Kings Can Fly

by Firedroid

The quest for level exploits

Posted by Willem On July - 11 - 2012

We discussed how setting and maintaining a difficulty curve helps with keeping people interested in your game. However, the player can only experience it correctly if your levels provide the challenge intended by the designer. Our test data provides us with information about how many fans users place in each level. When compared to the intended solution we sometimes find differences, indicating that testers used solutions that shouldn’t be possible. One could argue that having multiple solutions is a good thing, and if it’s intended it certainly is. The problem is that we cannot guarantee a continuous difficulty curve when the levels are not solved using the ‘balanced’ solutions and players might not learn the things they should have. In short, with unintended solutions to the levels, we lose control of important aspects of the game and might end up with confused users. The hunt. Now that we know which levels are solved using incorrect solutions, we’ll have to dive in, look for the exploit and plug it! If the exploit can’t be found using our eyes and the game, we use a tool. It’s neither finished nor very… user friendly, but KAI (Kings’ AI) allows us to find solutions we might’ve missed. A solution found by KAI.
For example, we didn’t foresee the possibility to use the mountains on the right to remove the need to use your lift-fan twice.

The intended solution, drawn with a red line. This is the intended solution. It’s more difficult and teaches the player to reuse the lift-fan. To enforce the correct answer, we removed the problem piece of mountain. It usually comes down to shifting groups of hills around, placing bridges or removing low-land. Roughly half our levels have been modified to prevent exploits. Making challenging puzzles is hard!

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