I'm still not certain what I think about point items. I've pondered the potential for infinite scores and the resulting diminishment of meaning of the player's score many times in the past, and I'm still trying to decide my stance.
I guess I'll probably design my levels with the assumption that the player isn't going to get sneaky and collect all the points in the level, get a life, then die and start the level over again. If that's what the player wants to do, the option is there. That's about the best we can probably do as the creators of these things.
But the player still needs to be rewarded for particularly gruesome puzzles that may take a few deaths to complete. Having only 20,000 points in a level will definitely not be an option with my design tendencies (sorry Xky) =(:P)-
Perhaps a solution would be to punctuate choke points with an opportunity to grab a handful of points, or access to a secret area or shortcut if the puzzle was completed properly (excess keycards scored from doing door mazes in a particular order, or hidden in a Corner of Death). Since my levels will be huge, having the player charging through without a chance to rest and hopefully make up for the retries yet to come would be folly.
Xky And likewise, it could be a lot more basic: "a player's score represents their completion percentage of my game--I put exactly 20,000 points in every level; thus a perfect score is 360,000 (16 levels, 4 ship parts)."
Although given the amount of lives the player will receive from those 360,000 points, and the further points (and yet more lives) that can be achieved from milking all those lives, the maximum score increases significantly. Still, in such a situation it does remain an indication of the player's skill level (and patience), since the maximum score is achieved without dying at all.
The (not so) hidden pyramid level in the Patchwork Mod suffered from Infinite Score syndrome. I had like an extra ten lives by the time I'd climbed from one side to the other, before I even entered the building itself. There's no advantage to passing the level. That sort of thing I'll do my best to avoid.
Grelphy Another interesting use for points, used by Spleen is as "goal" items. AFAIK, from reading his story, the point items are what Keen is really going after.
Yeah, there's the side-mission of saving as many Dinu'u as possible. It's not so much a goal as a justification. It may be that, as far as the story goes, at the end of the game the freed Dinu'u are restored, but those left in Garthuria would be lost. Then again, there are bound to be a few twists, so not even I know how it'll end. It'd be good if I could make an alternate ending or two...
Hmm... déjà vu. Cool.
Grelphy But points are really just meant for the enjoyment of the player. After all, what would a game be without points?
Indeed. Regardless of whether the points are necessarily balanced to the edge of perfection, or scattered in every corner of the level, they're still fun to collect. The Patchwork Mod secret level I find fun despite its out-of-balance bounty. My perfectionism keeps nagging at me to keep dying and rack up the points, though, so when I finally decide to exit the level properly I feel like I'm missing something. Those levels that require a bit more maneuvering make me feel less guilty.