Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 33

Thread: Sonic Level Design (Alright, guys, 101 on good level design, pay attention Dimps)

  1. #1
    Senior Member GREG THE CAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Looking for forgiveness...
    Posts
    4,679

    Lightbulb Sonic Level Design (Alright, guys, 101 on good level design, pay attention Dimps)

    http://forums.sonicretro.org/index.p...dpost&p=671798



    So I asked if people wanted to see a guide about Sonic level design, so here I am. This is a rough draft version which I'm posting so that I can get input in and revise any areas that may seem off, or add anything people want to contribute.



    The Basics



    If you're reading this guide, you probably want to know how to make a Sonic level. I think the best way to get ones mindset ready to do so, is to view a Sonic level like this: There's a point A, the beginning, and a point B, the end of the act. The player must get from point A to point B. The player can get to point B by taking numerous possible routes. Sonic levels are no linear equation. There is always forks, alternate routes, hidden routes, and usually there is not a single main route at all.

    Routes



    It's hard to simply 'categorize' the way a level can be set up, since there can be so many varying ways. You can't really say a Sonic level is made up of one route, when there's almost always more than one way to get to the goal. No single route is the “right” route, but each route provides a different experience for the player to blast through the level at various speeds. There are three main types of routes, however, that tend to exist in Sonic levels:

    • High route: This is the highest route on the map. It's more often than not the fastest route, but it's also the most tedious to stay on. Often there will be rewards on this route, such as invincibility, speed sneakers, or 1-ups.
    • Low route: This is the lowest route on the map. This is usually the least speed based route, and most platform based route. Depending on the zone trope, it may be the safest route or the most dangerous place to be (see: water zone).
    • Average route: This is any main route(s) that lie within the middle of the level, and connect to other routes, including the high and low routes in various ways depending on the level.


    It's not as black and white as this though. Each game has handled these kinds of routes, and how they interact with each other in their own way. To add, these choices are also influenced by how the level itself is designed. I think it'd be easiest to go through each of the main three games and elaborate.



    Sonic the Hedgehog



    Sonic 1 is the best game to study if you want to get the basics down. Sonic 1 differentiates from Sonic 2 and 3, in that there's more direct routes, rather than constantly branching and switching layouts. However, both of these scenarios exist in Sonic 1, but by Sonic 2 the reverse was more common.


    Green Hill Zone Act 1 is the first zone a lot of people probably played Sonic through, so it's no surprise that all the basics of Sonic level design are found here.




    • Red Line: This is Green Hill Act 1s most iconic route, aka the one most players will venture through.
    • Pink Line: This is the lower route, where less seasoned players of Sonic games are likely to end up. Take note of how a careless player is likely to end up here if they dabble around on the crumbling platforms. There's more traps here too, but they're not unforgiving.
    • Yellow Line: This is the higher routes, where explorers are likely to end up. Notice how it's a lot harder to stay up on this route.


    Take note of how no single route is a straight line. Sonic levels are always going up and down, in a way like a roller coaster. Even the alternate routes follow this pattern.




    Sonic 1 also has the two exceptions to the entire "route" system. Marble Zone Act 1 and Labyrinth Zone Act 2 are completely linear. Hydrocity Act 2 and Hill Top Act 1 kind of lean in this direction, but it's not as extreme.




    • Red Line: The only route. I don't think I need to elaborate any further.
    • Yellow Line: These are small branches you can check out. Nothing more than making the level a bit less straightforward, and having a place for the levels goodies.


    I wouldn't advise using these kinds of levels in a Sonic hack or fan game, mainly because Sonic 1 was in many ways the developers discovering how Sonic worked, as they went along. Compare MZ 1 and LZ 2 to the likes of SLZ 3 and SBZ 2.





    Sonic the Hedgehog 2



    Sonics famous sequel brought a lot of improvement to the level design in Sonics formula. Lets take a look at Emerald Hill Zone Act 1.



