(adapted slightly from my blog at Pillowfort)
I’ve been looking at ads for Quest Designers, which list responsibilities such as:
– Meticulously craft delightful quests and stories (my emphasis)
– provide detailed feedback on quests implemented by other designers.
– Evaluate and critique environment designs, level design, creature spawning, creature abilities, NPC spawning and actions, and level flow.
For me to perform the first task, I’ll need to deeply understand the second and third. Why do I love my favourite levels and missions?
LA CAGE AU FOU – THE SPOON WRAITH
The Witcher 3 is full of delightful missions, but La Cage Au Fou’s Spoon Wraith stands out because the non-violent option is so unexpected. Everything in the game, let alone the mission, leads you to believe that this will be solved by chowing down on decoctions and spamming a few Yrdens, but you’re hiding in a closet – itself a very well framed cutscene – and suddenly offered a timed choice – jump out and attack the monster, or try to lift its curse. You’ve actually been given all the tools to lift the curse, so if you were paying attention, you’ll be able to successfully perform the ritual, a poignant and horrifying “date” with the creature.
- Creepy as shit – the spoons hanging everywhere gave me goosebumps
- Surprise – unexpected development
- Moral dilemma/skill test (not only do you have to decide quickly to lift the curse or not, all the evidence suggests that Marlene was a total bitch who deserved what she got)
- Subversion – the meal with the nightwraith is almost a pisstake of Geralt’s romantic date with Keira
- Reward – you end up with a house servant…
Borderlands 2 is a comedy game, but my favourite level in terms of combat isn’t funny at all – it’s the Bloodshot Ramparts, where you have to go rescue Roland after breaking him out of prison.
It’s surprisingly linear – I just looked it up and I think it’s supposed to be a dick and balls, but you know what, it works. Someone has gone “lol, I’mma make a shooter level out of a dick and balls” and it’s a really fun level. Kudos, anonymous level designer.
Because of the designer’s boner for making boners, you have a level where you can’t get lost – there’s plenty of nooks and crannies and of course the In The Last Place You Look challenge, where you have to find teeny-tiny car keys left in the many, many hulks littering the scenery – but you won’t, say, turn down a crevice and end up 20 minutes out of your way, Frostburn Canyon. Instead, the tubular space (hmmmmmpfffff) directs you through a tight gauntlet (hhmmmmPFFFFF) of mooks, bosses and death from above in the form of shield and repair drones who won’t attack you themselves, but who need to be blastoed before they make your life miserable. So there’s not much space to your left or right, but you’ll definitely need to keep looking up.
At the balls, er, end of the level, there’s a massive statue/shrine to Marcus Kincaid, which baffled me for years – I tried dropping guns in it, normal then rare then legendaries, nothing happened. I now discover that team players can sacrifice themselves by hurling themselves into the shrine as another player throws the switch, turning the player into an explosion of treasures (and presumably making them revive just outside the scrotum). This is what you miss by being a cranky loner, and is a topic all by itself.
- Penis shape is funny, but also results in a focused journey – flow
- Clusters of enemies, each with a boss, at each “inch” of the dong – predictable, but still challenging and fun
- Small space is busy and intense – there isn’t the opportunity to run away that you have in larger levels (though you can retreat to regen HP)
- Enabled to plan your approach – you know exactly where EXP-loaders are going to run at you, where the Badass WAR Loaders will spawn etc
Watch this space for more design breakdowns!