Tuesday 21 August 2007

Tileset 2: Beton


I have real news this time, Castle of Cadavers has really been in works for a week now. It looks promising! I had done many tests with various bricks for basic ground tiles, including the ones you saw a couple of blog entries before, but I came to a solution to abandon them all. Therefore the preview tiles are not going to be in the final tileset.

What has been done so far? Surprisingly, there is already 90 tiles ready for use. With those it is possible to build pretty crude castle environment, because there is basically no eye candy present, not just yet. I may show you some in-development screenshots about this stage later. Much progress must be made before the first screenshots will be released. Additionally, today I drew a landscape for a background layer. I will not go through the content not just now, as it is still a bit unfinished. I feel it is important that it is present in my tileset level tests even though it may be like 75% ready. All the black and grey is enough to make anyone annoyed! I have been keeping up a journal about the tileset progress. This prevents from forgetting stuff. For example, next I will be complaining for 1000 words about how I have forgotten everything about Beton creation progress.

Okay, Beton it is. My second official tileset, featuring a brownish ground where to walk, some concrete-like blobs for layer 4 background, and in the background layers some enormous steel elements (I wonder did anyone understand this during these years :) and mountains. I bet this tileset was far less popular compared to Aztec, as this is actually pretty little tileset with little possibilities to do exciting stuff to play. Compared to Aztec's several years of development, the first version of Beton was ready for release in one month. It is more simple than Aztec, and looking this Beton version 2 screenshot here tells everybody that the example level was build in approximately four minutes.

I have never given Beton so much attention, but I will try to concentrate to it now. It deserves it, after all. There are some things that are interesting to it. Some people may have noticed the slight resemblance between Beton and master Mez's tileset Mez03. It is not your mind playing. I tried to duplicate some parts of that tileset to Beton. Mostly the "copying" is visible in Beton ground tiles and the stuff you can put inside it. I knew it then like I know it now, the duplication is far inferior from the original. This didn't stop me much, I just drew stuff and soon after I had the finished tileset at my disposal. The finished tileset did not look so much like Mez's, so I was even happier (about not getting sued, heh). Probably inspired by Mez, there is also a night version of Beton. It looks actually better than the day counterpart. The kind Alienator of Universe Jazz gave Beton three stars, the best. Beton was first seen there around the beginning of March, 2000.
The current Beton version is, like the up-to-date Aztec, heavily modified from the original. During the years it gained 50 more tiles that are positioned in the bottom of the tileset. You could live without these late additions, but after all, they are essential tiles and should have been there in the first release. In addition, many cosmetic changes were made. The warp background, the background layer stuff and metal parts of the sucker tubes got more colours, now looking smoother than at first. The last addition, made with Energized Action, was numerous tiling problem corrections and masking corrections. The tileset is pretty much flawless now :) The final Beton is pretty nice to use. The tiles you would like to use are there, though eye-candy is still pretty scarce. I enjoyed making the pictured Energized Action level, Construction Site.

Since I am talking about Beton here, I might as well tell again the etymology of the tileset name Beton. I was a mere kid back those days (14 years), and didn't much think about the tileset names. Hence all the simple names Aztec, Beton and Rocks etc. I didn't pay much attention to the fact that there is no English word Beton. In Finnish there is, betoni. That means "concrete". Many sophisticated words (like science words) can be easily made English in Finland by taking out the last vowel of the word, like in my case 'betoni' to 'beton'. And so Beton was born.

Three songs enrich the past of Beton. One of them you have never heard in this context, the next you are very likely to be unknowing, and the last is most familiar to JJ2 community. The first track is Michiel van den Bos' "Run". Ringing any bells? :) Take your time to Google the name if you wish :) Yes, it is a track out of the original Unreal Tournament soundtrack, hailing from 1999. It was never meant to be released with the finished tileset, I just liked to hear the wonderful piece of module music while testing Beton. The next track was used in the first releases of Beton. It was called "Time Reflection" and composer was a Finnish guy Queek (of the group Probe). It was a slow track and had a dreamy atmosphere. I guess I wasn't so satisfied with it, because as of Blade's Battle Pack I Beton's official music has been "DreaM LanD" by DreaMSection. I like this track today, but it is definitely not amongst my favourite songs picked for the tilesets. Maybe I'll list these top5 songs later... Heck, I'll do it now :)

Now Blade lists his favourite JJ2 songs which he picked himself in the first place (lol)

1. World Of Dreams (Aztec)
2. The Summer Planet (Glacier)
3. Challenger (Woodlands)
4. Pools of Poison (Islands In The Sapphire Sea)
5. Static Universe (Forest)

The rest in order are: Organic (Twilight Park), Dreams Of Hope 2 (Space), Heatwave (Oasis), Mysterius Times (Rocks), DreaM LanD (Beton), System 51 (Desert) and Second Time (Wasteland).

