Dolphin Preserve RPG

Whales's picture

Dolphin Preserve is my jam in this entry.

This Katelabs map features a school of magic, a quest with multiple components and a villain with a nonsensical arc. Enjoy :)


(1) Download and install katelabs version 2.02 from
If you use a newer version of Katelabs: bugs may have been fixed and features may have changed, this may break the RPG progression of this map. I highly recommend using the version of Katelabs that this map was tested on.

If you are on Linux (like me) then see

(2) Copy dolphin_preserve.kl into your Katelabs folder.

(3) Start this map with edit mode DISABLED. If you fail to do this then everything will be laggier and you will be able to perform some game-breaking magic tricks.

(4) Make sure the sign in front of you where you start the map looks exactly like the sign in my screenshot. If the text is different even slightly (or cannot be read): please post a screenshot in the comments. I'm half worried that text might change between Linux & Windows.

You're now ready to play. Tips:

  • Press 'E' to look around
  • If you find movement too slow: press V
  • This is an RPG adventure. It's janky and full of holes.
  • There is an actual ending. Good luck getting to it. Subtle hints are scattered around the place, but probably way too little to make it clear.
  • I've done several experimental things in Katelabs that I have not seen in the (few) other maps I've played. Not all things work well. Some may strike terror into your sensible heart, others you may not notice.

Frequently Questioned Answers

Q: What do I do with the "friends" when I find them? A: This probably isn't completely clear. You need to press Enter when near them to activate them, they will react and the map will progress.

Q: I'm stuck! A: Check the clues. If you're still stuck then post the names of the 'friends' you have found so far, I'll reply with some more hints. I may have been completely troll with a couple of the placements.

Some backstory and Way Too Much Detail into Katelabs 2.02 bugs & features

I made most of this map over a weekend whilst sick. Katelabs turned out to be a really enjoyable way to spend an otherwise cruddy time. Big thankyou for Kate for publishing Katelabs.

Move-once alien morphing

The "Move once" function feature does not implement rotation correctly, instead it sometimes morphs objects in crazy alien-like ways. For a demo try this:

  1. Create a box
  2. Resize it into the shape & size of an ordinary door
  3. Give it a texture (so you can see it better)
  4. Add a 'move once' function and try to make it rotate (any axis will do).

Looks weird, eh?

I suspect the box is being transformed like this:

  1. Apply rotation matrix (from attached functions)
  2. Apply scale matrix (from normal editing)
  3. Apply rotation matrix (from normal editing)

This keeps the function'd rotations working in local coordinates, but it means any object that has been scaled in a non 1:1:1 way does weird stuff when rotated.

The order of operations should probably instead look like this:

  1. Apply scale matrix (from normal editing)
  2. Apply rotation matrix (add angles from function'd rotation & normal editing together)

This means only a _single_ rotation matrix is applied and all rotation coordinates are kept in local coordinates (as I suspect Kate intends).

N.B. if you're multiplying your transform mats together then you may need to do them in the exact opposite order of I list above. Don't trust my 3d graphics advice I'm not a convex object.

Waypath following chaos into 4D darkness

Waypath following seems to randomly turn into chaos and I'm not sure why.

Try visiting the classroom in this level and observe the books on the shelves: they are supposed to follow nice neat straight paths once activated, not randomly bang around like mad. Not that I'm complaining, this definately adds to the atmosphere :D

I tried to put a lady-beetle on a waypath in this room to hint to give the player a hint about where to go, but didn't pan out too well either.

All of my bees seem to follow waypaths just fine. Not sure if it's a model specific issue or not.

Deleting a .kl file breaks the game

Katelabs auto-loads the last .kl file you played when you start the game. If this file is missing (renamed, deleted, moved, etc) then the game crashes on start.

Locked framerate & de-sync

(This is just a curious note, not a complaint)

It looks like the game is locked to 30-ish FPS and the physics depends on frames elapsed rather than time elapsed. This means that when the FPS drops the gameplay gets slower.

Sound effects have to run on their own timer/counter (samplerate), so I was not able to properly synchronise the end of sound effects with scripted/function'd actions in-game. This kind of reminds me of adobe flash animations where long audio recordings would de-sync with the animation over time (especially on slower computers), the workaround was to use lots of smaller recordings triggered at different points instead.

Having the gameplay slow down when the FPS drops is a bit annoying, but I can understand why the game was written that way. It can be easier than dealing with float timesteps and (for example) corner-case bugs like 0-length frames (eg when running >900FPS on 1msec resolution time sources).

Level saving seems to be very resilient

Katelabs crashed several times on me, but my level file never became corrupt. Kudos to Kate.

The worst that happened was I lost my last few edits (likely because autosave only occurs every X edits/objects).

