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CTF contest results

stripe

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Aug 26, 2002, 11:28 AM
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Talking CTF contest results

::Preface::

Whew! Lots of good submissions! Huge thanks to everyone who entered. I'm going to try and give a fair review to each level, pointing out what I see as the strong and weak parts of the level. In order to give a bit of well deserved publicity to the non-winners, I am not going to announce the winner here up top. This way people at least have to skim through the other level reviews to see who won. :)

A lot of these levels were *great*, which means I had to nit pick or even invent bad things with many of the levels. If it seems like I'm pulling complaints out of my rear end, there's a good chance I am... but that doesn't mean they're not worth considering. :) I had the audacity to give everyone level making tips as a sort of summary of the review.

Big thank yous to everyone who entered and I hope the feedback is helpful.

quick glossary:
structure - shape of platforms/empty space, and ease of navigation
layout - the structures as it relates to the level as a whole
balance - neither team has an advantage
eye candy - visual appeal


(levels are in alphabetical order by filename)
stripe

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Aug 26, 2002, 11:29 AM
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::Alien Sanctuary CTF:: by Rage

aliensanctf.j2l
ETs Planet2 v3.j2t
darkness.mod

This is a solid ctf level, with nice eye candy and an interesting layout. Rage not only placed both bases on one side, one above the other, but also stuck the powerups (bouncer and flamer, I don't count pepper spray) and full health carrot on the opposite end of the level. The structure of the level is good, with a sprinkling of springs in the right places and platforms that flow very nicely. The layout does feel a tad monotonous though, which I believe is due to the very consistent spacing between platforms and size of the platforms themselves. All things considered, however, the monotonousness is not a big problem because it isn't too important to know where you are: if you need to capture a flag you go left and otherwise you stay to the right. Sticking the carrot or one of the powerups in a different location would have made level a good deal more interesting.
The music is good and fits well. I have a "version 2" of the song on my computer so it was fun to hear the original.

-concentrating the bases on one side can work, but make sure players have an incentive to run around the entire level a lot
-give the platforms a bit more variation

::Chromosphere CTF:: by CelL

chromctf.j2l
corrupted sanctuary.j2t
cloud.mod

This is a very good level with lots of secrets. The bases are kittycorner and the powerups are in the opposite corners and middle. The interesting thing about the secrets is that only a few of them change the level flow at all, the rest simply warp you to a nearby place and give you some ammo. I'm curious as to why CelL chose such limited usefulness for most of the secrets, while at the same time the level's single carrot is right next to an rf powerup which in turn warps directly to the seeker powerup box warp. From the seeker box there are four warps which each go in a different direction. This concentrates most of the action around the top left, which I don't think makes the level more fun. I'm also not sure about all the one ways on the left (red) side, which make it much easier to get from red base to blue base than vice versa.
I think I have, however, complained much more than this level deserves, because the structure is otherwise superb and the overall feel is very professional. CelL uses some nice tricks to spice up Disguise's tileset and the level glimmers with polish, with nice ambient lighting and no bugs that I could find. The level's intricacies add a lot to the replay value as well.

-for dueling especially, the concentration of the rfs powerup, carrot, and seeker powerup in such an accessible area makes the level balance feel a bit top-heavy
-one-way events are nice for flow but in this case they felt a bit restrictive
-excellent level regardless

::Snowland Showdown:: by Disguise

dis66.j2l
WinterlandW.j2t
freeze

Disguise's own Winterland tileset was without question the most popular tileset of the competition, used by 3 entries. Wisey's level naturally takes full advantage of the eye candy in the set, and keeps the large solid platforms interesting by breaking them into smaller pieces. The layout is quite interesting due to the one way nature of many passages. Although the level layout is easy to learn, it takes time to learn which routes will get you to where you want to go. While this makes the level fun, it is also a major drawback because it throws off the level balance: the blue team is faced with several disadvantages. Blue base is much easier to get to from red than vice versa. In 1v1 duels this is a significant problem, because if the red player is able keep to the left side of the map, the blue player has to be flawlessly fast to return the flag to their base in time. On the other hand, the blue team respawns essentially as far away from red base as possible, so if they are killed they have little to no chance of getting the flag before red scores. This issue could possibly be fixed by adding some more advantageous blue start points and/or a shorter blue to red route. The seeker powerup is also placed much closer to red base, which exacerbates (worsens) the problem.
The carrots are placed well and except for a few spaz-biased jumps the structure is quite fun and easy to navigate. In games with more than 2 players, where it is less critical that bases be equally accessable, this level holds its own against many of the better levels out there.

