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Blog Entries posted by M11k4

  1. M11k4
    ...which you might have known if you've been paying attention. I had a good clean break of one year from this game, and now I plan on hanging around for a bit again.
    It's nice to be back. I see most of you are still here and even some new people have joined the mix. That's great! If our community wants to survive for another decade, we need new blood. Do hang around for a year or two, and maybe a couple of you will stay for longer. And for those that feel they've had a good time but need to move onto other things, do take a minute and say good bye. You'll always be welcome back!
    Last year I got a new job and moved to another country. It was good to have a break from CC. Things have settled down a bit now, and it's good to not be away anymore. However, I'm going to try to manage my time and efforts better than I have in the past. There are simply so many interesting things to do in the CCverse that I will need some focus to get anything done without having it overwhelm my life. Mainly this means I won't be optimizing the official sets as much as I'd like but will rather try to chat and create content here. It's very likely you'll still see an occasional score report from me, and in particular working together with other people on problematic levels is something I'll gladly be doing.
    I was going to list some of my goals and plans for the coming year, but now I feel like any such list would be lacking as I haven't yet totally caught up with everything in my mind. I did read my previous blog post and was happy to see I did most of the things I was hoping to do last spring. I would like to post on this blog about once a month if I can find the time. I would like to finish CC2; so far I have played half the levels. Of course I also need to sort out my scores and totals on the official sets, even without any improvements. I'll definitely be running some competitions and judging them, even though those always take up a good chunk of my available time. I haven't decided on what I will do with CCLP4 voting, but at least I'll keep an eye open. (To clarify, I don't know if I will vote on all the levels this time.) Finally, I have a ridiculously long back-log of semi-interesting semi-important projects that I'll try to wade through every once in a while.
    Thanks for having me back. Let's have a great time again!
  2. M11k4
    CCLP1 is old news. A cry goes out in the night: What next?!! It's good for us as a community to produce something together. Granted, it is not easy to work together, but so far the sets that have resulted from community collaboration have been well worth the effort. So what is the next project we should embark on together? Below are a few options.
    CCLP2 Lynx
    So this project is nearing its end, as the release date has been announced as August 9th. Fortunately, there are still things you can do to contribute. Stay tuned for more info upon release!
    This is the next natural set to work on as a community. However, when it will become a reality and in what form has yet to be decided. There are some who would like to get it started straight away, while others would gladly wait years before doing so. One side of the argument is that we already have tons of decent levels that just were not right for CCLP1 but could go in this set, while the other side is saying that we don't have enough new levels since the release of CCLP1 for this project to be useful just yet. Perhaps some of the staff members of CCLP1 (and CCLP3) are just worn out by the previous process, while some others are eager to be part of something communal. In the end, at this time, it is hard to say what the right next step is, as a common understanding of what goals this set should be are yet to be discussed. Is there a way for invalid tiles to make an appearance? When should the staff be assembled? Will there be teeth on level #123?? I believe these things will sort themselves out and this set will eventually happen, but it is possible some of these other ideas in this post will be finished earlier.
    Veteran Pack
    Another direction to go after CCLP1 is to make a set for experienced players. The exact difficulty of the levels in the set is not set in stone, but it could match the hardest ones from CCLP3. Having this set would open up CCLP4 to be easier, while still finding something for the audience who cares for difficult puzzles. I think this set would work with as few as a dozen levels. It could have a sequel every two or three years. I also imagine that there could be a ban on releasing solutions to the levels, so that solving the set would really be a challenge and a badge of honor. A major issue that should be addressed as soon as possible would be to settle upon a good name for this set. It should be succinct, different from CCLPn, and still be immediately descriptive. Post your suggestions below!
    CCLP3 for dummies
    This is a fun idea that I like a lot. The concept is to take a bunch of high concept levels, break down the key concepts and build them up again into something that a beginner could solve. In other words, take each level of CCLP3 and dumb it down. I think the key for this project to work would be to act more as a homage to CCLP3 by people who love that set, rather than just making fun of how difficult it is overall. It's hard to say if this will ever happen, but it would be fun to see a few levels designed in this vein. This is also another project where we could experiment with a different way to compile a community made set other than just voting from a large pool of candidates.
    Over the years many levels have been made for the competitions here at CC Zone. I feel many great levels in those competitions are sadly soon forgotten. They are of course still available in the collected sets, but the presentation there is different from normal. Those collections do not provide a narrative or a difficulty curve, as they just lump together levels mostly chronologically. On the positive side, we now have the option to take a look at those levels again and try to see when we would have a critical mass of levels needed to build a new set from them. I imagine that point has not yet been reached, but perhaps soon we could attempt to select about 50 levels and create something cool. Stay tuned, and keep submitting your creations to the competitions! Remember, you can also try to make a Time Trial or Treasure Hunt level, and someone on the staff can use your level in a competition.
    Secret Project
    I can't say much about this one. If you want to be part of it, just hope you are in the right place at the right time. Deadline for this thing is way, way in the future, so don't expect it and it might just manage to surprise you. (Okay, a short hint: tentacle cornea)
    So by almost all fronts, CCLP1 was a success. I think a lot of this had to do with two things. First, the set had a clear goal in mind, and everyone knew what it was. Second, the set went back to the basics and emphasized the core of what is Chip's Challenge. Is the correct next step for us as a community to make an extra difficult CCLP4 after this success? I don't think so. Either CCLP4 has to be much easier than CCLP3, or else we need to make something else first. The name of this set hints at the idea that it would be even simpler than CCLP1. Or it could just be at the same difficulty level, but in an alternate universe. The point is that we still have a decent name to use for another set full of simple levels. So don't be afraid to make more fun and easy levels!
    Something Completely Different
    I am by no means a master of knowing how the wind turns, so I don't pretend to know how the community feels in five years, or what the next community project should really be. Perhaps someone already has a collaboration in the works that I have no idea about. What project would you like to see happen? How do you think we should keep compiling new sets for others to play? I feel that the way to make the next sets we produce together great, is to have some good discussion about them as well as some hard work. Talk more! And then go grab a friend and start experimenting with ideas for what would make you happy. Let's see what we all come up with!
  3. M11k4
    It took me quite some time to learn the ins and outs of how to best use tws-files in Tile World. Wait a second, what are tws-files, you might ask?? Well, I'm glad you did, since I'll write a quick guide to get you started!
    TWS apparently stands for Tile World Solution, and it is the file extension used by Tile World to automatically save all solutions to levels. You can then replay your solutions or share them with others. To understand them a bit we have to back up and briefly discuss DAC-files. Wait what?? Ok, let's first look at an example without these DAC-files.
    So if you look at the folder structure in your folder containing Tile World, you should find at least the subfolders called data, save, and sets. Now say you download a new custom set to play, called Not_CCLP1.dat, you might save it in the sets folder, right? Well, this works, and while it's not the best way to do it, for our example, this is exactly what we do. Next, when you open Tile World, it will have a set called Not_CCLP1.dat in the list of sets you can play. So basically Tile World looks in the sets-folder for any sets it can play. If you now open it you can play the levels in MS mode. Now a new file called Not_CCLP1.tws will appear in your save-folder. Notice the file extension tws added without the extension dat. If you share this file with others, they can view your solutions as long as they have the same setup of files. The solution file does not save the levels, but only the moves you make (and the random seed used) to solve the level. Attempts that do not solve a level are not saved. The file also remembers which passwords you had known. If the original set is updated, the solutions are not lost, but obviously they might not work any longer. However, the tws-file recognizes levels by their passwords, so if you change any password in a set, you run the risk of not being able to match the solution to the level again.
