Goat Up 2 - manual page 4
Goat Up 2 page ( soon to be updated )
Part 1: Selecting a level to edit   Part 2: Editing a level   Part 3: Tile and Object Reference   Part 4: Tips for Designing Fun Levels  

Tips for Designing Fun Levels

Building levels is actually pretty easy. Building levels that other people will actually want to play is a little more difficult! Here are a few guidelines regarding making levels that are interesting and fun to play.

1: Keep it simple.

At first you may have a tendency to jam pack a level full of all kinds of goodies, since there's lots to choose from. But a level that's too packed with stuff can be confusing. A few well-placed, well thought out enemies and hazards will be more fun for the player to work with than a level just crammed full of tons of stuff.

2: Make the path through clear.

Remember that your player can't see all of the level at once when he's playing, and whereas it may be obvious to you, the level designer, that he needs to jump off that platform to the left, if the player can't see a visible clue that that's where he needs to go, he'll end up being flumm-ox-ed. Create paths such that following them naturally brings into view the next area you need to go to. If there is ambiguity consider using annotation tiles to point the way, or place some collectible objects in such a way as to invite player exploration in the correct direction. A player who's lost and ends up throwing his goats off blind ledges in the hope of finding the next platform won't be having any fun.

3: Be firm but fair.

You can make this game pretty difficult, especially if you use the Queen to limit farting. And a certain amount of that is fine, but at the end of the day it's not intended that this game be as strict as the likes of Manic Miner (the collision detection is way too sloppy in favour of the player anyway for that). In a way this game is more of a platform-shooter (the shooting just happens to take the form of farting). Farting also allows the player to retrieve himself from a missed jump - rather than falling to your doom you can toot your way out of trouble. You won't get such a big bonus at the end of the level, but you'll live.

By all means make tricky sections, implement limited-farting-puzzles and areas where careful jumping is required. But do balance them out with good old run-and-fart sections too. As a game designer of course you want to challenge the player, but you also want to make him feel good too, so you mustn't frustrate him *all* the time.

4: Provide catharsis.

After all that precision jumping and farting it can be good to provide the player with the opportunity to just effortlessly smoosh a few enemies. I tend to do this with strategically placed cups of tea and herds of normally unkillable enemies. Once the player sees the setup he learns that he can charge through clumps of normally invulnerable baddies, scattering bulls and used teabags as he goes. I'm not saying every level should be like that, but every now and again - feels good, man :).

5: Avoid leaving the player in trapped situations.

The ability to use a fart as a midair jump in this game requires the level designer to carefully consider the placement of items and restart points so as not to leave the goat in an impossible situation when it respawns after player death. Consider the following situation to illustrate what I mean.

Goat, key, platform

Goat, key, platform

Here's the beginning of a level to illustrate how you can become stuck. The goat starts on the bottom grass platform. It has to jump up to the next platform, but it's too high up to jump directly; the goat must needs fart up there. There's a Level Key right there though, so no problem. Grab the Level Key, which gives the goat one fart. Use that fart to jump up to the platform, no problem. But what then happens if the player dies by running into that Chompy platform patroller?

Goat stuck!

Goat stuck!

Here's what happens: the goat respawns on the platform below again, but this time the Level Key has been consumed. There's nothing that'll give the goat a fart, so the goat can't reach the next platform. The goat is stuck!

Now there is an option in the Pause menu called "Reset". This costs you one life, but basically allows you to reset the entire level and start it anew, hopefully not making the same mistake again. But that option is kind of a copout really. The onus is on you as the level designer to ensure that situations that require resetting the level don't readily occur. There are level items specifically created to help you have good control over respawn points and the availability of fartable objects. In this example the solution can be as simple as this:

Hooray for flowers!

Hooray for flowers!

Flowers always regrow whenever the goat is respawned, so using one here instead of a Level Key ensures that when the goat respawns he immediately has something he can grab and use to fart up to the next platform.

This kiosk is a nuclear-free zone

This kiosk is a nuclear-free zone

Another solution is to provide a telephone kiosk, or some restart grass, after a tricky zone, so that the player keeps his progress. Although personally I'd keep that flower there too just in case the player died before getting to the kiosk.

Bottom line - just be conscientious about the amenaties available around your level's restart points, and try to ensure that the player can never find himself restarting in a position from which it is impossible to progress. You should aim to make it so the player will never have to use the "Reset" option on the pause menu.

6: Hide stuff away for the player to discover.

Part of the fun of playing these levels is discovering things that aren't obvious from an initial look at the level. Build in some smashable blocks in the roof and let the player discover them and find out he can walk outside the level and find some goodies on the ceiling (remember the first time you found out you could do that to get to the warp zone in Super Mario?). Hide a curry and place some bonus items in a place for the player to find when he has Unlimited Farting. Be devious, players love finding hidden stuff.

7: Make your levels exploitable.

Sometimes it's fun to make a level where there's a straightforward, obvious solution - but where there's an easier/more optimal/higher-scoring way to complete the level that can also be discovered. Players love stuff like that where they can "cheat the system" a bit. Making levels completable in multiple ways makes for a more interesting game.

Bear these things in mind and you'll be making levels that are challenging and fun. Remember that a lot of the fun in a game comes from how the gameplay flows, so look to create layouts that encourage happy frolicking of the goat; they will feel like fun to play!

Part 1: Selecting a level to edit   Part 2: Editing a level   Part 3: Tile and Object Reference   Part 4: Tips for Designing Fun Levels  
Beam me up Scotty!