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Old 04-24-2003, 12:22 PM   #1
txa1265
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Balancing non-linear gameplay?

The idea of being able to choose your own path sounds intriguing, as does the return of choosing your 'Force Power Path'.
From a game design standpoint, I know (i.e. have read, and it makes sense) that it is harder to design games with no knowledge of what skills a player might possess (imagine redoing Doom_Comm based on not being able to assume Jump level 3). And of course the whole design of Deus Ex ...

However, JK is very different than DX. There is a natural Force Power development progression, and some how gameplay needs to complement that or levels become rediculously easy or hard. Can you imagine meeting the Cairn_Dock Shadowtroopers when you had the powers of NarShadda_Streets? Or meeting Tavion when you were at Yavin_Canyon power level? That would change things drastically. Again, I know it just puts things on the designers ... but it has me thinking ...

Any ideas?

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Old 04-24-2003, 01:16 PM   #2
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Certainly it has a big effect of what the level can be like, because it has to rely on the lowest common denominator for what powers the player might have. This does pose a problem, but there should be ways around it.

I suspect that the missions you can choose at certain points of the game will depend on your abilities. Perhaps you will start out with the option of choosing one of three levels. These levels will be designed to allow the player to complete them with limited abilities. Once the player has completed some of these and has grown in ability, then maybe three more levels will become available. These new levels will be designed to challenge the player to use their new skills. And the game progresses in a similar fashion. This allows the player some variety in what missions they perform, but also allow the designers to guide the player through the overall story.

Also, you can have NPCs with various abilities, and also have each NPC have different levels of difficulty. For example, in the first few levels you would face Rodian thugs, and in the later levels you would face Dark Jedi. Also, depending on when you do the "Rodian" level, the thugs would have skills based on what abilities the player had. This would make them more difficult if you did that mission later one.

Well, just some thoughts
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Old 04-24-2003, 02:11 PM   #3
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Good points.

I know that they say you will have some choice in where to go when, which makes sense. I also agree that they will need to carefully design the levels to 'dynamically' adjust to where a character chooses to take them on.

I wonder if they will also adjust the NPC's based on your 'Path' ... not just your level, but how you balance with regards to the Force - or maybe your actions. Not quite like in JK1 or Dx how they run around like idiots when you do something violent. But if you come in like ObiWan (quiet and peaceful), they'll talk to you, whereas if you come in by blasting the door and choking everyone in sight they'll just cower. Even further - maybe they'll help you if they think you're on their side, by opening doors or whatever ... but if they fear you you'll have to find some other way through. That would be cool, and would enhance replay value. (I say that but in all these years I've never seen the 'dark ending' of JK1, so who am I kidding )

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Old 04-24-2003, 04:15 PM   #4
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I would't get my hopes up, since I think they won't offer you THAT much choice! You'll most likely can only choose between two or so missions, and you'll have to follow a certain path. Perhaps some of the missions are just totally random (random mission generator ) and you can skip them easily...


I dunno, it just seems difficult to implement a system as this. It works well for games like Freelancer, but it's something totally different!


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Old 04-24-2003, 04:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by HertogJan
I would't get my hopes up, since I think they won't offer you THAT much choice! You'll most likely can only choose between two or so missions, and you'll have to follow a certain path. Perhaps some of the missions are just totally random (random mission generator ) and you can skip them easily...


I dunno, it just seems difficult to implement a system as this. It works well for games like Freelancer, but it's something totally different!
I am full of hope, but not unrealistically so ... I hope for NPC's - even if they do just stand around and then run frantically after I slice an enemy. I don't expect pseudo-coop with the NPC's. My hope is for occasional Deus Ex interaction level, Elite Force type team-ups on occasion, and JK1 type foolish civilians on other occasions.

I am also not naive about choice - the game has a story and plotline ... which presumes a beginning, middle and end. They have already said that some levels are user-choosable, and that there is more than one ending based on your force path.

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Old 04-24-2003, 06:01 PM   #6
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I'll be happy if there are just a few NPCs around to ad atmosphere. Everything else is gravy.
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Old 04-24-2003, 06:09 PM   #7
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Quite, NPCs work best when there's an appreciable amount of them in a game. Crowds for places which should be crowded, drunks for places there should be drunkards, officials where there should be officials, and penalties for whacking them if one is a lightsider.


