Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Level Design

One thing any great, or even just good game requires is excellent level design. It doesn't matter how sound the technical and programming details are in your game if you don't have good level design to capitalize on it. It also an area that I am beginning to spend more and more time planning as I get further into the development process. This time a month or so ago, the plan was simple. Make two player characters, with unique single player campaigns for each and a combined co-op campaign that utilizes their unique abilities to challenge players. The question now is, HOW?

I spent some of this morning replaying a couple of the games that my game is using placeholder art from, Mega Man and Mega Man II. I was surprised how difficult they were after all this time, and I resolved to make sure that challenge is a more central part of my level design in the future.

The problem I am facing, though, is how to make a platformer with two player co-op elements. I have played a few other similar games that had co-op, but never in a way that required cooperation between players. In Rayman Origins, it seemed to be a simple skill check that one player had to get through and the others could then follow, and was almost more competitive in nature while I want to make something that requires communication and cooperation between both players. If anyone has ever played a game similar to this, it'd be awesome to see it in the comments or in the email.

With that considered, I decided today to limit my game to an introductory level for learning the ropes of the game, with four "flavored" levels after that can be done in any order. Since there will be a relatively small number of levels, I hope to make each individual area more compelling and difficult, and with more memorable boss fights.

Today I finished a couple of the introductory areas, including two co-op puzzles. They are not yet in the available build but I hope to update it in the next couple of days with a playable introductory level, but I still have a couple of back end systems to create for the puzzles. Namely, I need a matched switch-activator system, such as a remote controlled door, as well as an unblocker entity, which I can use for specific game scenarios to open up paths only under specific game types.

I'll post a quick screencap. Below is the start of one of the puzzles in the intro area, with the top path accessible to Mike, the character with higher jumps. In the final game, this area will force the players to split up and hit switches on the way, opening up the path for the other player as they go along.

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