Postmortem: 14 Lugaru Challenge Maps I Made

ruin sword slash

[~3500 words]

[The Lugaru Dev Team has been working on an OpenSource version of Lugaru. Along with being free, OpenSource Lugaru also has a lot of single player campaign mods pre-installed, including my own single player campaign, “The Seven Tasks”. Check it out: https://osslugaru.gitlab.io/]

[This post is about some stand-alone challenge maps I made for Lugaru. You can still download these challenge maps form the Lugaru forum here.]

Previously I did a postmortem of a mod campaign I made for the game Lugaru, by Wolfire Games. The editing tools for making maps in Lugaru were so buggy and such a pain to deal with that I decided to never make any new maps for Lugaru again.

THE BEGINNING

But then, while daydreaming during my freetime, I ended up brainstorming different ideas for individual maps. I’d think of some gimmick or trick that I could use. I ended up having so many ideas that I decided I would make these maps after all.

However, I wasn’t going to make a single player campaign like I had before. Adding story and cutscenes would have been too much of a pain in this engine.

Luckily, Lugaru had a Challenge Mode where you could play a series of 14 challenge maps that didn’t have story and weren’t connected in any way. You just booted up a map and tried to rack up as many points as you could. So, I decided to make some stand-alone maps for this.

I did all this many, many years ago, btw, so my memory of some things might be a little foggy.

ruin field fight

THE ARENA MAPS

These were actually the last three maps I made, but they’re some of my favorites so I’ll talk about them first.

In my previous campaign mod for Lugaru, I had made a bonus zombie level, where the player fights a bunch of slow and strong rabbits (zombies) inside a closed-off graveyard-like arena. This was so popular that it inspired me to create more arena-like maps for this Challenge Map mod.

For these arena maps I used some tricks I learned to make it so that, while the player is trapped in an enclosed area, enemies will slowly enter the arena in waves. If you don’t kill the initial waves of enemies you’ll soon get overrun by the additional enemies (it is very difficult to fight multiple enemies at once in Lugaru). This can create for some really intense and nerve-wracking combat, or it can create for some boring moments when you kill an enemy too quickly and then have to wait for the next wave to show up.

I was the first (and perhaps only person) to ever create these kind of arena levels for Lugaru, and I’m pretty proud of that.

brick arena 2

Wolfire Games has been working on Overgrowth, the sequel to Lugaru, for about a decade now, and one of the first playable combat levels they made were some arena maps. In fact, Overgrowth is going to have a sort of gladiator career mode where you play through a series of arenas.

Now, having arenas for a fighting game is kind of a no-brainer. And the idea of having the player fight in an arena is nothing new. Nevertheless, I really like to think that the arenas I had made for Lugaru (which no one else had done) are the inspiration for Wolfire to create arena maps in Overgrowth. (Just let me have this, okay.)

waterfall arena

HOW MY ARENA MAPS WORKED

Lugaru has no scripting in its editor. So, how did I manage to get the enemies to enter the arena at different intervals?

In Lugaru you can create patrol paths for enemies to follow, and you can make these paths as long as you like. So, to stagger the waves of enemies, I started enemies far away from the arena and then gave them patrol paths of various lengths that eventually led into the arena. The later an enemy was supposed to show up, the longer its patrol path was.

desert arena 2 rabbits

ARENA 1: You think you’re big time? You’re gonna die big time.

This is a pretty simple map set in the desert. The name was taken from a multiplayer netmap in Bungie’s Marathon series.

A bunch of walls surround a medium sized arena, with some overhanging balconies and rocks to break the visual monotony as well as to prevent the player from jumping out.

overgrowth cave arena

Starting enemies: 2 rabbits
1st wave: 1 rabbit
2nd wave: 1 wolf
3rd wave: 2 rabbits with swords

This is probably the ideal sized arena for this type of gameplay. There’s room to maneuver, but you can’t completely escape the enemies.

desert arena sword

Wolves are the most difficult enemies and they have the most health. So, it’s really nerve-wracking trying to kill the wolf quickly enough knowing that you’re about to get swarmed by two sword-rabbits.

ARENA 2: I’m only swearing ’cause I’m happy to see you.

