Ikaroids – Game Level Design
It’s worth remembering that while graphics can look pretty, it’s important not to let them dominate at the expense of other crucial elements. In this post I’m going to talk about the process of level design in the context of Ikaroids, including topics such as pacing, spacing of elements, and general look, feel and theme.
First, decide what the general theme of the level should be, what is basically going to occur, and if there is a story, what events need to take place. This can also entail deciding on which background elements to involve, and the more general aesthetics, such as colour, sound and music. If any of these elements doesn’t fit, any story or atmosphere you are trying to cultivate may be undermined. For example, the enemies should look like they ‘belong’ in the level. By the same token, if the setting is an Earth-like planet, for example, it would be inappropriate to have an alien-looking red space background.
If you have a storyline, consider what needs to be conveyed in the level, and what needs to occur. Consider the major events (if there are any) and plan the level accordingly. The rest can be fine-tuned as you go.
What may seem like a long, well-balanced level may turn out to be either ridiculously hard, too easy, underpopulated or simply too short. The easy answer to such pitfalls is to playtest vigorously – and not just you! Get other, impartial people to play the levels – after all, you may be well-practised at the game, having worked on it for some time, but it’s important to have a layman’s perspective.
Unless it’s the point of the level to have a relentless assault on the player, don’t be afraid to add ‘breathing spaces’ in the level, splitting attacks up into waves. On a similar note, don’t make all the waves the same… mix up the enemies, their type and position a bit. Not only does this maintain the player’s interest, but it also makes it easier for them (and you!) to tell what their progress in the level is.
In summary, planning is the best friend one can have when putting a level together… just behind playtesting, the importance of which cannot be understated. I hope these simple tips help you when designing your own levels!