Nonetheless I kept making copies of my level as backups. Nothing scares me more than the thought of losing a pile of work that's only stored in a single file.

Sources of lag

This list might be of use to other people making maps.

A few things that seem to contribute to low FPS:

(1) Being in edit mode (thanks Kate for pointing this out)

(2) Having any UI window open, especially the textures window.

(3) Adding lots of objects with transparent polys to the map. Eg you can add as many boxes as you want to the map without causing much lag, but the moment you add lots of trees (and maybe even textboxes?) things start grinding.

Possibly a transparency (alpha-test) depth sort issue? Not sure how that's usually handled in DirectX pipelines, but I presume it's CPU side.

Complements to Kate for this engine seemingly (?) not suffering physics complexity lag. Ie I can scale lots of objects down to a tiny size and make a little tiny world, but then not suffer lag when walking over them as a big person.

One-sided requests

If I have not bored you to death yet Kate :P here are some requests that might (?) be easy to implement.

(1) An easier way to switch between the main tools (move, rotate, scale, properties). I'm constantly swapping between them. Key shortcuts might be the easiest to implement solution for this?

(2) Make the axis-lock key bindings consistent between all tools! X should always be X, Z should always be Z and space should always be Y. Many times I've rotated or moved objects the wrong way right after scaling them, it gets very frustrating, I basically have to guess and try each axis every time I switch tool.

Perhaps it might be possible to remap clone-object (whilst using the move tool) from X to right-click? Ie tap right click whilst dragging an object to clone it.

(3) Add a way to return to the game after accidentally pressing Esc. I do this often, muscle memory kicks in when I want to close a dialog. After pressing Esc I'm stuck at the main menu with no way to return to the map other than starting from spawn/editspawn again.

(3) More sound effects and ambience.

(4) Add an "only trigger once" checkbox to both the Action Prompt and Player Collision functions. At the moment there is no way to (for example) make a door that opens only once. I worked around this by making objects instantly travel off in the ether after being interacted with, but this isn't always suitable. Sometimes the player would get dragged along with the object into space :O


Thanks for reading this far. Don't trust anything with a tail and no feet. Wait, aren't I a whale?

Title: Dolphin Preserve RPG v1.0
Context: Made for Kate's Informal Katelabs Jam 2021
Authorship: By Whales 2021, gloryofthetrainwreck at halestROm dotnet
License: All the in-game assets are probably Copyright Kate Barrett, but what remains of this map I put under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC BY 3.0).

Event Created For: 
Made For: 
An event


Kate B's picture

this is another world that

this is another world that goes above and beyond in ways I don't expect- I love how many moving parts there are on this one, which I see rarely, and I'm impressed and I apologise for how complicated that must've been to set up

I love how you've been creative with the shape of it- using two divided areas

there's so many great moments in this one. straying off the path at first to find a way across the chasm and stumbling upon some fully constructed buildings with a load of things inside them

I love the way you've built objects in ways I didn't expect, such as the kettle in the staff kitchen. there were lots of objects that I couldn't figure out what pieces they were made out of, like the filing cabinet and the hills. that whole reception area feels like an actually lived-in space that I felt I could recognise and I loved it.

I was very impressed with the entire sequence in the classroom and don't want to spoil it for anyone else

I love that the school is not made using the castle pieces, which at first I assumed it was, and I thought at several points "wait, how did THAT work"? when its shape became less obvious

I also enjoyed just wandering around exploring because this area is deceptively detailed.

lots of ideas here that I didn't think were possible with it until now. it's great!

Whales's picture

> I apologise for how

I apologise for how complicated that must've been to set up

Don't apologise. I really enjoyed making it.

there's so many great moments in this one
I also enjoyed just wandering around exploring because this area is deceptively detailed.

I'm a fan of setting low expectations and then surprising the player once they dive in. .

The concept of hiding a castle behind a hill is used quite a lot in rich old european estates. The driveways would intentionally meander around some low artificial hills so that the palace/chateu/etc would "reveal" itself spectacularly to visitors. I didn't have to draw an actual road in this case, I knew the player would eventually stumble onto it just by walking away from spawn. The volcano is really just a distraction.

Some of my dream game ideas involve starting the player in an underground library that feels expansive but cramped, then about a third of the way into the game have them suddenly pop up above ground into an immense city. No intentional fanfare (no cinematics, sfx, etc), the game just acts like it's normal. I can imagine the players standing there gobsmacked as they watch a bunch of low-poly people and cars walking around the city that they now have to deliver something into. "This was an underground/indoor game!"

that whole reception area feels like an actually lived-in space that I felt I could recognise and I loved it.

