Posted by : Jameson Durall Monday, July 26, 2010


I was talking in an earlier post about how I feel that the best levels come when the Level Designer begins working on the level with a solid set of mechanics.  After playing LIMBO it got me thinking about this even more since this game is completely based around precision mechanics.

The basis for many of the puzzles in LIMBO is timing your movements so precisely that you get to that next plateau JUST before the object of destruction comes crashing down right behind your heels.  Think of the impact it would have on the levels of the game if you adjusted any aspect of the mechanics even a little bit.  If the player movement speed was changed from 1.2 meters per second to even something like 1.1 meters per second...the designer would have to shorten the distance of any puzzle that required timing movement.  It may sound like a small change, but it has huge impact on every single puzzle in the game and there would be at least some amount of rework necessary game wide.

I realize that this game is an extreme example of how slight changes in mechanics can cause wide spread impact on the game, but it's honestly not too far from the truth with most other games.  Let's carry the same example to a game like Modern Warfare and how that speed change affects something simple like the distance between cover spots for the player.  A designer knows the movement speed of the player and can plan for the player to potentially take X damage based on how long they will be exposed.  If the player speed is lowered even a little bit, suddenly there could be many more deaths than anticipated and the distance between the cover spots will have to be altered.  This can cause an entire level to be reexamined and can even have significant impact on the art team who have to rework areas based on designer updates.  Think about the kind of impact it would have on the picture above!

As I've mentioned before, this does mean the System Designers have a huge job ahead of them but this is why it is extremely important for System and Level Designers to work together closely during prototyping phases to nail down what's going to work best and then move forward with these findings into production.  Design is all about failing early and failing often, so that you can work toward finding what is truly fun about your game.

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