Onwards to the second quarter!
16. Arctic Antics
I've noticed there are a lot of horizontally designed levels compared to the amount of vertically structured levels, which is interesting. Specifically, mazes often seem to have more horizontal paths with vertical connectors compared to vertical hallways with horizontal doors- not counting curvy paths. It's a strange observation to make, and this level was designed in response to that observation. It's "only" a maze with a blue wall/blue lock aesthetic and long vertical ice slides, but some of the blue walls are fake and there are a few extra chips. Just a couple more of those bonuses for the attentive, though of those who've streamed the set (Tyler and Shane), I don't think either of them caught the fake blue walls. Named after the first level of Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex.
17. Retroactive Invocation
Most keyswapping levels have you pick up keys, go somewhere with that key, and pick up more keys behind a lock. More advanced keyswapping levels will use the locks as the only gates to progress in a denser environment, such as Three Color Problem (me), Thinner (Cyberdog I think?), or even too many keys (pieguy). This level tried to do something a little different- recessed walls to "break into" the keyswapping area and get some early keys, and a way to save extra keys. Of course, some of those keys end up used in the second half of the level, which gives the monsters circling an extra purpose. Dual purpose design is always pretty cool, and something I've been trying to include more often.
18/19. Tanks / Tanks, But No Tanks
Ahhh, yes. One of the few levels where I came up with a title before the contents. I don't make tank levels very often, and J.B.'s Genetic Experimentation seemed like an interesting set of walls for a constrained idea. After I set out to make a tank level, I had the brilliantly terrible idea of copying the level, but removing all of the tanks from it to make a pun. From there, I just built a few distinct challenges for Tanks, and added hidden walls and tweaked areas for No Tanks. There should honestly be more level that build off of/toy with adjacent levels- neither of these are too special on their own, but as a combination I absolutely love how they work.
20. Special Little Snowflake
One of the sillier ways I make levels is to just start toying with interesting tessellations and see how they develop. Fossilized Snow and Three Color Problem are two examples of where I've done this in the past, but there are others. Anyway, this level is just a blocksliding challenge with an interesting twist- in MS, a ram is required. This was somewhat controversial, and Shane though it was unfair, so I'll defend this decision a little bit here- this could easily have been relegated to i^e, for instance. I decided to keep this level for three main reasons, but first, watch the Lynx solution if you haven't already.
1. There was no easy way to change the aesthetic/ice placements to make something else interesting, but non-trivial.
2. The solution plays out nearly the same in both rulesets.
3. After the Rainstorm has already canonized the ram.
Now, point 3 on its own is fairly weak as it can create an inequality, and that's something I try to avoid. But that combined with point 2 was enough for me to give into point 1 and keep the level in its current form. Hope that makes sense!
21. Deflection Field
Another level originally conceived as a time trial that was ran as one- though it turned out to be fairly easy to route. In the first version, the exit was where the suction boots are, but Miika had the idea of adding a runback and I liked it for both optimizing and casual play. Though there are 2 balls on every line, the dirt makes for a lot of safe places and ultimately makes this a very cerebral dodging level, which naturally is the kind I prefer. There's just something fun about alternating bursts of preplanning movements and mad dashes/quick reactions to things that you just don't get with a lot of melee levels. Naturally, Seeing Red is one of my best examples of this design style.
22. The Sound of Silence
More than any other level in the set, this is the one that got me designing heavily again. After releasing the update to UC5, I really didn't have any more ideas for levels. Sure, I built the stray level here and there, but it seemed unlikely I'd have a large CC1 release again. After a couple months of downtime, I tried designing some levels meant for time trials, to varying degrees of success. But even that didn't really get anywhere, and roughly 6 months after the UC5 update, I had maybe a dozen levels. For comparison, I've built more than that in the past few weeks! Anyway, CCLP4 construction was ongoing at the time- I think voting had just opened, and I'd spent a lot of time playtesting the submission pool alongside the rest of the staff. And then, Idle Contrast by Eddy came up as a topic of discussion. Was it better or worse than Suspended Animation, which used the concept of trapped monsters springing to life first? Was it too simple? Was Suspended Animation too complex? Why was there no middle ground? Well, I decided to try my hand at designing that concept with the goal of settling the debate. In favor of my own newly design level, of course
I started with the ball rooms where you start- I figured the best way to immediately communicate that this used the Suspended Animation concept was to have a visible exit blocked by trapped monsters, in a room that would allow passage if they started moving. From there the level built off naturally, with various challenges, connections and revisits. By far the hardest part was getting the controller/boss glitch to cooperate. If you look at the bottom right, when the tanks switch the pink balls can start moving, alternating directions every move. This conveniently matches the 5 moves between traps for the paramecia on the left side. The bugs were even trickier, and required some careful tuning of locations and sliding tiles, controller by the fireballs on the bottom left. The ice makes sure they alternate facing up and right when the bugs try to move. Finally, the teeth was the hardest of all- I needed 2 teeth, as only one would have it be released in the opposite direction. Even still, I couldn't find a way to make the teeth release in any direction, so I settled for just up/down.
