I see a lot of good design principles that are let down by poor execution. You definitely have a sense of what kind of challenges are germane to single player — respectable enemy placement, some precision platforming, triggers, collapse scenery, and other such things — but it’s all done way too quickly. The running section (you should know, btw, that fast feet events don’t actually do anything in JJ2) is ended by a wall which signals that it’s dangerous once again and there’s an enemy coming; that’s a great touch. I see tiles being used for specialized purposes, and definite hints of JJ1 design philosophy (e.g. the secret level hidden behind the end of level sign). As PJ said, you just need to spend a lot more time polishing your levels and making the good ideas that you have more appealing to look at and play. Choosing different tilesets will also benefit you tremendously. Inferno is difficult to use even for experienced level designers, and the other sets you used aren’t really very high quality. Find a nice good-looking, easy to use set and see if you can’t find some inventive graphical tricks to complement your level design intuitions. Keep it up.
Nice as it is to see a custom Battery Check level (this is possibly the first???), this really has no other redeeming qualities. It’s tiny, tiles don’t match up too well, and there’s little challenge and absolutely no use for the batteries. But please keep practicing: we need more Battery Check levels!
The atmosphere’s not bad, although you owe the tileset a large debt there. Eyecandy does get repetitive. Occasional tile bugs but fewer than usual for Carrotus. Not nearly enough ammo (pretty much just powerups), and too many walls, especially that carrot portion. No incentive to hang around the dangerous pit area. Good ideas, but too cramped.
A small level that takes no real risks and could use a bit more polish. The ammo placement is bizarre — somewhat sparse, but with lots of pepper spray and even some TNT — and the path to the blaster powerup is way too long and slow and unbranching. Not fond of the upper right. Eyecandy is serviceable, if unadventurous, and there are good areas.
The authorship looks a bit too much like a he-said-she-said situation for me to try to resolve, and there’s not much to say about the gameplay here, but I do like the eyecandy. :) You(?) make Top Secret look pretty.
The issue with alternate palettes is that the tileset is 100 rows and I already had to truncate its background somewhat to fit in that space. Creating a more straight up Carrotus expansion with regular palette and background but all the expanded walls/bridges/vines/thorns/etc. — CarrotusV, obviously — would definitely result in TSF-only territory. If there’s demand I guess I could do that, but it wasn’t my top priority.
Alien Temple ][? Hell yeah.
The tileset and the music? Really?
It’s an okay list for what it does, but the fact that a better list came out two days before it rather limits the incentive to use it. At the very least you should have combined it with Pyromanus’ long-existing list so that it would describe which sprites each sound activated. Finally, I’m not sure how much this really belongs in the downloads section as opposed to an article or ERE page.
EDIT: “Neobeo’s post doesn’t even list HALF of all the Ambient sounds, so I’m not sure why it was even mentioned in this discussion. His list serves a completely different purpose from mine.” <- This is totally false. I think you may be looking at blur’s list instead of Neobeo’s, which is later down the thread? Neobeo’s goes straight from 0 to 255 without gaps. Compare his 42-62 to yours, for instance.
Also, I didn’t say this should be an MCE list. However, as noted by Pyromanus, ambient sounds are linked to MCEs in that different ambient sounds will load sprites into memory. They don’t place events in the level; rather, they affect what will happen if one does place such an MCE somewhere. These sprites are directly tied to specific ambient sounds, and it doesn’t really make sense in 2011 to have an ambient sound list that only specifies one dimension of the ambient sound event.
Also, if this had been an ERE page, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because other people could simply make the requisite edits to bring yours up to date with Neobeo and Pyro’s findings.
And yet there have been nine downloads that were neither the uploader nor Grytolle, so there must be at least some demand. :-?
BollyWorld is a rare example of both the aerial boss battle and the level where choice of character truly matters. The basic premise is that you are fighting Bolly, but instead of a solid ground from which to attack him, you are given a series of sucker tubes that continually shoot you up into the (horizontal and vertical) center of the arena. To aid you in reaching him, two float lizards respawn from beneath the arena, and if you can successfully shoot them, you can potentially use their copters to take you up above Bolly where you may stomp him repeatedly until eventually he gets hidden inside a wall and you fall down to begin the whole process again. There are also a couple of carrots respawning at the top to make the fight more endurable.
To complicate all of this, the level is filled with belt events, alternating in direction by row, so Bolly’s missiles wobble a little and whenever he or the float lizards stop moving (to fire at you) they are carried inexorably off towards one or another of the walls. This makes stomping Bolly much harder, naturally, and even when you do succeed in shooting down a float lizard, their copters will suddenly go zooming off to the left or right where you will have to work hard to catch them. It’s a clever addition, one which you begin to come to terms with after the first few deaths.
