- Levelhead has arrived today on Xbox One and with Xbox Game Pass
- Keep your first Level builds simple
- Think of Levels as Stories to enhance your designs
Well hellooo there! I’m Sam, co-founder of Butterscotch Shenanigans, and today I’m thrilled to share some tips and tricks to jump start your creativity in our platformer maker Levelhead. Be careful, though, or you might transform into what society has always feared you’d become: a level designer.
Levelhead is all about building and sharing levels, which all starts in the game’s complex level editor – the Workshop. You can build everything from a short, simple platformer, to a full-blown metroidvania, and even pinball.
The Levelhead Workshop will give you access to a dizzying array of elements that you can use to build your levels. There’s teleporting sharks, blasters, keys, sensors, switches, bumpers, springs, treadmills – you name it and it’s probably in there.
All these options can be overwhelming. If you try to use them all at once, you may end up making a level that is truly, truly terrible…. like this:
Especially as you build your first few levels, we recommend picking just a handful of elements and trying to come up with a coherent level design using only those things. This keeps you focused and even has the effect of making it look like you built the level on purpose!
If you’re not sure what elements to pick, don’t worry – we’ve already done the picking for you! Every day brings a new Daily Build challenge that the whole community can participate in, featuring a limited suite of elements. These can really get your creative juices flowing if you’re ever feeling stuck.
Alright, you’ve picked the elements you want to focus on, you’ve got a vague idea for what you want to build… now what?
Many new builders think that drawing out their level is the fastest way to design it, but when they build a level to fit the image they find that it just doesn’t play very well. Why is that?
It’s because levels are not experienced based on how they look – they’re experienced based on the sequence of interactions a player has with the level.
In other words, levels aren’t pictures – they’re stories!
This is why one of the best approaches to building a level is to write it out as a story. Instead of thinking of your level as a structure or a place that you would draw, think about it as a series of experiences that you chain together. Once you know what the player is going to do and what you want them to experience, the shape of the level will reveal itself as if by magic!
For example, maybe you have this as your experience sequence:
- The player sees the package behind a Golden Key Gate, with the goal right above it. They’re intrigued, but they can’t get in.
- The player must make a Sprint Jump over a Spiketron pit. If they aren’t sprinting, they won’t make it!
- The player has to keep sprinting to jump up and backwards onto the next platform, which is made of Slippy Goo.
- The Slippy Goo platform has a checkpoint for safety.
- The player has to make two narrow spike jumps.
- After the spike jumps, there’s a power-up and a checkpoint.
- The player has to immediately perform a ceiling hang, and missing the ceiling hang is spike death!
- The golden key is after the Ceiling Hang segment.
- The player has to bring the key back by going through all the obstacles… in reverse!
As you read through the list, you can begin to imagine what the level looks like, and all you have to do is lay it out. Here’s an example of how that list turned into a level – see if you can spot the different experiences.
You may notice that a few new elements snuck their way in, like that blaster. As you start to build the level, you’ll undoubtedly think of other interesting things to add. That’s the beauty of building levels – you’ll surprise yourself with ideas as you go.
So you’ve built your level and playtested it until it’s great – now what?
It’s time to share it with the rest of the world, of course! Once you beat your level you’ll be able to publish it, making it available to players across the globe. We’ve created a play-exchange called the Marketing Department that lets you collect hundreds or thousands of plays, no matter who you are.
Building levels is fun, but seeing people play and talk about them is even better. You’re welcome to join our wonderful community in the Butterscotch Discord and share your builds, request feedback from others, and find a great group of creators to draw inspiration from.
There are many more tips and tricks to get the most out of Levelhead – this is just the beginning. Grab the game today, and I’ll see you around the Workshop!