http://gamecareerguide.com/features/869/good_games_bad_design__episode_.php thoughts on this article?
Ha ha. An article on why the game that I praise as being a masterpiece in level design has poor level design. Maybe they should have reviewed one of the actually interesting levels instead of the first one.
Here’s a video so you can see the first level in motion:
1-01. You were given a safe space to try out the controls before being thrown into the action. They placed a candle at the top of the stairs, so that if you walk up the stairs, you are rewarded for doing so, building the basic behavior that walking up stairs is rewarding. Stair controls in classicvania were very rigid, so it’s nice to have a place to try them out without risk.
1-02. Now you have stairs in conjunction with skeletons. These are the most basic enemy type in the game, giving you a place where you can be damaged, but also destroy skeletons. You can walk up the stairs, but need to be somewhat careful of the movement of the skeletons. The game is starting you off slow. Mario did much the same thing.
His ideas here for how the game could branch off and offer all these amazing possibilities are getting way too far ahead of himself. The game is giving you a chance to acclimate yourself to the controls.
The “disappointment well” is the most insignificant thing.
Also here you have a heart that drops over a pit, but because of the sine pattern of hearts, you can catch it without jumping off the platform, minor skill challenge, important for the room ahead.
Funny that he disregards the chapel. Guess he’s only focusing on the bad.
Maybe they’re playing a bit hardball here. You can react to it if you’re familiar with the controls. It’s not fair to say that this is the first enemy that has a real challenge. There were bats in the chapel.
They have you move far to the right to ascend because stairs only go diagonal, and they want you on the far end of the top platform. Also it brings the next skeleton into view so he can become active throwing bones down at you while moving you out of the way of his bones to face him head on.
The skeleton below the overhang has quite clever positioning actually. He blocks the stairs down, practically asking the player to fall, he tosses bones up at you, he offers the risky option of jumping over him to skip him. Plus this is a great opportunity to use your subweapon, as both the bottle and axe will hit him down there.
I don’t know the purpose of the top platform with the candle either.
There’s a candle in the “disappointment well”. The first swivel platform also lets you test the platforms in a safe environment before the real test with the medusa heads ahead. Also notice the first one spawns in a place with no platforms. He’s right about the way players might accidentally take the bottom path, but it’s not a huge fault.
1-03. It’s the first level, it doesn’t need to strongly engage the player. It just needs to establish the basics. This room has enemies that need to be dispatched 1 at a time continually, and a small jump that might be made more dangerous by enemies on the other side.
The skeletons don’t jump randomly, flea men are a fair way to ramp up the challenge.
It’s not earlier misdirection. There can’t be misdirection if the pattern doesn’t exist yet. I know the author has a preconception from prior castlevania games, but in this game this is the first instance of turkey.
There’s two flea men here, both fight you individually. It wouldn’t make more sense to put the zombies here because it’s not flat ground, and the space is rather cramped in comparison.
I’ll admit that it’s a fault in the boss that you can get trapped without a way to escape.
Overall, this analysis short sells a lot of the level design of the first level. The way they took pictures, omitting most enemies, really makes it a lot harder to understand what’s going on in the first level.
The other thing is, it’s the first level. They’re not trying to destroy the player. It’s the ramp-up, the teaching phase. All these “disappointment wells” cost seconds at most.
They keep reiterating that the player’s not really learning anything, but lets look it over:
They get an opportunity to try out the controls, including the stairs. They get an opportunity to destroy some enemies or get hurt. They’re required to climb stairs to proceed. They get an opportunity to break candles and catch their contents over safe gaps. They are required to hit enemies or get hurt. They are required to jump to aescend. They have an opportunity to fall into a bottomless pit. They are introduced to enemies with projectiles, they are required to jump over the easiest type of bottomless pit, with a ramp up, mimicking the jumps in the chapel, so they won’t make the mistake of thinking they can walk over it. They’re introduced to medusa heads and a new type of level feature, the swivel panels. The medusa heads themselves are like more extreme versions of the bats they faced earlier. They face respawning enemies, required to whip them to proceed and potentially get the cross item which clears them. They have to jump over a real bottomless pit in combination with the respawning enemies. Then they face the flea men, the first dynamic enemy, and have a chance at wall chicken. Finally they face a boss who is one of the simplest bosses in the game, but has the minor flaw that the player can get trapped and forced to take damage.
To win, the player needs to know how to move, climb stairs, whip, and jump. Optionally they need to know how to break candles, and use subweapons. These are all the skills the player uses throughout the game. The first level has accomplished its job and the game is now free to challenge the player under the assumption they have all the skills necessary.