Small Changes with Big Results

As a first post on game design this one will be a quickie.

Recently, I ran into a problem where a couple level in our current game weren’t playing as well as they should’ve been. Once you’ve played your own levels dozens of times it can be easy to miss subtle stuff. Thankfully, a couple of our internal players pointed it out.

It can be daunting to look at a “complete” level and make changes. What I’ve found over the years is, most times, the changes you need are quite minor to make something go from off to awesome.

When you look at your level it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the detail objects, enemies and the rest of it. Remember that the foundational gameplay elements can usually be broken down into very simple pieces. What objects matter to the gameplay? What objects specifically matter to your current problem?

Asking myself those questions I was able to quickly see a few areas in the levels in question where the number of spaces between meaningful objects was too great. It caused the player to feel limited, exposed and sometimes, cramped.

Moving or adding a single object or two fixed the situation in all cases. No need to tear apart the level or roll through things Godzilla style. There are moment where you do need to make such drastic changes, but we can talk about those later.

Key Rules:

  • Determine exactly what the problem is by studying the gameplay elements of the level
  • Once you have determined where the problem is, try to fix it in the fewest amount of “actions” (adding objects, moving objects) as possible.
  • Play the level with the new changes and repeat as needed.

That’s all for this time. Once I can officially share shots from the game in question I’ll add them to this post to help illustrate the principles.