Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

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Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:34 am UTC

(Not sure whether to post this here or over at Your Art And Links instead. Mods feel free to move it if you choose.)

Some of you probably know the video game developer Bungie, who made Destiny and Halo. Well, half a decade before Halo they made another revolutionary (for its time) sci-fi first-person shooter game called Marathon, which is now open-source with a lot of fan-made graphical enhancements and free available to download and play on all major platforms.

Fans of Marathon have made a lot of mods (what we call "scenarios") for it too, including yours truly. Mine is called Eternal, and it's a single-player continuation of the original Marathon trilogy that's about twice as long as any of the original games. I completed an extremely rough first draft of it back in 2004, then with the help of a lot of other people made a more-finished pass in 2008, with the intention of finishing a few more stretch goals soon thereafter to call it finally "done", but instead spent the following seven years barely eking out a 1.1 version instead, which is also freely available to download and play on all major platforms.

As I was working on my Chronicles of Quelouva over the past year, another Marathon fan came out of the blue and completed the biggest missing piece of the project as plugin to my mod. With that inspiration, I've decided to carry on the creative momentum from working on the Chronicles and try to dedicate this next year to finally crossing Eternal off my to-do list forever.

Mostly I intend for that to involve finishing a texture upgrade that I was partway through a few years ago before life imploded on me again. I'm going to try to take it really slowly and finish that over the course of this year, and I might maybe share some of the progress on it here, if anyone cares to see it. I'm also trying to get some other fans to help with a few other little finishing touches while I work on that.

The current version is totally playable though, if anyone cares to check it out. I would recommend playing the original trilogy first though, since, you know, sequel and all that.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:16 am UTC

Probably nobody cares, but I have a couple of screenshots of the work in progress to share:

Image

Image

And this last one is my first attempt at bump mapping:

Image
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:32 am UTC

Bump maps are awesome:

Image
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:50 am UTC

Image

(there's more screenshots at that link above, just posting my favorite of each batch here)
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:38 am UTC

I've mostly given up on telling anyone about this on this forum since nobody seems to care, but I just really enjoyed this semi-action-shot, intending mostly to show some of the updated textures but a really nice shot of one of the new weapons too:

Image
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:36 pm UTC

Hurray the first alpha of the new version of this I'm working on this year is out now.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:29 am UTC

Just another screenshot I thought was cool enough to share:

Image
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 04, 2018 9:12 am UTC

I'm kinda proud of this texture:

Image
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Opinions Wanted Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 04, 2018 11:38 pm UTC

It's recently come to my attention that a large section of the fan community for Marathon think that this entire project is complete shit, but have only been saying so in places I wasn't aware existed, while the handful of people who have commented have been generally positive.

This is making me question whether I should even be bothering.

I would greatly appreciate if someone outsiders would take a look at the project and let me know their opinion.
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Re: Opinions Wanted Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Chen » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:14 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:It's recently come to my attention that a large section of the fan community for Marathon think that this entire project is complete shit, but have only been saying so in places I wasn't aware existed, while the handful of people who have commented have been generally positive.

This is making me question whether I should even be bothering.

I would greatly appreciate if someone outsiders would take a look at the project and let me know their opinion.


As an outsider I don't really even know how to judge this. You're working with a fairly old engine so it's clearly not going to hold up visually to any modern titles but I don't imagine that's the expectation. The textures look fine. As for story or anything since I have no familiarity with the original game or its sequels I can't really give any input on that. I think the issue is this is quite a niche game and quite old. An outsider will likely have no real knowledge of this game or what is expected from mods.

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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby SecondTalon » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:37 pm UTC

Can't really say much that Chen hasn't said. I could download and play it, but I've not got the proper context.

That said - are you sure it's a large portion of the fanbase and not just ten assholes? I mean, looking at things like Reddit and /r/gaming, /r/truegaming /r/games and so on, you'd think no one and their cousin would ever touch another Call of Duty game ever again as they're all derivative garbage.

