One of the things that I've found most difficult making is in-fact the levels, as level design is a crucial aspect of Game-Making, and not only that, I want it to be challenging, and to have the appropriate length to it.
I've found that to make the best-fit levels for the theme/length/difficulty comes from following these few steps which I will later elaborate on:
- Re-Plan (fix old plan)
- Etc. until the desired level outcome has been reached.
Now, you may think "well, duh of course!" but this only goes for specific areas during the level, the whole level itself is made up of segments which hold different obstacles and challenges. Between these segments I usually allow the player a break (length depending on the difficulty of the level - the easier the level the larger the break). This break allows the player to refocus and usually save their progress before moving onto the next segment.
Now to elaborate on the Steps taken:
The Brainstorming step is a crucial element that can change the outcome of the level quite drastically. Making sure that you take the level's theme into account e.g. you wouldn't make a level in the sky with floating blocks etc when the level's theme is based underground. The Brainstorming phase will hopefully be able to show you how many segments to divide the level into, the length of the level, the difficulty of the level and the obstacles to use.
This is where the action comes into play. Plan out the level style incorporating some of the Brainstormed ideas so that you have come up with. Make sure if drafting on paper, that the level is too scale (and that you know your maximum jump distance and maximum jump height) so that you can properly space gaps to where the player must jump to etc.
Now you need to look over your plan once more linking the Brainstormed ideas and the incorporation of those ideas together, this is often done to "refine" the level, by removing unnecessary obstacles or adding in obstacles so that the level is what you desire at the current time.
In this step you now create the level segment, this may be the beginning, middle or end segment it's really up to you which order is desired. Remember to keep an eye on spacings so that there are no impossible jumps or very risked jumps which are in the easier part of the game.
Now it's time to test the level segment! Play the game through and test the level segment which is created, note any harsher difficulties or abnormalities which you did not have in mind for creating the level, this would also be the time to see whether or not there are too many obstacles, or even, too little of them.
Now that you know the things requiring fixing from Testing the level segment, you can now go back and change these by following the steps (2. onward), this will refine and polish the level until you get the desired outcome. Remember through, linking the segments is important, you may want to go for a specific the player can feel when "taking a break", whether having a nice checkpoint, of some flat ground with no obstacles, it's up to you.
NOTE: Remember you can also share your game with some friends etc. as a BETA so that they will be able to give some feedback on the levels that you've created.
Using this layout of steps is how I build the levels throughout my games, so in 'Approaching Dawn' I will be doing A LOT of checking to make sure that the levels are worthy to be beaten. I will however give you guys an insight into the Level Types which 'Approaching Dawn' will have as well:
- Jungle - side-scrolling left to right, broken up into two segments.
- Earth - side-scrolling right to left, broken up into two segments.
- Fire - side-scrolling top to bottom, broken up into three segments. (Does include a left to right segment.)
- Air - side-scrolling bottom to top, broken up into three segments. (Does include a right to left segment.)
- I'll release more info. about the Quality Levels when the time comes.
- Again more info. on the Bonus Levels will be released at a later date.
Any feedback or queries about the steps/layouts etc. in this blog entry, just send me an email and I'll try my best to reply!
NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.