Quite so. Progress report:
Main Hall (131)
Removed all brick (which made the place look decidedly unimposing, as well as too similar to Musical Mechanisms...also, that brick's just plain ooglay) here and everywhere else in the level, and gave things a better background, namely an edit of the Rusted Retribution BG, made to look non-dilapidated. Also made new tiles for the slopes, which had previously only existed in brick form. Everything here looks a lot cleaner and sleeker now, so we know Doc runs a serious, well-maintained enterprise here. Also managed to reduce the insertion size a bit (here and in all other sublevels), due to a combination of removing the brick, merging duplicated/adjacent tiles to one object, and deleting completely hidden tiles.
Upper left path (180)
Probably the most striking change, as this path is now recast as a computer program, accessed from a computer terminal in a small antechamber. The laser sensor now functions as an animation trigger, and activates an alarm-type red flash. Still sort of the least remarkable path gimmick-wise, but I'd rather refain from altering the actual design of the level in any significant way.
Videos of the entire path, before the flash was added
, and of the flash effect itself
Lower left path (181)
Another substantial one. Firstly, this level previously still used the Musical Mechanisms palette (presumably due to the tedium of changing all the blackout animations); it has now been given a new one, darker in the blackout areas, and brighter in the normally lit ones. The original also only used the upper half of the factory BG, with a black void in the lower half, as presumably as the bottom part remaining visible when the FG disappeared would have looked odd, as well as silhouetting the FG and sprites in a way that partially defeats the gimmick. I compensating for this by building a simple BG out of a few tiles which use palette 4 (the blinking palette), so they'll disappear along with the FG during the lights out phase.
You'll also notice the addition of several lamps. Burnt out ones in the blackout sections seen above...
...And functional ones in the normal area, thus explaining why this small portion retains light while everything else is plunged into darkness. Also...
...I suspect the small section of non-blacking-out land here was actually the result of some misplaced tiles, but I decided to go along with it anyway.
It also struck me as odd that the blocks in the lava blacked out as well, despite the lava being a luminous substance. Since I freed up a few animation slots by removing the brick, I decided to give at least those blcoks directly touching the molten material a reddish glow when the lights go out.
Again, here's a video of the entire phase
Upper right path (182
): Actually, I didn't do all that much here, aside from the brick removal (though there wasn't too much of that to begin with) and general optimization, as it looked pretty snazzy to begin with. I did, however, add three coins--two indicating where it's safe to fall back down after getting the hidden 1-up at the start (it's a potentially fatal blind drop otherwise), and one at the end, giving just a wee hint to the observant player that they may want to ride that horizontal platform past the change point, as the final coin is rather a bit too obscure otherwise. I hope you'll forgive me this tiny non-æsthetic intrusion.
Lower right path (183)
: Haven't got to work on this yet. I'm thinking of mixing in another tileset (probaly the blimp or the factory one seen in Stratus Skyworks/Pyro Cryo Castle) in with the existing one to add a bit of variation. I'm also hoping someone might draw a layer 3 background suitable for this level (if so, I'll move the message block--and probably the powerup, too--to a small antechamber). The fact that the reverse gravity gimmick doesn't work in the base ROM at present makes testing difficult, however.
Final corridor (184)
In addition to adding two or three instances of Dr. Koo (Doc needs a staff, right?) I assembled a background from a combination of the bonus BG and the Reclaimed Refinery pipes. The result works a lot better than one might expect! That said, I'm really not too sure how I feel about using the FG for the final level anywhere besides the final level itself, as it strikesme as the final level ought to look unique (admittedly, it has a few features not seen here, and this level has a few features not seen there, and this level does admittedly lead directly into the final level, but still). Unfortunately, there really isn't another FG which has a comparable effect. I thought of perhaps using the one for Myrkky Mainline, but that seems to assembled in a very strange manner, with the same ExGFX file being used for FG3 and BG2, and even the most basic tiles drawing 8x8s seemingly at random from both of these slots, requiring the file occupy each of them, and thus preventing me from using decorations from any other tileset were I to use said FG. Alas.
What really bothers me, though, is the use of the laser guns as decorative elements around the Thwomps, as seen in the second image. This is because said lasers play a rather important role in the next level as prominent, active elements, and it seems wrong to "spoil" them here, so to speak. We could always switch them to the coil electrodes
, but this strikes me as having the same exact problem, or worse, since those are also solid in the next stage. Should we simply count on the player's ignorance of guns' true functions (and their more subdued palette) to carry the day here? Or does the guns' inclusion as an innocuous decorative element here in fact help
from a plot perspective, as it makes the the moment in the subsequent cutscene where they unexpectedly fire (and obliterate two scientists) all the more unexpected, as the player had come to ignore them as a mere bit of harmless adornment? What say you all?
Anyway, that's where we stand at present. Thoughts, suggestions?