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Old 04-24-2003, 06:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Spider AL
Quite, NPCs work best when there's an appreciable amount of them in a game. Crowds for places which should be crowded, drunks for places there should be drunkards, officials where there should be officials, and penalties for whacking them if one is a lightsider.
Exactly. Personally, I am a big fan of bustling marketplaces. Lots of crowd noise.
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Old 04-24-2003, 06:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Exactly. Personally, I am a big fan of bustling marketplaces. Lots of crowd noise.
The signature moment of this for me was not Nar Shadda in JKII, surprisingly (I still think a line in a cutscene from Kyle about how empty the place is, and something about Reelo clamping down on that sector of the city, would have dealt with the emptiness) .. anyway, my signature 'where are they' moment is Hong Kong from SoFII. You are coming into a massively overpopulated city port, going through the city - streets with apartments no less, and yet you see almost noone!

There needs to be a way to implement 'idiot NPC's' ... forgive the terminology. If they need significantly complex models and AI, they will bring the game to a crawl ... they need simpler models with simple AI, perhaps linked groups, perhaps even simlper ... I don't know.

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Old 04-24-2003, 08:08 PM   #10
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Another way to do it would be to have scaling enemies. IE: depending on your level of competence, different types and numbers of enemies would spawn. So, if you had totally open gameplay, where you could pick whatever mission you want, the game would still remain challenging. You could even have this as an in-game option, or have it only kick in at certain levels of play (IE: at Padawan level, you'd face stock enemies on every map -- no scaling, the scaling slide would kick in to differing degrees the farther up the difficulty scale you went).
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Old 04-24-2003, 08:30 PM   #11
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Well I think from a design perspective, they will just have to have multiple ways to get through some of the puzzels in the game if they are force based, but it will be pretty hard though. Hopefully Raven is up to the challenge.
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Old 04-24-2003, 09:31 PM   #12
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1. If you're concerned about the level of difficulty, don't be. If you had a mid-game boss, and some guy wanted to save up all his Force points, that's his fault, there's nothing the developer can do to get around this.

2. It's not hard at all. Take a look at Jedi Knight. JK lets you choose between light and dark paths based upon your actions. The puzzles and bosses later in the game aren't at all a problem. Infact, JK has some of the most innovative, fun and replayable puzzles I've ever seen. The Mysteries of the Sith expansion didn't let you choose sides, but it did let you allocate your Force points however you wanted. Again, puzzles and gameplay were not a problem.

In short, you have nothing to worry about.
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Old 04-24-2003, 09:48 PM   #13
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Here's an idea- the missions you have available are limited by the Force abilites you have. For instance, the Jedi would not dispatch you as a low-level N00B to fight a big threat, and vice versa. As for Force allocation, perhaps you will only be able to store a certain number of points before you have to use some [/shrug]
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Old 04-25-2003, 02:52 AM   #14
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That idea could really work, boinga. It'd definitely add to replayability, if different force power allocations and path choices would affect what levels are later available to you. The original Wing Commander games had stuff like this where you had different paths that could occur, depending on how you performed in missions.
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Old 04-25-2003, 11:13 AM   #15
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Re: Boinga and Solo

.. and that idea mixes very well with Star Wars "reality" (ahem) - that Padawans are given field missions with their masters at first, then by themselves as they progress towards becoming a Knight. The New Academy would have to force solo missions as they have fewer Masters to go around.

I also hope that they work more on balancing the need to have constrained levels and clues to acheive objectives with making levels explorable and making you feel like you were doing more than running through the only open door ... that is a problem with ALL newer (and esp. Q3 based) FPS games.

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Old 04-25-2003, 01:54 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by Solo4114
That idea could really work, boinga. It'd definitely add to replayability, if different force power allocations and path choices would affect what levels are later available to you.
I agree that this would work well. It sounds like the replayability of this game will be fantastic. And that is even before you get to multiplayer.
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Old 04-25-2003, 02:10 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
I agree that this would work well. It sounds like the replayability of this game will be fantastic. And that is even before you get to multiplayer.
Multiplayer? I'm the only one who plays games on my laptop ... my wife hates FPS games and my kids are too young.

