I have to admit: level design is not really my thing.
During my level-building I was constantly distracted by all kinds of features I wanted to add to the game. I spent about 10 hours last days, and only half of it on level design/building. The other half I spent doing some more polishing.
Here is what I did:
- Built 2 more levels
- Changed fonts
- Changed some graphics (menu, background in game)
- Added some graphic effects for season switching
- Added sound effects (not great, but it’s something)
- Moved level selection to a new screen and changed it
- Added Help screen
- Added About screen
- Fixed minor bugs in enemy movement
- Probably some other things I can’t remember
Play the most recent version here (to play, click on the game to give it focus):
Adding sound is really easy when you use Flixel. You can just use a statement like:
It’s as easy as that.
Creating good sound effects is not that easy at all. So for now I created some ‘retro’ sound effects using ‘Sfxr’, a tool that is widely used during game-jams. It can be found here.
There is no music (yet). Creating original music is hard and time consuming. So not sure I have time for that.
Concept and design
When I was designing and building levels, I found out that my game design of this game is not what I had expected. There just is not enough mechanics to build 10 different levels.
Also, when I thought of the concept (use season-switching to affect gameplay and strategy etc), the ability to switch seasons was meant to be a ‘power’ of the player. But when building the levels I found out that the player is forced to change seasons instead of using this ‘power’ when the player desires.
This is not necessarily wrong, but it changes the gameplay, so it affects the ‘fun factor’.
The problem I have now is the ‘identity’ of the game. Whan genre is it? A real platformer? A puzzle platformer? Why the time as a score? What am I missing to make it more fun?
I have to give these questions and problems some thought and I will evaluate the outcome of my game when it’s finished. Even when it does not turn out to be what I wanted, it is at least a great experience to learn from.
Although I did polish the game some more, it is still not finished yet, because I need more levels…
So up next:
- … and probably more polishing
Time left: 17 – 10 = 7 hours.
I’m still in the process of making levels. And yes, it’s still hard. And no, I don’t have an update to show, because I didn’t had that much free time last week.
I found out that my gameplay mechanics are not enough to make interesting levels. The whole concept of the game is changing the environment from sunny summer to froze winter and back and by that the player is able to find/reach/collect all collectibles. But the changes between summer and winter are too few. It feels like I’m missing some elements to make it really fun.
All I have now is:
- Winter is slippery, so difficult to run and jump fast -> player needs skills
- In Winter you cannot climb, so some areas may be impossible to reach -> player needsto plan the season changes
- In Summer water is deadly, so some areas may be impossible to reach -> player needs to plan the season changes
- In winter enemies stand still. That seems easier, but they can stand in the way of the player -> player has to plan
And that’s about it. I can only think of a few interesting puzzles/challenges, and that’s not enough for 10 levels.
Maybe my game concept is not ‘rich’ enough, or maybe I’m a lousy level designer.
The designs I have on paper will be transformed to real levels the next days. At the moment I don’t have that much free time to do it all, but I have plenty of time left to finish this game this month, or the next.
And I will finish it, even if I’m not all satisfied with my design choices. Finishing a project is important. It feels like an accomplishment (and it is). Besides, it is not a complete game I’m making. In the end it is just a prototype, an experiment. So it does not have to be perfect.
I hope to find some time this weekend to build the levels. Maybe not 10, but at least a couple so I can find out whether my game design makes any sense or not.
Ok, level design is hard. I knew this up front, but now I’m in the middle of it.
I drew some parts of levels on paper, but nothing complete yet. Just some ideas of ‘puzzles’ and challenges.
What is fun?
When designing a level it is really hard to tell whether the level will be fun or not.
Because I don’t have that much time for this project, and I have to playtest myself, I have to set my own criteria for ‘fun’.
A level in this game is fun when:
- the player must think and plan his actions
- there are multiple ways to ‘solve’ the level
- a level is tough to beat the first time
- a level has surprises
- a level that requires skill
So, what did I came up with?
- sunflower above the water -> requires quick season switch
- level with a lot of season changes -> requires planning
- level with a lot of snowflakes -> requires skill, because of slippery grounds
- themed level with a lot of running
- themed level with a lot of climbing
But nothing of that implemented yet. I will do this coming week.
So what did I do the last few days?
- Added a ‘level 0’ which contains the introduction and a ‘story’ (which is not really a story, but it sets some context)
- Removed introduction from menu
- Added automatic savegame. Best level times are saved
- Added locked levels.
