Level Design

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
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Freeyorp101
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eh

Post by Freeyorp101 » Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:45 pm

For major levels I tend to plan them out on graph paper, (not majorly usually- just black pen for solids, red pen for sprites, green pen for items(and everything else). detail and interesting background I add in-editor.

Of course, if the level isn't anything major, I'll probably do it all in-editor (I can't be bothered writing everything out for a small level)

ah well...

Benvolio
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Yeah

Post by Benvolio » Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:23 pm

Before I discovered level editing (basically from Dec 2000 till Summer 2001) I assumed that was how the original keen levels were made and imagined that, if I ever was to design levels for a game I would plan on paper first. I used to draw imaginary levels on paper anyway even though I never imagined I'd really be able to level-edit. I actually designed scenarios for in-level teleporters, unaware that 2 years later they would be fully available to modders.

But anyway, when I started to level-edit, I almost instantly was working straight out of the mind, not off paper. Whereas paper might be required for the original text-mode KeenEdit, the WYSIWYG approach of Keenwright eliminated that need.

Kdash
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Post by Kdash » Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:40 pm

Yeah, I can't really design on paper. I try to do that when I don't have access to a computer, but it never works.

Heh, I also have a bunch of cheesy levels drawn on paper for some game like TUIT or something. They're pretty lousy.

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Post by KeenRush » Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:10 pm

Yeah, in non-graphics editor some plans might be good, but I doubt anyone uses those. And I believe iD didn't use one either, since they already had an early version of TED for their Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement..

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levellord
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Post by levellord » Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:30 am

Now, maybe Romero will hand us the Keen1-3 TED? *prays*

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Post by KeenRush » Sun Apr 16, 2006 5:21 pm

I really wish that! It'd be awesome piece of Keen history!

Stealthy71088
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Post by Stealthy71088 » Tue Apr 18, 2006 4:14 pm

I can never plan levels out keen levels on paper ahead of time. I've tried, but it just doesnt seem to work. At the same time, I only start making a level after i have a good idea what I want it to be like. Then whatever comes out following that idea comes out. Do you guys usually start with easy levels, and work your way up, or skip around? I've been working my way up- I like to build new puzzles from concepts of ones I've already created.

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XkyRauh
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hum

Post by XkyRauh » Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:05 pm

I find it much easier to design levels based on the idea of "scenes" or "rooms." Work with an area that is about one screen in size, and make it look snazzy enough to deserve a screenshot. Then, move to another part of the level--someplace hopefully at a different height, maybe even a different size, and do the same thing. Once you've got two scenes you like, figure a way to weave them together. Slope a hill, make a series of platforms, dig a trench, put in a river, sprinkle enemies, whatever it takes... larger levels need more defining scenes, while smaller levels can focus with just "Point A" and "Point B."

Unfortunately, because I think in this fashion, I really get my butt kicked by labrynthical / extended memory sequences in games. I can remember "the room with the little keypad in it" or "that hill with the view of the city," but trying to remember "the left path has Green Green Red Blue Red Yellow Red, and the right path has Red Green Red Blue Red Green Yellow" is just too hard for me. :P

The biggest drawback to my method of level design is that it leaves secret areas really as an afterthought, rather than a central core in the level's design. In the event that I work more on XkyKeen4, I'm planning on changing that.

But I've always been happy with the screenshots people decide to take of my mods, because they're almost always right in the middle of one of the "scenes" I focussed around. :)

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Freeyorp101
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re: hum

Post by Freeyorp101 » Fri Apr 21, 2006 11:07 pm

... secret areas really as an afterthought, rather than a central core in the level's design.
which was a nice effect, because it makes secret areas harder to find and more 'secret' , I think.

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XkyRauh
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hehe

Post by XkyRauh » Fri Apr 21, 2006 11:30 pm

Well, in my case, by "an afterthought," translates to "completely absent." I think I only had 1 (maybe two) levels with secret areas in XkyKeen3. I'm not sure secret areas even existed in XkyKeen2. :P I pointed that out mostly as a reminder to myself, to help improve my own level design. :)

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Freeyorp101
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Post by Freeyorp101 » Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:45 pm

outta sight, outta mind. I didn't even look for any till I spotted 1 in xkykeen1.

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levellord
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Post by levellord » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:43 am

I dunno; I try and work secrets directly into my level- when I remember too. This gives it a Xkyish lean, but my secrets tend to be larger and more numerous.

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Post by KeenRush » Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:31 am

I had some big secret rooms in Yorphius II, but in Episode Smile I hadn't any secret rooms one had to access walking through some foreground tiles. However, there wasn't that many secrets and they seldom were that rewarding. Should change in the next mod.

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Post by Stealthy71088 » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:59 pm

There is such a thing as too many secrets, you know? I managed to do that in Pyramid. The majority of the levels were designed with secret areas in mind, over the actual levels themselves. Although this can be entertaining, trying to figure out how to get one point or another that's dangling in front of your nose, it can get annoying after awhile.

Some of the coolest secrets are the ones that you don't need to go through foreground to find. You just have to go at them differently than what you might expect. Or, they could be highly visible in the middle of a very complex level, but ridiculously hard to figure out how to get. A good example is the door in the Pyramid of the Moons that is right underneath the area with the red gem. I can't begin to tell you how many pogo and jumping stunts I attempted trying to get in there. Then later I found out that I had to go through the door from the other end. It's not a great example, but...

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Post by Benvolio » Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:36 pm

Some of the coolest secrets are the ones that you don't need to go through foreground to find.
That's a good point, Stealthy71088, it's like "foreground passage" secrets are cliché, and the real art lies in other ways of hiding things, such as psychologically predicting places that people don't notice, and putting your secret there. For instance, you could make a level, get a tester to test it under your supervision, and see which places they overlook for the longest time. The best example of this I can think of is in level 5 of Cosmo's Cosmic Adventures 1, in which the place where the US lander with the burger is, is in a place I usually would ignore, and that psychologically it's probably the place people are least likely to look.

As for my levels, I am always working in an artistic frame of mind, so if I think a possible secret area would aesthetically look good there, I put it in. Then again, in my levels you could probably call all the "non-secret" areas secret, they're so hard to find. :-)

There are different mentalities in the level editing that Id did for different Keen games' original levels. I'd imagine it's something like this:
Keen1: Wow cool we've just got the best graphics engine so far up and running, let's see what fun we can have.
Keen2: We're charging them for this one so we gotta make it good quality
Keen3: Here we go again, we're so bored of making these Vorticon Levels now, we'd rather make Quake
Keen4: Man, we've struck the right chord this time, this game seems to write itself
Keen5: Wow, this is the big fella, we gotta make this better than anything before
Keen6: Right, let this be the far-out Keen that people will revere as the weirdest Keen.
Keendreams: Let's make something really weird here.

My favourite Keen is Keen4, and a lot of my level-editing mentality relates to trying to hit the right chord. (not to mention the mentality that went into my graphics and concepts) However, in my first trilogy I just had the Keen1 mentality, thrilled as I was with modding.

I hope these insights into my bizarre stale mind will help you decide what mentality you should apply to your levels.

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