A handful of level design tips!

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Hey guys, things have been busier than ever over here at Mad Science, We have lots of great things that we are working on! I just finished a level design sketch that I would like to show you! Read on for an image and a few tips.

First let me say that I am a big fan of doing things on paper first, if you can sketch it on paper do it. If you can build a board game like prototype of your video game, do it. It is easier to make changes to a drawing then it is in a map editor.

Below you will find a sketch of a level for a side-scrolling game we are working on. I would hesitate to call it a platformer but it has some of those elements. I just drew this up on a large sheet of grid paper with a pen, invaluable tools of the trade!

Click to expand

Let us get right to it! One thing I would like to highlight is the enemy placement. You'll see that the level will start off with an epic climbing section. Then we introduce a few solo enemies, and then you get to the top and face a more intense encounter.

Next we reach the bridge, the player crosses the first bridge un-haressed. It is good to leave this first bridge trouble free for a few reasons. First off, when a player crosses the bridge, We expect it to be pretty cool looking. That means we would like the player to be able to really pay attention and absorb the visuals. In addition to that, crossing a bridge can feel a bit dangerous, players often expect it to fall. So they are already looking for trouble! Let them cross a bridge or two without it collapsing, then collapse the next bridge. Lull the player into a false sense of security in order to catch them by surprise. You will see that the second bridge has enemies on the other side, they will rush forward and meet the player on the bridge. Again, the effect of this is to let a player relax and lower their guard, and then surprise them. Pacing a level like this is key to exciting gameplay!

Later in the level you will see a few new enemy types gradually introduced. The archers attack from range, make sure the player always has a clear pathway to any ranged enemies.  You usually do not want to frustrate the player by giving them a problem that they can not resolve. You will also see we introduce some enemy we are calling a ghost, this enemy will be particularly hard to deal with and will require a special strategy. Placing the Ghost enemy towards the end and only once, makes it feel like a special event. Finally, we have a section of level where the player is in free-fall down a slope, fighting enemies on the way down. This section can run in a loop as long as we need it to.

Ok that's it for now, I hope that was interesting! I am working on all sorts of interesting posts about game design and the game industry. Stay tuned!

-Chris


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