The Learner's Garden
Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 4:33PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Announcements, Level Design, LittleBigPlanet, user gen

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The Learner's Garden is a level I worked on early this year that's designed to showcase all of the different types of level design covered on the blog. To keep things relatively simple, I kept the hazards in the level to a minimum. From there, I created 6 very small level sections and attached them to a central vertical hallway. I had planned to designed locks and keys to make the progression more like a Metroid game. Unfortunately, I ran into a lot of problems with the LBP level editor, and I decided to give up on the project. This article is my post mortem on The Learner's Garden.

The level itself was designed as an example of level design types, and was meant to be bare bones. Still, I couldn't help but add a bit of artistic direction to the project. To contrast the ridged, boxy room design, I cut through the boxes with organic shapes. This is evident in rooms 1-3. In 4-6 I transitioned into more mechanical shapes and level challenges to represent the man made machines underneath the natural. The level as a whole looks like a cactus.


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Beyond showcasing the 6 types of level design, I wanted The Learner's Garden to be sequence breakable. To accomplish this, I made most of the level out of destructable material. This allows players to create their own paths through the level using bombs (a design that's analogus to Spelunky's bomb design). Aside from the bombs in section #5, I had to hide some more bombs throughout the level for players to use. For the player who's aware of the emergent potential in all LBP levels and seeks to try to "push through the walls" so to speak, I wanted to create a whole world within a world to reward their curiosity. So, in the gaps between sections 1 & 4, and 2 & 3, I designed extra areas that are outside of the ostensible level deisgn. In these areas, I hid explosive powerups and planned on rewarding the player with points.

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Because all of the locks in The Learner's Garden are organic and all the elements are persistent, the level can be classified as a pure organic level. After all, with no spawners for any of the game elements the playero only has to work with the limited resources in the level. If they use up all the bombs, that's it. If the player can find a way to bomb a short cut, that's completely acceptible. The rules are in place. The interactions are rich. From there, it's up to the player to make the most of it.

It's too bad I couldn't finish and publish the level. Oh well. I learn from my mistakes to grow stronger.

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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