Oilrig DM Commentary

I’m lumping both OilrigDM and Oilrig into the same page as the commentary for both tends to be included. Sin naturally didn’t stay in most people’s minds for very long, so it never got the critical analysis that many larger games enjoyed. There was a small group of people who really dug into it though. One fan in particular spent a great amount of time reviewing the levels from the game individually.

First up is a review of user level, where he uses the Oilrig as the basis of comparison.

Next is an in depth review of OilrigDM, with commentary on the single player mission as well. Due to the page no longer being available, I’ve put up a saved version of the HTML, and will copy the text here for better readability.

I really appreciated Squonkamatic’s analysis of the game… not only because he loved the Oilrig (to be fair he rips into other things I made in Sin… deservedly so)… but because he spent the time to really dig into the game and discover all the bits and pieces of passion for making levels we had put in there.

——————————

OilRigDM aka Greed
by Squonkamatic

Here’s a goodie. This is one of the most stunning game levels I have ever seen, and Sin just wouldn’t be Sin without it. It ranks up there with Quake2’s “City1/OUter Courts” and DOOM’s original E1M1/Return to Phobos levels as overlooked masterpieces of multiplayer shooter game designs. That’s not to imply that OilRigDM isn’t appreciated by the Sin community in general; this game is 3 years old, for all intents and purposes. Its just that the Mac gamer generation of Sin players, who have been reared on the instant satisfaction of fragfest oriented games like Quake3 and Unreal Tournament, for the most part think this map is “boring”, “too big”, “runs too slow on my computer” or any of a number of the typical lamer comments from a player who doesn’t realize they are in the middle of a masterpiece.

Anyone familiar with Sin’s under rated single player game is familiar with the setting; a SinTek run Oil Rig somewhere off the shores of Freeport. The single player mission in the level is the usual “pursue Elexis and blow away the goons”, but the setting that was designed by mapmapker extrordinaire Charlie Wiederhold [who went on to design some of the levels for Star Trek: Elite Force, amongst other games] is the most stunning recreation of a “real world” setting I have ever seen for a shooter game. Unlike Quake2’s very well designed levels that “suggest” the world of Stoggos, this level LOOKS like an Oil Rig, SOUNDS like an Oil Rig, makes you FEEL like you are actually on an Oil Rig, and has so many little features and gimmicks and functional nuances stuffed into it that you just have to sit back in awe at times. It must have taken a YEAR to make this level, from planning sketch to final compile.

An interesting detail to note is that the single player Oil Rig and the OilRigDM levels are indeed different .bsp files; Quakes 1 and 2 utilized what are known as “spawnflags” to make certain features appear only in deathmatch or single player mode or whatever. And since Sin runs on an “enhanced” Quake2 engine the same option is possible, but Mr. Wiederhold had the wherewithal to actually make two different versions of the level as not to compromise the vision he had for how either could/should be approached … For example, the SP version has a wonderful little “crusher” trap you need to deal with to get through it, and the feature is absent from the DM version as not to distract players with an unnecessary element. The DM version also makes use of the totally convincing “tower” structure that dominates the middle outside zone of the map, and packs every nook and cranny running along the outside and inside of the buildings that comprise its space with goodies that are not present in the single player build. It’s encouraging to see someone approaching their work so thoroughly, and hopefully budding Mac mapmakers will start to look to either of the Oil Rig maps as sources of inspiration and ideas when constructing “real world setting” game levels. Remember my mantra: good art is distinguished by how it leads to more good art, and the Oil Rig levels are masterpieces.

