Make a Good Cave Story Level contest thread

Which level is your personal favorite?

  • SeasonsofDestiny - "Introspection"

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • X-Calibar - "Cursed Lands"

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    12
May 24, 2018 at 9:35 PM
Beakface
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So I've finally gone through and played all of the levels in this contest, at least a little bit, to some extent. I must say that there was a really nice variety overall in terms of the gameplay and approach to making "Cave Story levels" as a whole. In fact, voting for my favourite level is going to be quite tough! Here's my feedback (note I only kinda skimmed through everyone else's comments, so I'm sorry if I'm pointing out things that have already been pointed out before).

I started with The Challenge Pyramid, which was a great, straightforward approach to the whole level concept. What really stood out to me was this level's amount of replayability. You choose from three different weapons, two different types of boosts and then you can have a completely changed experience the next time you play. I'll admit, I was a bit too excited to get right into this one and just said yes to the first question, so I went with just the shotgun and horizontal boost. Although there were some frustrations (shotgun boost + horizontal boost magic), the difficulty for those levels felt pretty reasonable and when I was reaching my limit, I managed to conquer the pyramid, I mean trapezoid. :awesomeface:

When Dunc was streaming, yes, I did see that there were issues in terms of balancing, especially with the Blade/Sword and those Labyrinth enemies taking a huge chunk out of the health. Not to mention the lock with the water... Regardless, another aspect I realized I like about The Challenge Pyramid is that it's designed with each of the weapons and boosts it includes in mind, so in a sense, all the weapons and boosts in that level have their utilization taken into account. Granted, I have yet to play the level again in order to experience the frustration of the levels with the other weapons.

I appreciated the use of custom music, and I think the tracks were chosen appropriately for where they were played. It would have been cool to hear different stage music for each level, though that would probably be crazy and unnecessarily time consuming to implement. :p The aesthetics of the level were pleasing to look at, and it was a good idea to use the beta tiles for a more "fresh"er look while still meshing well with the regular Cave Story enemy sprites.

I'll admit, I did not get very far in this level at all. I ended up hopping into Dunc's stream when I was an hour into this, wandering the white walls of that maze. In a sense...I'm quite glad that I didn't end up playing this one fully myself because I probably would have taken triple the amount of time it took for Dunc to beat that level. And I think he was in that one for like, two hours? I could have not done that in one sitting. I don't even think I beat my favourite levels in one sitting. :mrgreen:

You know, there are some things I did enjoy about the mod. It does have the most variation in the ORGs it used. Some of them seemed kind of random in their choices, but overall, it was a good selection and mix of Cave Story originals along with the custom stuff. I noticed there was some story in the stream that kind of intrigued me, along with an interesting variation in stage aesthetics. Collectively, the level was very big, and I think that was the crux of the problems I had with it. I was no longer invested when I was still meandering in the white area, and that was the first out of many huge stages. That first part alone already felt too big to be just a "level".

This can definitely function as a standalone mod, but for a level contest, it just doesn't really work. Perhaps I'm just mulling over semantics here, but aside from its use of custom music and watching other people play Inseimer's Odyssey, I cannot say that I really enjoyed it for how it was intended to be enjoyed.

I completely missed this on the stream, and went into this one blind. I gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised. This, along with The Challenge Pyramid, felt the most like I was playing "levels" rather than "a mod". The whole tie-in with dreams to the gameplay was well integrated and I was impressed with how many different things you were required to do in each level and yet still feel like a cohesive sort of entry overall. Man, that narrow passageway with the ghost that chases you...I was like, freaking out but in a good way. Took me a bit to figure out that I didn't need to be super unnecessary with my platforming and just hold down the right arrow key. And I enjoyed the puzzle parts; they were a very interesting implementation.

While custom ORGs would have allowed for a more distinctive playing experience, the ORGs chosen from the original Cave Story soundtrack were well suited for the situations they played in. The only gripe I had with the audio choices was the use of "Access". I get how the theme connects to the gameplay/narration for the levels it is used in, and it does fit, but hearing a ~15 second loop for like, three levels in a row really gets grating on the ears, especially when a good chunk of these levels are puzzle or concentration based. Generally, it is more ideal to have tracks with a more variety in their musical content as the player will most likely pay attention to the music more as they focus on trying to figure out the puzzles.

Another aspect of Introspection that I found frustrating was the boss fights. I do think they were well paced, and there's even some interesting elements that add a fun challenge to familiar boss battles from the original Cave Story. But a number of these boss battles, they felt a bit "deceptive" to me in their progress. An example I can think of is in that house with the purple triad. I love the idea of having small rooms and each of them spawning their own little set of enemies that you have to defeat in order to progress. When I reached the boss stage, however, I had to drain the boss' health metre, but then I have to keep shooting at the bone-tossing boss even after its health metre is gone and it just...didn't make any sense to me why the boss couldn't just be defeated once the health metre gets depleted. Sure the fight kind of changes up once you deplete the health metre, what with the fire being shot in your general direction and whatnot, but I dunno, a second health metre perhaps or if possible, making the boss' health metre go down slower and then halfway through the metre being drained, start to introduce the white fire?

Betr-U's fight I also had similar feelings about, but at least this one had two health metres for each "instance" of fighting. The first few attempts, I thought of activating the platforms to grab missiles for extra XP and health, but to do that on top of having to dodge a Rolling AND Betr-U's machine gun bullets was simply not worth it. Ultimately, I won this battle by using the shot gun and just not activating any missiles at all.

My feelings on these two particular boss fights overall was that when the boss "refills its health" or still remains fighting even after the health metre is depleted came across more like an unnecessary extension and that the level just kind of stopped dead so it could be "a bit longer" than it needed to be.

Lastly, I love this idea of weapons breaking down as you're fighting enemies in the final gauntlet, but with the current setup, it basically forces the player to use the shotgun solely, and even when the enemies just give you XP, you level it up extremely slowly and it just makes it more of a pain to go through the stages with a weapon that reloads at a pitiful rate. I feel like that part is specifically trying to set you up to use a specific weapon per stage, and gameplay wise, it would have made more sense to have only that specific weapon per "wave" rather than getting all the weapons and then force-equipping the player to use a specific weapon per wave? (I noticed that the level automatically chose the blade/sword type weapon in the second stage even though I had only stuck with the shotgun beforehand.) Maybe that's too complicated to do, but at least it shown more clearly that each "wave" of the final gauntlet was meant to use a specific type of weapon.

Despite my complaints, I truly did enjoy this entry, and I'd say that my personal experience playing it was more positive than negative. It was also one of the few entries where I was able to pick it up and complete independently, and was quite "player-friendly", at lack of better words. You did a really good job with this one, Seasons.

This level had my favourite aesthetics out of all the entries. Those cutscene images at the beginning were nicely designed. And I really loved the idea of exploring two different dimensions/worlds and having mechanics that influence these two worlds. Overall, the mood was fantastic - those backgrounds with those custom ORGS paired so wonderfully. Gosh I love the atmosphere of the Ama ORG and the square-like waves of the Chrono Trigger one. I also liked how the two dimensions were distinct yet still maintain a sense of cohesiveness.

Even though I wasn't really mad at the level, there was something about the minimal style that was overall super confusing and I feel like if I hadn't watched Dunc's stream from before, I probably would have not known to interact with the crystals or even how any of the puzzles worked. The part with the red crystal where you had to shoot it was not made clear at all. I actually kind of forgot about seeing it on Dunc's stream, but without it, I imagine I wouldn't have gotten very far.

Seasons also caught this, but I did get spawned behind tiles quite frequently when doing the red crystal puzzles, along with what apparently was a critter hiding behind some of the solid tiles?

Anyways, that boss fight at the end was the most impressive aspect about the level. There were some interesting elements at play, what with having to make it to the boss soon after the critters spawn before a barrier gets closed on you. A particular detail I liked was how the music seemed to be cued such that when it got to the more "intense" part, that was when the boss started. It was like I could get a sense first that something "big" was going to happen, and I got all hyped up for the boss battle because of it.

It appears as though there are multiple endings to this level. The one I got had the boss still alive at the end when I went to collect the Energy Element.

