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Class for Dark Forces Editing : Objects Overview
LESSON ONE - WHAT?
Well, now that's not a fair question. Obejcts are essential. They are the enemies, the powerups, the start positions, the restart positions, the objects that add to atmosphere.... The whole point of enemies is to find the right balance, so over and over you'll hear me saying not to overdo it, but to have enough. Remember you've got a very soft limit of 500 objects (many times in levels you've got more, but sometimes weird things start happening).
This is a hugely long part here. It's gonna take you a long time to get through it, so go get yourself a Coke!
LESSON TWO - ENEMIES
Well, that certainly depends! Obviously, you're going to need a start position. So get that in where you'll need it. Now get something straight - there really isn't much you need to do until you're done building and texturing everything. You'd best do this last.
However, once you're done building, then you need to go back and add enemies. It's a good idea for an Imperial Installation to put two stormtroopers at each important door. Remember that there's supposed to be countless troopers, but don't overdo it. The level certainly shouldn't be vacant, or have a feel of emptiness to it.
Commandos aren't real useful. Stormtroopers take care of most everything pretty well. However, you can use them in some special situations, such as workers in a control room, or escorts for a group of officers.
Officers are pretty important. There shouldn't be too many, though. If there's just as many officers as troops, then you've messed up. You're gonna need a smaller ratio than that. But not too small, again. Put them in important places. But remember that they're easy as dirt to kill. A good idea for officers is to use custom ones. There's a really nice set of recoloured officers by Ales Ptacek, including black, white, green, grey, blue, and so on. If you want to add some nice depth, you can set out separate areas of your level and have a different colour of officer for each area. Reserve white for overall commander, but assign different colours to different areas - maybe you could have a green to work in hangars, black for control rooms, grey for civilian areas, but don't forget the original brown. Remember you've gotta use officers if you want to have one drop a key or code card.
Stormtroopers are your main weapon against the player. Whereas commandos aren't good for much, and officers are too easy to kill, stormtroopers are common as dirt and they take a few hits to kill as well. Like I said above, a few outside an important door goes a long way. If you've got the right situation, a squad of troopers (maybe 4x4) with a commander in front is nice. If you do that, you may want to have one row on only hard difficulty, one medium and hard, and two for all levels. Remember that difficulty levels are good. There's a nice pair of field troopers by Patrick Green (actually it's a trio, but I've never found the difference in two of them) that can be used, they've got little pads on their shoulders. There's one with a brown shoulder pad, I use him for a slightly higher-ranking trooper. There's also a great set of WAXes by Alasdair MacDonald that are completely new troopers. It's got some guys in various sorts of suits, some interesting armour, and whatnot. They look great, and the guys with glowing facemasks look absolutely excellent in low-light situations. Remember that stormtroopers and commandos are the only ones that will drop you a rifle, so you'll probably want one right towards the start of the level, most players like this weapon.
But troopers aren't your only form of weapon. There's also robots and aliens. But first, an note on aliens. If your level plot and setting don't immediately warrant aliens, then skip them alltogether. They don't fit in an Imperial setting at all.
Gamorrean guards are good for some situations, but not others. They're really tough, and can only attack you from short-range, so use them in situations where they work well. They might be good in a lavish expensive area. Of course, you're not gonna put anyone with energy or explosive weapons in this area, they're likely to destroy the beauty and expensiveness of the area. Think when you're placing enemies. If you have some kind of a palace, anyone that can possibly damage the stuff around you won't work well. If you've got a really important rich area, put in a Dark Trooper Phase 1, these won't damage anything. Of course they won't really be damaged in the game, but think about it as if it's real life you're talking about.
There are two forms of Grans. The first kind is the norm, they'll throw grenades from a distance and punch you up close. Same goes here as I said above, if you want to put these in a palace, use the second kind. The second kind only punches, they have no grenades. Always take into account what's going to happen when they die. When a Gran dies with detonators, it'll drop 5 of them for the player. Do you want your player to have detonators? If so, then go ahead. If not, then rethink it. Grans work well outside, because they tend to throw their grenades into the ceiling indoors.
Dia Nogus, commonly known as Dianogas, obviously only work in sewers. Don't put too many of these, most players hate them. But they can be important. Generators on these can be nice.
Kell Dragons should be used very sparingly. Use in low light for a better atmosphere. Remember they take a lot of punisment, and can kill you in five licks. If you're looking down on a Dragon from above, then you can kill it without any trouble at all. Good for slowing down the player and making him fight hard and move around a lot, but not much else.
Trandoshans carry a big fat gun (that will later be dropped for the player, remember this), and are fairly tough. They're deadly from long range, harmless close up. Can't attack up, but can attack down occasionally. Beware of putting too many of these. Lots of people hate them because of their big weapon.
Interrogation Droids are good for low-light situations, because they're black. They're harmless from long range, deadly from close up. Remember they float off the ground, and will drop energy when dead.
Probe Droids really only work outdoors. They'll attack from above or below, take a good number of hits, and have a fair weapon. They'll move around a lot in altitude as well. Remember that they make a big boom when they die, and leave behind energy.
Phase Ones aren't too bad. They're harmless from long range (but move fast, so look out), but absolutely deadly from close up. A very interesting tactic used in a level by a friend of mine, Kevin Buscemi, is to give the player a concussion rifle and a lot of ammo, then release about 50 Phase 1s towards him. Give him some room, and it's a very interesting fight.
Phase Twos are getting bad. Deadly from any range. They fly like Probe Droids as well. They'll drop energy and missiles for an Assault Cannon, but you've gotta already have the cannon for them to be useful. Use very sparingly.
Phase Threes are horrible. You should NEVER use these. Deadly from any range whatsoever, can attack any direction, carries seeker missiles, and the entire world hates them. In a custom level, they are almost as bad as Boba Fetts. Speaking of...