And yet, that series is like printing money. Each one sells more than the one before it because, generally speaking, people who like a thing have no reason to go online and find other people who also like a thing and then spend hours of their time talking about how much they like a thing... because all that wasted time could be spent playing a thing.
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Re: Opinions Wanted Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby cphite » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:45 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:It's recently come to my attention that a large section of the fan community for Marathon think that this entire project is complete shit, but have only been saying so in places I wasn't aware existed, while the handful of people who have commented have been generally positive.

This is making me question whether I should even be bothering.

I would greatly appreciate if someone outsiders would take a look at the project and let me know their opinion.


Your textures look cool... it's an old engine and that shows, but so what? Not everything has to be shiny and new.

Ignore the haters. People love to bitch about games; if you judge only by forums, every game sucks and nobody plays anything ever. Yet, somehow they keep selling 'em to people...

It sounds like you enjoy working on this thing, so why not just work on it and have fun?

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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:32 pm UTC

My first impression is "ch*irpin' awesomeful!" Now, I know nothing about Marathon, but I can easily see the Quelova worlds done this way. That it looks "rendered" compared to, say, an actual photograph of what the real thing might be, is of no concern in my mind. For one thing, you could always re-render the dataset, but in the context of a game or a story, if you're still looking at technical glitches, the underlying game or story is what needs work, not the imagery.

No matter what you do, somebody is going to not like it. Ignore them. In most cases, you'll find that those people have never actually done anything along those lines.

I'm not sure what stage of completion this is in - is it playable right now? Are these concept drawings? (The relevant context is "how much have you done WRT how much still needs to be done?")

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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:43 am UTC

Thanks for the feedback everyone. To answer Jose’s question it has been fully playable for well over a decade, this year’s project is just putting the finishing touches on it all. Some of the haters talking about how awful it is (all behind my back in a place I didn’t know existed so nobody trying to attack me directly) are some of the other more prominent creators in the community, which is why it stings so. They’ve politely given me criticism before and sometimes I agree even if changing it would be too much work this late in the game, but I didn’t know until now that they thought it was really that awful.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:29 am UTC

Without knowing their issues with it, I can't really say if it's valid. Like, I'm starting to get in to the RPGMaker scene and there's so many terrible games that aren't terrible for mechanical reasons or even art reasons, just that the story is full of horrible cliche trope garbage shit.

But I'm doing what I can to say simply "Story's not for me" and moving on to what I can critique.

So.. is it that sort of thing?

Also, fuck'em if they can't tell you to your face too. You're awesome.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jul 07, 2018 5:00 am UTC

Interestingly story is the one aspect universally praised for it, to the point that there are stickied forum threads to remind people it isn’t actually canon. It’s mostly the maps that people hate, which aren’t my work so I don’t take that personally; and now apparently my new textures too, which is what’s really got me down as that is what I am currently spending so much time refining.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:21 pm UTC

They’re complaining about textures?

Man, fuck them.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:02 pm UTC

I discovered a single numerical configuration value that has been set wrong in Eternal for over a decade, changing which radically improves the quality of lighting across the entire scenario, and now even the people who thought it sucked think it looks pretty awesome. :)
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:29 pm UTC

I stand by my "fuck them" assessment. All the same, congratulations. You should feel like that guy who fixed Colonial Marines
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby techblogger911 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:24 pm UTC

Good work! I don't always like new and shiny textures ;)

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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 23, 2018 4:45 pm UTC

Thank you :)

got past the alpha stage and released Beta 1 last night
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:20 am UTC

beta 2 is due tomorrow night, and I took this screenshot tonight to remind myself of the bug in the landscape texture you see there, but despite that bug I thought the screenshot was worth sharing:

Image
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:21 pm UTC

I'm not seeing the bug. Is it the dark patch being too gridlike? That's all I can figure.

Still, that looks like a fun classic deathmatch arena - things are open enough that a sniper can sit in a spot and control vast stretches of territories but there's also enough cover that someone could easily make it through and, while the sniper's looking at one spot, hit them. It's varied enough to be interesting, has a goal (Climb higher!) that's self evident, there's lots of places to hide but no place that's secure - hiding from one direction still leaves you vulnerable to three more (without even counting height).