You should definitely expect to see the Continue? screen a lot, because the carrots don’t respawn very quickly and it’s non-trivial to reach them anyway, and Bolly will only get in a good position for stomping every so often. Many of my deaths came about by running into shot-down lizards while zooming through the sucker tubes at the bottom — remember to stomp those as well, or shoot them from the corners in hopes of carrots. The bottom corners can be good ways of shooting down lizards, since you’re not in the air at the time, but they’re especially nasty places to be swarmed by Bolly and his long chain of spike balls, which is much harder to deal with when you can neither uppercut nor sidekick them all away in a heartbeat.
To add to all of this, there is a secondary, hidden strategy that you will probably have to use JCS to discover. There’s a lot of bouncer ammo at the top, and some trigger crates and a powerup are below the arena, as what appear to be random eyecandy to give the impression of lights or something. However, and the level gives no indication of this, the blocks underneath the bottom corners of the arena are secretly destruct scenery, which you can use the bouncer ammo to destroy after making a trip up to the top of the level to collect some. From there you have to destroy all the trigger crates, though the small height of the area means that this secondary strategy should be attempted only by Spaz. If successful, the area with the carrots post-crate-kicking also allows access to an airboard, which renders the rest of the boss fight if not trivial, at the very least much simplified. As a tradeoff for this reduced challenge at the end, it’s much harder to navigate the arena with a double jump than copter ears. The Jazz option of simply fighting the boss feels a lot better put together.
Graphically, the level is… well, functional. Again, there is no real way of knowing how to reach the trigger crates short of JCS, but moreover, there’s just not much in the way of eyecandy. The background is a series of starfields, invoking the “city of lights” aspect of the title, and the sky seems to have some sort of strange window effect going on that I don’t really understand. Either the tileset is holding the level back or the author is holding the tileset back. Perhaps both. I understand that too much eyecandy would serve to obscure gameplay, but something closer to a middle ground would definitely have been possible.
Bollyworld is a very clever idea, coming even with events specific to different difficulty modes (which I confess to not having dried), although the complexity of the arena makes it difficult to know when one is exploiting a bug vs. when one is playing the level as it is intended to be played. If I stomp Bolly while he is almost completely hidden behind a wall while waiting for him to finish firing, am I supposed to be able to do that? It’s hard to tell. With some better graphics, this level would serve as a great example of an Idea that was translated to level form with apparently minimal sacrifice.
You don’t need to include that tileset.
Think I’ll stick with Chipset.
This program is somewhat functional, but I’m not sure what use it has. First off it’s not even all that good at displaying tilesets: the window isn’t fixed width, even though the contents are, and for some reason there’s a black margin to the left of the tileset image so you can’t have nothing but the image in the window. Not that you’d want to, since the information displayed at the bottom of the window is actually wider than a tileset. The transparent color, as noted, is black, unlike the traditional purple, and this cannot be modified. It takes longer to load a tileset than JCS does, and displays only the image, not the clipping or transparency masks.Some directions this program does not take that could make it at least slightly useful:
However, not a single one of those possibilities is realized, and this program, incredibly, does just what it says on the box: it shows you the image of the tileset. It’s competently written, and the code should be a good base for actual utilities down the line, but right now, this is no more than a proof of concept uploaded to J2O instead of posted to the JCF or left on the uploader’s HD as a stepping stone towards future projects.
P.S. StarLORD: If you’re interested in finding the best utility upload of each day, I have another recent upload to point you towards…
hi I made that conversion by the way. it’s not especially good, but it’s no more by Sal than Orbitus is by blur.
Foreseeable Future is the first “modern” JJ1 release. Everything before this has been more or less bound within the steep limitations of JCS94 — DD was able to create a palette edit of Diamondus, and we’ve many of us edited a few events within the confines of the sprites that come with the levels we’re editing — but Newspaz has custom tilesets, custom attacks, custom sprites (mostly swapped from original JJ1 planets, but also some smaller spritifying work, like the flames in Castle and Desolatus), and even custom movement. There could be more — the flowers in Carrotus are conspicuously unanimated, and you should be able to shoot the knights’ helmets, like in Bloxonius — but overall Newspaz is pioneering and demonstrating JJ1’s true range of customization possibilities. Cooba and I are of course working on our own projects, as are perhaps others who haven’t shown any screenshots yet, but Newspaz got his out the door first.