Since the focus of this article is to provide players with suggestions on how to approach the map when they encounter it on a DM server, we’ll stick to singing the praises of the DM level and its specifics. As with my review of Spry, another complex masterpiece of level design that defies verbal explanation, the best suggestion I can make is to look at the map on your own and get to know it. It’s a biggie; I’ve been in games with a full 16 players in the game, but have also enjoyed even 1 on 1 battles in the map that always make me think of a scene from a James Bond film or something like that, where you play cat and mouse with a ruthless killer on the unforgiving environment of an Oil Rig out in the middle of nowhere. Unlike many of Sin’s deathmatch levels, OilRigDM manages to retain the theatrical/cinematic nature of Sin at its best; you are in a living, breathing environment, not just a series of boxes textured to look like whatever. Sound cues throb in your ears, sirens and whistles blare, fans hum and machinery spins and rumbles: all of this is of course just scripted models and entity definitions, but what they all add up to is a world that is almost 100% believable.

One of the reasons I decided to write about the Oil Rig this week is that I have been sort of planning out another one of my notorious “hacks” of a preexisting game level, and what I am thinking about is attempting to make a Capture the Flag version of this level. Or, more accurately, change some of the compiled game level’s entity data into CTF items and such. To do this one needs to open up the level’s .bsp file with some sort of code or text editor (I use the excellent Tex-Edit Plus) and literally re-write [or copy and paste in] the level’s entity definitions to, say, change a shotgun clip into a CTF Heligun or a flag or whatever. It isn’t an easy thing to learn how to do, and I was totally overwhelmed when I first looked at OilRigDM.bsp’s Iliad-length string of entity code …. if you printed out, on paper, the entity definitions that make up the weapons, items, player starts, sound cues, scripted models, lighting effects and whatever else, you would easily print 75 pages of text, maybe more closer to 100 … I’ll try doing it at some point (like, where the Hell should the bases go??), but it helps to illustrate one of the common complaints about this map is that it runs “slow” on older [re: RAM-deficient] machines, and that is because it has been packed with every conceivable gimmick that Charlie W. could squeeze out of the game engine … this map is a working demonstration of almost everything that Sin and its “enhanced” Quake2 engine is capable of. The only thing missing is a teleporter or some kind of wacked-out gravity zone, neither of which (thankfully) would have been appropriate for the grungy, real-world, almost everyday setting … Although I seriously doubt that the majority of the people reading this article — myself included — has actually spent much time on an Oil Rig; we know them from TV and movies, and the recreation is dead perfect.

As stated above, it is the sheer size of the map that contributes to what I deem as a lack of appreciation of its excellence. It is almost too big for its own good, and without a doubt you will be lost 80% of the time during your first few games in it. It is helpful to remember that there are essentially two “stories” to the Oil Rig, a lower catwalk running around its outside, and then an upper story upon which the buildings and the tower are set … you could get technical and state that the ocean surface and building “roofs” also count as “stories”, and the point would be well taken since much of the action will end up taking place on top of the buildings hopping from structure to structure or even underwater as you fall/hop off and are pursued (or are pursuing) by your opponents … I have found the Shotgun to be the most effective underwater weapon in this level since accuracy isn’t that important and the water doesn’t spread the buckshot at all — go ahead and let them try to torpedo you with a rocket and just keep punching away with that Shotgun and you will get results.

Where was I … ahh yes — the map is essentially two stories that are connected by passageways through the inner structure of the Oil Rig and a series of ladders that lead from the water up to either story: often the quickest way to get from the lower section to the upper floor is just to hop over the side and shimmy up one of the ladders leading to the higher level. But there are also two doors leading into the main structure from the lower catwalk; one puts you at the bottom of a flight of stairs that lead up to a door that exits onto a catwalk that penetrates the lower guts of the Oil Rig’s machinery: look over the side of the catwalk onto the floors of the shaft chambers for leg armor, health powerups, pulse ammo and an invisibility charge. The second door leading inside from the lower level brings the player into a chamber that is almost in the exact center of this catwalk, and tucked underneath it is one of the map’s two Rocket Launchers. Remember where this is and how to distinguish which door leads into it, because it is much easier to get at then the other RL, after which you can hop up the ladder to the catwalk, grab the appropriate items, and head for the far door.