...



...

You did know I was joking, didn't you?

I am also still hoping for some type of RMG (random map generator, from SoFII) implementation, although I'm not counting on it.

Combine the stuff here, RMG, and expanded MP types, it would be quite a killer game.

Mike


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Old 04-25-2003, 04:46 PM   #18
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Two words..Respawning enemies, don't know if anyone has already suggested this or not but this would be awesome, like highest difficulty in Doom, they just keep comming but not out of no where, Random spots where your not looking. That would make the game a lot more challenging.
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Old 04-25-2003, 05:01 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by MattJedi
Two words..Respawning enemies, don't know if anyone has already suggested this or not but this would be awesome, like highest difficulty in Doom, they just keep comming but not out of no where, Random spots where your not looking. That would make the game a lot more challenging.
I actually hate respawning enemies. At least in the context of having enemies appear in non-sensical locations, like a sealed room you've already cleared.

What I like is enemies emerging from new areas ... and enemies that chase you down. For instance, on Bespin Platform, you go up the elevator, and when you hit the switch to open the door to the loading platform you see the troops react and scatter. You are met with new friends in the upper hallway, then a whole bunch in the lower deck. Their appearance makes sense!

I want difficulty through fair implementation of challenging situations - not endless respawning, or cheater AI.

Mike


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Old 04-26-2003, 03:09 PM   #20
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I agree. Their reappearance should make sense, just just be totally random.
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Old 04-26-2003, 03:44 PM   #21
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Respawning enemies are absolutly horrible. There's a reason the last time you saw respawning enemies was in Doom II...

Enemies that come from a blocked location only once are okay. E.g. you could be going through a corridor, and when you hit a certain point, troops could come up from a once blocked location from behind, but only once.
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Old 04-26-2003, 05:55 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by Emon
Respawning enemies are absolutly horrible. There's a reason the last time you saw respawning enemies was in Doom II...
It is something that will really frustrate a player. If they have cleared out an area, and then all of a sudden that area is filled with enemies again, then they aren't really being rewarded for what they've done.
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Old 04-26-2003, 11:51 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
It is something that will really frustrate a player. If they have cleared out an area, and then all of a sudden that area is filled with enemies again, then they aren't really being rewarded for what they've done.
There is sometthing rewarding about coming to an isolated encampment, wiping out everyone, then taking that last stroll to see that they are all gone.

MoHAA, on the other hand, did something cool ... I can'tt remember the level, but it is in that cold weapons lab area, and you are trying to leave, and if you stand still too long more enemies appear. Hey, it is a base, it makes sense. You know you're really facing random respawn, but you deal with it because it is believable that there would be reinforcements, so you get moving ...

Mike


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Old 04-27-2003, 12:48 AM   #24
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That is a rare case when it is acceptable. Another acceptable case might be a helicopter, or in Star Wars, some kind of transport, that periodically drops off troops.
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Old 04-27-2003, 01:14 AM   #25
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Quote:
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That is a rare case when it is acceptable. Another acceptable case might be a helicopter, or in Star Wars, some kind of transport, that periodically drops off troops.
Exactly my point - if done correctly, you can add to the tension, add to the game.

Otherwise it just seems lazy ... like cheater AI. MoHAA has the best example of that in sniper alley (at least the Rodians on Nar Shadda miss the first shot).

Mike


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Old 04-27-2003, 12:42 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
Certainly it has a big effect of what the level can be like, because it has to rely on the lowest common denominator for what powers the player might have. This does pose a problem, but there should be ways around it.

I suspect that the missions you can choose at certain points of the game will depend on your abilities. Perhaps you will start out with the option of choosing one of three levels. These levels will be designed to allow the player to complete them with limited abilities. Once the player has completed some of these and has grown in ability, then maybe three more levels will become available. These new levels will be designed to challenge the player to use their new skills. And the game progresses in a similar fashion. This allows the player some variety in what missions they perform, but also allow the designers to guide the player through the overall story.

