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Breaking Down Breakout: System And Level Design For Breakout-style Games
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Breaking Down Breakout: System And Level Design For Breakout-style Games

August 21, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 10 of 13 Next

Level Themes

While classic Breakout level structures can still present the player with a fun experience, you can further enhance your levels (or level groups) by applying an overall theme. (Some of these themes are suggested in “Level Quality Checklist” above.)

Multipath – give your players a few obvious initial choices by clearly presenting multiple paths to an important objective or level-ending goal. For example, one that can be reached with: (a) relatively few trick shots, or (b) with rapid reflexes and brute force tactics.

Destruction – give the player lotsa blocks, lotsa balls, and lotsa powerups. This type of level has much less to do with accurate ball placement than with maintaining controlled chaos as long as possible.

Target practice – think of this as a relatively empty level that requires ball handling skills to beat. Since this type of level is about controlling the ball’s trajectory, be sure you have accurate ball placement systems in your game as well as systems to scale the difficulty if the level drags on (timed power-up disbursement, auto-targeting, etc). Place these types of levels carefully as they can make your game boring if used too frequently.

Avoidance – this type of level is about staying out of harm’s way by dodging with the paddle to avoid falling power-downs (which fall upon contact with the ball, at random, or at timed intervals). Try placing one of these after a ‘target practice’ level for a nice change of pace.

Puzzle –How do I get the level to scroll? How do I get to the prize? What is the right order to hit those switches? These are all questions you might want the player to ask on a puzzle level. However, if you find your players asking a very general “What am I supposed to do here?” – you might want to try and clarify the problem/solution.

Boss – The Boss level is the ultimate expression of the difficulty of a sequence of levels. Players face off against a challenge that’s been impending, or perhaps suggested by the design of previous levels. You could also look at the boss level as a way to test skills or deplete power-ups acquired over previous levels. Note that a “boss” is not necessarily a large moving game object, bent upon the player’s destruction. In breakout terms, a boss might be a single block that teleports around the level each time it’s hit, or level with falling snow, that freezes the paddle (slowing it down or immobilizing it) if the player lets the paddle stay in one place too long.

Game Token Priority

For Breakout-style games, there are certain “truisms” in terms of where the player’s attention should be focused at any given moment. Below are some guidelines for the priority of game tokens on your levels. The list includes both manually placed and programmatically generated elements. (Note: lower numbers have greater priority.)

Priority 1 – paddle and ball, including sound of ball

Priority 2 – level objectives or integral game tokens

Priority 3 – threats and power-downs

Priority 4 – power-ups and special blocks

Priority 5 – point exclamations, ie: “500 points”

Priority 6 – text exclamations, ie: “You Rock!”

Priority 7 – regular blocks

Obviously moving, pulsating and glowing objects will attract more attention than their static counterparts. As will objects that are reinforced with strong audio effects. Take special care to ensure that game tokens with low priority do not compete with (or look like) game tokens with high priority.

Article Start Previous Page 10 of 13 Next

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