“Practical Game Design”

From Practical Game Design: The Rule of Threes on Gamasutra
In the first level of any game, there are three introductory steps which the player should experience before being thrown into the game. These are demonstrated perfectly in the original Super Mario Bros for NES:

1. Introduce the Challenge as simply as possible
In Mario, the “threat” of an approaching Goomba is built up gradually. The player must learn how to avoid or defeat this enemy, and in order to learn the enemy must appear in its simplest form.

With this challenge, the designer tells the player:
“There is such a thing as a Goomba.”

2. Do it again, with a slight variation
After the first threat is defeated, another one appears but in this case, the environment is different and therefore the behaviour of the enemy is changed. The player is learning that challenges will present themselves in different ways.

With this challenge, the designer tells the player:
“The land around the Goomba can take different shapes”

3. Step 3: Do it again, with another twist
In this example, the threat is doubled, but there is more space for error. Is it a more difficult or easy challenge than before? Or is it just that it is different?

With this challenge, the designer tells the player:
“The Goomba will not always come alone.”

These challenges take place in the first 10 or so seconds of the game, but it is the only introduction that the player needs. After this is over, the game can change shape and form and the player knows to expect this and react accordingly.

I’ve taken this into account for opening of Hanami, I may even include a single room at the beginning of the game which acts as the “tutorial level” before the player is taken to the rest of the village. At the moment, I’ve taken a slightly different angle and instead of presenting the player with challenges, I’m thinking of introducing the objectives.

For example, here you the Ryokan on the left. As the player moves to the right, they are immediately met by a Cherry Blossom, which is collected as the player passes over it. The player now knows “the objective of the game is to collect cherry blossoms”. The next two blossoms involve the player climbing and jumping, so the player is now familiar with environmental change. The last blossom is a new idea. It’s a red blossom which damages the character’s health. If the player isn’t paying attention, they may be tempted to try to acquire this deceitful blossom, but here I’m trying to show the player that they should avoid it! I’m currently trying to think of more environmental hazards; spikes are so over-used in 2D games so trying to think of more realistic “enemies”!

In Game Maker, I’ve started to test level design with various character physics settings, to try to get the right jump distances etc. My wood structure tiles make great place-holder blocks for test levels! I’ve used them here to test this very basic opening level (although currently the flowers don’t do anything when they are collected. I’m still working in a modified version of the Grandma Engine and haven’t actually started an original project yet!)

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