Lesson Preview

Teach Level Design
with Planetoid Pioneers

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Theory

Creating a Level

This lesson teaches you the basics of level design and how to apply these skills to Planetoid Pioneers.

Teacher Resources

  • Theory: This lesson teaches your students the basics of level design and how to apply these skills to Planetoid Pioneers.
  • Play: The students continue learning game modification by modifying their copy of Planetoid Pioneers.
  • Share & Discuss: These topics focus on level design and game design overall.

Designing a Level

  • Originally coders were the ones who created levels in video games, nowadays level designing is a seperate profession

  • Most early levels usually introduce the game mechanics and later levels require you to master the game’s mechanics.

  • The Level Designer may define:
    — The shape of large surfaces
    — Where scripted events occur
    — Where the game’s characters and resources are
    — The start and end of a level
    — The aesthetics and theme of a level
    — The pathfinding nodes of characters and how they react to events in the game

Electric Shocktopus
Level 21 of Electric Shocktopus

Teacher Resources

Discuss with the students:

Tell the class: The game designer is, in commercial game projects, a leading figure who determines the game’s common rules. The level designer does the same work in smaller game projects, because he invents the rules which the computer is programmed to follow.

What to Design?

What to Design?

  • Setting, location and theme
    New York Bridge, Underneath, Nuclear Winter
  • Set of Features
    What do you want your player to experience?
  • Reference and Research
    Set design and prop reference.
  • Objectives, Obstacles and Set Pieces
    What can happen in the environment?
  • Focal Points
    Landmarks.
  • Draw the layout
    2D sketch of the level for Planetoid Pioneers
  • List of things
    List the work you need to do to make the level work?

Teacher Resources

You can continue the conversation on how levels are designed. The examples of the slide are hints from www.worldofleveldesign.com with slight alterations. In practice, a school project does not require the organization of a real video game company, but even a little organization goes a long way.

Ask the students: Think of the games you’ve played. What kind of elements can you find in the game’s levels?

(Note: The answers can be something such as “traps”, “monsters”, “floor” and so on. If someone says that they don’t know, you can ask the students to consider the cat and mouse game. What kind of elements can you find in cat and mouse?)

Tell the students that game elements can be either static opponents (floors, walls, spikes, pits) or dynamic opponents (all scripted opponents, mobile traps, monsters and puzzles).

This lesson primarily focuses on static opponents and design in Planetoid Pioneers.

READ:

WATCH:

Play

Lesson Goal #1

How to design your own level and how to make one in Planetoid Pioneers?

Opening a Scene

A) Open the game and go into the editing mode by pressing F2. Open the Scene Library by pressing F5. Select the Blank Planetoid by double-clicking it. The new planetoid should open in the window.

B) Move into the Editor and make sure you are in the SCENE menu (The green ball or 1 on the numpad)

C) Rename the scene (e.g. “My New Scene”). When the scene has a new name, the game creates a new planetoid with that name in the library.

D) Save the Scene by pressing Save Scene.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

These instructions can be skipped if the game is familiar to the students, but for review it’s a good idea to go through them, even if only quickly.

Editing a Scene

The options and controls of the layers section's table:

  • + - Create new layer
  • Visible - Change the visibility of the selected layer
  • Lock - Determining whether the layer is editable and movable
  • Index - Which layer the object is on. (Minus is farther away, plus in front of the pioneer. Pioneer is in the layer 0.)
  • TOs - The number of Terrain Objects
  • Notes - A place for potential notes you may wish to make

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Suggest to the students to continue in the Edit mode and find the Layers segment beneath Scene. Afterwards, tell the students to press the Unlock All Layers button. The level of a game object can be changed with the two round buttons in the modification tools (see the image above).

The Layers section has a table, which may look more frightening than it truly is!

Note: You can change the direction of the screen by turning following gravity on and off from the compass in the bottom left section of the screen.

Creating a New Level Element

You can create a new terrain object:

  1. Choose the Texture Library (F3).
  2. Click on the object.
  3. Click on the level.
  4. Press Insert.

Bend the object with a Bézier curve:

  1. Click on the terrain object.
  2. Choose the Bézier curve tool by selecting the image of the slightly misshapen box.
  3. Twist the object into the shape of your liking.
  4. Leave the editing mode and test the game. You’ll notice that pioneer can collide with objects that have collide on, even if they are in different layer.

Gameplay screenshot

Placing objects into the background:

  1. Test object placement into the background with the buttons in the bottom left corner of the tools. Remove the collidable tick in the Physics section (pictured).
  2. Save the scene.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Tell the students to create a new level element in the game, so we can try bending it with a Bézier curve.

Make sure the students are in the SCENE editing mode (press numpad 1).

Note:

  • You can edit the terrain usually without restarts.
  • If you edit the object underneath the pioneer or turn the collision off, the object becomes matterless and the pioneer drop through into the planet’s core.
  • The objects in the background work per the rules of the layer table.

Adding Objects To a Scene

  1. Open the Activity tab (Numpad 8)
  2. Open the Blueprint library: F6
  3. Select_ Fauna Bird Norma_l and bring it onto the screen (the letter F, click on the screen and press insert). Note: You can enable the scripted behaviour here!
  4. Save the Scene in the editor’s Activity window and reload it (F9)

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Let the students know that if the students want to bring dynamic objects to the game (that exist in the level as soon as it begins) they must set them as so in a different editor’s Activity tab. The Activity tab the objects that belong to the planetoid have frames around them.

Note: The bird should work and attack you. If the bird flies away from the planetoid it is incorrectly set in the blueprint tab instead of the activity tab! (While the game is running you can add objects to it). The Activity tab the objects that belong to the planetoid have frames around them.

Lesson Goal #2

The goal is to create a new asteroid in Planetoid Pioneers. You can use earlier designs. Remember to include enemies for the pioneer and background graphics on different layers.

Teacher Resources

Tell the students that the goal is to design their own asteroid. This assignment can be completed in groups or on their own. This assignment can also be assigned as homework or combined with an arts lesson: for example, the students can create graphics during arts class and move them to the game as images.

Share & Discuss

Share & Discuss

  • What kind of elements were in the levels you made?
  • Did the levels have a theme or story?
  • Did you use the game’s graphics or did you import your own graphics to the game?
  • What kind of backgrounds did you make? How many layers did you use?

Tasks after Playing

What kind of problems did you run across while designing your level?

Show Notes

A common problem with level editing is that you may run out of ideas. This means that you must simply design the level beforehand, because game creation is difficult without prior planning.

What kind of organization would it require to create a level for a commercial project?

Show Notes

Clear organization helps. Many game designers settle on the theme first and then scour the Internet for references on the subject for more ideas.

What kind of things can you make with the Planetoid Pioneers editor? What can’t you do?