Game levels

So as part of my reading for my MSc project I have been told to read Game Level Design by Ed Bryne, its actually quite an interesting read, and has prompted me to think a bit differently about game levels. And particular about some game levels that I have played.

Vampire:the Masquerade – Bloodlines

Well, most people know that this is a buggy game anyway, *cough* crashing out to desktop at a certain bit of the game *cough*, it was rushed at release, and clearly poorly beta tested. But that’s not what I was going to discuss. There is one level in the game were you end up in the sewers, having to face these strange monsters, that are made up of bits of people and creatures and reanimated by some evil Vampire. (If you’ve played this then I’m talking about the area with the strange women’s bodies on spider like bodies. Horrid things!) And as I was playing through the game as a Ventrue I found this level EXTREMELY difficult, I am now better able to identify why that is the case.

The book talks about needing to make levels challenging, and yet not so challenging that players get pissed off. That you need to offer options to different types of players, one example the book gives is allowing players either to take a lift shaft or to take the stairs, where perhaps the stairs have more enemies for the more combat inclined.

Now in Bloodlines you can in theory, specialise your character, make them more combat orientated, stealthy, talkative etc etc etc. However if you are anything but seriously gun combat orientated or stealthy then this level is a nightmare! Now with my Ventrue I’d gone towards swords, a bit of stealth and I think decent persuasion type abilities.

So you can imagine my terror when I first get to the level and fight one of these women-spider things with my sword and get slaughtered. I had to get my guns out and run around backwards shooting it, I think this is the only way I defeated it. This was only a sign of things to come, the level is horribly populated with those things, and it is also a bad level to navigate, I kept getting lost, and dead. And as a Ventrue I cannot get blood from rats, and thus using my powers was a PITA.

I finally reloaded the level and uped my stealth quite high. It was the only way. And thus heart in mouth, I snuck past these monsters, until i finally came to one that completely blocked the pathway to the ONLY WAY OUT. Somehow, I crept past it, only mere inches away! And then bolted for the exit. But I was lucky, I only had to boost my stealth by one, to do this level, what do people do who are less combat/stealth orientated? It was indeed a very frustrating level, and a reasonable example of poor level design.

Prince of Persia: Two Thrones

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the PoP games, (well less number 2 but..) its fun to run around as the Prince (monkey boy that he is) the mix of puzzles and combat is generally pretty good.

But there is one level in the game that strikes me as rather poor design. You start in a chariot and it ends at the the 3rd (out of 4) boss fight in the game. However this fight is, I feel the hardest boss fight of the whole game! And when you die you have to repeat the chariot section ALL OVER AGAIN! Once I’d done the chariot part of the level several hundred times (a bit of an exagguration but it was a lot) this was less of an issue, but it is a long chariot section, and is hard to master. Especially when you end up using all your sand in that section and thus have none left for the horrid boss fight. It was not fun. 😦 It took me so long to get past that boss fight too. Was so very hard. I feel that quite possibly they game should have separated these section. Possibly if you loaded from your save, start from the chariot race, but if your in the same game and haven’t just turned on the machine, then when you die in the boss fight, you should re-spawn at the start of the boss fight. It would have made life easier. Although possibly annoying if you have no sand left? Hmmm. Perhaps that was a factor in making the level the way it was.

Um anyway I think I have waffled enough, I should get back to reading!


1 Comment

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One response to “Game levels

  1. Andy

    The thing I found most annoying about Vampire, and I really should finish it at somepoint, although its waaaay down in a queue of games, is that near the start you could solve the problems a number of ways, shooting the cr*p out of stuff was just one possible solution. But the further into the game you got the less alternative options you got. Which meant if you hadn’t specialised in firearms or stealth you were effectivly screwed. Part of me wonders whether they intended to put more alternatives in the later quests and just ran out of time, or whether they just messed up.

    Hmm, not sure if you need them but another example of bad level design ruining an otherwise highly enjoyable game would be that sodding rescue level in Fable. If anyone reading this doesn’t know what I’m talking about a quick summary: A kid has been lost, you agree to go find him. After fighting through a rather lengthy cavern sequence you find said child, about to be sacrificied by some evil spirt/fairy. Rescuing said child from being sacrificed requires you to defeat said fairy, and all the hordes, of admitedly weak(ish) mosters it summons. While doing this, it is possible for the child to get killed, thus failing the mission. Okay, the problem is that when you eventually defeat said fairy you then have to fight your way back out of the cavern, with the kid in tow, though about twice as many monsters. Plus the kid wont defend himself, so you can get mobbed by about 15 of said beasties, and one will just stand there, aparantly poking him in the eye until he dies. Which is bloody annoying, especially when this happens within 5 feet of the sodding cave entrance. Add in the fact that the spell you use can also damage the kid and it results in a gaming experience which is less than enjoyable. Which is a shame cause the rest of the missions in game are fun, but I can’t remember nearly as much detail.

    The summary I draw from this is get your game level design right and people rarely notice. Get it wrong and it sticks in peoples heads for a long time.

    Bah, this is a stupidly long comment. Am really intrigued as to what kind of thing you’re doing for your project now. I could really do with some kind of project to keep me busy, but really dont have the ideas atm. Ho hum, will leave this mega essay here for now.

    CIao *hugs*

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