    To get more flexibility out of your files, you should use DAC-files. Basically a DAC-file in the sets-folder tells Tile World to use a file in the data-folder as a set to play. So instead of putting our Not_CCLP1.dat in sets, we put it in data, and create a text file with the text "file=Not_CCLP1.dat" and save it with any name, like Not_CCLP1-ms.dac. (Note that the file extension is DAC, not TXT.) Now the tws file that is created in the save-folder is called Not_CCLP1-ms.dac.tws. Notice that the "dac" is included in this name. The DAC-file allows you to give Tile World other instructions too. The main one might be allowing you to play in lynx mode, by including the text "ruleset=lynx" in the file. Other possible commands are "lastlevel=144" and "usepasswords=no". The contents of a dac-file have no effect on the tws file, (except for which passwords might be shown I assume).
    Those are the basics. You should go and test it for yourself. If you have any trouble, ask about it in the comments below, since chances are someone else will face the same situation. Here are a few more advanced things to try if you want:
    1) Multiple dac-files can link to a single set. Basically you can play both ms and lynx with one set in the data-folder and make dac-files for both rule sets. Or you can have multiple users with their own saves of the same sets.
    2) You can save multiple copies of a tws and still view them in Tile World. To do this, make copy of your tws, like Not_CCLP1.dac.tws renamed as Not_CCLP1-ms.dac.old.tws, and keep both files in the save-folder. Now in Tile World 2.0, you can select which of the solution files you are using by selecting Solution Files... from the menu (or pressing Ctrl+S in older versions). The key thing here is to have the same file name upto the start of the ".tws" of the original file, otherwise only that original file will appear as a choice.
    3) You can extract single solutions, or sets of solutions from a tws-file using the program Solex. It's available at Tile World's own site: http://www.muppetlab...d/download.html Ask if you have trouble using it!
    4) Things you can't do include combining solutions from different files into one, or renaming both a dac-file and tws-file and still keep them working. These are things that can be done if you dig deeper into the files, but not just with the simple tools available.
    A final disclaimer: future versions of Tile World might change some of the details listed here, but most likely any of your solutions will be still viewable with some method. Have fun sharing your solutions (or watching them yourself)!
    P.S. This is the second blog post I'm writing today, so you might have missed the first one. Check it out too!
  4. M11k4
    So last time we discussed some principles we want to follow in creating an edition of CCLP2 for Lynx. Now I'll fill you all in on some basic issues that need to be considered before the bulk of the practical work can be done.
    Our primary goal is to make the set accessible and fun for players who want to play the set in Lynx. This main goal needs to be approached through the principles outlined last time, bringing forth issues that open up into several directions that we could take and the philosophy of how to proceed. These were discussed in a team and for each we chose a path to follow, leading to the following goals and guidelines for the rest of this project:
    1) Do we need the permission of the designers to do anything?

    Yes, we want to contact all the original designers we possibly can. If some of them do not want their levels included in this release, then they will not be. We want to cater to their wishes also in informing them of the types of changes we propose to their levels and allow them to be involved in the process if they so wish.  
    2) What are we willing to do with the levels? Why exactly do we want to change levels?

    We want to leave a level untouched when possible. Our goal is not to go back and make the existing levels better or more to our liking just because we could. Many of the levels already work in Lynx, and there is no need to change them from a solvability point of view. Admittedly, some levels are what would now be called "unequal" in both difficulty and possible logical approaches, but this is more of a concern for new sets than for CCLP2. Here, these are more of a richness and signature, than an issue we need to set right. This also means we are not setting out to fix busts in levels, but rather leave these in as they are. (There are less Lynx busts in the set than MS busts.)  
    3) What types of changes are we willing and looking to make?

    We wish to alter levels so that they work in Lynx in a way that does not affect the MS player. This is not possible for all the levels, but luckily it can be done for some levels. Measuring how well this goal is achieved is not simple, but one way is to compare how the level plays in MS in both the original and the altered version. When possible, it is preferable that at least the fastest known route could be kept intact in such a way that the altered level is not possible to be solved any quicker than the original. We also want to be careful not to introduce new types of busts only for Lynx to any levels, so while the solution may look different in Lynx than MS, the concept for the solutions should stay similar.  
    4) Will all the levels be made to work in Lynx?

    Some levels just do not stretch enough to both convert for Lynx while leaving the MS experience intact in a satisfactory way. The reasonable possibilities here are to simply identify these levels as not solvable in Lynx, or alter them to be solvable in Lynx in a way that keeps the basic structure of the level intact even if it alters the MS experience, or to create completely new levels to fill these holes, perhaps in a way that thematically references the originals. Of these three options, in our opinion the middle one seems more in tune with both creating a full Lynx play experience and honoring the original MS set, so we have leaned towards that direction.  
    5) Will changes be made to any of the levels that already can be solved in Lynx?

    We want to examine the solvable levels for "high unequalness" between rulesets and address these issues on a case by case basis. Though this might seem to go against leaving a level untouched when possible, it is also unwise to not take a look at these levels and see if changes are needed. After all, for the normal player there is very little that sets apart an unsolvable level from one that can be solved only by using some elaborate scheme or unreasonable skill in the face of some unfortunate ruleset behavioral difference in a level.  
    6) How will the altered levels work in MS? Is there a threat of having "new records" set in MS due to the changes?

    As stated above, the main objective criteria we can use to measure the success of a proposed change is to compare the MS routes between the original and altered version of the level. Most of the levels can receive edits that do not influence the highest possible score obtainable in MS. Some changes that cause the best possible time in MS to not be as good as in the original may also be accepted. For levels that have larger changes made to them, such that the best route in MS might require fresh analysis, we opt to make these levels unsolvable in MS. This will highlight the degree of changes made to the level, and eliminates the concerns for someone to feel the need or even accidentally optimize these in MS, possibly creating non-standard records for these levels.  
    7) What other issues are there? How much work is still left?

    There are other issues that need to be addressed and some that might still not have surfaced. Where will we host the final product? What is the name of this release? How will the changed levels be identified from the ones that stay unaltered? Will there be a high score table? Can we add a ccx-file that expands the story? When will this be released? How awesome will it be? We know the answer to some of these, and are working on the others. As stated in the previous post, the goal now is to open up the discussion to include anyone else who might be interested in having a say in these things. Hopefully everything will gel and once we are ready to release it, it will be great.  
    Up next is an update on the status of the practical work that has been done, what needs to be done, and how we all can help bring this thing together. We can't wait to share some of the levels with everyone! Before we sign off, however, we want to stress again that we are not looking to replace the original set in any way. We are not working to supplant CCLP2; at the most this project could be a supplement to it. If done the right way, it can hopefully even draw attention to the MS playing of the set, and everyone wins.
    Thanks again, and may you not be cornered by Teeth!
    On behalf of the CCLP2 Lynx Team,
    -Miika Toukola
  5. M11k4
    This is not how this blog is supposed to go. I'm not surprised nor do I need to apologize for the long lapse in new entries, but just so you know that's not what I intended or intend from here on either.
    So the natural thing to post about now is what I've been upto in the last half a year or so. The answer is not much and a lot at the same time.
    I've played through some custom sets, most of which I have commented on in the forums. I have really enjoyed many of the levels that will likely see the light of day in CCLP1 as well. I do wish I had more time to explore some of the older classic sets that I never played.
    I also took some time to release my first level set. It's called kidsfair.ccl and can be found in the download section. As with any designer, I would love to hear any feedback or experiences you have with those levels. (So is far I haven't really heard anything.) I do intend on updating a few of them, both for more enjoyable game play and better execution of some concept.