    • Red Line: This is the main route most people go through. Of course, after the 3rd loop, there tends to be no difference between what's the -main- route, since any curious player may end up in the 1-up tunnel, or hit the spring and end up on the higher route. This is what I mean by how flexible routes are. There's a lot of freedom for the player to explore.
    • Pink Line: This is the lower route, where less seasoned players of Sonic games are likely to end up (once again). The amount of traps is more evident, and like in Green Hill, the player is more likely to end up here if they goof around and then mess up by falling into a pit.
    • Yellow Line: These are branches and forks in the one route that lead to another route, so basically, mini-routes.
    • Orange Line: This is the high route. Part of the red line was in a way the high route too, but since this is a route you can climb higher to after starting on the main route, I'll consider it the high route. Notice that nice run you get at the end through a loop and two corkscrews (followed by a devious spring to keep speed runners on their toes).


    Now lets move on to Chemical Pla-



    Good Lord.


    Chemical Plant Zone is probably one of the reigning kings of Sonic level design. The zone is abundantly rich in alternate routes, high speed non-linear coasters, with minimal confusion. I left out that looping pipe by the two rings and shield monitor, but since it's a dead end anyway it's not a big deal.

    • Red Line: This is the main route most people go through (once again).
    • Orange Line: This is your first high route, though considering how easy it is to stay on, and it's only a small length longer than the red line, it's hard to say. The zone in general is focused on speed. It eventually becomes the main route for the rest of the act.
    • Yellow Line: These are branches and forks in the one route that lead to another route, so basically, mini-routes.
    • Light Blue Line: This is another shot at a "high" route within the first normal route. It's hard to notice if you let the spring there force you to the left, continuing on the initial route.
    • Light Green Line: The only real notable "low" route that you end up in for not being careful.


    Overall, take note that there's less of a "main" route, and instead just several possible roads that are constantly intersecting and joining together. This doesn't start becoming evident in Sonic 1 until around Star Light Zone.
    Dost thou wish to know the dreadfully dreadful televised animate show as of the moment being? Adventure Time as I believe it's called.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    117

    Default

    You should post this in the Sonic 4 section.

    Also, read this on Retro, very helpful and insightful.

  3. #3
    Senior Member GREG THE CAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Looking for forgiveness...
    Posts
    4,679

    Default




    Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles

    I don't see much of a reason to elaborate here, since it holds the same points as Sonic 2, but on a much higher scale.



    Sonic the Hedgehog CD

    CD follows the same basic groundwork, but is a bit of an oddity since its level design is influenced by the time traveling gimmick, so I'll leave it out.





    Know Your Level

    No single level is exactly the same, and neither should your levels. Lets start with loops.


    Loop Designs





    Look at all these loops. Each one from a different type of zone, and each one with its own design. Some designs are similar to others (Green Hill to Palmtree Panic, Emerald Hill to Angel Island), but there's ultimately enough differences to make each loop unique. Loops shouldn't randomly be slapped into levels. They should at least give -some- contribution to the level design, which means the top of the loop will be part of the level design. Obviously Hill Top and Casino Night are a bit of odd cases, so they tend to lean around this. Hill Tops is for the sake of getting Sonic to break the ground, so it's top isn't as necessary. Casino Nights is more for giving a flashy exit to the pinball charger. Don't overdo the inclusion of loops. Plenty of zones don't need to have loops at all (mainly caverns, industrial sites, space ships, and a few other levels fall into this).


    Level Theme and How it Affects the Layout
    (This is probably a point I should be emphasizing much more) You should always be aware of the kind of zone you're making. Just the theme of the zone will make the layout of the zone.



    Look at how the terrain is handled in each of these grass zones. It isn't just a sudden slope. It goes up like a real hill, be it a steep hill or a small, steady rise. It looks like realistic terrain but at the same time still smoothly curved for the most part. In these kinds of zones, even the straight paths have a bit of bumps in them, much like real earth. Now lets look at zones with man-made floors.