I mean, I'd run around in it and blow things up.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Sep 25, 2018 4:48 pm UTC

The bug was that halfway between the motion sensor in the middle and the weapon display on the right was a seam in the landscape (“skybox”) texture wherein it didn’t wrap correctly.

And this level is meant to be part of the single player campaign (there are no multiplayer maps in my mod, though there are in the original Marathon series), but I’m glad you think it would make for a good one and agree with your assessment of it for that purpose.
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:56 pm UTC

I'm very happy to report that over the past couple of months, development on Eternal has really taken off, as a couple of fans have chipped in a ton of time and effort to really polish a bunch of things up way beyond my expectations for what I thought I would get done this year.

One of them also has a YouTube channel that is mostly gameplay videos from the Marathon series, and he has a playlist of every level in Eternal (in various stages of this year's development) that I thought I should share with you all, here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 7fvitdSKDH

Though I think my current favorite of his videos are two currently-unlisted ones showing the addition of a script to add weather effects to a couple of levels, something unprecedented in the original Marathon trilogy and so really cool (to me) to see in a Marathon scenario, even if it's nothing special by the standards of modern titles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsBilYx4Ibg

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeiBXmXqlNY

I missed my end-of-year deadline due to serious illness that wiped December off the calendar for me, but so many other people are so enthusiastically helping out now that I've decided that my own prior commitments to other things that preclude me from working on Eternal myself any more shouldn't force them all to stop or to abandon their still-incomplete plans to make it even more awesome (including multiplayer maps, because they've been testing the solo campaign in cooperative play and finding it so much fun that they want to be able to fight each other too).

So while they've carried on without me, rolling out three unofficial betas across December, I've decided to call those official, release one more myself this week with the last of the work I had planned to complete by the end of last year, and then let them all finish off their incomplete additions to roll into one more final feature-frozen beta 10, after which they're all going to playtest it and fix any bugs they find themselves until it gets to a state that we can call final.

It's kind of a dream come true, seeing a project of mine become so beloved that it carries on in the arms of the fans-cum-codevelopers achieving heights I never even aimed for even while I'm completely incapacitated.

Oh and BTW, development builds are all publicly available if anyone here wants to check them out:

http://eternal.bungie.org/development.php
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Re: Eternal (a Marathon scenario)

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:37 pm UTC

Well, it took three months longer than expected, but Eternal X 1.2 is finally final!

And here's the sort of postmortem thing I've been planning to post once that finally happened:


Eternal Hindsight Plans

I would have based the textures much more closely off of the textures from the original trilogy, and just adjusted them to fit a more-sensible version of the pattern that I designed my textures to fit: (spoilered for length and dryness)
Spoiler:
Firstly all texture elements would align to a 128x128 grid, so that the textures can be properly represented in the low-res default bitmaps without weird aliasing issues.

Furthermore, a 40x40 grid would be aligned to that 128x128 grid, and then everything would align with that, so that textures align in both an eight-fold way and a five-fold way. That is to say, if you had a 0.125 WU space, or a 0.2 WU space, or any multiple of either of those, every texture could be aligned into that space without any element of it getting cut off in an ugly way.

The textures as they exist now have been halfheartedly retrofitted to a standard close to this, but I would have done it that way consistently from the beginning. And I would have initially made just some template textures of various patterns fitting to that grid, and had the maps built with just those templates, and only later substituted in the fully-detailed textures, built to align with those templates and so pre-compatible with the maps built using those templates.

The various patterns would be similar to the ones used in the existing textures, but a little different. Right now, there are ten "special" textures, then a series of eight patterns repeated thrice for the three sub-environments of each set. Instead of that:

I would have, instead of two almost-identical door textures per set, a single door texture per set that, depending on alignment, can be used for either split or whole doors.

I would have removed the "wall lamp" textures entirely, instead allowing wall lamps to be made in map geometry by putting a lights panel texture behind the transparent window texture, which would be adjusted to be suitable to this purpose; and made a single transparent logo texture for each texture set. That would get rid of what works out to thirty goddamn lights and logos per texture set, which was a stupid idea and I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I planned things that way.