    I bought a headset with a microphone, so I'm planning on filming some of my CC playing with comments and uploading it on Youtube. Stay tuned for more information as the year progresses :-) Any requests or suggestions regarding this?
    I'm also looking to get some work done on a lynxified version of CCLP2, but for some reason that project has been stagnant for the time being. I'm sure it's time will come, but it's not here quite yet.
    I also really want to get back to optimizing CCLP3. I've worked on a couple of the levels in the past week or so, but I still have like twenty levels left, most of them in the 100+ area. Those levels just take so much work, and in the end it's even likely that the public route is about the same was what I come up with. I'm going to try to do it anyway, and in both ms and lynx. That does take some extra effort, but I've come to like working on a level in two different rules and spotting the small differences they create. Maybe others are interested I could write something short opinions on each of the levels and their best routes, and stuff like that here as a continued feature. Would you read that?
    P.S. If this post gets three comments before my next entry, I'll write two entries within a week!
  6. M11k4
    Sometimes time just flies by. I don't feel like writing a real blog entry, so I'm just going to ramble on about anything that comes to mind. It's been a tough month in real life, and it's good to relax with an old friend like Chip from time to time.
    I was going to talk about the ten year anniversary of CCLP2. Wow! That's quite a while ago! How many community members were around back then that are still active? Not too many, which means we've still managed to gain new members, including myself. In the next ten years, it'll be interesting to see how many of the levels still have room for improvement. As for the community, I hope we only grow larger, and I see no real reason not to.
    I also had some thoughts about the competition formats here on CC Zone, but I'll see if I can go into more detail next time. Too bad there was no time trial this month. As there were two levels last month, I suspect the staff did have something planned since they didn't save the other one for later. Hopefully there is one next month, or I suspect players will lose interest. Luckily the treasure hunter competition has made up for it this month. Finding the best way to collect as many chips as possible in the time given felt a lot like a time trial level. At least it felt very different from the first one, which is a good thing. I also like how the create competitions seem to have stricter quidelines than in previous years. I didn't have time to participate in that one this time around, though.
    Talking about having time to design levels, if I had any, I would try to make some simple ones to submit for CCLP1. I have a few levels, like twenty or so, that I've made for my six-year-old daughter to play, which could be modified for wider release. She also drew some of her own ideas on paper and then we built them together in an editor. That was fun. If only the deadline were two months away, I might have time to work on some new levels as well. I guess many players just create levels really fast. I can't do that at all!
    I played through Ida4.dat again, since it had some new levels added. That was enjoyable, though some of the levels were longer and more involved than I remembered. Many nice ideas there though. I have to go and give some feedback on the set as soon as I can. Also been playing through JoshL1, BHLS2, and geodave3. I really hate it when there is even a single really annoying level in a set that is almost impossible to complete. It denies me the feeling of completing a set, or having accomplished something. Luckily all these sets have some nice levels as well. If I ever finish any of them, I'll try to write some sort of review.
    Chip till next time,
  7. M11k4
    So what did I do in January regarding Chip's Challenge?
    One of the first CC related actions I took this year, was to sign up to a cool new forum I found. Since you're reading this post, I'd venture a guess that you've found said forum yourself. The activity on here has been incredible! We've had more than a thousand posts per week! And some of those have even been about Chip's Challenge
    During the first week I worked on finding some levels in CCLP2 that could be modified for Lynx play while changing as little as possible. I'll probably be sharing more thoughts on this subject in the future, so I won't say more quite yet.
    I also played some CCLP3 in Lynx. I had been saving the last thirty levels for a while. It felt great to play the same levels again that I had just worked on exactly a year ago, except this time in a different format. It was nice to spot some small differences in between how the levels worked between the two rulesets. So finally during the third week I managed to solve the whole set! My score is 6,030,400 but there's a lot of levels I could go back and optimize. I only played through them casually and plan on going back to optimize if someone else actually starts posting competative scores.
    Then I built a level! I haven't touched a blank page in an editor since CCLP3 came out, so it was about time to try doing that again. I was inspired by a conversation on the newsgroup about block slapping, so I guess I needed a little nudge to get back to building stuff. Now that I've mentioned it, I'll have to share it with you guys as soon as possible. I'll see if I can do that this month, and then I'll talk more about it and the other levels I've made. Hopefully I can find about ten that are worth releasing.
    And pieguy posted new records for the original levels. Yes, you read that right, not just one record, but the plural with an s! Incredible. Let's see someone else match that, even for CCLP2.
    I also recorded some avis for levels in CCLP3. You can get them on Mike's site, but here's a link to all of them at once: http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?r1pdq6197hrr95c They are mostly alternate bold routes to levels that already had their bolds made public. It would be interesting to see if someone else has still found other routes that score the same on some of these levels (like Pac Man).
    Amidst doing that, I took a look at the new CC Zone time trial and treasure hunter competitions. Man, that was quite fun as well! The treasure hunt was fun, and the time trial levels were just the right difficulty. I didn't get an idea for a level to enter into the create competition untill the very end of the month. Can't wait to hear the results from that or see the other entries! And of course it will be fun to try out the new ones this month as well. Hopefully lots of people enter all the competitions.
    Now that I wrote all that, I really wonder where I found the time to do it all? Looking back, I don't really know, particularly since I mainly procrastinated for the last week in the month. It's been a crazy start to the year. Here's for hoping it won't get much worse!
    Next time, I'll be thinking about the competition formats, but maybe writing about that topic will have to make way for something more current. See you around! And leave comments!
    Where did I find the time to do that? Looking back, I don't really know. It's been a crazy start to the year. Here's for hoping it won't get much worse!
  8. M11k4
    This word just started this sentence which starts this blog. This one doesn't.
    Anyway, welcome to the wonderful world of being subjected to my thoughts on playing, designing, talking, optimizing, thinking, eating, sleeping, playing again, watching, competing, agonizing, winning, managing, playing, and of course enjoying Chip's Challenge!
    And with that, I'm off to bed.
  9. M11k4
    I was trying to come up with a list of my favorite levels, but realized that it's really hard to do because I like different levels for different reasons. There are levels I enjoy playing through quite casually, levels that are challenging to play through, levels that are great fun to optimize, and levels that take a lot of planning to solve. I'll try to explain each of these categories in more detail the reasons I enjoy those levels. I won't list examples because each category can still contain so many different types of levels, that I don't want to restrict myself to just calling out a few past favorites. And of course it would take a lot of time :-)
    Levels I enjoy casually
    These are levels that I can just play through when I have about an half hour of spare time. They don't require a lot of thinking to solve, but I still might encounter some puzzle elements. There usually is some dodging but not so many dangerous parts that I keep dying numerous times. These levels are elegant, to the point, and most often quite short. Playing these levels just makes me happy! If a set would only have this types of levels in it, I wouldn't mind at all, and it might even be one of my favorite sets. It would even have great replay value, because once I play through them once, I won't remember them completely but can go back and enjoy them again. I'm glad to see that quite a few of the new level sets have some of these levels. These are mainly the types of levels I'm hoping to find in CCLP1.
    Levels I enjoy playing because of the challenge
    These are the levels that might take several minutes to solve even when knowing the solution. They often multiple puzzles and areas, but don't get stuck in one task. To succeed in this category, the level also has to have some design elegance, and not just be a mess of convoluted tile arrangements. I need to see some design skills! Sometimes a level can have some overarching theme that tie several different puzzles together. These levels can incorporate difficult maneuvers, but they also give the player some respite from the action to think about what needs to be done next. Many of the last quarter of levels in CCLP3 fall into this category, but playing through several of them in succession is quite a task. However, for me, this doesn't take away from the fact that as individual levels they are enjoyable and well designed.