Boba Fetts should be avoided at all costs. They combine the deadliness of Phase IIIs with the well-known character of Boba Fett, who has been killed in custom levels about 500 times. The Dark Forces community has no need for more of these. We don't need levels of well-known important things, we need levels that explore more into the deep dark depths of the Star Wars Universe, and Boba Fett is definitely in the high spotlight.
On a lighter note, Gun Turrets can be quite useful. They are commonly used on the ceiling, but there's no reason that they have to be there. With a bit of 3D rendering, you can easily adapt them to wall use or even floor use. They are good for automated defenses anywhere.
Okay, now that I'm done with that, let's get back into the things we all hate: Seekers. While they can be put to good use, they are hardly ever used for such, and so we all detest them. Their annoying buzzing around you and almost harmless lasers are just infuriating.
Mines can be put to good use, just like seekers, but often aren't. Ofttimes they are merely sitting out in the open, as a weak attempt to slow your progress and slow down the level's pace. A much better use is to mine heavily an area and make the mines nearly invisible (notice I say nearly, it's not fair to make them completely). However, in this use, it isn't fair unless you give the player some kind of warning (maybe as soon as you enter the area, a small rock falls down from above and a mine goes off - takes some INF and VUE work, but it's doable).
That that you see above is a pretty darned good overview of enemies. You'd best read over it very well.
LESSON THREE - POWERUPS
Well, this is a topic of great distress for many authors, because it is quite controversial. It is quite possible to run an entire level without any kind of powerup (the weapons you get from killing enemies reloads you), and fancy evasions can keep you alive. But it's probably best to provide some shield and armor regens just in case. A secret section or two is helpful as well. You'll probably want to use the negative difficulty numerals here, so that on easy you get lots of them, on medium some, and hard few.
Shields should be your most common form of powerup. They are usually the most needed. However, a few weapons and maybe a little ammo (depending on the circumstances, in the middle of a big Impie installation you won't need ANY ammo for your blaster :) But you may need some outdoors, for example) is helpful. Gamorrean guards are especially good at eating up your ammo, I hate that.
You should probably avoid such things as supercharges for your shields and supercharges for your gun. Shield supercharge is unrealistic (not to say that weapon supercharges aren't), and for your gun they just aren't needed.
LESSON FOUR - DECORATIONS
These really help with atmosphere. Things such as a few lights here and there are great, and little trinkets on shelves add a nice touch. Use lights with architecture (such as adding a little rim of brightness around a lamp) to add a great detail touch.
Trinkets, especially in a palace setting, are really great. Just don't overuse them. Also be cautious not to turn the palace into a museum.
You can use such normalcy objects as chairs to your advantage as well. The chair WAX in SPRITES.GOB isn't great for anything but a stool, that's why I like the 3DO of a chair by John Johnson.
There are also some special decorations that are meant for other things but can be used here. The WAXes of explosions and such are interesting if used right. There are some flames in SPRITES.GOB as well that can be good if used right. A really nice touch I always like to see is the splash WAX infront of a waterfall.
Don't forget that you've got some FME decorations you can use as well. With some of these, you can make a quite believable industrial building, complete with pipes running everywhere. Dead bodies are interesting sometimes, but only in the right situation. Don't just sprawl a few around. I always thought that they were a bit overused in Talay Tak Base.
LESSON FIVE - AMBIENTS
This section is dominated by ambient sounds, but I've seen some interesting exceptions. Lighting could theoretically fall in this category, but that's not an object.
It really isn't fair to but ambient sounds in this category either, though, because I've seen ambient sounds used in very bad ways before (such as the first beta of my own level), because they bleed off into other areas of your level. It is much better to write some INF and use the sound as the moving sound of a constantly moving elevator, with start and stop triggers.
However, you can place a sound as an object, and it'll work fairly well, provided that the sound loops well (custom VOCs don't loop quite right, be cautious).
This has been a very long lesson, I see, looking back. Time you refilled your Coke. I'll wait. Okay, back? Good.
LESSON SIX - SAFES AND PLAYER STARTS
Player starts are easy, just put one in the entire level. It's fairly obvious.
However, safes are an entirely different story. They work with difficulty levels, so use that to your advantage. Safes are just where you restart after you die - they apply to the whole sector, as soon as you enter the sector the safe is considered "passed." Remember this in large sectors with safes, I've had some weird effects (restarting in an area you've never been). You'll want a safe right before and right after a big and dangerous puzzle, but be careful here too. YOU MUST ALWAYS BE CERTAIN THAT YOU WON'T RESTART IN AN IMPASSABLE AREA. If an elevator you have or a door closes permanently after you pass it, you HAVE TO HAVE a safe on the other side. It is horrible if you restart in an impossible place. Also place some safes just in areas where you're likely to die, and in areas where there aren't any around. Just make sure it's possible, and your beta testers can tell you where they died and needed another safe.
LESSON SEVEN - 3D OBJECTS
Geez, another lesson? Oh well....I decided to put 3DOs in a lesson of their own because I decided to. So here we go.....
3Ds can be used in a huge variety of functions. They can be used as enemies (gun turrets), ambients (maybe, it'd take some doing though), walkways (very common - bridges), and decorations (TIEs in a hangar, so on). Use your 3DOs for all of these!
Bridges are horrendous in their consumption of your 500 object limit. If you can, make yourself a 3D of the exact shape your bridge needs to be, and there it is. But that takes external work. They also take a lot of work, and to texture one well takes external 3DO texturing, a very difficult prospect at the moment.
Decorations are their most common usage. TIEs in a hangar, objects for VUEs to go on, and the list goes on forever.
Need another refill on your Coke? Go ahead and get it, I'll wait. Back? Good. I'm done now, finally :)