Level Design Is Boring

Well, it is. I’m trying to design levels for Shootah, but I’m always worried that they aren’t fun enough, or not long enough, or that I’m just not any good at it. I’m probably not. Then there’s the chore of having to play them over and over again for testing. Obviously I’m not just writing a game for myself, but if I’m sick of the sight of it, then it’s hard to get motivated to continue.

So here’s an idea I’m mulling over. Instead of levels being a rigidly-defined progression of enemy waves leading up to the boss, instead they will be generated randomly during play. Each level will have access to a set of “waves”, with each wave representing a pattern of enemies, and each level having a larger set to choose from, including all waves that came before. Waves will be randomly selected from this list and thrown at the player to destroy.

I had always intended to add a traditional “score multiplier” which increases as enemies are destroyed and counts down if the player fails to cause enough carnage. With this new level format, the boss will only appear once the user gets their multiplier to a certain level. This means that a skilled player can lurk on an early level for quite a while, deliberately not letting their multiplier get to the point that it triggers the boss, and racking up a big score on easier enemies. This is a worthwhile tactic, though to prevent it from being overused, waves will have a difficulty parameter that will increase as the level goes on, affecting things like the number of hits enemies will take, and their relative speed. Eventually the player will be forced to trigger the boss as the level gets more dangerous, so there will be a delicate balancing act between holding back to rack up easy kills and allowing the level to get too tricky.

Hopefully this will increase the game’s replayability, both for the end-user and myself, provide some interesting and unusual mechanics that aren’t often seen in the bullet-hell genre, and keep me from getting too bored with level-design. I still have to come up with waves and new enemies, but don’t have to continually tweak timings and order.

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