- Added splashscreen with the score at the end of the level.
So not that much really. I also did not meet any real challenges. The last few day I spent about 8 hours total (some on leveldesign and some on developing).
Play the most recent version here (to play, click on the game to give it focus):
Levels, levels levels. I really need to build some levels. So thats what I’m gonna spend my time on this week.
After that, I can polish it some more if I have still time left.
Time left: 25 – 8 = 17 hours</div
Again I had some great fun developing on my game. This time I spent 10 hours developing and making some new artwork.
It’s getting close to becoming a real game now.So what is in it now?
- More particles (snow!)
- Levels (although only 1 semi-interesting level and 9 dummy levels at the moment)
- Collectibles. Find sunflowers and snowflakes
- userinterface showing ‘summers left’, ‘sunflowers found’, ‘snowflakes found’ and the timer
- Working ‘exit’ in the levels
- Instructions in menu
- Level select in menu
- ‘escape’ -> back to menu
Time spent doing this: 10 hours
Play it here (to play, click on the game to give it focus):
Because this is the first time I’m using Flixel, I had some new stuff to learn again. This time I had to find out how to design my game for several levels and being able to restart levels, go to next level, go to a specific level from the menu, etc. So all about states.
In the end I will release the source code of this project along with my design choices and the solutions to problems I encountered during development. I hope this will help others who are starting out building games.
Make it fun!
Now that I have a working framework, all my game elements, states etc, and used more than half of my hours, it is time to make the game more fun.
So, I have to design levels that are exciting and challenging. The key elements of the gameplay are limited amount of seasons changes and the goal to minimize the amount of time to finish the level.
With that in mind, what makes a level fun and challenging?
First of all, a level needs places that are only accessible during winter or summer, so a player has to use season changes, which are limited -> puzzle factor
A level needs several ways to solve it, so a player can try to find faster way to beat the level -> minimize time used
Levels must not be frustrating, although the later levels may be very challenging: tight spaces, quick actions, precise timing -> skills
So level design is a challenge!
What’s the story?
Now that I have a prototype working, gameplay mechanics, some (amateur) artwork, it is also time to think about the context of the game.
Who is this guy? Why is he looking for snowflakes and sunflowers? Why can he change seasons? Why only a limited amount of changes?
What’s with the timer?
What are those monsters?
Ofcourse, with this gameplay and the levels I’m making, the story is probably very ridiculous, but I think creating some context in the game, makes the game more interesting.
And it’s a good excuse to make some cutscenes. If I only had the time…
Anyway, I haven’t thought of a story at all yet, so I have no idea there will be one.
- Feedback to player when all collectibles are found
- Timer score at the end of the level
- Keeping track of scores (highscores maybe?)
- Interesting levels
Time left: 35 – 10 = 25 hours
This day I had about 8 hours to continue building my prototype. Things I did:
- Added enemies
- Added ‘death’ (on touching enemies and water)
- Added slippery ground in winter
- Fixed ladders. Can climb down now
- Added some particles and shake on death
- Added a main menu
- Added sky background with parallax scrolling
- Added a title: ‘5 summers left’.
Play current version here (to play, click on the game to give it focus):
So now I have most game elements. One important thing to add: collectibles. I was thinking about collectibles that only show in Winter (like snowman, snowflake, ice) and a collectible that only show in Summer (Flower or so).
Those season dependent collectibles combined with limited season changes per level, are good for challenging puzzles.
After I have added that, I can make challenging puzzles/levels.
While developing this, I’m learning a lot about Flixel and 2D platformers and all problems/challenges that come with them.
For instance, ‘ladders’ were a challenge. Because the combination Flixel/DAME/Flixel Power Tools, the collision detection in the level is all taken care of. But that makes climbing down a platform, and being able to walk on it, a problem. So I had to add an invisible layer of extra items and do a manual collision detection on them.
There were some more problems I had to solve and not all of them were easy to find on the internet.
So for those who are interested, I will do a posting on the techniques I used to solve my problems. But first I have to finish this project.
- Extra levels
- Level select in menu
- Interface elements for score etc
- Exit to next level
- Future: new art
- Make it fun
Time spent today: 8 hours, mainly on programming, a little on art creation and some on learning new stuff like particles.
Time left: 43 – 8 = 35 hours