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MtPain27

All About Secret Maps

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I've got a completionist itch when it comes to playing through map sets, which was inspired by your videos actually.  I have spreadsheets of my own, giving a x/10 score to each map I play through with notes and a running average.  So I feel obligated to search for and play the secret maps so I can have a personal final score for the megawad I'm playing.  Usually I just reference the Doomwiki since I'm shit at finding secrets at this early point in my Doom career.

 

My highest rated secret maps so far are No Guts No Glory from Alien Vendetta and Go 2 It from Plutonia, which I just completed yesterday.  Safe to say I'm in the category of folks who want a hard map in that slot.  Plutonia is my third megawad aside from the first two games so I'm sure I'll gain more appreciation for gimmicky/cute maps as I develop my taste.

 

If we're talking the OG Dooms, the secret maps in Doom 2 are definitely cooler than the ones in Ultimate Doom.  The totally different aesthetic and unique enemy make those maps feel really special and satisfying to find.

 

Finally, just want to drop a "thank you" for inspiring me to get into the Dooming hobby.  Between the vast amount of content and the wonderful community, I have been feeling like a kid in a candy store; an uncommon and much-needed vibe as I enter my mid-30s.  Keep on doing what you do, I'm sure you're inspiring a lot of other people to find this hobby the same way!

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My preference certainly goes for maps that break the aesthetic themes and use fun gimmicks, or reference other games or wads (or even other levels in the same wad, like e3m9). Overall, fun coffee break kind of stuff. My favorite pair of secret levels probably are Scythe 2's, though there are plenty of other memorable ones like Speed of Doom 31 or Valiant 31, though these aren't really much of a coffee break, lol. REKKR's secret levels are also really good. I'm probably missing some obvious ones here, but you get the idea.

Big, serious levels like Eviternity's can be absolutely great, but it ends up feeling just like extra maps and not really 'secrets'.

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3 hours ago, Dark Pulse said:

This can be used/abused to let the player skip maps (if done in a map slot before the normal secret level exit - so to use E1 as an example, by placing a secret exit in E1M1/E1M2), loop back to the exact same originating map (if done on the map slot the secret map returns you to - have the secret level exit in E1M4), or even send you backwards in the level order (if done on a slot after where the secret map returns you to - so do the secret level in E1M5 or later).

No End In Sight exploits this behavior to cram two "secret" maps in Episode 3. In reality, the wad actually flips the "secret" and "normal" map slots - the ostensibly "secret" maps are E3M5 and E3M6, while E3M9 is the "normal" map. In E3M4, the "normal" exit is actually a secret exit, taking you to E3M9, and then E3M9 exits to E3M7 as usual, thus skipping E3M5 and E3M6. Likewise, the "secret" exit is actually a normal exit taking you to E3M5. I thought that was really clever, subverting player expectations about the structure of the episode within the confines of vanilla behavior. A first-time player might not even realize that they should be looking for a secret exit in E3M4!

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3 hours ago, Devalaous said:

 

Are you referring to the original Vilecore? I always wondered why Map 32 was the titular Vilecore map instead of Map 30. Vilecore was the very first megawad I ever encountered on the Internet, so I intend to revisit it and complete it someday.

 

Yes, that is correct. For the upcoming 1.2 version that I'm working on, I moved the map in question to slot 30.

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with a critical eye I could say that, in most of the sets I have played, the secret map slots are where you find the messiest maps. not necessarily the worst maps, just the stuff the authors didn't want you to see until you were already hooked. I think they're a good place to put specialist maps which are challenging in other ways than straight-up combat. the visual gimmick maps you find in these slots unfortunately tend to be my least fave map in the set, eg. Killer Colours, but also my favourites, eg. Space Station Skywalker and "Weird!", the super secret from Batman Doom <3

 

if I made a trad megawad I think it'd be thirty levels with no secret exits, cos everything I make is slightly weird and there's no locking it away in the specialist slots. :)))))))

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18 minutes ago, Doom_Dude said:

 

Yes, that is correct. For the upcoming 1.2 version that I'm working on, I moved the map in question to slot 30.

