Development Blog

The more rules, the better levels

So now I’m going to continue my story about my level designing rules.

What? Rules? Again?” – you may think. “Didn’t we learn how to create ideal levels with the previous rules?“.

Oh no, we didn’t, unfortunately. To be honest, my list of rules is quite an endless one, actually. And, the further I read it, the more insignificant and strange rules I meet at the end. But I won’t plunge so deep here. I’ll stop before new rules start to shock you and will conflict with the former ones. I promise.

To keep it short, i’ll only cover two additional rules it this post.

And the first one was named “Pure Puzzle“. As I already mentioned, Eugene and I are big fans of puzzle games. Personally, I always prefer intellectual games to skill ones where you need to use your fingers agility. Of course, I don’t think that every skill game is kind of garbage and shouldn’t exist at all. As many players, I also know many of these games are of high quality and have rightfully taken their place in the tops. But what I really don’t like is connected to situations when a puzzle game, with clever designed passages, require agility from you. Suddenly, it appears, that you need to jump so far and so precisely, that all of your 20 attempts turn out to be unsuccessful (eventhough you’re able to shot a squirrel eye offhand in real life). Very often these moments in those games are absolutely unexplained and inappropriate. Remember, that’s a Puzzle! Players wouldn’t have played it if they wanted to check out if they’re quick enough. Move this waterside closer, make that aim bigger, persuade this circular saw to move slower. You shouldn’t force a player, who already solved how to pass the level, to repeat similar actions again and again, only because they are not fast enough.

Today’s second rule is “No dead ends“. It is one of the hardest rules to follow, and it often depends on gameplay mechanics. But still, every time you decide that it’s impossible to organize level this way, think once again. This rule is about dead ends in levels. There are many places in puzzle games where you can progress only by using special equipment or elements. But very often they can be destroyed by lasers, acid, saws etc., or they can be forgotten in areas where you won’t be able to return. The most confusing situation can happen when the player still has many other gadgets to use, or many other rooms or corridors to visit. Facing this situation, the player can waste tons of time searching for the right solution, having no idea that it’s not possible to solve the level anymore. That’s a level design mistake. Some game developers solve this issue by using a special message, which appears every time a player falls into such a situation. But sometimes, the message cannot be understood correctly or even just noticed. The best way here is get rid of dead ends. And I proudly can say that, after many fixes and improvements, Verge has reached this point. There’s just one level where there’s a dead end. And in this case it’s  necessary to teach some fundamentals game mechanics to the player.  But there will be no other options except to die here and the player will see it immediately.

Well, that’s it for today.

I’ll go and choose the next two rules for my next topic.

See you later.

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