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Gameplay Progression

November 4, 2009

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about game design, or more specifically, level design and player skill progression.


Mario 64

This is clasic

In an earlier post, I touched briefly on the importance of difficulty progression, and that plays a large role in the developing skills set of the player. When designing a game, you want to challenge the player (to keep them from getting bored with the game), but you always want them to feel like they are in complete control, mainly by giving them the tools they need to accomplish any task. Not necessarily telling them step-by-step how to use those tools, but rather by easing them into the challenges and letting them develop the skill naturally and through example. I can probably find a good game to demonstrate my point…




Valve does a great job of making this complicated conept seem simple

…Like Portal! Valve‘s First Person Puzzle game has the player firing not guns, but warp holes which can be used to transport the player all over the place. It’s twice as confusing as it sounds, and could have been a very tricky thing to teach the players to do. Thankfully Valve pulled it off seamlessly; So seamlessly, in fact, that the players (including me) don’t even realizing they’re being taught how to do anything, and before they know it, they’re Portal masters. Instead of giving the player all of the tools at once, they introduced the concept, and slowly but surely brought together all of the gameplay elements into one tool set that the player can use to complete increasingly difficult challenges. This gives the player only one thing to manage at a time, while still giving them challenges. The greatest part about this setup, is that all of the small things that the player is taught can come together later in the game to create very demanding obstacles, without having to introduce new and complicated concepts.


Joe Text Adventure

You don't have to throw too many cureballs at the player to keep things interesting

I’m even trying to use some smart design choices in my own game, Joe Text Adventure. Although the game is unfinished, and therefore I can’t tell if I’ve successfully achieved good gameplay progression, It’s still something I keep in the front of my mind when designing levels. The game isn’t one with a difficult concept, like Portal, but rather a very simple platformer. You run, jump, and attack. The bulk of the gameplay is comprised of evading moving razor blades that move in predictable patterns. Early on, they don’t move at all. Later, they move left and right, or up and down. Then, in circles. A large portion of the game relies on the player learning how to successfully avoid the obstacles, but I do try and make sure they stay on their toes; Mainly, I combine different patterns of razors, and put multiple traps in succession. The player learned early on how to deal with these problems, and combining them doesn’t do anything the player hasn’t seen, but still manages to make them act as if it was a new challenge, keeping things fresh. Of course, I don’t know any of this from practice yet, so we’ll see how things play out when the game is actually released.




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