That sounds perfectly reasonable to me, and it would make more sense than trying to cater for a low or high level of ability across all of the missions. So you start off with a choice of 3 levels, then complete all of them before you can progress to the next 3 levels that have a higher difficulty. That would fit in more with an underlying story arc, too, so it wouldn't surprise me if they use this kind of system. As long as they include a good reason for switching around the order of the missions - like obtaining particular weapons or powers in each missions - it means you will be able to use a slightly different arsenal or set of abilities across the levels, which can introduce small changes to how you play the game on particular levels.

It would not be as interesting for me if the 3 levels in your example offered similar challenges, the same weapons and the same Force powers. Then the ability to choose your mission doesn't mean as much, IMHO.

As for spawning enemies, I totally agree that they have to think of more creative ways to introduce more enemies to levels. But then, I've said that in other threads, during other discussions.
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Old 04-27-2003, 02:26 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally posted by txa1265
There is sometthing rewarding about coming to an isolated encampment, wiping out everyone, then taking that last stroll to see that they are all gone.

MoHAA, on the other hand, did something cool ... I can'tt remember the level, but it is in that cold weapons lab area, and you are trying to leave, and if you stand still too long more enemies appear. Hey, it is a base, it makes sense. You know you're really facing random respawn, but you deal with it because it is believable that there would be reinforcements, so you get moving ...

Mike
Actually, that was one of the things that ticked me off the MOST about MoHAA. I can remember a level towards the end of the game where it was so blatantly obvious that you were standing on a "trigger" patch of ground. I was running down some hedgerow road when I hear dogs chasing me from behind. Rather than run backwards and shoot, I stop, turn, and drop both dogs, only to hear two more come. So, I stay put and kill them. Then two more come. And two more, and two more, and two more. I tried walking backwards and they stopped. Then I went back to the patch of land I was on and the dogs came back. The same thing would happen with German troops in certain spots.

I don't mind if enemies respawn in order to make things challenging, but I do think that they shouldn't be triggered by "event pads" on the ground and that they should come from logical locations (IE: spawn enemies at the barracks, maybe, or have them come from some inaccessible location on the map and then go through the normal path to get to me. But don't just pick an arbitrary spot and have them show up because I'm standing on it. That can become pretty transparent quickly, especially to the player who tends to take his time in getting through a map, as opposed to one who constantly runs at full speed gunning down anything in his path.

I actually don't mind not having respawning enemies. At higher difficulty levels, you can just fill the levels with more enemies per encounter on the front end, or have the enemies be tougher somehow (smarter AI, though, NOT insanely accurate but rock-stupid AI).
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Old 04-27-2003, 02:33 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally posted by Solo4114
At higher difficulty levels, you can just fill the levels with more enemies per encounter on the front end, or have the enemies be tougher somehow (smarter AI, though, NOT insanely accurate but rock-stupid AI).
I usually prefer to have more challenging enemies at higher levels. Mowing down yet more weak henchmen can get boring. In JO, by the time you get near the end of the game, stormtroopers are no challenge, no matter how many come at you.
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Old 04-27-2003, 03:04 PM   #29
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Well, that can work too. Sometimes it's fun to just tear through a column of stormtroopers, though. But I do agree, at higher levels I like tougher enemies. I just like a mix, say, a group of weak enemies led by a tougher enemy.
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Old 04-27-2003, 04:35 PM   #30
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I thought the enemies in JO were ok!! I liked pulling stormies up in the air, never had so much sadistic fun in a game for a long time. Untill I played Postal 2 that is

And the reborn / shadowtroopers became harder too. But I agree that at the end, no one with a gun formed any threat to you and that is a pity, but still, the swamp and canyon levels were pretty challenging. In the swamp you couldn't use your lightsaber and forcepowers on many spotts, and in the canyon they had lots of rocketlaunchers, at-st's and turrets!


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Old 04-28-2003, 09:30 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally posted by Prime
I usually prefer to have more challenging enemies at higher levels. Mowing down yet more weak henchmen can get boring. In JO, by the time you get near the end of the game, stormtroopers are no challenge, no matter how many come at you.
Somewhat agree ...

There are a few Shadowtroopers on Yavin near the end of JO that are a pretty good challenge - that I like. I have to mix it up a bit to get away with full shields.

