Yep, it's that time again, where a designer puts some record of their thoughts about their levels for everyone else to read. Today I'm going to be talking about Ultimate Chip 6, which contains 60 levels and will probably not be updated for quite a while to come. So let's dive right in!
1. Welcome to the 21st Century
This was one of the first levels I put together after the time trial designs, and the goal was to craft a simple itemswapper with a very sprawling feeling to it. Does it feel like something that would have been made around the time CCLP2 was made? Possibly- but the design still has the modern touches of no rooms or hallways being diagonally adjacent. That's something that I personally don't like the look of in most cases, and that's why this level curls back in on itself. In hindsight, it's not the best introductory level for this set, but I didn't really have a better one, and I'm not unhappy with it as it shows that UC6 can and will contain... whatever I felt like throwing in.
2. Quantum Tunneling
After Miika ran a mini TT with his own level, Twice the Fun, I decided I liked running through the upper ball corridor, especially with how the balls would bounce off to always allow passage if the first was survived. So I went with that on a smaller scale, added a bunch of bombs and a force floor slide to give the balls a second purpose, and had an easy level that was pretty fun to play.
3. Snowball Mountain
Back to back ice aesthetic levels! I tend to use ice and force floors a lot in my designs, and also have an aversion to large empty spaces (that I'm working on, thankfully). Anyway, this level was originally conceived as a maze TT level, but it proved too easy to route. Level name borrowed from Ape Escape 2, continuing the trend of monkey game named ice themed levels after UC3's Frosty Retreat, UC4's Hot Springs, and UC5's Snowy Mammoth. Unfortunately, I'm out of Ape Escape ice levels without monkey puns in the name for the future!
4. Repetitive Repetition
I had just watched the Game Maker's Toolkit episode on Hitman and the art of repetition, and had the thought- what if I could turn that into a CC level? That's kind of what optimizing already does, but how can I capture that feeling to create an entire level around it? Then the concept kind of morphed into "hey, let's make the same room 3 times but with minor variations that allow shortcuts lol" and it's not that good of a level. However, I've since re-used this repeated room idea to make a much better level that very few people have seen- I'll release it eventually guys, but for now, James says it's super legit.
5. Key Free
The original idea here was a puzzle level where you'd alternate sides taking keys and boots and having to move several objects around in a multi-stage puzzle. Then I couldn't figure out how to begin designing such a puzzle and still don't have a clue (concept is up for grabs!), so around Thanksgiving I sat down at a relatives' house and threw this together. One of Tyler or Shane got tripped up by this level, surprisingly. It's pretty easy with a load of extra keys, but as a little optimizing bonus it's possible to end with the fire boots on the left side, saving some time. Honestly, that little tidbit is why this level stayed in its current form- I added a decent amount of little bonuses for the attentive in this set, and I'll point them out in these musings.
6. Sneaking in the Back Door
Ahhh, this level. When I set out to build this level, I knew I wanted it to be rotationally symmetric and on an island, but beyond that I didn't have too much of an idea. Then I decided to place chips with a lock on one side, and a bomb on the other. This led to adding a teeth monster in order to skip a key, and the original design had 2 of each key and 1 teeth, requiring 0 teeth bombs. Then I changed it to 4 teeth and 1 of each key, and wasn't sure which version was better, as this was meant to be a fairly easy level. Mostly thanks to Miika's suggestion, I took a third option of 3 teeth (better symmetry at the start!) and 1 of each key, requiring 3 back door entries. You do have to be a little careful, but it's still not too difficult.
7. Tonberry Estates
Walls from Key Farming, was entered in the Walls of CCLP1 create competition. Again, I'm mentioning Miika, but I'm sorry- that sokoban is clever and fits perfectly in the room. Oftentimes teleport sokobans revolved around partial posts, so I set out to build one that was non-trivial in that space and used the teleports as alternate loops. The rest of the level is some simple itemswapping, dodging and chip collecting, before some semi-blind fireball manipulations with a toggle button. I went through great pains to keep this part from being cookable, and I think I succeeded- though if you're not careful with the locks used earlier, you can render the fireball stuck. Don't do that.
8. Encased, Just In Case
Oh look, a Time Trial level! This sort of chip collecting romp isn't too interesting to just play, but routing it was actually quite interesting. The original version of the level had recessed walls instead of red and blue obstacles, which would have created easier shortcuts but ultimately been less interesting. Other than that, there's not much to say here.
