Design Level design..?

amusudan

Lousiest of Potatoes
My level editor for my game is nearing completion and I am just about ready to start making a few levels for a demo, but here's the thing: I've never really done any level design before and I am scared that I'll screw it up very, very badly!

Does anybody here have any experience in designing levels and would those persons be so kind to share some of their knowledge with me?

Some things of importance:
-My game is 2D set in a 2.5D (Or fake 3D) world. It is a hack 'n slash game the likes of Hammerwatch and is mostly melee combat with swarms of enemies and the occasional archer, mage, or boss enemy. I would post a link to my blog so you can see for yourself but I don't know if that's allowed :p.

-My level editor supports triggers.

Thanks in advance :).
 

Jaqueta

Member
Level Design Guide by Thais Weiller
Let's start with the Basic concepts:
Mechanic - How the game works
Obstacles/Enemies - Objects in the level that can disturb the player
Plot - The reason of why the player is going through the levels
Place - Where the plot is situated
Time - When the plot is situated
Pace - Which mechanic the game uses? Punitive? Dominant?...

These are the basic stuff to take into consideration when designing the levels to your game.

Now, let's take some a look into other things:
How many levels,
How many "Scenario types" there are gonna be (Forest, City, industry...)
Which enemies are going to be in the game
And most important, the player abilities

And what the level design must do is:
Teach the player what he must do
Allow the player to practice
Present a challenging difficulty
Make it clear, use less text as possible.

With that in mind, you can define which levels and in which pace the mechanics are going to be presented
Where the bosses are going to be
And which part of the plot in being told in the level

There are also two another things:
Kiss [Keep it Simple, Stupid!] - Teach the player by putting the enemies and obstacles "alones" in the start of the level, in a way that isn't hard to understand what he should do, just after, use both at the same time.
JIT [Just In Time] - Teach the player what is necessary AT THE TIME, if he ain't using that knowledge at the moment, it can be presented later. It also prevents the player of receiving too much information and confusing him.

And NEVER, put the player in a position where he can't defend from damage, explore areas that he doesn't have the ability to, or give him challenges bigger than his capacity at the moment.

SOURCE (PT-BR)

TL;DR: The truth is, you're on your own when it comes to the level design, because only you know how the game works. What you need to do, is find the answers to these questions, and think as the player would. You can also get some friends to test the game.
 

The M

Member
You're not likely to succeed with a level on your first try so be prepared to iterate and don't grow too found of something if you're afraid it doesn't work. Like Jaqueta said, it's good to have a plan of what you want to do with a level before you begin making it, perhaps do a rough sketch on paper first?

Some general tips I've found are:
1. Make sure your core gameplay is fun and keep iterating on the mechanics and level until it is. There's no use filling levels with fancy effects and ambience stuff until you're sure the design is the right one, it'll just make it harder to find the actual problem and it takes time.

2. You want the player to beat the game (eventually). Be fair; you don't win when they fail and quit. Keep them entertained.

3. Make sure the player can predict the outcome of their actions to avoid confusion or cheap deaths (like having to jump blindly into a pit to land on a small platform they couldn't see from above or pulling one of two levers and have a 50% chance to die). Of course you can still punish players for doing the wrong things, just make sure they know why they were punished.

4. As a part of 2 and 3, don't put the player in situations they're not prepared for. It's a bad idea for example to put an enemy right next to where the player spawns so that the player is in danger before they have a chance to figure out where they are (or even how to play the game in the extreme case). I know that Dark Souls 2 had a bit of an issue with this where enemies would spawn right next to some bonfires; when the player (me ;)) died and lost their souls, they'd die again when they respawned because they'd forgotten about the enemies back there in the mean time and lose their souls for good.

5. There's a good way to teach players mechanics that I think Valve coined; start by putting the player in a safe environment with a simple puzzle, then do something less obvious/harder and finally add some pressure like enemies or the similar.

6. By testing a lot, you're gonna be better at your own game than most players will be so keep in mind that if you think it's good, chances are it's too hard. Have others test the levels and note down everything they do different from you, see what's good and what needs to be addressed.
 