    Levels I enjoy optimizing
    The best levels to optimize are the ones where I know I've reached the maximum. Of course then someone comes along and beats the score by one second! But that's okay, because every once in a while, I get to be that person too! Finding that one nifty trick that others have missed is a great experience! Well anyway, I find that many of the levels that are enjoyable to optimize can summed up into one word: short. If a level takes longer than two minutes to play, it's very likely that optimizing it boarders on arduous. I like to work on one level for maybe an hour or two, and if by then there's still many avenues to explore, I lose interest. Even at this shorter end of the spectrum, routes can require cleverness and insight. I really like it when I understand how a level functions and why things work. I'd assume it's difficult to set out to design a level that would be great fun to optimize, but often enough this is a side product of an otherwise fun level.
    Levels I enjoy solving
    Then there are the levels that are super hard puzzles. I love these. I don't want these levels to be filled with tricky timing or extra knobs, but rather they should translate a logic puzzle into the language of Chip's Challenge. The epitome of a level in this category is one where I can print out a map of the level, stare at it for hours and then come back and complete it with one try. (Sadly enough, this has happened.) The level shouldn't be just about block pushing, but it seems to often be a major part of these levels just by the nature of the game. There's not too many of this types of levels around, but perhaps that's only a good thing, as long as there are some. It's great to find a couple of these every year, so if you can think of a tough puzzle that works nicely as a level, please share it with me!
    In the end it's the levels that make up this game I spend a lot of my free time on, so I'm happy to notice that there are several types of levels that I like. I need all types to get my CC fix, but not all in the same quantity. Thanks to everyone out there who has managed to create enjoyable levels for me to play!
    Next week I'm going talk about the things I've been up to since the new year with Chip's Challenge.
  10. M11k4
    I have to get to a few thoughts about running competitions such as the ones here on CC Zone, which currently are the Time Trial, Treasure Hunter, and Create Competition. As I haven't made any notes before hand, I'm sure I'll forget something, but at least I'll hit the main points I've been thinking about. I won't say anything about the Chip Cup or scoring systems yet, because it's hard to judge the merits well with only a couple months worth of experience under the belt so far.
    First off, I feel it's a great idea to hold these competitions! It keeps the community together, allows for interaction that arises naturally from the game we love, and is just simply fun. The competition formats are a bit varied also, so different types of players can participate in the ones they like the most. And there's no pressure to win (though of course that's fun too), but the focus can be on the participation.
    The basic competition is of course the Time Trial. I think of it as more basic than the create one, because it's easier to judge. Just make a level and people submit their times. From a organizing stand point, it is of course more work to come up with a great level (or levels) for the TT than with a good theme for create. A good time trial level should be easy enough to complete, have a quickest solution that is not easy to determine, but not utterly impossible to find or execute. This generally means people won't like random elements, or extreme boosting, or very short levels with a single trick for the best time, or extremely long and complex levels either. The balance is hard to find, but so far at least this year's levels have been superb. Often the trick is to make a level with many things going on in different directions, such that even the level's designer has no clue what the quickest approach is. There should be more than one way to solve any subpuzzle, particularly when it comes to interconnected areas. There should not be just the one obvious order in which to traverse the map.
    There are three important things that separate a Time Trial from just competing on the high score tables in some CCLP. First, there is the submission window of just a month. You have to be active when the competition is on, or you miss the chance. In normal CCLP records, this window is much longer, falling in between the release and when pieguy reports a serious score. Having this window allows for players to concentrate on a the same level in the same time and see who stumbles on the best answer in that time. A related note is that I find it a very good practice to not break ties with the submission time of an entry. This has the danger of deteriorating into a contest of who has the time to work on the level as soon as it is released. The second thing is not knowing what others have accomplished until after you are done with your own submission. This adds tremendous excitement in waiting for the results! There was a time when the competition scores were public during the competition, but I feel it's much better to keep not have them public, if only to create this distinction between any normal optimizing efforts. The worst possible thing to do is to have the whole route public during the competitions, as it totally takes away the point of finding the best approach yourself. Third, there is the requirement of sharing and publishing the best route. I realize we're still waiting for the best solutions from January, but I trust the competition staff to do that soon, and once everything is set up, the solution to future competitions will also be easier to share quicker. Of course there is a trend to share any optimized routes for any set, but some choose to keep those private to actually keep the high score tables relevant to optimizing ability instead of execution ability. Publishing the TT routes is a nice difference which gives everyone a chance to see what they missed. It would be great to even see all the submissions, if possible. A possibly simple way to do this, would be to have a hidden solutions folder where people upload their solution during the competition instead of emailing it to the staff, which would become viewable only after the competition has ended. (So players could see the folder and be able to upload solutions, but not see the files in the folder.) Overall, these aspects keep the Time Trials interesting and different enough from playing competitively in a CCLP.
    The Treasure Hunter is of course the newest format we have. This is similar to the Time Trial at least in relying heavily on the level used for the competition. The idea is not to focus so much on the time, but on collecting items. One of the main ways to establish this difference is to have a simple level to complete, but extra effort is needed to get more items. Another is to not have all the items accessible and still be able to solve the level. This second quality is harder to design. The February treasure hunter level did this by having a small time limit, but it's not the only way to go. A built in way to deny some objects would be to use pop-up walls or fewer keys than doors of a color. I'm eager to see how the level design for the Treasure Hunt will evolve. The format is a fresh change to what we've had before, and I feel keeping it distinct from the Time Trial is a big part of that in the future. One way to share the burden of building these levels (and the TT ones as well), is for the staff to ask the rest of us for level candidates to use. Personally I find this hard to do, because it will mean I can't participate in the competition myself, and I do like to keep that option open.
    The Create Competition is totally different from the other two. It requires a fully different type of participation, and the judging is very much a matter of taste. The current trend of having quite specific requirements from the levels is a good one. Many times restrictions breed creativity, and a loose theme doesn't inspire as much. I'm not sure how I feel about the "bonus" requirements. How exactly do they factor into the judging? Why not keep it simple and just have them as requirements? It would help if the judges were to share more of what things they enjoy or are looking for in the submissions, and definitely comment on past entries. For me at least, this competition takes the most time to participate in. It might be possible to keep the submissions open for two months, instead of just one, but this might put off people who design much faster. If this was ever done, there could still be a competition each month, because there's no reason to not have two competitions going on at once. At least if the competition was to design more than one level with some interconnected theme, then I would really appreciate more time than just a month. If the staff ever find it too much work to judge the entries, maybe we could try it as a poll some time? So simply release all the entries once the submission time is over, and let everyone play the levels and vote for the winner. This would be a new way to participate and would stir more feedback for the submitted levels. And one more thing before I forget: even though it might sound like critique to the format, I find the Create Competition is fun and it should always be around!
    Another thing I think should be around always are the compiled sets from the competitions. It's great to be able to see all the levels from one competition together in one set. Bringing them together allows for players to get a better sense of what has been going on, whether or not they participated in those competitions themselves. It might even work to have just a set for each competition, instead of a monthly ones like now. Like for the Time Trial, there could be a single set and new levels would be added into that instead of releasing new small sets each month. Maybe this creates some logistical problem with the submitting the solutions, but I would find it worth the effort compared to having a thousand small sets (with dac files for each) of time trial levels for every month. So if it's logistically easier to release these larger sets only every once in a while, I guess that works too.
