How level design choices can kill your player’s progress

Posted by
September 2nd, 2015 1:09 pm

For the most part, I was fairly happy with my level design, it was intuitive, ensured the player was introduced to concepts before they needed them, and showed them where they’d need to go before they got there.

There was one exception, however, that ended up being the single point that made players quit.

I recently made a post-jam update to fix this, and I’d like to take a second to talk about it, as I feel it could be useful for a lot of level designers.


The first pink/red switch in the game is teased before you can access it; a staircase leads you up to it, but your progress is blocked by an impossible jump.

Unfortunately, a lot of players refused to give up, and continued to attempt the jump – trying to find ways to increase jump height with moon power or the combo uppercut. Eventually they would get tired of this and quit the game, never looking for an alternate route.

I had a few options here; I could move the switch out of view, place a sign explaining to the player that they needed to look elsewhere, or remove the staircase to it entirely.

Moving the switch out of view makes the upper area entirely pointless until after you’ve beaten the first boss, and players would probably continue to attempt the jump anyway, while a sign felt like it would be a little too hand-holdy, and would seem silly when passing it after beating the boss.

Removing the staircase would indeed force the player to find the actual route, however it would provide them with no new content for the duration of their backtrack to the start. It would also make the jump down after beating the boss feel dangerous, despite the fact that there is no fall damage.

In the end I found a much more elegant solution.


By blocking the switch off with blocks of its own colour, I indicate to the player that this route is indeed important, but that they will be approaching it from the other direction. Encouraging them to find the actual route, while letting them know their goal in advance.

Give your players a sense of purpose by letting them know what they’re looking for, but don’t let them get confused trying to do things too early.


My game was Werewolf Quest, thank you for reading and playing.

2 Responses to “How level design choices can kill your player’s progress”

  1. Aaranos says:

    I continued to explore after being unable to get to the lever myself, and also attempted the combos and moon boosts. I found where to go later but I’d already flipped a switch back. The main issue is probably that it leads you directly to the tease and since you never knew you could get rid of those blue blocks at the start you probably never would think to go back there. Overall I’d say that was the only bad thing about it, as the combat and everything else were amazing.

    • Yrr says:

      Thanks for the feedback!
      I feel like this update should fix some of those issues, as the start is the only place on the far side of the red wall that the player will have been to, so they should find themselves naturally thinking of that route.

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