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02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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Subject: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 02 Feb 2015, 16:24

Map Title: Illhaven
Author: Tim "Kew" Jervis
From: Illhaven Saga
Filename: illhaven_1.unr
Music Files: Dusk.umx




Video Playthrough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXi3xp70g1E

Synopsis: A medieval world awaits you...

Discuss!

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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 02 Feb 2015, 18:36

The only time I've played this was when it came up in the rotation on a coop server I was playing on. Don't remember much about it since I was fairly drunk at the time.
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 02 Feb 2015, 21:04

Bombadilian wrote:The only time I've played this was when it came up in the rotation on a coop server I was playing on. Don't remember much about it since I was fairly drunk at the time.


LOL, Bombadilian!

Illhaven is one of the best maps from Illhaven Saga: the first time round, it was actually hard and frightening. I remember a damn Skaarj Lord (or, in the context of this story, an actual demon) jumping on top of me by surprise and then killing me :o The level is cleverly built to give off the impression that stealth is a real gameplay mechanic, and the lore (brought to the gamer by means of the player character Kew's own thoughts) completes the immersion within this medieval fantasy setting. A great map and one of the best Tim "Kew" Jervis ever released for Unreal/UT. Fantastic atmosphere, as with the rest of the campaign.

Now I'm going to talk about the changes made in the Illhaven 2012 version of this particular map (yes, I got around to playing it since Illhaven Saga was last discussed in this forum!).
Well, personally, I believe the "enhancements" didn't enhance the level at the end of the day. On the bright side, parts of the build have been improved: in particular, the harbour (seen in the first screenshot of this thread) sees additional flourishes that embellish the setting, including better lighting and contrast (via new lamps), more texture variety (this particular change is more of an artistic choice than an actual improvement), and a new walkway behind some arches which refines the connectivity of the layout. Trouble is, other changes annul the enhancements: some Mercenaries have been introduced, presumably to enhance the fighting - OK, one such pawn was so unexpected that it successfully surprised me and made me tense (when I thought I already knew the map), but it's totally NOT in the style of the universe the author seeks to create. Those techy sounds just threw me out of the medieval fantasy world (and they cannot count as steampunk!). One house now has an interior, but it's essentially just one big rectangular cuboid. And at the end of the level (The Smugglers Dock)... where's your friends' ship? It was a really nice touch to see it and then be denied access to it, but the new version just skips this sequence and sees you walk right up to the waterfront before abruptly taking you back to the hub map. It doesn't help newcomers understand the start of the following level, either.
So the new version, IMHO, is not better nor worse than the original. I'll keep my comments about the changes made to the other original levels for another time.

In case someone gets me wrong: Illhaven 2012 is a must-have if only for some of the new maps.
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 04 Feb 2015, 00:37

I haven't played the Illhaven Saga in years (and I've never played Illhaven 2012), but this thread is making me want to revisit it. I wonder if it's as detailed and atmospheric as I remember it?
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 04 Feb 2015, 02:05

I accidentally used the old Illhaven rather than the 2012 version, but it seems that's what the OP pics used too so I guess it works out.

The intro with the boat ride into the harbour area as Skaarj stand watching is probably one of the most iconic openings in Unreal map history. while the design is relatively simple there are various small touches I like, such as how the texture theme changes as you move into the inner part of the town. There's a lot of small hidden areas and similar, and I can't even recall entering that building at ~6:48 before (though the basement is probably the ugliest thing in the level so perhaps that's just as well). The melancholy narration also adds to the dark atmosphere of the level. The start is kind of intimidating with the low health, non-linearity and Skaarj watchers, but the Razorjack and Rifle results in you ending up really overpowered quite quickly, especially as the level is forgiving with armour too. While some of the details don't hold up to closer scrutiny and the gameplay balance is off it's a classic exploration map and still accomplishes that style very well today.
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 04 Feb 2015, 23:39

Nice memories come to mind. One of those early classics that made me convinced that I want to be a mapper (a goal which I haven't accomplished ever since by the way:P ). I agree with Sat42's point that Illhaven 2012 did not introduce significant improvements to the map. Removing the ship was a mistake and I am generally not a big fan of the central hub map idea - it can easily confuse new players.
One of the improvements that haven't been mentioned is the long overdue fix of the torchflame actor size bug which appeared from Unreal version 225 or so and affects many old maps including the original illhaven_1, which is, sadly, heavily infested by it. The video shows the original version by the way and in some street areas, for example at 7:35 you can actually see the oversized flames reaching up through the pavement from the tunnels below that lead to the docks.

Note that apart from Illhaven 2012 and the original, there is also a WoT version of this map where every single building is explorable inside. Be warned that it can be a rather annoying gameplay experience but may be interesting for old fans like myself.

