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I’ve mentioned Mark Brown before as a game design channel you should watch. One of his more recent videos is on the game design of Mega Man 11. Making a platformer is something I’ve always wanted to do, and possibly will do for my next project now that Puzzledorf is finished.
Mark’s analysis is great. I recommend watching his video linked below for the full break down. One of the interesting things I noted is how he saw that the levels are broken down into multiple smaller rooms, and that was a good thing.
Now, it would be easy to associate using single rooms, outside of RPG’s and Rogue-likes, with dated games like the original Zelda’s and Mega Man games, thinking they did it simply because of technology limitations. And yet, when dabbling with Mario Maker, I found breaking the levels up into defined “chunks”, rather than trying to tackle an entire level at once, led to better creative results.
You also see in the recent game Celeste this technique being used quite well. It’s almost as if breaking a larger level down into small chunks help you to focus and refine your design, making it clear what your goals of for the challenges of that “room” or “chunk” are, and leading to better overall levels.
I took a bit of this approach with the puzzle design in Puzzledorf. In earlier prototypes, I had larger levels that almost ended up being made up of several small puzzles when you really broke it down. It’s much more refined now, having each level focus on one specific puzzle. You could almost think of each puzzle like a room in a Zelda dungeon.
Breaking things up into separate challenges is probably a good way to approach designing a platformer, and possibly any game. Take programming, for instance. The best way to solve a programming issue is to break the problem down into bite-size chunks. So if you were making an open world game, you can’t make the whole world at once – you can only make it one bit at a time. So it makes sense to focus on each individual element and do that well.
If you take that concept into something like a platformer, it makes a lot of sense to actually turn the separate parts of the level into individual rooms, helping you to focus on each rooms design, potentially leading to some interesting games.
Take a look at Mark Brown’s video as he breaks down Mega Man 11 in much more detail and gives you lots of examples from the game – it’s a fantastic watch.
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