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The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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User avatar Mister_Prophet
Red Nemesis Leader Red Nemesis Leader
Posts: 2872
Joined: 11 Nov 2007, 23:30
Location: Long Island, New York

Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 10 Apr 2017, 17:31

editor Dave wrote:I did not know you were involved in Firestorm with the "lyrical" content, interesting. I know first hand how imaginative your way of writing is when you spiced up the written elements of Unforchers, that was pretty awesome! I also have to agree with the ego part: I too want the final iteration of Unforchers to be the best I am capable of and somehow time just passes by so fast. :lol:

It was that and a little more.

Turboman had made or was about to make his new translator system, which would have allowed for more text, scrollable (was happy to see this), with proper formatting for paragraphs. I basically started to assist with story and ended up writing a lot of content. I combed through all the original levels and added new logs to nearly every map as well as modifying his enemy placements. In some cases I added whole antagonists and subplots to certain levels.

Most importantly, there was a certain villain character that Turbo had added that was badass but very light on narrative, so I ended up helping a lot there. In a lot of ways, Turboman gave me license to incorporate story elements that would have overlapped into things seen in the Jones Saga. At the time I stopped working on the project he was still working on a slew of new levels that would make up en extended epilogue chapter (by this point it was already quite large and easily the best campaign I had played for Unreal, pending some more months of testing and bug fixes). However, I had written a document of all the logs and even some ingame dialogues that would be added to these unfinished levels. My log content was literally in every level of the campaign that I played at the time, maybe minus a couple. In a lot of cases I had the glad task of personalizing a location with named characters and context. A particular set of levels with UMS marines stationed at overtaken strongholds comes to mind.

To date, I do not know if Turboman kept all these additions. I do not know if he kept all my logs or even if he kept my modified maps and characters. Too much time has gone by and I haven't been involved. He could have removed everything, started over, who knows.

Some things I do recall being fond of; Had a lot of enjoyment simply playing the campaign over and over. I was really happy to name and make the story for the enemy called the Agoli, which were pygmy savages that were Native to the planet (Turbo had this enemy modeled and animated but not yet integrated into the game). I was happy to be the one of the first to see the Daz enemy and had the privilege to add this one to some levels and discussed a lot of ways to balance that creature (they were originally very powerful).

User avatar Semfry
Trustee Member Trustee Member
Posts: 1977
Joined: 12 Nov 2007, 02:43
Location: UK

Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 11 Apr 2017, 00:26

Guess I'll comment on this by going through the individual parts of the Jones Saga:

Xidia: The Incident: The start of it all (Ortican aside), that defined the style of series. Between patches toning the most imbalanced parts down and players getting better it's not as brutal as it used to seem, but it's gameplay style of fights against small numbers of tough enemies has become a pretty standard approach to harder Unreal maps now when it wasn't really established as a specific thing before. Of course, it was also pretty visually groundbreaking, and, along with ONP, it had both major and minor influences on the visual style of pretty much every Unreal map that followed.

Due to not being part of a bigger series at this point (I'm guessing there were plans, but it's not really referenced in the actual set at all) it's probably still the most coherent of the Saga; in itself it's a stand-alone story without pretensions of being much more than a standard minimalist Unreal story in a slightly different setting. I kind of prefer the more wildly experimental stuff of the later sets-even if they're more inconsistent-but the more "classic" style of the original likely has more appeal to many.

Xidia: The Escape: This is where the general style of the Jones Saga vs most other Unreal sets became more established, like actual character interactions (including voice acting), multiple cutscenes, non-standard and occasionally gimmicky gameplay situations (this was present in The Incident, but becomes much more of a thing here) and somewhat major thematic shifts. Of course both the presence of those things and this being the first proper exploration of them makes it kind of messy, but in retrospect I think I slightly prefer it to The Incident; it has more lows, but I think the highs are higher and I generally find it's wilder, rawer style more interesting. Now that I can finish them both pretty easily I also think The Escape generally has more dynamic gameplay situations, even if it verges more towards bullshit at times, like some of the early forays into bot-like stuff.

Na Pali Haven Redux: This is more of a transition level, and Mister_Prophet himself obviously considers it somewhat of a black sheep. I like it quite a lot though. It's obviously building on the more experimental style of The Escape, with the modified weapons to create a faster-paced combat style, in-level events and characters (like the whole Nali Rebels aspect and The Bishop), and the set-up of this just being the prologue to a much bigger story (7 Bullets itself). On the other hand it's comparatively shorter development time and lower ambition means that stuff like voice acting isn't present, which, combined with the setting, makes it feel more "classic" despite all the tweaks and flash. I also like it as a stand-alone and the whole plot of the town and The Bishop is nicely wrapped up despite being a prelude to something else. Honestly the worst part of it is probably that it's kind of awkward to run with the whole bat launcher thing, and also buggy at times (like Skaarj and Nali ignoring each other) without much patching to improve on that.