    So in conclusion, I like the competition formats we have. They all fill a specific need or aspect of Chip's Challenge. Competing for the best times is fun and rubs our optimization inclinations. Running around collecting stuff can be very different and flavorfull. Designing and sharing levels is a big part of our community. I hope all these competitions keep running for years, and at least two every month! I'm sure the staff will have to do a lot of work for that to keep happening, and I hope they remember that they can also ask the rest of us for help from time to time. Most importantly, I want to see all players enjoying participating in these competitions, and really feel a part of this community!
  11. M11k4
    So I started a topic http://cczone.invisi...-in-my-cc-blog/ to get some idea of what others would like to read that I write. Of the first three topics I posted, this one now has four votes, and the other two have two votes each, so I'll be writing about how I was introduced to CC and then later the CC community, and how I started improving my scores. Not all my topics will come through that thread, but you should take advantage of it to tell me which topic to visit next. I'll try to add a new topic each time I use one to there should always be at least three topics that you can still pick from.
    Most stories start from the beginning, and some stories start from the end and then jump back, but I want to start this one from the middle. I had somehow heard that CCLP2 had been released, so I downloaded it, unzipped it, found the file with the levels in it, changed its name to CHIPS.DAT and renamed my old one as CHIPS.OLD and started playing! I had no clue about Tile World and didn't bother to read all the documentation that might have explained how else I could have played the levels. These were the first custom levels I ever played. I don't remember my reaction to invalid tiles or any particular level either, but I did enjoy it a lot.
    This introduction to CCLP2 wasn't right after its release in 2002, but maybe in 2004 or 2005. I didn't play through all the levels at once, but maybe thirty of them and then I kind of got side tracked and forgot about the whole thing. Then one day I was bored and I clicked on the icon on my desktop and played through a few more levels. This would go on for a few years until I finished most of the levels. Earlier I had finished all of the original levels, so towards the end I was determined to do so with these levels too! I had no maps or anything, so this wasn't a trivial task.
    I had one level left. After the Rainstorm. There was something there that I just couldn't figure out. I was had to be missing something. Maybe I hadn't stepped on all the tiles I could reach, and all I needed to do was find a hidden pair of flippers? This idea didn't lead anywhere. I then went through all the water tiles, filling each one in to see if something was hidden under the water and would reveal itself after I step on the dirt. This too turned out nothing. I had only one thing left to do, either give up or go online and look for help. I'm glad I didn't give up.
    Now why had I been able to download CCLP2 but not been interested enough to look online for other related information? I don't remember, but I do know I found lots of stuff to keep me busy! I found that I needed to use something called a 'ram' to solve After the Rainstorm. I found that there in fact was a level 145 in the original set of levels, and I had to go back and play that to be able to say I completed all of those levels too. I found scoreboards, editors, a newsgroup, tons of custom sets, and Tile World. A whole new world opened up in front of me!
    So what do I do first? I was a bit shy at first, so I didn't know what to post the the newsgroup. I looked at the long list of custom sets at pieguy's site and one jumped out at me, TomP1fixed.dat. The reason it caught my eye was that it had sequels called TomP2.dat and TomP3.dat, so if I liked the first one I could play through all three. I still didn't download an editor, and though the set has a bunch of invalid tiles, after CCLP2 I didn't complain at all. I played through the first one quite quickly. TomP2 took a bit longer, and by its end I was a bit annoyed with the invalid tiles, so I didn't move on to TomP3. Thus, I needed another set. The next one that caught my eye was KeyboardWielder.dat. Why does it have such a silly name? And why are there so many levels with very few score reports? I worked on that for about a week, maybe solving one level each day. These were very different from the levels I had seen before, and for one of them I even ended up downloading an editor so I could test some parts without playing through all of it (this was In the Line of Fire, but I still didn't want to use an editor to look at levels otherwise).
    So I reported some of these scores at pieguy's site. I had also been reading the newsgroup for a few months, which I guess is how long it took me to play to the end of TomP2. This was towards the end of summer 2009. I was soon asked about my CC1 and CCLP2 scores, so I posted those too. I had played through all those levels again after downloading Tile World, so I have no clue what times I had when I first played them. The next set I played was JL1 after it being recommended to me. It had some great puzzles and it cemented my love for this game.
    I soon began playing levels again to get a better time on them. This was particularly interesting for newly released levels, but I also practised on some older ones, like the last 40 or so levels in TomP2 (none are yet broken!). I improved my CC1 scores and learned a lot from the wiki on what optimized routes look like. I got my CCLP2 score up past 6,000,000 without outside help, and then raised it a bit more by looking at the bold solutions (I've been at about 6,020,000 since then). I wasn't able to compete in the Time Trial competitions at CC Zone because I couldn't be bothered to get a screen capturing program, but I did watch those too.
    Then CCLP3 voting came around and that was a blast! Unfortunately, we don't have time for that part of the story right now. We didn't even get to go back and see what happened in the beginning, so I'm sure I'll revisit this history stuff at another time. Until then, I would love to hear any comments you have! Has your own story had any similarities? Did something make you think I'm totally nuts? Was there something you'd like me to elaborate? Thanks for listening!
  12. M11k4
    So our internet is down but I have a bit of time here at the library, so I thought I could spend it just writing random thoughts into this blog. Not every entry needs to be one of the cool topics that people can vote on
    There have been quite the amount of new records for CC1 this year! Just incredible that this long into the games life there are still more seconds left to discover. Some of those randomness fighting levels are sick. The block pushing levels are sick in a different way. I can't really say much about this topic, except that I am astonished with every improvement that is made.
    Somehow that reminds me that I don't think I have shared my goals for CC here yet. My modest eventual goals for CC are to be in the top 20 of CC1, top 10 of CCLP2, and top 5 of CCLP3. Realistically I think I'll be in 4th place in CCLP3 (if not third) once everything settles down a bit, and at the top in lynx. We'll soon have a CC1 lynx board too, so I guess I'll have to be at the top of that too if nobody else is willing to waste their time on that side of the fence. CCLP2 lynx is a bit of a mess, but eventually that should come around too.
    Actually those are just my goals regarding the screo boards. My main goal in CC is to enjoy the time I use to play the game. Will this last for a decade or more? I really hope so, but for that to happen I have to enjoy many aspects of the game. There's the casual playing, the optimizing, the designing, and the communal side of things. I would suspect that if someone gets stuck in doing just one or two of those things, their interest in the game will eventually wear thin. So people, diversify!
    As for designing levels, I really am bad at managing my time in a way that would allow me to do some of that. I mean I have some cool ideas for levels, as I'm sure every player can have, but I lack the skills needed to be satisfied with what I actually put together in an editor. I'm sure this topic is large enough for its own blog post someday, so I won't go deeper into these thoughts today.
    I haven't done much casual playing since the summer. I've tried to work on the last levels of CCLP3 that I still only have reported initial scores. My reports should now be caught up with what I've actually played (I mean I occasionally might leave a level or two unreported), and I just broke the 6,070,000 barrier. I hope to get 10,000 more on the ten or so levels I have left. So far I have not used any outside help, well I mean very little outside help. Not that that really matters, but that's another topic in itself. I just mean that I haven't used the avi library yet to go back and improve on my own efforts to optimize the levels.
    The competitions here have come back since the summer and they have been nice. I still kind of wish more people participated. The levels have been cool. The Halloween Create Competition was something new, but it's taking some time to be judged. I guess I could run another competition but can't do that before January really.
    James also promised a blog update, but it seems to be an invisible one Of course anyone can start a blog, so why don't you?? At least the chat has livened up some. I know people talk on Facebook or Skype, but at least for me those are not options I can exploit. Thanks for those that have taken the time to chat with me!
