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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignLevel Design Workshop - #3 Structural Atmosphere
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noah!
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« Reply #140 on: July 22, 2010, 09:11:35 PM »

I went and retooled my original six stages and added an additional three. I originally didn't want to make any more stages because the lack of checkpoints would have made them infuriating, but that isn't a concern now. I'm glad you guys dug them, but I agree with you guys in that it got repetitive in some bits. Levels two and three got the most drastically altered.

I really like these levels; the early levels being simplistic yet not simple, and the difficulty ramp is fairly smooth to boot. One minor gripe is that, in the beginning of levels two and three you place an emphasis on mastering the "jump with the roof right over your head", and then shelve it until the endgame. Also, while I like how you put some checkpoints out of the way, I felt like level four's checkpoint was just too much hassle for what it was worth. Thankfully, you nailed it with level eight's checkpoint: out of the way, yet still easy to get to and easy to continue from. Also, I thought the pyramid at the beginning of level seven was genius. Overall, very minor gripes about otherwise-excellent level design. Nice job!
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PsySal
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« Reply #141 on: July 22, 2010, 10:22:59 PM »

@TheDustin I liked these levels as well, I was particularly inspired by the skinny section at the end of level 3. Level 8 was a good challenge, I appreciated that it had the trickiest section near the start which makes the end sort of satisfying (like it's own mini-victory-lap.) I also enjoyed the "arches" on level 1. Nice set!

After playing these I wanted to make a level with "negative space", starting with a "solid" screen and carving out the path for the player:

Negative Space
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GameRoom
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« Reply #142 on: July 23, 2010, 12:12:34 PM »

Another level.
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NiallM
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« Reply #143 on: July 24, 2010, 07:51:11 AM »

Feeling a bit guilty I haven't commented on other people's levels, here's my thoughts:

TheDustin (updated versions): I know this isn't meant to be about aesthetics, but the caverns in level 1 (and the way they follow on to level 2) are a really neat touch.  Your levels felt more like a coherent world, with little patterns carried across multiple levels.

edh: I like the idea of easing off the difficulty towards the end of the level; it makes it somehow more worthwhile when you finally reach the safe part.  My favourite bit is the first spikes on level 1; there's no reason you have to go anywhere near them, but they will catch you out if you're not paying attention.

Nitro Crate: I like the diagonal corridor of spikes.  It looks more brutal than it actually is; it took me a while to realise trying to jump it was not the way to go.

GameRoom (your worst nightmare):  This thing is brutal.  Landing on the edge of a block without touching the spike on top of it is completely beyond me.

Lord Tim: I like the checkpoint staircase.  Even with checkpoints, your oh god it hurts level is too much for me.

JoGribbs: I like this approach.  I remember a music teacher telling me there's nothing wrong with repetition, if it's done right.  I think my favourite levels here are the ones that use repetition in slightly unexpected ways.

Captain_404: I like the idea of using checkpoints to force the player to take a less than optimum path, but this is brutal.

Tuba (1st four): There's a decent increase in difficulty between 1 and 2, but I found 3 much harder than 4 (loved the long jump coming out of the enclosed section).  Partly because it's so long; it could definitely use a checkpoint or two.

F687/s: I liked the out-of-the-way checkpoints.

PsySal: I really like the repeating patterns in your levels.  It gives them a really nice coherence.

ScsiOverdrive: I liked how in level 3 you loop round and go past areas you've already been.  The increase in difficulty seemed to be fairly steady, though 4 and 5 were a bit too much for me.


Anyway, I made another three, aiming for a similar feel to PsySal's levels, though I think they're too repetitious and focused on the aesthetics:
Chompers
Sunglasses
Stripes
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HybridMind
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« Reply #144 on: July 24, 2010, 09:21:59 AM »

Had a chance to make a level. Haven't been playing others much yet since I didn't want to be influenced too badly before I tried it myself. I did enjoy your aesthetic and easy levels though NiallM. It was just good to sort of explore them without worrying to much about dieing.

The Blind Return

« Last Edit: July 24, 2010, 09:32:09 AM by HybridMind » Logged

Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #145 on: July 30, 2010, 09:02:58 AM »

No, despite appearances I haven't forgotten this.  I've been feeling really guilty for not finding the time to wrap this excercise up, sorry!

Anyway, back to the feedback..

