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View Full Version : Jackofcourse's Guide to Creating: UPDATED 18/9/09 Section 10 added.



jackofcourse
05-23-2009, 03:31 PM
I posted this in the workshop forum, so thought I may as well post it here too to get the best use out of it. If it's in the wrong section then apologises. Hope it's helpful to some!

I know there's a few threads on creating here but I thought I'd make one based on my own experiences. Instead of them being quite general, I'm just going do it more on how I create and then hopefully this will give you a direct insight into how a specific creator works instead of just a general overview.


1. To plan or not to plan...

Now I know everyone says always plan your level out and while this is definitely a good idea, you have to be flexible with what you're working with too. Many times I have ideas on paper or in my head, and then when you try to put them in the game you realise that it doesn't quite work that way and you have to 'LittleBigPlanetise' them.


2. Getting Inspired

2.1 If you're struggling to think of something else to put in your level just mess around in create mode, play with the shapes and move stuff around, it is a good way to get inspired and come up with new ideas.

2.2 Play other levels, but don't just try and get from the start to the end as fast as you can. Study them, look at how they've been made, analyse the mechanics. The level doesn't have to be amazing for you to be inspired by it, most creators will have at least one thing in their level that you think is cool, it could even be something that's not so great at the moment, but something that has potential and that you can build
upon.
Note; there is a big difference between being inspired and copying.

2.3 Ask friends and family. This one may seem a bit strange. I shall explain, quite a few people who have seen me creating, who have never played LBP and are only familiar with it from watching me for 10 minutes every now and then, have come up with some decent ideas for me. The chances are that they won't be perfect and the idea they have won't be able to be implemented into LBP exactly (which is understandable considering they don't know that much about the creating aspect of the game), but it is something to work with, an idea that you can mould and shape into your own.


3. Aesthetics

3.1 Pick a set number of materials and stick to them. In my levels I tend to I use 3-4 background materials, and then a sponge material for things you have to grab. This technique, I believe, is the best way to make your levels look most Mm like. It keeps them looking polished and ensures that everything compliments each other (as long as the materials you have picked do, obviously).

3.2 Using all 3 planes efficiently is very important. If your level does not need 3 planes then simply do not use them. Using all 3 when only 1 or 2 are required makes the level looks empty and lacking in depth. I tend to just use the amount of layers necessary for what I'm trying to achieve. So parts of them have 3 layers, other areas have just 1. The planes can obviously be used very effectively for decoration and help add to the atmosphere of the levels. When doing this you must be very careful that you do not create problems for the players in regards to plane shifting. Always consider how others may play your level, a good way to physically test this out is to go through your level and just jump around even when you don't have to, this will help you seen if at any time your Sackboy move between layers unnecessarily. As a creator it is very easy to lose sight of how the level works, you know exactly when/how to jump, the general community doesnít, and this can end up causing a lot of (very frustrating) problems with the layers.


4. Pacing

4.1 Pacing is one of the main points to creating a good level. No one wants to be running aimlessly down a corridor forever, Nor does it help if everything is too tightly bunched. If Sackboy is doing nothing but running for ages, it is very uninteresting as a player. Not only that but you are making more work for yourself by creating corridors and platforms that are unnecessarily long. Similarly having everything too close together can lead to frustrating gameplay and can also be a waste if you have some good visuals. Giving them the right amount of space can really benefit the feel of the level.

4.2 Another tip on pacing is to have a safe place after each obstacles/area for the players to rest for a moment (usually accompanied by a checkpoint). This doesnít have to be a big area, something that just takes Sackboy a few seconds to jog past. Personally, this also helps me as a creator. After Iíve created an area of my level, I like to create a small platform and then it allows me to move on from there in whatever direction I like. It helps you see the level from a fresh perspective and ensures you arenít distracted by what you have previously done. It can also help ensure things donít break. By making the level in sections like this it helps split the level up and ensure that everything isnít stuck together (and we all know what kind of problems that can cause).


5. Perseverance

5.1 The way I make things (and this can take a lot of time but I feel it's worth it) is once you think of a concept or obstacle make it in an area away from your level. Usually the first time you make something it isn't quite right and you have to change things...but if you change too many things it can start looking unpolished and ugly, or not working exactly right. Once you know exactly what youíre doing and how you want it to work, start it from scratch and remake it in your level. This ensures that it is built in its most efficient form as there will be no added bits that are unnecessary or parts that are unpolished. Obviously Iím not suggesting do this for everything as it isnít always necessary, but with more complicated concepts it is definitely beneficial.

