My Tenets for Level Progression
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Curl is a game built around many short levels. The order and pacing of these levels is crucial to holding players' interest.
The initial levels of Curl are particularly important. Curl introduces a lot of new play concepts. The unique physics, the chain of friends that you collect, and the achievement system are what make Curl fun. But if too many ideas are thrust on players at once, they'll get overwhelmed and lose interest. Conversely, if novel ideas are delivered too slowly the levels become repetitive, and the player will get bored and lose interest.
I've devised a set of tenets to guide my level progression design toward the sweet spot between information overload and starvation:
Each level has exactly one purpose - Each level should teach or reinforce one core gameplay element.
Each level has one new level design element or twist - Each level should introduce exactly one new key idea.
In Curl, early levels' purposes include introducing your friends (Spot, Blot, and Dot) one at a time; and giving players time to practice key skills such as rolling around on a sky island, jumping between islands, jumping while rolling, or rolling on the backside of islands.
Meanwhile, novel design elements in early levels include the mechanics of collecting a friend or the idea that friends may sometimes lie offscreen where you cannot initially see them. Notice that sometimes a level's purpose is exactly to introduce the new level design element. But other times the two tenets are distinct from one another.
The snapshot at the top of this post is of the spreadsheet where I plan out each level. Notice the columns labeled Teach/Purpose and New Element or Twist. These columns are exactly my two tenets. The above spreadsheet is for the initial levels of version 2.0 of Curl, coming out soon.
Let me know in the comments what you think of my 2 tenets. Do you think they will consistently lead to engaging level progression and design? What would you change?