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Making Games

Level design is too hard

Alright you wee lads, gather ’round the fireplace and I’ll tell you a story from days long past: when I started in games, I started as a level designer. End of story.

I don’t really like level design, because it’s so HARD. It’s like an actual job where you need skill to do actual things. You need creativity and sense of fun & pacing and you need patience to wait for game features to catch up with your vision for a level, before you can know if your idea works. Level design makes my brain melt. I think the syndrome is called toolazyforcreativitynitis.

Operation Balalaika has 50 levels, since it was a nice round number and it seemed like the absolute maximum I could might get done. Considering the years that have whizzed past, that number was too damn high, but in general, most numbers are.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that if the game needs to be released, the levels need to be done. In light of this revelation, I chunked out the list of un-designed levels into an action plan: “design 2 levels per day until they are all done or you are dead“. I guess that death part can be taken as an option or a threat, but nevertheless, it worked, because all 50 levels now have a semi-coherent design!

I took screenshots of the levels in the game, then filled the gaps with new hand-drawn designs.

A recommendation for any budding level designers out there: if you have the self-knowledge to know you like to go to the dentist, and that you enjoy getting repeatedly punched in the face, it’s possible you have the mentality needed to become a level designer! Just kidding. You don’t actually need to like to go to the dentist.

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