 

At last, one of my longest-running Doom questions is answered xD Im guessing then that 31 is the second last map too? I'll have to whip up a MAPINFO that fixes this if so. I'm looking forward to a revamp, but I still want to finish the very first giant wad I ever found, you know? :p Cant appreciate a revamp if youve never seen the original to its end.

 

As for an actual on-topic post about secret levels, I generally no longer consider them secret, as the hardcoded secret exits make it always known exactly which map will have an exit to the 'secret' levels. As such, the wonder is lost, and I always know to look for a secret exit on Map 15, E1M3 etc. PSX Doom had all those extra secret levels, or differing entrance locations, so secret exits were exactly that again; I didn't know Club Doom was a thing till I found a code to access it in a cheat book, and discovering The Mansion and The Marshes were both 'holy shit!' moments. I came up with a couple of the secret exit locations in PSX Doom: The Lost Levels too; I believe I was responsible for the ideas that birthed the secret exits to Warrens and Sewers. So it definitely felt good to give back to the PSX Doom whose secret exits wowed me back in the day.

 

Few secret levels really 'wow' me, but Killer Colours from Alien Vendetta and the D2TWID Keen levels both impressed me. The fact that so few others have show that I just see them as 15B and 15C in a progression.

 

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As a player and new mapper, I like secret levels to be either a gimmick level, or a difficult level(compared to the rest of the WAD). E1M9 and Plutonia map32 are good examples of this(yes I think E1M9 is harder than the rest of E1).

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1 hour ago, Devalaous said:

At last, one of my longest-running Doom questions is answered xD Im guessing then that 31 is the second last map too? I'll have to whip up a MAPINFO that fixes this if so. I'm looking forward to a revamp, but I still want to finish the very first giant wad I ever found, you know? :p Cant appreciate a revamp if youve never seen the original to its end.

 

Since there's no secret maps the normal exits take you from 15 > 31 > 32 > 16 and through to map 30. For Vilecore 1.2 the maps 30 and 32 switched places.

 

Yes, finishing something is a good plan. xD

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I usually see secrets as one of three things. A: A unique level granted as a reward to give you a break from the normal structure of the wad (Crystal Maze in Fragport), B: A special challenge for those who want the wad to throw everything it's got at the player (Fireking Says No Cheating in BTSX Ep. 2), or... C: An off-map that wasn't good enough to fit into the normal thirty, but they author(s) included it because they had to wedge something in those slots (The Descent in Hell Revealed). I obligate myself to seek out the secret maps almost every megawad playthrough I take, because the overall experience just doesn't feel complete without it, but it's nice to know that I have the option of skipping them if they're particularly brutal and/or odious. 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/24/2021 at 12:41 AM, MtPain27 said:

PLAYERS: Do you actively look for secret maps? If so, what do you like to see in secret levels? Which one(s) is/are your favorite? What are some of the weirdest or most memorable secret maps you've ever found/played? Are there any you really enjoyed that you don't think get enough attention?

I'm going to respond to each question, in order.

 

Yes, I do. I don't consider a megawad finished until I also beat it's secret levels, and if I can't find them I finish my first playthrough without them, idclev to the respective levels, then look up a 100% walkthrough to find all the secrets.

 

I like all kinds of secret levels. Those that don't fit the theme of the "episode", those that are harder than your usual levels and those that reference an already existing map.

 

Doom Zero's secret level, by far. I'm not going to spoil it for those that haven't played it yet, but if I can describe it in a metaphorical way, it's a jump through history (overall a really interesting and unique megawad, I hope you do make a video on it someday, even if it's not nearly as hard as what you've been covering lately).

 

Rekkr's E1M9, E3M9, Doom Zero map31.

 

Not really, I haven't played nearly enough obscure megawads and out of all that I've played people usually give the proper praise/ scorn to the secret levels.

