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22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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User avatar Sat42
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Subject: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 22 Jun 2024, 22:02

Map Title: Musica
Author: Zora
From: Zora's Episode 1
Filename: ZM1Musica.unr




Video Playthrough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I3qcsPbquI

Synopsis: You were lost. For how long, you cannot remember. Then you survived tumbling down an otherworldly Skaarj structure. You battled your way through hostile land and explored the forgotten caves of the Nali in search of their last crystal...

It's all a bit of a blur (a mine cart ride can do that... pain can do that), but you are finally here. The ones who listen to the music will make their way...

Discuss!
Nali: Magic or Telekinesis
Waffnuffly wrote:It's tarydium-doped smoothies. Drunk by the player, I mean. The player is tripping balls. The whole game actually takes place in a large city and the player thinks he's on an alien world.

User avatar Mister_Prophet
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 23 Jun 2024, 17:05

Zora Episode 1 had the roughest levels of the four series Zora stuff as I recall from my binge review a good number of years ago. Musica might be the best of this particular set. Experimental, like the rest, and clearly geared for COOP shenanigans. But things just work better in this one. And what's extra is clearly the more creative ideas you'll see in Episode 1.

Using music as a puzzle is pretty rare in games in general. At the moment I am hard pressed to think of any other Unreal examples. This is worth the novelty of giving it a try if for some reason you have gotten to 2024 as an Unreal fan and dared not to play the Zora levels. Musica comes last in the first Episode and I have to admit I have not replayed the set on newer Unreal patches. I suppose this MOTW is a great opportunity for me to do so :o

User avatar Semfry
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 24 Jun 2024, 21:30

My comment from when the map last came up still mostly fits:

Semfry wrote:Outside of the maze (both getting out and the two tiny switches) this is relatively intuitive for a Zora level, with some nice areas and movers (like the planes). The gallery is a bit repetitive with both the four rooms at the end and the earlier alcoves repeating the same gameplay multiple times and I'm not sure what's up with all the ugly unlit stuff in the outside area. It's decent enough though.


The maze is pretty irritating between the exit you can seemingly only reach with damage boosting (I guess there is a breakable crate near the hole?) and the two tiny switches you have to inch towards just right, but outside of that it's not too obtuse. The way each music track seemingly has to play out before you can trigger another is also an issue because it's pretty confusing if you get back to the hub before one has finished. That the planes only go up to the top after some actions in the outside area (presumably beating the Warlord) is also a little confusing but there's a decent chance you'll try the planes again at some point at least. Also I think the unlit bits on the mountains are supposed to be ice or something? But the effect doesn't work too well. It's fine beyond that though. Given the concept is presumably that the music is supposed to fit it's respective segment I don't feel the rock/metal type music fits all the tunnel crawling too well (although it works in the outdoor bit), but I guess that's supposed to be the inspiration. While they don't work now, straight up linking to the band sites in the rooms that open after the music finishes is a nice touch for a map that's a promotion of the artists in question.

Since the Zora pack "story" progression is in reverse order of release I guess this is technically the climax of the entire series?
Formerly Mman

User avatar Sat42
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 28 Jun 2024, 14:54

I concur with Mister_Prophet: Zora's Episode 1 is the worst episode in the series (unsurprisingly, as it was made first after all), and Musica is the best of the set (happily enough, as it's the finale).

And I'd say this map is good: it has it's issues from the 2 tiny switches after the (rather tame) maze as well as the repetitive gallery (though it's nice to see the pictures of your journey through all the horrible places you escaped from :) the second screenshot here [top-right] shows the picture of the exit from the maze in the episode's first map, I almost get palpitations just looking at this), and the build can be disappointing (subpar texturing outdoors being particularly noticeable), but there's genuine fun as well - especially outside with the "planes" and good music, I agree with Semfry that this is where Zora's choice of a heavy rock track (Colour Haze is referred to as a stoner/psychedelic rock group) works.

Semfry wrote:[...] the exit you can seemingly only reach with damage boosting (I guess there is a breakable crate near the hole?)


Yes there is a breakable crate nearby and to tell you the truth, back when I first played this it didn't even occur to me that I could rocket jump, so the only way out was by solving this very Zelda-esque puzzle as Proph put it in his review. :)

Semfry wrote:Since the Zora pack "story" progression is in reverse order of release I guess this is technically the climax of the entire series?


