View Full Version : Testing and breaking your own levels

10-19-2009, 05:23 PM
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a patient friend who will painstakingly go through your level to try to find all the flaws. Even fewer are lucky enough to have one who is willing to do this several times a week.

The rule of thumb is that it's better for someone else to test your level for you, but there are some steps you can take to find the more common flaws by yourself before asking for help.

When making a level, creators usually test to make sure that when the players follow the "correct" path nothing breaks. This is an essential part of the process, but because of this the parts that are tested rarely deviate from the "correct" path and this leaves a lot of undetected flaws.

Here are a few steps you can take to detect those flaws yourself. These are also good steps to take when testing a level for someone else.

1- Become a kleptomaniac
Try to find every object in the level that is not nailed down (such as characters, carts, skateboards, sponges, boxes, candles, fruits, etc) and drag (or push) it around as far as you can take it with you in all directions. Oftentimes you will be able to use those objects to jump into areas you weren't supposed to reach or break contraptions in the level by throwing the objects into them.

2- Opposite land
You'll often have placed arrows, instructions or other indications to tell the player what to do and where to go. Do the exact opposite. If told to go right, go left. If told to press a button to continue, try to continue without pressing it. I can't count the number of times I've gone left at the start of a level, and simply fallen off the edge or walked endlessly because the creator never thought anyone would disobey their suggestion to go right.

3- Jump down
Whenever you are in a building, in an elevator, crossing a bridge or simply walking on the ground, try to jump down. Oftentimes this won't do much, but sometimes you'll be able to fall right out of the level or reach places you weren't supposed to reach that way.

4- Explosives go boom
If you are ever given an explosive device, try to blow up *everything* on screen. If you can, take the explosive away from where it's "supposed" to be used and try to blow up other things with it. Anything not made of wood, metal or stone is vulnerable to explosives, this also includes scoreboards and dissolve material. Blowing these things up can seriously break a level.

5- Exploding Sackboy
Before reaching every checkpoint, after entering a boss room, while riding a vehicle or after passing a puzzle or contraption, make your Sackboy blow up using "Try Again". Sometimes, it will be impossible to return to where you were at all. Other times, you might realize that the last checkpoint is very far away and that it might be good to put in some additional checkpoints.

6- Sharp corners hurt
If you see any corner that is less than a 90 angle, try to intentionally run into it. Sackboy has a tendency to get crushed easily by sharp corners and this is especially true when given a jetpack.

7- I can fly
When given a jetpack, try to fly in every direction and see where and how far you can go. Also, try to grab everything that looks grabbable (switches, walls, doors, floors, platforms, lights, etc) and pull it around in all directions while holding the X button to see if it can break.

8- Treasure hunter
If you see a hole, a platform or an empty space behind a wall that looks like it might be hiding treasure (even if you know there's nothing in there) try to find any way possible to get there. Often, you will be stuck once you manage to get there.

You don't have to fix every flaw that comes up. The most important ones to find and fix are those where the level becomes impossible to finish and those which could make the level annoying if you happen to die accidentally.

I hope this list helps people make their levels better and if anyone has any other suggestions for common ways to break your own levels, feel free to post them here and I'll add them to the list with credits. :)

10-19-2009, 05:28 PM
Thanks. I pride myself in being a good tester of my own work since when I play the level I attempt to shut my brain off... I figure if people are more stupid than me mindlessly playing the level, then they deserve whatever they get, lol. Then I try to play it as a bug-finder, trying to cheat the level in any and all ways. Good advice, though.

One other thing. When I playtest every so often, I leave the checkpoint at the very beginning. Some people move it as they progress - not me! I figure that forcing myself to play through the beginning of the level a gazillion times, it will be the most fool-proof. This is key because if a player manages to find something wrong early on, they will be more likely to get frustrated. As they progress further, they will be more forgiving in any problems they encounter (as they've invested so much in the level already).

10-19-2009, 05:30 PM
I've tested levels, and used the exact same method, thanks for posting :)

10-20-2009, 05:11 AM
This is actually very helpful advice. It may seem obvious, but most of it you don't do, as you usually treat your level very nicely, and try to play it the best way possible to avoid extra work.

08-13-2010, 12:21 PM
Just wanted to say this is a great little guide on how to break levels. :D
Nice work.

08-13-2010, 01:04 PM
Quite a nifty list of things to do to break a level.

I got another step for breaking levels though it does require another player (or another control):
Distort the Camera:
always walk far apart or/and different directions. Sooner or later you might find that tiny bit of DM you hoped no one would notice because you put that camera to make it unviewable. or so you thought. It is always irritating to figure out the camera for multiplayer as often more is shown and you got to create a little more around everything :/

08-13-2010, 01:37 PM
@moonwire: That's good advice. The camera is really annoying like that sometimes. Even worse is when having multiple players causes the camera to take on odd angles and makes it nearly impossible to calculate distances between layers for jumps.

It's possible to test this with only one controller by placing a checkpoint nearby and quickly changing the controller's number. A new Sackboy will appear from the checkpoint and the "ghost" Sackboy will stick around on the screen for about 5 or 6 seconds, giving you some time to walk away.

08-14-2010, 09:35 PM
Oh, I have one that I use:
X jump from bounce pads. If you time it at the peak, sometimes sackboy flys much higher than you anticipated.