Italic Pig’s got a new pig inductee! All hail Stephen, our new level designer. He’s Radiant, Humble, and the other thing from Charlotte’s Web.
If there’s one thing I learned about Schrödinger’s Cat, it’s that I seriously underestimated the importance of Level Design. Lost Quark was built mostly on the premise of randomised level design in the majority of zones, the goal of which was to make a replayable platformer. To a degree it worked, but randomisation can only take you so far before you have to get your hands dirty. I mean, you can’t just say “put any old block in any old space” or the game would have come to a halt faster than you can say quinquavigintillion. The balancing alone is a nightmare, as is producing
the desired learning curve.
In the end, Lost Quark went with something more like a geomorphic design: think of a set of tiles, each with a different internal pattern, but the patterns at the edges line up. A tile that’s open at the top can link up with a tile that’s open on the bottom, but if you randomly attach an open-top to a closed-bottom you get a conflict and the player gets irrevocably stuck. So even geomorphic needs a lot of hand-holding.
Well, NOT SO WITH MONA LISA! Stephen’s here, and with a couple of level design awards under his belt, recognition from Valve and a glowing recommendation from Northern Ireland’s leading game design courses, he’s
ready to rock out.
In my opinion, the biggest level design challenge we face at the moment with Mona Lisa is making challenging level designs. No, really.
See, with the pathfinding platforming game mechanic we’re working with, and the casual target audience, we’re looking to make a game that’s fun, challenging, rewarding, but not frustrating. Fun is easy, rewarding is pretty easy, but with a line drawing algorithm that does a lot of the thinking for you, challenging-without-
But, hey, luckily that ain’t my problem anymore. Stephen’s job is to crank out level after level after level of challenging-not-frustrating wonderment. Plus, help to take all my brain meanderings and channel them
into a work of awesome.
Talk about challenging AND frustrating. Good luck with that!