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Physics and Level Design: Some Numbers


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#1
Drakona

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I'll do everything in cubes, since that's a familiar distance for a Descent pilot, and will let pilots interact with this post easily. A cube is equal to two hit sphere diameters, and 20 of Descent's native units. (I'm not sure what those are supposed represent -- feet? meters?)

Pyro speeds (top speed):

Linear motion (accelerate, reverse, slides): 350ms per cube, 2.85 cubes per second (accuracy 5%)
Horizontal rotation: 2.45 seconds to turn 360 degrees, or 147 degrees per second (accuracy 2.5%)
Vertical rotation: 4.85 seconds to turn 360 degrees, or 74 degrees per second (accuracy 1%)
Rolls: 2.45 seconds to roll 360 degrees, or 147 degrees per second (accuracy 2.5%)

Acceleration and deceleration:
Stop to full forward speed: About 250 ms (accuracy around 25%)
Full reverse to full forward: About 500 ms. (accuracy around 25%)
Stop to full horizontal, vertical, or roll rotation speed: About 150 ms.
Reversing rotation (full left to full right): About 350 ms. (Accuracy around 33%)

I know those are some pretty wide error bars. It was a quick test with an imprecise tool. I can nail the numbers down more exactly for you with a second pass. For now, just know that the acceleration time is substantial.

From a physics perspective, it's constant acceleration, so a linear change in velocity. One of the guys on the DBB commented, comparing D1 ships to D3, "I hope the ship feels like it has some weight to it, D3 felt like flying a paper bag". I think this is what does that.

I think it also accounts partially for Descent being much more strategic than twitch. 500 ms to change direction is well within the time frame a human being can comprehend, observe, and react to. So we must battle on a strategic level, not on the level of reflex.

Roll-turn: Descent slightly rolls your ship when horizontally turning at full speed, and rolls it back when you're done. It's a small, cosmetic thing that nobody knows happens. I wouldn't say you have to include it in DU, but here are the numbers if it turns out you want to:

It takes about 200 ms to roll the ship about 15 degrees at the start of the turn, and about 200 ms to roll it back to level after the turn has stopped.

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Weapon speeds

Lasers: 6.75 cubes/second
Vulcan: 25 cubes/second
Spreadfire: 10 cubes/second
Plasma: 7.5 cubes/second
Fusion: 7.5 cubes/second

Concussion missiles: 4.5 cubes/second
Homing missiles: 4.5 cubes/second
Smart (main warhead): 4.25 cubes/second
Smart blobs: Varies, they accelerate when they see a target, max speed 4.5 cubes/second, but you never see that in practice
Mega missiles: 4.25 cubes/second


Weapon sizes
I don't have the weapon size numbers offhand, but the impression you get from the sprites is generally accurate . . . with the exception of a fusion bolt, which has a hit sphere about the size of a pyro, even though it looks much, much smaller than that.


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Spaces & Tactics

Pilots at different skill levels can do different things with spaces of different sizes. To describe to you appropriate spaces, I'm going to divide pilots into three groups: LAN/IHHD era, Kali, and modern. These groups all contain a range of skills, but the differences between them are larger than the differences within them. Plus, dividing it up by era makes this less subjective, as each era has iconic, popular levels and tactics. Pilots new to DU will be in the LAN era crowd.

Let's start with dogfighting spaces.

LAN era pilots liked big spaces, and the bigger the better. Popular early dogfighting spaces were Total Chaos 1 (9 x 9 x 9 cubes), Total Chaos 3 (10 x 15 x 15 cubes) and First Strike Level 10 (9 x 15 x 15 cubes). Another popular data point from the era is Modem Mayhem, with a main room at (9 x 9 x 4) with some adjoining spaces 2-4 cubes deep.

Kali era pilots liked their spaces a little smaller. The most popular levels were Minerva (dog room 13 x 4 x 2), Athena (10 x 4 x 2), and Nysa (9 x 4 x 2). Higher skilled pilots of the era were more likely to be found in Nysa than Minerva. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Ugh, a minimalist level from very late in the era, a classic 1v1 battleground. Its dog room is 10 x 4 x 2.

Long skinny dog rooms instead of mostly cubical ones are an innovation of the Kali era, and were broadly popular. That the three axes are all such different lengths really gives you some terrain to play with in a dogfight.

