Kings Can Fly

by Firedroid

Difficulty curves

Posted by Willem On May - 25 - 2012

Our level design was a bit of a trial and error process.

At first, our leveldesigner drafted a progress in which the various game elements were to be introduced and used. Then, we all spend several weeks producing a whole range of ‘raw’ levels, that did or did not follow the guidelines.
The leveldesigner then sorted these levels and edited each of them. At this point we had around 60 levels and we did a closed test round with tens of people.
The feedback that followed was a bit discouraging. We had made the levels too simple. We did so to make sure everyone was able to play our game, but it removed the challenge and thus prevented people to be entertained.

It was time to use more theory than practice. Our testers had to rate each level on clarity, difficulty and fun. No surprise that the last two are in close relation to each other. The more challenging a level was, the more fun the people had in solving them. Now you would say: “Of course it is, so you guys just made every level more difficult?”

It’s not that simple.

Next we devised a way to rate our levels more precisely. This was done to give points to the elements and thought processes used in a level, combined with the levelsize and number of fans required to finish it. This difficulty-index reflected the rating our testers provided.

With this, we plotted a ‘theoretical difficulty curve’. The idea behind it was to rise very swiftly to the point where people started ‘to have a lot of fun’. And from that point on rise very steadily. Just to keep the player’s brain working, but without letting them hit a solid wall.

After we had our theory done, the process began to match the levels to their newly determined difficulty. Needlessly to say, it took it’s time. But we’re confident it made the most important part of the game, namely, the puzzles, a whole lot better. And we’re sure people will have a great time playing it.

Don’t worry, we will perform more test rounds with different people to ensure our new difficulty curve is spot on.

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