Overall, The Raven had pretty backgrounds and music, nice variety of puzzles but perhaps a tad unintuitive for the casual player to be fully immersed in. I dunno, maybe it was just me not being good at figuring out the mechanics. :p But it was all worth it to experience that final boss battle.

Out of all the levels, this was the one I was the most nervous to play, so I saved it for last. When I did finally play it, however, it was utter madness, but it was the fun kind of insanity. In that first chapter, everything is just so overly powered, from the player possessing over 100 HP to some of the enemies having insane amounts of health, to you being able to jump insane heights...even the tiling looked insane at times. Surprisingly, it all worked for me. Despite the fact that only Cave Story original graphics were being used, I was interested in the action and what was going on the entire time.

Well...that was, until the bugs kicked in. Granted, I walked out of that first chapter with only 6 HP left, so I don't think I would have made it far regardless. The first time I played the level, the crows chased me off the map and I ended up back in the main hub area. When I re-entered the teleporter to play the level again, however, my sprite started becoming invisible a good portion of the time and this made it difficult to engage in the action. Not to mention the part with the crazy dancing Mimiga and Curly at the cliff...Quote was completely invisible save for his gun and maybe his pants? :p I couldn't tell where he was and fell off the cliff after talking to Curly...I drowned in the air. But when the game reset, I ended up at the very start of the MAGCSL mod, with all my progress wiped clean. That was kind of a downer, but I'm not sure if it saved...I did make a copy of my save before going into Cursed Lands, however, so maybe I'll go back to it later.

By the way, the part where you fall into the well and then you rise out of it into a changed scene - that was a cool transition. I really liked that particular detail.

After that death, I decided to just watch X-Calibur's playthrough instead. It seems like I did reach kind of the end, with just a bonus map to explore afterwards. I liked the use of "White" as an area theme - I don't really hear it used like that, and it fit with the map you put it in. I love how expansive the areas were to compensate for the jump height. Overall, that last map seemed to be a pleasant (minus the enemies :p) experience, and a nice way to tie off the level.

Aside from the obvious bugs and perhaps lack of polish (which, I dunno, kind of worked in this level's favour?), the other major issue that popped out at me was just how the majority of the weapons in the level seemed useless. I pretty much just played the level with the Spur, which seemed to be the most ideal way to approach the enemies, given that most of them have insane amounts of health and don't always give you XP or hearts, etc. If all the weapons are going to be included, I would have liked to see more situations where they could be utilized better. As of now, I can't imagine a "use this weapon only" challenge working properly for the level's current setup.

Even though the level relies heavily on using Cave Story original elements - graphics, referencing quotes, music, it still managed to keep my interest. I got a little too irritated by the whole clean reset issue, but so long as I didn't save, I'm guessing that it wasn't the hugest deal. I do think that the "Cave Story chaos" insanity is this level's biggest appeal.

When it comes to voting, I think it boils down to: which of these levels felt like I was actually playing levels rather than just a mini mod? Personally, my top two picks are The Challenge Pyramid and Introspection. I really wish I could vote for both of them, but sadly, I can only pick one. Seasons' well-integrated variety of gameplay, narration and progression really appealed to me, though I love the overall concept of The Challenge Pyramid - levels changing based on what you choose. It's a tough vote, and I may have partial regrets on whichever I pick. In the end, I couldn't ignore the level that had custom music and designed levels around particular weapons and boosts. :oops:
 
May 25, 2018 at 6:14 AM
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I completely missed this on the stream, and went into this one blind. I gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised. This, along with The Challenge Pyramid, felt the most like I was playing "levels" rather than "a mod". The whole tie-in with dreams to the gameplay was well integrated and I was impressed with how many different things you were required to do in each level and yet still feel like a cohesive sort of entry overall. Man, that narrow passageway with the ghost that chases you...I was like, freaking out but in a good way. Took me a bit to figure out that I didn't need to be super unnecessary with my platforming and just hold down the right arrow key. And I enjoyed the puzzle parts; they were a very interesting implementation.

While custom ORGs would have allowed for a more distinctive playing experience, the ORGs chosen from the original Cave Story soundtrack were well suited for the situations they played in. The only gripe I had with the audio choices was the use of "Access". I get how the theme connects to the gameplay/narration for the levels it is used in, and it does fit, but hearing a ~15 second loop for like, three levels in a row really gets grating on the ears, especially when a good chunk of these levels are puzzle or concentration based. Generally, it is more ideal to have tracks with a more variety in their musical content as the player will most likely pay attention to the music more as they focus on trying to figure out the puzzles.

Another aspect of Introspection that I found frustrating was the boss fights. I do think they were well paced, and there's even some interesting elements that add a fun challenge to familiar boss battles from the original Cave Story. But a number of these boss battles, they felt a bit "deceptive" to me in their progress. An example I can think of is in that house with the purple triad. I love the idea of having small rooms and each of them spawning their own little set of enemies that you have to defeat in order to progress. When I reached the boss stage, however, I had to drain the boss' health metre, but then I have to keep shooting at the bone-tossing boss even after its health metre is gone and it just...didn't make any sense to me why the boss couldn't just be defeated once the health metre gets depleted. Sure the fight kind of changes up once you deplete the health metre, what with the fire being shot in your general direction and whatnot, but I dunno, a second health metre perhaps or if possible, making the boss' health metre go down slower and then halfway through the metre being drained, start to introduce the white fire?

Betr-U's fight I also had similar feelings about, but at least this one had two health metres for each "instance" of fighting. The first few attempts, I thought of activating the platforms to grab missiles for extra XP and health, but to do that on top of having to dodge a Rolling AND Betr-U's machine gun bullets was simply not worth it. Ultimately, I won this battle by using the shot gun and just not activating any missiles at all.

My feelings on these two particular boss fights overall was that when the boss "refills its health" or still remains fighting even after the health metre is depleted came across more like an unnecessary extension and that the level just kind of stopped dead so it could be "a bit longer" than it needed to be.

Lastly, I love this idea of weapons breaking down as you're fighting enemies in the final gauntlet, but with the current setup, it basically forces the player to use the shotgun solely, and even when the enemies just give you XP, you level it up extremely slowly and it just makes it more of a pain to go through the stages with a weapon that reloads at a pitiful rate. I feel like that part is specifically trying to set you up to use a specific weapon per stage, and gameplay wise, it would have made more sense to have only that specific weapon per "wave" rather than getting all the weapons and then force-equipping the player to use a specific weapon per wave? (I noticed that the level automatically chose the blade/sword type weapon in the second stage even though I had only stuck with the shotgun beforehand.) Maybe that's too complicated to do, but at least it shown more clearly that each "wave" of the final gauntlet was meant to use a specific type of weapon.

Despite my complaints, I truly did enjoy this entry, and I'd say that my personal experience playing it was more positive than negative. It was also one of the few entries where I was able to pick it up and complete independently, and was quite "player-friendly", at lack of better words. You did a really good job with this one, Seasons.
I might as well reply to the feedback you gave for Introspection.
Through some introspection of my own, I've come to realize that these responses are almost always defensive when I should be glad I got feedback in the first place. I'm going to try very hard to not come across as defensive in this, and I apologize in advance if I fail. Anyways...

- First off, I want to say that I'm glad that you liked the "meat" of the level. Given that the main focus of the contest was to create a good level, it's more proof that I both did a decent job meeting that goal and am getting better with my overall design skills. After seeing how punishingly hard Shipwrecked turned out to be for some players, someone referring to Introspection as "player-friendly" is certainly a big plus.

- In hindsight, it would have been relatively easy to incorporate custom ORGs into my level. I at the very least should have tried to find a better replacement for Access; fairly certain I've scarred more than one player by this point with its beeps and boops. Still, I find solace in that several other vanilla ORGs matched up well with the game play, with Balcony being a notable example.

- I would have gladly added in some kind of second health bar to the Oozebone Triad boss fight if I could have, but with the way the game works it simply wasn't possible. The enemies' health bars stayed empty once you got to each of their 2nd phases, instead using variables to keep track of how many more hits were needed before they would officially die. It's actually the same system the first boss of my I Wanna Be The Story project uses, albeit much simpler due to the presence of the <VAR hack; alas, this means it also suffers from the same health bar problem. I tried to use a message box to display how much secondary health was left at one point, but said message box didn't want to cooperate. Now that I think about it, maybe I could have just not removed the emptied health bars until the 2nd phases were finished?

