Author Topic: Few questions to level designers  (Read 1985 times)

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Offline arttu98

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Few questions to level designers
« on: January 23, 2014, 04:55:39 pm »
1. How much time does it usually take to make a good level?

2. How do I give "creative" names to my levels?

3. Any tips? (do-s and don't-s)

Offline mobius

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2014, 06:43:43 pm »
1.   I usually take half hour to an hour. probably less  :-\ Not counting stopping, then having people test it or play it and fixing backroutes.

2. Get a notebook and write down interesting title ideas you see or hear everywhere and anywhere until you run out of paper  :P I do this (for other reasons as well) Or you can look at a place like this:
[since this is from a different community that doesn't know us u can totally steal those and get away with it]  :evil:

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Offline Proxima

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 09:25:31 pm »
Between a few minutes and a few years, depending on the type of level, how important it is to you to get it perfect, how much help you get from testers, and of course, the most important factor of all -- luck.

As for dos and don'ts... Lemmings is primarily a puzzle game, and custom levels appeal primarily to people who enjoy solving logical puzzles. There's nothing worse than spending hours staring at a puzzle, and then finding out that it doesn't have a fair solution and the designer was expecting us to guess a trick. Examples of this include normal terrain that looks like steel (or vice versa); hidden exits when it looks like the puzzle is to reach the visible exit; and so on.

Try to reward ingenuity if you can. If someone finds a "backroute" (a trivial solution that spoils the puzzle) then you probably should make it impossible (though you should do so through clearly visible means, not by hiding traps inside the terrain). But if someone finds an ingenious and elegant solution that's different from yours, it's often best to leave it in, so it can be a challenge for other solvers.

Offline Luis

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 11:19:19 pm »
Making levels depends on how much patiences you have and how fast you can come up with ideas, on how the level will look like and what solution it will have. Most people make small levels because big ones takes longer to make. If you can't come up with anything, you're gonna get bored of looking at the editor. I have a old pillar level that looks better than all the other pillar levels that I made and it took three months to make. That's a lot of time. Unfortunately it has backroutes but it's the best looking and I don't think I can top it.

Examples of this include normal terrain that looks like steel (or vice versa);
What level looks like that? Do you mean steel that are behind terrains?
Mr. Lemmings PSP user.

Offline Clam

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2014, 12:06:38 am »
Time to make a level
Anything from a couple of hours to several days. But it's not true that the more time you spend, the better the level is - in my experience it's more often the reverse. An inspired concept can turn into a great level in a few hours, whereas a long time spent usually means backroutes or just over-complication. Of course, you can always throw together a trash level in a few minutes - but that's not why we're here :P

I often use a pop culture reference or idiom that fits the puzzle somehow. Nothing beats a good pun! If I can, I like to then work the title back into the appearance of the level. A recent example of mine is "Extension Cord", where I had the idea of extending your fling bomber (by using two) and then rebuilt the level to look like an electrical cord.

If I make a map based on one of the original levels (or another of my levels), I'll adapt the title. Often it's the title that triggers the idea for a puzzle, eg. "Called in the wrong squad?" where you have the same terrain but a different set of skills.

We also have a topic for level name ideas.

Do's and Don'ts
  • Keep it simple! It's tempting to build a gigantic convoluted map, but I just find those off-putting. One screen (as much as you can see without scrolling) is the optimal size for a level, and I keep to this for 75% of levels (according to my Lix set).
  • Have a point and stick to it. Don't add any "filler" beyond what's needed to get the point across.
  • You don't always have to build the hardest level ever. Easy levels can be great too! If you're making a fangame-type levelset, easy levels are an essential part of the difficulty curve.
  • If you have some "half-formed" ideas (I have heaps!), don't just combine them into a level - it ends up feeling forced, and depending on the skills used for each part you can create backroutes.
  • Avoid time limits like the plague. Time limits cause players to reflexively pause and try to do everything as quickly as possible, which takes away from the fun of solving the puzzle. It's worth making significant changes (as long as you keep to your "point") to the level if it means avoiding reliance on a time limit for backroute-proofing.
  • Similarly, try to avoid rapid sequences of moves at different parts of the level.
  • Play as many of other peoples' levels as you can. Try challenges, multiplayer (*hint hint*) or other puzzle games to take in some completely different ideas.
  • Take breaks from the game, even really long ones if you have to. But always be ready to note down an idea if you get one. Inspiration can strike at any time! (Usually in the shower :P)

Offline arttu98

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2014, 06:01:43 am »
Wow. So much useful info. Thank you guys!  :thumbsup:

Offline Proxima

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2014, 03:39:30 pm »
What level looks like that? Do you mean steel that are behind terrains?

In some level editors, steel is assigned by placing an invisible object over terrain, so it doesn't necessarily have to correspond to the terrain blocks that look like steel -- you can have functional steel that looks like normal terrain and vice versa. As for actual examples, I won't name any usermade levels because this is a textbook example of what NOT to do -- but in the Holiday levels, Flurry 6 has non-functional steel due to laziness on the part of the designers.

