For my level design class, we were assigned another Dungeons and Dragons map making assignment. For this assignment, some very stark differences from our previous assignments were implemented. These rule changes in all made the assignment more challenging, but ultimately more fun.
In the two previous assignments, I have had difficulty when it comes to balancing enemies. In the first Dungeons and Dragons map assignment, my enemies in the map were far too easy while in my second version of my Dungeons and Dragons map, my enemies were far too hard.
For this assignment, player characters were buffed in stats and health points. At the same time, enemies were now allowed a maximum of one hundred health points and up to twenty points in any stat. Not only that, but a checkpoint system was also required for us to implement into our maps. This allowed me to not stress out as much when it came to balancing enemies. I decided to make every single door in my map a checkpoint in order to allow for more leeway when it came to enemies.
I also in previous attempts in the Dungeons and Dragons map assignments did not pay enough attention to teaching magic spells and skills such as jumping into the map. however, for this assignment magic spells and skills were removed from the rule sheet, disallowing us to implement them into our maps. This mechanic allowed me to focus on finessing items in the game.
For this assignment, we also had an added focus on concept art and the appearance of our maps. We were required to find or create concept art that represented our own personal vision for our maps. Our maps also had a theme we had to work with this time around. The theme for our maps was “Post-Apocalypse Alien Invasion” and the level theme was “Prison Break.”
I decided to make my map around an underwater alien base. Since the themes of our levels was “Prison Break,” I thought it would be an interesting gameplay twist if the players were playing as the Alien Jailers and had to stop the human prisoners from breaking out of the prison base.
My play test session was met with mixed results and great constructive criticism. For the positives, my play testers thought my circulation elements in my map were implemented well. There were multiple doors and entrances in my map on the first floor that allowed for easy access into many rooms. The play testers thought my floor plan was interesting to look at, and thought my cave floor had an interesting design to it as well.
However, my play testers thought my map was a bit confusing. The critical path was not inherently obvious on my first floor. This lead to play testers being confused on where to go. I was also too generous with item placement on the maps, and often player’s had many items without even thinking of using them. I think my items were both too situational (only able to use on certain enemies) or too weak (health potions only healing 3 heath points) for them to be effective. I believe this is why my play testers did not bother with the items in my map.
I put in a large amount of checkpoints in my map. And because of this, I upped the stats of my enemies and added more enemies in each room. This was met with negative results. Although one or two enemies at a time felt fair if a bit challenging, three or more enemies in one room was much too hard and left play testers frustrated.
And although the checkpoints quickly put players back into the position they left off on, I did not think ahead on whether enemies reset and gain back their health or not. This paused the game for a bit while I figured out what the right course of action should be. I definitely need to think through the mechanics of the game more thoroughly from the player’s perspective.
Players liked the idea of two different terrains in the level, but felt I should have made the cave smaller. And in small amounts the challenges offered were at the appropriate level for the player. However, I believe I made the scope of my map far to large and the fact that checkpoints were implemented made me lazy with enemies. I should not have added more than two enemies per room, but in some rooms I added as many as five enemies. This in hindsight was an obvious mistake.
I think for the next map I’m going to 1: not give out checkpoints like candy, 2: not have too many enemies in one single room, 3: greatly reduce the scope of my game and 4: find a balance between creating a obvious critical path in the map while also allowing for alternative paths and chances for exploration. I am closer to creating more balanced enemies and I think I’ve almost figured out how to create engaging map layouts.