Level Design Workshop
Dear FOX n FORESTS Fans,
Today we have a nice, in-depth update about the level design of our exploration heavy action platformer for you!
It features the level 1:2 “Gorgeous Gorge” and just in case you are not interested in all the nerdy details (how could you!), here is the link to the gameplay video we captured:
The inspiration for “Gorgeous Gorge” came from SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive titles such as “ActRaiser 2” (setting), “Castle of Illusions” (leaves) or “The Magical Quest” (berries). Simply because we love these games :)
These influences - together with our own ideas - were then combined with our concept of switching seasons. Switch from Spring to Fall and A: giant leaves will appear to ride on, B: huge berries will grow to use as platforms and C: cute baby birds will turn into nasty crows dropping spiky nuts onto our hero Rick the Fox.
Step 1: Idea
Whenever we were creating a new level for FOX n FORESTS we started with taking a closer look at the main gameplay ideas: what is fun, what makes sense, what triggers 16-Bit? And of course: does it fit to the other levels and offer a unique gameplay experience with enough possibilities for creative level design?
Step 2: Artwork
The second step is creating an artwork and getting the mood, colors and different level elements right. Does the scenery change enough when in the alternate season?
Step 3: Tileset
After that the actual Tileset is created. The different tiles are 32 by 32 pixels (common for 16-Bit titles) and they are basically puzzle pieces, used to construct a level tile by tile. You could even say that level design is like working on an interactive puzzle… that will haunt you in your dreams ;)
Step 4: Enemies
Parallel to creating the actual architecture of a level many thoughts go into enemy behavior and their design.
“Gorgeous Gorge” features 5 types of enemies.
The “Blue Crow” that will react to the season switch: a hungry but harmless baby bird in spring turns into an aggressive ball of feathers in fall, dropping spiky nuts onto poor Rick.
Hide-ous “Tree Stumps” on the other side will only attack when approaching them, breaking out of the earth and shooting projectiles at you, becoming vulnerable to Rick’s attack that way.
And watch out! Our “Bushman” may jump at you out of the blue… meaning a blue bush in the background. He has a couple of different behaviors from homing to hiding and is the signature enemy of this level.
Then we have the “Isopod”. Small but not to underestimate, as arrow shots go right over his head. So, you will need to defeat him with a melee attack. Let us just hope he won’t start doing anything crazy when approaching him like turning into a rolling stone ;)
Finally, the “Red Bat”: pretty harmless but pretty and harmless.
Step 5: Planning
When all elements are ready, sketches are made to plan the actual level design and do some more brainstorming.
In “Gorgeous Gorge” the level design was especially tricky, as not only the season switch elements and the different enemies had to be planned out nicely. Featuring air, ground and cave sections this level was predestined for a maze-like, exploration heavy structure with clever and fun backtracking.
Step 6: Level Creation
Creating a level is time consuming and demands for talent. We actually had three different level designers working on FOX n FORESTS (plus two backers from the “Level Design” Reward Tier who came up with some pretty cool sketches and ideas), to make sure they all feel fresh and unique.
However, this process can only work out well when the coding department set things up comfortably in order to not only make creating but also trying out your creation as fun and efficient as possible.
What is especially tricky when constructing a level is that different types of objects need to be on dedicated types of layers to have a correct render order, not made easier when having two individual seasons in a game.
Step 7: Polishing
Last but not least the level has to be tested and played over and over again. There always needs to be some energy and time left for polishing and optimizing. In the example below, we added an additional red target in order to make returning to our gorgeous gorge even more rewarding.
As you can see this is a lot of work all together, but also great fun!
Thank you for enabling us to do what we love, we really hope that you will be satisfied by the result.
Here is the link to the gameplay video once again:
Take care and best wishes,
Your FnF Team