Yal

GMC Memer
GMC Elder
Level design is a VERY broad subject, and I'm not sure a single topic is enough to cover it, but here's a bunch of pointers.
  • I find levels being the best when they're a set of isolated challenges the player must overcome, but permitting multiple ways to do it. I mainly do enemy-based levels, so the challenge becomes about defeating or avoiding all enemies under certain circumstances, such as conveyor belts or walls that get in the way of your approach.
  • Levels should be varied enough that there's no strategy that ALWAYS work, because players will latch onto that even if it results in a more boring experience - most players value making progress over having fun (I speak from experience here).
  • A good way to make levels varied is to intentionally design each level around a certain theme and then present a bunch of different takes of the level's theme. For instance a level about moving platforms could start with them moving over solid ground, then in straight lines over bottomless pits, and finally you'd jump from platforms moving in isosceles triangle patterns over a bottomless pit that shoots fireballs at you.
  • Don't put the hardest part of the level right at the end, put it a little bit before the end and have the final 'challenge' be a relaxing cooldown in comparison. There's multiple reasons for this including players getting more frustrated if they fail with the goal in sight and a subtle drop in difficulty invoking a feeling of having mastered the gimmick the level was about. The New Super Mario Bros games does this pretty nice with replacing the traditional stairs before the level end flagpole with a harmless trick jump based on the level's main shtick, so the challenge is optional but rewards you with an extra life if cleared well (or 5000 points if you just barely fail it).
  • Apart from making levels about different things, also mind their juxtaposition. Try to not have two levels that are too similar in a row. Mix up vertical and horizontal levels and puzzle/exploration and action levels.
  • Don't overdo gimmicks and level-unique stuff, but throw them in every now and then to keep the levels fresh. Even a detail like a different tileset/music every now and then can do wonders at making the game feel fresh.
 

amusudan

Lousiest of Potatoes
Thanks both of you! This will really help me! I might update in htis topic later with some levels that I prepared :)
 

RangerX

Member
Right now I just came home from a roadtrip and I am quite honestly dead but I am a level designer, diploma and all that. I'll share some tricks with you.
 
A

Aura

Guest
Learning from others' games is the best way to develop level designing skills IMO.

These articles are worth checking out:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131736/beginning_level_design_part_1.php

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DanTaylor/20130929/196791/Ten_Principles_of_Good_Level_Design_Part_1.php

Pro tip: Such articles are published very often on Gamasutra, so be sure to regularly check them out. In fact, I have developed all of my designing skills reading those. Articles that talk about how other games have got successful level designs are pretty helpful too IMO. ^^'
 

amusudan

Lousiest of Potatoes
Right now I just came home from a roadtrip and I am quite honestly dead but I am a level designer, diploma and all that. I'll share some tricks with you.
Thanks, can't wait :).

Learning from others' games is the best way to develop level designing skills IMO.

These articles are worth checking out:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131736/beginning_level_design_part_1.php

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DanTaylor/20130929/196791/Ten_Principles_of_Good_Level_Design_Part_1.php

Pro tip: Such articles are published very often on Gamasutra, so be sure to regularly check them out. In fact, I have developed all of my designing skills reading those. Articles that talk about how other games have got successful level designs are pretty helpful too IMO. ^^'
Ah yes, I've heard of that website before. Thanks for the links :D
 

zendraw

Member
i presume when you made the game you had a vision of it, so just make somthing, put things on a feel notion and test and while playng when you feel that this block must move 1 pixel to the right go and move that block and test again and so on. and do that until the whole level feels like whole if you know what i mean.
 

RangerX

Member
Each game is having rules, so do yours. You have to first know what are your game's rules are and not assume that the player knows something. (almost)
Level design is there to teach the player how to play the game and then challenge what he learned. All of this while creating a sense of rythm (so the game stays fun) and creating a difficulty curve. We can talk about tons of related concepts and level design for days and months, but anyways. Almost nothing should be placed hazardously in your levels, each thing is having its own purpose and you need to know why its there. You will teach stuff by gameplay, by the looks of things, by attracting the eye of the player to certain things at certain moments. This is also how you create ambiance, hide secrets, hint the player at a multitude of things. Everything is there for a reason and you must know what that reason is.
You have to master the game rules and the game mechanics (game designer's job to create those) and then you imagine sequences of gameplay using those mechanics and rules and you would think are fun to go through.

The first real advice I would tell you is: start interesting yourself to level design and look at videogames like a designer. There's plenty of articles, tutorials and videos on the internet, pop some, have fun analysing. Good level design is thought out design that will actually accomplish something on the player. Even if you're not making a platformer, look at this short video that analyses the first 30 seconds of the gameplay from Super Mario Bros the first. That's what I mean by looking at games like a designer and its important that you do that, for any type of games you want to create.

 
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