Edited by rzh

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3 hours ago, UAC guy said:

(yes I think E1M9 is harder than the rest of E1).

It definitely is! I used to skip this map as a kid because I couldn't beat it.

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3 minutes ago, Doomkid said:

It definitely is! I used to skip this map as a kid because I couldn't beat it.

I used to skip E2M9 because I was afraid of the Barons

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48 minutes ago, Teo Slayer said:

I used to skip E2M9 because I was afraid of the Barons

I used to skip E3M9 because I thought it was a repeat with glitched music.

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11 hours ago, Dark Pulse said:
  • Doom
    • E1M9 is accessed from E1M3.
    • E2M9 is accessed from E2M5.
    • E3M9 is accessed from E3M6.
    • E4M9 is accessed from E4M2.
  • Doom II/Final Doom
    • MAP31 is accessed from MAP15.
    • MAP32 is accessed from MAP31.

In Doom, technically you can use them in any other level - but the destinations they return you to once you clear the secret level are hardcoded, and that's basically the issue at play here.

 The amount of hardcoded behavior in Doom could be its own thread, honestly. There is so much crap in vanilla Doom that can only happen on certain maps (hence the advent of Dead Simple clones and the like) and it sucks because it basically means that most vanilla megawads will oftentimes repeat the same tropes simply because they have to. I understand that id probably didn't expect for people to do things in a different order (or for there to be any game modding of this caliber at all 25+ years later) but I'm still a little miffed about it all.

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2 minutes ago, BunnyWithBeans said:

I'm still a little miffed about it all.

Yeah, me too.

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Posted (edited)

I wish I could comment on the topic from a mapper's perspective, since I technically am one, however I have yet to create a set large enough to warrant such 'bonus' material. Any future implementation of secret maps will likely reflect my preferences as a player, which I will outline below.

 

In general, I tend to gravitate towards secret maps that either offer alternative experiences to the baseline laid down by the rest of the set, or subvert/accentuate pre-existing themes or even geometry in interesting ways.

 

Because doing so is practically half my brand at this point, I make use of examples from, you guessed it, No End In Sight (surprise surprise) to illustrate both points. The former is best exemplified by E1M9 Quarantine Silos, a face-paced, violent arena battle that unfolds in a multi-stage, semi-cinematic fashion, with a linear key-collection sequence forming the backbone of progression, contrasting nicely against rest of the episode, which features mostly incidental combat and non or semi-linear progression.

 

The second type is made manifest in E2M9: Castle of Illusion, a dramatic expansion on the E3M9 concept (using NEIS' E2M1 as a base), rich with ingenious subversion and intelligent re-use of existing geometry. It is probably my favourite secret map in the set and in general.

 

No End In Sight also contains one of my other favourite takes on the whole secret map shtick, one similar to the alternative progressions described by @Doomkid earlier in the thread. By exploiting a quirk in the way secret levels are accessed outside of the intended map slots, @NaturalTvventy, the set's creator, was able to alter the progression of NEIS' third episode dramatically.

 

Spoiler

Regular progression goes as usual until E3M4, which switches the normal and secret exit linedef actions around, causing the player to go straight to E3M9 if they take the 'regular' exit, then on to E3M7, completely skipping E3M5-6.

 

If the player finds the fairly well-hidden 'secret' exit, they are sent to E3M5, which acts as the episode's secret map. While not especially interesting on its own, Forgotten Caverns is a tad more gimmicky than most other NEIS maps, mainly due to its whimsical layout, which is arranged to resemble a Lost Soul on the automap, so I suppose it falls into my preference zone.

 

The 'regular' exit of E3M5 is another 'technically' secret exit that takes the player to E3M9. To get to the 'super secret' level, the player must find the cleverly hidden 'secret' exit, which takes them to E3M6.

 

Anomaly Retribution is best left unspoiled, suffice to say the map is an appropriate reward after the long and grueling secret hunt that precedes it.

