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20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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Subject: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 21 Oct 2014, 01:01

Map Title: The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals
Author: Zora
From: Zora's Episode 1
Filename: Z1Mine.unr
Music Files: Fith.umx




Video Playthrough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SuDOtKU9Y0

Synopsis: The player enters a mine.

Discuss!
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User avatar Mister_Prophet
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 21 Oct 2014, 05:49

This level...

There are few better ways I can reiterate my initial thoughts when I wrote the review of Zora's Episode 1, and while I got through every other level in all four Episodes this was the one where I threw my hands up. I present to you the woes of a frustrated Prophet:

From the Review wrote:The mine cart ride is where Episode 1 hits rock bottom. You begin in a room with a railway and several computer screens which, when activated, turn into crude (only visually) security cams showing different sections of cart rail. Each of the screens is outfitted with a lever, and moving them shows a shift in the track somewhere along the railway via camera. You are led to believe, as I naturally assumed at first, that there was a particular path that was correct, and that discovering the right path is a matter of trial error. The trial and error part was correct, but the paths of the rail matter little, as they only change which segments of the mine you will pass through.

Boys and girls, this is where most players will likely exit the game. I can appreciate the complexity of this particular use of movers and what must have been involved to script such an intricate rail system with a moving cart that rides the passages correctly, and I suspect any mapper could sympathize with how difficult this must have been to put together. But this does not excuse the fact that the map is broken. Not just bugged, and it is that. Or clunky. Or badly optimized. It is all these things. But it is also broken, for there is no way any reasonable player will ever attempt to try to finish this map. I gave it a good long thorough attempt, and even I had to give in to temptation and dab that tilde key.

This map is just unplayable.

It is absolutely ludicrous to expect a player to put up with this. I give you the mine cart, which is activated by the flick of a lever and quickly begins its move through the railway system. You have precious seconds to jump up the bars sticking out of the back before it begins to move, and once it does then getting inside is next to impossible. Then you have to either wait a good long while for the cart to return or reload your game. And you can't follow the cart through the hatch, of course. You'll get crushed when the door closes. To put it bluntly, getting inside the cart is beyond frustrating, and the whole sequence of entry/exit into the contraption is horribly conceived. Unreal player collisions and movers just don't react well in these situations, and this point is made clearer no better than what comes next. Say you actually get inside the cart and begin the ride through the tunnels; what you're faced with then are a number of instant death bugs that will make you want to punch a baby dolphin in the face! These are all those that I experienced in my game, perhaps you'll discover your own:

1. Mine cart goes uphill, I die instantly no matter where I'm standing.

2. Mine cart goes downhill, I die instantly no matter where I'm standing.

3. I stand in mine cart. I die instantly.

4. I crouch in mine cart. I take damage and die. Almost instantly.

5. I fall out of mine cart. I run around track for half an hour and explore all rooms on foot. No exit is in sight. I find lift going back to start and try again, where I die instantly on mine cart.

6. I fall out of the mine and make my way to a segment entering which ensures I can never get out again.

7. I put on God mode and ride the cart despite taking damage. I ride around and come back to beginning of level. No exit in sight.

8. I put on God mode and get crushed to death anyway.

9. I give up on any sense of dignity and ghost through level. No exit can be found.

If there exists a way to complete this level, I just don't care. I really don't. And you shouldn't either. It is the odd man out in a pack where every other map can be completed with some perseverance. But this level asks the player to be unreasonably forgiving, like a hitchhiker you pick up one stormy night that stabs you with a rusty knife and then has the audacity to ask if you can drive him to a motel.


I admit my initial review says at one point that the level is "Unplayable" but I by no means imply that it cannot actually be beaten, because technically speaking it can. This was proven by replays I made of the level after the review was posted (after suggestion), though I stand by the sentiment that the map is "Unplayable" in the sense that there is too much wrong to make it fun or that by accepting the terms and beating it anyway will gain any player any sense of accomplishment.

