April 2, 2009

Excit Post-Mortem Video

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axcho said...

Watched. :)

The balancing and level design part is what I'm currently most interested in. It has been a big problem with my work on Foldit. I wonder if there are any lessons you'd like to share about how to approach that part of the design?

Krystian Majewski said...

Well, since I haven't been doing the level design by myself I can't be of any help. Daniel Renkel, who did the Levels also has a different approach when working on his levels so I can't even say we had a common strategy.

But the takeaway for me so far was: Don't be afraid of making the level too easy. If by the end of the game there are some easier levels in-between - that's fine! You might even put some easier levels up there on purpose. A game where the difficulty vamps up and never lets go gets mentally extremely exhausting. You need to provide some room for player to slack off a bit. Also, players won't give you a hard time if a level is too easy. They will give you a hard time if they get stuck and miss half of the game because of it.

Also there is a difference between levels that LOOK difficult and levels that ARE difficult. I would argue you don't really want the former because it will put players off even if they would be perfectly able to solve it. The addictive quality of games is achieved by creating "low hanging fruits" at the beginning of each level... and then when you are "inside" a level, you can't just quit right? And then you solve the level and you get again a low hanging fruit to get you going. That's why levels should look easier then they are.

Also, instead of vamping up difficulty, you might want increase other qualities of the game. For example, levels might be still relatively easy to solve but simply more spectacular, with some cool complex mechanics, over the top combos of elements, etc. I think this approach can deliver a more satisfying experience than simply difficulty.

And last but not least: playtesting. A LOT! Seriously! But not only that, you also need to prepare to make major changes after the playtesting results are in. In fact, plan ahead and expect to completely re-do half of the levels in your game after the first playtesting round. We didn't do that so even after we realized that the balance was off, we couldn't really do anything about it other than shuffling around the levels we got.

axcho said...

You say you can't be of much help but those are some great suggestions! Thanks for sharing those with me.

I bet if you copied and pasted what you just wrote and elaborated on it a bit, you'd have an excellent blog post. :D Low-hanging fruit, eh?