The is a large map, with some… interesting… design choices. I like this one the least. It’s too large which makes it too easy to escape enemies, but it’s also harder than other maps so maybe that balances it out? Maybe not.

large arena wide

Starting enemies: 1 wolf sleeping in the bushes
1st wave: 2 rabbits
2nd wave: 1 wolf
3rd wave: 2 rabbits

I wanted to create a space where you could have the visually evocative “fighting in a field of wheat” moment by creating a field of small bushes. I thought it looked cool to fight in chest high foliage like some cinema samurai. The visual obscurity added a little bit of a different gameplay than the player was normally used to, as well, since it’s harder to see your enemies attacks.

large arena duel

I also played a trick on the player. There’s a wolf sleeping in the field which the player can’t see at first. But running through the bushes, fighting, or jumping will wake the wolf up, which can make for a very shocking surprise. It is possible to sneak up on the wolf and stealth-kill him, but it is very difficult.

Ultimately I’m not too happy with this level. There’s too much space to move around, and the mix of wolves and double rabbits is a little unfair. Ultimately, if I had to do this again, I’d make the arena smaller and just fill it with bushes, and I wouldn’t play any tricks on the player.

ARENA 3: That sound you hear is my fist laughing at your face

Starting enemy: 1 rabbit
1st wave: 2 rabbits
2nd wave: 1 rabbit
3rd wave: 2 rabbits
4th wave: 1 rabbit

This is a very small area, with a flaming pillar in the middle to make the playspace less straightforward, and some bushes in the corners to contrast against the walls and make it easier for the player to orient himself.

small arena red rabbit

In terms of wave progression the 1-2-1-2 series probably works best, although this map is too small for it to really shine.

There’s an interesting trick I used in this level. When the rabbits enter the arena they just walk through the walls. Normally this should be impossible. However, something I learned while making maps for Lugaru was that if you create on object “on top of” a character (player or NPC), that they will behave like normal until they exit the physical boundaries of the object and only then will they act as though the object is real.

So for this map, I basically spawned some enemies, created their patrol paths that led to the arena. Then, I created giant cubes that surrounded the enemies and also formed the walls of arena. Since the enemies started inside the cubes, they would walk straight through them and into the arena at which point the enemies treated the cubes as solid again.

arena fire

Fun side note. If you wall jump in just the right way you can set yourself on fire with the flaming pillar. Once you’re on fire you can run into enemies and bushes to set them on fire too. You can roll in the snow to put yourself out. Then, as new enemies enter the arena they will run into the flaming bushes/corpses and also light on fire. It’s a dangerous tactic, but really fun and satisfying if you can pull it off.

THE REST OF THE CHALLENGE MAPS

MAP 1:

I don’t have any pictures. The map is too laggy on my current computer. It’s also not that interesting.

I basically took a cutscene/dialogue map from the original Lugaru campaign, made some changes, and set all the NPCs to “hostile”.

In the Lugaru campaign, I always liked the architecture in this level, but you’re not really able to explore the underground rabbit city because it’s in a cutscene.

This map was only “okay” to play.

tomb of the ice king

MAP 2: Tomb Of The Ice King

In this map the player plays as a wolf and fights a bunch of rabbits.

I used a trick I learned about spawning the player inside a physical object. The object essentially won’t exist for the player until he leaves, and then the object will behave like normal (as an obstacle). Interestingly, the player can see everything except other characters while inside the object.

So, in this map the player starts out, doesn’t see anything, starts running, pops out of a wall, and suddenly is surrounded by rabbits.

Narratively what’s supposed to be happening is that you’re “the Ice King” whose trapped in his tomb. Some adventurers come to wake you up and steal your treasure. I designed and armed the rabbits that you fight to reflect different RPG character classes. So, the “wizard” rabbit doesn’t carry any weapons and has bright, blue robes, the “rogue” wears dark clothes and carries a knife, etc. Yes, I do always put too much thought into the things I work on.

Herot Hall

MAP 3: Herot Hall

I based this map on the epic poem “Beowulf”. This map is the scene where Grendel and Beowulf fight hand-to-hand in the hall of King Hrothgar.