I recall a hilarious video made by Leo at the time to show me that you CAN ride the railways, but he had to do it in God mode to show me where the safe points were in the cart so you don't take collision damage/death from the mover system. Case in point. Some other people have claimed that they have rode the cart and never once had issues.

I have only ever played the Zora levels in Oldskool, so if that is somehow a route cause then nobody has yet stepped forward to point it out. I would be curious.

What some players have done to justify the cart is that you can "dodge" the points at which damage is taken by moving to certain corners of the cart as it makes certain turns. This. Is. Insanity. This isn't a gameplay feature, this is a player base spending time trying to exploit a gameplay bug.

I will say that the map should be observed and studied for the complexity of the cart ride, however. Though it doesn't work quite so well, the rail system itself is impressive for BSP and the ride through was no small feat to accomplish. This might arguably be the most complex mover system made for Unreal.
Last edited by Mister_Prophet on 21 Oct 2014, 19:52, edited 3 times in total.
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User avatar Teridax
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 21 Oct 2014, 07:01

Aside from the really cool (albeit buggy) cart sequences, the main thing I remember about this map is not being able to beat it. Even with cheats, I could never find the end teleporter. This is probably my least favorite Zora map for that reason alone. At least with the previous maps, I could get to the end.
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 21 Oct 2014, 20:17

Never understood any of the fascination with Zora's maps. The architecture is plain, and the lighting is bad. Most maps don't have a coherent structure to them, and most of the so-called puzzles are either silly or unreasonably frustrating. Then several, if not most, maps are loaded with bugs. Perhaps it's because they are out of the norm. I dunno, but I don't think I've ever finished more than one Zora map, as I just became quickly disinterested.
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User avatar Mister_Prophet
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 21 Oct 2014, 22:32

I understand that some people are very dismissive of these levels. But the fascination some have can be explained easily; Zora's maps are just unusual and sometimes that's enough.

One has to remember that the Zora levels had for years been a mainstay on COOP servers and were dismissed for a long time by USP under the false pretense that they were meant for COOP and had no SP components. I'm glad that I was implored to check them out and post the reviews here for posterity, but there is something to be said for how a level is made for long term COOP games as opposed to SP construction, and Zora's levels share a common trait seen in gametypes like Bunny Track or Monster Hunt where the emphasis is on other factors.

The impression I got when I first played them is that they were made to be played by maybe a small team of players working together to figure out puzzles. You can do it alone but perhaps the experience is a bit underwhelming. People also have to remember that while UnrealSP.Org cherishes the gametype and values the existence of the levels we critique here, not everyone learns how to make SP levels for Unreal by visiting the site or discussing techniques on the forum. Some people just bought the game, opened the editor, and made levels to be played for their circle of friends. Word of mouth on servers made Zora's maps popular.
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 22 Oct 2014, 14:21

I remember playing this map (but not ending it, not even in godmode) and really liking the setup. Unfortunately the instakill bugs never allowed me to evaluate Zora's maps. Let just say that I liked the visual aspect (and IIRC the gameplay balance was OK), but the mostly horrendous puzzles and the bugs are a detriment to playing this. ON the other hand, Mister_Prophet made me realise just now that these maps were set up for Coop - so if I ever start these again, I'll take that into account (and save often, and probably ghost often :wink: ).

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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 23 Oct 2014, 18:10

I just watched the video. And I am flabbergasted. Was the video recorded by Jigoku or someone else on the forum? Because the experience displayed in the video has not been my experience or the experience of many people I've talked to. I have questions. Platform being the chief one, but also...how? Specifically, how do you not get insta killed by simply riding the mine cart?
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 24 Oct 2014, 01:02

Knackered from work but I feel compelled to reply to Prophet! :P

I played Zora's Episodes quite early on, although I only continued and finished Episode 4 relatively lately.

I made it through ALL the crazy Zora releases WITHOUT cheating. That, of course, does not mean I didn't look up on the internet how the hell I was meant to pass some of the trials presented here, before I was able to pass them in-game. But within the game, I was able to complete every map without the use of cheats.