As the forum regulars will know well, I completely disagree with Clam about time limits. While the game is mostly a puzzle game, treating it entirely as a series of logical puzzles dries it up, and leads to levels like ONML that are interesting to solve the first time but have comparatively little replay value. Focus on timing is one aspect that adds excitement and satisfaction to some well-designed levels, like Pieuw's aptly named "Nick of Time". However, I do agree with Clam and Simon to the extent that if the only thing the time limit is doing in your level is forcing the player to release the crowd at a precise time, and redo the worker lemming's moves after that point until they get that precise timing right -- that has very little satisfaction and should be avoided if possible.

Offline Crane

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Re: Few questions to level designers
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2014, 07:42:13 pm »
Time limits are an interesting one.  Personally I'm quite a fan of 1-minute and 2-minute levels, as they can give a bit of an "oh hell" or "that's impossible!" feeling.  For example, seeing the 2-minute time limit on "The Fast Food Kitchen" (it's 3 minutes on the DOS and Windows versions) really made me think "there's no way!", but it is perfectly doable if you do both sides at the same time, and it becomes more of a multi-tasking challenge than a time crunch, but you actually NEED the time limit to enforce the multi-tasking.

Bad examples of tight time limits are where a long and convoluted solution is made even harder by only allowing a few seconds of leeway, which can be unfair if a failure occurs simply because you didn't blow up the blocker sooner, and also runs the risk of a porting failure because the exact time limits vary between versions (you lose about 3 seconds waiting for the trapdoors to open, but this isn't always the case).

There are times where you can justify a tight time limit even if it doesn't play an obvious role, like the example above.  To blow my own trumpet, for my "Faithful Friends" level, the correct solution leaves you with only 3 seconds, but you only run out of time if you are far too over-cautious with the digger or you let the rightmost lemming fall into an enclosed pit (at which point you can't solve the level anyway), and for "Sharing a Climber?", the correct solution leaves only 1 second on the clock, but it's only possible to fail if any lemming other than the first one out is made a Climber.

A good rule of thumb, I find... if you have quite a long level, make sure you finish it, on a bad day(!), with at least 45 seconds left on the clock; if it's tighter than this, consider adding an extra minute unless you are already up at 9 (in which case the level may be too long!).  For short levels, it's up to you, but make sure you can justify the time limit.

For more general advice, start small.  Many of my first levels filled only a single screen and had very little in terms of superfluous decoration, but at least two of them were good enough to include in the "Revenge of the Lemmings" pack at the expense of my larger, more ambitious levels, even though they are the best part of 12 years old.  Smaller levels are much easier to debug and give you a lot more room to experiment with clever tricks.

Oh, and here are my personal dos, don'ts and general advice - some may be a bit complicated and won't come into play until you become more proficient, so don't worry too much if you don't understand them all:

- With the exception of crushers hidden in the ceiling, don't bury traps in the terrain unless it's obvious that it's there.  This comes off as very unfair and a seasoned gamer will know you only placed them there to prevent a backroute, where something like a steel plate would have been more justified.

- Don't mark normal terrain as "steel", and don't place steel plates without a steel zone to complement it.  This is very unfair and illogical.

- On most tilesets, the exit comes in two parts: a static door, and an animated flag or torches to go on top.  Only the static door actually functions as the exit, but make sure you remember to put in both and line them up correctly, otherwise it won't look right.

- On some versions, objects with an index equal to or greater than 16 won't interact with the lemmings, so be aware of this if your level has a lot of water, say.

- If you have multiple trapdoors, the order at which Lemmings drop out of them depend on their index value, so make sure they are ordered as you desire.

- Avoid having more than four trapdoors if you can, because not all versions support more than four.

- Be careful when using three trapdoors, as some versions have two lemmings exit the second trapdoor for every one lemming from the others (i.e. ABCBABCB instead of ABCABC).

- Limit your level's dependence on precision bombing (using Bombers without Blockers), or if you must use it, make sure there's plenty of leeway, otherwise it just gets annoying.

- Don't make a level that relies on glitchy behaviour to complete; for example, a lemming climbing through a gap where logic should indicate he hits his head and falls.

- Don't give objects a negative Y-coordinate (partially off the top of the screen); this can crash the game sometimes.

- Avoid situations where a basher needs to bash near the top of the screen, or worse, partially off the top of the screen; this can crash the game sometimes.

- Make sure you understand which traps kill all lemmings on contact, and which ones only kill the first one that encroaches it before having to reset.  Generally, traps that are always in motion (namely water, the shredder traps in the Marble tileset and the flame-throwers in the Fire tileset) will kill everyone indiscriminately, and those that are sitting dormant will only kill one at a time.

- Be careful when being precise with splat distances, as the critical height can vary between versions.

- Try not to do long builder levels - this gets boring very quickly!

- Try not to make it obvious where you've patched a backroute.  Sometimes this can't be helped, but you always get extra marks for having a level that looks seamless and pretty without obvious patch-jobs.