We’ve been doing a ton of level design lately, and felt like for this development blog we’d like to share what that process has been like for us.
The difficulty that Hexile is experiencing with its level design at this moment is how we can restrict movement and create progression (gatekeeping) in such a mutable, fully interactable and manipulable environment. Progression requires a limit on how players can move about--in our case, as a platformer, those limits take the form of physical walls and physical doors, that are restricting the player’s movement until they’ve reached whatever objective “unlocks” the door.
A complication we’ve been running into is that our environment manipulation--one of the tenets of our game--is based around freedom of movement. We’ve had to exaggerate the kinds of physical barriers that we use (cliffs, fissures, etc.) to make them truly impregnable. This in turn makes it difficult to blend those barriers into the environment.
We’ve also had to get creative with the kinds of walls and doors we implement in the more featureless parts of our landscape, like in the Desert. There, puzzles pop out of the ground, since that’s really the only surface we could use to limit progression, and we also use fog as a sort of non-physical environmental barrier.
In a game with quests, and a meta distance between the player and the character, you have an understanding that people often serve as locks or barriers--you have to complete some task or “quest” associated with them in order to advance. In a game like Hexile, where we’re trying to remove or minimize that metagame component, a traditional quest system isn’t something we can rely on as much.
As we get deeper and deeper into the meat of development, things like freedom of movement and how much direction and restriction we want to give players to create a rewarding experience is something we’re paying a lot of attention to. We’re excited to share more soon! Thanks for reading.