Your reviews are a great read by the way; I always read one review after completing the associated Episode.
Given what you said about this map, I must be an unreasonable player :P
I played this in UT 436.
And I totally agree with the statement that this map is buggy as hell - but only because of the mine cart ride. The rest is standard Zora fare (puzzles for the sake of puzzles).

I can't tell you how the person did it in the video, it looks way too smooth. But this is how I did it: I save just before activating the mine cart; I try to get in the cart, and reload if necessary; I manage to get inside the cart, and save; I pass the door, and save; I continue the ride a bit further, and save; now I try to survive each strong descent and climb and turn one at a time, and save between each; I do get killed sometimes, but I just reload the last save which is in the middle of the ride; I don't waste too much time and I'm able to successfully pass each difficult moment of the ride by positioning myself toward the centre of the cart as much as possible, and moving slightly forward when I go down and slightly backward when I go up; eventually, I make it. And that way it's not even too bad: the whole sequence lasts less than 5 minutes.

But I applied that technique only once I had figured out how to stop the crushing mechanism found toward the end of the track. The first time I got in the cart, I didn't save during the ride but got "kicked out" during a fast descent while taking lots of damage and almost dying. Then I did all the rest on foot but oh man after over two hours I had to look up the solution to the "real" puzzle. I knew the key resided in stopping that crushing mechanism in order to get to the exit (because behind that trap lay the part of the trail that remained out of sight), but the way you have to achieve this is pure guesswork. After wandering around for some time you tend to forget what you're meant to do. Just to be clear, I had already activated that valve before checking for the solution on the web. What I couldn't know was that this valve solved my problem and by then I was kind of lost as to what to do. Honestly, once you've done that, it's pretty easy: I applied the save/reload technique I mentioned and got passed that crushing mechanism and then I jumped out before the cart brought me right back to the start and after defeating a random Titan in a cramped (to your advantage) cave, I just walked through the exit... and it's all over old chap.

Funny thing, too: you can find Zora "in person" in this level ;) I eventually decided it was best to leave those humans behind their bars, as releasing them makes them go into a mad killing frenzy - especially if you open access to the cell with the weapons.

Over three hours (closer to 4) of game time, and a very hard map overall. I know of one Zora map which I find to be actually harder than this. The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals is still quite a good map. The fact that I consider it "quite good" goes a long way into showing how the mine cart ride is both an incredible achievement in this engine and at the same time an extremely frustrating and ultimately aggravating gimmick. BUT it's doable - just not in a way that would be considered acceptable in a professional release.
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User avatar Semfry
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 24 Oct 2014, 23:57

My old comment doesn't say much about the map but I may as well post it :P .

Mman wrote:I played through a long time ago and recall I did need to use ghost or look in the editor to find the exit, I can't remember how much trouble I had with the cart; I don't recall being too troubled by it but maybe I blocked those memories. It's a nice idea with dodgy execution, which seems to apply to several of the Zora maps.


Mister_Prophet wrote:One has to remember that the Zora levels had for years been a mainstay on COOP servers and were dismissed for a long time by USP under the false pretense that they were meant for COOP and had no SP components. I'm glad that I was implored to check them out and post the reviews here for posterity, but there is something to be said for how a level is made for long term COOP games as opposed to SP construction, and Zora's levels share a common trait seen in gametypes like Bunny Track or Monster Hunt where the emphasis is on other factors.


Yeah while Zora's maps are technically SP playable, and some even work just fine in that, I can definitely see how a lot of the maps are less tedious in COOP with a bunch of people being able to collaborate on backtracking-based puzzles and similar (plus a lot of the bugginess is less annoying when you just respawn).
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Subject: Re: 20/10/2014 - "The Forgotten Caves of the Nali's Crystals" by Zora

Post Posted: 25 Oct 2014, 09:56

Never played any Zora maps (aside once on a coop server posing as a French Ham :P), nor do I plan to, though the second picture there reminds me of Thunder Mountain from Disneyland for some reason. (The Train Ride)

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