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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 07 Feb 2015, 20:25

I wanted to get a comment in before this week closes. I've been busy and I missed last week's Mothership Lab.

My opinion on Illhaven is documented on this forums and in the years since I posted the Illhaven review that impression has not been contested by a second opinion on the site. But to restate, I've always summed the set up as a pack that starts very well with an awesome opening level. This is just a cool way to start a pack in general, but the level itself...

The level design in Illhaven as a pack and Kew's maps in general has always been very good, very distinct in that medieval flavor. What goes wrong in the maps following this one doesn't happen here because nothing gets complicated. You are just walking around in dark alleys in a subdued, foreboding township where danger may be lurking in the shadows. Unreal gameplay is allowed to just be Unreal gameplay.

^This is the strength of the level. Yes, it's fantastic as a location. We all know that. Probably among the strongest Unreal town locations of its time and in the time after. But it's good because the presentation works immediately. The second you begin in the boat you get that feeling of dread as you pull into the harbor. You need to quickly acquire provisions because Krall are patrolling the street, Skaarj are in the shadows, and the townsfolk can only huddle in fear in their houses. I remember thinking it really surprising that you get a Rifle so quickly at the beginning. Arming the player so quickly this way emboldens their itch to go ham on the town's raiders. It's very much a strong point in Unreal to assume the mantle of a protector when you enter locations where native people are being oppressed, and Illhaven gets that feeling across. Most everyone who started this map probably thought, "I'm gonna clean this town up!"

And that's it, that's the level. You are taking back a town that could very well be your hometown if the translator messages are interpreted that way. There's still a lot of people who assumed you were intended to be a Nali protagonist anyway, that's certainly the mindset I adopted when I first played this. Great level, I wish it was a single map release but the Illhaven pack is worth the price of admission for this level alone.
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 08 Feb 2015, 18:10

Hellscrag wrote:I haven't played the Illhaven Saga in years (and I've never played Illhaven 2012), but this thread is making me want to revisit it. I wonder if it's as detailed and atmospheric as I remember it?


It will probably have aged in your eyes, but I'm sure you'll enjoy it massively. If you want to play through the original levels just use the original Illhaven Saga release (I think Shivaxi released a fix for the "torch flame" bug). I do recommend you grab Illhaven 2012 but only for the new levels: there's a great new introduction to the story and you have to experience the end of the story arc! Besides, it is worth the download if only for Illhaven Market Town and Illhaven Moor... I'll say no more! :wink:
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 09 Feb 2015, 01:36

gubar wrote:I agree with Sat42's point that Illhaven 2012 did not introduce significant improvements to the map. Removing the ship was a mistake and I am generally not a big fan of the central hub map idea - it can easily confuse new players.


It doesn't just confuse new players... It also confused me because of the addition of the Prison map, and the seemingly out of order maps in the hub! The original Illhaven made much more sense with the progression.

I recently took it upon myself to remove the hub system in Illhaven 2012 and link the maps the way they originally were, while retaining the new maps (except the prison map, which I personally detest). I added back the ship and boat, as well as the shelter room that existed in the original map. I changed the hub map back in to the original intro, while keeping the "prelude" maps before it. The pack should have been been released like this in the first place with some continuation maps for Illhaven 2012.

One of the improvements that haven't been mentioned is the long overdue fix of the torchflame actor size bug which appeared from Unreal version 225 or so and affects many old maps including the original illhaven_1, which is, sadly, heavily infested by it.


This is true for the most part, but Illhaven_108 has missing flame torches that existed in the original map. Many of the rooms have no light sources now, and some of the torch holders are empty. I also fixed this for my own personalized copy... I would share my modifications with other people, but will not do so out of respect of Kew. I only did it for myself, because these things bothered me (and it only took me about 3 hours of editing).
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 09 Feb 2015, 01:43

I admit I have not played the 2012 version.
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 09 Feb 2015, 01:56

Mister_Prophet wrote:I admit I have not played the 2012 version.


It contains some decent closure to the series with the addition of a few maps at the end, which is the only thing I like about the 2012 addition (as opposed to ending with "to be continued?" in Illhaven Saga). I just don't like the HUB system and the addition of a boring Prison map in the middle of the original maps.

If you are curious, you should probably just play the original Saga, then use the hub system in 2012 to play the new maps (Illhaven 8 and Illhaven 9).
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Subject: Re: 02/02/2015 - "Illhaven" by Kew

Post Posted: 09 Feb 2015, 02:11

Closure is probably the most important thing, considering how the original pack ended. It's always been a hard pack for me to replay once I get past this level in any case.
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