Paul O’Connor, Oddworld Inhabitants (from “Secrets of the Sages: Level Design”) [1999]

Secrets of the Sages: Level Design [Hosted by Gamasutra]

Date: 23/07/1999

Author: Marc Saltzman


Paul O’Connor, Oddworld Inhabitants

As lead game designer on Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, Paul O’Connor has learned quite a bit about game design (not to mention that he’s been designing games in some form since 1981). O’Connor provides a different take on this chapter, since the first two Abe’s games are “side-scroller” platform games, in 2D.

O’Connor asks, “Will the player understand the level, puzzle, or situation? Is it clear to the player what he must do to solve the puzzle? Is it fun?”

As each Oddworld designer works on his own levels, and as the order of those levels sometimes isn’t determined until late in production, how does this particular level fit into the overall game flow in terms of difficulty and what you’re demanding of the player? If this level requires mastery of a specific [mechanism], has that [mechanism] already been introduced earlier in the game? In other words, is the level design and difficulty level appropriate for the anticipated placement in the final game? How does this level advance the story of the game? What vital information does the player gain by completing this level? How does it connect with the preceding and following levels?

O’Connor comments on sketching out levels:

I do, occasionally [sketch out levels] if the situation is novel. The level editor we used on the two Abe games was flexible enough for use as a composition tool. Usually, I’d just sit down in front of the editor with a rough idea of how many screens the budget would afford for this portion of the game, and a notion about the type of play I wanted to accomplish in this area, and then go from there.