I'd have kept the continuous base texture useful for irregular surfaces, and the eight-fold horizontal and vertical textures useful for things like door jams and the sides of platforms; added an eight-fold grid to go along with those in place of the current four-fold grid; kept the combined-five-and-eight-fold textures useful for halls and shafts; added a combined-five-and-eight-fold grid useful for floors and ceilings, like the current four-fold grids are but more versatile; and added a one-fold texture useful for really big walls because it tiles less than any of the others.

Instead of the three sub-environments of each texture set that I have now, "indoor", "outdoor", and "metal", I would instead have made four, the quadrants of a two-dimensional matrix: an indoor above-ground environment for the nicely furnished places meant for sapient habitation; an indoor below-ground environment for the industrial basements, replacing the current "metal" environment; an outdoor above-ground environment for undeveloped surface lands; and an outdoor below-ground environment for subterranean places. Generally speaking, the outdoor textures would be less saturated than indoor ones, and the below-ground ones darker than the above grounds, but of course just saturation and lightness wouldn't be the only differences.

With each template texture in its particular sub-environment meant for a particular use, texturing maps could almost be automated, so to speak. Is this an indoor hallway? Use the indoor hallway texture. And so on. But to break up the monotony and make sure every room looks different, I would keep the different color variations of each texture set, but remove the grey variations, because by the four-color theorem just four textures is enough to ensure that no two adjacent rooms ever have to be the same color, and also because everybody hates grey and it's useless.

Between all of these changes, the number of textures would end up almost exactly the same. actually just eight more per set. The changes to the lights and logos and doors substracts 2x3x5 textures. The splitting of the grid into two textures and addition of the big wall texture add exactly that number back. The addition of a fourth sub-environment adds 8x5 textures; but then the removal of the grey color subtracts 8x4 textures. I think the more versatile variety would have been much more useful for mapping than thirty fucking lamps and logos and grey versions of everything, though.



I would have made the whole scenario smaller, as in fewer levels. Instead of three intro levels, a fork level, and two levels of each branch of the fork, it probably would have sufficed to have just one intro, the fork level, and one level for each branch. That would mean twenty fewer maps to make, and made the scenario take about half as long to play, without really sacrificing much of any importance.



But the biggest difference is that I would have structured the entire scenario differently, around the concept of the Pfhor empire and its three great rebellions spanning the gap between the ancient Jjaro and modern Humanity:


Chapter 1 would have still taken place on the Marathon, but it would have been set during the time of the Pfhor war like the current chapter 2, which would have been omitted. The initial plan would have been, instead of just to find the Battleroids at Tau Ceti, to retrofit the Marathon with its own Cybernetic Junction and turn it into a time-travelling battle-moon like K'lia could be, if only it weren't housing the last surviving remnants of humanity and so unavailable for that role. The Marathon would have been destroyed in mysterious circumstances during the war by the time this plan was hatched, however, so the mission would be to go back in time to shortly before its destruction, secure it and put it in Hathor's control, then bring the K'lia junction back in time to install on it.

The intro level would be something much like Sakhmet Rising in style, merely trying to gain entrance into the Marathon from outside. It would be under Nar control at the time, but Human forces from the then-present would be attempting to reclaim it, and the Pfhor would be there trying to stop them.

The fork level would be installing Hathor into what used to be Leela's databanks. In the process, the remnants of Leela still in K'lia's systems in the future would interact with the remnants of Leela still left in the databanks after her sloppy deinstallation at Pfhor hands, and that would give rise to the Leela featured throughout the scenario. She would briefly have access to Hathor's processes on K'lia, until Hathor noticed that and shut her out, and that's how she would know to warn you about Hathor -- if you noticed her message on the level, at least.

If you didn't, then you would continue to the failure branch thinking Hathor was good still, until, having finished putting her in control of Marathon, she told you what the next steps in the plan would be, revealing her malice toward humanity under the assumption that you would just agree with it... but we'd never see where that timeline went because Jjarandal would interrupt with a failure dream and send you back.