-playtest with two players a bit more!!


::Frozen Land:: by Enigma

EnFrozen.j2l
WinterlandW.j2t
Sor-DDawn.it

Enigma's level also uses Disguise's Winterland tileset, though calling the levels similar wouldn't do either of them justice. For starters, Enigma doesn't one-way any of the snowy tree limbs. This can be rather frustrating if you are used to being able to jump up through them but otherwise there's nothing inherently wrong with not enabling this. The level structure is slightly on the enclosed side, with a large number of small passages that do a good job of creating choke points without making navigation too annoying. The level feels pretty well balanced with three useful powerups and one central full health carrot, thought the carrot is a bit too easily defended. The eye candy is not too interesting but does the job, although a discerning player will notice that many of the solid blocks do not quite match up.
However, while there are lots of good things about the level, it doesn't stack up very well against some of the other levels in the competition. It was hard to put a finger on, but I think the problem is not enough concern for the player. In other words, navigation quickly from one place to another is just kind of frustrating. Some of this is due a fairly widespread use of hooks, which are both hard to get on and hard to get off. A key spring is also recessed below the ground in a hole one tile wide, causing a second or so of needless pause when using it. These design decisions coupled with the already restrictive tunnelish nature give the level an amateurish feel that it just can't shake off.

-give the player some more space and make sure that routes feel like routes and not obstacle courses
-conforming to usual one-way block usage wouldn't hurt

::This Level Is Untitled:: by EvilMike

EvilMike212.j2l
WinterLandW.j2t
mywonder.mod

Strange how all the Winterland levels end up grouped together alphabetically. Enigma could definitely take a lesson from EM's level regarding ease of navigation. "This Level Is Untitled" is quite streamlined, with springs leading to exactly the right place and smooth transitions from platform to platform. The layout is nicely put together and the map is fairly easy to learn. The three powerups, 1 full health carrot, and one one health carrot are balanced around the level. EvilMike obviously believes in supplying players with plenty of ammo, as it comes in large clumps and unless you're camping heavily you'll never run out. As petty as this sounds, the simplification of ammo gathering does nothing for the eye candy, which is otherwise quite nice if you ignore some imperfectly aligned inner solid blocks. (hardly noticeable)
TLIU's most prominent trait is probably its extremely streamlined structure: you never need to slow down, whether you are gathering ammo, going to a base, or hunting another player. Mike also takes some liberties with player movement, adding float ups which, at places like 83,10, can seem a bit like overkill. The two major choke points of the level are the passage up to the full health carrot and the blue base, which is much harder to get away from than the red base, considering the reliability of copters and distance to the blue spring to the right of the blue base.

::Industrial Disaster:: by BlurredD

itest.j2l
labrat3.j2t
RESP-Z.xm

BlurredD's Industrial Disaster is easily the best looking level of the pack, with lots of cool tileset tricks and a very unique feel. The layout is as streamlined as EvilMike's, though part of this can be attributed to the overall simplicity of the level's structure. BlurredD's passages are wide, with spacious level-long passages running along the top and bottom. Balance is pretty straightforward, with seeker and rf powerups in either corner, a full health carrot in a carrot box in the middle, and ammo scattered in large groups throughout. The rf's end up being quite useful due to their speed, ability to richochet, and affinity for three hit kills. The warps to the carrot are perhaps too exposed, since a player has to essentially stop before entering. It bears repeating that this level looks great, in a way that doesn't distract from the gameplay at all.
While initially enticing, the level just ended up being a bit too simple to keep my interest. A bit more variety in the layout have made the gameplay as memorable as the visual style.

