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Pit of 100 Tiles Developer's Commentary, part 4 (Levels 31-40)



Level 31


(CCLP1 Level 135!)



One design idea I always thought CC1 overlooked was using tanks to push tank buttons, thus making them constantly move back and forth like pink balls. (Yes, I know Paranoia involves tanks pushing tank buttons, but it's not a constant back-and-forth and I never got that far back then in CC1 anyway.) So, in Levelset 1, I made this Level 17 called CULPRIT (in all caps for no good reason; no, I did not name all my other levels in caps) that was basically a simple tank dodging level, similar to the middle column of the final product, where one of the tanks far from the start was pushing buttons controlling the rest of the tanks. I can't quite remember whether I was actually smart enough to make it so you couldn't stop the whole mechanism by just pressing one button while the tank hit the other....


Anyway, I liked the concept enough to bring it back in Tiles 200, where I thought of a few things to add--the long line of tanks preventing you from exiting until they're stopped, the upper-left area with the tanks arranged so you can only go through each row in one direction *coughIactuallyscrewedthatupandthere'senoughtimetogothroughbothways* and the icy tank section inspired by Think Tank's southeast corner. Oh, and I added force floors above the bottom tank so that you could only stop it using a block, not by pressing the buttons yourself. The Pit of 100 Tiles version is very similar to the Tiles 200 version. It was originally going to be Level 17 as a throwback to my first set, but I moved it to 31 since it was rather difficult for the teens.


In both the Tiles 200 and Po100T versions, I made sure to leave room at the bottom of the level for you to turn the block. Back then taking the block through the middle column of tanks was a bit of a harrowing experience for me, and it would have been even tougher if I couldn't take the block along the side walls while going through there. I'm not sure if adding the hint (saying that there's room to extract the block from the side when it reaches the bottom) was totally necessary for CCLP1, since it seems like a reasonable thing the player would assume, or at least check for, while they're getting the chips down there. Oh well, I guess as long as it helps some people, it's fine.


I'm quite pleased that the "culprit" tank was given plot relevance in CCLP1's storyline! :)




Level 32




I'm always happy when I can make pure puzzles like these that don't feel like a drag to play and don't feel like a rehash of an overused concept. I got this idea from a college class called "Discrete Structures" (basically discrete math, but taught by the CS department) where we learned about Boolean logic, set theory, induction proofs, and combinatorics. The "combinations" in the title refers to the combinations of boots that you have to choose to solve the rooms. There's one room requiring each possible combination (including the no-boot combination and the all-boots combination), and there's no guesswork--each room has only one solution. (It wasn't actually too hard to build each room to have only one solution, though I had to write down the solutions on a piece of paper as I went to make sure I didn't reuse a combination.)


Note that there's a little indent into each room to allow you to see the whole thing from outside before you step on the recessed wall. I think that this level is one of the largest difficulty spikes in the set since it's rather long, can be deceptive (such as the no-boot room which may not be immediately evident), and gives zero margin for error--every boot is needed. However, since each room can be worked out individually and the overall goal of the level is pretty clear, I considered it acceptable.


Since we usually count combinations only of a specific number of items out of a specific larger set of items, maybe "Subsets" or "Power Set" would have been a more appropriate name for this level, but I didn't think of it at the time....




Level 33

"Think Outside the Block"



Well, I decided to make a block bridging themed level, and put it in the On the Rocks slot because reasons. The real inspiration for this level was Obstacle Course in CCLP3, which reqiured me to build a bridge from part of the level to a previous part of the level that was too far away to see in order to get more blocks to use. Well, I decided to revisit this concept but hopefully make it a bit clearer (through the name) what the player had to do. Other than that, the first two rooms are pretty random, and I'm a bit proud of the third room (the 1-block-per-item room). I guess this level could be accused of sticking a few toes over the line of the "no guesswork" design philosophy.


