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Level Diversity in Small Games


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#1 Ninj-Apollo   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:52 AM

Hi.

My company's working on a mobile game, and I as game/level designer have relatively few items to play with in terms of level design. This concerns me.

Here's some background, before I ask some questions:

Basic gameplay:
- You control a character that slides from side to side in response to tilting the phone, and needs to collect items falling down.
- You can also jump when you tap the screen.
- Your energy keeps going down, and you must collect above-mentioned items in order to restore it.

Level design assets:
- Surface tiles: there are three types of surface tiles, regular, slick and sticky.
As the names might suggest, the slick surface will make the character slide faster, and sticky to slide slower.
- Obstacles: There are 3 types of obstacles, static, moving, and reactive.
Reactive is an obstacle that moves when the phone is tilted, similar to the player character.
I believe the other two types are self explanatory.
We mean to have only one obstacle per level, since adding more makes it too difficult.

Difference between levels:
- Items creation: I have a lot of control over what, how, where, when and how many items will fall down.
- Power-Ups: I have a lot of control over power-up creation, and it's set-up to give the player better power-ups the lower the energy-bar gets.
- Goals: The higher the level, the more items the player needs to collect in order to complete it.
- Level Design, as described above.

So my question after all this Bla-Bla, is:
Do you think this is enough to make 30-40 INTERESTING levels?
I mean, I have tons of parameters to play with behind the scenes, but do you think I need more level design assets, to make the differences visible?

If so, what would you suggest?

Thanks in advance!
"Life is no way to treat an animal." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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#2 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2719

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 03:52 AM

You can mix several surface tiles in the same level right?

one screen? landscape or portrait? (how long can you slide before you hit the wall?)

Are obstacles only obstables, or can you jump up on top of them? (like a platformer?)
What happens when you hit them? point deduction, death, or just in the way or pushed around? (in case of moving)

One way to make obstacles more interesting is to give them a dual use, not only being in the way, but if used right, can help you score even higher.
For example by bouncing off it to reach some hard to reach powerup, or get a high scoring item.

Your game is about timing, so you want to give the player lots of options to show off, and reward them for it, after they have mastered the basic gameplay.

#3 Ninj-Apollo   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:16 AM

Yes, you can mix several surface types in the same level.
Levels are one screen, in landscape mode, on Android phones.
We're using 25 tiles of 32 pixels each, so it gives us some room to maneuver.

About the obstacles:
They do not hurt you when you hit them. Moving obstacles will push you, static ones will only stop you.
The obstacles won't let you stand on them, if you land on them you automatically jump up again.

We don't have harder to reach items, but your suggestion does bring up an interesting option – what if we give the players a bonus for catching items in the air, and make it bigger the higher you are? And then, make jumping off obstacles significantly higher?

The issue still remains tough: How different will players perceive the levels, if we only allow one obstacle, and there are just three surface types? Even if we mix the surface types in all sorts of ways, will that be enough?

Maybe add actual platforms?

And hey - thanks for your helpful reply!

Edited by Ninj-Apollo, 23 September 2012 - 04:17 AM.

"Life is no way to treat an animal." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

#4 Tobl   Members   -  Reputation: 363

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 09:34 AM

I don't think that your limited resources allow for a really diverse gameplay over so many levels. Soon enough, even though handcrafted, they'd feel auto-generated to the player. There are many succesfull games for ios and android out there whose gameplay stays "basically" the same, however, none of them keeps the gameplay exactly the same, adding new objects every few levels.
If you really want to stick with a basic set of objects, a good question would be how to expand that set with as little programming and art effort as possible. Olof already made a few good suggestions on how to extend the mechanics that way, so I'll stick with object types.
What about giving the reactive obstacles different "weights"? This would allow for different accelartions, some accelarating at the same rate as the player, other faster or slower. A more extreme version of this would be "helium"-obstacles, which accelarate in the opposite direction of the player. If your code is somewhat cleverly written, which I believe it is, any of those will only require the change of a single variable. If you don't have any art-ressources left, at least the different weights might do with a simple recolor instead of whole new sprites.
Another floor-type would be the classical assembly belt. I don't know if it fits your setting, but if it does, why not? a constant accelaration whenever the player is standing on the tile may not be acurate, but it's easy enough to code.
I hope these are helpful, either themselves, or inspiring similar additions,

bw,
Tobl
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#5 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1505

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 09:35 AM

Safe to say the dynamic objects are squares (or could be). You could create a secondary objective of filling an outline with the dynamic shapes to make up a simple pixel image. Empty directional momentum tiles could launch the character in a specific directions as well adding to the idea of jump bonuses.

#6 Ninj-Apollo   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 10:05 AM

First of all, thank you for your replies. They are very helpful.

Mratthew –
I like the idea of directional momentum tiles!
I'm not sure I understand your meaning about:

You could create a secondary objective of filling an outline with the dynamic shapes to make up a simple pixel image.

Can you elaborate on this a little more?

Tobl –
What you wrote adds up with Olof's reply, and brings me to the conclusion that there's no choice – we'll need to add level design assets.

Different "weights" for the reactive obstacles sounds fun, I never would have come up with it on my own. Posted Image

I don't quite understand your meaning about constant acceleration. Would you mind explaining that?
"Life is no way to treat an animal." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

#7 Tobl   Members   -  Reputation: 363

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 11:51 AM

constant acceleration is just an easy (and very dirty) way to add the assembly belt behaviour: Every frame the player is on a right-turning assembly belt, +x is added to the horizontal speed. If you want to implement the mechanism you'll just have to tell your programmer what you want to accomplish and he'll come up with a better way to do it. (And if he doesn't, just tell me what algorhythm you use to translate the tilting into player-speed and I'll write you the easiest way to implement the feature.)

bw,
Tobl
Think my post was helpful? Want to thank me? Nothing easier than that: I sure am are a sucker for reputation, so just give it a little keycode 38 if you like. ^^

#8 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1505

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 12:31 PM

You'd have to add a shake or a screen double tap to make the character and the dynamic obstacles jump up to give a bit more control to achieve the idea but you could try creating a secondary objective of placing certain dynamic objects in certain locations to make images, solve puzzles (like unlocking areas of the level where special items specifically drop down to), give access to high platforms, etc. These dynamic obstacles would slide and jump into an outlined (UI or simply a transparent indicator tile?) location on the map and lock there to achieve the secondary or tertiary objective(s). Multiple dynamic obstacles could lock in challenging locations for more difficulty and secret none indicated lock locations could delight the obsessive completionists ;D Locking Dynamic Obstacles (ah naming convention) Hope that makes more sense.

Edited by Mratthew, 23 September 2012 - 12:38 PM.


#9 Ninj-Apollo   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:47 PM

Tobl –

Now that I understand what you mean, we can do that easily on our platform.
Well, my programmer can, when he gets back from his vacation, I certainly couldn't. Posted Image

But it does sound like an easy-to-add feature, and it won't require any expensive graphics, just one more tile…
Cool.

Mratthew –

It's much clearer now, thank you.
What you're suggesting is adding a puzzle into the game! That is awesome.
The way you describe it is a little too much for the game engine we created to handle, but...

We already have a jump feature in place, when you tap the screen.
I'll talk to the other game designers in the company, and we'll see if we can come up with an idea that will fit better with the features already in place.

Thanks guys, you're a great help!
"Life is no way to treat an animal." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.




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