- I don't agree with your point regarding the additional phases of the boss fights being filler. This may be my enjoyment of longer boss fights talking, but I wanted to spice up each fight. My goal was to go beyond "just some Skeletons" or "just Curly", be it spawning wisps of flame when desperate or having the boss "turn red" when on its last legs. Don't get me wrong; your take on it is appreciated. I just didn't want the end of each dream to be anticlimactic.

- The final part of the level with the breaking weapons doesn't force you to use the Shotgun for all of it, not by a long shot. It wasn't expected of the player to use strictly one weapon for one floor, though I will admit that both the 2nd floor was most easily done with the Blade instead of the Shotgun and the final floor obviously doesn't give you a choice in the matter. If you were concerned about not doing enough damage for the final floor, even a Level 1 Shotgun could take care of its bigger threats; the Level 2 Shotgun just gave you a high likelihood of killing everything in one or two shots.
 
May 25, 2018 at 10:34 AM
Beakface
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- I don't agree with your point regarding the additional phases of the boss fights being filler. This may be my enjoyment of longer boss fights talking, but I wanted to spice up each fight. My goal was to go beyond "just some Skeletons" or "just Curly", be it spawning wisps of flame when desperate or having the boss "turn red" when on its last legs. Don't get me wrong; your take on it is appreciated. I just didn't want the end of each dream to be anticlimactic.

I don't think my problem was so much with the bosses having additional phases, just more of the execution of presentation. I love additional phases too, and I do agree that they add a level of freshness to familiar bosses (sorry if I didn't make that clear) but I feel like the boss' health metre should have been more representative of the boss' health overall rather than just the health for one phase. Perhaps I am thinking too much about the original Cave Story, but whenever that boss' health metre in that game is depleted, it means that it's the end of the boss fight. Sure you have instances where the Doctor kind of "refills" his health metre in the final Balcony gauntlet, but at least there, the boss fight changes up drastically, both in appearance/audio and behaviour. The same goes for those Ballos phases, if you really wanted to count those.

In the case of the Betr-U boss fight, when you deplete the boss' health metre, there's not really that much that changes about the boss itself, just that there's more elements to dodge and more missile pads in place. When I depleted the health metre of Betr-U for the first time and then it got refilled again, I was like, "seriously? This again?" and it wasn't really all that interesting to do it again. The same also goes for the purple triad, where I love the idea of having the wisps incorporated into the battle, but I just didn't like that the battle extended beyond the boss' health metre already being gone and the boss still being alive.

And yeah...I probably lucked out of the final fight because I did end up beating it with the level 1 shotgun, focusing on killing the Skeletons before everything else. I believe I did end up using the Blade/Sword in that successful attempt too, though it was more of me trying to speed through the second part to get to the third one, where I kept entering with too little health. The Blade/sword thing seemed to be the most difficult weapon to work with, like...it felt like it wasn't really designed with the Cave Story enemies in mind. Maybe because it wasn't in the original game to begin with? But yeah, the Polar Star ended up not really being useful to me for that final fight, but I guess the player was expected to switch up weapons constantly during that battle?
 
May 25, 2018 at 6:37 PM
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I don't think my problem was so much with the bosses having additional phases, just more of the execution of presentation. I love additional phases too, and I do agree that they add a level of freshness to familiar bosses (sorry if I didn't make that clear) but I feel like the boss' health metre should have been more representative of the boss' health overall rather than just the health for one phase. Perhaps I am thinking too much about the original Cave Story, but whenever that boss' health metre in that game is depleted, it means that it's the end of the boss fight. Sure you have instances where the Doctor kind of "refills" his health metre in the final Balcony gauntlet, but at least there, the boss fight changes up drastically, both in appearance/audio and behaviour. The same goes for those Ballos phases, if you really wanted to count those.

In the case of the Betr-U boss fight, when you deplete the boss' health metre, there's not really that much that changes about the boss itself, just that there's more elements to dodge and more missile pads in place. When I depleted the health metre of Betr-U for the first time and then it got refilled again, I was like, "seriously? This again?" and it wasn't really all that interesting to do it again. The same also goes for the purple triad, where I love the idea of having the wisps incorporated into the battle, but I just didn't like that the battle extended beyond the boss' health metre already being gone and the boss still being alive.

And yeah...I probably lucked out of the final fight because I did end up beating it with the level 1 shotgun, focusing on killing the Skeletons before everything else. I believe I did end up using the Blade/Sword in that successful attempt too, though it was more of me trying to speed through the second part to get to the third one, where I kept entering with too little health. The Blade/sword thing seemed to be the most difficult weapon to work with, like...it felt like it wasn't really designed with the Cave Story enemies in mind. Maybe because it wasn't in the original game to begin with? But yeah, the Polar Star ended up not really being useful to me for that final fight, but I guess the player was expected to switch up weapons constantly during that battle?
I think it's a little important to remember that one major part of working with Cave Story in this manner is that you have to work with limitations. As far as I know, there is no way to get health bars to behave the way you described short of some serious ASM hacking, which was disallowed by the contest. The only solution I can immediately think of would be to remove the health bars entirely so the player won't be jarred by their sudden disappearance despite the boss still being alive. Either that, or do some kind of wonky fake health bar using tiles, but that one would only update when a Skeleton died.

I apologize for the second phase of BETr-U being lackluster to you. I thought the appearance of additional hazards would be enough to differentiate the phase, but I guess I was wrong. I don't think adding any other hazards would have been a good idea, though; playtesting on my part and others' streams proved that too many mistakes can quickly lead to too many missiles flying around. All I can really say at this point is that I tried my best.

This is less related to Introspection in particular, but I've noticed a general trend with Cave Story mods wherein close range weapons are overly difficult to use with the way Cave Story plays. Granted, this version of the Blade tries to make up for it with its high DPS; even after the nerf it received, it is still perfectly capable of blending enemies should you space yourself properly. Also yeah, pretty much any combat situation in Introspection that gave you multiple weapons encouraged you to use said variety where appropriate.
 
May 25, 2018 at 7:47 PM
Best Cow
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Upon a general consensus from the judges due to timing issues, the scores will have to be postponed until Tuesday, after Memorial Day ends.
 
May 25, 2018 at 9:29 PM
Beakface
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I think it's a little important to remember that one major part of working with Cave Story in this manner is that you have to work with limitations. As far as I know, there is no way to get health bars to behave the way you described short of some serious ASM hacking, which was disallowed by the contest. The only solution I can immediately think of would be to remove the health bars entirely so the player won't be jarred by their sudden disappearance despite the boss still being alive. Either that, or do some kind of wonky fake health bar using tiles, but that one would only update when a Skeleton died.

Is it possible to have the flames initiate after a certain amount of time, in waves? Rather than just having them spawn after you drain the health metre, is it possible to incorporate them as just being part of a phase that is cycled through? I'm wondering if there are other alternatives that can be worked within the limitations, without making the boss fight feel longer than it needs to due to its health bar not signalling the actual end of the boss battle. Yeah, I don't really know much about the limitations of modding and whatnot, so I only pose these as questions. But surely there must be a way to present the boss fight such that the player comes out with a certainty that they've defeated the boss rather than feeling more deceived.
 
May 26, 2018 at 2:18 AM
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Upon a general consensus from the judges due to timing issues, the scores will have to be postponed until Tuesday, after Memorial Day ends.
Bummer. Hopefully nothing comes up between now and then.

Is it possible to have the flames initiate after a certain amount of time, in waves? Rather than just having them spawn after you drain the health metre, is it possible to incorporate them as just being part of a phase that is cycled through? I'm wondering if there are other alternatives that can be worked within the limitations, without making the boss fight feel longer than it needs to due to its health bar not signalling the actual end of the boss battle. Yeah, I don't really know much about the limitations of modding and whatnot, so I only pose these as questions. But surely there must be a way to present the boss fight such that the player comes out with a certainty that they've defeated the boss rather than feeling more deceived.
Delayed but constant spawning of the flames was possible, but I didn't do it due to not knowing all of the applications of the event invincibility-oriented hacks that the devkit had. Definitely going to use tricks like that later on in my future projects, but for now I just have to leave it as it is.
 