5.2 Another thing which is even more time consuming is be willing to adapt. Often when youíre making something you will think of a way to make it better, sometimes it can be right at the start of the building process (always nice), other times it can be when it is nearly done (not so nice). My advice is no matter at what stage of the making process you are at, if you have an idea that will make it better, implement it. I spent 2 hours making one part of my level the other day, only to think up something that would make it so much better just as I was applying the final touches. I deleted it all and started that part again. Although it is annoying at the time, when your new improved idea has been made, it is so much more rewarding.

6. Frustrations
6.1 Never get attached to an idea. There will be some ideas that you love, you will implement it, and it won't work as well as you had hoped, it could be that it's a bit fiddly, that it's too hard, or any number of other reasons. Saying 'Well you just have to do it this way and it's easy', is not an acceptable answer. The best levels are intuitive and as a player you always know what you have to do/where you have to go. I've played many levels where you get to a jump or something similar and it is seemingly impossible, you then watch the creator do it and he does something that you would just never think of. Just because it is possible but there's a little 'knack' to it, doesn't make it okay.

6.2 EVERYTHING must reset or have an alternate way across. At no point in your level should you die and then be unable to complete it. Even the best levels have done this and I really think that it spoils a level. Yggdrasil for example, you get to the end of that and you get on a vehicle and it says ''DO NOT LET GO'. The first time I played that level, I let go on purpose, just see what would happen, and sure enough it breaks the level and you are then unable to complete it. If you have an idea but it isn't possible for it to be able to reset itself, or for you to make an alternate route, then scrap it. No matter how good it is, it isn't worth making your level breakable. (Apologises if Yggdrasil has changed, I haven't played it for a while).

7. Score Bubbles = Replay Value

7.1 Score Bubbles. I have a method with bubbles in that I put them in groups of 3. This is probably just for aesthetic reasons and because I believe they look better than one lonely bubble.

7.2 Anyway, my main point to bubbles is the quanity of them in the level. They should be placed into your level where they work nicely. You should never compromise the gameplay or look of a level by having an overly excessive number of bubbles in one particular area, after all, your level isn't about bubbles, they're just secondary.
On all my levels the top score fits between around 4,000-6,000. For the standard platforming level I believe this should be around what the most should aim for. This is all definitely subjective, but personally, I like levels where there is a reasonable amount of bubbles so I can track what I'm doing, and not just be thrown into a pile of them getting a ridiculous combo that you can't really judge or plan. I believe being prudent with them, and only having them in well placed areas also helps the replay value. If I play a good level, and the bubbles have been distributed well, that will spur me on to play the level again and try and get the top score, because I know it's down to skill and not just a matter of getting lucky and being thrown into the bubbles in a particular way.

8. Prize Bubbles

8.1 Prize Bubbles. Now in the past we've all tried to avoid these like plague, but now because we all have the the option to turn off whether we want to collect them or not, they can definitely add value to a level without being annoying.
The following are rules which I believed should be followed when using prize bubbles:

8.2 NEVER put them where they are unavoidable, even with the option of now being able to turn off whether you get them or not, I just don't believe this is how they should be used. Use score bubbles for that. Prize bubbles should be placed in out of way places, places that take a bit of extra effort to reach, maybe you need to poke around and explore to find it, maybe you need some extra special ninja like platforming skills. If you manage to get a prize bubble, it should feel like an achievement.

8.3 Whereas with score bubbles your level should define where they are placed, I believe a prize bubble to be the opposite. If you want to put a prize bubble somewhere good that will have the players scratching their heads, that area will probably have to be custom built to accommodate it. Alot of people, if told 'you can't reach that', will try their utmost to prove you wrong. It's this human mentality that should be exploited here. (Obviously this doesn't apply to everyone, I know an equal, if not more, amount of people who will just want to run through the level as fast as they can and not care about anything else).

8.4 Don't have prizes just for the sake of it, if you don't think there is anything in your level that anyone would find useful, then don't put it in. It really does have to be something special for someone to actually want it. Logic based items or cool contraptions are good kind of things to use. Things like custom made tables and chairs etc should be avoided. Everyone can make them themselves.

I believe, if placed well, both score bubbles and prize bubbles can add a lot to the level. These are just a few of the things I stick to that help ensure a good return on replay value.