-take these comments with a grain of salt because this level rocks

(continued in next post)
stripe

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Aug 26, 2002, 11:31 AM
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::Lack of Water:: by FireSword

LoH2O.j2l
desert.j2t
hell

FireSword uses Blade's Desert tileset for his level, which nicely accents the level's straightforward design. The level is symmetric in practice, which makes balance between teams a no brainer. There is a rather large incentive to camp at the top, because of the carrot and seeker powerup, and good chance of beating the enemy back to your base once you kill them. The four ways to get to the top make defending it somewhat hard, however, especially with the other powerup all the way down at the bottom. These qualities make the level especially interesting for 1v1 duels because of the good mix of structure and strategy: you're not going to win at this level just running around shooting, because if are thinking you have a good chance of predicting where your opponent will be.
In taking away so much of the randomness, however, FireSword limits the levels appeal a bit. The simplicity of the level makes exploring and getting to know the level pretty pointless. The austereness of the tileset is also a bit of a problem when coupled with the level's simplicity: where BlurredD's simple level is fun to explore because of the varied eye candy and sleek visual style, FireSword's eye candy gives the level a good feeling but stops there.

-great 1v1 and possibly 2v2, but the simplicity makes it hard to recommend for larger games
-perhaps too straightforward to be enticing

::Martian Megatropolis:: by URJazz

marmeg.j2l
Space.j2t
mofc.s3m

URJazz did an excellent job on this level. I fear I'm somewhat biased because it's the only level I tested on that I beat Dizzy, but I think that regardless it is the most enjoyable submission. The structure is easy to get around, the layout is great and nicely balanced, the eye candy is quite detailed, and playing it is just a lot of fun. The ammo is all on the ground, which would seem to do away with it getting knocked down (although the new patch makes this less of an issue). I did run into a problem with the spring to the left of the blue base, getting stuck or nearly stuck once. However when I tried to get stuck intentionally it seemed ok; by the looks of things URJazz probably did the best the level permitted.
Suggestions would be to get the relative scrolling background right, and to change "Megatropolis" to "Megapolis" which I think is what URJazz was looking for. :) While the eye candy is quite detailed, I would say both CelL and BlurredD did a better job stylistically. In the end though, if someone was getting sent to a desert island with nothing but one of these 12 ctf levels, I think giving them this one would be the greatest kindness. Congrats!

-URJazz, send my your address so I can mail you the $$

::Nebula Alpha:: by Another Jazz2 fan

NebulaCTF.j2l
Astrolumina-reverse.j2t
mrwsd.it

AJ2f was one of two contestants to use their own tileset for their level, and for this they get big kudos! I believe AJ2f made his in paint, and if so it is quite an admirable effort. The marquee is especially cool! The 3d effect used in the upper left is also quite cool looking. All in all the nice eye candy ideas more than make up for the tileset's rather obvious paint origins.
The layout is certainly one of the most interesting submissions. AJ2f split nearly the entire level with a sucker tube, which uses a foreground layer trick to seem as though a ship rockets you to the top of the level. The only way to cross sides, then, is to go through the passages at the top or bottom. I'm undecided as to whether the rocket is an annoyance... in effect, it makes the already large level even larger by separating it so effectively --making what would otherwise be a 10 tile distance between the bases a quite long treck. The powerups are definitely weighted to the blue (left) side, although they are not easier easier for the blue team to reach because the upper area can only be reached via the rocket. The upper right only has the rf powerup, while the left side has bouncers, seekers, and flamers. (you can get the flamers from the right side by shooting) The carrot is at the bottom, a bit easy to camp by, especially considering the importance of the bottom passage.
The structure of the level is in the end what holds the level back. AJ2f creates a few nice areas of the level but the bottom is almost entirely empty space with a few springs that only lead to one place each. If both players are fighting at the carrot, the one staying alive has a second or so shorter route up from the bottom than one dying. It is probably better shorter that way but makes carrot camping quite tempting.

