Behind the scenes of Behind the Screens

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March 28th, 2015 2:50 am

So making a game in a week is a lot more chill than making a game in 48 hours. Most importantly it gave me more time to plan things and think about what I was doing.

Pretty much right away though I decided that I’d do a platforming game. Mostly because my current long project is a platforming game, and I had the basic platforming controller from my previous Ludum Dare game, I am Sigma, which took the idea of a game on one screen, and added a depth factor to it.

I had to make a few modifications to the platforming script I wrote for I am Sigma, mostly because it didn’t do moving platforms and the main gimmick of Behind the Screens was that Pong paddles could be used to navigate the level. Having you not attached to them made the game significantly harder.

Before I continue though, I urge you to play it. I’ll be talking about how I made it and my thought processes on the level design. I’d quite like feedback on it.

You done? Or did you give up? Read on and let me know how much I suck at makin’ vidyagamez in the comments! (seriously though, constructive criticism is always welcome). Anyway.

I went out of my way to make the game challenging but not punishing. I am Sigma was a death fest. Even today I struggle to complete it with under 40 deaths. Behind the Screens, on the other hand, can be completed with zero deaths fairly easily. I dare say if you have your wits about you you could maybe complete it first time with zero deaths.

The original intention was to give your character a basic inventory, and have them solve basic puzzles by dropping items in front of it (like the old Dizzy games), but even with a week to play with I didn’t feel I had enough time to make that work right. So it came down to moving paddles and pressing switches, and exploring the levels.

For the design of the levels I took a leaf out of Valves book, and tried to present each of the obstacles in a fairly harmless way, before throwing you out into more perilous situations. Particularly with the tutorial. It shows you wall jumping, jumping through small floors, wall climbing, moving paddles and particle fields in a way that shouldn’t kill you, or prevent you from continuing, then before you actually come across them in a real puzzle, reminding you of them again in something dangerous, but not difficult.

For example, the Space Invaders room has static space invaders shooting down at you, whereas the first Asteroids room has the ship tracking you and firing.

I also took a more free-form option to the tutorial. In that if you play the game a second time you can entirely skip the tutorial just by going right instead of left.

To encourage the player to explore the entire facility, before heading into the ‘puzzle rush’, I made the small ‘vent’ you have to go into more ominous by putting it in darkness. It tries to signify a ‘point of no return’ (even though it’s not, but forging ahead without exploring will mean backtracking). I do it again half way through as a small reminder.

Whether all that comes across or not is something I’d be interested in hearing from players.


One Response to “Behind the scenes of Behind the Screens”

  1. hexagore says:

    Yeah I think it does. Some really thoughtful considered level design here. I was able to finish it with only a few deaths (I kept getting confused about which way paddles would move and some bad timing). I found it had a nice sense of discovery – when I came across the room with the ‘problem’ in it I could see immediately what it was I was supposed to be doing and that felt great.

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