Monthly Update – December
Famous last words – “hopefully it wonâ€™t take multiple re-builds”. Totally jinxed myself there didn’t I?!
It’s been a tough month ironing out the issues with the original forest level layout. I was getting stuck juggling two opposing directions for the level – on the one hand I wanted it to be quite open and allow players to be able to solve various puzzles in a somewhat open manner, so they could tackle things to a certain extent in the order they wanted, or at least be able to travel freely around the level and solve the puzzles they encountered. On the other hand I had some specific things I wanted to happen, and needed to happen before other things which required a more linear approach. I was trying to avoid making the levels too linear because I think in general very linear games can be a bit boring and often get criticized for being too linear, but having things happen in a very specific order would make things a lot easier to plan, build and not confuse the player. So I went back and forth trying to do a bit of one then a bit of the other and just making more problems.
In the end I did a ‘sweep the board clean’ re-design of the level, where anything and everything could change or get cut if it wasn’t working, and tried designing a very linear level with one clear path and little to no back tracking. It worked really well, so I made my peace with linear level design and things progressed a lot smoother after that and I can see why so many games opt for a more linear approach in their design. I still have a couple of sections where there is a bit more leeway with the order of things, but overall it’s a more guided path through the level now. The forest level comes directly after you leave the mansion (as seen in the first screenshot of the game) and I want the player to feel like they are going deep into the forest and far away from everything they knew. They literally have left their whole life behind them and are going off into the unknown. So it feels appropriate that the level is quite a long and winding path to really make a break from everything that came before.
Another thing that helped a lot with the progress during the second half of the month was that I made a modular kit to create most of the paths. It’s a lot easier once the kit is done to grow and/or change the layout, and everything stays at a consistent scale too. It’s very easy to make over-sized props and locations in a 3D modelling program and then realise they are way too big when you get them in-game. A kit system helps to avoid that. Augmenting the kit with some unique sections helps to break up the repetition, and lighting and set dressing should make things different enough that it’s hard to notice the repeats. I still have one very small section of the layout to finish, which is simply adjusting the scale of one part and then it’s all done. A lot of the gameplay should be transferable from the previous version and then there are a few new puzzles to script but I’m hoping to have it all done and testable by the end of the coming weekend. Famous last words again I expect…
The often repeated advice from wise game dev veterans that “thing’s always take twice as long as you think they will” is so true.
I was debating at the end of last month whether I’d go on to build the next level or do some ‘finished’ artwork for the forest. The jury is still out on that decision, but I am feeling a bit overdosed on forests at the moment so it’s very possible I’ll move on to the next level. Art production is so time consuming, and if I end up coming back and changing things with the level based on what I learn from building the next level I’ll have wasted a lot of time.
And as wise man once said “Don’t waste your time or time will waste you”