The modern era saw the introduction of a lot of obstructions into dogfighting rooms. While LAN era rooms are typically large cubes and Kali era rooms are typically large boxes with carefully calibrated sizes, modern era dogfighting rooms often have more interesting shapes. Dbox is the most popular anarchy level in the modern era, and its dogfighting room is L-shaped, a pair of adjoining (7x4x2) rooms, with a lot of adjoining columns and tunnels. The most popular 1v1 level is Logic, with a clear dogfighting space of (5 x 4 x 2) and a LOT of adjoining tunnels, obstructions, and opening, and geometric interest.

Other points in the modern era: Flea, with a dogfighting room that fits a 4x4x3 space missing an entire 2x2x3 corner. Blubird, which was made as a dogfighting arena, and is 4x4x3.5. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Black Rose, which bridges the Kali and modern eras and was the most dominantly popular 1v1 level of the very late Kali era, with an L-shaped dogroom at 6x6x2, missing one 3x3x2 corner.

In summary, brand new pilots will probably enjoy very large spaces, in the 9 cube range. Pilots who are getting good will enjoy the tactical variety of a longer 13-9 cube dog room with a standard 4x2 cross section. Pilots at the top enjoy very small dog rooms, in the 6x6x2 to 4x4x3 range.

You should not put pilots in rooms that are the wrong size for them. If you put a very good pilot in a 9x9x9 room, he cannot be hit, even by another very good pilot. At least, it takes an unreasonable amount of time and effort, and mostly consists of making risky moves and waiting for the other guy to get impatient and make a mistake. So two good pilots in a space too big for them are bored out of their minds, and the game sucks. If you put a new pilot in a 4x4x2 room, he cannot react quickly enough to have an interesting fight. Two new pilots in a 4x4x2 room don't have a dogfight, they have a who-gets-lined-up-on-the-other-faster contest. This also sucks.

Note also that if you want to give the newer pilot an advantage to help him out, a faster ship doesn't work! The problem is that he doesn't think fast enough to dodge -- his ship isn't the limit, his mind is. Faster weapons don't really help him out, either; he can't think quickly enough to predict where the better pilot will be, so even an instant-hit weapon isn't good enough. What you actually have to do is give the more experienced pilot slow weapons and artificially keep him at long range. And this you see in the D1 single player; the trainee bots have extremely slow weapons.

So much for dogfighting rooms.


Tunnels

There have been two standard tunnel sizes, and they have been present in all eras of Descent and are interesting to pilots of all skill levels. The standard 1x1xn tunnel, and the wide 1x2xn tunnel. These make good sizes for openings into rooms and transition areas as well. There have been occasional experiments with larger tunnels, such as the hexagonal tunnels in Jolt which are 2 cubes tall and 3 wide at their widest point. These are too big for 1v1 tunnel tactics to apply; they basically turn into crappy dogfighting spaces. But they do work pretty well in a teams context.

Speaking of teams, the most popular 2v2 level in the modern era is Blackout. It features a roomy 10x4x2 dog room, and virtually every tunnel is the wide 2x1xn variety. This is far too roomy to be interesting 1v1, but 2v2 fights play excellently in these spaces.


Loops

A loop is a part of a Descent level in which you can fly all the way around and get back to where you started. Long loops break up gameplay and are conducive to escapes; they lead to more of a hit and run game. Short loops lead to a ratting game with running fights, guesses as to which way your opponent went, fakeouts and traps. The length of the longest loops in a level determines its tempo -- basically, how far away from your opponent you can be, how long you get to rest between engagements.

LAN era levels didn't typically have loops at all. They often had a tree-like topology, with only one way into or out of a given area. This was not a skill-appropriate thing, it was just the community not knowing how to build levels yet. :) I'll omit those.

Kali era, every level consisted of loops. In graph theoretic terms, if you drew the level as a series of rooms and tunnels, every point on that graph was 2-connected. There were ALWAYS at least two ways to get in or out of anywhere. No dead ends.

There's a very good reason for that, by the way. Imagine a space which does have a dead end -- say, a level that looks like a dumbbell: two dog rooms joined by a single tunnel. If you put one pilot in each dog room, you have a Mexican Standoff: going through the small tunnel is a guaranteed kill for the other guy, and one of you has to do it in order for you to engage. This sucks big time. If you add a second tunnel connecting the rooms, though, now you can't watch both, and interesting games emerge. You can go in one, get the guy to commit to protecting it, and then go down the other and shoot him in the back. You can use flares or deception to try to clear the way. And beyond that, if someone commits to one, the other's safe to go through, and then you can get back to the actually fun fighting-each-other stuff.

Loops are good. Dead ends are bad.