Excellent, that's exactly the effect I was after. I wanted this to feel like an actual abandoned or lived-in world of people. It's no where near realistic, but it gives you a tiny bit of suspense of disbelief just long enough for you to feel it's something more than a bunch of polygons with a player-controlled avatar.

I love the way you've built objects in ways I didn't expect, such as the kettle in the staff kitchen. there were lots of objects that I couldn't figure out what pieces they were made out of, like the filing cabinet and the hills.

I like using the simpler shapes to make most of the rough shape of the map. I delegate the more complex 3d models to smaller, specific tasks. This gives me much more freedom in map layout and lets me "start big" with the mountains, ground and hills before working my way down to small detail.

Give a man a 3D seahorse, feed him for a day. Give a man rectangular prisms, feed him for life.

You can tell where I ran out of energy in some areas. The staff room and reception are heavily detailed, but the police station is not. The volcano was originally going to be part of the quest (scale the mountain to a secluded castle) but I never got there. The entire other side of the water doesn't have much.

I'm not really sure if "consistent" levels of detail really add anything that can't instead be expressed in another map or a sequel. At a certain point I give up and move on, if I try and work on a map forever then it will never get released.

I love that the school is not made using the castle pieces, which at first I assumed it was, and I thought at several points "wait, how did THAT work"? when its shape became less obvious

Yeah I saw the castle pieces in a few other KL maps and I found the thought of using them to be too limiting. I wanted my own shapes.

As difficult as it may be to believe: I was trying to emulate some castle shapes from an image search of IRL castles. It sort of half worked, it's definitely nicer than the cobblestone box I feared I would make.

Copying details from random source images on the web whilst mapmaking is a really fun and interesting method of making things. When I first started 3D modelling & mapping I would always try to make things completely from scratch and memory, this would rapidly exhaust my creative reserves and lead to lots of boring creations. I've recently found that opening up some random pictures off the web and adapting some of its themes of layout, shape, form, etc is really fulfilling.

spiders's picture

This was really fun to play!

This was really fun to play! And I also appreciate all those little Katelabs tips and tricks.
I had a hard time finding the last student/rodent, the one who likes "high places". I actually walked right past them at first and spend quite a while looking in ~really~ high places, haha ;D (see attached image). But found them in the end.

Screenshot (72).png902.13 KB
Whales's picture

Thanks spiders. Glad you

Thanks spiders. Glad you enjoyed it.

N.B. I watched a movie called Spiders last night. Very much B-grade, gave my mum a good fright.

> all those little Katelabs tips and tricks.

Yeah there is a lot you can do in Katelabs that's not obvious. I had some ideas that I really wanted to show off. Glad you liked some of them. Please steal and abuse.

On that note, I have some more sinister ideas that I need to try out. My barometer of success is whether or not I give Kate severe headaches.

> I had a hard time finding the last student/rodent, the one who likes "high places".

Wait what? You found Beans no problem? Bloody hell you're amazing.

A friend of mine playtested this map and managed to find Beans from behind, I never expected that. Meanwhile my niece tried the map and had no hope of finding him even after hints (but she did give me many good ideas about where to hide things next time. Coming soon: Katelabs Adventure inside a Toilet Bowl).

Yeah Mr High Places is a bit difficult. Nice picture :) It's really down to complete luck whether you find him or not. I should have placed him in the slightly more logical location. There were a lot more locations I originally planned to put the friends, perhaps in another next map I'll go all out with multiple scavenger hunts of different difficulties.

spiders's picture

Oh yeah, regarding Beans: I

Oh yeah, regarding Beans: *spoilers* I noticed the closed door when first going through the school and were like 'ooohh, I wonder whats in there...'. And then later walked past outside and noticed the bean cans through the window. Not sure if that's the intended way or the same your friend used, but I slipped through a crack between window and wall :)

And yeah, I jumped into toilets in this map more times than I care to admit... hehe. Really thought one student would hide in one.

Whales's picture

Review from my Niece: list of awards

My niece playtested this map today. She struggled with several parts:

  • Camera control. Could not control it for the life of her, used C and E a lot but still kept losing the camera inside terrain pieces.
  • Gymnastics. Flat out impossible. Could barely get triple jump to work and could not steer well. She never grew up with FPS games or SM64 :) Young people these days! EDIT: woops she just read this comment. "Excuse me, I did really well in the gymnastics!". I'm in trouble now.
  • Finding beans. Admittedly my positioning of him is about as troll as an invisible bridge.

In return she made me a list of "awards". I've taken some artistic liberties by adding images:

awards.jpeg64.53 KB
Kate B's picture

I've enjoyed this a lot, I

I've enjoyed this a lot, I hope you keep making things!

also I have no plans to change the controls yet but being able to costumise them better is on the cards