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How to design a fun to play level?

Discussion in 'World Editor Help Zone' started by MrRious, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. MrRious

    MrRious

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    Everytime I create a custom campaign mission, at some point I make a big design mistake, which makes it boring (for example, I add way too many scripts to dungeon chapters).

    The problem is, if i change anything I'll have to remake most of my level.
     
  2. nedio95

    nedio95

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    Unfortunately, design is one of the hardest things to get right. And if you had not had it right, you have to redesign.
    You may want to post in Map Design to request some reviews on a map that you are particularly concerned about to get more concrete and tailored replies. I can give you just a generalized idea.

    It pretty much depends what kind of campaign you are making, is it RTS, RPG, Squad based or a mixture of those?
    You can take quite a lot of inspiration by Blizzard campaigns.

    Keep it fresh
    You would be looking to introduce new powers and enemies each Chapter. And introduce them gradually, get the player used to them.
    E.g. For RTS:
    Chapter 1: Main Hero & Footmen vs. Skeletons
    Chapter 2: +Supporting Hero +Riflemen vs. +Ghouls
    Chapter 3: +Base Building +Knight vs. +Enemy Base +Necromancer +Antagonist
    Chapter 4: +More buildings + More Units vs. +More enemy buildings +More units

    For RPG:
    Chapter 1: Main Hero & 1-2 skills & 1-2 mechanics vs. Skeletons & Minor Boss
    Chapter 2: More skills & Mechanics vs. Ghouls & Antagonist
    And so on...

    You see, you are looking to gradually introduce new things to the player each chapter, being hero powers, enemies, own units, characters, mechanics or whatever. Keep the interest with each being new and unique.

    Keep it consistent
    But you have to also stay true to a campaign base-line mechanics.
    E.g. Don't do this:
    Chapter 1: Regular RTS with all units available, has to crush some enemy base
    Chapter 2: Horror, Base in C1 gets destroyed and the character wakes up 1st person in dark forest wander through
    Chapter 3: Character finds a racing car in the forest and wins the GP
    Chapter 4: Character finds a plasma gun, controls with arrow keys and shoots plasmagun with space bar

    Like, hell no, keep consistent with core mechanics. Feel free to spice up every now and then with something special, but don't go overboard. Don't jump from genre to genre all the time.

    Character Presentation & Cutscenes
    Don't go overboard!
    Long cutscenes are a no-go, but also too little would not get the player attached to the characters.
    I've quit campaigns myself because of 3-4-5 minute cutscenes with needlessly long and meaningless conversations and nothing happening. Like, ok, I get it that this character has a LOT to say, but you could also convey this through gameplay...
    Blizzard themselves have a few solutions to lowering cutscene time.
    e.g. Tirande finds some footprints. There isn't some cutscene showing her inspecting the footprints and having a needless monologue "Ah, Demonic Footprints! We are buggered!" but rather just a message pops with the voice line that she says. Gameplay is uninterrupted.

    Also, never keep the camera and action static inside cutscenes.
    Two guys on a cliff facing each other and just exchanging replicas for 1-2 min could make somebody hate you...
    Change angles every few seconds, Make characters move, Show what they are talking about, Show some distant action.
    Keep everything dynamic.

    Presenting the characters of a character is fairly important.
    If the characters are too bland or generic, the player would go "k". Have different characters present with different speech patterns.
    e.g. "Let's go soldiers." -> Who is this?
    "Let's go lads & lasses!" -> You immediately know who this character is. do you?
    An often mistake I see is when a single designer designs all his characters in the same way. All characters have the same speech, behavior and... they just don't feel like characters but like general troops. They are characters without character.

    There are many more things to consider, such as general story, gameplay, difficulty, presentation, "quality of life" and so on.

    Hope this helps!

    regards
    -Ned
     
  3. MrRious

    MrRious

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    You're mostly talking about designing campaigns, which isn't that hard.

    I was asking about level design. I think it is one of the most important elements of a custom campaign. If missions aren't designed well, the whole campaign will be unplayably bad.

    After all, who would want to play campaign with +50 chapters made in 10 minutes? (Well, actually this idea sounds interesting...)
     
  4. nedio95

    nedio95

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    If you are looking into a campaign as separate missions, you are doing it wrong.
    You shouldn't be designing each Chapter separately, but rather like a single experience.

    regards
    -Ned
     
  5. MrRious

    MrRious

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    I understand you and I agree with you, but you're not 100% right. Campaigns are supposed to focus on the story AND the gameplay. Both of them are equally important.

    I've already prepared a story and know basic informations about every chapter (story, units, terrain, etc.), so now I have to focus on designing them (making gameplay interesting)

    I think there is a difference, between designing a level and designing a campaign.

    You shouldn't look at missions neither as separate nor continuous.

