Level of the Month

Each month, we take a closer look at excellent Enigma levels. Excellent levels are those with the highest average user ratings and the greatest number of ratings altogether. Thus it is your vote that determines the Level of the Month. So please rate the levels you play and do not forget to submit your ratings together with your scores at the end of each month. You can find all previous Levels of the Month in our archive.

April 2008: “Turnstiles for Two - Rhapsody on Turnstiles in Blue and Green”

by Ronald Lamprecht

The world of the “black ball” has lots of facets; races, meditating, visiting temples and mazes, deciphering, space adventures, alone or as a twosome, we're even blessed with nightmares, to name a few. But what's about the world of music? Not that much? Not at all. But even if no catchy tune reveals itself easily to us we can come up with a rhapsody.

Level of the Month
Enigma VI # 77
Some records of February 2008
9:30 dev0
10:04 Taztunes
10:43 Craven
16:03 ryujun
16:36 Ronald
16:47 Daisy
21:19 para_doks

Easy Mode
8:11 dev0
10:40 Taztunes
12:29 Ronald
13:04 ryujun
14:46 Craven
17:47 para_doks
18:42 Daisy

Pupil: “A what?”
Schoolmaster (speaking demurely while raising his finger): “Once again, not paying attention during music class?”
Pupil (sheepishly with lowered head, but rolliing his eyes): “I'm afraid, I don't remember this.”
Schoolmaster (patronizingly (what else), pacing up and down): “Very well then, again. A rhapsody is a piece of music, with themes that are not rigidly, but loosley associated. Furthermore, they need not, but rather can—a small, but subtle difference (pupil rolls with eyes again, getting bored more and more)—be composed of motifs which are not linked to each other, or even based on each other …”
Pupil (finally switching off, muttering to himself): “Blah, blah, blah…”

Level des Monats 04/2008
A solo in a duet

Oh no! Let's swiftly leave this horrible place and return to much more pleasant things. Hey, that's my text. Get out.
But, I…
No “but”.

Okay, he's gone.

Well, turnstiles … it's a difficult story. You can not only transport yourself over water, but the other marble as well. However, it may happen that the other one can't return without some help.
Actually, maybe I'll bring him back later; after all, if you remove the blather, what he said is not incorrect. The subtitle is quite apt.

“Aside from experience it's a matter of sure instinct”

It's quite a while ago since I've been playing “Turnstiles for Two”. But now that I've taken a closer look at the level again, I remembered, that most of all I had problems to stay on the spot after turning down one of the turntiles' arms. Espicially that applies to the complex in the middle of the bottom half, where you don't have much room to maneuver. No wonder the availability of the pins makes such a great difference between easy and difficult mode.
Additionally foresighted planning is the word! It's not only a question of getting to the oxyds but also of getting back there. It took me quite some time to figure out how to fit these “islands” in the centre of the level into my plannings.
But the real difficulty about “Turnstiles for Two” is - once again - to make it to the final oxyd. Aside from experience it's a matter of sure instinct: although you've got the hang of it, it still won't work each time. You'll have to rush to the right place as quickly as possible, to catch the transporter to the island with the last oxyd.
By the way, there's another level by Ronald Lamprecht (“Cold Meditation”), where you'll have to take a similar action, to be pushed into the final block of ice.
Craven
Level des Monats 04/2008
Hmm … and now?

So, let's see and listen to what our two musicians have to offer. The beginning is quite relaxed. In the initial chords, one sets the tune, and the other one follows. But now our two musicians approach the central motif. Each one chooses his own musical way, supported by the other. Two threads of suspension, individually enriched with smaller soli, reach toward the central motif. Our two marbles don't stay there for long, but introduce the remaining themes of their rhapsody: a short solo, an interesting and tasty intermezzo and last but not least the technically most ambitious part of their recital, a melody peppered with lots of sharps, which requires the most concentration and precision from both sides.

“I appreciate his devotion to fully exploring new elements to the game”

I was glad to be asked to comment on “Turnstiles for Two” not only because of my life in music, but because it's actually my favorite “Teamplay Level” in Enigma. I know that Ronald intended it as a Rhapsody, and the description seems apt, but this level brings to my mind something quite a bit older. Lately, I've been rediscovering Bach's 2-part Inventions, and these make a fine analogy to what Ronald has created.
In Bach, the two hands play interrelated, contrapuntal melodies - each hand is limited by its range, just as the white and black marble here have limits on what they can and can't do - where they can and can't go. Together the two melodic lines create a harmonic progression as they wend their way independently through the piece. And if you manage to make it through some technically treacherous, but gorgeous music, there's more often than not a very satisfying major chord awaiting you in the final bar.
One thing I appreciate about Ronald's levels is his devotion to fully exploring new elements to the game or finding new uses for these. This level is a wonderful exploration of the attributes of the green turnstile. Almost every action requires both marbles to work together. Ronald has also made the level more challenging (and also more fun) by setting it up so that the maximum number of corresponding oxyds among the top four is one pair.
No matter what, you're going to have to negotiate your way back to the top and then down again to finish up. The biggest challenge for me is the cluster of 4 oxyds in the middle of the water in the center of the bottom part of the level - it's really tricky to avoid knocking one or the other of the marbles in, and then, you have to start over again.
One other very appealing aspect to “Turnstiles for Two” is that the level is gorgeous to look at. You might as well be vacationing in the Greek isles with all the aqua and white. Congratulations to Ronald for such an enjoyable Enigma experience!
Taztunes

Now, after all motifs are presented, our two musicians will resolve them stylistically with confidence. They often return to the central motif, skillfully varying it. We approach the finale, in which one of them once again presents mastery of his instrument. The audience acknowledges our two musicians with well-earned applause as they leave the stage. What a fantastic show!