If you noticed Leela's message that time around, she would take you off to the success branch where you two would work together to foil Hathor's plans, which would somehow or another end with the destruction of the Marathon that was such a mystery to the humans of the future. Hathor would flee back in time, and using your Junction, Leela would help you follow.

The first chapter taking place in the same time frame as the current second chapter also creates a nice kind of loop around when the end of the final chapter returns back to that same time frame again. Perhaps strengthening that connection even more, the prologue could describe how despite Humanity's effective loss of the war, the Pfhor are just as doomed because of some unknown catastrophic explosion spreading through the galaxy from the heart of Pfhor territory, putting even greater urgency on the need to create and move to a better timeline -- the very same explosion that ends up being caused by the events at the end of chapter 5.


Chapter 2 would have been largely the same as the current Chapter 3, just minus the intro during the S'pht Clan Wars. You would arrive in the midst of the Pfhor invasion of Lh'owon, and then, while tracking down and trying to destroy Hathor, be approached by S'bhuth to help turn back the Pfhor assault. Only when you succeeded would you realize that S'bhuth has also been receiving aid from Hathor, who pointed him in your direction to begin with, all with the aim of prompting the Pfhor to deploy the trih xeem against the untamable S'pht and wipe them out entirely, dooming mankind in their future encounters with the Pfhor. Also, the whole W'rkncacnter-in-the-sun problem. If you instead proceeded with "destroying" Hathor (forcing her to flee through time again), then Leela would gain access to future-K'lia and merge with the remnants of S'bhuth there, as she does in the present story, and upon that enlightenment would realize both the need and the means for making the S'pht'Kr leave the battle. In the success branch level, you would put Leela-S'bhuth in contact with the S'bhuth of that time, convincing him to leave as he historically did, much like in the current story.


The new Chapter 3 would be the most different, taking place during the end of the Nakh rebellion against the Pfhor. I'm thinking that this chapter would look much like the present Chapter 2 does, aesthetically, either because it's all in thoroughly Pfhor-controlled places that the Nakh rebellion is happening, or perhaps because the Pfhor got their biotech from the Nakh similar to how they got their cybertech from the S'pht, and so Nakh structures have that purple organic look that later Pfhor structures do. I'm not entirely sure what the plot of this chapter would be, but I'm thinking that maybe the Nakh themselves posed some kind of galactic threat in their desperation against Pfhor rule, maybe planning to deploy some kind of bioweapon that eventually would inadvertently wipe out Humanity as well, and Hathor wants them to win, contra-historically. You then would have to ensure somehow that the Pfhor wipe out the Nahk, in a kind of foreshadowing of the events of Chapter 5.


Chapter 4 would be largely unchanged, besides being shorter like all of them, basically just having all the Pfhor-set levels trimmed off and the rest rejiggered a bit to compensate. And the fact that you're helping to launch a slave revolt against the Pfhor, what will turn out to be a much bigger one than the Nakh revolt you just helped put down in the future of chapter 3, would be a bit of emotional respite, right before the gut-punch that is chapter 5. You had to let the S'pht be enslaved so that they wouldn't be exterminated, and then cause the Nahk to be exterminated so that they wouldn't cause even more widespread devastation, so actually getting to incite a slave revolt now is a nice change of pace... and the false hope spot before you have to do even worse than you did to the Nakh in the next chapter.


And chapter 5 would also be largely unchanged, except I'm thinking that maybe for the failure branch, rather than going back in time with Hathor to the start of the W'rkncacnter trouble and blowing up the Earth with a trih xeem from space, she would instead just take you, still at the present time, directly to the body of the W'rkncacnter itself, buried underground... in the catacombs that make up the last few levels of Pathways Into Darkness, there to do something that will still end up blowing up the Earth, but you get that awesome Pathways tie-in there now.