9. Sounds effects

9.1 Sounds can really add atmosphere and emphasise on the mechanics that are taking place. A lot of the time I think of a contraption (the stairs that go from 3 to 5 in Tribal Ruins for example) and I think, 'oh yes that will look awesome!!'...then I make it, and it feel a little underwhelmed and that it's not as impactful as I first thought it would be. From experience, this is where sounds can really help. Without them that part seems quite tame and nothing that special or different, but with them, it brings it all to life and back like I originally thought it would be. Here is a few ways that I use them

9.2 Multiple sounds: You can actually use them over the top of each other, so for example doors opening in Industrial Assistance, that noise is actually a mixture of mechanism engaged and metal impact. If you're not getting what you think is right from the basic sounds and the slider bar that changes them, try a few different ones over the top of each other and see how that works. The great thing about this is that you can just keep experimenting until you find something that works.

9.3 Similarly I often place more than one speaker to be used on the same part. I just copy the speaker and place it right next to the original and then change the slider bar on it ever so slightly, this can add a bit of surround sound effect or just simple make more noise so it has more impact.

9.4 The sound being used at the right time is also a big thing. Sometimes it's not always best to just connect them upto the switch that is activating where you want the noise to appear it's coming from. For example sections in my most my levels, I'll have it that you do something, then you'll hear the mechanism noise like something is working in the background, and then after a short delay the mechanics or platform will pop up and do whatever it's doing. Short delays like that and messing around with the sounds so that they're played just at the right time can add a lot of impact and emphasises on the mechanics it is showcasing.

10. Layout and Flow

This is quite a big section and some of the points could probably have their own bit but it's all closely related so I'm going to put it all together. Getting the layout and pacing of the level is very important for the flow and creating those 'wow' moments. While I mentioned about pacing earlier it was more of a general overview as appose to commenting on the different areas in the level.

10.1 The start: I'll start with the obvious thing; it is a good idea to make the opening scene of your level as 'wow' as possible. As everyone knows first impressions are very crucial, especially when the choice of levels is so vast, so ensuring that it looks the best it can is imperative!

10.2 The middle/General points: Gameplay wise it is a good idea to keep it simple at the start, as a rule levels should increase in intensity and complexity as the player gets further along. They're a lot less likely to want to continue if they keep dying straight away. Ease them into the level with some quite simple gameplay at first.

Another good thing to do is if you have one specific contraption or idea that is going to be used throughout the level is to ease them into this at first too. I will use 'Die Save Reload' as my example. The first puzzle is quite simple and even though it is the same premise throughout the level, it slowly increases in complexity and difficulty. This helps move the level along and keep it interesting. Flow is very important!

10.3 The end: Now the ending can be quite a tricky one to get right. I'll split it up quite generally into 3 different types.
Boss fight.
Your average 'walk onto the scoreboard ending'.
Some kind of epic ride.

Now a boss fight is probably the most common. Personally I'm not really a fan of them (as you can tell with the fact I've never made one). I feel they're only worth doing if they're truly innovative. If it's just 'dodge and shoot this massive creature until you hit it enough times to kill it' I'm probably going to have seen it a million times before so it's not going to thrill me. I'd suggest only making a boss if you really do have a new innovative idea that hasn't been seen before.

Just a normal tame ending is a hard one to judge. It totally depends on the level, sometimes it can be satisfying, sometimes it can feel a bit of a let down.

The 'epic ride' can be very good if done well. It doesn't have to be a vehicle ride or anything too complex. It's basically making the player get launched to the scoreboard so they have no choice in the matter. This one is probably totally subjective, but to me, it just feels a little more satisfying than just plodding along until I reach the scoreboard. Once again I would like to point out that just a 'normal' ending is by no means a bad thing. It's just a hard thing to comment on because there isn't much I can say about it. It totally depends on the level itself.

10.4 Length: Now this is a very difficult one to get right and please everyone. It's pretty much impossible. Personally I feel it's better to leave them wanting more rather than less. It's much better to have someone saying 'omg that was awesome, I wish it was longer!' than 'this level is cool but it's kind of dragging...when's it going to end?'. I experienced this with FT2, in my opinion, that level is far too long. I like my levels to be around the 5 minute mark, a level that you can jump in and have a quick blast on. For a few people this is too short, but I think that shouldn't effect their judgement of it, as a level should be rated on what IS there, not what ISN'T. It also depends on how well it flows and moves along, I try to get my levels to flow along quite quickly and feel like you're always on the move, which tends to make the level feel shorter than it actually is. Of course, this is all subjective and it totally depends on what kind of level you are trying to make and what you're trying to achieve. As I stated right at the start of this guide I'm just going off my personal experiences and preferences within LBP.


