This Game Design – Guiding the Player post points to concepts to keep in mind when doing your game level design. Your map layout, visible assets, and how you build, light, and texture your playing terrain should all lead the player the way you want them to go to enjoy the best possible gameplay (as well as any learning opportunities you have embedded into the game). Balance your assets and mechanics – Balance is one of the keys and applies to everything including how many new game mechanics or hinders you introduce the enemy to, the potential for quick success or defeat, the flow of money, pickups or other assets into the player’s inventory, how much time you are forcing the player to watch “story” elements without playing, etc. If your game has distinct areas that are for different challenges, you can theme the game objects of areas to make it clear what area the player is in now. Use Weenies to guide the player– Any good amusement park or game makes careful use of Weenies. This is a Disney term for visually attractive architectural landmarks that are visible to the player – such as Space Mountain or a castle on a hill. The term came from the hot dogs that animal handlers waved in front of dogs and other creatures to get their attention when doing film or video shoots. But for game use, a little sparkeling light in the distance can be a weenie; a pickup can be a weenie. The player is your dog; where do you want them to look? How do you want to guide them? Weenies not only give your players a line-of-sight goal to travel towards, they can be used to keep the player from getting lost, and serve as noticable landmarks that form a sort of grid which the player can use to orient themselves. Here is a youtube video of a group enjoying DisneyQuest Pirates of the Caribbean. Usually it is the mother in a family who ends up being the ship’s pilot by default, since dad and the kids want to man the cannons. The danger is that moms are not always the best pilots; and if the ship is not steered well, the gunners may have a boring and frustrating experience. Thus the game is augmented with:
– Architectural Weenies – A goal like a mountain or castle, something the player can see and aim for.
– Guide Ships – always on their way to an Architectural Weenie, and easy to attack.
– Sneak Attacks – if a pilot of a ship is bad, sneak attacks happen to keep the gunners engaged.
– Waterspouts – which force ship back into gameplay in case of horrible pilots. Use lighting, movement, and contrast to guide the player – The human eye is very responsive to contrast and movement. Web pages use both of these tactics to guide the viewer’s eye where they want it to go, whether to a bright add against a dark background, or that moving popup on the side of the page. Make your pickups easily seen – It is for this reason that pickups are often spinning in place in the game. To cause a pickup to spin in the Unity engine, just add this code to the object you want to spin.
Once you’ve established main paths, establish shortcuts – You don’t want a game that there is only one way to play; players want to discover back doors, hidden passageways, and shortcuts. In some of these back roads, there may be powers, pickups, enemies or additional treasures. Finding and conquering these challenges is part of the fun of gameplay. Finally, Scott Rogers, the author Level Up!, suggests that if you do not want the player to go to a particular area on the map, don’t make it look like it should be possible to go there. Tweet