Posted by jeanne
i’ve just finished posting my notes on level design, which everything i know about it i’ve gotten from books and websites. in other words, i know nothing.
so i’ve got lots of questions.
it seems that video games have lots of obstacles, skills, and enemies. the obstacles and enemies part bothers me.
most of the game is based around learning quantum skills. and these skills are needed to get thru the game, and they’re cumulative.
but enemies? obstacles? the book explained that enemies are obstacles that you fight, and puzzles are obstacles that you solve, and props are obstacles you go around or use, depending.
i guess the enemies are your habits of mind, the things that keep you from fully living in a quantum world. as such, these enemies are endless. and how do you fight them in a video game?
in typical games, you collect things, including skills, and fight enemies. but i’m not fond of the fighting idea. some sort of contest. so, you collect things, including skills, and have contests with others that affect your score. i can deal with it on those terms.
the book says most games like to keep you busy, and ten seconds won’t go by without having the player do or experience something different. and levels are about 20 minutes long. they make an exception for mmo games, because i guess of the multiplayer interactions which must take up some of the slack between missions and battles. and in the reading of the playing of the game, it’ll be easy enough to eclipse the long boring bits when players are traversing the mighty spaces that fill antarctica.
as far as i can figure, the level design book talks about levels in a different way than i do, so maybe i’ve got it wrong. my levels are massive compared to theirs, mainly because you can go anywhere in one big huge giant level, and your ring is a layer in that level. so i’m probably being an order of magnitude off.
with that in mind, let me mess with the level diagram one more time. this time i’m going to break it further down, and start to describe some of the features of each level.
players can interact at will with other players on every level. there are no social rules. the only penalties are karmic consequences. there are a lot of opportunities to practice quantum skills. every object requires quantum skills, and they seem repetitive (flying and swimming and navigation are all related) but they all activate the movement chakra. and the practice, under various pretenses, is the point. the descriptions of what players can do on each level is a sample based on the two protagonists. there are unlimited options for player choice and game experience, and these options can be taken up at any point on any level, depending on the player’s score.
the tutorial level is level 1. after picking and customizing their avatar, players learn the functions of their walkers (gameglove) and viewers (hud, mic and speakers for game i/o). these include walking and other locomotion (feet), grasping and other manipulation (hands), whole body movement, verbal communication. functions like eating, sleeping, peeing/pooping, and sex are either advanced training or can be figured out on their own. finally, players are taught the skill of flying, given a pirate map, and set out with others to find the Island Of Whatever.
players land on a carnival midway, level 2. it’s a complex level, with 7 main zones, zone 5 being an entrance hub. the decor is sideshow glitz. at the hub the level’s lessons are summarized, and players can buy and trade consumer goods. the other zones teach control of gravity, speed, momentum, angular forces, newtonian physics. things to pick up? prizes, stuff, skills, winning games. after a certain score is reached, players are shown the exit thru a portal
into carneytown, level 3. it’s a larger level, more freeform, with 7 zones (yet to be designated). the decor is campground shabby. the first zone is linear, a choke point with a dead end, maybe a maze, maybe platforming. after zone 1 there are no obvious demarcations between zones and players are free to wander. each zone’s lessons augment those taught on level 2. level 2 is accessible to players on this level, and they return to take advantage of level 2 players for fun and profit. things to pick up? loot, stuff, skills, queering the games on level 2, contests with players on both levels. at a certain score, level 7 is revealed as a wormhole exiting level 3. gravity changes continuously inside the wormhole. players struggle to use their flying skills, as well as their physics skills, in successfully navigating the wormhole. all stuff and loot and riches must be left behind on this level, pile up around the wormhole, and earn a penalty score for the player.
level 4, the horizontal level. this is an amorphous level, full of fog and clouds. players use their flying skills to move around. glimpses thru the clouds reveal many worlds (zones) below. players learn how to manipulate the fog to create simple shapes, further developing their quantum skills. they use their concentration and visualization skills in groups to transport themselves to the many worlds, practicing their new skills differently on each world but unable to bring anything back with them to the clouds. when a certain score is reached, players become stranded in antarctica. there are no things to pick up, only skills.
level 5. antarctica, looking just like the layout of the midway and carneytown, but as large as a continent. the system map shows antarctica overlaid by 7 zones in rainbow colors. the thumbnail resembles the figure of a human.
ring 1. zones 1 and 2. the outer islands. two main islands, barren, one settlement on each. players enter the level in a leaky boat, and use their accumulated skills to keep the boat from sinking. they are overwhelmed, and rescued by a seal who brings them ashore on an island where they recuperate among other inhabitants. players forage for food and learn cooperation with the land, the weather, the plants, and the animals. thing to pick up, tools from the boat, handmade implements, clothing, seeds, dried food. at a certain score, a warship comes by and recruits players to fight alien invaders. players use their skills to help navigate the ship. if players decline this invitation, a storm blows up that casts their little boat adrift and they practice their skills avoiding hazards and navigating to shore.
