A rethink on the level design / goals of “Castle Adventure 2”

I took a time-out to explore some game design ideas.

To start with I needed to write down what I had come up with so far with my game. I then mapped that on top of what I originally set out to create.
The results were interesting.

So far I have created the following game mechanics:

Each level is populated with monsters to be avoided and items to be collected. Collecting certain items reveals an exit to the level entering which ends the stage and prepares a new one.
The monsters can be dispatched by magic powerballs which are collected at various points around the level. One shot to kill one monster.
The crux of each stage is avoidance and collection.

My original design idea was to have a free roaming fantasy arcade experience where the lead character was free to shoot hordes of monsters. In the style of one of my favourite games as a kid – Atari’s Gauntlet.
I wanted the action to be quite frenetic in that it was to be a case of “player is chased through the level by seemingly endless monsters” until he finds a key and escapes.

Quite what went wrong during the “build” process I don’t know but I seem to have lost focus.

With Invaders from Mars and Hoth Strike I kept my design document (a single sentence scribbled on a post-it note) in view at all times. I hadn’t done it this time.
Losing focus is a killer.

So I took the time to re-address the design and try to steer the whole thing back on to the tracks.

For the most part it’s not a huge change to have the player firing at will and dashing around avoiding monsters. I did afterall force the restriction on the number of player missiles and monsters on screen deliberately at some point to slow the action down and change the direction of the game.
So I unlocked it all and let the player run and gun as previously intended.

To counter the fact that the player could wipe out the monsters with ease I set them to respawn. Previously the monsters respawned to their original starting point in the level. I changed this to have them respawn at a Magical Swirling Energy Source. All respawning monsters come through that portal. In the level designer I can set this point.
In the game the energy source is visible as a rotating sprite.

Magic in game

Magical swirling energy source - the monster spawner !

This gave me another dynamic and a useful goal. I already had the collection of the strange brown artifacts as the key to exiting the level. So I used the collection of all gold coins as a means of destroying the energy source.
No energy source = no respawing monsters !

I kept the magic balls for the player to collect and just had them granting the player a short burst of rapid fire. It lasts around 10 seconds.

The last thing I tweaked was the ability for the monsters to literally hunt the player down. I figured that a monster that had been shot would be pretty pissed off so I gave them the ability to sniff out the player. It currently doesn’t work so well on diagonals so will need to rethink that. But when the monsters actually hone in on the player it can get pretty scary trying to outrun them. Especially as the monsters are set to have x3 speed on respawn.

The key to the monster chasing player scenario is as much about level design as it is AI.

As the fourth version of this game takes shape I hope to have many more monsters on the screen at once. I am going to try a level without so many walls and see how it fares.

Play the latest version here: www.wilfscorner.co.uk/sandpit/4/castle.php

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