    Entirely different scenario here. Floors are at direct angles or straightaways. Ruins are also man made, but depending on how ruined they are, they might follow the hill type mentioned above (Aquatic Ruin, Marble Garden), or the more obvious man-made pattern here (Sky Sanctuary, Hidden Palace), or in some cases, a mixture of both (Marble, Sandopolis).


    It's your zone though, this is where you start making the calls for your designs. How will your loops loop? How will your slopes be designed? Try to look at other Sonic zones, and expand on those ideas, or even do all new ones. Make crazy loop designs we've never seen before! Make a tally-whacker loop next to adderall pill shaped slopes for all I care.


    Ultimately though, each zone should look unique. Oil Ocean and Metropolis have the same kind of small slopes, but their theme and scenery makes each one stand out from the other. Emerald Hill has slopes at a similar angle as those too, but they're much more bumpy and slope-y, like real grass. If you keep these things in mind when making the tiles for the level, or drawing it out, then the level will practically form itself.


    Never Too Many Gimmicks
    Cont.
    Dost thou wish to know the dreadfully dreadful televised animate show as of the moment being? Adventure Time as I believe it's called.

  4. #4
    Senior Member GREG THE CAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Looking for forgiveness...
    Posts
    4,679

    Default



    Corkscrews, Pinball Machines, Bouncy Mushrooms, Pulleys, Sloped Elevators, Flame Throwers, just to show a few


    Every level should have gimmicks, and there should be a lot of them. Without gimmicks, you have flat dull level. Imagine Chemical Plant without the tubes, mega mack, blue balls, stair platforms, etc. It's not so interesting, is it? Again with matching the level theme; a gimmick usually matches the theme of a zone, at least somewhat. A high amount of them is essential though. A lot of fan games and hacks have fallen short by not introducing anything new to the table. Lets say you have a water zone. What would be something cool to make it fresh and original?



    Here's a quick example I came up with. The player is walking around in a water ruin. They come up to a ledge, but don't notice the ground crumbling. Suddenly they fall into the pool of water, which has a whirlpool in it. The whirlpool sucks the player into the lower water levels. If the player is quick on their feet though, they can avoid the whirlpool by jumping. Neat little gimmick, and it teaches the player.


    Know Your Engine
    This is something I see missed quite often in fan games. People will make level designs in their fan games unaware (or don't care) that said level design isn't flowing so well with their game engines limitations. After Sonic Zero got some people playing the demo, I was made aware that a player could easily stick to the ceiling of pipe tiles if they hit it at just the right angle. That's not a favorable outcome. The pipe collision has since been redone to where there's no curves underneath a pipe for a player to get caught on. It's all part of the learning process. Know what your engine is capable of, know how it handles even the basic of slopes, and work your level design around that. If you don't, you're gonna start making some goofy level design that your engine won't be able to comprehend the way a player would expect it to.


    P.S.: Don't be afraid of path swappers. They can take some difficulty in figuring out, but once you get the hang of it, there's a lot that you'll be able to do in level design, and can result in some very crazy and fun levels!




    With that, I think I've covered most of the ground work on level design. I'd love to hear some opinions on each point, if I missed anything, or if something isn't making sense. I wouldn't be surprised since I'm half awake right now. Heck, if someone wants to write their own interpretation or guide I could just add it to this post.


    Anyway, I'll close with a few miscellaneous acknowledgements.





    Misc. Stuff




    This Stupid Thing




    If there's a pit, it should be obvious there's a pit, and thus something you won't jump down to. If it isn't obviously a pit, then there shouldn't be a pit there at all. If the level is a sky, space zone, whatever thing floating over an abyss zone, then these signs definitely don't need to be there. Just the trope of the level should signify if the player needs to be aware of pits. Hill Top? You're up in the mountains, best better watch your step. Sky Sanctuary? You're in crumbling ruins in the sky. Don't fall. Have fun. These signs just warn the player of death without the learning experience. It's holding your hand through the game for you.