All that, though, has nothing to do with the more important question of how good the episode actually is. Fortunately, in addition to doing stuff first, Newspaz is pretty good at it as well. He creates three distinct atmospheres that are copies neither of their JJ2 counterparts (though Desolatus, his version of BlurredD’s tileset “Desolation,” doesn’t have an exact single player counterpart anyway) nor of any particular JJ1 planet. Carrotus definitely has familiar elements from the original Carrotus levels, but it’s still distinctly Newspaz’s own, and I suspect I even noticed a piece or two inspired more by Easter. The enemies are turtles and bees, more or less straight from Diamondus, although the movement of the bees is sometimes a bit wonky, and nothing of the planet poses too much of a threat, unless you fall into the thorns a lot. Every once in a while the level feels a bit open, but for the most part NS recognizes that JJ1 necessitates eyecandy being crammed into small spaces, due to its small screen size, and his tileset conversion is flush with foliage. The turtle looks a bit weird, since its shell is the color of the Carrotus radish, but that’s not too big of a deal.
Castle is assuredly the main event. It’s the hardest and the prettiest of the three, the subdued tile colors mixing beautifully with the near-garish sprite colors. Enemies are Armor-Doofi from Stonar, recolored Red Bats from Turtemple, and the cannon tiles, which cannot be destroyed but will still fire cannonballs at you. The bats come out of nowhere, the cannons fire a lot, and there are a lot of spikes, all of which adds up to a difficult experience, with only one checkpoint per level. The level design is in no way an emulation of JJ2’s castle — it feels a lot more solid, for one — but it’s still very consistent, and does the best job of any of the three of feeling like it has a coherent, planned layout, more than a lot of areas one after another.
Desolatus is the most out there and plays around the most with JJ1, featuring moving platforms, spike-like events, weird jumping owls, tubes, bridges, and spring shoes. Its layout might be the closest to Cliffy’s, though I’m not sure… it’s pretty claustrophobic, with a pretty twisted path in each level, and, more than the other two planets, it features a number of clearly divided areas. It’s not as pretty, but that’s arguably not NS’ fault. It’s not nearly as difficult as Castle, though, to the extent that the level order becomes a little confusing, and while NS provides a skeleton plot for the episode, it’s not especially clear why one planet necessarily precedes another, so this could have been switched.
There are some distinctive features to NS’ level design which feel slightly out of place in JJ1 because they show up so rarely in the original levels. Newspaz makes much greater use of vertical space than Cliffy did — Cliffy had occasional floating platforms or floating springs, and Newspaz does use the latter once, but he also has a lot of tubes which you traverse using a single spring, or big pits for falling down, both of which are quite distinctive to him across all three planets. Secrets are usually in the same sort of place, a little off to the side in a place you’re supposed to go up or down, and they’re never hidden by foreground or destructable walls, you just need to walk over to them. Paths break occasionally, and that’s always cool — Carrotus is fairly complicated, and there’s a nice loop area in a Castle level that feels similar to Crysilis. One area near the end of Desolatus has a bunch of floating (tile-based) platforms and feels more like a CTF level than anything else, or perhaps Jill of the Jungle.
The biggest flaw in Foreseeable Future is that the difficulty, while mostly reasonable, is occasionally unfair. A side effect of Newspaz’s fondness of vertical space is that there are a lot of leaps of faith, and there’s no good way to know which ones will have spikes at the bottom and which won’t. One pit in Castle comes to mind especially which it’s really not clear that you have to jump across, and while this is subverted at one point in Desolatus — you fall down and land directly on a moving platform, which NS clearly timed carefully — it seems that working in such a small resolution is difficult, especially if you’re used to JJ2. The bats and cannons in Castle are hard to predict and the latter fire very frequently, making them possible to get by without injury if you memorize where they are in each level, but much harder to appraise at a distance and come up with a strategy for avoiding. You feel much safer there when you’re moving left, because the bats approach you more slowly and the cannons can’t hit you. I don’t object to difficulty by itself, I just object to success resulting only from memorization. The other planets are much better with this, though, a few surprising flames in Desolatus aside, and for the most part you’re just treated to pretty graphics, new and very memorable level designs, and a sense of inspiration as you realize how many things JJ1 can do if you give it a chance. Foreseeable Future isn’t perfect, but what is?
It’s hard to know what to say about this… on the one hand, it does a good job of what it tries to do, if not a perfect one, but on the other hand, is what it tries to do a good thing?
