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Building New Levels

When I put together the first-playable level it was a simple level set on Earth.  It worked great as a proof of concept and had some definite moments of fun, but I needed it expand this into a bunch of different worlds with a greater variety of gameplay.  I made an android version that I could carry around on my phone and show people.  Wherever I went I was able to get gameplay feedback.  Looking over someone’s shoulder and watching them play was an invaluable way of getting feedback, spotting problems I’d missed, and for realising I’d made the game way too hard.  From these observations of this first-playable level I was able to identify the factors that affected the fun and establish a set of guidelines to use to create new levels.

One of the most obvious factors that affected the difficulty was the strength of gravity.  The higher the gravity, the quicker it would pull your ship down and so the less time you have to react to things around you.  Since gameplay is about making decisions under pressure, decreasing the amount of time the player has to make their decisions increases the pressure they are under and raises the difficulty.

Another factor was the size of the tunnels.  The tile set I used to construct the levels was made of 128×128 squares.  But interlinked tunnels of this size were hard to navigate; there just wasn’t enough room for the player, the ai, and environment hazards together.  The level design would need to have caverns to dogfight in that were at least two tiles wide.  These would be connected by short tunnels.  Hidden areas, shortcuts and parts of the level where I wanted to increase the challenge could then be tightened up.

first playable level

First playable cave example

One little piece of oversight was the edge of the level.  There was only a one tile border, when the ship was too close the camera would stop moving and the ship would fly over to the side of the screen.  Since it’s important that the player’s ship stayed fairly central and away from the ui elements, each level would need a border of at least 3 tiles.

Longer levels would need a second spawn base, so that the player wouldn’t have to fly halfway through the level again when they die.  This seems like an obvious thing that you would put in straight away, but you don’t really get a sense of how long it takes to player through a level by looking at it in the editor.

Once I had figured out a set of guidelines from building levels I had to think about their setting.  Kaon will be set on all the different worlds of the solar system.  So far I have added the Moon, Mars, Ceres, Phobos, and the Asteroid Belt.  Each of these settings has different enemies to face.  Ceres and the Asteroid Belt are controlled by Sigma.  Mars and Phobos are the lair of Doctor Quantex.  And on the Moon…that will be a little surprise.

- JBuckle

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