Level Design Tactics for a Galaxy Far, Far Away...
There have been a ton of games that were created within that galaxy we love far, far away. So, when Disney Channel asked us to be the first studio to create a game for a brand-new world in that galaxy, we were as excited as dancing Ewoks on Endor.
We were eager to find out more about this new world. What dangerous surprises would be awaiting there? If you’ve watched the new animated series Star Wars Resistance on Disney Channel, you will know that this new world is named Castilon, an ocean planet located in the Outer Rim which is entirely made up of water and home to the aircraft refueling station named the Colossus. Ace pilots race each other through hovering checkpoints to determine who is the best starfighter pilot in the galaxy. With the exception of the Colossus, the planet is more barren than Tatooine after a sand storm.
This brought an immediate challenge. How do we create a racing game and keep it engaging, with very few game elements? After further research into the show and taking our first steps into this larger world, we created a plan to invent additional obstacles for our Ace pilots to avoid that were of the same style as the checkpoints. Staying on brand with the show was extremely important. The style of these additional objects needed to match the look and feel of the show.
After getting approval from Lucasfilm on the new obstacles, our next challenge was: how do we ramp up difficultly within the game? Precise positioning of these obstacles within each level of the game would become repetitive and boring to the player. At the same time, randomly positioning them would cause other problems like overlapping objects, the inability to replay and test maps, and impossible areas for the player to fly. We needed a way to control the placement of where different types of obstacles got placed and to balance level difficulty – while still allowing for replayability.
Controlled Chaos! This is a term that we use to explain how we dynamically present content that feels new each time without feeling repetitive, while being able to control what is presented and under controlled circumstances. We approached the level design in a way where we created individual track segments, made up of strategically placed obstacles, and then we randomly ordered them into the world, one after the other, based on difficulty and type.
For instance, in level one, to give the player an easy level and to learn the controls, we only present rings to fly through, no obstacles. So, we simply stacked level segments along a path that only included rings.
Then, as the levels progress, we start to include other level segments that include a few obstacles. We control the randomness of those obstacles, how many, in what order, and of what type. This, along with slightly changing the path’s direction each for a single race, presents the player with a new course to race each and every time.
In addition, we designed different environment to cycle through: bright and sunny, sunset, stormy, and a night scene. This helped diversify the mood of the game play and keep things fresh so that the player would get a sense of location change, while staying true to the show and remaining on the water planet.
Being the first to create a game for this new Star Wars planet was both a privilege and an honor of a lifetime. Disney and Lucasfilm were extremely helpful along the way as we mapped out ideas and discussed playability. They were a tremendous joy to work with. I am proud of the game we produced together and thrilled to add it to that large list of Star Wars games. So with that, I Can Die Happy Now.