Level Progression: Design

10/31/2014 by John Daud

Level Progression: Design
Each mission in Defense Grid is primarily defined by the level (or map) in that mission. Tower attributes, alien wave configuration and timing, and resource management all contribute to the puzzle that is created by the layout of build locations, roads, and alien pathing routes within a level.

DG2 level design concepts were created and iterated upon within the DG Architect level editor. Considerations included aesthetics, gameplay difficulty, technical limitations, story, and fun. In some cases a specific design goal existed such as introducing a specific tower. In that case the design of a level needed to have some aspect to it that highlighted that tower’s attributes. We also wanted a good variety of map types in the game, so fixed path, pathing maps, puzzle maps and any combination thereof were all a consideration.

The map that would eventually become Mission 17 “Scarce Resources” went through a number of iterations. The method I used for level iterations usually entailed getting a map to point where I was relatively happy with it and giving it a horrible name like, “map_test190”. If I started to radically change its design, and I was happy with it, I would create a new map incrementing the number on the original map’s name. In some cases these branches would become fully realized maps in the finished game.

Below are some of the stages that Mission 17 went through. In this case one of the conceptual branches eventually became Mission 16.

In the early stages I tried out things we could do in DG2 that we couldn’t do in the first game. In this case I had build squares positioned directly under other build squares. Now that we had the Architect I could quickly determine whether this was playable or not. It worked but ultimately wasn’t very interesting both aesthetically and gameplay-wise.

There were several complicated (or overly complicated) iterations of the level. This version attempted to keep things interesting but comprehensible. This version had a combination of fixed and pathable sections.
This version begins to resemble the final layout of mission 17. This map still has the pathable sections seen in the previous version. At this point I started thinking this could be our satellite location that had been mentioned in our story.

This design is the one that will eventually become mission 17. The pathable plazas have been removed. What remains is an incredibly long fixed path. I liked the look of it, but I thought I could take it further. I wanted the curved parts to jut out of a center area as if they were platforms on a huge low orbit satellite base. Here’s where I take a wrong turn.

In this iteration I’ve decided to put a structure on top of the map. This will obscure the alien movements. The intention here is to keep things interesting by having the aliens go in one part of the structure and emerge from another, unexpected, location. I was satisfied with the design at this point and handed it off to Art.

The artists roll with it. At this point we’ve decided that this level will be the planet-based end of the two space elevators shown in the previous mission. The elevators will dock on top of the obscuring geometry. We will soon discover that this map is too difficult to comprehend and it will need to be redesigned.

Art fixes my mess.

Posted in Defense Grid 2 | Keywords: DG2