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24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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User avatar Sat42
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Subject: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 24 Mar 2024, 00:02

Map Title: A Warrior's Lament
Author: Aspide
From: A Friend In Need
Filename: AFIN-Map01-WarriorsLament.unr




Video Playthrough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCjjab3_h-I

Synopsis: You are Stardust, a former UMS marine of the ill-fated Bodega Bay. After becoming stranded on Na Pali (aka Gryphon 4A), you befriend a Nali named Inti: he saved your life, and it's time to return the favour after renegade Krall kidnap and imprison him in their subterranean stronghold...

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 Aspide
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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 24 Mar 2024, 10:25

My second map in UE1 :D (my first was a CTF map for Marathon : Resurrection), in hindsight I made some very big mistakes when I made this map : the hole at the beginning is a terrain brush when it should have been a tessellated cube, caverns are made by a laser (shape is too regular), I used the tetrahedron brush which should never be used and the rooms are very "boxy". However I'm happy with everything else : the gimmick of the green krall that spawns in a random spot in the map, the amount of enemies vary a lot depending on what difficulty you are playing, the translator messages that give life to the characters in the campaign, the skybox (which I took from UT2003's DM-Inferno) and of course the amount of secrets that this level has. Getting all the secrets in the biggest challenge in the map, fortunately the mappack comes with a readme that contains all the location of the secrets, which will come in handy if you play this campaign in Unreal difficulty, even I struggle to beat this map in Unreal difficulty so I wish good luck to any brave soul that attempts that challenge.

Speaking of the secrets, I made a custom actor that tells the players how many secrets you have collected vs how many secrets the map has in total. I wished the original Unreal had a system like that by default.

Oh and this map has two exits, it was originally going to have three but I made a mistake when I build the fortress so I had to abandon that idea.

I love those screenshots, great job Sat42 \o/ , at least you didn't take screenshots of Version 1.0 of this level, the texture choice and alignment was disgustingly awful :lol:
Somewhere in Nevada...

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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 25 Mar 2024, 01:56

The first map of this campaign was also my first time playing a level from Aspide (because of this short little romp I'd soon accept his application to join us for Savage Land, where he has made two great maps already). As Aspide said himself there's some early learning in the physical design of some of the areas, particularly in the beginning. What is also fair and true to say about Aspide is that he's a super fast study. He's picked things up at jump that others have taken years to figure out. As a whole, A Friend In Need is a strong first attempt at SP and a perfect example of creativity trumping all else.

On to the level. A Warrior's Lament has some Aspide tropes that I've seen now in pretty much all his SP work. "Doorway Garrisons" are common, as I call them; where the player enters a new chamber and peeks their head in only to jump back as several unsourced enemies trigger aggro. Then the gameplay plays out until the player has made it safe to actually enter. The other thing that happens in here is the big-open-space-with-stationed-enemies approach. You'll see where everyone is patrolling or standing, be it a krall guard or a faraway Brute emplacement. Aspide let's you sandbox it and I gotta be truthful I don't think I ever do it the same way twice. It's an interesting way to design a level because it masks the actual virtual space available to make the map seem longer than it is. Once you clear the enemies and look around to take a breath you might feel like you ought to have covered more space somehow.

The Stardust character is interesting and the brief plot in this one got me. It's simple but unusual and doesn't follow the standard Unreal tropes, though many of the regular type stuff does occur (more naturally I feel). I also really dig being a UMS marine. Playing a SP that goes all out with a UMS protagonist is quite memorable. This is also a good time to admit that this might be the one map in the last twenty years that actually made me use the UMS rocket launcher....like a lot.
Last edited by Mister_Prophet on 26 Mar 2024, 02:17, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar Semfry
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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 25 Mar 2024, 22:14

I played AFIN a while ago but forgot to comment, I think in part because Version 2 was announced basically as soon as I finished so I was wanted to play through that at some point first. I guess MOTW is the chance to do so. In the video I also included the Quake inspired difficulty select since it's not really a level in itself (aside from the secret to unlock Unreal mode).

