option is try to get a little more advertising money out of the viewers each week by implementing the Heroes Origins plan, which would've been another 30 minutes of Heroes every week or during breaks that focused on a single Hero, Company Man style. This way does little to bring in new fans, but if done right it could help retain current ratings. 
  
Then again, I think the common notion nowadays is that Heroes is above saving. I don't think that's the case myself, but then that's why I'm still watching the show. Does any of my 3 options appeal you?

10 Comments

Demo Timers

A few days ago I finally decided to go ahead and delete the 4 gigs of Psychonauts off my 360's 20 gig harddrive and decided to take the opportunity to download a bunch of demos, specifically Just Cause 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Skate 3. I've played the first two before when they went up, but I decided I might as well give them another go. First time I thought they were nothing special, very much video games and not so much the perfect freeform combat simulators that had been pitched at me. Going in, expectations back to manageable levels, I think that Splinter Cell is too hard to control and not satisfying in the least, but on the other hand Just Cause 2 is pretty fun outside of the times where you die or run out of ammo. It's basically the Red Faction: Gorilla problem (as observed from its demo) of while having these great sandbox hooks, also having enemies that aren't fun to fight and don't take kindly to people tearing into all their shit. I also played some Skate 3 which is, well, bad. I don't think there's anything good about that demo. The tutorial is short and covers only moving forward and ollieing, and the rest is just mashing on the sticks and holding down random buttons for the 20 minutes the demo allows you to have. 
   
It's safe to say that no single player game has ever been improved by the addition of a time limit, but then that's not why demos feel it necessary to throw one in. It's a matter of depriving the player of a complete experience as to not hurt sales of the full version. In Just Cause 2's case, I think one could easily spend 5 hours fucking around in the limited stretch of Panau the demo provides without feeling the need to run out and buy the full version if it didn't do something about it, but I think timers aren't the way to do it. I like a demo I can sink my teeth into, one that I can play for far longer than any business man would be comfortable with. Blur's beta is a good example of this, as I've played around 8 hours of it and will probably pick it up as a result. I don't think I can say this for any of the other demos. L4D2's demo was like that too, though I had preordered that one. 
  
With a longer demo I'm able to get past the phase where I'm struggling to get around corners, shoot dudes, and pull off stunts, and into the phase were I'm having fun. As such, I can be a lot more generous about my appraisal of the game. In Skate 3's part I sorta understand that the game probably doesn't get good until you spend an hour learning the controls, but as it only gave me 20 minutes I was never able to get there. Plus, when it told me I only had 3 minutes or so left, I decided that I had seen enough of the game and quit out. Going in I thought that the 20 minutes would be too few, but as I went in I shifted my expectations of the game such that 20 minutes were too much, and that's not the impression EA should want me to come out with.

Start the Conversation

My 360 version of L4D2's disc is messed up

So I was invited into a party for some Left 4 Dead 2 today, and ran into difficulties. At first it failed to load the game and kicked me out to the main menu, which is nothing new, except that instead of zombies behind the main menu, there was static. I tried to join the game, got locked in the loading screen, quit out, and tried to start it up again. This time it said it was unreadable. So I took it out and looked at it. Looked fine, apart from a line going from the center of the disc straight out to the important bits. I tried cleaning it briefly, then gave it another go and managed to get in some L4D2. 
 
It worked, but barely. It was the jankiest game of L4D2 I've ever played. The guns seemed to work alright and the zombies seemed to work alright, and it was fun I suppose, but after we failed the Parish's 2nd stage twice, shit started to go wrong. Textures started disappearing left and right, and I'd end up walking on odd textures that were probably supposed to be bumpmaps or something, random objects with no textures other than a blue one, hedges disappearing before my eyes as I got near, shit was fucking up around me. Now, more than anything I'm worried this mean no Passing for me, considering I need to be able to run it. Now, when I took it out the smudgy line appeared to be longer than it was before, and indeed longer than it is now after several hours of disuse. I've looked around the interweb briefly, and gotten the impression that it may be a crack, not a scratch and that would render it irreparable. 
 
Anyway, options. I figure there are a few options, one I could see if I could pay 5 bucks to have it repaired at a local place. I know that according the internet I could do it myself, but I honestly just don't want to risk it. Second, I could find someone to borrow a copy from, install it to my hard drive, and run use the broken disc only for validation. Then again, this would eat up my poor 20 gig harddrive, and what I can tell, leave me with no wiggle room whatsoever. No more Live Arcade, no more DLC. Although I suppose now I could use a USB harddrive to add a gig or two when I need it. Third, Gamestop informs me I could take 10 dollars for the defective copy and use it on a used version, running me 45 bucks. Not really the best option, but there may be no other choice. 
 
Personally, I'm leaning towards repair first, and should that not be possible I sorta hope there's a way to get it replaced for free. After all, the 55 dollars I payed was for the game, not the disc. If I had gotten the game on steam (which I didn't because while my laptop is just barely TF2 worthy, it's not quite L4D2 worthy), I would never have this dilemma. That's the situation I suppose, what do you guys think?

3 Comments
  • 30 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3