    Whatever-the-hell these things are called


    I'm kind of on the fence about them. It's all about if you can execute them right, and if they belong in the respective level. For example, these kinds of slopes don't really belong in a tropical level (Splash Hill), but it could work if said tropical level was like a seaside bluff or something. It's all about execution and if such a slope fits the level theme.


    Springs

    Let these things expand the level layout. Don't make it to where they carry Sonic through the level with no interaction on your part other than hitting the first one. This means your use of diagonal springs probably won't be too high.


    Red Rings

    I've talked to people that like these, and I've talked to people that are less fond of these. They add a bit of replay value, but if you make it stupid easy and have a short amount of levels, that replay value won't last long.
    Finish.
    Dost thou wish to know the dreadfully dreadful televised animate show as of the moment being? Adventure Time as I believe it's called.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dr. BaconStein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    3,693

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GREG THE CAT View Post
    Every level should have gimmicks, and there should be a lot of them. Without gimmicks, you have flat dull level. Imagine Chemical Plant without the tubes, mega mack, blue balls, stair platforms, etc. It's not so interesting, is it?
    I think perhaps, more important than the gimmick itself is being able to lay it into the already existing level practically instead of trying to make an entire level out of them. That's when it becomes repetitive and bland, like the yellow spring levels in Colors and the gushers in Crisis City Act 2. Both neat concepts, but they could be further expanded upon if they were part of a full level instead of just placing them one after the other. The same goes for floating platforms and such.

    Quote Originally Posted by GREG THE CAT View Post
    Whatever-the-hell these things are called

    I'm kind of on the fence about them.
    Because you don't understand their purpose. It's actually a clever type of ramp. The "elbows" are so you can launch off near the top of the curve to reach a higher path without losing too much speed. If it's a downward elbow, then the goal is to jump off before you run down it to reach a higher path or jump off while running down it to reach the bottom faster. The modern 2D games allow you to get some insane air using structures like this and other uphill slopes, which create the opportunity to reach a higher path faster.

    There's a hill in Green Hill Zone Act 3 that allows you to do something similar: http://soniccenter.org/maps/s1z13.png

    It's right after the loop.

    I agree on your point about the death signs as well, but they're usually optional anyway. I find it interesting that you're targeting Dimps seeing as they usually don't seem to have a problem with slopes, loops, gimmicks, or any of this.
    Last edited by Dr. BaconStein; 03-20-2012 at 01:25 PM.

    2014: Year of the Android (again)

  6. #6
    Senior Member mslurr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    NOT HERE!
    Posts
    2,556

    Default

    The problem with Dimps is enemy placement; they can't figure out when there should be a platform or an enemy, and don't know that when you're going amazingly fast not in a ball, there shouldn't be an enemy right there.

    Toggi, PLEASE
    Quote Originally Posted by Heliumbunny View Post
    Slurrsie? c@5u@l? (laughter) n0.

  7. #7
    Senior Member FireBain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Oedo
    Posts
    433

    Default

    Wow, I wasn't expecting a fairly detailed explanation of how to do good designs. Good job! Perhaps I should continue sometime with my understanding of power up placements.

  8. #8
    Senior Member the Ys guy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    DC
    Posts
    16,312

    Default

    I see your heart may be in the right place but your form of arguing will only get backlash.

    Present both sides of the aguement and make your seem better otherwise this thread is only for supporter of the classic game. Some how you must present the level design of bad games and compare them. I destory argument when I do this
    Alright school is getting hard now...... seriously good bye
    http://forums.sega.com/showthread.ph...sucks-or-rules

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kevassa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Argentina
    Posts
    831

    Default

    This is a great informative thread.
    Makes many great points.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Noog09's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    1,841

    Default

    Chemical Plant - woah.
    Official Number 1 Metal Sonic fan

    Looking for 3DS/Wii U friends. PM me if interested!

Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •