I’m at the process now in my Flixel game, Chip (demo, trailer), where most of the content I want for this release is there. So lately, I’ve been focusing on level design and plan to delve into fine tuning all of my levels shortly. First though, I thought I’d reflect on a few things I found interesting while really experimenting with level design for my frist time. As a quick preamble – I have close to zero idea what I’m talking about. While I write this in the style of advice, it’s purely meant to be reflective and based off my own individual experience.
1.) Don’t be swayed by aesthetics…yet
My very first levels revolved around making interesting patterns or an elegant overall structure. This was a disaster and I ended up reverting to a functional perspective as much as I could. I even switched out the tilesheet I was using in my Tilemap editor (DAME) so I wouldn’t be swayed by how it looked.
Using and old tile matrix to edit my levels in DAME
A brief note on DAME. If you’re editing levels using a simple tilesheet I highly recommend it. It’s free and while at first I couldn’t stand it, I’ve grown to love it. It’s like editing film on a Steinbeck: the fact that it’s not quite so flexible makes you think harder about what you want to do.
2.) Small Changes Make a Big Difference
I found that depending on your mechanics and the interactions you’re trying to invoke in a level, making smaller changes from level to level can often have a more profound effect on how people see your mechanics. If you look at these two levels… Continue reading
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with art games over the past year or two. I find I Can Hold My Breath Forever and I Wish I Were The Moon sort of pretentious while I adore Small Worlds and The Company of Myself. Passage was somewhat interesting to me, but probably fell a bit in between adoration and apathy for me. Still, Passage is somewhat charming and interesting for what it does. Regardless, this post is not about Passage, it’s about Gravitation, which I find actually more interesting.
Jason Rohrer’s “Gravitation”
A definitive quality of most games is that they present to the player some freedom in which to make interesting decisions. Narrative choices, however, seem to have a limited range of effects in modern videogames. Many choices appear unsubstantial; creating a façade of freedom that always leads to the same outcome. Other games scatter choices across the story in order to trigger one in a handful of alternate endings; Chrono Trigger for example. Finally, games like Mass Effect do their best to morph the story world and character reactions to the seemingly endless barrage of dialogue-based choices the player must endure. However, what happens when a narrative game becomes not about what the choices result in, but about the process of making the choices itself? In Every Day the Same Dream, a brief 10-minute flash game by Paolo Pedercini, the player’s journey through making the different choices in the game’s small world is essentially the entirety of the gameplay experience.
The starting screen of the game, and the top of the game tree.
Play begins with the unremarkable character awakening from bed into a black, white and grey world. In the first screen he is presented with two immediate choices. He can turn the alarm off or not, and he can get dressed or not. Either way he then proceeds to the next screen where he can turn off the TV or not, and a few screens later he has the option to walk left or right. This goes on for another handful of screens. The player must select their way down the game’s decision tree until eventually it resets and starts the player over in the bedroom again. A woman in the elevator of your building hints that you have X amount of steps to take on your way to becoming a new man, and the player eventually puts together that this means exploring the various different possibility trees the game has to offer.
The woman “subtly” hinting at the paths left to explore.