I compared the levels in the pack, in addition to their JJ1 LEVELX.00X originals, to jj1Diamondus1.j2l, a total conversion of Diamondus 1 I found in my JJ2 folder, of unknown origin, and jjtube1.j2l, the total conversion of Tubelectric 1 that came with Newspaz’s Tubelectric conversion. In terms of tile-to-tile accuracy alone, PT32 does a better job, no doubt aided tremendously by the existence of the level viewer JCS94, which was not available when the other two levels were made. jjtube1.j2l has two tubes slightly longer than they are supposed to be, but PT32 gets both of them right. jj1Diamondus1 has a few missing tiles at the end, perhaps because they were not present in the tileset it used, but PT32 includes them. The only places I noticed where PT32 diverts radically from the actual JJ1 tiles are those which are never seen on screen, and that’s fine. Obviously a massive amount of time was put into the accuracy and it turned out well, with only occasional, minor hiccups (a layer 3 problem in Diamondus, a few background tiles overgeneralized in Medivo). In nearly all the spots where Jazz could get stuck in JJ2 from diagonally masked tiles coming together, PT32 carefully inserts invisible solid tiles to keep you safe: good job there. Even the enemies that appear only on hard difficulty are present and appropriately parametered.
Of course, JJ1 and JJ2 are different games and use different engines, and there are a few things that do not translate exactly, and thus necessarily a few decisions that must be made. I can’t however say that I agree with all that many of PT32’s. The enemy replacements are all straightforward — replacing JJ1 bees with JJ2 bees is never as accurate as we might want it to be, but I’m not sure there’s any better alternative, and rapiers are a decent swap — and I can’t say I have a better, easily implemented suggestion for shields than coins, but problems subsist. The tiny turtles are gone without a trace, although I’d have been tempted to use moths. The secret level, as PT32 admits, is barely playable, and it would have worked out much better with an airboard than an actual bird morph. This is what JelZe did for his own conversion of Turtle Terror, and it was much more functional, even if the bird morph is a better match VISUALLY. I’m not sure how I feel about using Bubba for the turtle boss.
Only occasionally does PT32 have to change the level design outright. There’s a secret in a Medivo level with four +15 Toaster boxes, which in JJ1 you reach from above and then exit through the floor. PT32 notices this doesn’t work in JJ2, because two of the boxes would fall through the floor, and replaces the exit route with one way tiles. This is decent, if confusing, but +15 boxes are not affected by gravity when you move them with belts, as JCSref mentions, and I think that would have done a much better job. Conversely, there’s another spot at the top right of Diamondus 1 where some tiles are supposed to be one way but aren’t because they’re not masked in JJ2 and I guess PT32 didn’t test it enough. The various tube secrets are all done pretty well, but the secret-to-the-left-of-the-spring in Diamondus 2 is inaccessible because PT32, unlike JelZe, was unwilling to compromise and add one more unmasked tile above the spring for Jazz to fit through. The destructable blocks in the Guardian arena are understandably replaced with destruct scenery, although I don’t understand why their debris tile is lava. On the bright side, invisible springs are handled consistently well.
Tubelectric is the biggest offender. To be sure, it’s for good reason — there simply aren’t obvious counterparts to the turrets or barriers. Newspaz leaves the barriers as unmasked eyecandy (after all, his only goal was to show off the tileset as visually complete — which it wasn’t — not to push the limits of the JJ2 engine), and puts Hurt events on the turrets. JelZe leaves the turrets out entirely and replaces the barriers with four-hit destruct blocks. PT32, though, employs the worst of both worlds and masks neither of them, leaving Tubelectric neutered. However, unlike Newspaz or JelZe, PT32 was actually working with a tileset that had masked animations for the turret fire, and apparently just chose not to use them. Bizarre. The barriers are a harder case, but I’m pretty sure a solution could have been found with Reworder. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but it would have been better than not trying.
So, PT32 does a nearly perfect job of 1:1 conversion accuracy, though the creativity comes up a bit short. What’s it worth? This episode is the natural counterpoint to JelZe’s, which itself was fairly controversial — I don’t even agree with the rating I myself gave to it back then. JelZe did better in making a JJ2 pack — his Fast Feet section and secret level are irrefutably better than PT32’s, for instance — but necessarily sacrificed a bit of accuracy, both from graphics (waterfalls, glowing blue circuits, lava, foreground bars, and so on) and from gameplay. PT32 does better in bringing over the exact contents, almost mechanically, with few problems other than those of the JJ2 engine and the conversions used, but loses the feeling of newness, creativity, and mystery.
The real problem, in short, is that PT32 should not have made this, not in 2010. I’m not saying that if no one had totally converted Turtle Terror in twelve years, then there was a good reason for it — though I’m not arguing against that, either — I’m just saying that, given our understanding of both the JJ1 and JJ2 file formats, this should never have been done by hand over a period of apparently 80 hours. A program could have done automatically just about everything PT32 does here manually, with human labor necessary only for a bit of cleanup and feature adding at the end. And that’s the tragedy of the work: all the lost time and talent toward only a questionable end.
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.