IS – Exploring Level Design Tools

Level Exploration – Observations

For the past day or so, I started exploring what simple level design tools exist for the casual user. (Simple things like, Line Rider, Little Big Planet, etc.).

I noticed that most of the most addictive of these games are built of physics engines, like box2d (which is portable to objective-c).
And even in this physical world, the amount of ‘abstracted’ physics is kept relevant to the world and does not have to be entirely realistic as some developers strive to be (for example, line rider does not consider air friction, amongst other things, as analyzed here).

Some of the more interesting and publicized games include Kodu and Little Big Planet. Kodu is inspired by robotics, and contains agents whereby “each character and object in Kodu is programmed individually to interact with the world, much like intelligent agents” as it is event driven. Kodu’s coding system is represented as an icon-based language, not unlike Little Big Planet (LBP) (who’s second iteration recently introduced programmable sakbots). LBP also uses some Ragdoll physics (popular), and allows the player to grow their inventory through gameplay. The ‘functional’ agents within these games also reminded me of command games like Lemmings, which allowed realtime manipulation of the environment.
#Edit, this ‘construction via coding’ has also been utilized in ‘construct and watch’ games like Core Wars, Tierra, and also reminds me of the yearly google artificial intelligence challenges.

The Incredible Machine was also interesting in that it was composed of a sequence of puzzles, and later iterations facilitated multiplayer gameplay, taking the “construct and play” approach.
Games like Worms and Gunbound were also interesting in that a lot of the player’s creativity lied in their weapons, modifying and shaping the terrain to their advantage in a turn-based manner.

Many modern and addictive games also simply work due to intelligent level designs mixed with nice aesthetics (sounds, visuals) and a physics engine (e.g. Angry Birds, Cut the Rope).

Level Exploration – Summary

After exploring this field, I’ve come to categorize games within this particular field like so:
Construction Approach (construct and play, turn-based, realtime)
Physics Engine, Graphics, (2d, 2.5d, 3d)
Control over a range of (characters (hero/ines), objects (puzzle pieces), terrain (like poco))

Thoughts on the integration of the Flenur

(Granted this should have been though of simultaneously throughout the level exploration)
I don’t believe there are many accurate, geolocated games in existence. As such, I believe that, in implementing this philosophy, one should look at the user’s environment in a wider context than their location. For instance, one could observe a user’s current activity and time on top of their location. This data can provide further, and more global options when the the user plays a game with other players, with shared contexts.

Next Task

Next, look at making something with box2d for the iPhone (in objective-c)!

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