Some examples of Kali-era loops: The hallway adjoining two sides of the dogroom in Minerva is 24 cubes long. The loop above the grates and through the reactor room is 31 cubes long. The shortest loops I can find in Minerva are the tunnel complex near the energy (an 18 cube loop) and cutting through the dog room, the back tunnel, and the small tunnel (a 20 cube loop). The "big" loop in Nysa (through the reactor room and back to the dog room) is 41 cubes long. The basement loop is about 26 cubes long. The dog room area sports some much tighter loops around long columns, in the 10-12 cube range.

Modern-era loops: Through a each pair of doors in Dbox is a loop of about 10 cubes. Circling the main dog room through the energy is 16 cubes. Circling the long column adjoining the dog room is 8 cubes. Logic sports some 6-8 cube loops adjoining the dog room, and several 10-12 cube loops near the door complex. Its longest loop, down the grate tunnel and back, is 24 cubes. My favorite level, the ultra-modern Ascend, blurs the lines between the loop game and the column game, sporting a ton of "loops" in the 2.5 - 6 cube range. The longest loop I can find in it (through the tunnel) is 13 cubes. This accounts for the extremely fast tempo of play, which is appropriately challenging for top pilots who like that style.

Of particular interest in the discussion of loops and bridging eras is Black Rose. Black Rose was considered ultra fast when it came out (late Kali era), SO fast that it took the ladder community by storm and was played and played and played. In the modern era it's considered to be a little too much on the slow side to be interesting. Loop sizes are 18 (over the lava), 13 (around the L-shaped tunnel using both shortcuts), 14 (through the short tunnel and the wide tunnel), 16 (through the door into the dog room and under the grate). These numbers are extremely low compared to its contemporary levels in Nysa and Athena, but they're higher than a Logic pilot would like, and much too high for an Ascend pilot to enjoy.

The same general principle applies with loops as with dogfighting rooms: better pilots like shorter loops. The reason is that that whole game I described with the dumbbell, getting the other guy to commit to something and then shooting him in the back, happens faster when it's a contest between pilots who think faster. The 40-cube Nysa loop plays very, very differently for pilots who take several seconds to think through those tactics (and so can fly through the loop in that time) than it does for pilots who think through those tactics practically instantaneously, and can go through three or four levels of tactic-and-response by the time you've flown half the loop.

(As a meta, meta comment -- if you're designing a game for fighter pilots, you'd do well to be familiar with OODA loops. This is the concept I'm referencing when I say better pilots think faster.)

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Overall size.

The other thing that sets the tempo of an anarchy game is how many pilots you've put in how much space. Levels that are too big for the number of pilots result in the action being really spread out, and it taking a long time to find and engage anyone. It becomes a hunting game, a game of listening for signs, looking for people and pursuing them, and occasionally securing a kill. Levels that arre too small for the number of pilots in them result in a lot of action in small spaces, too much to keep track of and reason about. They become highly random and highly chaotic, relentlessly full of light and noise. In a level that is a good size for the number of pilots in it, you always (or almost always) know where the fights are happening, but you are not forced to participate ih them, so can make strategic decisions about engaging and disengaging.

Interestingly enough, this has changed over time! As pilots have gotten faster, and the spaces they enjoy fighting in have gotten smaller and tighter, so the number of discrete fights you can have in a level of the same size has gone up.

When Minerva first came out, it was designed for 1v1 and was considered to be "absolute chaos" with four pilots. In the Kali era and later, it was considered to run pretty well with 6-8 pilots. Nysa runs well with 4. Black rose was considered extremely fast for 1v1 when it came out, but in the modern era, it's a nice level for 4. Logic is too busy with more than 3-4 pilots. And so forth.

I realize this is not terribly useful if you aren't familiar with these levels, but the takeaway lesson here is to plan one medium-sized dog room and a few shortish loops per pair of pilots, or a bigger dog room and a couple longer loops for every four, and you should be all right. If you want to put 8 pilots in a level, you want a big primary dog room and a couple smaller secondary ones, and two or three long loops. Putting 16 (DU territory) is new, but (lacking actual experience) I'd expect the scale to continue on up.

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Obstructions & Depressions

A quick diversion on physics here. One of the things Descent does, if you're flying into a wall, is it lets you slide along it. For example, if I'm plowing into a wall at a 45 degree angle, the portion of my velocity that's into the wall just disappears with no effect, and the portion that is along the wall I still get, so I slide along it at a little more than half speed. This is a very forgiving mechanic; trichording is difficult, and most pilots, even very good pilots, don't do it accurately and spend some of their velocity sliding along walls. This isn't even really a sloppy thing sometimes; sometimes you want to maintain visibility and will sacrifice a little speed. Sometimes you want to hug a floor or wall or ceiling for tactical reasons, to force whoever's shooting at you to make a choice.