I'm really happy with how the flow of this level turned out, and even though it uses an existing concept, I think I changed enough and added my own flavor to it to be an original level. Besides, did the monsters ever... stop moving in the original?
23. What Lies Beneath
And now, another level that was used for a time trial! Unlike the other time trial levels in this set, I didn't intend for this to be one. I just built another maze where the walls could be pushed (and had to be in the outside areas) hid 4 chips under blocks that lined up with the pattern (not required, of course) and noticed that it would probably be quite interesting to optimize. Well, it was, and Miika ended up sniping first by 2 seconds
This is probably my favorite maze level that I've ever designed.
24. A Glide Amongst the Clouds
Late in construction, I realized I didn't have a glider level yet! So I made one. The ending underwent a lot of changes, and I went back and forth on if 2 gliders were fair in that toggle room, but ultimately decided that yes, they were. One was too easy, anyway. Other than the ending, it's just some cloning to disrupt and some simple dodging. Enjoyable enough, but not really standout.
25. To the Dungeons!
Alright, you back? Great. I'm sure you can see the obvious inspirations, with traps, layout, unreachable objects, and a leap of faith for that blue key. By far my favorite part of this level is the bottom right- the force floors spice up some otherwise simple ball dodging, and the single block manipulation of 2 gliders is . Also, that's going to become a recurring theme here...
26. A Wish Upon a Distant Blob
Obligatory blob level but more interesting than the obligatory walker level. The lower left can be a little mean, but with the right strategy it doesn't actually take very much luck to complete. The middle section has a minor bust, but I'm okay with its existence. Overall, this level has some really weird moments and I think it succeeds as a blob level. Time limit is 436, the current bold to Blobnet.
27. Uphill Battle
Hi I like hand-built block shuffling puzzles and you can't adapt them with ice or force floors and there's a gotcha/minor shift in style right at the end and I really really like this level. The force floor puzzle in particular, as it's half sardine can, half "how is this even possible" until you use the force floors to your full advantage. Another of my absolute favorites from the set.
28. Demolitions Expert
Yet another time trial level- we're running out of those
This one was paired with Red, Brown and Red and uses gliders as a counterpoint to the fireball cloner. It can get a little out of hand with routing, but ultimately I think it succeeded as a reasonable optimization challenge. Especially because everybody missed something sizable here. I couldn't figure out a way to clone all the gliders at once, and both Miika and Ruben missed the method of using only 5 red locks instead of all of them! I'm still surprised at this, as I specifically designed that in as a shortcut and I thought it was obvious... anyway, building the layouts was quite difficult to keep them rotationally symmetric and nontrivial, but also hard to cook.
Just a fun little monster dodging collection level with a blob and teeth that can wreak havoc if released early, but screw up fast routes if released late. Have fun J.B.!
30. Dissonance Amid the Storm
Title taken from Touhou 14's Stage 4 title. Random force floors look quite nice, and using them as a path for hidden walls I thought was a really neat idea. Mostly, those paths just break up some precise running from monster in varied arrangements. Oh, and there's a joke at the players' expense here with the teeth.
Another 15 bits of behind the scenes knowledge tomorrow, probably!
Unless I'm too busy with a tournament. Or practicing for said tournament. Or working on CCLP4. Or working on Ape Escape time attacks. Or job hunting. Or relaxing. Or level designing. Or playing FF9. Or working on my backlog. Or coming up with more "or [activity]" phrases to include here...