    That's all I have time for right now. See you again some other time. Or not. Or yes. Or maybe.
  13. M11k4
    So the year 2013 is upon us! Lots of things seem to be happening in the CC world!
    The CC1 lynx board is up and running! I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception it has had. So far quite a few players have posted scores, and many have already seriously started optimizing in lynx too! I expect most of the levels to be close to optimal before the summer! Considering that the set has been out for decades, this is pretty rapid and focused progress! Though of course the library of ms routes doesn't hurt. What doesn't come across quite as evidently is if this also gets more people to play the set casually in lynx. I hope it does, and that those people will also post their casual scores. I believe this lowers the bar for others to report scores too, and eventually helps bring and keep more players in the community! So keep the score reports coming!
    Another thing that has been on my mind are the Time Trials for this Spring. I will be running them for the few coming months. I have most of the levels ready, and a few need some work, but hopefully I will have time to do that and still play test the levels before release. I'm hoping to encourage more players to participate than ever before. This means that YOU should also try out the levels! http://cczone.invisi...ccz-tt-1301ccl/ Even though I obviously made the levels, I have to say I like them. They are short and not too complex, but they still hopefully have enough variance to elect a winner. Part of this is that there are ten levels, so maybe even some of the best players will miss something on at least one level. I certainly welcome all casual solutions to the levels, as they are interesting too! There won't be this many levels next month, so don't worry! I'm going to try and make each month a bit different in its own way, so if you want to the maximum fun out of it you need to participate each month for that unique experience!
    Of course there are other things I should focus on too. One of them is a (not-so-)super-secret CCLP2 lynx project, but more on that some other time. Another is that I've always meant to go back and update the set I submitted for CCLP1, called kidsfair. I could easily write a full blog post about it, so I won't go into much detail, but basically many of the levels were not really meant for CCLP1 and many of the ones I would hope might have a chance really need some changes made to fully bring the concepts to where I wanted them to be. I bring this up now, because I heard a small rumor that CCLP1 voting shouldn't be that far away anymore... at least compared to say half a year ago.
    I guess I should also visit the topic of what kinds of goals and expectations I have for the year, as this is the first post of the year. First, I do not intend to play lots of CCLP3. I spent to much time on that during the last two years! Maybe I will thus have time to go back and look at where I stand on the CC1 and CCLP2 score boards. Hopefully I will also be able to participate in CCLP1 voting, which should be fun. And, comparing CCLP1 to the CCLP3 schedule, I have to hope that we will have a new official set out before the year is out, so that should be fun too!
    On that hopeful note, I leave you all to die by Glider. Have a good one!
    P.S. will post a new blog post quite soon!
    EDIT: just checking how the editing function works.
  14. M11k4
    Hello fellow Jellos! No, wait I meant fellow Chipsters!
    It's been quite busy here lately, hasn't it? There's news on the CCLP1 front. The competitions have kept the staff busy. The arcade has come and won the hearts of many. Tom has kept improving the awards system. The only thing missing seems to be a large volume of talking on the forums, but maybe that has moved to the chat and other such live places? At least we have some cool new blogs started!
    Life is good for a modern chipster. At least for me it has been. I haven't had time to work on going back to improving my CC1 and CCLP2 scores, but maybe later this year. I still have a few CCLP3 levels to dust off too, but not going to touch those for some time. I've also thrown around the idea of making a Let's (re)Play CC1 in Lynx, where I post all of my own best routes, but not sure if I have the time to do that, or if anyone cares any longer. I've been happy to work on the time trials this year, and those have really kept me busy. It's an incredible amount of work to make those levels, post them, keep track of the entries, post the results, update the Chip Cup standings, and upload the best solutions to Youtube. But it's fun and totally worth it. Perhaps in the summer we'll take a small break from the TTs and focus on other things. And of couse while I've been doing that, others have prepared Treasure Hunts and Create Competitions, both of which are even more popular than the time trials (and not only because I can participate in those when I'm not working on them behind the scenes). I posted that CCLP2 lynx project package to show that something is still happening with that idea. And did I mention anything about the CC1 Lynx boards? That was a cool and long-awaited addition for the community, in my opinion. (Now we just need people to actually report their full scores!) I've sampled some custom sets too, and tried to write some feedback on them to the designers. Hopefully when CCLP1 voting comes along, I'll be able to vote on most of the levels just from past familiarity. Talking of which, I really should work on updating my own submissions. I was in such a hurry to get them all released for the cut-off deadline, and really need to work on some of them.
    I thought I had much more to say than this, but I'm a bit tired and not try to squeeze out any more stuff out of my brain. And I have no clue if that's really the way the title for this post is supposed to be written. See you next time!
  15. M11k4
    Towards the end of 2011, a team of Chipsters formed to assess the need and plausibility of creating a new edition of CCLP2 for Lynx mode. We want to now issue an update on what has been slowly going on and some of the motivation for this project.
    Chip's Challenge Level Pack 2 was the first collaborative production of the Chip's Challenge community, collecting the favorite custom levels made by players for all to enjoy all in one package. Many of the levels utilized behavior of the game that were not possible in the original levels, most notably the use of layered tiles to hide objects beneath others. A scoreboard was (and is) kept and the levels are currently highly optimized. As a collaborative effort of the whole community, it is considered perhaps the most official custom set to be collected, and was followed up by CCLP3 and the forthcoming CCLP1.
    At the same time some ten years ago, the first version of Tile World was released, allowing players to emulate the Microsoft rules or, for the first time on PC, the Atari Lynx rules. The MS rules were the default that players were used to and the Lynx rules remained mostly a curiosity. However, somewhere along the way it was suggested and accepted that the next set after CCLP2 should also be made compatible with Lynx rules, slowly leading to more levels that were compatible in both modes of play. Over the years Lynx mode has gathered more and more fans, many of whom prefer the Lynx rules for their smooth animation and lack of MS glitches. For these players, it has been natural that some of them also want to take a look at CCLP2 and see how it plays in Lynx. The answer is that it plays poorly, which comes as no surprise since the levels for CCLP2 predate the option of playing in Lynx, or even knowledge of how those rules work.
    About half the levels in CCLP2 are not solvable in Lynx. Fortunately Tile World can recognize that a level with so called "invalid tiles" is not playable in Lynx and does not allow those levels to be attempted, but there are still over twenty levels that masquerade as playable levels that ultimately are not solvable. It is frustrating to attempt a level without knowing if it is solvable, so at the very least this information should be easily available to players. In addition, some of the unsolvable levels are frustratingly close to being fine and need only slight tweaks to be solvable. Some levels can even be "fixed" in ways that are indistinguishable to the MS player, while others would require more work. This has lead to some players making their own unofficial changes to the set. Releasing such a self-modified set brings forth both the question of ethics and creates confusion about which set to actually play. We feel that this process can be done better with input from more than one person and an agreeable version of the set can be released that addresses these concerns.
    Here follows some principles that guide our motivation for this project.
    1) Admitting that there is a need to address this lynx-playability of CCLP2. Some of this reasoning is listed above, but forming a team and acting on the idea still needs this step to be taken mentally. This point gives purpose to the project and show others that we want to do something about the situation.
    2) Honoring the past. We never wished to head into this project lightly or to offend anybody for changing part of the community's history. CCLP2 in its original form is a precious part of our past, and we wish to honor the set rather than supplant it.
    3) Keep this a collaborative community effort. Part of honoring what has come before and part of allowing this project to be accepted, is to have input from many members of the community. And of course, it is more fun to build something together than alone.
