Level Design Philosophy

Now that I have the jump, it’s time to build the tutorial.  I need to start making the very beginning levels which will serve as a tutorial for the player (even if they don’t realize it). When designing the tutorial levels you have to make sure each section of the level is:

Great at conveying some sort of message to the player that is relatively easy to observe and isn’t cluttered. Like a screen of a level that introduces some new enemy or obstacle shouldn’t also introduce another mechanic at the same time. You should determine what the message is before you start making the level.

And when I say message I mean a mechanical message like “You can jump higher by holding jump” not a narrative message such as “God is dead, nothing matters, oriental ramen is the best ramen”. Narrative message in level design is an amazing thing but it’s not what I’m talking about.


This level is essentially broken into 2 levels, the top part introduces moving threats that must be dodged. It is immediately moving towards you down a long hall with a high ceiling so it’s easy to jump over and if you don’t jump you will be returned to the nearest checkpoint which is right before you enter the room. So if you fail you’ll be trying again in 2 seconds.


Then there’s the lower part of the level, that might take several tries for a new player. It’s purpose is to introduce platforming challenge. If you keep moving in the same direction after jumping over the enemy, you’ll land on solid ground. Notice how there are no threats in the lower section of the level besides falling at first. However in order to eventually force the player to make the first jump, the enemy will eventually fall back on the player.


I think of levels as having layers, (much like onions, ogres, and Taco Bell’s 7 layer burrito) layers of how players interact with them.  There’s the layer of what is immediately obvious to the player about the room, in this example it would be that there is an object moving towards the player. Then you have the layer of their options to achieve their goal, this room has a high ceiling which allows the player to jump over the object. But even within the category of options there are multiple layers depending on the player’s skill and abilities.


That is how a newcomer to the game would experience this level.


And that is how someone with a double jump would experience it.


And that is how a speedrunner would experience it.

This one screen level has many purposes and many different layers (and all the same principles apply to playing this level backwards). I will continue trying to put this amount of effort into each and every screen.

If you want to see more of my game check out our twitter.

2 thoughts on “Level Design Philosophy

  1. I like your layered approach, and this si a good posts, once again he gifs are very illustrative.

    That being said, I think you are making a mistake.

    I suggest leaving the tutorial for the last possible moment.

    The tutorial and first level are where the player has his first impressions for your game, so they are really important.

    And right now you don´t understand the game that will exist beyond the tutorial as well as you will in the future. Moreover, since the player won´t have all the mechanics at his disposal due to Metroidvania, the tutorial and first level need to be very elegant to do “more with less.”

    Doom´s E1M1 is an absolute masterpiece of level design, and was one of the last maps made precisely for this reason.

    Don´t sweat the tutorial right now, allow your project to grow, and when it has a more fixed aspect then see what would be the best tutorial for it.

    Good tutorial design is hard, and projects are mutable

    Liked by 2 people

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