Archives for posts with tag: level design

Hi all,

It’s the second Saturday of the month which means its time for a now Kana Quest Devblog! Last time I said we were going to unpack several choice levels from the game, and what makes them good levels. And that’s exactly what we are gonna do. So

Now if you’re new here, Kana Quest is a cross between dominoes and a match-3 game that teaches you to read Japanese. You match sounds between letters, and when all letters are connected the level is complete.

GoodLevel1.png

This is the fourth level in Kana Quest and is the first level that consistently stumps players. Up to this point levels have been made to get the player used to moving Kana around, and understanding that stone Kana can’t move. This is the first level that actually tests the player’s understanding of how Kana match. So, how is this achieved? It is achieved by asking the player two simple questions; “In what order do the three movable letters need to be in so they all match?” and “Now that I have the order of the three movable Kana, how do I position them so that the one stone Kana also matches?”. These might seem like very simple questions, but there are a few factors that make them a lot harder than you might suspect. The first thing is that, this is the first time the player has had to order 3 Kana. Second is that all of the Kana have been deliberately placed so that the player has no matches, this means they are effectively starting from scratch. Thirdly the number of potential configurations is way higher than all levels up to this point. Finally, because the stone Kana is placed in the centre of the board, it means there are a total of 4 different correct solutions. But it doesn’t guide the player to any of those solutions in of its self. This forces the player to pay attention to the sounds of each Kana, and use that information to solve the level. Not use the shape of the level to tell them the solution. This is not to say that using the shape of the level to guide the player is a bad thing. It usually is a great thing to do, especially for more complex levels. But the purpose of this level is to test the player’s understanding of how Kana match.

 

GoodLevel2

The next level I want to look at is the final level of world 3. So where the previous level was testing the players understanding of how kana match, this level is testing the players understanding of one directional kana. One directional kana, are a lot of fun to play with because of how the restrict the number of potential arrangements of the kana. This is useful because it can be used to signal to the player the shape of the solution.

This level is set up so that there are only 5 possible positions for each row that could be the correct position. This helps the player start with a very strong sense of how to solve the level. But there are two curve balls in this level. The first is the one normal Kana (の) at the top of the level. Because this kana could potentially go anywhere in the level, the player has figure out how to best utilise it. The second is the one directional す on the right of the level. This says to the player that one of the three rows to the left of it need to be all the way over to the right, but you need to figure out which it is. When these two elements are mixed with each other they create an ideal puzzle. A puzzle where the player has a strong idea of their goal, but they still have to work for it. One last small detail from this level that I like is the blank one directional kana. These serve to prevent the player from trying red herring solutions. Red herring solutions are fine to have, but each red herring still needs to lead the player towards the solution. If a red herring just leads the player down the wrong path and leaves them at a dead end, you need to get rid of it, as it will only aggravate your player.

 

GoodLevel3.png

So for the last level that I want to talk about today is from the ninth world. If the first is an example of a good introductory level, and the second was a good intermediate level. This is a good hard level. So what makes this a good hard level? Well, honestly the same thing that’s made the previous two good; You know what your goal is, but you don’t know how to get there. This level achieves this with the り in the centre of the level. Because it is central, and it cannot move because it is a stone kana, the first thing the player will do is look for the other kana that match with it. In this level there is the transform kana (the rainbow coloured one), the ice ろ, and the paralysis ひ. The paralysis ひ has to end up to the right of the り because it can only be moved once before turning to stone. This leaves three spots left for the ice ろ. This puts the player on a strong starting direction for the level. But the thing that makes this level so challenging is that because of how ice, paralysis and one direction kana work, if the player makes moves carelessly they will trap themselves and be unable to complete the level. Once again, the needed end state is easy to determine, but how to get there is the challenge. The only real difference between these three levels is that they make the “how to get there” part more complicated.

Anyway, that’s the Devblog for this month. Hope you enjoyed. I’ll be back next month on the second Saturday of the month. I haven’t figured out what the topic is gonna be, but ill figure something out. Until then, take care!

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Hey all, This week we are going to do a review of the Ice Kana mechanic. We’ve done one of these reviews before for the One Direction Kana. Basically what we are going to do is discuss how the mechanic works, how difficult it was to implement, how it plays, and how much design space it has.