-you don't need to make it cramped, but the bottom half of the level is downright featureless. at the very least, make the empty space worth falling or jumping through.
-some jumps and structural issues could be smoother

::Prehistoric CTF:: by ICEDKILLER

prehistoric.j2l
lwt13a.j2t
lwe_a6.mod

This level is perhaps the most non-standard submission, as it looks at first glance more like a single player level than ctf. This is due to one of the start points beginning far away from both bases and the rather two dimensional nature of the level. There are four powerups, three of which are located in good locations, spread out enough as to make camping quite hard. The fourth powerup, though, is in a "super secret" area and as far as I could tell is only accessible with Jazz. The water at the bottom of the level works suitably well except for the bug where a player gets stuck along the bottom- at the very least, some rfs or one sloping surface can at least provide a remedy for this. Although there are quite a few carrots in the level, they don't seem to prolong even a 1v1 too much because the linearity of the level makes encounters with the other players quite common.
This linearity makes for a somewhat different level than most other ctfs. Strategy, as far as anticipating your opponent's moves, exists but is fairly limited. Several more routes throughout the level, and possibly making the between-bases route less direct, would have made the level less predictable. One annoyance worth mentioning was dinosaurs on layer 4. They at least had a warp to get you unstuck from them, but why not put them on layer 3 or at least one-way them? The little guys were especially annoying.

-a bit less linearity would be a big plus
-leave more stuff on layer 3, dinosaurs, spikes, etc... all seem better off there
-more ammo, less fruit. sugar rushes are fun but ammo is more useful

::Swamped CTF:: by Flint

Swamped.j2l
SwampsD.j2t
ascent.s3m

Flint's Swamped CTF uses Agama's nice Swamps Day tileset, and it's distinguishing feature as far as levels in this pack is certainly the water covering half the level. The eye candy is decent, with some neat waterfalls and lightning, and plenty of attention to detail. There are, however, some small visual glitches, but where the level struggles most is that it is rather frustrating to navigate, because of several things. Many of the wooden log platforms with springs are quite small, and none of them are one-way, something that would make navigation easier. (the same goes for the tree branches at the top) There are also several places which unintuitively stop you, such as 51,30, and, although I understand the tileset was designed with both solid and non-solid posts, it's hard to discern which is which when you're running at top speed. Level balance seems fairly well done. The powerups and 2 one-health carrots are spread out enough, or would be if the rf powerup respawned. :(
If the layout was streamlined a bit or made a bit more player-friendly, this could be a quite fun level. As it is, it lacks a bit of polish that could make the level much more playable.

-make sure the you use lots of @ signs to move the text out of the way of the player list!
-let the player get around the level a bit easier

::Temple of Dreams:: by MoonBlaze

ToD.j2l
Heaven.j2t
FutureDreams.xm
*TSF

Temple of Dreams by MoonBlaze is one of I believe 4 levels that were made by first time ctf mappers. I'm really glad to have encouraged these new level designers! MoonBlaze's level in particular, though, exhibits some design flaws that make me say "If only he had had more experience, or even some more experienced feedback." First and foremost is not enclosing the entire level: for many years this was no offense at all, indeed none of the official levels are wholly enclosed, but I daresay that these days it is a well known fact that open level sides are the cause of the flag bug. Next, use of v- and h-poles this extensively is also generally frowned upon. I would not mind nearly as much, however, if one couldn't avoid the poles simply by going underneath them: this changes them from slowdown to avoidable obstacle, and one asks why they are there at all. The four h-poles on the far right used to go up are also excessive. Next up are the statues. I could be wrong, never having used the tileset before, but they look to me like they're supposed to go on layer 3. If they're not, in this level they should have, because they serve only to get in the way. The level balance is a bit off, with the seeker powerup being significantly closer to the blue team and full health carrot as well. One last problem is the music: the song is perfect for the level but it doesn't loop correctly, so after it plays through once there is only silence until you die. If you aren't able to edit the mod yourself then find someone to do it for you or find a different tune.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about this level is not its problems but the fact that they are easily discovered and remedied with a bit of testing. I'd love to see a rerelease!

