Powerslave / Exhumed - PC A mapping tribute
What the hell?
Some might have seen oasiz / methy / daedolon spread around information about PS/EX maps in one of the threads earlier 2016.
What initially started as a curiosity project to quickly see if mapping was possible at all with PS/EX, rather quickly evolved into a documentation effort and later on to a small map pack along with some never before utilized features of the game.
As far as we know, there is only one custom map by LAW done before this one, which was more of a proof of concept.
So for the first time, there is proper mapping documentation for this game and some example maps to go with for any interested modder out there.
Shut up and take me to your leader!
CLICK HERE FOR DOCUMENTATION
DOWNLOAD MAP TOOLS
And some youtube videos of the maps, behind a spoiler.
What was discovered rather quickly is that PS/EX uses the same map format as TekWar (v6) with some minor differences. Which means that the TekWar's build can open the map files natively.
Upon initial inspection the maps look very similar to any build engine type maps, major findings being that the player scale is different and shading had some isses.
Shading turned out to be a rather unique first quirk of the game, instead of typical 32 shades, you have 64 shade steps instead.
This shading issue has been offset when loading the palette, however it only looks correct on shade 0 and any +- shade is visually just a half of what it is ingame.. A small annoyance but nothing too bad.
One other hack that had to be done is that the normal black value for editor background is close to white, this had to be manually stabbed in as basepal and that's why you have an extra 256 byte RMP file for it.
For the first few days we utilized the TekWar build editor that I compiled some time back and JonoF's custom 640x480 version.
Documentation of the game proceeded systematically by grinding tag by tag and effect by effect with trial & error (My approach)
While Methy / Daedolon went through the stock maps and documented everything they found (esp. level specific ones). This resumed for a week/two.
Anyway.. once a toolchain was done to CONV/BACKMAP stuff properly, this was pretty quick..
After around 2-3 weeks in, we had mapster32 support implemented in with all the required hacks to get around and this is when I decided to mess around and see how the engine would react to slopes.
TekWar and it's build doesn't support these so it was safe to assume that this v6 is from the same branch, only to discover that engine actually rendered them!
Ok.. now this is pretty cool, that means that pyramids / sand and whatnot can be done... damn! So much wasted potential.
Tekwar and exhumed still share v6 build but slopes simply used the groudraw attributes as they replaced it, thus the map format is compatible but you'll get glitchy groudraw instead of slopes with TekWar.
After wasting about 60min on testing stuff around, I inserted some slopes to the first map just to see what was wasted..
OK! Got about half of the common effects documented by this point and we already discovered slopes, discovered that there is very little use of transparency in stock maps (only ~2 instances) and other more unused advanced effects and combinations of those..
soon the ideas started flooding in and we decided that this needs to be demonstrated. Loads of potential.
After some time, we landed on a 3+1 map pack (everyone does one map + 1 collab. boss map).
We quickly sketched together a friendlier edit package with stabbed dosbox/mapster32 configs to auto launch the game for playtesting at the location you're in (mapster32 -> dosbox).
This involved automatic BACKMAP to playtest / gettig rid of excess configs or the game wont start quickly / uploading to gdrive / etc..
I sketched mine quickly with paint.net (I love doing designs this way) on a lowres image, looks like this:
Dark green on the left would be minecart (Something I had to scale down a lot later) and it would loop back like it does in final map.
All of this was laid out here before I even did the first sector. Pretty much all of the major ideas you see in the final map got already visualized here.
Unfortunately I had to add a bunch of visual blocks, thanks to the slopes bugging out and other game play / performance issues.. Didn't help that enemies can spot you across the map.
Methy was also working on his map during this and around early summer we both had working maps and Daedolon had started his.
Unfortunately busy things got in the way and stuff we had planned for the first map didn't make it in time.
However the collaboration did live on with the boss map, Daedolon did the round arena base, Methy added in some effects and the first arena that you encounter.
I made a full visual pass on daedolon's area and tweaks in the first one, plus helped to add some effects in. This got done around august and we decided that everything is feature ready for first public release aside from the first map and some game engine tweaks.
In the end, we combined some new tricks and some nasty ones too to get what we want, for example I discovered a way to make exploding walls based on a touchplate.. Looks pretty cool and I wonder why they didn't make anything like that as an effect..
So check out: CLICK HERE FOR DOCUMENTATION
We are proud to be able to document this game and it has some really weird oddities noted in the "Mapping tips" column.
The documentation also ships with a bonus map that all the common effects and game play elements laid out, along with a reference document.
You can easily find all sorts of ready effects here !
I have to admit at this point that I haven't completed a single level of exhumed so I have no clue what the balancing is supposed to be, approached this game "blind"
Thanks to Methy for telling me "No, that's actually a boss door texture!" and suggesting changes / introducing me to new stuff