I'm super surprised the title wasn't taken in any of the sets I played before making this level, since it seemed like such an obvious pun....




Level 34

"Paramecium Palace"

(CCLP1 Level 107!)



The inspiration for this level is a very silly Levelset 1 level. It was called "Promenading Paramecia" and it involved a few instances of a bug and paramecium walking around the outside of a room in opposite directions, meeting up in the middle and walking side by side up the center, sort of like this:


I guess I imagined the para and bug dancing with each other to the tune of the MSCC music or something. Anyway, I thought it was kind of cute but not really challenging, and planned to remake it for Tiles 200. However, before I even started, I realized that there was a massive problem. Promenading Paramecia had worked when I playtested it in Levelset 1, but I had only playtested it in Lynx mode (I liked it much, much better than MS back then because animations were cool)! In MS mode, the concept would always fall apart since one of the insects would have to move first and the other would step out of line instead of following alongside. Thus, I had no choice but to scrap the concept.


But I liked the idea of a bug/paramecium couple, so I decided they could be king and queen in a palace filled with their fellow noblebugs and servants! From there came the idea of a moat filled with glider-sharks and a small "forest" of blue walls that you had to traverse for some blocks. Then I just added some rooms to the palace and some locked doors, and made the "throne" out of traps, and the level was pretty much done. The only real original concept inside the palace was the pair of "Push the block and RUN!" hallways adjoining the throne room, something that I had originally planned to make an entire level out of but never got around to doing.


Don't ask me why I used so much fire as decorative walls; I know it doesn't make a super huge amount of sense. Maybe to make the monsters seem more evil...? Anyway, I kept in a little of the old Promenading Paramecia aesthetic with the bug and paramecium that walk side by side in the lower-left room of the palace around those blue walls.


Overall, I'm very happy with how this level turned out, and quite proud of its inclusion into CCLP1. One little thin I think is weird about this level is that when I require you to walk through the fire on the left side, the bugs in that tiny room are out of your way, but in the equivalent room on the right side, you have to dodge them. Arbitrary asymmetry >_>



Level 35

"Difficulty Switch"



This one is, as the name indicates, based on the concept of difficulty settings in games. I've always thought difficulty settings are a good idea since they add a bit of replay value and make the game accessible and interesting to a wider audience. Anyway, here I implemented difficulty settings by letting the player set the frequency at which the toggle doors and tanks switch throughout the level. The player does this by pressing a red button, which triggers some blocks to clone to knock a fireball into an alcove where it bounces between the two switches. The depressions are larger (making the switching happen slower) further away from where the fireball starts. Oddly, in my first iteration of the level, I had the red button trigger a stream of ball cloning from the right side of the passage to deflect the fireball instead, but it proved highly unreliable (especially in Lynx) and took up more space. The image below shows what it looked like:


This level is where the ice/toggle wall timing challenge I mentioned in Four Corners (Level 11) first returns, and most people seemed to dislike it here. I understand why completely. If you step towards a toggle wall, often it will be solid when you slide into it, and the wall you came from will be solid when you bounce back to it, etc. until Chip eventually lands on one side or the other. Annoying waste of time. In retrospect, I think my biggest error when designing this section was putting the toggle walls so far away that you couldn't see the next one from where you were.


The bug section in the upper right was entirely experimental. I put the bugs and toggle walls down, not really knowing how I could expect them to behave. Fortunately, they turned out to be pretty manageable to deal with.


I think the most dangerous (and exciting!) part of the level is snatching those two chips (at (2, 13) and (2, 18)) away from the tank moving vertically in the center of the force floor loop.


The reason for those four toggle walls at (8, 3) to (9, 4) is to hopefully prevent you from running too far and slamming into a tank or onto the force floors out of there after sidestepping off the force floor leading to that area.




