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

Post Posted: 16 Mar 2017, 23:15

Redux will forever hold a special place in my heart for bringing us E'chee.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 17 Mar 2017, 01:00

Well, the overuse of SpecialEvents surely worked for me and I think one should really take his time to "immerse" oneself in the scenario. :D

Today I had to interrupt writing my paper to finish the Jones saga in its current state, which meant replaying 7 Bullets (it has been years) and wow, compared to Xidia and Redux, this pack ups the level of professionality quite a bit. You really can see the progression leading up to this solely from the intro. The voice acting is top notch (Drago's speech in Map 9 literally left me speechless for a while) and the custom ambient music is actually nice this time; the one that starts when you see the canyon in Map 5b sent down chills together with the view, as well as the one in the tank/crate room in Map 8a. The idea of "7 Bullets" also made this pack seem like a whole, unified package.

I still find the beginning a brave choice. As Dearth Weasel said in his commentary:
Dearth Weasel wrote:I predict 80% of 7Bullets players that don't complete the game will quit on this map.

This applied to me at first as well. Before my first complete walkthrough, this map made me rage quit the campaign, until I later tried it again - and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be with a calm mind (well, I was young). During my second complete walkthrough (today) I enjoyed it even thoroughly. :D I think it really has something to do with what people want from playing an Unreal custom campaign - just endless slaughter of Skaarj? Awe-inspiring architecture? The only "true" Unreal spirit (low poly, 100 copies of the same Nali hut, Bluff music)? Exploration? Puzzles? A moving story? Some entirely new concepts? And I gotta admit, I could only really care for the first two, since exploration or puzzles are most often nonexistent or too simple. But that was years ago, now I appreciate a good story and creepy tension way more than good architecture or endless fights. And man, there is really so much to miss if you dismiss all the translator messages and cutscenes! Though, the part in Map 8a with the waterfall on the remains of the Terraniux ship still made my jaw drop (and I seemed to have completely forgotten about it, shame).

In terms of difficulty, I found 7 Bullets the most managable of the three (even though the last third against the pirates was pretty hard) which is probably mostly because of the introduction of rations. I hope that addition will stay for Residual Decay, as these made some hard fights so much easier. In that regard, I thought the wild life combat in the temples was a nice change and the intended "break" did have its effect!

I do have one nit pick, though, and I kind of mentioned it in one of the more recent MotW: The passage "below" Vandora doesnt work at all if you pay attention to it. During my first playthrough, I admittedly was just amazed by the looks of the new area and how you neatly end up in one of the most iconic sections of the original Unreal (and I think that is what you aimed for). However, now that I had time to reflect about the location during my second playthrough (and being older to care for those details), there is no way that these three Map 5s fit right between Trench and the end of Vandora. The entrance of the Lost Passage also isn't deep enough, it would clash with vandora's original temple. What would have worked better is if you put the exit as far away as possible (maybe the violet flame corridor), or even made it connect with Chizra (lorewise, the connection would even make a little more sense and give it a meaning, I guess) and from there you could've approached Terraniux again, but the latter probably didn't suit your initial vision - and the temple wasn't originally planned to be that big to begin with. However, then the entrance could have just been deeper. For example, the scattered chunk of broken wall from Trench could have been a perfect disguise for a deep cave leading to the forgotten part of the temple. Anway, the whole section was cool nonetheless. :D

Lastly, I think you deserve a medal for exceptional boss setups and encounters. In my opinion, this is your strongest point regarding gameplay. From the first Scarred One fight to the eleven Titans, it is always a joy having the suspense beforehand and then fighting an opponent with a unique twist or in a cool arena.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 18 Mar 2017, 03:02

In regards to Vandora Temple and the Lost Passage, I sorta went over this in that recent MOTw. The idea was basically that an older ruin built by an older culture was used as a foundation for a newer Temple, which is the level you see in Unreal. Some things may seem like they don't match up, and it really doesn't matter...but the big open bits are meant to convey that the "Passage" is guarded by terrain and it's original entrance was built over, masking it from Noork's Elbow or perhaps another route unseen in the main game.

The fact that it is suddenly "revealed" in the wall of the Trench is more for video game reasons, sure. As are the spots where the player suddenly enters the more familiar Vandora Temple later in the campaign. It worked at the time.

editor Dave wrote:
Lastly, I think you deserve a medal for exceptional boss setups and encounters. In my opinion, this is your strongest point regarding gameplay. From the first Scarred One fight to the eleven Titans, it is always a joy having the suspense beforehand and then fighting an opponent with a unique twist or in a cool arena.