May 26, 2018 at 7:44 AM
Best Cow
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Version 1.12 is out! You may download it through the MaGCSL Updater that was packaged in the previous version! (Thanks, Miccs!)
Fixes in the new version:
- An oversight in MIM resetting has been fixed (V080, the default MIM variable, was accidentally included in the reset variables)
- Missing Flag 0431 fixed in the Challenge Pyramid Level

Edit: I've completely forgot to mention, that it's not compatible with save files from previous versions. I apologize for a bit of confusion if anyone has come across that.
 
Last edited:
Jun 10, 2018 at 4:02 AM
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Sorry everyone! I'm the one who delayed the judging period by quite a bit. I misjudged the amount of time it would take me to complete the task. And I'm not even done yet! But midway through redacting, I decided that I had to avoid delaying it even further, which is why the first review (Introspection) is completed, the second review (The Raven) is halfway done, and the other two are just my current notes. I still gave a score for every rubric, which is what counts right?

Note: due to the way this mod is structured, I have decided to add an additional "Narration" section for 10 points (taken from the Design and Difficulty/balance sections which will only be worth 10 and 5 points respectively).


Aesthetics

There are several pretty interesting visual ideas in this mod, notably the use of background tiles to represent candles being lit/unlit. I found the main character's sprite to be hard to decipher but he looks good and fitting. I like the glasses. The candle sprite is kinda shitty though? Thankfully the character tells us they are candles, otherwise the whole lit/unlit gimmick would have been completely lost on me. The tileset was aptly chosen, and I also liked the night/day backgrounds visible through the bedroom's window. I liked the easter egg's facepics and sprite a lot.

The music was relatively well-chosen as well. The one for Dream II (first part) gets annoying quickly though, due to how short the loop is and how sharp the notes are, over such a long map. Also, all the tracks stop and start again from the beginning during level transitions, which sounds weird.

The simple and to-the-point mapping suits the surreal setting of a dream pretty well, although in my opinion it could (should?) have been even more minimalistic in order to fit the narration style.

A shame that there aren't more custom graphics and music in this mod, but it makes good use of the vanilla assets at least.

Score: 7/10


Design

Very varied gameplay sections make for a pretty enjoyable experience. The mapping style being what it is, there is no real level design to argue about, it Just Works.

I think while the concept behind Dream II (first part) is interesting, it could have been done in a much simpler manner. Most importantly, the questions at the end are unfair (how am I supposed to remember the layout of a previous map if you did not ask me to remember it beforehand?) and getting one wrong means you have to redo the whole sequence again (that is, read all the superfluous text, interact with all the superfluous entities, etc), possibly several times until you learn the answers to all the questions and/or get lucky. Frustrating.

Dream II (second part) was a good idea but it could have been expanded further. The gun's range is short enough that most of the time you can actually position yourself so that you have no risk of hitting anything else than the targets. A more complex, labyrinthic, smash-bros-break-the-targets-like level design would have been welcome in my opinion.

As for Dream II (third part): it's not exactly a standard rule of Cave Story (or games in general) that walking on stylized, symmetrically-placed tiles (that look like decoration) spawns missiles. It got me confused for quite some time. You might want to get inspiration from Tendrille's mod which does the same thing but with clearly visible switch plates placed on the ground.
I liked this fight quite a bit, though. Once I understood the mechanics, I was able to devise a strategy that helped me greatly, but up till then I was having a lot of trouble. It felt good winning that fight for the first time.

Score: 8/10


Narration

As (I believe) this mod was designed to be story-driven, I felt this section was necessary. Time to mention my biggest gripe about the mod.

There is a clear intent to make the mod metaphorical, yet I believe it does not go nearly far enough in that direction. The narration, mapping, visuals, all deserve to be more ethereal, symbolical, abstract, surreal, even eerie. The storytelling is too descriptive, the character says how he's feeling out loud, etc. I think more subtlety and simplicity would have been welcome in most scenes.

Tangentially, I also think there is too much text overall. Cutscenes that repeat several times (especially after a death) are a pain. Finally, the "Game autosaved" message (while appreciated from a gameplay standpoint) breaks the immersion in a mod that heavily revolves around it. That's too bad. Perhaps you could have done away with standard Cave Story messages like "Defeated [...]!" as well.

I liked Dream III though! I think it's one of the better-written parts of the mod.

Score: 2.5/10


Difficulty/balance

In a way, this mod replaces the challenge-driven motivation of an actual platform shooter with a more story-oriented one. Hence, there is not much difficulty to speak of.

Fight sequences are short and scattered about, alongside trivial platforming sequences and special events with alternative gameplay. I think Dream II contains all of the harder parts and Dream III is very easy (borderline trivial) in comparison, but it wouldn't make sense narration-wise to put Dream III before Dream II so I don't really know what could be done here.

In the same way, there isn't much to say about balancing. Worth noting is that even though I only used the shotgun in Dream II (third part), I can see both guns being very useful depending on the player. Also, Dream III (third part) actually made me use all three weapons despite how short it was! Bonus point for that.

Score: 3/5


Polish

It's easy (maybe too easy) to see where the mod is going. Right down to the title, it adheres to a single theme of "Introspection", and indeed the story revolves around this theme. The gameplay, the level design, the concept of entering the player character's dreams, have all been chosen for the purpose of serving the story and driving the point across. What prevents the mod from completely feeling like a single, wholesome and consistent entity is that the three dreams don't seem to be linked to each other and there isn't really a conclusion that links them together in a single message. Disappointing.

There is a distinct lack of bugs or mapping issues in the mod, which is always appreciated. Except... The Element never actually registers as being obtained. Which is kind of a big deal. But I have no idea whether that bug comes form the mod or the contest developers so let's not focus on that.

Overall, the mod feels pretty clean, especially for a contest mod subject to numerous constraints and a time limit.

Score: 7/10


Entertainment value

Sadly, and at the risk of repeating myself, I must admit I did not adhere to the story. It was supposed to play an important part in making the mod interesting in place of a challenge-induced goal and depth of gameplay, but it ends up detracting from the immersion and making the mod more annoying to play.
Thankfully, I must admit I'm a sucker for metaphorical and dream-like settings. It allows for the kind of diverse, wildly changing gameplay sections featured in this mod. They contributed to make the game entertaining despite the odds.

Score: 2.5/5


Misc

- I think the ghost in Dream I (second part) should not keep moving after it hits the player (making it disappear sounds better).
- Dream II (second part): "((12^2) / 12) + (90 / (3^2) + 2?" (missing a closing parenthese).
- Dream II (third part): "occurance".
- The health bar for one of the bosses disappears early, which is a bit disorienting.
- Good easter egg. Very cute.​


Conclusion

Introspection does not hit home quite entirely. The impact of its otherwise meaningful message is dulled by the lack of subtlety in its delivery. This disappointing observation is made up for by its gameplay format, fun and diverse, as well as its ambiance, entrancing the player whenever the voice-over or the protagonist are not speaking.​


Total score: 30/50

Aesthetics

The assets! I love them! A lot! The 100% custom, simple but well-made tilesets serve the mod very well. That bunny sprite on the player character is cute! The custom item sprites are appreciable too. The LTTP reference with the Moon Pearl and its effects is very strong. I would have loved some cute custom sprites for the enemies and Quote though... Also the boss's sprite is hard to read. I would say it doesn't look like its drawn depiction in the cutscene. Speaking of, the use of full-screen pictures for the cutscene makes me very happy. Again, simple, but well-made.

That music in the Light World is from Chrono Trigger, right? I wouldn't say it goes especially well with the subject at hand (the Dark World music is a good choice though) but hearing non-vanilla music, especially of this quality, is always satisfying.

The mapping style is WAY too big and empty. Make shorter corridors! Smaller rooms! Condensed maps! Add more complex ground shapes, pebbles, obstacles, decoration, background stuff! Just because the tilesets and backgrounds are simple and textures are minimalistic doesn't mean you can just have huge dull solid-color areas. Quite the opposite, in fact: if your basic block textures are solid-color, then it should be your goal to have as few of them as you can, or else it will quickly get boring to see.
Finally, that big area on the left of the Light World with nothing but a really obvious secret tunnel... Come on. You can do better than that.