I will be add more to this when I have thought about it somemore/ if people find it helpful.

v0rtex
05-23-2009, 03:58 PM
Good solid advice. The point you make about using all the planes is excellent. Also the whole perseverance aspect... I've been amazed at how long some things have taken me and at my own patience in implementing them.

For instance - if you've ever played my 00Sack - Betrayed level... the VR Training section, with rooms dropping down into one another... I tore that whole section down and started completely over from scratch on it twice (so, basically built it three times). I was ready to just delete it and move on a few times, but I am so glad I stuck with and got it working.

Thanks for sharing Jack!

Coxy224
05-23-2009, 04:20 PM
Yeah, some very good points well made. I know that it may seem weird to ask non-LBP'ers for help, but it really works. I often ask friends what would be good in a game and then LBPise it :)
Looking forward to anything else you add

Sonic5411
05-23-2009, 05:12 PM
Alot of good points

most of your strategies i already use myself
great minds think alike i guess:p

brnxblze
05-24-2009, 07:02 AM
the VR Training section, with rooms dropping down into one another... I tore that whole section down and started completely over from scratch on it twice (so, basically built it three times). I was ready to just delete it and move on a few times, but I am so glad I stuck with and got it working.

Good thing you stuck with that, I LOVED that part of the level. It was actually my favorite part.

Great advice Jack! Its always nice to get advice from master creators :) .

FlameAtNight
05-29-2009, 05:44 PM
Very, very cool. Really helpful. My level sucks and needed a lot of changs to (try and) make it better. I didn't tear the whole thing down though.

Rustbukkit
06-01-2009, 04:20 AM
All very positive and constructive points... kudos!

As for 2.3 Ask friends and family, you couldn't be more right. On two separate occasions now, I've been struggling with something and completely over-thinking it and trying to implement something far more complex than it needed to be. My older brother was sitting close by reading and watching out of the corner of his eye, when he suddenly piped up with "Why don't you just add an extension off that thing and then attach one of those motor bolt things with a switch connected back to the doo-kickey on that weird looking swingy thing?"... or something to that effect.

Point is... it was a brilliant work-around to obtaining my goal in a much simpler way. The second incident was similar, but I had to make some compromises in my design.

It's always a good idea to get a fresh set of eyes on your work... whether those are the eyes of a gamer or not.

dkjestrup
06-01-2009, 06:58 AM
Nice.

I liked the following parts the best:

Planes. I COMPLETELY agree. One plane is much better than three if they do the same thing. The best thing about your levels was definately the use of planes, which is one of the hardest things to do in LBP.

Perseverence. I also agree. Building something again after you make it once especially. I always end up using extra logic gates and uneeded parts, and building it twice helps.

Constantly improving your level is another. If you really care about your level, look at it, and say, "is it original or fun?" if not, goodbye section of the level.

Eldrazor
06-01-2009, 09:06 AM
Asking family/friends definitely helps... May sound stupid, but it works... ^^

Killian
06-01-2009, 11:15 AM
Moved to Tutorials.

jackofcourse
08-03-2009, 03:00 PM
UPDATE: Added sections 6, 7 and 8 to first post.

Coxy224
08-03-2009, 04:00 PM
I agree fully with the points about where score/prize bubbles should be. Nice additions :)

chezhead
08-03-2009, 09:51 PM
This is GREAT! I stickyed it and thanked you. Well some good advise in a summary was needed... and here it is. Thanks again!

ottleyj
08-07-2009, 04:11 PM
thanks for the ideas, all very useful especially point 2.3 :)

Matt 82
08-19-2009, 02:02 AM
Here is an article from Cracked.com (http://www.cracked.com/article_16196_7-commandments-all-video-games-should-obey.html). It goes over some 'rules' that game developers should adhere to.

It`s over a year old and is about games in general rather than LBP. However, as LBP is pretty much a mini version of the real games industry I think a few of these 'rules' could well be applied to our beloved game.

Didn`t think it was worth making a new thread for and since this is a pretty useful thread, I figured I`d chuck it in here.

croissantbuncake
08-21-2009, 12:56 PM
Thanks Jack, you have just inspired me to tear down a hefty chunk of my current project I had been struggling with so I can improve on it (a giant clock mechanism but nowhere for the hands to go).

I've done it in the past aswell. If you have played my level Steam Paint - Sub-Urbia, the section when you pass the electrified cogs on the moving arms used to be just a boring elevator shaft. And to top it off, I made that change a week after I published the level!

