After all, what is a metastable AI but an electric god?
You've been sent by Durandal to assist a UESC assault on the Vylae homeworld. As Pfhor resistance crumbles, a strange discovery offers new opportunities... and new perils.
A mini-scenario for Marathon Infinity. Six levels, plus one interstitial and one secret bonus level.
Notable changes in v1.1:
I'm always looking to hone my craft as a mapper -- reviews, suggestions, &c are greatly appreciated. Special thanks to hypersleep for feedback on v1.0 and help with Lua!
first things first, the maps just work. and not like how Todd Howard means it but it just works in general. i never seen through the map or fell through it or seen a missing texture or something overlapping. it was a great experience.
there has been much said about the maps but i'll just focus on the secret level.
the way you get there is by a chip in one of the levels. something about a temporal anomaly. if you played it then you know what i'm talking about. if you haven't i'm not spoiling anything.
i was certain by the way the room is set up where you can find the chip that it was supposed to be a switch puzzle. a certain order to flip the switches and the way becomes clear. its not, in the end you just flip one hidden switch. the others don't matter. it was... unexpected. but serviceable. kinda a letdown in my mind.
the second part is to find a slot to put the chip in of course. i figured out that it wasn't on the level that you get the chip from as i looked everywhere for the hidden switch. (which turned out to not be all that hidden) i was surprised that this 'temporal signature' stuff doesnt get mentioned ever again. i dont know what that was about. and really the only way i found out that i could even get to where i needed to go was that i got blown up one time and flew out the window. normally when you jump out a window you die when you hit the bottom (suffocation) not here though. i cant imagine how i would have found the chip slot.... i cant say that i agree with how hidden it is. again, why didn't the creator put in another hint like with the chip?
anyways, the secret level itself. a nice, very nice, doom 2016 like level. looks like an 8 on its side from the top. some elevation and plenty of spaces to hide. you get loaded with ammo for all your guns. plenty of fodder enemies to use the rocket launcher on. it was very enjoyable to blow my way through everything.
TLDR to get to the secret level is hard and inconsistent (introducing a temporal signature gimmick for a hint but then not following through with it) but the secret level itself was awesome.
These 6ish levels almost feel like lost Double Aught maps in the best way possible – Angular, rambling architecture that tastefully employs the base textures with handsome lighting and composition.
The maps sprawl and fold back on themselves. There’s a few moments I was left pondering what to do next, but the solution was never difficult to arrive at. I appreciate the attention paid to creating flow, with hubs and landmarks that make navigating these massive, non linear levels a breeze.
Resources are everywhere, I had every weapon except the rocket launcher by the end of the second level. I didn’t mind, I’ve spent decades with these weapons and there’s no need to learn the ropes. Let it rip.
On Total Carnage, there’s a gradual and steady increase in difficulty that will take you from melting the Pfhor during the intro to really having your reflexes tested by the time you reach the end. The fighting is great, with lots of brawls, surprising ambushes and layered encounters. The author understands how to craft layouts that highlight the monster behaviour and allow the player to manoeuvre in response to the challenge. It's the exact approach to combat that I love.
It ends on a cliff hangar, I hope this means we’ll see more one day. I was surprised at how engaged I was by a “classic” scenario in 2023, and I think that’s testament to the author's hard work here.
I think it's pretty good. It actually kept me interested! Very nice looking and hope for the full version to it!
But it isn't ready yet. Although there is some amazing architecture and level design here, there are too many things which hold it back.
First of all, the weapon/ammo availability and placement. The beginning of the first level almost made me give up on this scenario altogether; there were simply too many enemies in too tight an area to fight with your pistol and fist. Throughout the first level at least, I found that having to fight the amount of monsters there were with only my fists and pistols to be annoying.
The second issue with this scenario is the lighting. There are many areas which could be improved drastically if you just applied more differential lighting. Most of the scenario is simply too bright; in most levels there are only "dim" and "bright" areas, with very few (possibly no) dark areas. To clarify, I generally consider lights 0 - 8/9 to be "bright", 9/10 - 14 to be "dim" and 15 through 20 to be "dark". The texturing generally isn't (in my opinion) too bed, with the exception of the second level. The second level is largely textured poorly and far too bright. An example of a level which could be spectacular of better lighting was used is Atom Heart Mother (I enjoyed the Pink Floyd reference). I'd make the passages between areas substantially darker, and add more differential shading to most areas (using both bright/dim and dark lighting together in areas). This level seemed to be inspired by Aye Mak (although I could be wrong) and I'd suggest looking at Aye Mak for examples of good lighting, you can also check out Marathon: Rubicon which (I thought) had generally good lighting.
The third issue was the monster placement. There are simply too many areas where you have to fight too many monsters in too tight a place. Every level seems to have this problem; you are often not prepared for the amount of monsters and/or have no room to dodge; this is amplified (again, especially in the first level) by the lack of appropriate weapons.
That said, I thought the overall level designs (with a few exceptions, most notably the beginning of level 1 and most of level 2) were excellent; rivaling (again, in my opinion) some of the best scenarios/conversions out there. I also happen to be a huge fan of Marathon: Infinity's levels (those which didn't suck), and a lot of these levels brought to me the feeling of marathon Infinity's better levels.
I also thought your terminals were excellently written, no complaints there (although I've never been a fan of Robert Blake in any scenario).
I really think this deserves 2.5 stars at the moment, but simply by fixing the existing levels in terms of monsters, weapons, lighting could easily bring it up to a 4 star scenario, and by fixing up all of the better levels (mainly minor things) it could become a 5 star scenario; but the first and second level would have to be re-done, and the pfhor levels could be better.
I greatly look forward to seeing this scenario "fixed up", I really enjoy some of the designs/architecture, even if the levels themselves need a lot of work in other aspects.
One final note, is that playing co op, neither Jim nor I could find any way of getting past the immediate post-initial area without rocket jumping. We were able to get to the platform leading out of the lava to the building, and found one switch, but our guess was that one of the inactive terminals was supposed to teleport us to the next area. I can't really comment on that too much though, as with the addition of terminals it likely would have been far more clear.
If you'd like to run through these levels with me co op for more specific advice/examples, I'm fully willing. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me over AIM (animalsfloyd) if you're interested.