Hey, friends! This is Kati, and I’m here to share some thoughts on the level design used for Perspectrum. I plan to share my own process of level design with examples.
Before I do anything, I decide which mechanic(s) I want to use and how many of them will be placed. From there, I have a vague idea of player traversal. Then I start to draw. I always start with a piece of paper and pencil after learning the requirements of each level. I map out the space based on metrics such as how far the player can jump, how far do those fish spheres move, and can I put these push blocks on that element. Once I start sketching it out on paper, I can see how viable it is and tweak as need be.
In the image below, you can see that using grid paper helped immensely. It’s a 1:1 ratio which made using the editor in relation to my design sublime.
This is the longest part of the design process as it is the first iteration of what the level will be. The fun part, though, is the never ending, “What if?”
- What if fish spheres were elevators?
- What if fish spheres were platforms?
- What if there were lava and acid fish in a room you had to fall through?
- What if you had to outrun acid ghosts while falling through lava fish?
- What if the next door is hidden by an element that’s only revealed by a different element?
It goes on and on this way until I stumble onto something I like, or I try to combine two of these possibilities one and craft something else entirely. To me, this is how level design is the puzzle solving of game mechanics. Find a new and interesting way to fit all these pieces together to make a good, fun level.
When I feel pretty good about what’s on paper, I open the editor and start laying down tiles. This part of the process is pretty quick, and there are usually no issues as long as nothing new has been introduced. All that time spent on paper pays off!
In this image, you can see how it mirrors almost exactly what was on paper. Of course, it does not always pan out this way.
Below is an example of where I imagined a mechanic working in one way, but in actuality it behaved differently. The water push block sank through acid, which I didn’t know at the time could happen. My idea was to have the player shove a water block from above to access a door hidden behind ice. The player wouldn’t know it was there until they changed the element to acid which would reveal the door, but how would they access it? It was me playing around with the idea of how to force the player into a level of acid. When something didn’t work in the editor like it was supposed to, I went back to paper. I sketched something else and then thought about it. As you can see, this idea had me pretty stumped. Eventually, I ended up breaking this room down into two rooms.
Any level that’s added, I test and test and test. When more than one room is added, it’s important to go between them, especially with the unique shader mechanic that changes the element of a level. Playing the game is as important as making the game.
Good ideas are hard to ignore, and sometimes new mechanics are added in the blink of an eye. Connor may program something, then I test it in a mockup level to see what the possibilities are. New anything means new bugs, though, and as bugs are resolved, this can cause portions of levels to be re-designed. This requires a consistent dialogue with the team, verifying the way mechanics are supposed to work.
Working on Perspectrum has confirmed what I’ve wanted to do in the game industry, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have joined the team. I am proud of the work I’ve contributed to this game and am very excited for its release. Be on the lookout for Perspectrum!