Across the entire Quell series, we’ve created over 300 levels. We don’t believe in ‘filler’ content, so we set out to make each level unique. However, we did have a set of design guidelines that helped us shape the puzzles.
Key Design Principles
- Variety. Each level should be visually distinct in size, shape or contents.
For example, in this level from Quell Memento we combine two new features – ice cubes and light beams:
Sometimes, we’ve deliberately used an existing level as the starting point, with the intention of giving it a new lease of life….
This huge puzzle takes the Quell level ‘Illusion of Choice’ as its core, and expands outwards:
We’ve found that adding different types of object can completely change the required solution. To illustrate, here’s a simple layout from Quell:
The addition of light bulbs means a new approach is required of the player…
…whilst the addition of gold pearls changes it even more:
During play-testing, we found that some levels were too simple. We used a few techniques to make them more challenging:
-The Red Herring: If we want to deliberately send players the wrong way we might lure them with some easy to reach pearls. Don’t fall for this!
-The First Move Trap: This is where the puzzle cannot be completed if the first move is incorrect. This can be frustrating if the player doesn’t realise, so we don’t use this often, especially on large levels.
-The Wrap Principle: We noticed that wrapping around the screen can interfere with a player’s natural ability to understand a layout, so we employ this to force a different way of thinking. It isn’t used in many games (although Pacman is a notable exception) and so routes are less obvious to players.
-The Spike Threat: Adding spikes to an otherwise straight-forward level adds an element of danger, even if the solution remains the same. Used sparingly for best effect!
Hiding the Jewel
As a rule, we put the jewel in the last place we think the player would look, so start there first! Some of the hardest jewels are in places you might not realise you can reach. Creative use of pushable blocks or spikes may be required here.
That about wraps up our design exposé for now. Thanks for your interest!