Score: 7/10


Design

The mod takes clear inspiration from ALTTP. The player is allowed to travel from one of the two parallel maps to the other only in specific places (in this case the huge crystals). One of the maps prevents the player from using any weapons, but still allows him to use movement-related items like the double jump and the booster, which is different from ALTTP.
Many of the core mechanics of the mod are not obvious. I stayed stuck in the first area for at least half an hour until someone told me I could interact with the giant crystal in the background that looked like decoration and certainly not like something I could interact with. It is not obvious what the switches do without some camera movement or similar. The items' effects are not written anywhere (no item in the inventory).

The player has to solve puzzles based on the concept of the Light and Dark World in order to progress. The puzzles themselves are nothing new (press buttons in the correct order based on clues, trigger switches in order to advance through a maze) but they don't feel gimmicky or tacked on to the mod, they work well and feel good. Maybe a fully-fledged version of this mod could present many more interesting puzzles.
The actual fighting sequences are anecdotal, save from the final boss, but enemies still have their place: as dangerous obstacles in the Dark World, as punishment for failure in one of the Light World puzzles, and as triggers for another one. Still, there is a distinct lack of actual fighting in the mod, which is welcome given that both health and experience points are reset on every transition from and to the Dark World.
A special mention goes to the Fire Whirl in the Dark World side of the first puzzle. I first did the puzzle without removing it first, which required both a pretty tight jump and some hard-to-get timing. Pretty proud of my dumb idiot self for that one.

The layout of the map is interesting. Areas (well, only one for each item really) that were out of reach before become accessible when you obtain a new movement item (double-jump, then booster). However, the level design is not really supportive of that idea, and backtracking is necessary. Another benefit of more condensed maps!

Score: 11/15


Difficulty/balance

I found the Fireball much more useful than the Polar Star for every situation. The puzzles are all very easy, although they do get a bit harder progressively. I liked that heart hidden in the forcefield puzzle, that one was a bit tricky (although it turned out to need dexterity rather than reflexion).

I think the boss' lightning bolts, and to some extent the giant jellyfish, do way too much damage compared to the rest and make for a surprising and unwelcome spike in danger. There are several small sequences where you have to fight giant jellyfish which can be unfair when you have no way of escaping.
The boss fight is a bit of a toughie, but the lightning does so much more damage than everything else that the player tends to ignore other sources of damage, which goes against the point of the non-lightning sequences. On the other hand, is it intentional that you can first-cycle most if not all the phases of the boss?

I dislike the trap designs appearing here and there in the mod. Spawning those bats above the player right after a cutscene was not the best idea (they can dive on the player right away). In the same vein, don't make enemies spawn while the player is still in control of the character (they could spawn where the character is standing and land a free hit). One time, the mysterious boss appears and throws some lightning without warning, for 10 damage. Considering the player spawned with exactly 10 HP a few minutes prior, it can be frustrating. Also dying at that point means you have to redo the puzzle if you haven't travelled to the Dark World and back to save (kind of unoptimal).

Score: 5/10


Polish

Nothing really new in this mod, it's all classic stuff but it's not badly executed.
the theme is there and consistent, although there is no real reason to go through the ordeals in the mod aside from general curiosity i guess?
Kinda buggy at times.

Score: 6/10


Entertainment value

the puzzles aren't a bore but they aren't really challenging either, and the enemies are also pretty easy to handle. i was kinda curious of who the boss character was but otherwise i couldn't really find an incentive to keep playing.

Score: 2/5


Misc

- the first heart bonus reappears after going to the dark world (but can't be interacted with so it's nbd). maybe the other bonuses do as well, i didn't check
- the fireball puzzle's first switch can be triggered again after the challenge, which makes the blocks reappear at the end of the timer, trapping you if you're inside and forcing you to reset!
- bunny with gun during bossfight? you stay as Quote in the dark world after you get the moon pearl though
- you can obtain the element directly without fighting the boss... this is obviously intended since there's a little cutscene so why?
- sometimes the player character teleports into walls when toggling switches during the last puzzle​


Conclusion

full of classic ideas that have proven themselves to be enjoyable to play, and it has personality visually speaking, but lacks real substance/a "soul" behind it.​


Total score: 31/50

Aesthetics

cool facepics, meh characters, not much stuff, good music. mapping is aight but very symmetrical, still too big and flat, isn't super adapted to the gameplay (teleport nemesis LOVES that high ceiling, but more on that later).
overall, meh.

Score: 4/10


Design

i like the idea of a challenge map that can be handled in different ways depending on your weapon/equipment choices. i like how the weapons give you additional movement options.
the level design isn't super well-suited to it though and it feels artificial. like it's the same map that doesn't have anything special to it, but with elements that are specific to each weapon that have been added at the beginning just so that you could say "you cannot pass this obstacle without using <your current weapon>!!". i would have very much preferred the maps to always stay the same, but having each weapon/equipment piece give you a different way of overcoming the same obstacle.
it becomes apparent in the second map: the horizontal boost version forces you to adopt a style that doesn't feel different from a regular single-jump level, while in the double-jump version, most of the time the shotgun is enough and you never need the double jump (except once). the nemesis is also always enough (though it does make things a bit harder sometimes). also the monsters are never an issue and you can almost do the whole level without fighting anything. basically the level design is made for the blade, and the shotgun and mostly the nemesis feel like OP weapons that were tacked on.

Score: 7/15


Difficulty/balance

it's not even a balancing issue at this point.
nemesis makes the mod trivial. the movement option it gives is so good that you can just do the entire level just teleporting, AND it's very good at killing things as well.
blade makes the mod way harder than the other two, and avoiding enemies is actually encouraged because the blade is ill-suited to combat.
i think you should have done a different presentation. instead of making it look like the three weapons were equal choices, you should have branded the blade as "easy mode" and the nemesis as "hard mode".
same for the double jump (easy mode) and the horizontal boost (hard mode arguably).

the second map is good in terms of difficulty progression. it's harder than the first map, and it gets harder as you progress through it. can't say the same for the first map though! it starts with a bang, with for example a very interesting puzzle for the nemesis (that you can totally ignore lmao) and then it has a rather hard part with lots of enemies that culminates in that falling segment with jellyfish, tiny frogs, mannans, lots of things... and it falls flat suddenly and completely in the latter part, with only a couple spikes here and there that are very easy to ignore and that's it. Sad!

Score: 3/10


Polish

the mod has no pretention of delivering a message or hinging on ambiance or taking itself very seriously and sticks to its challenge gimmick. it gives you something to do, congratulates you for completing it, straightforward and clean, does it well.
i like the dynamic of the duo of scientists (?). cliché but got a smile out of me.
it has some bugs! notably a very annoying one: if you don't have a save file, then it won't save at the beginning of the first task and so upon death you will be forced to navigate back to the portal and go through the HUGE wall of text from the head scientist, awful experience.

Score: 7/10


Entertainment value

challenge! yay!
short mod which means you can replay it several times without getting bored! yay!
trying out new weapon/equipment combinations and replaying the mod many times! yay!
huge unskippable text by the scientist guy everytime! not yay!
but overall yay!

Score: 5/5


Misc

- dying = no more sparkles on the pyramid
- you can teleport after clearing a challenge which is funny
- can't have the description of a weapon before choosing it, not a big deal but counter-intuitive
- teleport nemesis description: "be be"​


Conclusion

it's entertaining but it feels a lot like not enough time was dedicated to playtesting and fine-tuning.​


Total score: 26/50

Aesthetics

the mapping is chaotic and... not good-looking... and there are no custom assets. at least there's decoration.
also what the FUCK is up with those sprites in the village under the well? a quantum amalgamation of the sue-curly-santa-misery sprites or something? what HAPPENED

Score: 1/10


Design

the physics are funny and challenging but nothing has been done to support it. no adequate level design, no adequate gameplay choices...
it becomes an annoyance very quickly because the level design makes you think it should play like a normal mod but it has these wacky uncontrollable physics.
no save points, no health, in the whole mod.
no indication of what you have to do to open the way in parts 1 and 2. while shooting that weird empty tile in the first forcefield got it to open, i got stuck for a long time in part 2, dying without ever knowing what i should do. i would never have finished the mod if someone hadn't told me what to do.
i think the crazy physics could make for something cool with the right game/level design behind it but right now it just comes off as a random edit just because.