Thanks again for the sound and insightful advice!!

Schwem00
08-29-2009, 09:15 PM
Sothats how your levels were so good. as soon as i played one level made by you and did a seacrch on here to see if you had any tips.

DudeySocks
09-07-2009, 07:23 PM
Hey I Wa Just wondering should i delete all my noob levels in case i get better:confused:

Syroc
09-07-2009, 07:26 PM
No, all (bar one) of levels are still online. Might help people understand that just because your level now aren't very good doesn't mean your future levels can't be good.

Hybrid
09-07-2009, 07:36 PM
i am seeing this now :D
great guide :D

jackofcourse
09-11-2009, 11:34 PM
Added a new section, number 9. Sounds!

iGotFancyPants
09-12-2009, 10:04 PM
Very in-depth guide, Jack! The best out there for sure!! :D

jackofcourse
09-18-2009, 12:06 AM
Updated first post with a pretty big new section. (Section 10).

Rogar
09-18-2009, 09:29 AM
Good stuff. I never thought of combining a sound with itself at a different height, I'll have to experiment with this.

About The End, you can help a "normal" ending be more satisfying by having a good story resolution. Or would that be a different type of ending?

Trindall
09-18-2009, 07:07 PM
Another great addition to your in-depth guide. Great work.

I think you'll need to look at getting another post inserted in there as you'll soon reach the current character limit for the post and it'd be a shame to break up such a good guide.

I think that pacing and flow is often overlooked and something that can be a great asset for a level if subtly and skillfully managed. However in general if a level messes up the challenge curve, pace or flow of a level they've handicapped it a lot and may not even realize it.

nightwing
09-23-2009, 01:39 PM
I'm a little experienced creator and find these guides and helpful tips very useful.

Thanks a lot for the advice!

Although I do feel that beeing good at drawing and creating art is a big advantage as people tend to give a lot easier more stars if you made some cool looking characters / enemies rather than a cool level design.

Littlebigdude805
09-26-2009, 01:35 AM
O_O

my eyes hurt from stareing and reading a glowing white computer screen for so long.

that was all amazeing advise

ill definitly be useing all this in my current level.

i especially like the prie bubble part, some people usually forget to put them in the level in a manner that fits the level.

in my current level you hardly see the actual score bubble unless its in a secret spot. otherwise there all hidden under stickers to make them look like part of the level then when you jump behind these hanging little relics and one of them goes *pop* you go >.> and go back to get the other two.

thats the other thing, i hate single scorebubbles or disordly ones. all (most) of my scorebubbles come in a mini pyramids of three.


thanks for all the helpful advise! :)

Hrtdl
08-08-2010, 07:20 PM
Awesome! this was just the tutorial i was looking for it told me alot of new things and im going to try out all of that stuff right now!
Awesome!
Awesome!
Awesome!
Awesome!
Awesome!
Awesome!
Awesome!

moonwire
08-08-2010, 08:51 PM
Awesome composition of tips and tricks!

I did not saw point 2.3 coming though :p

midnight_heist
08-13-2010, 11:34 AM
Nice guide for LBP platformers. :D
There is a "alot" typo in the first half somewhere.
You should add that you get more points for prize bubbles as well.
The "surround sound" technique is interesting, i'll try it out. :)

Sasukeuchica
10-11-2010, 11:35 PM
Thanks jackofcourse, this guide is really useful for us all

hungryhippo
10-14-2010, 07:55 PM
3.1 Pick a set number of materials and stick to them. In my levels I tend to I use 3-4 background materials, and then a sponge material for things you have to grab. This technique, I believe, is the best way to make your levels look most Mm like. It keeps them looking polished and ensures that everything compliments each other (as long as the materials you have picked do, obviously).

You also have to consider the logic materials; Dark Matter, Dissolve, Rubber, Glass, etc. that are not visibly in the level! This plus your background materials, interactive materials can all add up very quickly...

mutant_red_peas
10-16-2010, 08:00 PM
This'll make my levels THAT BIT better. And that little bit could make a huge impact, like it could win a contest because 1 detail in the level is slightly better than another.
Also in a level I started you can get trophies for significant things. Like there was a tree and if you grab the top branch you can get a Gold Tree Cimber Trophy (in level) or something. I heard from a friend that Anposttellar (right?) used it in a survival. I didn't copy, the way I heard of it was in a dream :P Well, that's all I got on this short lecture.