Cosmic Clouds Version 2.1
This is the 6th edition of my 3rd netpack, adding 5 new maps as well as minor fixes/changes to older maps.
Ratings/feedback appreciated as always,
Firefly Concentration Moon Airbag Deep Blue Day and Ocean of Noise
As a mapper, Slave is really taking some considerable strides in technical ability, but has some problems with diversity; in short, many of his maps feel similar to each other and few of them are especially compelling on their own. When put in a pack together, the sameness of many of these maps becomes a big problem in choosing a map to play.
I find that stylistically the same sets of architectural elements find themselves present in almost all of his maps, which isn't necessarily bad (I am guilty of the same thing) but when they are as prevalent as they are in some maps here, they become less of a convincing motif and more closely resemble a lack of creativity. I think Ascent, Concentration Moon, and Firefly are basically the same map, for example; different texture sets, sure, but the weapon choices and general flow are very similar (and I still think Ascent is the best). Rainfall, In Limbo, and Deep Blue Day are also remarkably similar, or at least to me.
I think the problem is that most maps here are less a collection of rooms and more a collection of corridors and passageways. In my experience, rooms are both more fun to play in and more compelling as a composition. In that sense, Leek Hills, Riki Tiki Tavi, Ascent, and Tiger Mountain are some of the best maps in the pack. Tiger Mountain and Leek Hills especially provide a great balance between big, interesting main spaces, and functional secondary corridors and spaces that make the maps especially successful, whereas maps like Endless Night and Airbag are less memorable or interesting.
Other maps have problems with height changes that are both too dramatic and too drastic to really work well for this game. There's nothing specifically wrong with big heights and a dynamic use of them, but it can reach the point where the flow is so stilted, and too focused on going up and down, that it interrupts the gameplay. Airbag, Cloud of Eiderdown, and Ocean of Noise all have this problem to a severe extent. Maps that use height changes well are Rainfall and Deep Blue Day; in these cases, higher and lower elevations still interact well both by themselves and with each other, and the focus of flow is still more horizontal than vertical.
I think a constructive mapping exercise for Slave is to make a few maps that are simpler and focus on big issues rather than small ones. Cosmic Clouds still lacks a traditional arena, which is okay, but I believe that making an arena is an easy, fun, and productive exercise; successful arenas put all of the player focus on straightforward combat, which is something that is lost in the shuffle to some extent currently in this pack. Good arena maps are enjoyable and memorable. Making more maps that focus on one or two main rooms, with less focus on corridors, side spaces, ledges, and so on, would also probably be constructive. Riki Tiki Tavi is one such map, and one of the most flexible and most fun. Over Fire Island is a case where a good main space is tarnished by having too much cruft in the upper levels, which are so high they're detached from the main flow.
To me, the best maps are Ascent, Leek Hills, Tiger Mountain, and Riki Tiki Tavi. That is not, however, an invitation to make more maps like them. It would be better to take some of the metaphorical ideas that make them successful -- big spaces, smooth flow, memorable design -- and employ them in new maps.
And make less water maps. Take a look at the screenshots posted here -- five of them look like they could be the same map. I would like to see more maps that used Jjaro and Lava, especially. Different texture sets would encourage different architectural quirks and styles, which I think would be a good exercise.
I would like to give this pack a 4.5 -- it really is almost there, but it falls only a little short of being excellent material.
Firefly and Deep Blue Day are the only good additions to this new release. However, at 17 maps Cosmic Clouds is finally large enough to provide a good hour of game play by itself. Of course, the texturing is ugly as usual but that is only a small distraction.
I first reviewed 1.0.0... and since then, more maps have been added, but the overall quality has not improved much, so to me this pack still remains a 4.
Ascent still remains my favorite map. Of the new maps (since 1.0), though, Leek Hills is the most visually impressive -- Slave definitely shows a mastery of the Water textures in some of these maps.
Most of the new maps are good enough to keep me wanting more (except for Sky Saw, no more of that), and the quality of the pack overall is certainly rising. With a little more care, and a bit more diversity, this pack would be true quality.
I couldn't decide whether this should have 4 or 5 stars. The smaller levels are OK, and don't reflect the same quality that I see in Riki Tiki Tavi, which I think is an awesome example of what an XL map should be.
The first time $lave gave me a walk-through in Riki*, I imagined 6-8 player team-netgames in it and thought it would be a blast. I've played it about five times since then and it continues to grow on me. Yeah, it's big but it's got lots of good terrain to suit all types of fighting styles.
I agree with the other comments that $lave has really delivered on these new maps. Even if the smaller maps were dogs (which they're not) this would be a strong pack, but with Riki* being so good I have to score it as one of the best out there.
Actually, this is pretty good stuff, showing a huge step up from the previous two packs. Ascent is extremely well-done; it looks amazing. Riki Tiki Tavi is a really fun map as well. A previous comment on how it's too large to be playable is, in my experience, incorrect; a group of 6 worked quite well, which is what I would expect out of an XL map.
The use of All Shapes on the two largest maps is spotty and imprecise; I think they would have worked better without the Juice augmentation.
I like that there's a lot more ammo, and the lighting and shading has seen a huge boost. If all of the maps were like Ascent, this would have been the easiest 5 I have ever given. Unfortunately, the consistency isn't there yet, and the weaker links detract too much from this little pack.
I'm just kidding. I'm actually very impressed with this pack. The first two maps seem a little rough, and there's a headbanger poly on the first level (poly 93 is too low when you're coming down the nearby stairs); I think the impression of roughness comes from the lighting, which is not very differentiated from one area to another.
The last three levels, however, are just superb. They make me think of Coriolis Loop, with their nuanced architecture, large horizontal and vertical spaces, and general coolness. Bonus points for your usage of multiple texture sets in some of the levels; it's subtle enough that it doesn't look out of place. Please make more maps!
Cosmic Clouds is definitely a robust pack. The level design is complex and it is apparent that $lave worked very hard on these maps. I am looking forward to playing more of his maps in the future. The XL map is definitely too large to be playable, but that is my only complaint. Ill definitely be hosting these maps on the meta. Congratulations, $lave, on a job well done!
$lave is definitely getting better at mapping. All of the maps in this pack are nice looking, and the flow seems pretty good too. I don't actually play online so I can't say for sure how these work in netgames, but it seems like the last 2 maps would be too large. November Rain is probably the weakest map in the pack, just because of the massive open areas. The last one in the pack looks nice, but again, I think games would be too slow on it.
I look forward to seeing more maps by this author.