How to design a level.

  • I recently added some new mechanics to Jumpsmith, so now it’s time to make some new rooms! I want to show you how I go about designing a level.

    Animated gif of Jumpsmith level creation

    Animation of level creation

    The first thing I do is add a checkpoint. While designing a new level, I play the heck out of it, and I end up falling on many spikes and jumping directly into many fireballs. With a checkpoint, I don’t lose any time running back into the test area.


    Next, I try to think of a new way to use the mechanics. The shooters, which are little cannons that launch fireballs and other various objects, can be set to shoot whenever a player jumps. I’m going to use that feature in this room, so I’m going to make some spike tiles that obstruct the player’s path across the room. They’ll have to jump to get over the spikes, and that will trigger the shooters.

    Jumpsmith spike towers

    I hope you like to jump.

    I think it’ll be cool if the shooters in this room are shooting towards the player, so they’ll have to go “upstream”. In this screenshot, I’m using the directional pad to tell the shooters to launch fireballs to the right, towards the checkpoint. Notice that the level editor tells you exactly which buttons to use on your game controller to make the level.


    To shake things up a bit, I’m going to make the top shooter launch a spike boulder instead of a fireball. The spike boulders will shoot up and to the right, and gravity will make it fall down in a nice arc.

    Jumpsmith spike boulders

    You can get some interesting results by mixing shooters with different bullet types.

    Time to test the game! In Jumpsmith, you can press ‘M’ or the back button on your controller to instantly swap between editing and testing a level.

    Jumpsmith first test run of new level

    This screen is far harder than it looks, even for someone who is working on the game 8 hours a day.

    The test went well, but I still want to add one more object to really tie the room together. I haven’t put any nice oriental rugs in the game, so I’ll use a spring. The spring is going to be interesting because it’ll allow players to get the effect of a jump without triggering the fireballs and spike boulders. As a bonus, it’s fun to see the spike boulder get launched off of the screen by the spring.

    Jumpsmith Adding a spring

    The spring really ties the room together, dude.

    The basic idea of the room is done at this point. If I was making a game just for myself, I could probably call this room done. However, I’m making this game for other humans. They might find this room to be too hard, so I’m going to raise all of the objects two squares so they can just run underneath it and get to the next room if they get frustrated.

    Jumpsmith bypass

    I think it’s nice to give the player an opportunity to skip a tricky room.

    Of course, I still want to reward the players who can get by the trap, so I’ll add a coin and make a wall that is just high enough to keep out players who skipped the obstacles. I’ve also added another spring, so people can get the coin without triggering the fireballs.

    Jumpsmith adding escape spring

    One more spring to give the players a safe exit…

    The final step is to pretty up the room. I can change which graphic is drawn to each tile without affecting how players interact with it. At this time, Jumpsmith tilesets contain 49 possible graphics for each kind of square. Also, there’s nearly 150 different tiles for foreground art. Most of the foreground art is set up to interlock and/or tesselate; that’s how I made the big torn banners on the top of the screen, and the columns at the bottom of the screen.

    Jumpsmith finished room

    The room looks much more polished once it has a few different colors.

    That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this. Jumpsmith will be available soon for PC, Mac, and Linux. You’ll be able to make levels of your own, and have up to four people explore them at a time with local multiplayer. Be sure to follow this blog, twitter @foundtimegames, and Facebook for updates!

    UPDATE: Jumpsmith is available now!

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