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  I am lame 11:58 AM -- Mon September 29, 2003  

I had a major experience last night. I watched Sol play some levels I was making for the demo, which I had made intending to be super easy, and she got very frustrated. Those levels were very hard. I learned this:

I am out of touch with what a newbie Dr. Lunatic player is like.

That's not a surprise, since I've been playing it for 5 years, and I know every conceivable little trick, since I put them in there. All my games have always been much too hard. They're always way harder than I intend to make them. I'm terrible at this!

In the next patch for Supreme (no more bugs found! Whoo!), I'm going to make Wimpy mode a whole lot wimpier - like twice as easy as it is now, at least. Probably much easier still. I'm also going to make it the default difficulty! I'm going to rename it "Normal", and the other two difficulties will be "Hard" and "Lunatic". I'm also going to make "Lunatic" a lot harder than it currently is - no sense having two difficulties that are very similar. So you can play on "Hard" difficulty to get the standard Dr. L experience, or play on Lunatic for an insane experience that is hopelessly difficult, or play on Normal to get a game that's vastly easier than what you've seen so far. I can't change the levels, there's one or two too many, but I can sure tone down the power of monsters (and crank up the player!). This is something I really owe everyone, just because I want my games to be played everybody!

It blows my mind to think about the fact that grandmas play my games, and apparently do okay at them... When I step back and really objectively give it a look (as objective as you can be about subjective difficulty), I see how it's an outrageously hard game! I can sort of step out of my head and watch myself play and see how my fingers have to fly all over the place while I scan the entire screen and formulate strategies and perform actions on an instantaneous reflex (like those last-second Rage lifesavers!). My hat is off (seriously, it is, I am hatless) to all those old fogeys who can keep up with the demands of Dr. L! It's amazing!

I was given a sign yesterday: I rented two PS2 games, Alter Echo and Sly Cooper. They're both very cool! Alter Echo, I have pretty much given up on. I'm on like the second level that isn't blatantly a tutorial, and I've died so many times, it's ridiculous. This game is INSANE! But you know, if I think about it, it's really not as hard as Dr. L. It doles out health items at a regular pace, the enemies only attack once every few seconds, you never face more than about 4 at a time, it lets you stop time to insta-kill all the enemies around you at once (in a careful-timing minigame which I am terrible at) and you have big combos that can hit a bunch of them at once, and pop them into the air to render them helpless. If I feel this way about a game that's so much easier than mine, how do people who DON'T know all the tricks and haven't mastered all the intricacies and reflexes feel about my game? Sly Cooper is an awesome game, super duper awesome. But the bosses are repetitive, annoying, trial and error, really hard, and stupid. Kind of like a lot of the levels I make (but not my bosses! In my opinion). I must learn from my research. I MUST LEARN FROM MY RESEARCH!

The other thing that occurred to me (hey, I haven't journaled in a while, let me spew), is that in Supreme's instructions (this all applies to the original Dr. L as well), it says something like "the goal is simple: in each level, collect all the brains and get to the exit". Only, in my hyperactive desire to make interesting challenges, approximately 0% of the levels I've made fit that description. I always make all kinds of weird twists and stuff. I like my levels, they're inventive and interesting, but you know, I set up this game to work a certain way. When every level is an exception to the rule, you really don't have a rule anymore!

I was thinking years back about the X-Files. They had really funny episodes, once or twice a season. Those episodes were great, they were my absolute favorite, and after a few seasons, they were the only good episodes (as it became clear that the creator of the series DIDN'T even come close to having an actual overall conspiracy planned and was just trying to string together stuff that didn't mesh, and it was all a mess and it was stupid - see Babylon V for how to plan out a massive arc properly! Or for the notion that you SHOULD plan out a massive arc). But the funny episodes wouldn't have worked, or been very funny, if they weren't exceptions to the normally serious, dark tone of the series. If the series was just the funny episodes, it would be a really strange comedy, and it would lack a lot of the humor, because most of it comes from seeing these people you know from great experience to be serious, being dopey. It's the change that's good.

And that's what's wrong with my level design. It's all funny X-Files episodes. It would have been so much easier as well as better to crank out lots of 'formula' levels (and they would've been very fun levels... Dr. L is fun to play in a general sense, smashing monsters, grabbing keys, finding secrets, it's all fun), and inject just a couple 'trick' levels in each world. I think people don't really mind the wild variety in Dr. L, but they'd appreciate it more if it wasn't constant, and they'd be able to get some kind of a handle on what basic Dr. L really means to begin with. Most of the fan-made worlds are like that. A world full of normal Dr. L action (and that is NO insult!), with just a couple big surprises and special things, and it really makes you grin when you come across them.

Something like that. It's never a good idea to get me thinking, I guess!

Lastly, I saw the trailer for Matrix: Revolutions. The Matrix is the new Star Wars. And it makes the old Star Wars look like a piece of rotting garbage left out in the sun too long. Not too hard thanks to the new prequel movies for Star Wars, but I'm talking about the good Star Wars movies! The Matrix is that overwhelming, culture-defining, hypermarketed, buy-the-action-figures, ubertrilogy that Star Wars was in the 70's. But unlike Star Wars, the third one is gonna be some GOOD STUFF. Actually, I liked Return Of The Jedi, but everybody says it was so lame because of the whole Ewok business. Aw, maybe it was, it's been forever since I saw it. The Matrix is awesome. YAY MATRIX!!! (As you can see, I'm not one of those Reloaded-haters)
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