Single Player Levels
Author: Brian Lozier
This article is based on my experiences working on a single-player mod. It has been under construction for months now, and will be released within a couple of months.
The Single Player storyline is what set Jedi Knight apart from the rest of the First Person Shooters. When making addons, therefore, it is important to realize what people wanted from the original game. Take that, expand upon it, and you should be okay. What does that mean? Well, take everything LEC did with JK, and attempt to do it better. This may seem difficult, but if you don't strive for the stars, you will not make it off the ground.
So, it is your job to come up with a MORE compelling story, and implement it even better. This means more realistic characters, more compelling environments, and a more logical, thought provoking plot.
Many people like to use Kyle Katarn and Mara Jade as the main characters. I challenge you to stop using these cliched characters, and come up with your own. Also attempt to stay away from the main characters in the movies and books -- these peoples stories have already been told, and its not our job to change them. Why do I say that?
I've read almost all the Star Wars novels, and half the time, I don't understand how they even got published. In the original movie, George Lucas let it be known that Mos Eisley was the arm-pit of the galaxy. Quote: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany." Then, all these books come out saying how this other city, or this other planet, is 10 times worse. How do these authors think they can change what Geoge Lucas already laid down? Please do not follow in these authors' footsteps.
On to other things. Remember that there aren't an infinate number of Dark Jedi that can take over the Empire and try to kill the Rebellion. There aren't an infinite number of light Jedi fighting the Empire for the sake of the galaxy.
I suggest you take another planet, with all new characters, and create that world. Saving the entire galaxy from the Empire has been done over and over and over. now it's time to save one planet, or a solar system, from a more local threat. Remember the Empire had its hold on thousands of worlds - maybe it's time to drive the Empire out of that system, or time to save a highly decorated Rebel soldier from being executed, or time to sabatoge an Imperial Star Destroyer so it can't make its appearance at the Battle of Yavin.
There are TONS of ideas that have not yet been done, please don't attempt to re-hash or re-do what LucasFilm or Lucasarts has already done.
Rule of thumb: Be realistic and true to Star Wars. Have you ever seen a platform suspended in thin air? Niether have I. Remember in Star Wars they used thrusters - cogs that spit smoke, steam and thrust are not hard to find or create. Star Wars is science fiction. They did not do anything in the movie that defies the rules or imagination of science. Sure we do not have many of the things in the movies, but nothing in the movies is impossible, only improbable. We have space stations, we have space flight, we have lasers, we have harrier jets that can hover, we have or can scientifically imagine all of the things in the Star Wars universe.
As for catwalks, doors and elevators. Remember that catwalks have to be supported by something. Pillars, studs and even supports coming out of walls will do nicely. Doors going into solid rocks is a no-no as far as being realistic is concerned. Make metal or wood slides and frames for the doors to follow. This will also give your architecture a cleaner appearance.
Elevators normally go up an elevator shaft. What powers the elevator? What mechanism is there that it will stay on its track? In Star Wars, and in the LEC levels, there normally use a wire/track texture going along one side of the elevator shaft. Try to line it up with the back of the elevator 3do (look at its bottom as it goes up, there are normally supports there). There are other mechanisms, of course, but an elevator going up a solid rock shaft, or going up the side of some crates, just does not make sense.
There are far too many levels with sky problems. It is not realistic, or fun, for that matter, when you Force Jump and hit your head on the sky. It makes no sense. Please plan for your sky, and make it high enough that players won't hit their heads.
Also try not to use the sky as an outside boundry. Make a cliff with a dropoff, or a fence, or a forcefield. Nobody likes being stopped by plain sky.
Deciding on whether to make the surface of the water see-through or not is pretty difficult. One rule I can suggest is to make it consistent. If you have see-though water in one place, do the same for the rest of your level.
It Single-Player, it is generally okay to make see-though water. Just be careful to keep in mind the framerate when doing so.
Try to make levels long enough to keep the player occupied. Make them at least as long as the LEC levels. This may sound hard, but remember, strive for the stars and you will achieve them. Keep in mind, however, that most LEC levels are under 1000 sectors. If you go beyond that, you are likely to up the system requirements. If your level gets too big, consider splitting it into two.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a good set of beta-testers. What is beta testing? It is when you feel your level is complete, and rather than releasing it to the public, you release it to a set of people who play though it and look for bugs. These people should be of varied editing experience -- people with NO editing experience often find bugs that editors just overlook. Once you get detailed bug reports, fix them ALL. Once that is done, send the level around one more time for a final beta test. It is a good idea to increase your beta-testing team for this final test. Once you get the bug reports back (if any), fix the problems and you are ready to release.
Please do not ignore bugs. If your beta testers found them, so will everyone else. Buggy levels rarely get the recognition they could if the bugs were fixed.