Well I’ve spent most of yesterday (after typing out my update) working on expanding the maps for each level. The only map I don’t currently have is the 4th level, the dungeon. I think a lot of it has to do with the maze layout of the dungeon. I want to create an enormous labyrinth, but I don’t want the player to be unable to travel through the level without getting lost and/or frustrated with the difficulty. This is probably the hardest to make level, I think, so it will probably take a little more time than the rest. If I get a chance, I might grab a scanner and copy my sketches from my notebook onto this page to give a general layout for my work. Otherwise, though, I’m just going to discuss the outline of my levels.
The Intro: For the Intro I wanted to keep it extremely simple. Cez and his girlfriend will be out for a walk together in the woods, talking to each other. The map is horizontally linear, allowing the player easy direction for the first level. After they get ambushed, Cez will rush east. All maps tend to run west -> east, aka left -> right, like reading lines of text. I felt this gave it a more intuitive feel of where the player should want to go, without necessarily requiring direction (although it will often be the case that directions are included). The portal will be placed in the middle of the path as Cez runs to find his girlfriend, where he simply needs to walk on it and be teleported to the following level.
The Cave: I wanted this to be a pretty straightforward, simple layout. To do this I wanted a small area for Cez to appear in after traveling through the portal, and then a mostly linear path to Lela’s village. After reaching the village, there is a larger area to the east, with three major branches. The northern and southern branches are a little shorter, with a boss located at the end of each path. The eastern branch is quite a bit longer, hopefully asking the player to last a little longer and survive for an extended period of time, until they reach the final boss for the level. Each of the paths are mostly linear, but the third (eastern) path has a few dead ends here and there. I think I want to implement some way for the player to determine where to go when they reach forks, but I’m not quite sure what I want that to be just yet.
I have a couple worries for the cave level. First, I’m not sure if the third branch is too long. I don’t want the player struggling and almost dead by the time they get to the boss, so I think I might have to find some way to implement sustain in some way. This might be through potion drops in the level from enemies, increased gold allowing the player to buy potions, treasure chests dropping potions or potentially some “healing light” thing that fully restores the players before they get to the last boss fight. I’ll explore a few different options and decide what I want.
I’m also worried about making the player walk all the way back through the eastern branch after they defeat the boss. Obviously they have defeated the strongest enemy in the area (the boss), but it might also result in the players lacking potions or sustain for the return trip. It might also be a little boring to have to walk all the way back through the path, and I’d prefer to avoid that. First the first part, I think it’s possible to use the same sort of stuff I use to solve the problem above, either by implementing increased potion drops or maybe restoring the players to full health after defeating the boss. For the second, I think it might be plausible to either have some sort of “warp stone” thing that teleports the players directly back to the village, or, potentially, some sort of secret path that leads the player directly back to the beginning of the level on a far more direct route. I think both are plausible (the first is easier, but arguably harder to explain. We’ll see).
The Woods: This was a more open map. It’s mostly just a giant square with little areas carved out in the corners, with the main area of the map littered with trees. There are a few ‘ruins’ lying around the map, basically bonus areas where the player can explore and potentially find extra equipment or other things. The map starts with directing the player into the village on the level, where the party meets Toma. The then travel across the length of the map, from northwest to southeast, only to be forced to then travel to the southwest and northeast corners of the map, where they begin exploring some towers. The towers are only a few levels tall (I’m thinking somewhere between 3-5 floors), with maybe a small maze aspect applied to each floor. At the top will be a boss.
I’m not too worried about anything on this level. It’s pretty open and so it gives the player a chance to explore more so than they got to in the cave level. It feels like this is a good way to give off a little different feel to the setting. Nothing should be too difficult to find as they are more or less directly in the corners of the map, so when things like ‘southeastern corner’ come up, the player really only needs to move south and east and they will run into it eventually.
The Lake: The lake is essentially one giant lake with a bunch of board creating paths across it. There is one village on the lake a little more towards the south, as well as ruins found on the shores of the lake. The castle gate is located on the northern half of the eastern side of the map, while the secret entrance is on the southern half of the eastern side. The party meets Thorman just as they enter the map, with the first branch on the paths containing the boss. Other than that, the paths are a little maze-like, although nothing too difficult. Each path leads to small areas of larger platforms. Players can navigate the entire lake using these paths, accessing the three ruins on the shores as well as the village, gate and secret entrance.
I wouldn’t say there is anything I’m particularly worried about for this level. There isn’t a lot of ‘walking space’ on this level, as much of the area is covered in water. The ruin the player is required to explore, I think, is going to be a little more intense just to try to make the level a little longer and give the player a little more to do. I like the general design, but I might have to find ways to make the player explore the level to a greater extent.
The Castle: This was an extremely basic set-up. The party comes up from the dungeon and finds themselves in a hall, branching off with one path to the east (and two towers) and one path to the west (and two towers). Directly north is the throne room. The towers are going to be extremely tall (maybe 10+ floors), and potentially a little larger floor size than the ones in the woods. I’m still in support of the maze-like structure of the tower floors.
The biggest problem, I think, is similar to the first level. I don’t want to force the player to trek all the way up 10 floors then down 10 floors four separate times. That just seems mean. I think I might try to implement some sort of teleportation device at the top of each tower, but I’m not sure how well that might fit into the story. I could see an argument for allowing the player to ‘fall’ to the bottom of the tower by walking through holes in the floor, akin to Pokemon (I like that idea, generally).
So, anyway, I hope that kind of gives a general idea for how I wanted to design the maps. I hope they feel distinctly different from each other, yet still easy to travel through and intuitively understand. For instance, Left 4 Dead 2 did a great job of this (in my opinion). Each level felt distinctly different – the swamp level did not feel like the carnival level which did not feel like the suburbs level. Each had its own unique feel and was still able to move through without too many problems. I actually read once that the swamp level was running into some problems with this and so the designers actually made the water in the swamp flow in the direction the players wanted to move. Even with such a minimal environmental change, players were now more easily able to discern the correct path through the level – I think that’s amazing. Anyway, I hope my maps (although a little less immersive because I’m be running 5th person as opposed to 3rd or 1st) have that distinct feel for the players as they play my game.