[Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze

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Offline Vegetal Gibber

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #30 on: February 07, 2016, 21:49:09 »
If you just want the total number of non-empty screens in your level, you can open it using KS Level Composer or use this small tool I made.

Anyway, great news! Really looking forward to the final release :D
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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2016, 22:22:06 »
Oh, neat!  I checked the total number of screens - it's not even 10 screens higher than the number of screens with script. :P
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Offline egomassive

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2016, 22:59:43 »
I just read your essay from the 4th. I often wonder about the balance between challenge screens and non-challenge screens. Thinking back to Nifflas' work, his levels are mostly non-challenge screens but highly regarded. I can't copy his ratios when I'm not copying his overall gameplay style. My levels are mostly story driven with single locations for power-up collection. In that style connecting screens can quickly become the dreaded running-back-and-forth-through-places-you've-seen screens.

I'm very interested to see this opening area you made to train new players. I usually try to emulate bad players with poor reflexes when I test stuff, and I try to introduce new concepts and types of challenges before I combine them into true challenges, but I never considered trying to train people to play.

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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #33 on: February 08, 2016, 19:13:35 »
I just read your essay from the 4th. I often wonder about the balance between challenge screens and non-challenge screens. Thinking back to Nifflas' work, his levels are mostly non-challenge screens but highly regarded. I can't copy his ratios when I'm not copying his overall gameplay style. My levels are mostly story driven with single locations for power-up collection. In that style connecting screens can quickly become the dreaded running-back-and-forth-through-places-you've-seen screens.
In general, I think I'd shy away from copying Nifflas' style, or, at least, copying his more expansive levels (The Machine and A Strange Dream). While fairly enjoyable to play, those levels start to drag when it comes to backtracking, and, like many expansive levels, every time I hit a fork in the road, from the start 'til about the halfway point, I have to wonder, "Am I going the 'right' way?"  There'll be times where I'll try heading down another pathway, intentionally avoiding multiple save points, just to see if there's anything that way - and if there isn't, I jump into some water or press ctrl+R or whatever else.  

If you choose to relax and just play those levels to explore a fairly nice-looking, nice-sounding world, then that's fine, Nifflas' levels do that much better than I could ever hope to manage, but I find that the challenges are sparse, and, furthermore, generally don't scale well against the player's powerups because there's so much retreading that has to be done.  In Deep Freeze, especially, most powerups completely invalidate older challenges due to how the Double Jump, High Jump, and Climb are all complete upgrades rather than sidegrades (which the Hologram and Umbrella come much closer to), and so it becomes pointless to have the player backtrack through the vast majority of the level.  The other reason I've almost wholly avoided backtracking is because it makes the minimap much, MUCH easier to have a handle on once the player gets their hands on the Map powerup.  I want the player to always be confident they have the tools they need to approach a task, except when it's blatantly obvious that they don't (which, given the level's core mechanic, seems very important to me).

That said!  Deep Freeze's constant challenges and puzzles, while I enjoy them, can be their own sort of pace-killer if the player keeps hitting speed bump after speed bump after speed bump, and so I think Nifflas' levels are especially good at showing that you don't need every screen to be a challenge for the player to have a pretty good time - but it can hurt if you have to traverse over them multiple times.

(Nifflas' other levels are fairly short, and extremely linear by comparison to the two aforementioned ones.  This may say something about a relationship between degree of linearity and ideal length - at least for Nifflas.)

I'm very interested to see this opening area you made to train new players. I usually try to emulate bad players with poor reflexes when I test stuff, and I try to introduce new concepts and types of challenges before I combine them into true challenges, but I never considered trying to train people to play.
It's nothing too complex - mostly just a large series of safe jumps, lots of stair-climbing, and much more forgiving timing than everything afterward.  It's also an area where I can force players to get to grips with the fact that you can actually be just barely off a ledge and still jump - something that's not exactly intuitive.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2016, 19:18:02 by Ultigonio »
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Offline egomassive

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2016, 02:39:58 »
It's also an area where I can force players to get to grips with the fact that you can actually be just barely off a ledge and still jump - something that's not exactly intuitive.
That messes me up so badly when I play other platformers. I remember it took me forever to figure it out too. I think the other most non-intuitive mechanic is using S to make the umbrella more effective.

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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #35 on: February 09, 2016, 05:36:19 »
It's also an area where I can force players to get to grips with the fact that you can actually be just barely off a ledge and still jump - something that's not exactly intuitive.
I think the other most non-intuitive mechanic is using S to make the umbrella more effective.
Yeah, that particular concept is one that I'd really like to put into my screens, but there's too much risk of players simply not understanding that holding S to ascend faster is something they can do - even I only recently figured it out.
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Offline Fubaka

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #36 on: February 09, 2016, 06:04:37 »
Yeah, that particular concept is one that I'd really like to put into my screens, but there's too much risk of players simply not understanding that holding S to ascend faster is something they can do - even I only recently figured it out.

