CRAFTING A WORLD FROM THE BEGINNING
Hello, Flat Kingdom’s game designer here. Today I’m gonna share with you some of the fun of planning and sketching the levels of this game, hurray!
Once the main mechanic of the game was established (the rock-paper-scissor deal), we had to decide exactly what kind of adventure we wanted to build.
Even within the platformer genre, there are a lot of of options and sub genres for games. Classic platforms, metroidvanias, action-platformer, puzzle-platformer, etc. Taking all of those into account we had to decide at least a base for the kind of game we were aiming to create.
With that in mind, we chose a mix of classic platformer with little elements of the metroidvania subgenre (adding some exploration and upgradable abilities that unlock secret areas previously inaccessible). That was the idea anyway, in the end, the game incorporated a lot of puzzles and action too.
Lots of Spanish. But you get the main idea.
All the levels have a very basic goal (reaching the end), so all the obstacles, enemies and puzzles have to serve the same basic purpose: get in your way (like a true obstacle should!). The solutions are often very simple and fun, and solving them becomes the reward in itself.
All the planning work begins on paper, with some crude drawing of the concept and what the decorations might look like (the art team handles that part). We found it easier to design the world first and then the enemies, so that they could fit in their environments (because they were created with each stage in mind). If we had a level with a lot of pits, for example, we would create a lot of flying or shooting enemies for that section… because having a ground enemy would not make much sense in that scene.
Sketches describing some mechanics for an elevator and a puzzle involving a drum.
Although the exploration in Flat Kingdom is pretty basic, there are some hidden areas and treasures. Those must be planned ahead as well.
At the end of the level there is a new ability for you to get, so we tried to design the levels with that ability in mind. Going through the volcano level without the special ability it grants you is a difficult task, but with your new power, traversing the hot lava land turns to be much faster and easier. This makes you feel like you improved (and you did!), but it also gives you an idea of what’s to come in the next level.
The game teaches you how to play and how to use your new abilities progressively. We tried not to rely that much on tutorials and text screens to do that, although there are a few of those available if you wish to consult them or simply forgot how to perform certain moves.
Become a Square to stop the arrows. Got it.
A game that teaches you how to play without tutorials is quite difficult to make (and every player reacts and learn differently), also, Flat Kingdom features new mechanics that are not that common on platform games (the whole combat system, for example), so some tutorials, text screens and signs were necessary. Of course, if you’re a seasoned player feel free to ignore them and go for it!
We really do hope we managed to find the right balance between easy hand holding parts and hard challenging sections. Everything works on paper, but the player has the last word. So when you play Flat Kingdom please come back to this article and tell us your opinion!
Sergio Ortiz – Game designer, animator and overall lovable person. When he’s not playing videogames or watching cartoons he… nah, that’s all he ever does. He also wrote this in third person to look cool.