Here's my 5:
1. Small Acorns
2. Downhill
3. Spikehill
4. Spike Valley
5. The Winding Road
I tried to create a gradually increasing difficulty curve across them, starting from basic principles and working up.  I don't have the patience for really punishing platformers, so I don't think any of these are particularly brutal.  5 does require a little care though.

I really like this set, you've really understood the difficulty of the challenges you've used.  It's a real steady journey Smiley

0 - First Steps
1 - Confidence
2 - Crime and Punishment

Tried to stay away from anything I considered "hard" until the end, and just went for "fun", simple levels. I think I got the curve fairly good.
I did like that checkpoints could be used for an incentive, but didn't really pursue that much.

Yep, the curve on this is pretty great, and the space is quite liberating after some of the other sets we've seen.  There was one little difficulty blip in Confidence (the spiked tower 2/3rds through), that was markedly harder than the rest of this level.

I'm not sure whether checkpoints as insentives is a great idea, whilst it certainly wasn't a problem in this set by saying "do this challenge to save" you might risk pissing a player off.  Used well though, perhaps it it's a worthwhile tool?

first.. thanks for the feedback on the Sokoban levels.. I was away on the last few days and couldn't do more, so.. moving on.

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4

edit: @GameRoom, because I'm stupid and forgot to revert it to the original position after changing it to make it easier to test. It's fixed now.

.. and another great set.  Definitely a nice and smooth curve, and you also managed to work in a good variety of challenges throughout.  I noticed and particularly liked that the difficulty seemed to tone-down for a bit at the start of each new level.


My turn! It's just a simple run-to-the-left kinda thing. One thing I tried to accomplish is to place nearly all of the checkpoints kinda out of the way, though I'm not sure why I did...Also, I like aesthetics, so I tried to make some neato (if somewhat vestigal) spike patterns.

You've got a good mix of challenges here, but the difficulty curve feels very flat.  As a standalone level as part of longer game this wouldn't be a problem, but it doesn't really demonstrate the sort of pacing that I wanted this excercise to be about.

First I made four levels, thinking the "checkpoint" icon was a coin. Erm, oops! Here are coined and uncoined versions, use your imagination:

Level 1 No Coins
Level 2 (I didn't put coins on this in the first place)
Level 3 No Coins
Level 4 No Coins

I played the no coins versions..

I was all but ready to say something about telling you to ignore the aesthetics, but this set seems very well paced despite it.  An enjoyable quick little romp Smiley

Very nice. One thing I find with many of the levels people are making here is there is not much sense of space or rhythm; they are just one careful (albeit interesting!) obstacle
after another. That's definitely one type of design, but not what appeals to me.

One obstacle after another is pretty much exactly what I asked for though, so it's no big surprise that's what we've got lots of Smiley

I definitely want to take this workshop in more spacious, rythmic and aesthetically pleasing directions soon, but I think it's also important to be able to study a single aspect of design (in this case difficulty) at a time.

Hello, this is my first post!

Welcome!  It's great to have you Smiley

I have created five levels that increase in difficulty from easy to really really hard Smiley

I actually started with four levels but realized that the transition from 3 to 4 was too much, and created a level between them. I found this the most challenging, creating a level that is harder than one but easier than another.

Overall I am happy with how these levels ended up, check them out:

level 1 - Cupcake Land
level 2 - The Orchard
level 3 - Bingo Town
level 4 - The Wastelands
level 5 - Chuck Norris

There are a few spikes in difficulty progression, especially for newer players, but I feel its pretty close to what I wanted. This was a great exercise!

Really fantastic work, this is a really well paced and very cleverly layed out set of levels.  Whilst there are a few spikes none of them are so large as to be painful, in fact I'd say they're all small enough that they merely add some texture to the ride..  Particularly well noticed on the need of a 4th level, you're definitely right that the gap would have otherwise been too large.

I tried to make mine as tight as possible, and cram the whole curve into one level.

- Level Only

.. and you did a good job with it, the curve is as tight as the level.  My one criticism would be that the initial ramp up was much faster than that throughtout the rest of a level, which made the first 1/4 feel a little wasted.  It's a minor quibble though.


An interesting experiment, for me though the difference in difficulty between the too was a little large.  Even without checkpoints the top route felt substantially easier.

