Behind the Scenes
The Inner Woods
From Concept to Platform Level: A behind the scenes glimpse at constructing a Wild Wood Level
Level design starts with an idea. With the Forest level I wanted to make it huge, dark and foreboding with a variety of terrain. Hare must climb high in the trees as well as explore underground if he wishes to progress.
I then proceed to sketch, mapping out ideas to build each level's overall structure, theme and tone.
Once satisfied with design and 'look', the sketch becomes our guide for creating the level tile-set using Charpad.
Tiles need to be contiguous and link seamlessly. In a lot of C64 games, modern and old, there are few or no shallow slopes and curves in the landscape and the levels can look a little patchwork as you can tell it's made of square tiles. For immersion and feel, It's very important to me that you can't easily see when one tile begins and another ends.
Another important aspect of the tiles set is the background scenery, in this case the twisting roots, background trees and all the lighting effects. Some chars need to be put aside for special items and animations – In the case of the forest, there are underground waterfalls and a special Owl totem you can pick up.
Once some of the tile-set is done I can start constructing the level one tile at a time. I find it useful to have a general layout before you begin so you can plan out routes through the level. Also to work out where to use special enemies or friends, such as the dodgily drawn owl you can see in the layout below!
One thing of interest here is that I use every single tile and char available to create as much variety as possible, making unique areas to explore (the max being 255).
This begins with designing and drawing out a few tiles and then using the resultant unique characters to create more new tiles.
A huge amount of time is spent finessing the tiles to fit in organically with each other, this means considering the shadow effects. In the actual level some colours will be altered in areas during the play to further increase the variety available.
Then, it's a matter of passing the data over to Achim and we can try out the map in the game!
Lots of alterations need to be made based on how easy it is to navigate and where you can add in hidden sections and shortcuts, also judging platform lengths and heights is key.
I would estimate that this level has thus far taken well over 50 hours to build from scratch, and there is still more I want to do! :)
The scroll engine is highly optimised to cope with the complexity of handling all the layers, overlaying sprites, gameplay and logic. Kodiak has re-written the engine from scratch to get everything in and more. Check out his blog for an in-depth behind the scenes!
Planning the Chase level "Moonlit fields"
The horizontally scrolling chase stages are fast and dramatic as Hare sprints across the landscape.
They need a real sense of speed, so of course use of parallax scrolling, splitting the screen into many layers each moving at different relative speeds and overlapping, is required to create the illusion of depth and pace.
Below are the initial parallax layer designs for the first Chase Level "The Moonlit fields"
Horizontal Scrolling Stages
Play-area, highlighted in Yellow
Layer 1: Static moon
Layers 2&3: Clouds
Layer 4: Distant hills
Layer 5: Mid-ground small trees, scarecrows, signs
Layer 6: Massive tree
Layer 7: Play area
Layers 8&9: Foreground bushes and fence
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