Score: 3/15


Difficulty/balance

...uhhh...

i must admit i didn't even bother trying out the different weapons to see if they were balanced. i just expected them to all be worse than the spur. because the spur was completely OP.
no difficulty progression whatsoever.
the lack of health refill makes for completely unwanted, unwarranted, frustrating artificial difficulty in an otherwise trivially easy mod.

Score: 0/10


Polish

where to start... everything is broken, i have found SO many ways to softlock the mod, it lacks an introduction that tells you what tf is going on, it's going everywhere and nowhere... i liked the slow camera pan to curly though, subtle and funny. i also liked the "Hey!" above the hermit's house.

Score: 1/10


Entertainment value

i had a heckin BLAST (pun not intended) trying to shoot enemies with the spur in midair, it's actually very entertaining...
i feel the physics could make for a fun mod with the right kind of gameplay tweaking and a complete revamp of everything else.
died in the last map because no health recovery and did not bother to play again because no save points.

Score: 4/5


Misc

there are a lot of things i could say about the mod. bugs, remarks, etc. but there is no point as of now because the mod is so broken that it needs a complete revamp from the core. everything in the mod has to go, save from the story which is not awful enough to have to be deleted, you can do something with it maybe. we can discuss the details later.​


Conclusion

the kind of mod i'd play in those streams where i play bad mods and make fun of them. no offense because i know you can do better than that​


Total score: 9/50

@ the participants (and everyone else): I'm available whenever if you want to discuss my scores or my reviews, if you have questions, remarks, feedback, complaints, FYIs, or just for a chat.
Keep in mind my notes are not my finished reviews and they subject to future changes. My scores should stay stable though.

EDIT: No review for Imsiemer's Odyssey because it isn't necessary for judging, so I would like to take my time and write a proper review later.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 5:08 AM
Best Cow
"Life begins and ends with Nu."
Join Date: Jun 27, 2013
Location:
Posts: 2645
Age: 27
And with Hiino's scores and reviews put in, judging for the levels has been complete! Thank you everyone who entered the contest, and thank you all for waiting for the scores, I know, we wanted them out sooner, but we'll also be putting our evaluations in the thread as well!

The individual scores in the parenthesis are in judge order:
Serri, Miccs, Noxid, Hiino, Bubbler

1st place | The Raven | Score: 42.2
(45, 45, 43, 31, 47)

2nd place | Introspection | Score: 39.4
(41, 40, 42, 30, 44)

3rd place | The Challenge Pyramid | Score: 39
(40, 46, 44, 26, 39)

4th place | Cursed Lands | Score: 15.6
(10, 22, 23, 9, 14)

Disqualified (upon request) | Insiemer's Odyssey | Score: 0 (score by one judge does not count)
(18, X, X, X, X)
The prizes will be given out soon, and stay tuned for any news on the full mod, development will start soon!


Oh yeah, and here are my reviews, if anyone's interested in reading my thoughts on the entries. Let me know if y'all have any questions on anything I said!
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 7:07 AM
In my body, in my head
Forum Moderator
"Life begins and ends with Nu."
Join Date: Aug 28, 2009
Location: The Purple Zone
Posts: 5998
I made some notes of my own when I wrote my scores as well, included below

Of all the mods i've played, this one felt the most "Characteristic" of its author. The "Seasons Flavour" i've grown accustomed to makes a strong showing in a mod with a heavy focus on narration broken up by brief and occasionally frantic action segments. Compared to last year's *Shipwrecked*, I believe this mod shows a fair bit of growth as it addresses many of the issues i had with its predecessor, most notably the difficulty. The combat segments, though they can be challenging, never feel entirely unfair and quick retries meant I didn't become frustrated when I did have to repeat fights. The option to use one of several weapons at my disposal also felt nice, as I had a sense of being given a choice as to which one fit my playstyle and the situation at hand the best (without having an overwhelming number of options thrown in my face.
Overall, i'd say the gameplay design and "experience" of this mod is very strong. Apart from the action gameplay, there are several segments that offer interesting diversions. The quiz/memory test was clever in particular i felt, though I got every answer right so I don't know how easy it might be to just brute force answers.

However, the mod itself is not without flaws. The visuals are servicable but bland/forgettable (exception to the nightmare monsters which were some fun reskins). The narrative, though seemingly a central part of the experience, was a bit hard for me to really "bite into" as well. You aren't given a whole lot to go on for much of the game, and what there is to go by is wrapped in metaphor and suggestion. It feels like it is somewhat autobiographical in a way, and if that's the case then i respect the genuineness of it.

This starts off quite flashy with some fullscreen CGs for a cutscene involving quote watching an unknown character interact with a large crystal and vanish. Apart from being a cool cutscene, this serves to inform the player to the mod's major gimmick; by interacting with the crystals, the player can warp to a "dark world" version of the map a'la Link to the Past. In the dark world, we must avoid enemies and complete objectives that will help us progress in the light world.
While light world/dark world is not exactly a groundbreaking concept, I think this is the first time i've seen it done in a cave story mod. At the very least, it's the best execution of it i've encountered. The progression and introduction of concepts feels very well thought out and the puzzles were interesting to solve for the most part, though I will have to deduct some points for the fact that I was able to softlock myself once. The bit with manipulating the critters and bats to get the heart in the area with the alternating lasers felt very clever, but the "step on random buttons until you find the right order" (was there a better solution to this?) wasn't great, and I struggled a fair bit with the final puzzle involving sending certain sections of the map between light and dark. This is a mod with no dialogue, and while i appreciate that you were able to convey pretty much everything you needed to without it I think there were some points where I felt more like I was just bumping my nose against things hoping to uncover the way forward rather than intelligently using information that had been given to me.
Also, was the final boss optional? was i supposed to fight her? what even was going on? I have many questions about the purpose of a lot of things that happened here. Well, it was still fun at least.

The Pyramid challenge is a very classic Cave Story mod experience, with a fun twist: the game is split into two segments, and the "layout" of each area varies depending on which weapon and movement options you choose before entering. Though a single runthrough is fairly brief, picking different combinations can give a fair deal of replayability.
I originally opted for the teleportNemesis, before realizing that this weapon is absolutely insane and switching for a more straightforward play with the Blade. Though i'll say at least, what parts I did see of the nemesis stage made clever use of its "quirks".
The writing is fun and casual and helps to support the atmosphere of the level as a whole. This is gamer town, population: player.
For the second segment, I choose the horizontal boost which was a lot of fun to play with. Combined with the blade weapon, it almost felt like i was playing spelunky - just need a ledge grab mechanic.
Though my play of the levels themselves went fairly smoothly i had some minor issues with continuing after dying due to the "has saved at least once" flag not being set for some reason. I don't know if this is a fault of the modder or the compilation.. as well, my quote sprite was really messed up after leaving the stage for some reason too. Not sure what that was about but I won't dock points for it.

Well, I'm not sure exactly what I *should* say here. It was uhh... well, it was an experience. At any given point during my play of this, I really had no idea what was happening or if any of what was going on in the screen was supposed to happen. I will say, that it was a uh, fascinating piece to witness and maybe one of the more chaotic mods i've ever seen.
It was cool, but also quite overwhelming. I understand this was unfinished so i'm at least intrigued as to what the final product would've looked like. Even given the massive amounts of health, I had a hard time making it to the "end" (midway?) without dying from all the stuff flying around. It was cool but yeah, maybe more spectacle than substance as it stands now.

Honestly, I had some big issues with this one and I wasn't able to beat it. Not technical issues, but just like, design problems that made it really a chore to play. I got as far as the 2nd area (the hotel) before just kind of giving up because I got so lost. The maps are huge - and I mean, HUGE huge. I thought the first map was going to be the entire level, but it just kept going from there...

The first level wasn't too bad. Though I think making a big area in the middle where you can fall way down to the beginning due to failing some single-block jumps is a BIG no-no, I didn't actually fail it fortunately. I liked the map you put on the wall, and I liked that there were secrets that rewarded a bit of exploration beyond bee-lining to the exit. The plot I didn't really understand, and the graphics were... well, OK, but not outstanding. The player character's facepic scares me somewhat. The gameplay here was ok, though it was a bit dull having only like 3 enemy types. As well, there were issues with having so many NPCs spawned on screen that XP wasn't able to drop, which is bad.

