Level Design Ideas

Apr 12, 2011 at 4:46 PM
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Just my opinion but I think if you get the music wrong it can ruin a masterpiece of a map.. I mean look at the Balcony for instance...
If you got there and a song like Tyrant was playing it would just ruin it but the actual song has a distant, calming feel to it as if your resting and looking back on your adventure about to finally finish things off...
Just saying music can really perfect a level design...
Apr 30, 2011 at 10:56 PM
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sexplosive said:
It totally did. There's a difficulty incline from the intro -> grasstown -> sand zone -> labyrinth -> final chapter
Yes, but it's not consistent. Some of the bosses have a major spike in difficulty, for example Monster X.
Apr 30, 2011 at 11:26 PM
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I beat Monster X on my first try D:
He's really not that hard, you jar have to keep your cool.
May 3, 2011 at 3:53 PM
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Celtic Minstrel said:
I think it's good to have this sort of "tutorial as you go" available to you, but either make it optional or make it non-blatant.

You mean a passive tutorial, wherein the player learns something important about the mechanics of their character (or an opponent) without being disrupted by either dialogue or a cutscene. However, if the latter two are used to perform a brief tutorial and introduce a new element, then that's acceptable. An ability to skip events is fairly easy to rig up when you have the source code. Here, though, the system [.TSC] Cave Story uses is very rudimentary and not exactly what I'd call stable... so making good use of skip flags is a lot harder to integrate - especially with how flags don't necessarily reset properly if the player abruptly resets the game and reloads. This is compounded further when the event that's skipped involves many different flags, plus the limited number of skipflags available for use also puts a damper on this system.

DoubleThink said:
-Tons of HP =/= hard boss fight.

I disagree. HP is the primary means of gauging difficulty, and has been in game design for decades. When it gets to extremes, yes, it stops being effective as a delimiter and becomes an annoyance. What you're really trying to balance is the HP:DMG ratios of the player and the boss. However, forcing the player to take damage during a fight frequently is generally a no-no. It's acceptable to force the player to take damage if the boss also provides the player with a means of recovering their HP, such as pickups. Ideally, the damage the boss can do should increase with the planned difficulty of the fight, and the timing needed to avoid or counter the damage should decrease by the same rate. All boss fights should generally have roughly the same time needed to defeat it- end game boss(es) and major boss(es) are an exception to this rule of thumb, and their fights are usually several times as long as your standard boss. The fact that bosses don't take longer and longer helps the illusion that the player is getting better - a rewarding feeling for them.

DoubleThink said:
e.g. doors that don't animate properly

As long as the door doesn't have a flag ID, it's more reliable to do either <DNP or <CNPxxxx:0000:0000. Neither of which rely on <KEY or <PRI to be sequentially effective. Though, you do need -one- of them unless you want Quote running and hopping around while the door opens.

cultr1 said:
•Make structures (sometimes useless, sometimes not) that make the player think "hmm maybe there's a secret up there" just to explore the map more. Give rewards for really out of place areas

Too much of this can be very confusing for the player. The placement of 'decorations' need to be relatively inert when looked at at a glance. (You'll understand this if you have a 'metroid sense' from playing any of the metroid games [other m excluded as it doesn't really follow these rules])

cultr1 said:
•pausing the music in a cutscene adds to the mood

Actually I disagree. Cave Story's music does not come to a stop gracefully, and that tends to be more disruptive than having music play during a cutscene. Plus that fade out function for the music seems impossible to reverse without loading a map (or reloading the same map). Maybe I should try and fix that stupid function... Anyways, King stopping Toroko on her way out of the reservoir, for instance, is an example of where stopping the music ungracefully hurts more than it helps. Other cutscenes have their own music that plays, which adds much more than not having music. It's really dependent on what the mood calls for.
Jun 2, 2011 at 3:31 AM
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Back to talking about design.
I got a few things:

No blind jumps.
(meaning that no one should jump off a cliff to land of a single block.)
Make shure to block all the edges of the map or add events for them
(because no one like falling forever)
No cruel jokes
(like a trap that forces you to restart or you need to drown to die)
Make all tiles look like the way they should act*
(a passage that is a wall or a platform thats not real)
* = May be used for secrets
Make shure your tiles are set correctly
(invisible walls for normal areas are not good)
Give somewhat of a hint for puzzles
ex. your in a room, there is no door and there is a way out but its blocked off with a star block. What do you do?
You go to the upper corner and search for a gun of course.
(how will you figure that out? because there is no hints)

Jun 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM
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So to sum up invisible walls: In general, while introducing new mechanics and puzzles is a neat thing to do, breaking the "game rules" isn't.

As for decorations, I have a rule called the "20 percent rule": if a zone of 20%screen width * 20%screen height is initially empty of player, enemies, items, collision tiles, or background tiles, it's bad. It's unforgiveable. It has to be filled with any of the stuff mentioned above.

This rule is my main level design rule. It works for all kinds of levels, especially MetroidVania-type games.

I often place more enemies than background decorations ;).
Jun 18, 2011 at 3:38 PM
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I can tell >:/
Useful rule though. The games I work on are generally arcadestyle games, so I use more of a 1% rule on those. Really, what looks and feels correct to the designer is what you should implement, but it is always nice to have a frame of reference.
Jun 18, 2011 at 11:03 PM
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I'm one of those douchebags who put small details like grass on almost every block so that it wouldn't seem empty and that you'd feel a more claustrophobic atmosphere.
Jun 19, 2011 at 7:01 AM
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Celtic Minstrel said:
Yes, but it's not consistent. Some of the bosses have a major spike in difficulty, for example Monster X.

Monster X is far enough into the game for difficulty spikes to be acceptable (the game roughly has three "acts" - First Cave/Egg Corridor/Grasstown/Sand Zone, Labyrinth/Core/Waterway, and Egg Corridor?/Outer Wall/Plantation/Final Cave/Balcony - and Monster X is in the second, where the difficulty is kinda expected to jump). By that point you're already invested enough into the game to make you want to keep trying.