This map is designed to kind of look like a viking long hall, with wooden pillars, etc. The long things in the middle are supposed to be tables. There’s a fire in the middle, and the corpses of warriors that Grendel has slain lying on the ground.

A pretty straight forward map, although if you’re clever you can get Grendel (the wolf) to run into the fire and weaken him that way.

asteroids and distant joy stick

MAP 4: Asteroids

The gimmick here is that this map is based on the classic arcade game “Asteroids”. The whole map is a bunch of static rocks floating in the air, along with a few other objects.

The player starts off on a platform, which when viewed from a distance is supposed to look like a joystick and button (homage to the arcade). No, it’s not supposed to look like a penis.

The player jumps across a bunch of these “asteroids” and fights green rabbits who are supposed to represent aliens.

At the end of the asteroid field you come to what’s supposed to be a UFO with some more rabbits. In the distance there’s the number “300” floating in the air, meant to represent the high score.

asteroids ufo

This is a fun level. It’s easy to get knocked off the rocks and fall to your death. Conversely it’s just as easy to knock the enemy rabbits into oblivion. Sometimes the enemies even flat out jump off into the void when fighting you (the AI isn’t designed to handle this kind of map). The player can take the easy route and let gravity kill his enemies, but this leads to a very low score. Players who want a challenge will be hard pressed to kill the enemies WITHOUT letting them fall of the edge, for maximum points.

In this way, this level contains a player-guided difficulty curve.

ice landscape

MAP 5: Death Of The Ice King

This is a physical duplicate of the previous Ice King level, with the enemies and player changed around. (I did this partially because I spent a lot of time making the crystalline “ice” structures around the level and I didn’t want that work to go to waste on just one level.)

ice structure cubes

The player is a rabbit. There is a wolf on a giant throne (that wasn’t in the previous iteration of this level) and several rabbits dressed and armed exactly the same as in the previous level.

The narrative here is that in the previous level the Ice King killed the adventurers, resurrected some of them to serve him, and reclaimed power over these lands. The player then represents a hero that’s come to destroy the evil King of Ice, once and for all.

Sigh. Even when I promise myself not to add a story to my levels I just can’t resist.

glitch punch

MAP 6: iPod Commercial

This might be my favorite level in the game. It’s perhaps the most experimental since I pushed the visual style and even broke the visuals at one point.

By adjusting the various lighting options I made it so that the ground and the characters have no lighting and are entirely black. I made the sky just a solid shade of yellow. This means that the characters and the landscape all merge together visually, with some obvious consequences on gameplay.

glitch lugaru wolf

A non-obvious consequence is that it forces the player to alter how they control the camera. Normally when playing Lugaru, you tend to angle your camera at a down-angle. If you do that in this level then all you’ll see is blackness. You have to consciously, constantly, and actively angle your camera upwards to see the silhouettes of your enemies.

The effects of all this does change the gameplay, and makes a more challenging and interesting experience for the player.

glitch jump

In addition, I lowered the view distance in this level to the point that visual glitches such as tearing (smearing?) show up frequently (although on more powerful graphics cards I don’t think this happens which is disappointing). The visual tearing doesn’t alter the gameplay, but I really liked the way it looked.

The only problem with this level is that it’s really easy to get lost in the abstract landscape. On the hardest difficulty your radar is taken away so you can’t even use that to orient yourself.

dojo map

MAP 7: Neo is fighting Morpheus(es)

The gimmick here is that this level is loosely based on the dojo fight scene in the Matrix.

There’s one move you can do in Lugaru which is a wall-jump-spinkick that looks really cool. I made this arena with lots of walls so you can try to use that move as much as possible. The trees in the corners are there so the player can make sense of the visual space amidst these monotone walls (couldn’t control that; all objects are textured the same in the Lugaru engine).

I also added three “Morpheuses” because fighting just one rabbit would have been too easy and boring.

hare cityscape

MAP 8: Hare ODST

Another gimmick, this map was inspired by Halo: ODST, which had come out at about this time. The map is made to look at least somewhat look a section of a metropolitan city.

You start in mid air and fall to the rooftop of a building. Nearby two other rabbits fall from the sky. These are supposed to be your fellow ODSTs whose drop pods failed. They die on impact.