Level des Monats 04/2008
Life in Concert: “The Be Sharps”

But to reach concert level, lots of practice is needed; because mistakes will be unforgivingly punished: One starts anew at the beginning. Carelessness (declining concentration or missing anticipation) at strategic positions like the central motif, has disastrous effects (Shift-F3).

As I always say,
practice makes perfect.

“Hey you! Keep it down! Save your bathetic platitudes.”

Yet, he's right. How often did I involuntarily jump into the cold water at the 'sharp'? Be it from a lack in precision or from forgetting to switch to the other marble—who knows why. Hence: Relax, keep calm and don't act rashly. All caffeine junkies among us (like myself) should prepare by reducing their coffee consumption. And to get a steady hand, maybe have a glass vin rouge ;-).

The central motif costs some more nerves as well (no picture here, as we don't want to spoil too much). Your 'orchestration' of the 'instruments' has to be planned well and with foresight, if you don't want to spoil your way back to the the upper and lower motifs. If an 'instrument' isn't 'tuned' right, the traditional consequences (Shift-F3) inevitably arise.

The level is very appealing, thanks to the use of a white and a black marble. Each of them has areas, which are mutually inaccessible, but require the other marble's cooperation to reach them (like e.g. the 'sharp').

Well now, gamers, tune your 'instruments' and get ready for the downbeat of your duet.

“The green turnstile had proven to be more valuable than I would ever had thought it could be”

As a tiny dissonance I mention the vortex; as it's not compulsory to use it. But maybe I didn't comprehend the composition in its complete entirety. So I'll simply reemerge back into the world of Enigma's sounds with greatest indulgence.

It may sound crazy, but “Turnstiles for Two” is a commissioned work. In the aftermath of release 1.00 we received reports about spurious crash problems with turnstile levels. While debugging the turnstile code the green turnstiles attracted my attention. There had just been one level that made use of it - “Zig Zag”, and it made just indirect usage of it. I questioned the existence of this variation with all the extra code that it required. But after a short time I found a first direct usage pattern for a one marble level resulting in the level “Revolver” in mid February 2007.
But I expected the real value of the green turnstile to show up in multi marble levels. Thus I claimed on March 13th that we should write an introductionary level for green turnstiles that should demo some useful patterns. Two days later I tried to write this level. After three hours of work I had finished two new levels, “Cold Meditation” and “Polar Bear's Paradise”. Next day Andreas desperately asked if “Cold Meditation” should be the announced demo level.
Of course not! I just had collected some patterns and got distracted by other level ideas. But now I got the idea of a pattern arrangement and with every pattern that I added to the level I found new green turnstile patterns. Two funny evening sessions later “Turnstiles for Two” was ready for a first shipment on the early hours of March 17th. The green turnstile had proven to be more valuable than I would ever had thought it could be.
Level des Monats 04/2008
A seesaw for childs and adults
of (nearly) all ages
On both evenings I interrupted my work looking for some inspiration. I sat down at the piano and both times I started playing by heart one of my favorite pieces - Gershwin's “Rhapsody In Blue”. It just did fit - the various independent patterns to a common theme bound together by a global framework, black and white, and additional emotions like desire and indetermination. In fact Gershwin did first name his piece “Nocturne in Blue and Green” the colors standing for the emotions. With the green turnstiles being the main subject I just had to subtitle my level “Rhapsody on turnstiles in blue and green”.
Several times users did express their astonishment about the time frame in which I wrote some of my best levels. But that is the very nature of creativity. You spend uncounted hours playing and developing Enigma and suddenly you have the idea for a level. BTW Gershwin wrote his rhapsody in 24 days and nights! But he finished setting down his own piano solo part months after the world premiere.
“Turnstiles for Two” had not been finished after two evenings, either. I detected one subtle point, that I first did not know how to solve - a fair, solvable oxyd distribution. Just shuffling all 16 oxyds does not work. E.g. if all the upper oxyds build pairs there would be no reason to return to the upper part later on. But it is a key point of the level that you have to return to the upper part after investigation of the lower part. Finally I wrote a small special Lua function that takes appropriate influence on the oxyd distribution. But this problem of fair oxyd distributions had now been set on Enigma's to-do list. It has been a month of work in October to find and code a general algorithm that solves this quite complex problem for all upcoming levels.
Looking back after a year has gone I notice that the level became more difficult than I planned it to be. Especially the easy mode should be easier to solve, the vortex is unnecessary and the difficult mode should force the player to use all different patterns instead of using the easy mode ones. I increased the friction within the critical southern rosette and simplified the central part for the easy mode. I hope that will give more players a chance to enjoy the versatility of “Turnstiles for Two”.
Thanks for the good ratings, and have fun!
Ronald Lamprecht

Many thanks to Ronald Lamprecht for this musical masterpiece.

NObby

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