Level Design - 2D Layouts

I have always had a great interest in level design and desire to craft levels that awe and bring joy to players. With intuitive game flow and well thought out mechanics, its my hope that players find the levels easy to comprehend but challenging in all the right ways.

Here I’ve posted a work in progress for the opening sections of a stealth & exploration game. The following is a list of criteria I set for myself.

  • Outdoor forest environment

  • 3D environments

  • Stealth based challenges & puzzles

  • Introduction of game mechanics

  • Playable character is a wolf spirit

At the start, a player emerges onto to a cliff face and sees large ruins at the top of the mountain. These ruins surround a massive and strangely colored tree. The player's main goal is to reach the ruins.

In the first few sections, I concentrated on designing areas that would naturally teach players how to stealth past enemies if they are unfamiliar with the genre. In sections 1 and 2, it is my hope players will learn that you should move behind enemies when possible and if that is not an option use the environment for camouflage or cover.

Section 3 then presents a scenario with no cover and the enemy is facing the direction you must escape. The only safe object on the screen is a ruined altar (represented by the yellow gear). When the player interacts time is reversed for the environment. The burned trees and bushes regrow allowing safe passage past the enemy.

Section 4 introduces patrolling enemies requiring the lessons from sections 1 & 2 but also timing and patience.

Section 5 presents a safe area for a bit of pacing break and to remind the player of the goal. There is a clearing that brings the ruins into focus. Followed by a simple puzzle involving another ruined altar and a tree. Using the altar decays the tree and it becomes a bridge.

Section 6 is where the player is challenged on the knowledge covered previously. Cover, patrolling enemies, and time manipulation. Although simple, I wanted this challenge to have multiple solutions in the sense of moment to moment game-play. If well timed the player can just sneak past and decay the tree to make a bridge. If a safer approach is desired the players can rebuild the crumbled walls (Yellow blocks) Interrupting the enemies path.

Following section 6 is a short winding path meant to build a little suspense about the ruins ahead. The ruins are clearly in focus during the ascent.

The ruins will be the next level I concept. In earlier sketches, I designed the ruins as part of the level and the final challenge. The ruins were then proceeded by a descent into a lake area which was the original goal of the level. I changed this for several reasons.

  • Ruins were an excellent focal point the lake detracted from this.

  • Reaching the ruins became the reward for the player and not just another challenge

  • The ruins could be an excellent opportunity to build narrative through puzzle-solving and deserve their own level.

  • Finally, the challenge presented in 6 was a good summary of the challenges so far.

My next post will be covering the block-out process of the level and will include a significant amount of visuals. Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts on the design or the choices feel free to comment with your feedback. After all, discussion and iteration is the key to good design.