9. Tunnel Boring Machine
I do like monster manipulation challenges quite a bit, and this level is nothing but a monster manipulation challenge, albeit a very lenient one with respect to monsters. You only need 8 or 9 total I think, and there are 16 in the level. That said, the dirt involved is a limited resource that has to be used somewhat carefully in order to access the central chips. Some will probably find this level boring (insert rimshot here) but I liked playing it in testing and still think it's a fun level- takes a little thought, but not full focus.
10. Tesla Foil
Josh mentioned a concept about unmaking partial posts, so I tried my hand at building a level like that. Unfortunately, teleports can be pretty broken and the level is irredeemably busted. Despite this, the intended path is pretty interesting, using symmetry in design but distinct rooms to keep a theme going without overstaying its welcome. Oh and the ending has been described as "what" and "bonkers", even though it's just a toggle door path Even with the bust, this is one of my favorites from the set.
Now I see why Andrew has done his designer commentary in groups of 10 levels. Must upstage everyone though- onwards to another... 5.
11. Red, Brown and Red
Another time trial level, this time with a cloning theme and obviously inspired by Red, Green and Blue. Optimizing cloning is very difficult, as it generally devolves into chaos and just trying everything. My goal with this and the other level was to craft a cloning level based around ideas and specific smaller scale collisions, rather than spamming the button and hoping everything works. Did it work here? For the most part- the toggle door at the end was the trickiest part to try to route, and a solution one second faster than my 90% logical solution exists. When I was optimizing this (as I did so before the competition to ensure the process was reasonable) I identified a timing that would clear out the lowest bombs, and then tried a few variations with the spare moves I had until I found one that was fast. As a casual level, it's okay, borrowing more from Four Plex without the toggle buttons. Slightly tedious perhaps, but not uninteresting, thankfully.
12. Primordial Ooze
Mazes with force floor walls have become slightly overdone in recent times- Forced Circuit by Josh, Jungle Fever by J.B., Cluttered Crosswalks and Bisection by me... these all do different things with the core concept, but ultimately are mazes where the walls aren't always walls. In this level, named after the second level of Ape Escape, I didn't really do anything to spice up the force floor sections. However, the water mazes I took advantage of the fact that they're water and added a few blocks to bridge to otherwise unreachable areas, adding a small thinking element to the maze. A few toggle doors to take advantage of the force floors later, and I had a symmetric chip placement maze that's actually pretty fun to play.
The time limit is 280 because my time attack time is 2.80, though this will be dropping about .05 soon
After You Can't Teach an Old Frog New Tricks came onto the scene, full level monster guidance puzzles have almost universally been difficult, with Andrew's One Tank's Adventure being the easiest. Others that come to mind are Guiding Light (me), Set-up (Shane), Get the Ball Rolling (J.B.) and A Bug's Life (me), using most of the monsters in the game. I'd even tried making a level like this before I'd played OFNT that featured a blob, titled... A Boy and His Blob in UC2. However, that left a gap in easy guidance levels, and the humble paramecia is often forgotten, so I elected to change that. Side note- gliders and walkers still need this kind of level, unless there is one for either of them that I'm unaware of.
Anyway, this level has another one of those bonuses for the attentive- there's no chip socket, as the chips were a last minute addition to try to trick people into doing extra steps. The dirt section can be done from either direction, the toggle and tank rooms require active attention (and setting up the tank room was a pain) and the ice room has been complained about, but it can be set up in advance or you can actually move the blocks with the paramecia chasing you! Yes, it's possible!
14. Interdependent Line
Walls from Eddy's Honey Bomb, found in NSG-Rejects. This one was honestly inspired by The Witness, in a weird sort of way. There's nothing too out of the ordinary here, just a key ordering puzzle with a simple gotcha, a recessed wall section outlining some gravel, and luring a teeth through half the level to gain access to the exit. The means of exiting was something I'd specifically wanted to use for a little while, and the socket being only the first step out of several was another common design trope I wanted to avoid. Yep, UC6 as a whole looks at conventional design decisions, uses them for the most part, but the moment they became inconvenient I ignored them... which wasn't often.
15. Crazy Box
LOL walker level. I still think Hysteria from UC5 is my best walker dodging level, but come on- it's practically mandatory to include one of these.