So how do Ice Kana work? Ice Kana can be moved in any direction freely but will keep moving the direction they were moved until they hit a non-moving Kana, a blank space, or the end of the level.IceTileDemo2.gif

Ice Kana cannot be moved with each other as if they could there would be situations where tiles would move forever. Also whenever an Ice Kana is moved, regardless of how far they move it is counted as only one move.

 

So how hard was it to implement Ice Kana into the game? The initial implementing wasn’t too bad. The debugging was the killer for this one. They way the game handles Ice Kana is by checking if either of the two moved Kana are Ice Kana, then if there is an Ice Kana it iterates the “move Kana” script until the Ice Kana makes an invalid move. This was pretty easy to do as it relied on preexisting logic that was solid. The hard part was managing the undo function.  The undo button will log each step of an Ice Kana’s movement as individual moves so I have to tell script at what points an Ice Kana is moved so It can group each of those moves together and undo them all at once. This part of implementation was a nightmare. The last point that was a hassle was the animations. See because I have the Kana faces animated, whenever I want a different set of images for a different mechanic I am forced to make new animations for them. But I hear you saying “Isn’t that a LOT of individual animations?”. Why yes it is. There are 46 base Hiragana, but I have to double that number for each Katakana. Okay so there are 92 animations? Nope, because I have that many animations for EACH mechanic that uses the animation system. So far that is normal kana, stone kana, ice kana, paralysis kana and slime kana. Now slime kana only actually has 16 animations because it is only applies to あ、い、う、え、お、や、ゆ、and よ (I’ll go into why when we review slime kana). But even if we take that into account we still have 384 individual animations. And let me tell you Unity is NOT DESIGNED to have that many animations going on at once. TryingToAddNewAnimations

See this clip is how you add a new animation into Unity. You have to scroll down the list of existing animations until you get to the bottom where you can select the “Create New Animation” button. It is one of the most infuriating experiences I have as a game developer.

 

Anyway, but I don’t have to worry about implementing it anymore! How does it play? Actually pretty good, it can make some really interesting levels. However Ice Kana are certainly the hardest mechanic in the game for the player. Which I’m fine with. The first three worlds are pretty easy and its good to have a mechanic that can really challenge the player. Personally I enjoy solving these puzzles but what I enjoy and players enjoy are often two different things. So I will still have to do a bunch of testing to make sure the world 4 levels aren’t too difficult. I know for sure that the last two levels of world 4 are by far the hardest in the game.

IceTileDemo3.gif

But I think if I can get the difficulty correct I think players will really like Ice Kana. It will just take a bit of tweaking and balancing to get there.

Finally, how much design space does the mechanic have? Well, LOADS this was one of the first times I finished making a world’s levels and thought “I could probably make another ten interesting levels here”. They interact with One Direction Kana wonderfully, and I am certain they will work really well with future mechanics yet to come. So I am really happy with how they’ve turned out. My one biggest concern is just how difficult players find them.

Wrapping up. I think Ice Kana are a great mechanic that I will probably end up using liberally in future levels, but I do need to be careful of the difficulty. Having some levels be a challenge is fine, but not if players find their brains melting. And while debugging them was a royal pain, I am very happy with where they have ended up.

What do you think of the Ice Tiles? Let me know in the comments! But until next time, have a great week!

Hi Welcome to the Dev Blog for Kana Quest. If you’re new here and have never seen or heard of Kana Quest, read this blog post for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Kana Quest. –> https://kipentheodor.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/kana-quest-primer/

Otherwise read on to hear about what’s been done over the last week!

So I have one and a half months till PAX Aus hits. And I am officially freaking out. There is so much to do and so little time for me to do it. I still have to get Kana Quest onto Steam so I can take preorders at PAX. I still have to implement some sound into the game. I still have to organize my booth’s set up. There are still some bugs that need to be ironed out. I need to make an awesome trailer to show off my game. And finally the one thing that has me worried most of all, my tutorial is still awful.

The tutorial has always Kana Quest’s biggest weakness. I tried to sit down this week and think about all the common misconceptions people have when they sit down and play.

  • They think they are writing words.
  • They think Hiragana is Kanji and start freaking out they don’t know the meaning of each letter.
  • They don’t understand they are trying to match sounds.
  • They don’t understand the win state.

So how am I going to prevent the player from thinking these things?

I

Don’t

Know

That’s it. The reality is I’m just not sure. But I cannot afford to give up. So here are some ideas I have that hopefully will help fix the problem.

