old level designer says hello

Discussion about Rocks'n'Diamonds, Boulder Dash, Supaplex, Emerald Mine and any other BD hybrid.

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Holger
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Re: old level designer says hello

Post by Holger »

Thanks, Holger, for your kind message. In exchange, enjoy the YAM CAKE again (remember to save it this time -- maybe you could hide it inside R'n'D as an Easter egg feature -- it was baked in mid-2004 by my good old Goth girl at the time):
Thank you for posting again! This time, I have saved them... :)
Holger, can you explain this? Maybe the tapes were fine then, but have broken due to changes in the code?
They were definitely fine when they were released first! If I remember correctly, a few tapes from your level did not work anymore after I did some game engine changes (mostly fixing horrible bugs then, I think). Some engine changes that were breaking existing tapes could be worked around by adding compatibility code with version checking, but this did not work for every change, so I just re-recorded a few of your solution tapes, which are part of the current contributions level collection.
But we already had about 100 different elements (from Boulder Dash, Emerald Mine, Supaplex...) in the R'n'D world, and it seemed unnecessary to add more. That's why my levels are different from most of the early levels: because I tried to combine all those things, to create "strange new worlds" (Star Trek?). If you have to learn an entire new set of rules for every single game, that's actually a mental killer. (Imagine doing newspaper chess puzzles where they kept adding new pieces and squares.)
I think custom elements are still one of the best things I did in R'n'D! And yes, this might bring level sets with completely new rules, or even new ways to play, Think of Jürgen Bonhagen's "Pipeline", for example -- it's a completely new type of game, but once you know that you have to click with the mouse, you can more or less instantly play it and don't have to learn a lot of complicated new rules. :)
Also yet one more comment: in the old R'n'D, you had to view the level (menu screen) before playing it, but now you can move from one to the next. That's convenient, but it means you don't see the level title/name any more, and sometimes there might be funny puns, or a USEFUL CLUE, in the name. I wonder if you could increase the window/screen size a bit, and put the name beside the level, while it's being played.
The problem with custom graphics (something that was introduced more or less together with custom elements) that not only affect the game elements, but also the complete screen design, is the fact that I (more or less) cannot change the default window/screen/graphics anymore without most probably breaking existing custom artwork. Especially I cannot easily just change the window or screen size and add some text somewhere. How would that work with custom artwork like that of the Supaplex or Emerald Mine Club level collections? (Not to speak of Alan Bonds or especially Jürgen Bonhagen's custom artwork level sets).

But I still could do something that maybe could work similarly, and hopefully should work relatively well also with custom artwork level sets. For example, R'n'D could show the name of the level about to play in the playfield area for a short time (like "fade in level name, show it for two seconds or something, fade out again, fade in level playfield as usual). Of course, together with a setup option to disable it. Possibly even a non-binary option like "show level name / do not show level name / only show level name if level names in the current level set differ in more than just the level number etc.".
Speaking of old things, RnD 4.2.0.3 is many revs out of date, and old-tape-compatibility is a fun subject that Holger gets to keep revisiting all the time :)

I bet if you used today's 4.3.6.0, some of those tapes you called out will magically have started working again. (And I wouldn't be surprised if a few others magically stopped working... it's hard to keep perfect compatibility with ancient bugs & mysteries!)
Unfortunately, not in this case. These changes (that broke those old tapes) are more than twenty years ago, and I wasn't as nearly as paranoid about breaking existing tapes as I am nowadays. ;-)

So, as written above, I just re-recorded new solution tapes after I found out that those tapes did not work anymore, instead of finding out which change broke it, and add some version dependent compatibility code (as I would do now in most cases).
One more question while I'm here: I remember playing some really funny R'n'D levels, clearly done by an Englishman (or Scottish, Irish, Welsh): there was lots of text in the "scrolls", and the idea was that a mad professor had hired you, to do certain jobs for him. It made me laugh really hard, and the level designs were good too. The first(?) level was a moving train; and I remember one where it said something like: "I've found a way to turn blue jewels into gas ovens full of shit." They used custom elements, but nothing complicated, just a few "hacks".

