Game Design Using In-Game Editors

On the evening of Monday March 7th I gave a talk at the St. Louis Game Developer MeetUp Group about using in-game level editors as outlets for game design creativity. The theme honestly felt like a bit of a stretch, but it’s a lesson I think a lot more people should pay attention to. It may seem like I’m preaching to the choir since this is a game developer meetup group, but we have a lot of nontechnical attendees who sometimes seem to get lost in the more advanced talks.

Regardless, I think everyone should hear this. A lot of people want to be game designers, but when it comes down to it, the most common excuse is that they aren’t an artist or a programmer. That excuse is getting further and further from legitimacy every single day, and this talk is meant to be a motivator that broadens people’s understanding of what’s possible in easily available, high-level toolsets.

I would publish the text of the talk here, but the talk wasn’t actually done in text – a majority of it took place within or surrounding levels I designed specifically for this discussion. To experience the talk, follow the steps below. If you would like to forgo the level creation part you can simply read along by downloading the level in a Knytt Stories importable format, but I suggest following the steps below for the full experience.

  1. Download version 1.2.1 of Knytt Stories and unzip it into a local directory
  2. Drop the contents of this zip file into the “Worlds” directory
  3. Launch Knytt Stories and start playing. Come back when you get to the level editor part and I’ll explain what you need to do. This section should be blatantly obvious.
  4. The editor should look like the image below. If it doesn’t, navigate to room x998y1001 using the arrow keys or by clicking on the map in the lower left to select a room to edit. It should look like the picture below.
  5. Select Object 4 from the system pallet. To do this, make sure that Bank 0 is selected (far upper-right), and left click on the “OBJ” number below it until OBJ 4 is selected.
  6. Now click on the play area to place the Wall Climb ability wherever you would like (preferably on the ground).
  7. Choose File > Save or hit Control-S to save the game.
  8. Launch the game again and continue from your last save.

You’ll notice that this demo doesn’t have very many enemies or opportunities to die. I did this on purpose because the demonstration would not have been very interesting for people to watch if the player kept dieing. Knytt Stories has plenty of enemies available though, and you can make some seriously devious levels. When you’re done reading get to it!

After the Knytt Stories part of the talk I showed off some levels I created in the PS3 game Little Big Planet 2. I didn’t do this to show how cool I am (but I am pretty cool!), I did it to demonstrate that getting a level from your head into game form isn’t as hard as you might think. You’ll need a PS3 and a copy of Little Big Planet 2 to fully experience this, but if you don’t have one you can still get the gist of what was created by reading on.

A few months ago, the members of our MeetUp group drew levels on paper for a platformer we’re slowly working toward creating. Moving these levels from concept to implementation in Little Big Planet 2 took just a few nights. Below are the levels that were drawn up, followed by links to the Little Big Planet 2 equivalent. You can add them to your Little Big Planet 2 game directly from the links.

John Anderson’s Level Design
John’s Rock Level


Steve G’s Level Design (only the top half was made)

I embellished each of these levels slightly to make them easier to implement and more fun. In the first one I added a lot of collectibles to give people a reason to explore the empty space. In the second level there weren’t explicit instructions on how the platforms should act, so I took the liberty of making the movement of the platforms into a puzzle itself. Watching where they go and how their actions change as you destroy the reactors is a big part of what I’m hoping makes this level interesting. The core idea of the original level is there, but it’s enhanced to give the level a theme of increasing chaos as the reactors are destroyed.

I think everyone got something out this discussion, but even if they didn’t, at least I had fun making the levels. There’s a lot going on in the St. Louis Game Development scene right now and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be a part of it. I genuinely feel that everyone can make games, and if you’re not already a part of the scene the best place to get started is by attending the St. Louis Game Developer Meetup. Scratch that, the best place to get started is by creating something today. Grab some tools and get started!

Relevant Links from talk:

Meetup Page for this meeting

Knytt Stories Download

Auntie Pixelante Indie Games Rant

Little Big Planet Community

Multimedia Fusion Homepage

News on the Infamous 2 Mission Creator

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