Idea 1. Completion Gauge: So most people when playing are not sure what their goal is. If I give a visual representation of how close the level is to being completed it will better communicate the goal. I think it will help players know how close they are to completing a level, but not necessarily understand why they are completing the level.  CompletionGauge2.gif

As you can see I have already started work on this idea, mainly because I think this is my best one. To get this working though I have had to change how I handle checking whether or not the level is complete. Now the game will find the largest group of Kana in the level. Before the game would only actually check the group size starting from one location. I had to change this as if that starting location was the last to be connected it would be very easy to have a situation where the gauge goes from zero to full which would only confuse player further.

Idea 2. Show the Player the Hiragana Table: So the idea here is to show the player the whole Hiragana table after they learn their first three Kana. Hopefully this will demonstrate to the player that Kana are phonetic letters and not Kanji (which are pictorial). The other great advantage of doing this is I prepare the player for all the characters that they will learn. That way they don’t freak out that they are going to have HUNDREDS of Kana to memorize. HiraganaTableGif.gif

Idea 3. Show the English Sounds Matching in Tutorial Levels: The idea behind this one is that the player doesn’t get to see where things are matching. While this is a core part of the gameplay later on, for the tutorial the most important thing is that the player understands the core mechanic. If showing the English for a little bit will achieve this I’ll try it!

Idea 4. Change the Structure of Tutorial Levels: So the idea here is that I increase the size of the early levels but not increase the difficulty. What I’m thinking is a really long level with the same Kana repeating but with stone Kana to limit movement. Coupled with the completion gauge hopefully this will communicate the idea that creating matches is the goal.

So those are my ideas on how to improve the tutorial. They aren’t perfect so if you have any ideas, PLEASE TELL MEEEE! I’ll see you all in a week’s time where hopefully I haven’t turned into a stressed out wreck.

This week was a big week for Kana Quest because as of writing, all the levels in the second world are complete. So for this week’s devblog we are going to look at how I go about making levels.

Before getting into it I just want to include a quick intro to some of the terms that I will use in this devblog.

Kana: The individual game pieces in Kana Quest. They are also letters of the Japanese alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana).

Match: When two adjacent Kana share a matching sound. Eg. KA N–> Matching “A”. Matches are important as they are how you complete levels in Kana Quest. When every Kana is connected by one chain of matches the level is complete.

Mystery Kana: The main mechanic of the second world in Kana Quest. They are represented with question marks both in game and in hand drawn notes. The player must pay attention to what the Mystery Kana matches with to find out the sound of that Kana.

Ok that’s that. Onward!

 

So what is step one? The first thing I will do before I make a level is to make a mental note of a couple of things. For example: What kana has the player seen before? What kana have been introduced very recently? How many moves did the last level need to complete? How many different possible configurations did the last level have?

That last one is really important. As it is the biggest determining factor of a level’s difficulty. For example look at the following mock levels.20170902_161642.jpg

Both levels have the exact same Kana, and require the same amount of moves to complete but A is significantly easier to complete than B. And it comes down entirely to the amount of possible configurations of the Kana. One of the first levels I ever made for Kana Quest was a 3×3 level with a Kana in every spot. It only took 2 moves to complete but no one could ever complete it.
20170902_163949.jpg

So once I’ve made a note of how difficult I want the level to be, using a pen and paper I start drawing down the idea of what the level should be like.

You can see this happening here. I start out with an idea for a level where you get two normal Kana to try and figure out lots of different Mystery Kana in the level. (Top part)

Once I realize the limitations of the level concept I rearrange things to ensure the level plays well (Middle part).

Finally I write down the solution to the level and the number of moves needed to get there. (Bottom part).

Once I’m happy with my first draft of a level its time to get it into the game!

To do this I have to give unity (the game engine I’m using) the following things. 1. The dimensions of the level (In this case 3×6). 2. Make a numerical list representing each of the Kana starting from the bottom left of the level.  (In this case the list is 12,47,20,47,47,310,47,307,47,322,47,105,-1,106,-1,108,323). 3. Tell unity how many Kana there are in the level. This allows unity to know when the level is actually complete. Once you do all of this you get…LevelDemo

One level, ready for play-testing! I will usually play the level once or twice to make sure that it is possible and I know the minimum number of moves needed to complete. Then I will give it to play-testers who let me know if the level is too hard or too easy. Then I will adjust accordingly.

If you have any questions about the level making process feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.

That’s me for this week. Have a great weekend all.