Ever hooked to a game which makes you forget the rest of the world? I bet Dota players can answer that well. One of the several reasons for the success of the video games like Dota and word games like Wordalot is their level designs, where each progressive level brings about new experiences for the gamers. This blog post describes the importance of level design, factors to consider while designing levels;and measuring level progression through analytics. The blog uses Wordalot by Mag interactive as a case study to demonstrate level design.
Level design is a section of the game development process which is dedicated to designing game stages, progressively complicating them as the players gets along.
Levels are designed keeping target audience in mind. It’s an iterative process, and based on game design. However, user progression is measured through funnels. Funnels help us answer questions like how many users cleared level 1.
Level design enhances user engagement and have direct impact on revenue potential and users review.
What is Level Design?
Level design, also known as “environment design” is a stage in game development process dedicated to designing game stages, and progressively complicating them as the players gets along. Usually a level editor is used for designing levels.
As an example, let’s talk about the game ‘Wordalot’ by ‘Mag Interactive’. The game includes pictures and a crossword puzzle. The puzzle solutions have to relate to picture.
In this solved crossword puzzle we see cart filled with balloon. User has to find words related to picture. Hence grass, cart, baloon and butterfly are filled in game. A level design for this game means identifying words matching the corresponding picture and adding gradual complexity as the user progresses in the game.
Initial level have relatively simple images, fewer and smaller words.
Why Level Design is Important
Level design is the most important part of the Game Development Process as it defines how people play and stick to your game; and in short like your game. It primarily impacts on
- User engagement
- Game revenues
- Game ratings
User engagement is defined as how long and often players play a particular game . Users will only stick to the game if they find it interesting. The longer the people play it, the better it’s engagement. Uer only keep returning back to the game, if he has a new puzzle to solve or a new quest. Better the level design, better the engagement.
Level design significantly impacts revenue potential of the game One way to monitize word games is by showing ads every at level completion. Hence a game with better level design can show more ads to a user, hence earning more revenues. Few games also sell hints through in-app purchases. So harder the level, higher the probability that people will pay.
When your game is interesting, people generally prefer to rate your game positively and even recommend to friends. Hence, a good game level design keeps people engaged and recommend to friends.
Factors to consider for level Design
There are some important factors that you should consider while designing levels.
Target audience & platform
For an interesting game level design, it’s imperative to define target audience and target devices.
Games that are targeted for a younger audience would have easier levels and would reflect to pictures and items that interest them more. E.g. Scary Teacher: Word Puzzle Game By Z&K themed the word game to teacher and have interactive dialogs and easier levels for kids. Whereas Wordalot is for 18+ and has a fairly tough levels.
Another important aspect that often needs consideration is the target platform. This generally helps in defining length of each level and the graphics used for the game. PC Games differers from mobile games in terms of level progression and complexity. PC games can have lengthy quests with heavy graphics while mobile games tends to have shorter levels.
Another important aspect of game level design is level progression and its difficulty. If the stages get boring or monotonous, users will loose interest quickly. Similarly, too frustrating levels can also frustrate the user. Its a tough challenge but every game defines how to enhance difficulty for its users. ‘Wordalot’ slowly enhance level complexity by adding more words to crossword and using complex scenes in pictures.
Making the player ‘feel’ intelligent is important too. Giving them gradually challenging tasks according to the level of skill set required will help keep them entertained.
Levels that talk about the same story makes the overall game too boring to play. On the other hand, introducing a wide variety to your game can help enhance its engagement.
Wordalot , add variety by adding complex pictures; and adding ore words in the crossword. On one level you can have a picture related to nature depicting colors and pretty flowers, the very next level the picture may have a crime-scene. This way the game doesn’t become too monotonous and helps players enjoy new questions.
To make the game interesting, you can also introduce game economy like gems or level upgrades which can be used to open up new challenges. For wordalot, you can collect coins with each level upgrade and purchase word hints to be able to resolve some challenging situations. This indulges the players to keep going and work through to collect these in-game gadgets for a more attractive game-play.
Measuring level progression
Now we know the importance of level design and how it can impact your game acceptability in the market as well as revenues. Few people refer to it as science, others call it arts ; we on the other hand, consider it a mix of both.
Initial levels are designed based on market research or intuition. However they are measured with strong analytics to see level progression. Analytics help us closely measure users progression through various levels. There are various game analytics platforms available including facebook analytics, Game Analytics, Google analytics to name a few. Most tools are available for free of cost.
Analytics provides a method to measure progression, known as funnels. Funnels helps us map user journeys and answer us questions like
- How many users started level 1, and amongst those completed level 1?
- Of those who failed level 1, how many eventually tried again and cleared level 1.?
- What percentage of users cleared level 45?
Answers to these questions, help us understand level progression and tweak levels based on our understanding. You can read more about analytics at “Measuring Game performance through analytics“
Level design is an important part of the entire game development process, and requires deep expertise and skills in designing levels. At GenITeam Solutions, we have experienced level designers who can build engaging games. Please contact GenITeam Solutions if you are looking to build or improve your existing game.