Gah, I'm out of time again, and I'm going to be away for the whole weekend too.  I'll get back to it, and do another excercise etc. sooooon I promise!
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Dustin Smith
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« Reply #146 on: August 13, 2010, 07:28:28 PM »

I hope that this hasn't fallen by the wayside -- I've picked up a lot from it, and Jonathon's exercises are way awesome.  Beg
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Captain_404
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« Reply #147 on: August 13, 2010, 07:38:17 PM »

Agreed.

And if you don't have the time for this right now I'm sure there are some of us who would be happy to help out. Smiley This workshop has already been tremendously helpful to me, not only in receiving critiques of my levels, but in playing and critiquing others' levels as well. I'd hate to see it forgotten after only two exercises.
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #148 on: August 13, 2010, 10:47:20 PM »

I know I know! I'm a terrible person.  I've been really listless and useless the past couple of weeks for some reason, please forgive my rubbishness Beg

I'm literally just about to go and get a cup of tea and start work on the next exercise, so watch this space Smiley
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increpare
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« Reply #149 on: August 14, 2010, 12:50:18 AM »

I know I know! I'm a terrible person.  I've been really listless and useless the past couple of weeks for some reason, please forgive my rubbishness Beg
hugs for you, jonathan!
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #150 on: August 14, 2010, 06:08:21 AM »

.. better really really late than never:

Exercise 3: Structural Atmosphere

Okay, so for the last couple of excercises I tried to make a point of concentrating on just the more mechanical aspects of level design.  I believe that understanding the raw mechanics of design is extremely important, but if that was all there was to it it'd be a very dry craft.  So for this exercise I want to flip things around and spend some time working on just the aesthetic side of level design.

When it comes to envoking a setting within a game I think the most common reaction is to think about what art work will be required to invoke a place, a mood, or a feeling.  I'd argue that (in games that do require level design) the level design can and should be at least as evocative.  A level set in a dark cave should probably have a very different structural feel from a level spent jumping on wispy clouds, even if the challenges the player is given are near-identical.

I think it would be worth us spending a bit of time experimenting with ways one can theme a level without increasing the amount of art, or the number of game mechanics.

The Task

Try adding or changing the 'theme' of a level without substantially changing the gameplay.  Pick a clear concise idea, state it, and then try to change the feel of the level in a way that doesn't interfere with the gameplay that is already there.  With the sparseness of tiles available to you this may be a challenge, but that's (hopefully) what will make it a good learning experience too.

As a level to start off with try this out.  It's pretty bland, but that's the point, can you make it interesting whilst keeping it as essentially the same level.

If anyone else wants to create and share some more 'seed' levels that would be fantastic.  Try and leave lots of blank space, and don't worry too much about making things challenging.

As far as theme goes, do whatever you like, though do let us know what you were aiming for so we can critique appropriately.  If you're stumped for ideas try a cavern; factory; jungle;  or cloud fortress.

The tool for this excercise works in much the same way as in the last two exercises.  The difference here is that it supports multiple horizontal screens (always 10, wrapping round at the edges).  Use the arrow keys or wsad to navigate between screens whilst editing.

As always do yell if anything is confusing or unclear and so on.  Otherwise get stuck in, I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

General Housekeeping

Obviously I've not been doing a fantastic job of getting these out regularly enough.  I think a part of this might be that I've been trying to be really hardline about playing and commenting on every single thing made.  I should maybe be taking it a bit easier on myself.  I'll still try and critique as much as I can, but if it comes to a choice between more feedback or prepping the next exercise I'll try and lean a bit more on the latter.

There seems to be a lot of healthy discussion/critique going on here, so hopefully this won't hurt things too much.  If anyone is left feeling neglected, or lacking in feedback then do prod me here or in a message and I'll get onto it.

If it looks like I'm slipping badly again at some point I'll try opening the floor for someone else to put up an excercise.  On a related note, is there anything people would particularly like us to cover here?  I'm certainly not out of ideas yet, but I'd welcome inspiration too.

I know I know! I'm a terrible person.  I've been really listless and useless the past couple of weeks for some reason, please forgive my rubbishness Beg
hugs for you, jonathan!

*hugs* Thanks.  It's not a big deal really, I seem to have patches like that every now and again. I suspect it just means I need to recharge a bit.  It'd be absolutely fine except I hate letting people down just because I'm being mopey.
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Draknek
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« Reply #151 on: August 14, 2010, 06:35:03 AM »

I'm getting error #2032 which is apparently because it's looking for the file http://jonathanwhiting.com/coding/ldw/textLayout_1.0.0.595.swz which doesn't exist.

