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Linear Level Design Guidelines?

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Creativity is tough without constraints. What guidelines do you guys follow when designing a linear level? I'm mainly referring to the flow of the level as well as the actual objectives the player is assigned, rather than the aesthetics.

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On 1/19/2018 at 2:07 AM, ryanbeezle said:

Creativity is tough without constraints.

You might just be answering your own question there. Why not add some constraints? A good first constraint is to define what emotional experience you want to engineer for the player. For example, in a shooter, do you want the player to feel like they used tactics to stealthily outwit their opponents? Or hulked in like a reckless badass and just tore the place up? etc. 

Then there are the scenario constraints, such as the game's overall setting, where they are in the story / game progression, and what needs to happen to move it forward.

Constraints like that will help set requirements on how you graybox your level. For example, a stealth level may require lots of places to hide and snipe, and maybe some set pieces where an attentive player can eavesdrop on clues, or where they're prone to have close calls with nearby enemies. If you're making a mech game, maybe the player is on foot at some point, and has to sneak across an exposed roadway patrolled by a guard in a mech. If the mech has a blind spot underneath it, the player could try to time her crossing so she stays in the blind spot while also avoiding foot patrols. As a player, I'd feel pretty sneaky accomplishing that, and it would be exciting and harrowing while I was attempting it.

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Usually linear platformers will introduce an obstacle/mechanic with a "safety net", then make it harder with "death" as a fail consequence, then put a spin on it by incorporating a previously learned obstacle/mechanic to make it harder. Sometimes they even give the an optional "master" section that provides a big reward for those with skills.

Hope that wasn't too vague.

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