I would have had the prologue, epilogue, and failure and success dreams constructed a little differently too. The prologue level, rather than being on real K'lia prior to your departure, would be a dream version of a Human spacestation (maybe the same Inti station from the current failure dreams), a dream occurring during your transport from the future back to the Marathon, which would have the benefit of letting the prologue terminal be split up in an unrealistic way, and also (together with the different chapter 5 failure plot) alleviate the need for the dumb story patch currently in place to explain why you don't dream during only those two time-jumps ("because it's different somehow when Marcus and Hathor travel together, for reasons I guess"). The failure dreams would be returns to that space station, calling back to the beginning just like the success dreams foreshadow the end.

Meanwhile the post-teleport section of the success dreams would be some larger dreamlike Forerunner space that you could only see, not visit, from the terminal room you're locked in. The epilogue would then be yet another copy of that same success dream level, except just as the real Where Giants Have Fallen doesn't have you visit that dreamlike terminal space but does let you finally go through the door that's been locked the whole time before, this new epilogue would have you only visit that dreamlike space that you've only been able to see so far, and make your way to the usual terminal from there. Between that and the changes to chapter 3, we'd end up never actually seeing K'lia in the whole scenario, which would let the environment currently shared between K'lia and chapter 4 be dedicated entirely to the latter. The whole rearrangement would create generally nicer symmetry in the scenario too.



I would have, as mentioned in part elsewhere, themed the architecture and texture design of each chapter a little more consistently too:

The Human/Marathon environment of chapter 1 would be very square, both in its architecture and in its textures. It would have the color scheme it currently does, with a military green the primary color, gold and teal accents, and a highly desaturated purple for contrast. The source of level puzzles (i.e. why can't you just walk straight from point A to point B like you could in a well-designed real-world space) would have been that the Marathon is a half-decommissioned scrap ship by this point and most of its doors and elevators and such don't work like they're supposed to. (So basically, the levels would have been designed like easy-to-navigate real places, but then those easy paths would be broken by malfunctioning doors and elevators and such, requiring you to find another, longer way around).

The S'pht/Lh'owon environment of chapter 2 would be very hexagonal, both in its architecture and in its textures. It would also have the color scheme it currently does, with orange-brown the primary color, yellow-brown and red-brown accents, and desaturated blue-greys for contrast. The source of level puzzles in this chapter would simply be that the S'pht can fly and you can't, so what's a well-designed easy-to-navigate structure for them is very different for you, and you have to find the long way around again in many circumstances (foot paths maybe designs so that F'lick'ta don't get stuck in places).

The Nakh/Pfhor environment of chapter 3 would be very organic and irregular, both in its architecture and in its textures. It would have the color scheme of the current Pfhor set, with magenta as its primary color, red and blue accents, and a desaturated green for contrast. The source of level puzzles in this chapter would just be inscrutable alien geometry. You are in a maze of tiny intestine-like purplish organic corridors, all alike. It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a Hound. (If the ship itself doesn't just digest you first).

The Drinniol/Jjaro environment of chapter 4 would be very octagonal, both in its architecture and its textures. It would have the color scheme it currently does: dark green as its primary color, with faded orange and azure accents, and a highly desaturated purple for contrast. The source of level puzzles in this chapter would be crumbling ancient architecture that's been falling apart for thousands if not millions of years.

The Jjaro/Sphere environment of chapter 5 would be very circular, both in its architecture and its textures. It would have the color scheme it currently does: azure as its primary color, with teal and blue accents, and a coppery desaturated orange for contrast. The source of level puzzles in this chapter would mostly be because half the time you're running around the rugged untamed wilderness outside, and the other half of the time you're in some kind of crazy 5D spacetime folded in upon itself.


Each environment would have certains patterns of architecture that would be reused throughout: a distinctive hallway geometry, a distinctive elevator geometry, a distinctive room geometry, etc. Perhaps with subtypes for the different sub-environments, e.g. perhaps the Human upstairs interior hallways all have a recessed alcove filled with light panels along the tops of their walls, and the Human downstairs exterior halls all have small columns lining them.



Perhaps each of the chapters could have had its own distinct weapon -- have only one fusion weapon instead of two, a S'pht weapon, a Nakh weapon, a Drinniol weapon, and only one of the Jjaro weapons -- though that would then necessitate eliminating one of the Pfhor weapons, and I struggle to think what a S'pht or Drinniol weapon would be like (since the S'pht build their weapons into their cybernetics, which is the same reason there's no usable Hunter weapon, and the Drinniol don't use weapons at all). But it's a thought that I've played with at least.