7 Bullets: Here's where all the stuff from the earlier sets comes together in fully developed form, with Jones as a developed protagonist with a past, along with multiple other characters, lots of advanced scripting, obvious hints at a bigger narrative, and combat that diverges from standard Unreal altogether (and takes that even further later on). It's interesting how it's essentially in two halves as well, with everything up to the return to the Temple of Vandora playing completely differently to everything after. With the first half being "Xidia style" encounters on the ISV-Kran which transitions to more incidental combat (with a focus on ambience instead) in the Vandora Passage, then you get to the Temple and from then on it's mostly bots.

The bots were almost gameplay ruining the first time I played, as they're so deadly and a lot of encounters with them are ambushes on top of that. Even now their nature inherently makes encounters a bit messy, but once I realised you need to exploit the hell out of Ration insta-healing (intentionally unfair Unreal difficulty aside) and never, ever try to fight fair they're pretty manageable. I will say their use has had an impact on the overall gameplay balance though; the weapons are obviously amped up with the goal of making the bot fights quick and deadly vs more drawn out arena shooter style encounters that Unreal bot fights are in general. The problem is that, with no edits, the normal Unreal monsters kind of get left behind as a result of that. It especially sticks out with the Scarred One, who's supposed to be a scary nemesis but tends to get rolled over when you fight him because your weapons are so strong and there's only so much a buffed up melee Skaarj can do. Some of the encounters do try to do something about that (like the multi-Titan fight) but it's only a few instances. I think that didn't help the transition as going from easier-than-usual Unreal enemies to bots who can kill you in an instant if you aren't careful is a big leap. In the end this seems to be an inherent issue with the old Unreal enemies though, so outside of redesigning everything to work around it (which is apparently what Residual Decay was going for?) I guess there wasn't much that could be done. Despite my issues with it 7 Bullets easily matches up to the rest of the Jones Saga and I have a hard time choosing an absolute favourite (I think I'd lean slightly towards 7 Bullets though).

And, well, I guess this thread has established that the situation with Residual Decay is kind of complicated right now, but I just hope we get something soon enough.

I guess this thread will stay open even if discussions about other sets are coming soon, so I guess I'll have to think about if there's more to add later.

editor Dave wrote:Mman has tried something like this by converting ArcaneTemple for his RTNP Ultimate, but the progression was a little awkward (and he used Kraal).

I'm guessing you mean Lightning Hunter.
Formerly Mman

User avatar UBerserker
Nali Priest Nali Priest
Posts: 7517
Joined: 11 Nov 2007, 21:00

Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 11 Apr 2017, 00:32

Semfry wrote:I guess this thread will stay open even if discussions about other sets are coming soon, so I guess I'll have to think about if there's more to add later.

Will stay open until the end of April - discussion focus would just shift on the new thread.

User avatar Sat42
Skaarj Warlord Skaarj Warlord
Posts: 724
Joined: 14 Jul 2013, 16:42

Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 11 Apr 2017, 01:20

Fascinating read this thread, gotta say.

As for me, I think I will keep it short (too much going on fellas, too much):
- unfortunately I have yet to play 7 Bullets so I won't comment on this one (again, I sort of decided to keep it for last - discounting The Chosen One and Firestorm and possibly others yet to be released)
- Xidia Gold I've said a lot already, just look up the individual MOTW threads on various iconic maps from this campaign 8) (key points: leet, awesome looking maps - some among the best in the whole of Unreal/UT, best Queen-based fight, best human facility I have seen in Unreal/UT as of yet, preference for Xidia: The Escape over The Xidia Incident though the latter is more coherent, whole package not exactly as fun as Operation Na Pali due to high difficulty for me although later I played EXU2 which increased my skills so maybe that's different now but referring to first impressions)
- that leaves Na Pali Haven Redux - that's cool, because guess what - finally I can say it :o -
Skytown Redux is my favourite SP map of all Unreal/UT \o/ (so far!)

Holy shit this map - where shall I begin?
Facts pertaining to my first playthrough:
- took me 3 hours to complete
- very hard, meaning I died a fucking lot (repeatedly in places, makes the level extremely hard in my book - using Medium difficulty setting as a base line - actually, it's as hard as Outpost Pheonix and Beacon - although the latter is much shorter)
- quirky turrets: only one out of two Machine Gun Turret (MGT) sequences worked alright
- shat my pants
- loved the narrative, how Prophet used all tools at his disposal to tell a story, well done :tup:

And I usually stay for the story.

It always makes me smile when I read Mister Prophet say that the level came out "really rough" (obviously not a groundless claim) but he has also long realised how popular the map is with players: simply put, Prophet cramming a whole adventure into one level, and there's only a handful of others that rival the scope (an example would be UMS Solaris) and none rival Na Pali Haven Redux in terms of impactful narrative (mind you, I have yet to play any single map release rated here above 80%, also regarding small and large campaigns I have a significant backlog - from Hexephet to The Tower of Shrakith'a, through Spatial Fear and Seven Bullets). I think UBerserker said it best in his review: "the map [Skytown Redux] is a great reference for thinking about good ways of storytelling in Unreal".

When the story justifies the challenges the map presents me with, I have no qualms whatsoever with high difficulty.

And so I naturally look forward to playing the rest of the Jones Saga (lucky me, I still have at least one campaign readily available :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.


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