Development is the stage in the design process where we go hands on with our game editors. After becoming familiar with the game, understanding the limitations of the editor, noting how to influence gameplay, and generating a multi layered game idea, it's finally time to put all that hard work to the test.
Because editors vary widely form game to game, it wouldn't be very conducive of me to give any specific tips on how to edit levels. But I can say this...
- Save often and save a backup copy in a different place if you can. You never know when something will go terribly wrong with the system power or system memory.
- Work evenly and consistently. Either get it all done in a single sitting, or break the job down into micro tasks so that you're focused on building one piece at a time. For example, you may input all of the level elements first and then make a second pass for enemies and hazards. To break things down further, when inputting level elements you may simply move from left to right, or you can build the level up by adding one type of element at a time.
- Focus on inputting the bare essentials. Don't worry about the big picture, or any kind of details/flourishes. Remember, you're trying to build a level, and it is a top priority for the level to work. If the level is ugly, you can live with it for now.
- Work from the lowest "push" game idea up. The ultimate goal is to implement as many levels of the pushed game idea as possible. The list you made when generating the game idea should be arranged from the simplest idea (low) to the more complex idea (high). You can't get to the higher levels of push without building upon the lower levels. So be sure to work from the bottom up.
- Play your level as you go along. You'll naturally end up playing your level many times. Staying connected to how your level plays is a good way to keep your progress in check. After all, it woudn't be worth your time to work hard on a part of your level only to find out later that it's broken and will have to be removed.
- Get someone else to play your level once you've created a good working model of your game idea. At this point, your level doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to work. Try not to explain your creation to your fellow play testers. Let them form their own opinions and comments and listen carefully to what they have to say. Was the game idea communicated? If not find out where the break in communication stems from. Chances are the level can be improved, not the play tester.
- Don't be afraid to completely redo the level, or don't be unwilling to let the project sit for a while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. My crafters including writers (like myself) do this all the time with their work. Often times, you'll discover something towards the end of creating your stage that would have been good to know when you started. By taking this knowledge and starting over, the final product strengthens. Call it a rough draft, beta stage, or whatever you like.
Here's a video of the 4 game ideas I detailed in the Designer's Workshop Lesson 4.1.
The next and near final lesson in the Designer's Workshop is about polishing your creations until they shine. Stay tuned.