    4) Document the process and keep it transperant to help others see why things were done the way they were. This aspect is perhaps more important in a project like this that builds upon something that has been made by others, than something completely new, like CCLP1 for example. We wish to show our reasoning behind the decisions that lead to whatever it is we are making.
    5) Release something in reasonable time. One could keep honing a project like this forever, always making small tweaks that make the final product just a bit better. We have already been discussing the levels for over a year, and while that is not unreasonable in itself, nobody wishes to see this drag on indefinitely.
    Now we are at the point where we haven't released anything but want to start more discussions with the rest of the community about this project. Please feel free to post your comments, concerns, and wishes below. This mission statement is the first explanation of what type of things we want to accomplish with this project, as well as an announcement of our continued existence. Next, we will discuss more about the practical goals we have considered to achieve, and then give an update on what has already been done and what still needs work. Anyone willing can still help us out in realizing this project, and more information on how to exactly do that will be coming shortly!
    Thanks for your time, and may the paramecia never clone when you feel Trapped!
    On behalf of the CCLP2 Lynx Team,
    -Miika Toukola
  16. M11k4
    Almost half a year ago I promised an update on what has been done so far in this project. I've started writing this update perhaps a dozen times and every time have instead been inspired to advance the project in some other small way. Like instead of saying "oh we still need to check level #14 for other options" I would actually try to do that. Gradually we have been doing more stuff, and now I'm finally shedding some light on all of it.
    Who has been working on this?
    In the beginning a few chipsters responded to my request for working on this thing jointly. So at the beginning of 2012 we formed the CCLP2 Lynx Team, comprising of myself, Rock Généreux, Josh Lee, and Dave Varberg. We communicated by email and shared our suggestions for how to convert levels into Lynx. Things advanced sporadically. Later Michael Warner came on board, as some members of the team had to focus on other things in life.
    Where did you get your ideas for how exactly to change the levels?
    We have examined the levels a lot ourselves, as well as looking at all possible ideas from others that we could come upon. This includes Andrew Bennett's notes on levels at the Chip's Challenge wiki, Ultimasonic's conversion available at the yahoo group, and Syzygy's more recent upload on his own site. Other members of the community have also contributed with ideas, including at least Tyler Sontag and Lessinath. Some ideas have come from multiple sources so it is hard to credit everyone exactly.
    Which designers have given permission to use their levels?
    All the ones we have managed to contact. Sadly, this has so far only been Mike Lask, Luc Longpré, Rolf Redford, Eric Schmidt, David Stanley, and Kyle Wightman. We are still trying to reach Tyrethali Ansrath, Dave Borgman, Dale Bryan, Paul Hobden, Anders Kaseorg, Hank Lin, John Matthews, Anne Olsen, Christian Ståhl, Drew Thomas, and Drake Wilson. If you can help us get into contact with any of these people, it would be of great help.
    What will the set be called?
    Had I answered this half a year ago, I would have said CCLP2LX.dat, but now I am not sure any longer. The two current preferred options seem to be CCLP2-LX.dat and CCLXP2.dat, as you can see from this poll. Go vote and we can decide this one together!
    Will there be a score board for the set?
    Yes, James Anderson has agreed to host one. We kind of already launched the CC1 Lynx board with this in mind and have learned a few small things to improve from that. We considered splitting the scoring on this set into three parts depending on how large the changes to the levels are going to be, but now it seems two sections will work just as well. This is done so that the originally solvable levels can be solved in the original set if one wishes, and the other ones are kept separate. It basically looks like the distinction between timed and untimed levels in CC1.
    So what does the set look like right now?
    We have a version of the set that is pretty close to being ready for beta testing. All the levels work in Lynx. There are some levels that have pretty clever stuff going on, some where the changes have been pretty obvious, and others where we could still go in some other direction.
    Will there be an expanded story?
    This is definitely something that would be fun to include. At the very least we will have a new ccx-file that contains some hints for the more complex levels or possibly comments on why some changes were made. An actual story has not yet taken form and this is one of the things YOU can still help shape. Where would be a good place to discuss ideas for this?
    What other stuff still needs to be done?
    Well, we need to test the levels and see if any of the changes we've implemented have any odd effects we hadn't anticipated. We need to figure out what times to use for the launch of the score board. We need to pick which versions of certain levels we like the most. We need to document our thought process on many of the levels as well as give some measure of how much each level has changed, though admittedly these could partly be done after a release. We need to decide what to do if we can't reach all the designers.
    When will the set be released?
    We initially envisioned no exact time, but hoped to first contact all the original designers. As this is proving pretty hard to do, we should soon set some sort of date by which we'll make a decision on how exactly to proceed.
    How can You help contribute to this thing now?
    We have a group chat on Skype that you can ask to join. There we try to discuss what still needs to be discussed, including analyzing levels. To get a taste of this, you can download this and comment on the levels in it here. Take some time to look at even one of the levels and weigh in with your impressions. If you do not want to come on Skype to talk more, we can definitely talk here on the forums too.
    Hopefully that brings you up to date on what's been going on so far. Though there is still lots to be done, it looks like we are on the home stretch on this thing! Thanks for your interest and help.
    On behalf of the CCLP2 Lynx Team,
    Miika Toukola
  17. M11k4
    Shortly after Chip's Challenge Level Pack 3 was released three years ago, I promised to write a review of the collection of 149 custom levels. As the next such set is upon us, I thought it is finally time to make good on that promise. I'll try to recall my initial feelings for the set, as well as how it felt going back to the levels and optimizing them. I have a few comments on what I think are great aspects of the set, and a couple about its shortcomings. I have to admit that I am a bit biased to write this review, because I just simply love the set. I further claim that there is nobody in the world that has played it as much as I have, since I have actively been working on improving my scores in both MS and Lynx modes for quite some time. If you can forgive me for these two faults, read on!
    It was Christmas. We were visiting my in-laws and the only computer I could use was in a room with two teenagers sleeping. It was just before 2 am. As quietly as I could, I snuck in the room and I turned on the computer. The room filled with a sharp whirl of the fan that luckily soon died down to an acceptable level. I downloaded the set and the accompanying fresh version of Tile World. For the rest of the night I immersed myself in exploring the challenges Chip faced and the story presented in new screens between levels. I was excited after each level to see what the next one was. Every level I had not played earlier was particularly enjoyable.1 I was not concerned with optimal times, but rather just wanted to first see how the set felt. The newsgroup was vibrant with score updates from others. Those updates did not come in level order and many of the records were from the CCLP3 staff. Clearly not all people were playing the set through in order and without an editor, as I had chosen to do. As everyone else started waking up around me, I had to suspend my progress. I had had a great first night and had no doubt that the set would be a great success.
    As the holidays progressed, I only had limited amounts of time to work on the levels and it seemed every day I could only advance a few more levels. This was also due to how involved the levels were becoming, and I was not even to the half-way mark yet.2 The set was getting crazily difficult, but as I was familiar with most of the difficult levels I managed to complete the set in a month. I was exhausted but wanted to revisit many levels to see on which ones I could match the records. This turned out to be a learning experience and a lot of work that is not yet complete. I was lucky enough to etch out a few scores under my name, but the speed and consistency that the veterans were doing the same was on a completely different level. At some point I turned to playing in Lynx and slowly started reporting those scores too. There are still many Lynx scores there for others to improve upon, though I hope I haven't made that too easy.
    So that's my first contact with the set. I was there at the release and all of that was a new experience for me. I don't imagine anything can quite match the novelty of that first time again. I don't want to get into analyzing individual levels here, so I will stick to five general points about the set.