Level 36

"36 Cell"



When I made 25 Cell, I didn't originally intend it to be a series. After playing it a bit, though, I decided to make a larger version called "64 Cell" and put it in the level 64 slot. However, I...got a bit impatient waiting to design all the levels before it (for some reason I didn't want to make it out of order) and decided to make Cell levels for the perfect squares in between--36 and 49. I thought that if I kept only the elements from 25 Cell (chips, force floors, and monsters), the Cell concept might get a bit stale, but I didn't want to make 36 Cell too different from its predecessor, so I only added a few new elements (two colors of keys, a pair of teleports, and some rooms with a diagonal wall down the center). The later Cell levels would include more elements. I think I originally set the time limit to 400 or something not-too-special, but quickly decided to go with the level's theme and set it to 360.




Level 37

"Cross Over"



This is very similar to a Levelset 1 level I made. I can't remember its name exactly, but I think it might have been "Crossover". Anyway, the inspiration for that level was Blink from CC1. I liked the aesthetic of 4-way intersections with a slippery tile in the middle, but didn't want to go through the trouble of planning out a teleport maze, so younger me kept it simple and used ice instead.


At first I thought the idea was a bit unexciting for Po100T, but decided to put a little spin on the concept: I would make it so that the player had to find a specific place to "cross over" between two halves of the maze. That is, for most ice intersections, if the player could currently cross it horizontally, the player would then have to walk through the crossover point to be able to cross it vertically. (The crossover point is the bottom-right corner of the map, in case you're curious.) Thus, the title had a double meaning: The paths crossed over each other, and the player had to cross over from one half of the maze to the other in order to solve it!




Level 38




If Combinations is a difficulty spike, this is a freaking difficulty thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole! The punny title inspired this level concept: you have to figure out where to use your keys to get the most chips (and, in many cases, more keys to keep yourself going). This level turned out slightly differently in Po100T as compared to Tiles 200, but both had the cross shape, designed to let you see every room before you have to spend any keys.


Anyway, I think this level is incredibly difficult for its place because of the huge number of choices available and the fact that it's extremely strict. (It's only possible to just get enough chips and have one key left to exit with). However, I purposely designed the level (both times I built it) to be solvable using a few heuristics, if you can discover them:

1) Red keys are the least valuable key type, then blue, then yellow. What I mean is, trading a blue key for a red and nothing else is always wrong, while the inverse is always correct, and both yellow keys in the level are required.

2) The green key is a bad idea! Don't get it! (I put it there just because I figured everyone would expect there to be a green key in a level like this, but I thought it would be too obvious if it were necessary for the solution, so it's a trap.)


I did consider moving this level to the 60s at some point shortly after Po100T's release (and I think maybe even that's too low of a position!) but I didn't get many complaints about its difficulty, so I decided to leave it in place.




Level 39


(CCLP1 Level 58...)



I wanted to make a level all about trapping monsters, somewhat inspired by JezzBall (a member, alongside Chip's Challenge, of the Windows Entertainment Pack that was installed on the computer I played on back in the late 90s). So I came up with this level where blobs wander around open space and you have a large number of blocks at your disposal to trap them with. Admittedly, most of the rooms are so huge that trapping the blobs may be more effort than it's really worth, but I personally am willing to take any risk-free opportunities to get around random monsters....


Out of my CCLP1 entries, I think this is one of the weaker ones. It has quite a few more rooms than needed to get the concept across, and it's extremely easy to cook the level at the end if you're not careful (i.e., you're preparing to trap the blob with the final few blocks but it goes the wrong way and you push the block before you can stop yourself, thereby sealing off the only safe path to the exit).




Level 40




What a messy looking level! (But it was made like that on purpose, so I don't see it as a bad thing.) Just an odd idea I had. The title refers to the fact that you have to be brave and take advantage of gaps in the monster streams to get by, since the collisions, while not actually random, are quite hard to predict when you're playing casually. Because the collisions play out the same way every time, I did put a time limit in this level.


Originally, the level was called "Risks", another fitting title, but I thought "Courage" sounded a bit more uplifting.




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