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Once of the more difficult aspects to get right in a game is the
difficulty curve. Start the game off too easy and the player loses
interest, start it off too hard and the player gets frustrated. Same
thing happens if you ramp up too slowly, or too quickly. The trick is
to slowly introduce new elements to the player as the level progresses,
requiring them to think before the act, and to be more cautious.
Let's work on an example. Here's a list of gameplay elements:
throw all of those things in the first level, and your player is
overwhelmed. Let's say we've got a game that have five levels. Five
levels, five hazards, five abilities. Uh oh! I see a pattern :D
Introduce the player to simple elements first, like the bad guys. He
can jump on their heads and kill them a la Mario Bros. So great, level
1 we introduce the player to Jumping and Bad Guys. Level two, the
Jumping and bad guys are back, but they're mixed in with Pits and
Ducking (Ducking to avoid the new FLYING bad guys, of course ;) ).
Level three, we still have everything else, but now we introduce Lava
and Double Jumping. This continues until the last level where we have
all five hazards and all five abilities.
It's important to
remember to balance the hazards in a level as well. Let's look at level
5 in our example above. There's a lot going on there that requires the
player to respond in different ways. If he's trying to jump over a pit,
while dodging falling rocks that are coated with Lava and bristling
with turrets that are shooting bad guys... he's going to get
overwhelmed and the game stops being fun and starts being a chore.
Remember that each hazard is not a whole in and of itself, it is a part
of a greater whole. I like to look at it like the level as HAZARDS. One
set of Hazards. Each individual hazard works as a fraction of that
hazard. So 2 fifths of the hazards are bad guys, another fifth is pits
and lava, gun turrets make another fifth, and the rocks make up
the last. So mostly, you're fighting off baddies, but occasionally you
run into pits and lava, rocks, and gun turrets, just to make your life
a bit more difficult. This lets the player deal with one or two
hazards at once, rather than all of them at the same time.
of by plotting out the easiest level, then plot out the hardest. From
there, create a nice difficulty curve between the two. And don't be
afraid to cut hazards and abilities. It may be the most awesome thing
in the world to have an ability where you character can swoop down from
on high, spewing hot molten lava from his bum, but if there's no place
for it in the game, then it has to go. Likewise, it may seem vitally
important to include a bone crushing baddy that fills half the
screen... but if it doesn't fit, it doesn't go. Keep your list of
features as short and concise as possible, which will help you to create
a good level arc, and also help you ensure that the features you do
keep are solid and polished.
Talk to you again soon!