The architecture is relatively simple and it's a bit dark (since the newest public 227 has some brightness issues with XOpenGL I thought it might be that, but other maps I checked looked fine), but the main fortress looks good and I really like the idea of some lava cave so massive it basically works as an exterior. The gameplay concepts are the highlight though with the pseudo-immersive sim design of providing a bunch of different approaches to the main combat set-piece (including multiple exits to the map that potentially let you bypass a lot of it), as well as being just stingy enough with supplies that you have to take some action and can't just camp and kill everything, along with the use of slow moving projectile enemies making the risk of being near-defenseless not overly oppressive. There's also plenty of story details that are handled well, along with providing gameplay and secret hints in subtle ways, and I like the melancholy undercurrent that the Krall were basically doomed even before you came along (which, from what I recall, carries through the rest of the set). I did find the house with some Spinners and a Predator a little odd though as it's the only one of the latter in the entire map as far as I can tell so it feels a little out of place.

Like Mr Prophet said this is also one of the few things I've played that makes me appreciate the non-CAR RTNP weapons, with the Rocket Launcher in particular annihilating otherwise overwhelming packs of Krall in ways the standard weapons can't really do. I guess there were technical limits back then but it almost makes me wish RTNP had explored going in a more horde-like arcady direction a little. The secrets and easter eggs are also handled well and give a bunch of extra depth and rewards beyond the surface progression. A good first map for this set that does a good job introducing all the ways it's successfully a bit experimental with standard Unreal gameplay.
Formerly Mman

User avatar Sat42
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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 26 Mar 2024, 23:00

As always, thank you for the video Semfry! I also think it's a really nice touch to include the difficulty selection level :)

Anyone interested in having some serious narrative in their Unreal/UT SP adventures should play A Friend In Need (AFIN).
Mr Prophet and Semfry have already said a lot so I'll relate my first time impressions!

A Warrior's Lament makes me want to savour the experience, thanks to 1. the story which makes me care about what's going on, 2. the fun gameplay, 3. the sudden sight of the citadel in that massive subterranean space, and 4. the new music which is really good and extremely refreshing! Oh and the beginning reminded me of Hellscrag's Tashara's Cove, nice homage! Later, I also felt some EZkeel influences.
I actually spent about one and a half hours on the first playthrough before reaching the exit! i.e., the "normal" exit: when I reached it, I had 4 secrets - when I realised I'd arrived at the next map, I reloaded and spent an extra half an hour to find more secrets and only got one more so 5/10 before having to call it a day! When I picked up again from my last save, I renewed my efforts to find the way into the area under the citadel and eventually made it and finished the level using the "secret" exit and with 8/10 secrets found - over 2.5 hours of gaming in total! (in the process of looking for secrets, I also found another "unofficial" secret: you'll know what it is if you face an impossibly strong enemy!) Remember kids: when in doubt, use extreme force! :P
Make no mistake: at least on Medium difficulty (my default), the challenge resides solely in finding the (obviously optional) secrets. Which is totally fine in what is the first level of the campaign.

I was thrilled when I arrived at the main Krall citadel! That moment really confirmed that the level was going to be an epic experience. The new skybox is great (cheers for letting us know its provenance, Aspide!), and the open space makes for stimulating gameplay and good replayability. From a narrative standpoint, more than Stardust the UMS marine, it's how the author managed to give a lot of character to the Krall that strikes me as the most pleasing aspect, by "humanising" them if I may say so. I even detect some tenderness in here and that's not something you can say about the vast majority of Unreal/UT SP experiences.

Regarding how prominent the hunt for secrets ends up being in the absence of other challenges: it sometimes felt like the experience was structured like certain Quake Arcane Dimensions maps, where there's no mandatory challenge, only the hunt for secrets is challenging. But unlike all Quake maps (Leptis Magna has a good story at least), AFIN has a significant focus on story which makes it better in my book. But I did enjoy the hunt for secrets especially when they were tied to some story elements!

Graphically it's a bit inferior to the original Unreal, but it doesn't matter. It's still visually memorable - conceptually grand - and that's what counts.

Aspide wrote:[...]
I love those screenshots, great job Sat42 \o/ , at least you didn't take screenshots of Version 1.0 of this level, the texture choice and alignment was disgustingly awful :lol:


You're very welcome! :D
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 Aspide
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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 27 Mar 2024, 09:54

Thanks for the kind words everyone :D , I'm happy that people enjoyed my map even though it has its shortcomings when it comes to the level geometry. The thing that I worked on the most was the story, I always like giving a lot of personality to the characters especially the ones that you have to confront.