    At least that's what I think. I'm sorry, if I sound arrogant.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  6. Mechanical Man

    Mechanical Man

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    why would too many scripts in a dungeon be boring?
     
  7. MrRious

    MrRious

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    I've recently made a dungeon level, where most of the battles are scripted. It's hard to explain why it was a bad idea, but the biggest problem with them is that most of them are really unenjoyable and it's really hard to change anything in them.

    Also, scripts make everything linear.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  8. Light

    Light

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    If you so insist on independent levels, try having each level have a focus point on a game mechanic or character in your campaign, and create a terrain that allows the player to utilize the mechanic or allows the character's story to expand. The first Night Elf mission in RoC, for example, is basically heavy utilization of Shadowmeld to create hide-and-seek and introduces the nature of the Night Elves.

    For standard RTS melee missions, however, it boils down to general melee map making (taking away the symmetry and other PVP balancing bits).
     
  9. Daffa the Mage

    Daffa the Mage

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    Definition of fun is relative to be honest. The key to make it enjoyable however, is to not limit user's choice too much.

    Take Blizzard's campaign. Most, if not all, of their levels allow players to make some interesting choices like item hunting first, rush the chapter and so on and so on.
     
  10. Lordlycan

    Lordlycan

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    Okay this post became longer than i initially planned and it's currently very messy. It's 5am right now so i'll edit it after some sleep. edit: cleaned it up a bit more:

    Every game has three things in common that define them. Mechanics, Dynamics, Aestetics. You sound like you have put a lot time and effort so far into Aestetics it's not wrong to start there but as a designer it does make it harder for yourself. The Aestetics are important to draw the player in. But the the dynamics that drive of the mechanics are what keeps the player entertained. And achieving flow is what keeps them playing.

    What defines play? Play is allowing a player to make choices.

    So as a designer we aim to employ the player's ingenuity. We all like to feel smarter than the the game (Designer).

    But why do we play I've attached a table from zicherman's book why we play and what we enjoy about those experiences. They give some short example of how you might recognize them in use. Sure some of them require a multiplayer environment. But most don't.
    [​IMG]

    Step #1 Draw Them in:



    Sell on the narrative:
    tease their curiosity, something new unfamiliar, fresh to play around with.
    Why is your creation so cool bomb the player with it. It can be the first time on a new planet or the first time anyone got to play with the draenei race in warcraft III.

    Hook them on mechanics:
    - start with simple straightforward uses of skills, then gradually use them in different ways before introducing a new mechanic. Also known as layering. (example mortar unit to cut a pathway through trees, but also do destroy corpses later on and getting in flare to anticipate the usage and aiming of where to land the grenades)

    - Every level through the campaign has a panda hidden somewhere with a small boon

    - A % based completion tool at the end f a level can get some high replay-ability for players as well

    - First time using doom it silences a target preventing it from casting something. The 2nd time it also allows you to long range dispel across a door that needs to open. And the last time you can use it to cast rain of fire to bombard away the units keeping the door locked.

    - First time using raise dead from a pig corpse to get a small unit to annoy villagers, 2nd time to deny a paladin a Resurrection, third time using the Resurrection to deny the necromancer his skeleton unit.

    - Meta and synergy, earthclap + flames strike have really good synergy. But first teach the user but having a different combination of mechanics next to each other can not just only spice things up but also be part of layering.


    Wow them with spectacle:
    Empower or rather Overpower the player for a short period of time.

    Let them have That big battle that your story was building up to. But then go for flashbacks or Deus ex machina escapes. though it might feel for a player that you take away their strenght. Which in the blood elf campaign when garithos claimed everyone gave a narrative to Kael'thas requiring the aid of the naga. Or just you drop a big infernal on top of the players units and have them die. You have ample of ways to reset without really making the player feel to bad.

    Flashy colors, explosions, giant demons/golems, sell on the epicness. (the hollywood approach)


    Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics




    Mechanics:
    Different ways to get people to collect items
    Unit skills (dispel magic, it deals damage to summoned units, removes debuffs, but also removes blight from an area.) It's the same skill but there's different dynamics on how to use it.
    Collision (how much fits next to eachother or can you block of paths with unit in the way.)
    Vision
    Economy management (space, unitcap, blight, fountains, waygates(time) can be a economic resource)
    Collecting items etc.




    Dynamics:

    A unit dying and leaving a corpse mechanic feeds into the dynamic of Necromancers Raise dead and Revive from palladin's

    Differences in Scale versus difference in kind.
    The depth and amount of using the same thing in different ways vs the amount different things you can use and combine. a sorceress on her own is near useless but with a damage dealing unit pretty good.

    A footman vs a grunt. But there's a difference in scale when you present them 12 footman vs 8 grunts.
    A somewhat similar fight between o A Knight vs a Tauren might feel like a difference in scale but knights and tauren have completely different stats thus they are a difference in kind.
    A footman and a priest vs a Tauren and wyvern is a difference in kind which spices things up for example.