Anyway. Descent pilots spend a lot of time sliding along walls, and as a result, they like their walls smooth. If there's something sticking out from the wall, a ledge, a lip, a depression, and you hit it -- it stops you cold. This sucks big time. Many Descent levels have features like these, but popular ones never do.

Tactically speaking, an obstruction or a depression can do four things. A depression can be a big enough space to fight in all on its own -- to an elite pilot, a 1x1 cube is big enough to dodge missiles and a lot of incoming fire. A column or corner can be used to hide. It can be used to block shots. And it can be used to stop movement (as I described above).

Now, newer pilots like obstructions for hiding in and blocking shots that are quite big. For example, the volcano in Total Chaos 1 is essentially a column, and it is about 2 cubes on a side. Something this big can serve all the tactical functions of hiding and blocking shots, but it's pretty slow if you want to fly around it.

The standard column in the Kali era is 1x1 cube and as tall as the room. Or late (a Sirian innovation), the flat 1x0.25 column, also as tall as the room. The flat column is good because it leads to a fast, 2.5 cube loop, so dancing around it in a dogfight is interesting for a good pilot. But it can't really be any narrower than it is and still safely hide you. While it's twice as big as your ship, you don't have time to be THAT precise in the chaos of combat, and with all the viewing angles and all.

It is very, very rare to see a popular Descent level, even in the modern era, with an obstruction smaller than that flat column.

Blubird does have some 0.25 x 0.25 columns. They're carefully placed to be out of the way and to generally not stop movement. They aren't useful for hiding behind, but they do give a little shelter from shots. This is sort of the exception that proves the rule, though -- these columns work specifically because it's a pure dogfighting level, there are few of them, and there is a lot of space to fly around them. I cannot think of another popular level that has an obstruction this small.

Tactically useful depressions are generally a cube in size as well, or most of a cube. A smaller one can't hide you reliably, and serves only a single purpose: to get you stuck and trip you up.

As a general game design philosophy, carrots are more fun than sticks, and the history of Descent level design bears this out. Smooth walls are fun because you can skate along them at high speed, and focus on pursuing your opponents. Bumpy ones aren't fun because they throw you off, get you stuck, and trip you up. They're like if someone left a cinder block on a bike trail, right? You can't *do* anything interesting with terrain like that. It isn't big enough to hide you, it isn't placed well to block shots -- all you can do is get stuck to it, and where's the fun in that?

As an interesting aside, Descent contains a texture that harms your ship if you touch it and makes explosions if you shoot it -- lava. Level designers have perenially experimented with putting lava in levels, but it's punishing -- it's a wall you can't touch or slide along, it's a source of extra blast damage. And you know how many hugely popular levels I can think of that have any lava anywhere in them?

None.

There are a couple marginally popular levels that have a *little* bit of lava in some very unobtrusive locations.

So if you do use stuff like that, things that damage people or small obstructions that trip them up or such, use it extremely sparingly. The point of the game is to fly. Don't get in the way of that without a darn good reason.

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One final point about simple geometry. There have often been levels with a "cave-like" look to them, lots of stalgmites and stalactites, wavy and bumpy floors and walls. But none of the broadly popular levels have looked like that. In fact, Minerva and its extremely boxy, extremely rectangular layout triumphed so soundly over the much-more-visually-complex Total Chaos 1.

There's a reason for that: terrain in a fight needs to be something you can fully comprehend, something you can reason about without looking at it, something you can understand well enough to use. When I fight in a cavey room, I don't see opportunities to use the stalagmites; most of them are the wrong size or shape to be useful. I mostly see hazards to avoid and keep a minimum safe distance from them. That's no fun!

As a rule of thumb, a room which is too complicated to accurately sketch from memory is too complicated to fight in. And conversely, a room which is very easy to understand -- a box! -- is fun, because you can focus on fighting your opponent rather than fighting the level.