ring 2. zones 3 and 4. the fjords. shooter/strategy. a number of hermits, small livestock camps, and fishing outposts hidden away in the thickly treed coastal mountains. players who joined the ship travel to transantarctica, a mountainous area where players chase and battle aliens. alternatively, players learn to navigate a sailing ship using quantum skills, practice skills with the weather and the seas, and battle other ships for loot and stuff. things to pick up include loot, tools from the ship, dropped weapons and other items from dead aliens. players who were cast adrift by a storm land on peninsula, heavily forested fjords ranging to lower and richer land with larger settlements, where schools are devoted to in depth study of quantum skills and ethics, also practicing weather and climate skills. rather than battling aliens, they study their culture for valuable lessons. at a sufficient score, players depart on a mission to the other side of antarctica. they go alone, and use their quantum skills to journey, tested as usual by the elements and other obstacles.
ring 3. zones 5 and 6. the great rift. civilization management. peaceful and prosperous fishermen and farmers, organized villages with loose governance, rich lowlands and rolling hills. players from transantarctica become pirates of the western coasts. players from peninsula become envoys (missionaries) to the humpback islands. pirates loot and pillage, and eventually settle and become established traders and governors. envoys increase organization of scattered villages, eventually settle and become established healers and teachers. the lesson is about waste, husbandry and management. how to exit?
ring 4. zones 7 and 8. the dry lands. ecology management. to the west the land is former shallow sea, now salt desert and steppe where vast herds of wildlife run unimpeded. to the east the land is low and swampy, where vast flocks of wildlife cloud the sky. players interact with the delicate balance between resources and demands. pirates try to collect all the resources and win at the expense of extinctions. envoys try to juggle conflicting requirements and keep all the species alive. how to exit?
ring 5. zones 9 and 10. the hinterlands. live strategy. pirates journey to the north, where lies a vast mountainous area inhabited by family tribes in fortressed strongholds. their lives are hard, and filled with endless fighting between fiefdoms. pirates aim to become powerful leaders, and unite the tribes for an assault on the rich pickings in hell. envoys go east to the breadbasket and suburbs of hell, whose farmers are taxed and robbed by the marauders from hell, and whose commuters spend each day slaving away in hell. envoys work to persuade and organize the downtrodden farmers and simple middleclass droids.
ring 6. zone 11. hell. shooter? between zones 9 and 10 is an enormous bay, surrounded by most of the resources of the continent, and a surfeit of inhabitants who’ve come to find their fortunes, or fail in slavery. it’s an urban landscape with all varieties of situations, stuff, and challenges. the boy comes to hell as a wall street corporate raider and financial powerhouse who singlehandedly corners the market itself. his supporters run around and oppress people, being employers and bosses and entrepreneurs, thieves and predators, and winning is a matter of how much stuff a player has. the girl comes to hell as a left-wing radical, preaching bottom-up powersharing and teaching resistance techniques to the hopeless droids and emphasizing connectedness and good karma as the way to win. the two groups form political parties and vie for control of limited resources. because the aliens are sucking the cream off the top, there is definitely not enough for everyone, and the pressure is on both sides to get theirs now. the challenge is to join forces to fight the aliens, but it isn’t the most likely outcome, since most players are itching for some shooting. as things get worse, and parts of the city burn, and the army is mowing down citizens, and the outcry can be heard all the way from the outer islands, the boy and girl decide that they cannot allow things to go on this way, and arrange a meeting far from the center of the fighting.
ring 7. zone 12. the gamburtsevs. boss level. kurt did not make a level exit, he only slapped something together modeled on log-scale(?) radar image of the mountains.. snake continued with level !, and the boy and girl skipped design and art on this ring. it is totally wireframe with no textures and no sounds. all the players can see this level once the boy and girl enter it, and they all stop gameplay to observe it. the ring becomes visible in the real world at the height of their confrontation.
level !. heaven. another amorphous level, a copy of level 4. players have much better skills now, and heaven quickly fills up with fanciful areas made of morphed clouds. players practice making and changing, and learn the principles of building and running their own worlds.
level !n. earth. a world on the horizontal level, a parallel earth where quantum culture is the establishment and classical reality is considered quaint and misguided. each player creates their own parallel earth according to their own choices, their karma points, and their abilities, and functions as the god of that world. players remain in their parallel earths as long as they want, have complete power, and can create, alter, or destroy other worlds at will.
the reason the girl keeps working to organize them is because they’re all playing the game like it was some regular video game instead of the quantum teaching tool it should be. so she spends all her time trying to educate the players and change the gameplay. but everybody is more comfortable in a classical setting, so she faces opposition within the game from every side.
this ends up with two tracks, the boy’s track and the girl’s track. because of quantum kernel, the entire game bends to support the choices they make. so you end up with pirates versus robin hood. gordon gekko versus the blessed theresa. and players follow suit, choosing one side or the other. whole ranks of character types are created by player choices, supporting one or the other or steering completely away or in another direction from either.
i’m going to have to write about the actual quantum skills to teach. they have to be unique for every level and every ring, and have to build on each other. so this will mean meditations, physical exercises, mental exercises, as well as special powers to develop.