It fell apart a bit once I got to the second area. I'd picked up the shotgun, which let me get around due to its kickback ability. However, this probably was more of a detriment than a help, as it led me to trying to get around a bunch of areas that probably weren't meant to be visited. There were a lot of dead-ends, and nearly everything looks the same here, and in combination with the map being absolutely huge I just wandered around hoping to find something new. I did eventually get the booster, but even that wasn't enough to help me find any exit.

if I could give one piece of advice to this mod, it'd be to really think about what's important/fun and cut down on the busywork. quality over quantity.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 7:32 AM
Indie game enthusiast
"What is a man!? A miserable pile of secrets! But enough talk, have at you!"
Join Date: Apr 18, 2006
Location: Forever wandering the tower...!
Posts: 1770
@Random-storykeeper - Sorry, I didn't respond when you posted this. Was a bit depressed with how things turned out. But, reading your notes made my day ;)

@Hiino
And figured I'd respond to give some insight.
Aesthetics

the mapping is chaotic and... not good-looking... and there are no custom assets. at least there's decoration.
also what the FUCK is up with those sprites in the village under the well? a quantum amalgamation of the sue-curly-santa-misery sprites or something? what HAPPENED

Score: 1/10
On custom assets: I *should* have gotten on Discord or asked for clarification. Before the start of the contest there was a short window of time where custom assets were to be submitted. I misunderstood (or didn't look closely). It was actually just the idea of a custom assets pack to make life easy. By the time I realized I could add graphics, well it was too late and I was used to it. In fact there is even a secret that really plays up the broken graphics... But, I see now that I should probably first earn the player's trust and attention before pushing what is acceptable.

On, it looks bad: Eh. Still, I thought it didn't look TERRIBLE. Ignoring NPC hell on the second map, the village mapping was what I first mapped. Does that still look terrible to you too?
Jump to anywhere between 7:00 and 11:00.
And this is the standard I compared to: http://mcbm.snowy-day.net/Cave Story/CS Chapter 1/CS Chapter 1 112.png

But, then I intentionally ruined the village, to make it look destroyed/occupied by the undead, which magnified the problem of using sprites not as intended.
And to make matters worse that's the first area you see. I see how that would make a terrible impression...

On NPC hell: I got a kick out of it when I first accidentally saw the NPCs using the character set. Seeing the characters hop around and animate in unusual ways was eye opening. So I kept it at that point. Story-wise, you're dealing with spirits that have no form but were shaped to something familiar for the main character's benefit as mentioned by the Curly look-alike. I used that as an excuse to excuse the chaos of characters changing shape. But, I bet if I had used custom assets and pulled something similar but with more palatable morphing (and had not already put the player in the frame of mind that the mod is broken and everything looks terrible), that it might work. Anyway, I'm sure I could execute it better. But, the concept was, you're in a dream/reflection of the real world as mentioned by the King look-alike.

Honestly, I could have just gone with a blue transparent spirit form that changed to different visuals or something. That at least wouldn't cause a knee jerk reaction that the sprites are just goofed up lol.

Sad score though understandable.​
Design

the physics are funny and challenging but nothing has been done to support it. no adequate level design, no adequate gameplay choices...
it becomes an annoyance very quickly because the level design makes you think it should play like a normal mod but it has these wacky uncontrollable physics.
no save points, no health, in the whole mod.
no indication of what you have to do to open the way in parts 1 and 2. while shooting that weird empty tile in the first forcefield got it to open, i got stuck for a long time in part 2, dying without ever knowing what i should do. i would never have finished the mod if someone hadn't told me what to do.
i think the crazy physics could make for something cool with the right game/level design behind it but right now it just comes off as a random edit just because.

Score: 3/15
I really wanted to throw the player into the frying pan without holding their hand. I'm a fan of visual puzzles, but ignoring conventions was a mistake. Needed the invincible sound or a message to pop-up when hitting the raven. Maybe a sparkle to appear or that Ballos target (for the lightning effect) for where to hit to proceed. Probably shouldn't have used RANDOM events that may or may not trigger the first time. (You might have to attack the Red Crystal several times before breaking through.)

As for the minimum of knowing what to do, I had planned to change, but didn't: the little chapter/part pop-ups. Should have used that to explain what to do. Like Part 2: Monster Extermination. Instead of Part 2: Legendary Hero or something. Honestly, I would have liked to create a custom item like a logbook, but didn't know if I could since it would require editing outside the maps.tsc file. Again should have asked...
Difficulty/balance

...uhhh...

i must admit i didn't even bother trying out the different weapons to see if they were balanced. i just expected them to all be worse than the spur. because the spur was completely OP.
no difficulty progression whatsoever.
the lack of health refill makes for completely unwanted, unwarranted, frustrating artificial difficulty in an otherwise trivially easy mod.

Score: 0/10
The mod was just too incomplete gameplay wise. The idea I had was: Start absurdly overpowered. But, over time as the game's curse affected you. You'd have reduced abilities/health/movement/weapons. And by the end you'd be playing normal cave story with limited health. I didn't actually reach the point of tweaking the battles. I only used spur myself, but left the other weapons in to show what weapons you might have down the road. Unfortunately, that probably confused the player especially since they start at lvl 1.
As for the lack of health, missing saves. Chalk it up to being unfinished. Honestly I don't want to give the player any health until they finish the second map (unfinished). Especially when you start with 128 health.
Polish

where to start... everything is broken, i have found SO many ways to softlock the mod, it lacks an introduction that tells you what tf is going on, it's going everywhere and nowhere... i liked the slow camera pan to curly though, subtle and funny. i also liked the "Hey!" above the hermit's house.

Score: 1/10
The idea was to throw you into battle, and then begin to figure out what was going on after talking to the Hermit. Slowly revealing the story over time. Unfortunately, I should have made reaching that point easier, and not full of "tf" moments. What also worked against me, was attempting to give the player the freedom to proceed in a variety of ways. Like, you don't have to finish talking to the Hermit. You could try to follow Curly as soon as you notice her. Then come back to the hermit later, or not.
But, I admit it's a bit of a cluster after talking to the hermit. Unfinished...

Entertainment value

i had a heckin BLAST (pun not intended) trying to shoot enemies with the spur in midair, it's actually very entertaining...
i feel the physics could make for a fun mod with the right kind of gameplay tweaking and a complete revamp of everything else.
died in the last map because no health recovery and did not bother to play again because no save points.

Score: 4/5
Glad you liked the first skirmish. Too bad you couldn't play what was planned... Not even a boss battle was implemented yet...!

Misc

there are a lot of things i could say about the mod. bugs, remarks, etc. but there is no point as of now because the mod is so broken that it needs a complete revamp from the core. everything in the mod has to go, save from the story which is not awful enough to have to be deleted, you can do something with it maybe. we can discuss the details later.​
Things I would have changed if I had released it again? Probably locked the starting left open wall. I left that in for testing purposes mainly. (You can escape at the beginning and fall to the right. There was even a message I left for anyone desperate to fall to the right. Maybe I'll video some things later.) Would have ended the mod probably after falling down the well. The next area was just not ready. Also, probably should have used the non-destroyed version of the town. That might help some graphics issues.

I just figured, might as well submit it, then nothing at all. Probably should have just waited until it was finished ignoring the contest... Stopped working on it after the contest ended though. As Curly might say, Too much negative energy.

Conclusion

the kind of mod i'd play in those streams where i play bad mods and make fun of them. no offense because i know you can do better than that
Meh. Well, thanks for playing anyway :p

Total score: 9/50
Bad End

@Noxid
=) Perhaps I should give the mod a proper send-off and make sense of the chaos. That or a nice funeral pyre.
Thanks for trying it ;)

@Serri, Miccs, reviewers
Regardless of how things went in my case, thanks for hosting the competition!
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 9:05 AM
Junior Member
"Fresh from the Bakery"
Join Date: Apr 14, 2015
Location: Some place.
Posts: 10
Here's my judge comments and such. Hopefully they aren't too short...