Can anyone identify the creator, and the level set? They're probably around here somewhere.
From your description, this can be no one else but Alan Bond, I would say! :-D

And I have a vague memory of that level set, I think. But no idea which one it could be, unfortunately. :(

There are a number or (mostly experimental) level sets of Alan Bond posted to the first and second forum (which do not exist anymore). Most of them should be somewhere in my large, but very unsorted archive of historic levels. But this sounds like a more "complete" level set, and all those (from Alan Bond) should be released (and still downloadable from the "Levels" page). So I have no idea which level set this could be... :-|
That's nuts. How could it work in one version, then break in the middle, and work again in a later one?
It is not the case here (with those tapes you mentioned), but apart from that it is totally possible: First the tapes worked, then I made a breaking change (breaking the tapes), and ten years later somebody told me about it and I added compatibility code that "magically" makes the tape work again, even after that long time with the tape not working. Just that it is not magic, but one of my (rather few) "good ideas" of adding the version of the game the tape was recorded with to the tape file, making it perfectly possible to identify the engine version it should be played with (including emulated bugs of old engines, for example).
I just tried them all in 4.3.8.0 and all the problems are identical.
Is there any way to fix these once-valid levels and tapes for newer versions?
Theoretically yes (analyzing which changes broke those tapes and adding compatibility code to make them work again).

But you could also just check out the fixed tapes for your levels from the contributions package, which prove that all your levels are still guaranteed to be solvable.
(Holger: the downloads page has only the current 4.3.8.2, prerelease 4.4.0.0-test-1, and then a tiny scattering of older binaries specifically aimed at systems for which you can't provide current binaries. Do you have a cache of the old versions which were provided as 'current', over time, on the downloads page? Seems like that would be a good historical record to provide as a sub-page somewhere. If it doesn't already exist...! :)
Not on the downloads page (for some reasons), but you posted it only two posts before:

https://www.artsoft.org/RELEASES/

It has each and every version of R'n'D that was ever released, starting from 1995.
filbo
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Re: old level designer says hello

Post by filbo »

> Not on the downloads page (for some reasons), but you posted it only two posts before

... may I suggest that the main downloads page include a described link to that? e.g., below 'The following outdated versions are still available for older systems:', another section could say 'An archive of all older releases is available:' and link to that /RELEASES/ page.
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Holger
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Re: old level designer says hello

Post by Holger »

... may I suggest that the main downloads page include a described link to that? e.g., below 'The following outdated versions are still available for older systems:', another section could say 'An archive of all older releases is available:' and link to that /RELEASES/ page.
I know. And you are right, in principle. However, I am a bit unsure. Because certain earlier versions contain certain content that may be problematic today (which was the reason to replace it with certain other content in later versions). But maybe I'm just paranoid. :)
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Re: old level designer says hello

Post by filbo »

It's still out there -- if you're paranoid about that you should remove the old versions with the (what, EMC Sex Mine or some such??) -- or 'clean' them. But I can't imagine there's anything that's worse than 30 seconds of random browsing on twitter or any of the other 'social media' services...
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Re: old level designer says hello

Post by Holger »

(what, EMC Sex Mine or some such??)
:lol:

No, no, I did not mean anything sex related -- after all, this is Europe, not the US here. :D ;-)

So these few, slightly "special" EMC sets are fine.

No, (trying to be a bit less paranoid) I was speaking of those many old R'n'D versions which contain WAV snippets that could make trouble today and that were replaced with MOD stuff (which could also make trouble, but that's life, I suppose)... ;-)
But I can't imagine there's anything that's worse than 30 seconds of random browsing on twitter or any of the other 'social media' services...
Absolutely right indeed. :|
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