    1) The levels included in the set are all very well designed. There were over 2,200 levels in the initial voting pool and clearly some of the best individual levels made it into the set. As Chip's Challenge is a puzzle game at its core, many of the highest voted levels turned out to be puzzles. It's apparent in the final product that the staff was very restricted by the voting results of a community that could only see one level at a time, and not the full experience of what the set would feel like. This resulted in a set that feels very heavy, particularly if one does not know what to expect. Later levels in the set that deviate from a heavy puzzle emphasis are very welcome. The flow of the set has it's positives too though, like the throwbacks to CC1 levels in certain slots. Among these, the results of the Level 1 and Cypher Level Contests were nice to see.
    2) The updates made to levels, in particular the name changes and time limit re-evaluations, were inspired. I loved the new names of levels. Connecting the Jumble and Replay levels as series was neat. All the time limits worked well, being tight enough on levels where it made sense. It was a good move to allow some levels to be untimed, which was not a given as CCLP2 did not choose to do this. Several levels were updated to avoid busts, but in some cases this resulted in a very different level than the one that was voted on. I was surprised that no updates were made to levels after the release, even though some designers requested this and new major busts were discovered. I understand this in a way, but would have preferred that such a thing would have been made clear during the release. For example, saying that an update may be made during the first three months, but after that time no updates will be considered would have worked very well. Overall I felt the set was put together expertly and connected to a story very well.
    3) The Tile World update was also a very welcome thing. The user interface was an improvement, though I missed some keyboard shortcuts. The ccx-files allowing a story to be told and crediting the designers was an essential upgrade. Some things were missing, like clear indication of odd/even step, or even random force floor direction at the start of a level in Lynx. The death messages were cool. I missed a simple way to change the graphics and a good way to compare one's scores to the bold. At least some love was shown for competitive play with the "copy score" function. The best new thing in my opinion was the ability to fast-forward replays of solutions, though a full map view during playback is still just a dream. The biggest let downs were the lack of a simple all-in one download which I thought was promised, as well as the lack of even the smallest update later on to fix small yet annoying bugs.3
    4) I truly admire the work done on the scoreboard at the release of the set. Everything worked just like it should. There was a reasonable restriction on how many scores one could report at first, and the restriction of releasing solutions only after three people had completed the set was a step in the right direction. Maybe it should not have limited casual solutions, though, but only competitive ones. After the initial ban on solutions, I still felt there was not clear enough stance on which routes should be allowed to be released and which would be better left for players to discover for themselves.4 It is my understanding that the staff did not optimize the levels before the release, which sounded fair but probably let a few unfortunate details on some levels slip through the cracks. Too many levels that contain randomness require almost perfect luck. Some other levels are simply ridiculous to optimize due to other factors and might have been better off if they were untimed if they had to be included at all.
    5) If I take a step back from the set itself, I can see that the process of creating it was not simple. The people that announced the opening of submissions were not the same as those that released it in the end. I am glad J.B. stepped up to the plate and organized a team around him to get the job done. There had to be a tremendous amount of work to be done behind the scenes between the closing of the voting and the release of the set. It is too bad that after this point some of the follow-up work was a bit sloppy. I've already mentioned the lack of an update to the set or Tile World, or clear guidelines on competitive play, but also there was no information released about the voting results. These results and other information about the formation of the set would have been interesting to hear and possibly could be useful to know for future projects. Additionally, there was no decent support for new players trying to solve the levels for the first time, like perhaps with proper hints and help on the Chip's Challenge Wiki or a page explaining what to expect within the set. As far as I know, there was very little promotion of the set anywhere. Maybe everyone was too busy enjoying the set itself to think about these things. At least I was.
    In the end, I am a sucker for difficult puzzles (in the right context), so I felt this set was made for me. I still love it, but I kind of fear it as well.5 I felt the staff did an outstanding job compiling the set and I appreciate all their efforts. I want to thank the CCLP3 staff and anyone else who was part of realizing this whole experience for me. There are some aspects of the set that understandably people do not like as much as I do, unfortunately to the extent that some seem to hate it entirely. I like to think that in the right context and time, anyone could learn to love this set as one of the greatest works humanity has ever produced. I would not trade it for anything.
    -Miika Toukola
    1 I had taken part in the voting process of CCLP3 but I did not get to play even half the levels in the voting pool. Almost a third of the levels in the set were new to me when I played it for the first time.
    2 I have since learned that the half-way mark is at level #75 if you count by level number, at #95 if you count by how long it takes to watch the quickest solutions, at about level #100 if you are solving through the set after knowing the solutions, and at about level #140 if you are solving the levels for the first time without help.
    3 Literally as I write this, an update like this has been released!
    4 For example, maybe the second person who scores a route shouldn't be allowed to release the solution. This would allow the first scorer some say in the matter and yet once enough people, like three, have scored the route successfully, then it could be released if they want.
    5 I have fewer than half the bolds in MS and still need to work on all the others. It is such a tremendous task to optimize the whole set that its proportions are hard to comprehend.
  18. M11k4
    I'm leaving. Yep, I'll be gone. As in, I won't be here. If you see someone here on CC Zone or elsewhere in the Chipverse, it won't be me. I'm totally out of here.
    Well, for a time. Recent events and developments in my real life are not allowing me to use as much time as I'd like for Chip's Challenge, and I only see this problem increasing soon. However, there are positive things hiding here. First off, I will be back! I love this game and community, and maybe in a year, maybe in two, I will manage to return. Secondly, I'm not gone yet. I estimate that starting in June I will be totally gone, but until then I will be around. Thirdly, since I know I'm leaving, I will use my time to finish any interesting projects I have been planning and brooding. All this should actually really be fun for everyone!
    Here's a few things I'll try to get done this spring.
    1) run the competitions through April, and maybe something in May. I have time trial levels for March and an idea for what to do in April. I have ideas for the create competitions as well, if nobody else wants to run them. I also have a Treasure Hunt level in the works, though am not sure if I can get it working in time. There has been a surge in participation for these competitions this year, and I don't plan on letting this momentum go to waste.
    2) release some sort of final version of CCLXP2. There is a lot to do for the documentation we wanted to ideally provide with this set, so not all of that will be done. However, there is need for a finalized version of the set itself, kind of like a game play update. This will allow the score boards to be locked and further stuff may be done later. Any questions you may have about individual levels are welcome. For example, I will try to respond to chipster1059's excellent review of the set and some questions posed there.
    3) release some of my own levels. The only real set I have made and released has been kidsfair, and that does not really represent the types of levels I enjoy building. I expect to release a non-finalized version of funfair0.ccl soon. I plan on it being 50 levels when it is done, but for this release I will aim to have half of them done. I expect you all to try the levels; I expect nobody to love even half the levels; I expect everyone to discover one level they like.
    4) I'll get some old stuff cleaned up. I have finished compiling CCZcreate2013-2014.ccl but not the accompanying ccx-file. Expect an update to the Goodie Bag with this and other files as well. (If you have levels that are going to be in this release, you still have time to submit updates to them.) I'm sure there are other things similar to this that are currently slipping my mind.
    I would also love to update some of my scores on the official sets, but currently have trouble playing CC due to computer challenges. This also means my Let's Play of CC1 in Lynx is still on hiatus waiting for better times. At least that means I'm pretty sure I will have time to write more (cooler!) stuff in this blog too! Maybe there are other hidden positives in this whole affair, like now there will be room for someone else to step up and run some of these competitions
    I'll also take this chance to express how much I've loved spending time with you guys. It's incredible to me how a game like this can bring together people. Sure I love many aspects of the game itself, but many of you have become very dear friends to me over these past few years. I won't forget you and I hope you too will still be around when I return.
    Keep chipping!
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