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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 9 of 13 Next

Level Quality Checklist

In the grind to churn out levels, it’s easy to make choices that adversely effect level quality, or to get into a groove creating a certain kind of level and find it over-represented in your content mix. Below is a checklist that can help you to improve level quality as well as increase differentiation. While every question posed isn’t applicable to every level type, asking these questions can point out missed opportunities in a level design. Take a moment to review the questions when planning a new level or reviewing a level you think still needs work.

Initial impact – does the player feel excited when the level loads and she is seeing it for the first time? Is the impact strong from the beginning, or does it evolve over time? Is the impact based on visual design or the play possibilities inherent in the game tokens used to construct the level?

Initial choices – besides simply hitting the ball into a formation of blocks, are there any other initial choices the player can make with the ball? Interesting trajectories to send the ball on? Switches to hit? Chain-reactions to initiate? How many initial choices does the level present the player with?

Clear objectives – if the levels don’t simply end when all the blocks are gone, are the “end of level” objectives clear? Is there an overarching objective that makes a sequence of levels a cohesive whole? If so, how clearly is this presented? Do all game objects (blocks, power-ups, power-downs, etc) clearly suggest usage and degree of strength or threat? Are important level objectives clearly defined?

Feedback – can the player clearly tell when he/she is playing well? (Important on levels that don’t rely on target object reduction to end the level – i.e., a level with multi-hit objects where hitting each objects three times, turning it RED, is required to end the level.) Does the player believe the ball is behaving in a logical or (ultimately) predictable manner at all times?

Ball return – does the ball return to the player in a relatively timely fashion and not bounce around forever while the player sits idle? (Note: if the main ball is going to be bouncing around out of the player’s reach, trigger the release of a second ball for the player to use in the meantime.)

Rewards – is there a sufficient variety of rewards and power-ups available to the player? Are there juicy rewards placed deep within block formations – acting as a lure to get the player to interact more with the level? Can players collect items or power-ups whose effect spans multiple levels?

Play possibilities – does the interaction between the ball, paddle, target objects (blocks, power-ups, etc) and empty space create sufficient play variety and keep the game satisfactorily engaging? If the level were played again, how likely is it that the play experience would be exactly the same? Are there random or scripted events? Is there complex algorithmic interaction between objects on the level?

Carnage/Dynamism – is there a play technique or special object that will allow large numbers of blocks to be destroyed at once? How static are the levels? How many objects on the level are moving besides the ball and the paddle? Would the level still be interesting if the ball were to disappear from the screen for 10 seconds?

Level duration – were the levels tested to see how long they take your (target demographic) players to complete? Do you know how long feels too long? How short feels insignificant?

Article Start Previous Page 9 of 13 Next

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