Mister_Prophet wrote:The Stardust character is interesting and the brief plot in this one got me. It's simple but unusual and doesn't follow the standard Unreal tropes, though many of the regular type stuff does occur (more naturally I feel). I also really dig being a UMS marine. Playing a SP that goes all out with a UMS protagonist is quite memorable.

I'm happy that Mr Prophet likes the main character Stardust, I handled the main character the same way that the Marathon trilogy handles its, the main character is both its own character and also an avatar for the players, a difficult balance to get right. If I ever make a sequel to this campaign Stardust's character will definitely become more complex and the events of this campaign will hunt all of the characters in the story.

Semfry wrote:There's also plenty of story details that are handled well, along with providing gameplay and secret hints in subtle ways, and I like the melancholy undercurrent that the Krall were basically doomed even before you came along (which, from what I recall, carries through the rest of the set).

Yes that's very much intentional, the main theme of the story is tragedy so every character in the story is affected by that sad undercurrent. The saddest thing about the story is that the Krall renegade group were not the only ones that were doomed from the start but also you as well, from the moment you decided to attack the Krall fortress the fate of everyone in that place was sealed included your friend which was the reason why you infiltrated the fortress in the first place. If only Stardust tried to communicate with the Krall and work together with them things would have been different, but that's not how Unreal works. Also something that people might not have noticed is that when you are outside of the fortress you can see three birds, they represent the Krall captain, your Nali friend and you. What happens to them foreshadows what happens to the characters in the story.

Semfry wrote:The architecture is relatively simple and it's a bit dark (since the newest public 227 has some brightness issues with XOpenGL I thought it might be that, but other maps I checked looked fine), but the main fortress looks good and I really like the idea of some lava cave so massive it basically works as an exterior.

The reason why the campaign is dark is because back in the day I was unaware of Zone Info's Ambient Lighting :P (I never made that mistake again).

Sat42 wrote:Oh and the beginning reminded me of Hellscrag's Tashara's Cove, nice homage! Later, I also felt some EZkeel influences.

To be honest this campaign has a lot of influences: Tashara's Cove (three playable maps, you revisit the first map in the third map, fourth map is a cutscene with interpolation points, first room is based on the first room of Tashara's Cove), The Last Fortress (the idea of infiltrating a fortress, the contrast of darkness and the orange/red skybox), Xidia franchise/ G59 (the focus on the story and the three dimensional characters), ONP and Project Xenome (the secret system and how cutscenes work), Nali Chronicles (the magical properties of the Nali Priests), Legacy (its code help me to do the Cloak), Hard Crash (the final two maps inspired the underground fortress idea), Skaarj Tower - The Fall of Seethe/ The Landing (the focus on fighting the Krall, also The Fall of Seethe inspired me to only use custom music), The Odyssey/RTNP:UE (the use of RTNP content), Quake (the difficulty selection map and the amount of secrets) , Marathon Trilogy (the main character and the way the story is told) and Prisons Of The Unforchers (the multiple exits).

Great video Semfry and you got all the secrets!!!, you are a superstar \o/
Somewhere in Nevada...

User avatar Sat42
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Subject: Re: 24/03/2024 - "A Warrior's Lament" by Aspide

Post Posted: 29 Mar 2024, 18:20

Aspide wrote:To be honest this campaign has a lot of influences: Tashara's Cove (three playable maps, you revisit the first map in the third map, fourth map is a cutscene with interpolation points, first room is based on the first room of Tashara's Cove), The Last Fortress (the idea of infiltrating a fortress, the contrast of darkness and the orange/red skybox), Xidia franchise/ G59 (the focus on the story and the three dimensional characters), ONP and Project Xenome (the secret system and how cutscenes work), Nali Chronicles (the magical properties of the Nali Priests), Legacy (its code help me to do the Cloak), Hard Crash (the final two maps inspired the underground fortress idea), Skaarj Tower - The Fall of Seethe/ The Landing (the focus on fighting the Krall, also The Fall of Seethe inspired me to only use custom music), The Odyssey/RTNP:UE (the use of RTNP content), Quake (the difficulty selection map and the amount of secrets) , Marathon Trilogy (the main character and the way the story is told) and Prisons Of The Unforchers (the multiple exits).


That's one hell of a list of inspirations, thanks for sharing! It's crazy how it's almost entirely based on Unreal/UT custom SP games. This community has created an extremely rich tapestry of adventures!
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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