So I mentioned before we’d done some Rapid Prototyping in the Tiled Editor to start experimenting in level layout. Now is the time for refinement.
In the process of running the tournament I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the current level and what makes it work (as well as potential problems. I found that like most good levels, the original level has
- Several “choke points’ areas where battle takes place, and
- Multiple paths for each player towards those point, allowing a player to either be more aggressive or defensive.
There were patterns that lent themselves to a great choke point. Generally speaking a choke point ends up being a circular area centered around cacti. This is due to the fact that cacti gives a player a tactical advantage to fire on another player, but enough separation that a player can escape.
Basically, it fosters Close Calls.
Much like most strategy games, I saw that the matches could be broken down into stages.
- Players have an opening move, where they decide what how they will start the match. This is especially critical moment because time pressure hasn’t started yet. Players should have multiple paths to move into that lead somewhere potentially strategic. The player Should also not be able to kill each other in this first move.
- On move two the players should start to move in range, trying to get the upper hand. It may be possible now to kill the other player, however there are still multiple ways for each player to move.
- By move three players should be locked in combat.
After the prototypes, I took five potential levels (sadly, none of which was Death Bridge) and ran playtests with them with the Tournament Finalists. I came away with two that felt the strongest: Quicksand and Graveyard.
Quicksand is built around a mechanic of a tile that traps a player for a short time. This tile creates nice suspense and has synergy with bombers.
Graveyard is a bit similar to the original level. It has a few different intentions. The biggest is to create balance. The current level, while currently very nice is not evenly distributed and favors the player on the right – something we attempted to alleviate with a coin toss during the tournament.
The next is to make sure explodable rocks (a feature we are considering implementing) affect the game positively. A blown rock should still lead to strategic gameplay. And if a player cannot blow rocks they should still have a strategic ways to move. This level is designed with explode-ability in mind. As all good things should be.