Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Designing Levels for Kory The Thief

Kory The Thief was an interesting exercise in level design. Thanks to the Edward Flash Platformer Engine, I was able to build sophisticated levels with relative ease the Flash IDE. In this post I will describe the my intentions when designing the levels, and why every piece has its place.

Tutorial Level
The purpose of the tutorial level is to introduce the player to the key elements of the game. One at a time the player learns to move, jump over obstacles, the nature of sloped surfaces, the consequences of touching lasers, and the behavior of fans and trampolines. Upon completing the tutorial level, the player is familiar with every element that commonly appears throughout the game's levels.

Dino Level 1
To complete a level in Kory The Thief, the player must first grab the level's jewel, then proceed to the door. Level 1 presents the jewel in plain sight, making the goal clear. However, the player needs to circle around the entire level to grab it. In this process the player will likely see the door and find it inactive. After grabbing the jewel, the player has no hint of where to go except to the door. Thus the requirements for level progression are learned.

Dino Level 2
This level lets the player get some air time with fans and trampolines. It adds a welcome change of pace compared to the previous two levels. Like the previous level, the jewel is in an easy-to-see but hard-to-reach location. Moving laser beams are also introduced, increasing the play difficulty a bit.

Dino Level 3
Naturally, a dinosaur themed set of levels should have a giant dinosaur skeleton. The player is pretty smart at this point, so I set a few simple laser traps. They can be easily avoided through caution or trial and error.

Aqua Level 1
A new environment theme. By this point, the player knows to get the jewel then proceed to the door, so the jewel is not in plain sight like previous levels.

Aqua Level 2
The difficulty ramps up a bit here, requiring synchronized jumping with the motion of the lasers. I am particularly happy with how the 3 lasers at the end of the level almost squeeze the player into getting caught. Once the player gets to the door, well, mind the gap.

Aqua Level 3
This stage breaks from the theme of dodging lasers to solving a simple, but tricky puzzle. When the player jumps from a high enough height into the fan updraft, the player will fall past the updraft, hit the trampoline, and shoot up to the ceiling where the jewel is.

Egypt Level 1
This stage introduces conveyor belts and some tough lasers to dodge. The player is smart enough at this point to navigate stages without guidance, so I placed an impassable laser path between the jewel and the door to throw the player off.

Egypt Level 2
This stage introduces lasers that pulse on and off. I torment the player in this level by making the room with the jewel difficult to find. I expect many players to at first skip past the room and catch a glimpse of the jewel while falling down the corridor on the right. Of course, by then it's too late. :P

Egypt Level 3
The final stage looks more difficult than it actually is. There are many lasers in the level, but most are easy to dodge, except the lasers on the conveyor belts. Once the player has spent a few lives figuring out how to grab the jewel, the rest of the level only requires some simple, cautious jumping before the player is out of the museum and scot-free.

In Summary
-Thanks to the linear nature of the game, I was able to design the difficulty curve to tightly coordinate with the player's ever-increasing skill set.
-In designing levels, I gave each stage its own unique shape and progression. Unique levels are memorable.

If you are interested in designing your own levels, download Edward and give it a go.

Have fun,