Progress Report – Making Levels

April 29, 2013 by Terry

It’s update time again. I’m still full-time on Retrobooster, working hard on getting a complete set of levels built. By “complete set” I mean that I’m trying to bring enough levels to a state of functional completeness that I can say I have enough content for a full game. Once I get to that point, the levels will be playable but incomplete cosmetically. Then I’ll be able to polish art assets and other details while testers run through the game and find all the playability problems. At current count, there are twenty-six functionally complete levels. The plan is to build six or eight more. These remaining levels range in completeness from a jumble of ideas in my head to mostly built.

There is no way for me to look at this game objectively anymore, so I have no idea if I’m making the right number of levels. I’m hoping testers will provide some good input on that matter.

On the surface Retrobooster is a shooter and caver-flyer, but many of the levels require the player to beat more interesting challenges. One of my favorite tasks over the past few weeks has been designing puzzle levels. Right now there are seven levels with puzzles and a few other levels that have elements that are fairly puzzling. The spatiotemporal nature of the puzzles in Retrobooster seems to make them considerably more difficult to design than to solve. Testers have spent between five minutes and two hours on some of the puzzles, but I spent much more time building them. Without revealing too much, the puzzles mostly involve interacting with and manipulating force fields and teleporters. I always thought these game elements would make good puzzle pieces but didn’t get around to designing the best puzzles until recently.

It would be pleasant to concentrate on nothing but making levels, but things never seem to work out that way. I have been making new enemies and fixing code along the way. Each level seems to require some random new improvement. Collectively, these things take a lot of time.

Another big milestone I’m working toward is submitting Retrobooster to the game competition at IndieCade. Maybe this game can win some more exposure.

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