There’s a few enemies on nearby rooftops, along with some patrolling the “street” below.

hare grunt rabbits

I actually tried to make the enemy rabbits look like Grunts by playing around with the proportions of their torsos and limbs. There is wolf in yellow armor carrying a staff which is meant to represent a Brute carrying a hammer.

This is actually a fun level, if only because of the visual appeal. Once you’re down at street level it’s a bit of a pain to get back to the rooftops if you missed an enemy, but it is doable.

ruin wide view

MAP 9: Ruin In A Field

The title is a play on words. The map location is an actual ruined building sitting a field of bushes. This is also a field where someone will meet their ruin, either you or your enemies.

Visually this map looks really cool, but it doesn’t play very well. Which kind of makes sense since I created this map specifically so you would look cool fighting in it.

ruin close view

You start with a staff and all the rabbits have swords. On the one hand this means you get to have a lot of cool sword fights in this level. On the other hand, sword fights are actually kind of boring in Lugaru. You can also get overwhelmed by multiple enemies very quickly and that’s not fun.

I also trick the player in this level (similar to an arena map I made). There’s some waist high bushes that are meant to evoke the “fighting in a field of wheat” moment of some samurai movies. I had some rabbits in those bushes, but they’re sitting down so you can’t actually see them until they get up and attack.

In terms of gameplay this is a mediocre level.

myst high view

MAP 10: MYST Wars: Channelwood Age

Myst is one of my favorite games of all time, and one of the most visually impressive levels was Channelwood Age, a forest of massive trees with a treehouse city in the branches.

Inspired by that visual style, I decide to make my own treehouse city that the player could fight through.

myst bridge and village

You start off in an area that’s meant to be a prison. (There was a bit of secret storytelling going on here that the player would never guess: this is a level from an imaginary spinoff Myst game where the different ages of Myst are at war with each other; you’re a warrior from another age [Mechanical maybe?] whose been captured by the Channelwood army; you’ve just escaped prison in the center of your enemy’s stronghold.)

myst broken bridge

I’m not going to give a point by point walkthrough. Needless to say that this level is really big. Most of the areas actually have no enemies at all. A lot of areas can be seen through the mist, off in the distance. You could consider these areas “non-playable” except you can get to them with a carefully place jump, and this is by design to reward players who (like me) love to explore. You can also use these “non-playable” areas to circumnavigate the map and attack the enemies from a different direction.

Visually this level is really cool, with all these tree-house villages rising out of the mist. In terms of gameplay, it’s just “okay”.

desert trees bridge

MAP 11: Reduce Reuse Recycle

The name comes from the fact that this is just a recycled map of the preceding Myst Wars map. I mean, I worked really hard on that map and I didn’t want to just use it once. Also, I couldn’t think of any other map ideas.

I changed the map palette from “forest” to “desert” and I also replaced the rabbits enemies with a couple of wolves. I also increased the view distance and got rid of the fog, and this combined with the desert palette really makes this look and feel like a different map.

desert trees village

I made a few tiny changes to the structures, such as the merlons that line the main bridge. I’ll explain why. To deal with the tough wolf enemies, I start the player off with two knives. Usually wolves are pretty good at dodging knife throws. On this level, however, this often led to the wolves dodging off of the edge of platforms to fall to their deaths. I added the merlons so that when wolves dodge a knife throw, the merlon will keep them from falling. A simple solution, but one which still allows the player to try and get a wolf to fall off the edge with a properly time knife throw.

MAPS 12-14: Arena Maps

These were the arena maps I talked about at the beginning of the post.

CONCLUSION

Making these maps was a bit of a pain, but not as much of a pain as making the single player maps.

I am actually more proud of these stand-alone challenge maps than I am of the campaign I made for Lugaru. A lot of that has to do with all the experimental and more imaginative stuff I was doing. Unfortunately, not many people actually cared about these maps. It didn’t get a lot of buzz in the forums. Oh well.

After this I went on to program a Flash game from scratch. I hope to write about that one in the future because I like it very much. Don’t get me wrong, the coding is almost broken and the art is awful (I drew it myself), but I’m still really happy with it and it’s pretty funny if you can get past the unplayability. See you later.

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