-i'm too lazy... look above :)
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Aug 26, 2002, 11:41 AM
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Congratulations [winner of this contest]!! (i did read who won, but hey, stripe went to so much trouble to get people to read all of this that i don't want to spoil the fun )
Anyway, thanks for commenting on mah level. I now know what i should change in possible future levels, which was my main goal about entering this contest: learning some things about CTF level making. Thanks
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Aug 26, 2002, 12:02 PM
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Congratulations, I liked the level too.
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Aug 26, 2002, 04:48 PM
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Me, too. I think that it really deserved the honor. In fact, all of the levels were very good.
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Aug 27, 2002, 11:42 AM
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CONGRATS 'that guy ;p'!!!!! Now tell us, what are you going to do with that money?;p
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Aug 27, 2002, 11:53 AM
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You should have let me win. I would have given it to charity.

Congrats anyway!
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Aug 27, 2002, 12:05 PM
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Rage, while you may be lying through your teeth, that would have been a very good thing to do if you had won. ^_^
Kudos to you.
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Aug 27, 2002, 12:17 PM
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Re:CTF contest results

Quote:
Originally posted by stripe

::Martian Megatropolis:: by URJazz

marmeg.j2l
Space.j2t
mofc.s3m

URJazz did an excellent job on this level. I fear I'm somewhat biased because it's the only level I tested on that I beat Dizzy, but I think that regardless it is the most enjoyable submission. The structure is easy to get around, the layout is great and nicely balanced, the eye candy is quite detailed, and playing it is just a lot of fun. The ammo is all on the ground, which would seem to do away with it getting knocked down (although the new patch makes this less of an issue). I did run into a problem with the spring to the left of the blue base, getting stuck or nearly stuck once. However when I tried to get stuck intentionally it seemed ok; by the looks of things URJazz probably did the best the level permitted.
Suggestions would be to get the relative scrolling background right, and to change "Megatropolis" to "Megapolis" which I think is what URJazz was looking for. While the eye candy is quite detailed, I would say both CelL and BlurredD did a better job stylistically. In the end though, if someone was getting sent to a desert island with nothing but one of these 12 ctf levels, I think giving them this one would be the greatest kindness. Congrats!

-URJazz, send my your address so I can mail you the $$

-i'm too lazy... look above [/B]


WELL DONE UR JAZZ
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Aug 27, 2002, 12:42 PM
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Great job guys, all of you.
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Aug 27, 2002, 01:21 PM
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SSF

I was hoping that level would win, like I told stripe right after he posted this. Still, congrats man, great level!
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Aug 27, 2002, 05:36 PM
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Thanks, Stripe, for all your hardwork making feedback for everyone. I really appreciated your comments, since this is my first CTF (and first public "real") level, and it was nice to see how it stacked up to the rest. Thanks again!

Oh, and congrats to [name deleted]!!!!!

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Aug 27, 2002, 11:20 PM
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I win becuse my level sucks so much that Stripe found it fun see a so lamo CTF level. ;-P
Congrats to the winner whoever it got.
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Aug 28, 2002, 02:40 AM
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CTF-Southerain was the best ;P
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Aug 28, 2002, 08:29 AM
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Talking

CtFmon!
Gotta upload them all!
(With Trash Whackum)

Okay, upload all levels now ;P
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Hehe. I just quickly read through all of them without bothering to remember anything. All I needed to look for was somekind of congratulations and maybe a $ sign.
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Thanks, Stripe, for taking the time to write such detailed reviews of the levels. I, like many here, entered my level for the criticism, not because I thought I would win. I want to improve my levelmaking, and you have helped me a great deal.

However, I am a bit disappointed that when I uploaded my level (Nebula Alpha) to J2O it got no reviews. ZERO! Whereas Disguise and CelL release their levels and instantly get many reviews! Come on guys! (Oh, and Stripe, do you think you could post the reviews for each level on J2O?)

Finally, I would like to ask if there will be a pack made up of all the levels. (Or at least the names could be linked to the level on J2O...)

AJ2f
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Sep 7, 2002, 06:09 PM
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Once I get my computer running here at school I'll try and put together a pack with the levels. I don't know about reviewing each one on j2o because I don't want rate them numerically...

stripe
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