As an extreme case, one of Lotharbot's favorite levels -- Tetrafusion -- is an extremely simple shape. It's just the edges of a tetrahedron. Some pilots really love it, but there is a crowd that finds the tetrahedral geometry too unfamiliar to be fun to reason about. I'm sure the non-orientability doesn't help either -- but it really is the strange angles people get stuck on. Tetrafusion's cousin Monkey Bars, which is the edges of a cube, meets much less resistance. Tetrafusion is a level that imposed too high a mental cost on some pilots with its geometry for them to consider it fun. Boxes dominate level design, not because we can't build anything else, but for the same reason legos dominate and minecraft dominates and so forth: cubes are familiar and easy to reason about. So we can get on to the fun stuff. :)

Think of every tactical element you add to as space as having a cognitive cost. You wouldn't add feature upon feature and alt-fire-mode upon alt-fire-mode to a gun without good reason, right? Good games are simple enough to be fun. The same rule applies with levels. Every piece of scenery has to be thought about, memorized, and reasoned about to be used efficiently. So make sure you use your pilots attention efficiently! Make sure every element you add has enough tactical uses and rewards and interest to justify the mental cost of flying in a space with it. Pilots won't tell you that a space is too complicated to be fun, because they won't understand that's what's happening. They'll just have the sensation that they can't do cool stuff, that the level sucks, and they'll play something else.

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Quick comment about textures. One of the things you'll notice about popular Descent levels is that the textures look kinda drab. It's not that we can't make art pieces -- it's that levels are made to be used, and what looks pretty in a screenshot can be a distraction in a game. Levels with busy textures, lots of lights, lots of animated textures, generally don't play well and aren't popular. Make the ships and weapons and powerups as shiny and pretty as you want! Those should be drawing attention. Street lamps . . . not so much.

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In closing, I'll leave you with some screen shots of various spaces that have been historically tried in Descent, and some notes about how popular the levels were.


Minerva. Arguably the most popular Descent anarchy level of all time.

minerva.png


Athena. Another incredibly popular level, dominating both the anarchy and 1v1 scenes from the early Kali era to the present modern era.

athena.png


Logic. I would argue the best 1v1 level ever made, certainly for the modern game.

logic.png


Ascend. A bit of a niche modern level, but still widely played. Ultramodern, and one of my personal favorites.

ascend.png


Castle De La Muerte. Occasionally played by the casual modern crowd, otherwise untouched. Never used for competitive play.

castle_de_la_muerte.png


Kruel's Kolumns. Winner of one of Interplay's big level design contests. Completely unused in anarchy.

kolumns.png


More Kruel's Kolumns. This level was super pretty. You couldn't pay me to actually have a fight in this room, though.

kolumns2.png


Keg Party. Probably the most popular D2 anarchy level of all time.

keg_party.png


Midgard 8. Completely unplayed.

midgard_8.png
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#2
Designopotamus

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Also also also bookmarked. :)


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#3
dunkelza

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Wow!

 

This is a treasure trove of awesome data and info!

 

Thanks for sharing this with the community!


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#4
Veratil

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xlNTxdN.jpg


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#5
Noam Loop

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Impressive post! I like your style, explaining in detail what you like about Descent 1 for which reasons.

 

Are some of the forum readers incidentally also e.g. Freespace pros?

It would be interesting to have the numbers what the Freespace devs did to ensure that people still can hit each other and make fights interesting - given that Freespace has *much* bigger, almost unlimited room. Perhaps that might give some hints to understand under which conditions bigger rooms would be fun? (And whether/how it could be viable to cover both smaller *and* bigger rooms within the same game)


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#6
LotharBot

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It would be interesting to have the numbers what the Freespace devs did to ensure that people still can hit each other and make fights interesting - given that Freespace has *much* bigger, almost unlimited room.

 

I don't have exact numbers, but the basic idea is that Freespace weapons were MUCH faster, and ships had no slides (left/right or up/down) or even reverse.  Dodging required you to turn your ship.  This made fights much more like WWII aircraft fights.  Head on, they were like jousting -- basically, trying to get a bunch of shots to reach your opponent and then trying to turn off before their shots got to you.  Or if you could maneuver your way behind someone, it became a contest of whether they could get you to overcommit one direction just as they turned the other way and escaped, or whether you could get enough shots on their hull to take them down.

 

Some further thoughts:

 

one of the major complaints many D1/D2 pilots had in jumping to D3 was that the spaces were relatively quite a bit larger, and there were more fast/instant weapons with higher damage output.  You still had Descent-style dodging, but it mattered less because you could just twitch-click-MD someone from across a room.  Or twitch-click and nail them with a napalm rocket.  It made for an interesting game in its own right, but I think it nullified some of the things that made D1 great.