It's also pertinent to note that holding S gives more horizontal speed as well. I remember first learning that when playtesting Cosmic Meltdown. Had to change a lot of things.
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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #37 on: February 13, 2016, 07:07:52 »
It's also pertinent to note that holding S gives more horizontal speed as well. I remember first learning that when playtesting Cosmic Meltdown. Had to change a lot of things.
No way, seriously?  It seems like it must be pretty subtle, if so.


Deep Freeze has continued to make strong progress.  Been doing a lot of cleanup today, but also added in some stuff, capped off some sections, and suddenly I'm realizing that this area that's been a major sticking point for me is much more close to done than I'd initially thought!  Exciting. 

In taking a multiple-month break from this particular area, I've realized something - I was trying to expand certain challenge sections, but I realized that I just... didn't have anything more I wanted to do with them!  I was trying to satisfy some arbitrary "number" of screens I felt I needed to meet, when really, certain sections were just fine being stopped right where they were left off, and leaving them unfinished was proving detrimental to my ability to finish the area as a whole.  Within a day, I've been able to call the majority of the bits in this area officially "done," which is wonderfully motivating. 

I've also had the chance to collect a bit of extra playtesting data today.  I have to say, it's incredibly impressive how players will manage to pick up entirely arbitrary mechanics as long as those mechanics are set up appropriately.
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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2016, 06:41:07 »
Another day, another few hours of work on Deep Freeze, and another finished section of the area that's been holding me back for so long!  There's just one more to go now!

I'm excited, so here's a screenshot:


As per feedback from one of my playtesters, I'm thinking about ways to add some visual distinction between areas.  Since this area shows up as green on the map, I tried doin' a little bit of green in the gradient, but I feel like there needs to be... either something more, or something different.  Visuals aren't my strong suit.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2016, 06:42:48 by Ultigonio »
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Offline Vegetal Gibber

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2016, 14:30:29 »
I'm thinking about ways to add some visual distinction between areas.  Since this area shows up as green on the map, I tried doin' a little bit of green in the gradient, but I feel like there needs to be... either something more, or something different.

I'm assuming the blue part of the gradient has to be there for theme consistency and that you can't simply change it to green. Since you're going with a minimalist style for the background, what about adding some simple green shapes?

Spoiler: Hastily made sample (click to show/hide)
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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2016, 20:22:17 »
I'm assuming the blue part of the gradient has to be there for theme consistency and that you can't simply change it to green. Since you're going with a minimalist style for the background, what about adding some simple green shapes?

Spoiler: Hastily made sample (click to show/hide)
Hm!  I like that idea, and I also quite like the adjustment to the blue.  I'll definitely keep that in mind for when I get finished with the base level design and start moving on to visual enhancements.

Also, as of today, I have now completed the area that was giving me so much trouble!  It's done!  At this pace, I could have Deep Freeze complete surprisingly soon.
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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #41 on: February 24, 2016, 17:43:27 »
Developer Diary:  Desperately trying not to add ultra-hard mode versions of screens I've already finished
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Offline SC

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #42 on: February 25, 2016, 07:55:04 »
Again: can't wait to play this one! How close do you think you are to finishing the level?

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Offline Ultigonio

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #43 on: February 26, 2016, 00:49:30 »
If I had to put a number to it, I'd say that the level design, the real meat of the level, is 80-85% done.  Visual cleanup and polish will come afterward, which should take some additional time (hopefully not too much), and then I'll look towards the last little bits of presentation -  beginning/end cutscenes, splash screen, so on. 

Speaking of progress, here's something a little interesting.  Deep Freeze had about 30% of its initial level design complete in the first two months of development, and I'd say an additional 20% or so has been completed in the last two months.  With roughly 1 year, 4 months of development time, that means that a year was spent on the middle 30-35%.  Over time, I've learned quite a bit about motivating myself, and pushing through a lack of ideas to find some really cool ideas.  Notably, when the level was first created, I would have called that initial 30% something like 50%, but the addition of new opportunities, as well as playtest observation totally changed my plans for the level.  I'd say it's for the best, though.  Sometimes lining up new content can help to treat a lack of motivation!
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Offline Fubaka

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Re: [Puzzle/Challenge] [KS+] Deep Freeze
« Reply #44 on: February 26, 2016, 05:20:54 »
Notably, when the level was first created, I would have called that initial 30% something like 50%, but the addition of new opportunities, as well as playtest observation totally changed my plans for the level.  I'd say it's for the best, though.  Sometimes lining up new content can help to treat a lack of motivation!

It was pretty much the same story when I was working on Cosmic Meltdown. Except in my case, the later additions were so large that the level could technically be considered two distinct levels sewn together.
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