I decided the order mostly by my affection to the songs. For example, lots of old memories surface when I listen to The Summer Planet. Some songs are just plain good, like Pools Of Poison. But more about these songs when their companions are introduced later in this blog.'

Well... what else? I think that's everything for now. See you later!

Monday 13 August 2007

Tileset 1: Aztec

It's about time I got back here to tell some new stuff.

I regret to tell you guys, that Castle of Cadavers has not progressed as I previously wished. Because of this, I must add several months to the tileset release estimate. So, I believe I have the finished tileset for public download before the year changes. Sorry about this.

Now, I continue with my old tilesets. The first official of them all, Aztec. It's development to the final version (released with the grand single-player episode Energized Action, May 2003) took pretty much like five years, and it was first created at the same time as Bay and A-Space. I have a hunch that there was an ancient prototype version of the tileset very soon after I was given Jazz Jackrabbit 2 as a birthday present in 13th August 1998.

The tileset you see to the right is the oldest version I have left. I really don't have an idea how old it is, however, it is old. I know this because of the 4x4 tiles background image that I ripped from the 1998 3D action game Montezuma's Return. I marveled the graphics of that game, and took a part of it to myself :) As I did not undestand anything about palettes at that time, I threw the image away. It is actually possible, that the Montezuma game encouraged me to start making Aztec.
As you may know, I have never truly mastered the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 palettes (Just look at the Islands in the Sapphire Sea water in 8-bit mode), but before 2000, I never understood anything of it! The inability to learn the palettes is the cause there was no Blade releases before spring 2000. Well, I'd say you lost nothing. Just look at that Aztec draft, heh. However, I discovered something about the palettes in that spring. I would think that it was the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 palette template that I found from some tileset making guide. Before this, every sprite in my levels were black. This discovery led to quick development and quick release at Universe Jazz. Fortunate for me, Alienator, an admin of the site, gave it the best score.

Really fortunate. The first Aztec was really flawed, and was nothing near the quality of my later tilesets. I am not talking about graphics, but about tons of masking problems and tiling problems and other little glitches. The biggest of them all, the 8-bit colour mode incompatibility. That was a problem that I believe affected also Aztec's successor Beton and Beton's successor Rocks. Glacier could have been free of this stupidity... Anyway, the first Aztec is very different from the final version. The most visible change is that the version one had two warp backgrounds. It works, I was delighted to tell, but the second warp background had a certain infinity problem :) So, the night sky was removed later, and there has not been an Aztec night since. There were some other removed tiles that were not needed. Despite of all the tileset cleaning, Aztec tileset grew over 100 tiles to the final version in Energized Action. Most of the new tiles are easily viewable below the purple mountains in JCS.

I was satisfied with Aztec only after Energized Action was finished. No more tiling or masking problems, and the tileset was finally what I meant it to be in the first place. Sometimes I've thought that I should have left the tileset to the first version, but I know that wouldn't be possible. That infinity screenshot is taken from the oldest Aztec I have, version 2.5. The version numbers tell nothing, probably that it was the third revision of the tileset. I you look close enough, you can see many flaws. The vertical vines have them, the cracked bricks have them, the pillars, the small background bricks. Heck, the sky continues to infinity! Additionally, the first Aztec didn't have all the slopes ready for use. Some had to be mirrored for different kind of slopes. And if you tried to use an mirrored animation... well, that causes problems.

There is not much Aztec about Aztec. I have never though about that so much. It must be remembered, that I was twelve at the time of the naming. Twelve is no age for research. So, even greek letters made their way to the tileset! And apes and stuff, but that is a bit more understandable as Devan Shell could have summoned them somehow. To the right there is a picture from Aztec 2.5 from probably 2000 and then the Aztec level from Energized Action. I never numbered the Energized Action tileset versions, but I guess you could say that the final version is the fifth revision.

Aztec music is provided by an module artist named AlienZoul. He is definitely not a big name in the scenes, but I liked his music so much that I used two of his tracks in different versions of
Aztec. At first, there was "No One Like You". Pretty good dance track, but somehow empty. I thought it made a nice atmosphere to the tileset, and I left it there. It was probably Aztec version 3, introduced probably with Blade's Battle Pack I, that had as its music AlienZoul's "World Of Dreams". It is significantly better than

"No One Like You". Ever since the Battle Pack, this has been the official music of Aztec. It also remains as my favourite module music track. I just Googled with entry AlienZoul. It gives his name, Thomas Persson, and some of his music, but neither of these two. I spotted AlienZoul probably from the ModPlug Central, the home of the tracker program ModPlug Tracker. As there is no submitting possibility at the site anymore, ModPlug Central no longer recognizes AlienZoul.