+ World-switching, although not a seriously uncommon concept in mods, is well done here. The rabbit transformation in the dark world a la A Link to the Past definitely helps in adding variety to the level design.
+ I'm not sure whether the ORGs were made by the creator specifically for this level or not; either way, they're all good ORGs that set the tone of the level well.
+ The visuals - such as the crystals scattered about - are also very pleasing to the eye, and switch from yellow-and-pink to a sweet purple when going to the dark world.
+ The puzzles scattered about are - appropriately enough - "puzzley." I'll also admit I've found myself stuck on a few of them, though that could just be my fault. The last one, in which you use switches to transfer bits of the stage from one world to the other, is one of the more creative of the bunch.
* Another thing of note is the encounter taking place right after the aformentioned switch puzzle. I'm not quite sure how you're supposed to know when the enemies get switched out, aside from maybe sound cues.
+ The level's boss is a very nice addition, if a little on the difficult side on things. I can forgive this, though, for it simply being seriously cool for having little to no ASM involved.

Aesthetics: 9/10
Design: 15/15
Difficulty/Balance: 8/10
Polish: 10/10
Entertainment Value: 5/5

+ Dream I's ooze blasting is good fun, and is helped with a healthy amount of hearts (...heh) and EXP shards after each room.
+ Dream II's quiz segment is an interesting bit. Its questions are notably randomized, so no answer will be correct on *every* playthrough. I'll admit that the second question got me stuck for a bit, though I suppose that was the intention.
* The 'target practice' area that comes afterwards is also notable. Miss and you'll get missiles to the face, woohoo!
+/- The bosses in this stage are a bit mixed; the Oozebone Triad will summon enough homing flames to keep you uncomfortable if you don't finish them off fast enough, while there's a good chance of BETr-U crushing you by its second phase if you're not careful with the missile blocks. That said, both of these bosses *do* have their better moments aswell and remain fairly neat fights.
* On a related note, there's BETr-U insistence that it's perfect :V
+ Dream III is another interesting one. Short platforming segments followed by another enemy rush, with mostly the narrative connecting it together.
* Hidden Eevee is hidden Eevee.

Aesthetics: 8/10
Design: 15/15
Difficulty/Balance: 7/10
Polish: 9/10
Entertainment Value: 5/5

+ The concept of being able to choose what you go in with is something that adds a good amount of replay value to the whole thing...
+ ...and the fact that the stages change depending on what weapon/equipment you pick is also a plus.
+ The assistant yells at you to "UNLEASH THE POWER OF THE PYRAMID," while the lab owner apparently likes the word "fool" a lot. Neat.
* A somewhat minor oversight, but if you bring the Nemesis with you to the end of the second stage, you can teleport your way up to the top and walk on it. You can access the other versions of the map this way!
* On occasion, you also can just sort of see where the stage "ends" if you scroll the camera far enough. To be fair, though, I'd assume this couldn't be helped considering the four-map limit.

Aesthetics: 7/10
Design: 13/15
Difficulty/Balance: 8/10
Polish: 7/10
Entertainment Value: 4/5

+/- I'm sorry, what?! :V
(Note: indeed, this is all i wrote on the mod. i'm sorry about that; the stage itself is chaotic in both a good and bad way.)

Aesthetics: 2/10
Design: 5/15
Difficulty/Balance: 3/10
Polish: 2/10
Entertainment Value: 2/5
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 4:11 PM
The Preacher
"Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-BLEIUP"
Join Date: Feb 20, 2011
Location: lost in translation
Posts: 336
Age: 29
@Hiino
And figured I'd respond to give some insight.

Glad you took the time to answer. Commentary from the author always helps put things in perspective.
I am not changing my mind after reading it (you mentioned not following modding conventions and that is indeed one of the big issues in the mod as they are indeed very important, following the principle of least surprise notably), but I will release the actual, better-written review later on, in which I will my explain my opinion in way more detail.
I have indeed been harsh in my scoring (just compare the scores I give to the other judges', for the other mods as well) and I might reconsider the way I estimate scores later on (although it will not change how the mods compare to each other, and thus the results of the contest).
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 4:44 PM
Eevee Enthusiast
"Big Joe Tire and Battery Restaurant! Opening Soon! Eat at Big Joes!"
Join Date: Mar 26, 2014
Location: Somewhere with Wi-Fi
Posts: 541
Age: 24
Sorry that my level's story didn't quite click with you, Hiino, though I guess I can't please everybody; I've noticed that it's pretty difficult to make a story-based mod that appeals to all players. Regardless, I'm very happy with how Introspection scored and it clearly shows that I'm improving as a mod/game designer.

This was a fun contest, and I wouldn't be opposed to another one happening sometime in the future.
 
Jun 11, 2018 at 2:07 AM
The Preacher
"Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-Wacka-BLEIUP"
Join Date: Feb 20, 2011
Location: lost in translation
Posts: 336
Age: 29
The story itself was alright honestly (although I felt like it didn't have a general direction and was simply a set of three different narrations), the issue I found had to do with the way it was delivered. It's something I have found in several of your mods (and prominently in the one you asked me to review in the review thread, I promise you i haven't forgotten about it and i'll get it done soon), and it's the way you tend to write everything the characters and the player are supposed to be feeling when you should leave things up to the imagination sometimes. You could chalk it up to style, which Noxid did apparently, but I chose not to because there are stories that don't go well with certain narrative styles and I believe the stories you tell do not go well with the style you chose to adopt for them.
Hit me up sometime if you wanna talk about it in more depth. Maybe I'm wrong!
 
Jul 22, 2018 at 10:11 AM
Best Cow
"Life begins and ends with Nu."
Join Date: Jun 27, 2013
Location:
Posts: 2645
Age: 27
Soo... It's been a while, but I do feel like I should be updating you guys on what's going on with Story Mode and whatnot.

Story Mode is in production, things have been going kinda slow due to me taking a cooldown off of modding, especially after working on the project for over 6 months now, and for organizing and planning the mod itself. Most of the stuff will be done by me, with help from the rest of the devteam, the judge levels will be done by the judges, of course, and if things go smoothly, the mod should be up and ready in late September! In the meantime. have something that I've had planned from the very start ;)
ityb3n.gif


On an end note, there is planning for the next MaGCSL contest, I hope to see you all there when it's announced! :pignon:

EDIT: I entirely forgot, but an assembly pack for this mod will be released simultaneously with Story Mode!
 
Last edited:
Sep 14, 2018 at 9:47 PM
Best Cow
"Life begins and ends with Nu."
Join Date: Jun 27, 2013
Location:
Posts: 2645
Age: 27
Soo, the past month has been crazy in my personal life, several hospital trips for a relative and an OS reinstallation later, I am getting back to work on Story Mode. However, I may need to delay the mod for at least another week, until October 7. The mod is basically halfway done, I already have the four levels accessible, there are a change of plans on a couple things that I do need the extra time on.

I do appreciate the understanding, I will also be working on an entry for Modcon, I've been waiting for that contest to come for a while, and I encourage y'all to enter as well! ^w^
 
Sep 14, 2018 at 10:16 PM
Soup Man
"In Soviet Russia, graves keep YOU!"
Join Date: Jul 15, 2014
Location: IN YOUR HEAD, SHIT FOR BRAINS
Posts: 670
Age: 5
just curious, but how will you fit in mods that already have stories (like introspection and i think inseminator's oddisee, but thats disqualified i think so idk) into story mode. Didn't all of the mods have stories of some sort aside from Cursed Lands and I think the challenge pyramid?

I can definitely see why there are so many delays.
 
Sep 14, 2018 at 10:36 PM
Best Cow
"Life begins and ends with Nu."
Join Date: Jun 27, 2013
Location:
Posts: 2645
Age: 27
just curious, but how will you fit in mods that already have stories (like introspection and i think inseminator's oddisee, but thats disqualified i think so idk) into story mode. Didn't all of the mods have stories of some sort aside from Cursed Lands and I think the challenge pyramid?
I don't think I ever really explained this during the contest in detail, many apologies for that one, but as given through the implication (that I do agree was a bit too subtle) in the judge application mod and the levels only mod, the levels are all simulations, and the original story aspect of some of the levels are to be kept. It also explains why I've allowed MIM to be used.

I do have a plan on having the levels become more integrated together for MaGCSL 2, to keep things more interesting, and so it won't look like I'm still gonna blatantly copy off of Sprites Inc. with their Mega Man contests. I got a few complaints on making this one more similar to theirs during setup.
 
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