Lastly, but far from least... I have wild fantasies of Eternal having been part of a trilogy of scenarios, shadowing a version of the Marathon Trilogy that never was:

The first in this shadow trilogy would have been a prequel of sorts to Marathon 1. On the Tau Ceti colony before the Pfhor assault began, you would be working security for a team lead by Bernhard Strauss secretly investigating a Jjaro artifact buried on the surface of Tau Ceti IV (because JJARRO WERE AT TAU CETI); an artifact similar to the one that would have been featured in the plot of the Marathon beta, and which is the reason why Strauss and other MIDA operatives stowed away on the Marathon with two hands full of secret Battleroids and a secretly rampant Durandal. Shortly into this expedition the Pfhor assault would have begun -- perhaps not coincidentally? -- and you would have helped to fight it off, until you stumbled across the Jjaro AI buried in the dig site, who, much like in Infinity, would see the future that was to come and send you back in time to do it over again. Over, and over, and over again, sometimes involving going up to the Marathon but never to any successful end, until on the last try you would take the Miriata up to the Marathon before the invasion even began, starting the timeline of Marathon 1 proper. Which is why this is familiar to you, as if from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember...

The second in the shadow trilogy would have been more or less Infinity, starting as it does in a timeline where you were never taken from Tau Ceti by Durandal, but were instead captured alongside Tycho by the Pfhor. But instead of taking a brief detour to a timeline that ends up becoming just like Marathon 2 (at the start of the Rage chapter), and then returning to the Tycho-centric timelines, you would have exhausted all of your options in the Tycho-centric timelines, before going back even further than you have before, to the timeline that ends up becoming Marathon 2. Somehow, something that you do along the way ends up explaining why no W'rkncacnter is released when the Pfhor deploy the trix xeem at the end of Marathon 2; maybe something similar to Mark Levin's interpretation of canon Infinity, you somehow remove the W'rkncacnter from all timelines, but you sacrifice so much to accomplish that that you still have to go back and forge a new, successful timeline in the end. Maybe somehow you collapse Lh'owon's sun across all timelines, which the Durandal of the M2 timeline finds a curious mystery at the start of the third installment of the Trilogy proper.

The third installment of the shadow trilogy of course would be Eternal itself, serving as it does as a prelude to a final, climactic, victorious battle against the Pfhor, which ought to have been the actual third installment of the Trilogy proper, but never got made. I like to imagine, if I could somehow go back in time and make that happen myself, carrying along with me the influence of everything that has happened in our reality, that that final installment would have visited the same environments as this new Eternal itself: the dark ruins of Lh'owon after the unexplained collapse of its sun; an ancient abandoned Jjaro installation at the rogue star; a former Nakh world where perhaps the old Nahk bioweapon, similar to Rubicon's Achilles virus, could come into play; the decommissioned Marathon in Nar hands during the war, again, where you'd have to be careful not to cross your own timestream, but could maybe meet up with Leela again after she returns from her time travel in Eternal; and the Sphere installation, to which you would travel during the war just like Leela does in Eternal (perhaps even shadowing her there), where events similar to the plot of Halo would occur (seeing as how Halo was originally supposed to be set in the Marathon universe, and the Sphere is basically an expy of the Halo), which would then wrap up the cliffhanger ending of Eternal in a way that doesn't end with the whole galaxy exploding.

I like to think that the Pfhor empire ultimately falls somehow along the lines of: previously-futile military attacks by the S'pht are rendered effective after a modified Nakh virus (discovered, altered, and released by Durandal and Marcus) incapacitates most of the Pfhor troops, and the crumbling of the Pfhor chain of command then prompts the cowed-by-fear Drinniol to rise up against their now-sickly masters once again. So in the end the Pfhor are defeated from without by the S'pht, and from within by the Drinniol, all thanks to being weakened in the middle by the Nakh (from beyond the grave).
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)


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