Edit: damn, @Shepardus already spilled the beans about NEIS' super secret level. Note to self: read thread before posting.

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Whenever I make secret levels I like to experiment, make maps like "Barrels o' Fun" or "Slough of Dispair". If I don't plan on making it experimental, I usually make it a throwback, like MAP31 and MAP32.

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28 minutes ago, UAC guy said:

I used to skip E3M9 because I thought it was a repeat with glitched music.

When I first entered that map, I thought it sent me back to the begining of the episode
Until that Cyberdemon appeared

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6 hours ago, Sotenga said:

Crystal Maze in Fragport

 

I knew I was forgetting one in my original post. This level is a really cool concept. Stephen Clark attempts to recreate the British game show as a doom level. It's a way different challenge from the rest of the WAD. I think Fragport came out in 2001, and then about 15 years later, he redid the level as a stand alone WAD that expanded the crap out if it. I think Mr. Icarus has a video on his Youtube about the remake. 

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I never got to experience Doom or Doom II without knowing a lot about it beforehand. I didn't play it growing up and saw quite a few playthroughs and analysis videos before finally buying the game for myself. So for me there never was that experience of discovering the whole concept of secrets. Bumping into your first one and realizing there is more to the games than meets the eye. Or even better yet: learning about the concept of secret maps by myself. Or hearing whispers of them from friends etc. and then finally confirming that the whispers are true.

 

So now, something I like to do is watch first-time players stream Doom II. I don't spoil and try to not steer their experience in any certain direction. But by the time they get to MAP15 and are about to exit normally I start to shyly ask them if they know how many maps there are in the game etc. :). I love the reactions in general in Doom II whenever a new monster appears. The secret levels add a lot to the experience as well.

In my own maps I have to restrain myself from making secrets that grow way out of proportion. I start out with a tiny secret that the player teleports to, and before you know it I've spent 10 hours on making the prettiest room in the game, complete with its own mysterious music and a new skybox. So that's going better now: the restraint. Right now I'm trying to organically fit the 'press wrongly textured wall to discover a closet with a weapon behind it' secret in my maps. That's actually much harder to make fit in your average map than the more interesting and outrageous types of secrets. 

One kind of secret I really like discovering when playing myself and also like to put into my own maps is the 'there is a bit of extra ledge going around the corner, better have a look at that' kind of secret. I have the feeling that lots of players develop a habit of doing this and enjoy it. Part of the exploration. This is opposed to (in my experience) players sometimes getting bored of humping every wall in the hopes of hitting a secret switch.

So secret maps that are found by a player that really explores and thinks, instead of having the player unf-unf-unf everywhere have my preference. I love secret maps: they're something I always look forward to when playing a megawad. One of the things that incentivize me to play megawads. They add nicely to the overal structure of them and sometimes give me a break from a set of maps that was becoming a slog. I sometimes feel that moving them a bit further towards the end of a megawad, or adding a extra secret level around the MAP25/MAP26 mark might be good for the pacing of megawads that become a slog towards the end. It's soooo difficult to keep the tension of those last few levels just right and not burn up the player with an ever more punishing experience. O well :). 

More secret maps please!

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I play a lot of Doom 2 megawads, where the format is old & traditional enough that everyone knows that MAP15 is the secret exit slot. So, the way I look at it is not "is the player going to find the secret content" but instead "is the player going to choose to go to the optional area". In that context, I prefer it when the mapset's ultimate challenge is gated off in the optional content. Examples of this approach (like BTSX E2's Fireking Says No Cheating or CPD's Powertrip) remind me of the bonus bosses to be found in the postgame in JRPGs of old.

 

Since megawads already pull their punches by allowing Continuous players to hoard resources and have a more unrestricted arsenal, the Plutonia-style "for master marines only" approach to secret levels fits right in. The less-skilled can ignore the optional stuff and still muddle their way through to the ending, but they know that there are challenges left undone waiting for them in the postgame, mountains yet to be climbed. We're used to the question of "But have you tried any of the maps from Pistol Start yet?", and I think it's just as appropriate to ask "But have you messed with the secret maps?"