On the other hand, artificially making the same enemy harder to kill later I don't like. Giving them more skill at killing you, OK. At the end of RtCW, there were times I'd have to hit 3 headshots to drop the same generic soldier I'd drop with a body shot early on. That is nonsense.

But Stormtroopers should always be weak and stupid.

Mike


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Old 04-28-2003, 09:34 AM   #32
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Quote:
Originally posted by Solo4114
Actually, that was one of the things that ticked me off the MOST about MoHAA. I can remember a level towards the end of the game where it was so blatantly obvious that you were standing on a "trigger" patch of ground. <snip>

I don't mind if enemies respawn in order to make things challenging, but I do think that they shouldn't be triggered by "event pads" on the ground and that they should come from logical locations <snip>
I do remember that as well. I was trying to cite intelligent respawn, but as you say, that same level (and others) had some stupid respawn as well. I don't think it would have been much harder for them to mix it up a bit, and have some dialogue, so you know you're being pursued - preferably from all sides - when they respawn.

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Old 04-28-2003, 02:30 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally posted by txa1265
But Stormtroopers should always be weak and stupid.
True enough
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:57 PM   #34
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IMO, the player shouldn't have "direct" direct control over the force path they take, eg. no points. Their skills should improve through use. Example: If they don't use mind trick level one, because it "sucks" then they won't get level two. Conversely, if they use their force powers a lot, they will improve faster, though I think this may cause us to all stand in a corner and force push boxes to improve our skill.
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Old 05-07-2003, 12:00 AM   #35
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AND ANOTHER THING...
the levels should not have to cater to all of the different force combinations directly. They should have several paths. Eg. If you can't jump the fence, you'll have to go kill some thug for the key, which, although tougher to do, would still have the same end result: you get in.
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Old 05-07-2003, 10:42 AM   #36
txa1265
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Quote:
Originally posted by Solbe M'ko
AND ANOTHER THING...
the levels should not have to cater to all of the different force combinations directly. They should have several paths. Eg. If you can't jump the fence, you'll have to go kill some thug for the key, which, although tougher to do, would still have the same end result: you get in.
I could not possibly agree more with you on this point.

The Yavin Canyon is a decent example - I hated the tank levels in MoHAA, but suffered through them - as I had no choice! In the Canyon, I didn't like it at first until I realized that I didn't have to make it through with a AT-ST. So in my replay, sometimes I use walkers all the way, sometimes part way, other times not at all.

Choices like that greatly enhance replay value.

Mike


Dopelar effect (n.) The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
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Old 05-07-2003, 09:45 PM   #37
Solbe M'ko
 
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Yeah, that's what I mean. The maps should be more open ended in general anyway.
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Old 05-08-2003, 08:41 PM   #38
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Designing a level with the fact that one player may have force jump level 3 and force speed level 0, and another player goes through the single player game with jump level 0 and force speed level 3 is a pain when making those maps. But it's actually quite easy if you think about it...

See the cliff? The imperial base is on the other side... IF you had force jump level 3 you could jump across and sneak into the secret base easily, otherwise you have to go around the cliff, through several hard guarded outposts...

See the ventilation high up? if you had jump lvl2 or more you could enter it and witness a conversation between two guards/siths or whatever... and get some free clues... a conversation like "I put this key to the secret bonus area in this container, guard it with you life".

If you had force speed level 2 or more you could outrun those damn laser turbines going on and off on the ship your currently on, if not you have to go to the generator and destroy it...

Those kinds of solutions I would like to see with different force settings... Depending on what you got, there's different solutions and paths you can take in a level. If you got many of the forces you can choose one of the ways, or maybe even go through the whole map and destroy everything (like I like to do on maps, I'm sith, I know)...
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Old 05-08-2003, 08:51 PM   #39
Solbe M'ko
 
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That's great!

But, (yes I have to be my usual critical self) the game should just be more open ended regardless of force considerations. You should be able to jump over the rock face OR jump onto the sandcrawler and get to same conclusion (or a different one) in several ways. It adds tremendously to replay value to add even one fork in the road in every map. Multiply by a dozen maps...
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