    But you can also obtain differences in kind by having to do a puzzle, or changing the goal of a level to obtain 20k gold to pay for debts or for an armory the use of where it's going is aesthetically different so sell the same thing in a different sense.

    Layering the chapters was already mentioned, but it can also be done in the levels themselves.






    Aeststetiscs:

    Narrative through play: Starting with a palladin on lvl 5.5 against necromancers making sure one of the units of the player dies and gets turned into skeletons just before he can reach lvl 6. So he won't be able to revive him. And later on he can revive a unit that dies later. You're telling a story through the already existing mechanics while playing.

    In media Res:
    Starting to tell the story in the middle, a lot of it is still unfamilair and you have to figure things out as they go while exploring a mysterious map.

    Exposistion:
    The written word, tooltips on items for example but also long stories told by Character A to Character B to allow the player to "eavesdrop" on their story to get the info.


    Writing effectively:
    Make your words count. Use active phrasing but keep it short and simple only use selective "difficult passive" words to add depth to the character saying it.

    Cutscene's: It's a very time consuming use of your time for very little result of gameplay. But it is another difference ind kind.




    Level Design:
    # Define what the goal of the level/map is.
    # Then define 1/2/x strategies to beat it
    # Then see that there are ample tactics to do so.
    # add phasing to the strategies (key A+key B = open door to Area C)
    # And some possible boons to make it easier to do but requiring more time of the player in terms of optional quests.

    This is a very old but still relevant "summary" of stratagems from the old Chinese commanders. It's less philosophical than sun tzu's art of war so more easily interpreted. And might give you a starting off point to thinking of what is the goal of this level going to be.
    Thirty-Six Stratagems - Wikipedia


    So offer a player the option to "abuse" certain feats of a map to have bigger chances of success.

    - Flying units are not as great in dungeon maps because they can't fly across trees. They still grant uphill vision though. This impacts game play.
    - Defending an uphill position is a lot easier than defending an below the hill position.
    - If a secondary base is defending a main base's back entrance. It might be easier to get into the main base through the back entrance but it requires the player to take on the secondary base out first.
    - You can abuse the pillage from orc's to "loot a burning house" as a means to gain more resources from a village that has already been overrun and left. Or perhaps just drop insane amount murloc huts and trolls huts on the map. So a player can choose to do so.
    - Give a couple of units Windwalk and allow them to sneak in and kill an enemy hero as a win condition without making a full army yourself.
    - Repair a wrecked village and gain the people's trust and a AI controlled ally.



    What makes us keep playing: How to achieve Flow, (rythm in play) (coup-doei)
    - Layering gradually increasing the difficulty as players gain better skill at using what they got, new ways to use what they have
    - Variety new things to do give them new tools
    - Use other game elements like Role playing parts. To change the pace of the game. A classic example Devil may Cry is a HacknSlash Game but there are some puzzles to get you to do something else from time to time.
    - Play around with economic factors that might change the way they will have to expend resources. It can be be more then units. but reset the calculations of the player and force/allow them to adapt to new circumstances.


    in order to achieve great maps you will need to do some serious testing to get a gutfeeling but also observing others playing. without interfering and guiding them. All the guidance you will give has to be done upfront or it's not "finished" for testing yet. but than you tend to skip a small part.

    But to prove that it comes down to allowing the player to make choices. Scripts might be linear, but the order in which they are introduced doesn't have to be. The classic zelda two keys for the next stage. Either kill boss in zone A for key A first or solve Puzzle in zone B for Key B first. If you by any chance don't enjoy your own area C just drop a waygate behind the door and seal off the area and have the player use a waygate to Area D instead. Or give them another character to play with in the mean time to go unlock the next area for the first character. These are tools to break a linear experience.

    I'd suggest you'd subscribe to this youtube channel and take your time on their video's they are really good if you want to get more info on how to design games.

    ~Lycan

    PS. Drop me a link to your map and patch info and i can take a look perhaps. Still figuring things out the the Editor so a gameplay map might work better than getting me to understand code.

    Extra Credits: All Episodes - YouTube:
    But here's another 4 handpicked videos i think would offer you the most insight on a short time investment.



     

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    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  11. Wark

    Wark

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    From an engineering point of view, take the time to make a flow chart if you can't organize it all in your head.
    In fact, do it anyways. It's a good practice.
    This way you can see where things are lacking, and where things need to be removed at a glance.
    The best part of a flow chart is that it's a tool for what Lordlycan and Daffa mentioned: it helps you set up choices and variety.

    Also, avoid tedium:
    • Does something punish the player too harshly?
    • Does it take too much time?
    • Is the process of getting somewhere too repetitive?
    • Is it an eyesore or unintuitive?
    We play games to escape. If it doesn't feel fun to you, then you must remove it or improve it.