This opens into a small chamber with a ladder leading up into a slightly larger room with this terrific looking spinning turbine thing: open the door and you will exit into what is a small “bunkhouse” in the single player level. Everything has been removed from the DM version except the bunks, equipped with a shotgun and two clips of ammo. Exit into the larger chamber, and you will be confronted with a control panel to the left and two large fan structures to the right … learn to hop onto the control panel and from there leap onto the roof of the bunkhouse for two 20 point health jars, then jump from there onto the top of the fans, the further of the two having a precious Riot Helmet armor item stuck on one of its corners. Look for Pulse ammo in between the fans and then either exit through the door leading into the open central outdoor combat zone, or better yet go through the other door into another chamber that has a series of holding tanks to the left and another gorgeously oil-stained spinning turbine in a smaller chamber to your right. Run around behind the turbine and you will find rocket ammo and, more importantly, one of Sin’s multi-purpose Chainguns. Since these chambers are relatively small using the chaingun to bounce grenades off of walls or into opponents faces is always a suggested tactic.

Now if you go back into the larger chamber and look at the outflow ducts on the holding tanks to your left you will notice that one of them has a U4 charge perched on it … it took me nearly a month of jumping like an idiot trying to grab it time and time again before I remembered that Sin lets you pick items up that may be out of reach by pressing your “USE” key [by default the U button]: just walk up to the particular tank, jump up so that you are looking at the top of the duct and the U4 and press U and you will be one rampaging mutant from Hell. You can then either go back onto the room with the fans and shred whomever may be stumbling around trying to get on top of the bunkhouse, run straight out into the melee in the central open skied zone, or maybe go through the door to the far right that will put you back onto the catwalk that runs around the outside of the second story … a Pulse Rifle also waits patiently by this door and is often overlooked, so remember where it is.

But I usually go up the ladder by the tanks to penetrate even further into the Oil Rig by going through a door that exits into a slightly larger room with a bounce of scary looking incinerator type structures lining one wall: on top of one of them is a Pulse Rifle, and Chaingun bullets are stuck on top of the ducts connecting them to the long tanks that line the other side of the room — run between them and you will find a rare 100 point Medikit, then exit into yet another chamber that has a series of very functional looking vent/shaft devices, one of which you can hop up onto to grab a BioSheild powerup and either of two 5 point health jars, each sadistically positioned under spinning fan blades that will slice your head in half like a pineapple if you are not extremely careful. Grab the Machine Gun lying on the floor and then you can either go back into the guts of the Rig, or head out into the central open sky battlezone.

I’m not sure exactly why this is the preferred combat area in the level, but if you are in a game and need someone to shoot at, head outside to the canyon-like zone between the two building structures; leg armor, a Chaingun, shotgun shells and health jars are scattered here and there, and for some reason it always end up being kind of a “king of the playground” scenario as players try to outdo each other’s skills. I usually opt to head around the corner adjacent to the door just described, grab the shotgun lying on the catwalk, and then climb up the ladder to the platform that holds what is the Helipad in the single player version of the Oil Rig; rocket packs are stashed under the Helipad, and if you climb up the ladder to its surface the second Rocket Launcher waits smack dab in the middle. Grab it and GET OUTTA THERE — anyone on top of that platform is a sitting duck from any of the rooftops around you. In fact, my favorite tactic is to actually leap from the Helipad to the adjacent roof, which is equipped with some Machine Gun ammo, Spider Mines, and behind the small pool of water, an Invisibility powerup. And if you follow the ledge around the corner you’ll find an Adrenaline charge and some health jars; grab what you can, then head back around the corner to the tower.

