Outlying the Stage

A simple stage of a platformer

When designing a platform game, it’s pertinent to find the right balance of challenge and enjoyment. Make it too hard and the player will quit due to frustration. On the other hand, make it too easy and the player will beat it in mere minutes. Furthermore, it’s important to determine this balance in, or near, the beginning of the game development’s cycle. This is to help instill that balance throughout the game to reassure the player the balance won’t take a massive shift unless warranted.

The Fun: Laying out the Mechanics

Move, Jump, and Interact: these are the 3 basic mechanics that many platformers share and it is from these mechanics that will help generate more mechanics. For example, Flying is essentially a prolonged Jump and Move while Rolling is an enhanced version of Move.

And yet, with more mechanics thrown into a game, it will require a moment to teach the player how and when to use it. However, that moment is highly dependent on the game and the type of mechanic. For instance, some mechanics, like power-ups, might be better suited for the player to discover on their own. On the other hand, other mechanics, like mechanics to help beat the stage, might be better suited in a tutorial.

The Challenge: Planning out the Platforms

Like many games, if there is little to no challenge, there’s little reason to feel like you’ve accomplished something after beating the stage or even the game. And if they don’t feel like they’re spending their time wisely, they’ll likely move onto another game. As a result, it’s important, especially in platformers, to remember to make the game challenging but not difficult for the sake of making the game difficult. It might be nice to place the platform far away where only a timed jump can allow the player to land on that platform, but without any power-ups or indication when the player should jump, it will drive up the frustration the player is feeling.

On the other hand, some games will take this feeling and turn it on its head by increasing the difficulty rapidly and in the beginning. This is to help drive the point that only the most dedicated players will finish the game and when these player finally complete this game, it will feel like an accomplishment only a few will know.

Regardless of what position you’re after, whether it’s to increase the difficulty rapidly or at a slower pace, it’s important to keep it consistent.