 

The one place where D3 really excelled was in capture the flag.  One of the most popular levels for D3 CTF was Veins (specifically the VVG variant).  It was essentially a giant loop with a crossbar through it (looked like a capital Greek "theta" from above).  The main loop was a hallway with an oval cross-section of about 3x1.5 cubes, large enough to have 2 ships on each team facing off against each other down the hallway and still feel like you had some dodging room.  The hallways also had significant 3D curvature so you couldn't take super long shots down them (except sometimes with homing weapons, if they happened to reach a bend and lock on to someone on the far side) -- this helped offset the dominance of the very fast weapons, because you could close to threat range with other guns before they had a clear shot with mass driver.  The halls also had smooth edges so you could maneuver and dodge using the entire hallway.  The crossbar was a very big dogfighting room (but with mass driver, vauss, and fairly heavy missiles, you could fight in the space fairly comfortably, and holding it provided a tactical advantage in terms of being able to cut off opposing flag runners or support your own.)  Each team's end of the map had two rooms with only single 3x1.5ish oval entrances -- one room that was like an armory (lots of weapon spawn points) and one that held the flag.  In anarchy dead-end rooms like that would be more or less ignored, but in CTF there was incentive to go into them or to try to trap people in them while you got away with their flag or prevented them from getting away with yours.

 

So the spaces in D3 CTF were a bit different than the spaces in D1 anarchy, but they fit the game mode well.  Some of the same principles applied, but some areas were scaled up essentially to fit more ships that were trying to either reach the flag or block it.


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#7
Noam Loop

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I don't have exact numbers, but the basic idea is that Freespace weapons were MUCH faster, and ships had no slides (left/right or up/down) or even reverse.  Dodging required you to turn your ship.  This made fights much more like WWII aircraft fights.  Head on, they were like jousting -- basically, trying to get a bunch of shots to reach your opponent and then trying to turn off before their shots got to you.  Or if you could maneuver your way behind someone, it became a contest of whether they could get you to overcommit one direction just as they turned the other way and escaped, or whether you could get enough shots on their hull to take them down.

Hm, I think sliding and reverse was possible?

EQ6KuZS.png


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#8
LotharBot

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"reverse thrust" would decelerate you to a standstill, but never move your ship backwards.  There is no up, down, left, or right thrust in base Freespace or FS2.  (That screenshot is from a modded version -- probably FS2Open -- which adds support for a Babylon 5 inspired campaign.  The flight physics in "The Babylon Project" are entirely different.)


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#9
Noam Loop

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Yes, it's from FS2Open - sorry for the confusion. For me this is equivalent to Freespace 2, I never played the original, only the enhanced version. :)

Is FS2Open unsuitable for "serious" multiplayer? If no - perhaps this could give some inspirations?


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#10
LotharBot

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From what I understand, the slides in FS2open only work in certain game modes that are designed around having slides available.  If you use it to play vanilla FS2 MP, the slides have no effect.  


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#11
Noam Loop

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Ah, ok, right it seems not to work outside of Diaspora.


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#12
LotharBot

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I think the slides will also work in The Babylon Project and Beyond the Red Line.


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#13
scoob

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I'm probably not far off in assuming that all of the DU ships will have different flight parameters.  I always found it strange, for example, that the Pyro had such slower pitch than yaw (in fact it seems faster to roll + yaw maybe).  But in some of DU's ships it doesn't seem to make sense - some of the ships are perfectly symmetrical looking.

 

I suspect as long as the average ship in DU performs similarly to the Pyro things should feel OK.  Personally I'm hoping a few extra flight model features make it into some of the ships - for example lateral thruster afterburn (boost).

 

Edit: good and informative post


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#14
crayon

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As a general game design philosophy, carrots are more fun than sticks, and the history of Descent level design bears this out. Smooth walls are fun because you can skate along them at high speed, and focus on pursuing your opponents. Bumpy ones aren't fun because they throw you off, get you stuck, and trip you up. They're like if someone left a cinder block on a bike trail, right? You can't *do* anything interesting with terrain like that. It isn't big enough to hide you, it isn't placed well to block shots -- all you can do is get stuck to it, and where's the fun in that?
This is *exactly* why I stopped playing D3.  I hated having all forward motion come to a complete stand still because I bumped into, or got stuck on something.

 

In the DU dogfight demo I think you can see this happen when the ship in the tube spins around to return fire it bumps on something slowing the roation.

 

I like to run'n gun and this post put into words and explained what I always felt.  Thanks for doing that!!


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#15
Sirius

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Agreed with generalities but I have a few comments/nit-picks :)
 

Linear motion (accelerate, reverse, slides): 350ms per cube, 2.85 cubes per second (accuracy 5%)

...

Concussion missiles: 4.5 cubes/second
Homing missiles: 4.5 cubes/second
Smart (main warhead): 4.25 cubes/second
Smart blobs: Varies, they accelerate when they see a target, max speed 4.5 cubes/second, but you never see that in practice
Mega missiles: 4.25 cubes/second


Note that linear motion while tri-chording is the square root of 3 multiplied by the base speed, which using this number comes to about 4.9. This is actually faster than all the missiles cited above, which means you can outrun them all if you fly nearly perfectly. That's an important detail in certain situations - it's why you can't just fire a mega missile down a 1x1 hallway and wait for your target to die. He/she might just get out the other end. (Ignoring the fact that outright dodging a mega missile in that space, while difficult, is actually possible.)
 
In D2, which has afterburners that double your linear speed - but run out after a while - it becomes even easier to outrun most missiles. That's one of the reasons kills are typically harder to get in D2.
 

Of particular interest in the discussion of loops and bridging eras is Black Rose. Black Rose was considered ultra fast when it came out (late Kali era), SO fast that it took the ladder community by storm and was played and played and played. In the modern era it's considered to be a little too much on the slow side to be interesting. Loop sizes are 18 (over the lava), 13 (around the L-shaped tunnel using both shortcuts), 14 (through the short tunnel and the wide tunnel), 16 (through the door into the dog room and under the grate). These numbers are extremely low compared to its contemporary levels in Nysa and Athena, but they're higher than a Logic pilot would like, and much too high for an Ascend pilot to enjoy.


I feel like this might be a bit of an oversimplification. Black Rose was still one of the top 10 most popular levels on the DCL last season, and was #4 in each of the two seasons before that. There are reasons an individual player might not like it, but they might be more complex than that; after all Jediluke seems to be a big fan of both Logic and Nysa. I'm not sure what his opinion on Black Rose is.
 
Loop sizes do still do something (the OODA article is an interesting point on this; it's referring to a different kind of loop, but the tighter a level's geometric loops, the tighter the cognitive loops to use them properly will need to be also), but I figure this is why we play more than just one level. People like a change of pace sometimes.
 

And you know how many hugely popular levels I can think of that have any lava anywhere in them?

None.


Okay yeah this is the nit-pick. :D Do Black Rose, Lurk, Nocturnal qualify? :) There is only one level that has more than 25% more matches played all-time on the DCL than Black Rose in particular...

In general, though, I agree that lava is a little dangerous if you actually use it as a mechanic (except for single-player) since it's easily exploited for splash damage and that makes players want to avoid it. I'm not personally bothered by smaller "don't touch the floor" sections, but "lava tubes" where all the walls are lava are a little gimmicky. People care much less about this in FFA, though; it just doesn't make for a well-respected 1v1 level.
 

As a rule of thumb, a room which is too complicated to accurately sketch from memory is too complicated to fight in. And conversely, a room which is very easy to understand -- a box! -- is fun, because you can focus on fighting your opponent rather than fighting the level.


Within reason. I like some terrain; I'd much rather play in a level with obstacles to use than a straight-up box in the vein of Dynaduel's main room. The obstacles just need to be something you can use rather than something that always works against you - or yes, it just gets annoying.
 

 

 

Anyway, breaking away from the line-by-line now. For a modern game, you're definitely going to need something a little fancier than Logic. Drakona has covered the key points in how not to make it fancier; extraneous detail that just catches ships is clearly bad. Textures and lighting that make it hard to tell what you're doing are equally bad; all those glowy things make it hard to see what's behind them if misused.

As an example - if you play D2X-XL and turn on all the weapon trails, light coronas, smoke effects and all the rest of it... you're not going to want to play a 1v1 in that kind of environment because you have to concentrate really hard to figure out where the actual enemy player ship is. (Which is why I have to wind the effects down a little if I'm playing multiplayer in D2X-XL. Luckily you get the option. :))

 

I think some inspiration can be taken from real life though. In real life, you don't get totally perfectly flat walls like you see in most D1 multiplayer levels. But the walls are generally built purposefully, and do happen to be mostly flat - and if there are non-flat bits, they typically have a reason to be there.

If you have an arena designed for Pyro-GX pilots to duke it out, chances are it's going to be built in much the same way. Yes, there have to be lights; but you'll probably want them to be recessed so that ships don't get caught on them, because that would eventually just annoy the viewers (with the exception of the sort of people who also watch NASCAR for the crashes). You may have to have pillars along the walls in some places, but you might round the edges so that passing ships can more-or-less glide over them. Things like that.


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#16
Drakona

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And you know how many hugely popular levels I can think of that have any lava anywhere in them?

None.


Okay yeah this is the nit-pick. :D Do Black Rose, Lurk, Nocturnal qualify? :) There is only one level that has more than 25% more matches played all-time on the DCL than Black Rose in particular...


The lava textures in both Black Rose and Lurk are actually non-functional, though in Lurk, it's easy not to realize that. So those don't count.

I didn't think of Nocturnal. Both the lava spots in Nocturnal are pretty hard to hit accidentally, though, and the combination of the lava and the lip makes them clearly intended as hazards. I'll mark that one as "careful, sparing use of lava in a fairly popular level".

There are live lava spots in Audacity and Adept as well. Neither of those levels is incredibly popular, but I don't think it's the lava that's the problem. So I may have overstated the point, though I'm not sure I'd call Nocturnal, Audacity, or Adept "hugely popular", exactly. ;)

But as far as, like, big, hugely popular levels go? The Minervas, the Athenas, the Dboxes? No lava. Which stands in stark contrast to the LAN era levels. The Total Chaos series and Modem Mayhem all sport a huge amount of lava, because they were built back before level builders discovered that bare walls made for more interesting combat that hazardous ones. :)
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#17
Drakona

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Nocturnal is actually a really good case to examine, though.

It has two patches of live lava. Both of them are in extremely out of the way places where you really shouldn't be getting shot at. Or rather, if you ARE getting shot at near the lava, you're probably dead anyway, and the lava is hardly the threat. ;) They look like this:

nocturnal2.png
nocturnal3.png

Note that they combine the lava with a lip that's below my recommended minimum level feature size of "most of a cube"! Those lips are 1/4 of a cube. I said something like that can "only trip you up and get you stuck", but I suppose they do serve a different purpose here: giving you a little extra safety margin when it comes to avoiding the lava. They're mitigating a larger hazard with a smaller one. :)

The other two levels I mentioned (Adept, Audacity) contain similar size lava pits, and protect them with similar lips. That popular levels unanimously mitigate the hazard whenever it's present speaks volumes, actually. :)

Anyway. Here's a map of the Nocturnal. The areas outlined in red are the two lava pits.

nocturnal.png

Nocturnal isn't HUGELY popular, and there are a lot of players who hate it -- but not really because of the lava. That element of it plays so little that I honestly forgot about it until Sirius mentioned it. So it certainly doesn't make the level more interesting. But this picture of Nocturnal is good if you want to put some context to the statement that you can get away with using hazards if you use them "sparingly".

That's what sparingly means. Every single wall in that level, except the ones outlined in red, is smooth and non-hazardous, and can be skated along at high speed in pursuit of an enemy. I'd say that's a pretty good estimate of how much hazard you can get away with and still have the level be fun to play.
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#18
Sirius

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"Reason" was another one. It's not terribly popular for 1v1, though; seems to be more of a 2v2 map. And the lava-bottomed tunnel is a significant hazard that people don't spend much time in; it has that place to conceal yourself from the outside but you're flirting with danger using it because of the lava at the bottom. Would it be better without that? That is an interesting question.

 

TC level 1 is a great case study in what doesn't work, though.

  • That big, huge room. Awfully slow to get kills there except with homing missiles against pilots that can't dodge them. Primaries also work against people who fly in straight lines, but they have to be very new.
  • There is only one, thin corridor connecting the top and bottom parts of the level. And trying to run it feels like going "over the top" in trench warfare.
  • All that lava down the bottom - you can shoot below a player and do insane amounts of damage. "Shoot-and-duck" doesn't work if the floor is constantly being lit up - you'll die just from getting close to a firing position.
  • It has megas in a bunch of narrow tunnels with no space to dodge them (except rarely, when you do it perfectly). Ooookay.
  • Oh, and the only energy center is down the bottom, and most of the weapons spawn there too. So if you secure the bottom, you can prevent anyone else from getting in.

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#19
Drakona

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Another exception: Rumble.

rumble.png

Calling this level popular would really be stretching the term -- but that's mainly because it's a dogfighting arena. It has nothing to do with the lava, which is actually good here. :) Rumble has rather a lot of lava, but it exists specifically to make the ring around the outside dangerous. You never fight in there by choice.

I'd call Rumble an example of using lava well.

Reason, too. Here's the space Sirius is talking about.

reason.png
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#20
Drakona

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But really, this leads to a better point than the one I originally made:

Parts of levels with hazards like small lips, ledges, and lava, are parts of the level that you never fight in if you can avoid it. That applies to 1x1 tunnels, too. So you can include those, but you should only put them in places where you expect players to not go, not fight, or where doing so is supposed to be risky, in a strategic way.

If you make substantial parts of the level like that, pilots will just . . . not go in the whole level. ;)
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