Hi, I'm Blake. My first game was '89 Doors', a rage game where you escape mazes whilst being pursued by an insatiable creature of hunger, and now I'm working on a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchman', where you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchman and sabotaging a building in an effort to stop a one man army action hero.
The problem is I did not know exactly why the levels weren’t engaging. I could feel the effect, but I didn’t understand the cause. I didn’t know enough about what makes a good level to start creating them myself.
At that time, I could not find any definitive guide to creating a good tower defence game (my game will be this genre), so I asked myself – how does one of my favourite tower defence games (Plants vs Zombies 2) approach level design?
They follow the 'Introduce -> Practice -> Integrate' formula. First they introduce a new plant, then they give you a chance to practice using it and finally, they help you to understand how this plant works in relation to other plants. Once you fully understand how a new plant works – both in and of itself and also in relation to other plants – then they introduce a new concept/plant. Another way of saying this is that they don’t take you to the next stage until you have mastered the current one.
Applying that to myself, I realized that my levels were too rushed – I was trying to introduce too much, too quickly. Implementing this principle to my own game has made me ‘simplify’ each level to an extent. I think this has helped me to start developing better levels.
For example, when they introduce flying zombies, in that same level, they also introduce a plant that can blow away flying zombies. When you think about it, all tower defence games follow this principle: Over levels, they upgrade or introduce new enemies, while at the same time, they let you upgrade your units or make new units available for you. What effect this has is that it keeps a good balance between ability and challenge, which is one of the conditions for a flow gaming experience (which I blogged about last week).
I know these principles sound so basic and simple, but I guess I had never really thought about them before. Haha, sometimes I take awhile to catch on :) Since Wednesday, I have found a few good articles on tower defence level design, so I will likely blog about what I learned from them (and what changes I have made because of them) next week. In the meantime, I am sharing two links.
1) This link takes you to a powerpoint presentation by Popcap games which outlines the PVZ2 development process.
2) This link takes you to a proposed list of the top ten free tower defence games of 2015 (subjective).
Hope you enjoyed this blog, and have an awesome week!