Apparently it's some silly runtime library?
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increpare
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« Reply #152 on: August 14, 2010, 06:39:10 AM »

pressing 'copy' doesn't copy to clipboard for me (firefox 3.6.8/osx)...
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #153 on: August 14, 2010, 07:16:25 AM »

I'm getting error #2032 which is apparently because it's looking for the file http://jonathanwhiting.com/coding/ldw/textLayout_1.0.0.595.swz which doesn't exist.

Apparently it's some silly runtime library?

I don't have a clue what's going on here.  As far as I can see it's a silly runtime library that I don't even use..  Do the previous excercises work (I can't see that I've changed anything relevant since)?  Do you have flash player 10?

pressing 'copy' doesn't copy to clipboard for me (firefox 3.6.8/osx)...

Gah.  Just tested it on my housemates mac in Safari, no joy there either.  I imagine adobe must be doing something paranoid about disallowing modifications to the clipboard from actionscript, but I thought I was dealing with such behaviour already.  You might have more luck if you download the swf locally, but then it'll be harder to import level data into it.  Frustrating!  Will try and work out why it's not playing nicely.
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Draknek
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« Reply #154 on: August 14, 2010, 07:53:35 AM »

I don't have a clue what's going on here.  As far as I can see it's a silly runtime library that I don't even use..  Do the previous excercises work (I can't see that I've changed anything relevant since)?  Do you have flash player 10?
Previous exercises are broken too, I'm on a new laptop so that's what's changed. I do have Flash 10.

Are you using any Adobe text classes? This page says:

Quote
That is because TLF text requires a specific Runtime Shared Library to be available to the Flash Player at runtime. If the library is not already present on the user's computer, it will be downloaded from the Adobe site at runtime. The download will be necessary only once for a given computer. It is a good idea to place textLayout_1.0.0.595.swz on your server as a backup in the same directory as your swf file that uses TLF. Should the Adobe site be unavailable, the swf will look for the RSL in its directory.

I can't see any evidence that it's looking on the Adobe site though, the only requests it's making seem to be to your server.
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #155 on: August 14, 2010, 08:08:47 AM »

I didn't think I was using the text formatting stuff, but it appears that I might be.  No idea why you're having problems though, if it's universally failing for all the excercises I'd have definitely expected somebody else to have encountered the problem at some point already...

Well, I've put the relevant file onto my website in case that helps things.

On the mac copy side of things so far I've only been reminded how poorly documented the whole thing is  Angry
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Draknek
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« Reply #156 on: August 14, 2010, 08:22:50 AM »

Haha, now I'm getting error #2046, which I remember happening intermittently before, and I'm sure other people have mentioned it in this thread too.

If you post the code I'd be happy to take a look, or you could try adding the compiler parameter -static-link-runtime-shared-libraries=true which I think might help.
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #157 on: August 14, 2010, 08:48:30 AM »

Haha, now I'm getting error #2046, which I remember happening intermittently before, and I'm sure other people have mentioned it in this thread too.

If you post the code I'd be happy to take a look, or you could try adding the compiler parameter -static-link-runtime-shared-libraries=true which I think might help.

Hmm, curious and curiouser.

Source is now available at http://jonathanwhiting.com/coding/ldw/02atmosphere.zip

From what I'd read I'd kind of expected -static-link-runtime-shared-libraries to default to true, but it produced a substantially bigger binary (300k rather than 90k), so I guess it must have been including something.  I've uploaded the static version.
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mintpuffs.
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« Reply #158 on: August 14, 2010, 09:25:39 AM »

Ah, this is really cool. Thanks a lot for these~! ^^

so I really fail at level design >< But...
Sokoban
Difficulty
Atmosphere 1 starting with your level, trying to make it feel like a mountain-cliff-thingy-ish landscape... >w<

Atmosphere 2 and then made one from scratch, this time it's supposed to be a space level, complete with alien caverns to explore xD
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Draknek
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« Reply #159 on: August 14, 2010, 10:01:42 AM »

Statically linked version works: doing the same for the past challenges too would be useful.

Can't immediately spot anything in your code that would make it use the thing: my gut instinct would be maybe the preloader or something else Flex-related that's built-in.

You might try using System.setClipboard instead of Clipboard.generalClipboard.setData to try fixing the Mac clipboard issue.
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