Haha yeah, "technically" as per the author's intent, which for once (much like Proph) I simply disregarded on my first playthrough of Zora's Episodes (I actually got in touch with her back then, Zora's World is still up by the way). It's clear that she got progressively better with her work and I wouldn't have enjoyed starting with the best and finishing with the worst episodes. And yeah, the story element being so very much absent from this series (a few stereotypical Unreal-esque translator messages don't change that) - outside of a couple of later maps (where it's still minimal in any case) - means I don't really understand why the author would insist on the reverse order (those couple of later maps with a minimalist narrative can offer different perspectives depending on the order in which you get to them).

The whole of Zora's World is head-scratching if you try to make sense of it lore-wise, but there is a real personality to it, a style that I'll forever associate with puzzles - the good, the bad and the ugly ones (the latter would work better in a different engine), as well as BS balance, abstraction, and a soundscape that, much like the gameplay, has significant highs and significant lows... and it all leads to a heartfelt message by the author at the end, a congratulations and thank you for playing like it's the 1980s again, followed by an invitation to play online... which, almost sadly, I never tried! :oops:

That final room though... Semfry, you chose the portal leading back to the first map in the pack! I can't imagine why you'd put yourself through that again :B
Nali: Magic or Telekinesis
Waffnuffly wrote:It's tarydium-doped smoothies. Drunk by the player, I mean. The player is tripping balls. The whole game actually takes place in a large city and the player thinks he's on an alien world.

User avatar Semfry
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 28 Jun 2024, 22:23

Another thing I forgot is that the torches all being shootable in the maze is kind of an interesting detail; I guess with co-op chaos it adds a bit of flavour. I almost wondered if it might be linked to a puzzle or something for the "intended" way out of the maze or something, but, looking in the editor, apparently not.

If it's not just a stylistic thing I guess the reverse order makes sense from a co-op perspective; given it's on rotation and there's likely to be player drop-off as it goes on (regardless of quality), along with the intentionally somewhat obtuse progression I guess it makes sense to put the newest and most shiny stuff first so it can be tested and tweaked easier, as well as likely helping retention a bit.

Sat42 wrote:That final room though... Semfry, you chose the portal leading back to the first map in the pack! I can't imagine why you'd put yourself through that again :B


That ending room is another thing where I wonder if a later plan wasn't fully implemented (at least in the public releases), because, given there's four portals it makes sense to have each link to one of Zora's four sets rather than random Unreal maps.
Formerly Mman

User avatar ebd
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 29 Jun 2024, 02:25

No video of this one because I don't want a claim on my channel, though I did record 8 GB of footage.

While I didn't play this pack "back in the day" for 2002 this whole pack would have been very avant garde. Parts of the pack, this map included, have a kind of "escape room" vibe to them, while unfortunately a lot of themes throughout the pack don't quite pan out as fun single player experiences, in my opinion anyway. It's probably a lot more fun in coop play.

User avatar Sat42
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Subject: Re: 22/06/2024 - "Musica" by Zora

Post Posted: 29 Jun 2024, 12:11

ebd wrote:No video of this one because I don't want a claim on my channel, though I did record 8 GB of footage.


Aw, man!
I had to reread this a couple of times to understand what you meant, but fair enough, though I really doubt you'd run into trouble :)
perhaps sharing through a private channel would work? It would be a shame to never see your video given the amount of footage, and I for one consider these videos a treat since kickstarting this new round of MOTW.

You make a good point about the "escape room" feel to many of Zora's maps, I had previously never consciously thought of it this way. I sometimes found myself wishing Zora would have had a more bespoke engine for her ideas, as the main design goals are often far removed from traditional Unreal gameplay.

Semfry wrote:Another thing I forgot is that the torches all being shootable in the maze is kind of an interesting detail; I guess with co-op chaos it adds a bit of flavour. I almost wondered if it might be linked to a puzzle or something for the "intended" way out of the maze or something, but, looking in the editor, apparently not.


This actually also got a mention in Proph's review, and it's a cool detail I'd completely forgotten about after my first playthrough 10 or so years ago. It's an example among many of technical proficiency on Zora's part - which again shows that while there may be a lot of "noobish" build in there, it's not because the author couldn't do better, it's just because of a lack of interest towards matters of "beautification".

And I suppose the reverse order does make some sense from a co-op perspective, helping with retention etc. as you put it.

Semfry wrote:That ending room is another thing where I wonder if a later plan wasn't fully implemented (at least in the public releases), because, given there's four portals it makes sense to have each link to one of Zora's four sets rather than random Unreal maps.


Agreed, I'd be surprised if the number of end portals being equal to the number of Zora map packs is just a coincidence.
Nali: Magic or Telekinesis
Waffnuffly wrote:It's tarydium-doped smoothies. Drunk by the player, I mean. The player is tripping balls. The whole game actually takes place in a large city and the player thinks he's on an alien world.


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