 

-

 

There's some excellent discussion in this thread on what can be done with the baked-in branching path: I particularly like Dark Pulse's idea of "you need to get to MAP16 no matter what, but the brutality of the main path can send you looking for alternatives into extra maps, making the tradeoff of skipping one difficult scenario but committing to an unknown alternate path", because that's exactly what happened to me during my playthrough of Alien Vendetta.

 

Spoiler

The mapset's general resource scarcity had led to a situation where I was the walking wounded, but had decided to let it ride for a while just to see if I could turn it around further in. And I found myself teleported into a tiny pitch-black extradimensional space with a sleeping Cyberdemon facing away from me. That was such a small room to try to manage rocket attacks in...

 

1475356072_AlienVendettaSecretExits1.png.e22ec0a10bcef4a4db69812e86782ecb.png

 

In hindsight, I should have realized that it was a Hard Attack-style fakeout, but in the moment I NOPE'D out of that room, off to do my due diligence to check to see if there was an Invuln or a telefrag option hidden anywhere. Taking a second look around, I found that a wall had opened to reveal a teleporter into a surreal blue-saturated hall. I was pleased with myself for having bypassed a whole lot of pain & suffering... until I saw the MAP31 text and realized what I'd done.

 

Overall, I'm glad I committed to the path I'd found. MAP31's gimmick of completely color-coding the game - from environments to monster coloration to the projectiles you fire - was brilliant, and it escalated smoothly through its three chapters, but it concluded with an excruciating combat puzzle. I had to dance around a Cyberdemon, activate a sequence of switches & touchplates, and release a flood of Revenants, all in very close-quarters. At the end of all that labour, the very next section presented me with the absurd sight of FOUR backup megaspheres in one small courtyard.

 

1394480370_AlienVendettaSecretExits2.png.c7dca7f863be58417e620336fc874f87.png

 

Once again, I bailed on a very scary room to look around for alternatives, and I discovered another path which led to a multicolored exit chamber! I felt so relieved as I put that behind me, only to realize to my horror that the game was now displaying the MAP32 text screen...

 

I just kept digging myself deeper! I got a good laugh out of that predicament, and that misadventure is a major reason why I find it entirely appropriate if a mapper decides to waste the extra text screen and just say "Are you sure?? Caution: Here Be Dragons".

 

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Very cool to get a lil shoutout from the Dean himself! Early on in my mapping career, I consciously made "generous/cool secrets" one of my general mapping goals (sometimes going a bit too far with it) since that was something I always enjoyed in maps. Secrets are often a good place to inject some extra personality into your mapping, and that often holds especially true for secret maps. I generally think of them as a place to give the player something they haven't seen before, and to let your creativity run a little wilder than you might usually do. In lower formats the two extra text screens are a cool affordance, too, which give the mapper a chance to introduce a little extra narrative (as Going Down does to an amusing effect) or break the forth wall (as in Plutonia).

 

A little bit about "Solar Powered," which might be relevant to the general discussion here: the map actually came from just building out from a unique affordance that the Nova III leaders gave the MAP31 slot--namely, that the secret maps could use unique skies. I wanted to figure out a cool way to make having a unique sky something more than just a visual change, which is what gave me the idea to make a map centered around manipulating things to get the sun in the sky texture to shine on a series of solar panels, so that the sky was (in a sense) involved in the actual progression of the map. (Admittedly, you can sorta just hit switches and not really pick up on this, but still it gave me a way to structure things as a mapper.) Everything else grew from that, really--the mesoamerican/tech hybrid theme, for example, quickly emerged as an easy way to sell the basic progression hook. There are some things I would change about the map from my POV as a mapper today, but I'm still pretty proud of it overall.