Boss fights...or really, dynamic battles within an environment are a personal favorite of mine in shooters, so naturally I take great pleasure in making them. How well they are done in games (if they are even done, also) is a big litmus test on how well I'll enjoy the experience. It could just be something from my generation that I can't let go of.

It doesn't even have to be a boss, I think I just like setting up a "fight room." I had a ton of fun making Snap Maps in the 2016 DOOM game just for this kinda stuff.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 18 Mar 2017, 10:51

Yeah, I got the lore behind the temple and as I replied in the other thread, I find it convincing and cool as a concept. I only think that it is not convincing to have three huge maps between what is like 200 meters (Trench and amphitheater). To prove my point, look at this. This is how you progress through the temple parts and in the end you would almost reach ISV Kran again lol
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Maybe I am one of the few who pays attention to that (and as I said, in my first playthrough I was just amazed and did not care at all) and maybe it has something to do with my project that interlinks 4-6 maps with several different exits each (and I want the progression still to be as real as possible by applying the wireframe brushes of the maps upon each other as seen above) so that this bothers me a little. :shy:

And you are definitely right about the fights: Because I was in the mood, I wanted to try out Zephon. And I could not get past the second map because the fights are so boring compared to the Jones saga gameplay, as they are either enemies just placed in the world or they spawn from afar - both with no real interaction with the world whatsoever.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 21 Mar 2017, 00:00

TIL this is all kind of ironic when you get to know that Vandora's temple was originally nameless ruins dedicated to nobody.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 23 Mar 2017, 18:00

Part of the reason working with old Unreal levels as a redux is so tough is because you're stuck wanting to make your own thing. I think that is what happened to Darth's ruin levels. I mean, when we were discussing how to go about it during dev I think I described it as a subterranean location. If you play my one contribution level to this segment of Seven Bullets you kinda see that idea survived a little. But sometimes when you make something and it looks too cool to pass up, you gotta roll with it. I think we were so enamored with the location he made, me especially, that Lost Passage's coolness factor won over logic.

In Familiar Odds, you sort of see an adherence to the "ruins beneath the temple" thing though, almost like the effort was made to lead downward. I suppose I was thinking that if the player felt like they were moving downward then a sudden open sky reveal in the later level might make them feel as if they were in a place deeper into the world than previously seen, somewhat removed from the path around Vandora Temple.
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 25 Mar 2017, 18:40

Zynthetic really disappeared again huh
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 25 Mar 2017, 18:51

Mister_Prophet wrote:In Familiar Odds, you sort of see an adherence to the "ruins beneath the temple" thing though, almost like the effort was made to lead downward.

I was surprised seeing this in the editor as well. I think there was only one instance were rooms of Vandora and Familiar Odss would have overlapped. This was pretty neatly done!
Mister_Prophet wrote:Part of the reason working with old Unreal levels as a redux is so tough is because you're stuck wanting to make your own thing. I think that is what happened to Darth's ruin levels.

You know, when I made this criticism (anything related to remakes and stuff) I also reflected on my own parts for "Vandoras Secret Passage" which I made together with Creavion. I did keep in mind the original when building the new passage floorplan-wise, but I horribly failed design-wise. Basically, there was an attempt to lower my build standards to match it with the original, and apart from the main hall, I somewhat did, but in the end it was just another level of "editor Dave", though this time with some Vandora assets and textures, glued at Vandora (results from the original thread: here and here). I didnt want to make my own thing (like you described for the work in 7B), but in the end, I eventually did anyway, because I didnt know any better. In the years after that, my attempt to build rooms changed quite a bit, but it also slowed me down, because I need to be more imaginative - or test a lot more. Sorry for derailing with this lamentation. :P
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Subject: Re: The Jones Saga: "Xidia Gold, Na Pali Haven Redux, 7 Bullets, Residual Decay"

Post Posted: 25 Mar 2017, 19:04

Mister_Prophet wrote:Part of the reason working with old Unreal levels as a redux is so tough is because you're stuck wanting to make your own thing. I think that is what happened to Darth's ruin levels.


Spent 2+ weeks to make one completely new level for G59 (the abyss thing) and more than a month to make an Escape From Na Pali EXU conversion lmao
Probably because you're dead on on improving your redux over the original thing, while with a new map your standards come from an editor void and doesn't affect you.
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