How the level design of Outer Wonders evolved

How the level design of Outer Wonders evolved

#outer-wonders #design

Hiya ! This second blog post of 2021 is about introducing the little-known, yet essential job of level designers. In other words, you will learn more about how we design puzzles for Outer Wonders!

Starting out with paper

Our first ideas for Outer Wonders date back to 2017, and Lyra started designing her first draft puzzles for the game in 2018, while Peacebringer was designing the first pieces of technology for the game.

Picture of a notebook page where Lyra drew puzzles for Outer Wonders

Feel free to try out the puzzles above! As a reminder, your goal as a player is to find your way from the start (marked with letter D) to the end (marked with letter F), while taking into account the slippery maze constraint: once you start moving in a given direction (left, right, top, bottom), your move continues until you hit a wall.

We will be posting new puzzles on a weekly basis on Twitter and Facebook; feel free to come and try them out!

As the project progressed, Lyra did a lot of research and came up with a detailed method for the creation of puzzles.

Picture of a notebook page where Lyra described her methodological research steps on puzzle creation

Implementing a level editor

The technological work carried out by Peacebringer paid off and a level editor was created, along with a game prototype capable of playing these puzzles.

Screenshot of the level editor in the middle of editing a puzzle

Transitioning from paper to this tool required a significant change of habits, but it empowered us to create puzzles much more quickly in the long run.

This tool greatly enhanced our capacity of iteration in particular. Drawing, erasing, doing, undoing, redoing, copying and pasting, all of these operations are much easier to perform on a computer than it is on a piece of paper!

Adding scenery for enhanced visual richness

In order for Outer Wonders to reach a state progressively closer to its final state, we have progressively implemented new features in our tools to set up scenery for levels for enhanced visual richness.

Here is an example of what the puzzle shown in the level editor screenshot above could look like once the scenery has been set up.

Screenshot showing scenery added over the level shown in the previous screenshot, based on soil, grass, shrubs, flowers, trees and rocks

Although it actually depends on the puzzle's size and visual complexity, we are now able to create a couple of levels per day, and are looking to increase the quantity and quality of levels produced in order for them to exhibit a less blocky and more organic design, and to create a full-featured open adventure, as described here.

This concludes today's blog post! If you're curious about Outer Wonders and would like to try out new puzzles, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to our RSS feed to keep informed about our latest blog posts! A Discord community server is also on the way!

See you soon!