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2 hours ago, Big Ol Billy said:

Very cool to get a lil shoutout from the Dean himself! 

 

I would have @-ed you but the function wasn't working that day for some reason. Loved your map: mysterious, uncanny, and very tough at the end.

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Secret maps are always something I look forward to, although in other cases I dread them with real fear (like when I already knew what was waiting for me in the secret maps of Plutonia when I played it for the first time). They are, more than anything else, a distinguishable feature of megawads, as they are presented as part of a repertoire that often follows a defined visual or conceptual theme. Secret maps are, for me, an opportunity to diverge from this theme and surprise with something distinctive and attractive, while offering a sort of twist on the gameplay change. I don't look at them as much as ''hey, this is the super secret map and so now you will face the hardest map in the entire megawad''. In fact, I wish many secret maps were more considered a coffee break. Like when you go to the art museum and spend hours looking at renaissance paintings, but then out of nowhere a strange surrealistic painting appears and you stare at it for a few minutes until you think ''hey, that's cool.''

 

In my experience, many secret maps tend to be made more like challenge arenas. The main way to distinguish them as secret is mostly to diverge from the initial gameplay. If the megawad is traditional and simple gameplay, chances are that the secret map is a slaughtermap ready to rape your will to live. This doesn't always happen, but I've noticed that it's usually a small trend.

 

I personally prefer secret maps that offer something different without being extremely complex or challenging. I like those maps that deliver a bit of creative originality in their design and follow a similar combat formula to the rest of the megawad. Although come to think of it, I'm also not super critical of what a secret map should be. For me, as long as it's not a pain in the ass to explore and boring to play (Doom 2 MAP31 cough cough) that works.

 

An example of one of my favorite secret maps is MAP32: Divided Turmoil from the megawad Good Morning Phobos by @sincity2100

U57KXd7.png

 

The concept is simple: A map divided exactly in two and each part has a distinctive visual theme that pays homage to E1 and E2 of Ultimate Doom. And I love it. It's absolutely fantastic in my opinion. Something different without being too extreme and it follows a similar gameplay formula to the rest of the megawad, so I don't feel like I'm fighting against destiny but I'm not bored either. One of my favorites.

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I feel like secret maps should also reward players for taking them with an early weapon, topped out health/armour, etc. Its not too much fun when you take a side path, only to come back to Map 16 or so on with lower health and ammo than you normally would have, because the secret map was a brutal starvation map or so forth with nothing to show for it but pain :p

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A lot of secret maps seem to indirectly answer: "Based on the main progression, what is the one map I wish I could make for this megawad, even if it wouldn't fit among the main maps?"

 

Valiant? 

 

A slaughtermap with a cool theme that isn't one of the core episodic themes. Technically this could be a moon-cluster map if retextured -- the light bridge and cyberspace have a lot in common, and the terrestrial region is architecturally not much different from the moon stuff -- but it'd be odd to have it there

 

BTSX e2? 

 

A slaughtermap that would be too hard and long for anywhere in the main progression, the ultimate challenge of BTSX e2. There are long maps in the meat of e1 and e2, and there are hard maps, but nothing this hard and this long at the same time. 

 

Speed of Doom? 

 

A sl--

 

[silently sneaks away from post] 

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4 minutes ago, rd. said:

Speed of Doom? 

 

A sl--

A sleeping map? :P

 

But have to say, Plutonia Map32 spawned a type of way in mapping and it seems SoD Map32 is sort of like that. Though the homage is not immediately obvious to me for some reason... or I just don't understand how maps work heh.

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On 5/26/2021 at 12:51 PM, MtPain27 said:

 

I would have @-ed you but the function wasn't working that day for some reason. Loved your map: mysterious, uncanny, and very tough at the end.

yeah, the @ function is a bit...fucky, to say the least lol. usually what you have to do if it's not working is to type the character out again and then it should work - you can't go back to it or anything

 

the new forum software is nice and all but it has quite a few quirks to it

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