Now things get interesting: walk over to the tower and use it to climb up to the next highest roof segment, where you will find a 50 point health charge and, more importantly, a Chest Armor item. Jump down onto the roof below you and you’ll find the other U4 jar provided in the level, and then you can either hop over the side to end up by the door with the plasma rifle on the catwalk OR climb up the tower to the adjacent roof, where a rare Riot Helmet item and some plasma ammo await. Then hop back onto the tower, hopefully still under the influence of the Invisibility or U4 charges, and climb as fast as you can for the peak. The tower is totally 133t not only because it has a Sniper Rifle on its top as well as a 50 point health jar AND gives one the optimum sniping vantage point in the whole map, but also rules because anyone whom is climbing it — including yourself, remember — is almost a sitting duck “sore thumb” target. Give them a nice spread of rockets or a constant stream of Chaingun bullets to convince the miscreant that it is time to move along, and in fact the wises move if you are on the top and the opposition is onto you is to make a Superman leap to the opposite roof so that you land [without taking any damage] in the pool of water on its roof. You will also find Leg Armor, one of the annoying Ion Cannons (though I must admit they are perfect for clearing the scum off the top of the tower) and a couple of health jars. This is actually my favorite sniping position because most players will assume that the sniper fire is coming from the tower, and there are some nice vent/duct structures up there you can duck behind when you start taking heat.

If you then hop down to the platform below this roof with the Helipad you will notice a door leading back in to the other of the Oil Rig’s “buildings”. Look first for the Adrenaline jar on the ledge just to the left of the door, then go through and you will enter what in the single player version of the map is the “Control Room”, which is seemingly ill-equipped with a Machine Gun and some 20 point heath jars lying on the desk tops. But if you shoot out the glass and step on the sill, if you look straight down you will notice a 100 point health Medikit perched on one of the pipes that crisscross the roof of the room below. Hop down just right and not only can you grab that, but then work your way across the pipes and ducts and you’ll find two rocket packs and another one of the annoying Ion Cannons … grab them, hop to the floor, and go over to the elevator that takes players up to the Control Room: if the elevator is “down”, press the control switch to send it back up and a Chest armor item lies on the floor of the shaft … just make sure to grab it and hop out of the shaft before some fool sends it back down to squash you like a bug.

Anyway, the other side of this chamber has a door that leads back out into the canyon like central battlezone, and you can start the madness all over again. The key thing to remember with this map is location, location, location: learn how to recognize where you are no matter where you spawn and what items/weapons are closest at hand. This level is also a great demonstration of why it isn’t always the smartest idea to just arbitrarily head for the rocket launcher and forsake all other possibilities (which is why it probably annoys so many of the Quake3-reared generation of Mac players now SiNning till dawn): much of the combat will end up being set inside and at relatively close range and I cannot sing the praises often enough of the wallop that Sin’s Shotgun packs at close range: learn how to go for the forehead area when you pull the trigger because helmets are few and far between in this map and you can often take down a player with one well placed round of buckshot. Learn how to use the twisting, turning, and complexly detailed architecture of the interior areas to your advantage, staking out common routes for sucker frags, and just let the rest of the yay-hoos fight over the centralized playground. Eventually they’ll come inside for some health or more ammo, and you will be ready.

In closing, and as with my review of Spry, there are literally a million details that had to be omitted because of space and the urge to not drive myself insane. If I was forced to make a “value judgment” between Sin’s maps, I would have to say that from the standpoint of a budding young psychotic mapmaker, this is currently my favorite of the Sin DM levels [although I will always have a soft spot for Gluttony, and Jungle2 from the single player game may very well be my all-time favorite game level period]. Just like looking at a Rembrandt painting or listening to a King Crimson album or watching a movie like “Blade Runner”, every freaking time I play this level I notice something that had escaped my attention previously or I hadn’t considered. This map has taught me a lot about how to construct an environment, not just a game level, and anyone with an interest in 3d level design should study it methodically: look at how sound cues are used in conjunction with scripted events to complete the illusion of functioning machinery; look at how lighting is used to add flavor to the map rather than just illumination, and look at the completeness of the design … even the smallest details like switches, catwalk railings and light bulbs are accounted for. No detail was spared, and you will have to look for a long time to find a level that is so well made.

Mr. Wiederhold, my hat will always be off to you for this one. Drop me a lyne if you’re ever in the NYC area; all the falafel and Guinness you can pump into your stomach is on me.

SQ082301

email: squonkamatic@excite.com

Visit SooN, Squonk’s Mac SiN Oriented Website for custom map and skin downloads and other goodies at http://www.squonkamatic.net/sin