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flakmagnet
10-20-2008, 01:59 PM
Please note that this is all intended to be constructive criticism and is not aimed at any one creator that anyone has seen and are general rules that will make your levels more fun to play, and stand out amongst the rest.

Bear in mind these aren't all exact rules, and in some cases these rules SHOULD be broken because your idea or concept is different enough. These will cover about 75% of levels. Please feel free to add your own pointers on here to help others build great levels.

1. Be original. Mario Bros 1-1 again? Another rocket sled level? Unless you've got a really unique twist on the idea, it's probably not worth making again.

2. Playtest, for all skill levels. Play your level through at least 3 times from start to finish. Play it to your skill level, and then try to perform better. Is it too easy? Is it too difficult but you can finish it because you built it? Lastly, play like a novice. Unless you are trying to make an intentionally difficult level, make sure that a newcomer could complete it too. If you can, get a good range of players to test the level, from youngsters to the older generation, and from first time gamers, to those that can complete Mario with their eyes shut. Ensure you have hit the difficulty level you wanted. Consider adding more or less danger or checkpoints to help things along. Or make them harder.

Take a break when you feel you're done testing. Come back and play your level after an hour or so and see if it's still easy. It may have been easy after playing and working on it for several hours but might not be so easy for someone completely new to the level.

3. Playtest, playtest, playtest. Whilst testing your level, make sure you have checked all the traps and death areas. Do you end up springing a trap and making the rest of the level impassable with one mistake? Is that what you wanted to happen? If no, make sure that the trap is automatically reset or can be reset by the player. You can't see everything in the first few tests. As you play your level more and more times, you'll notice more things, and polish it more. Unglued objects (The end of level computer not being glued down and being knocked away is a common one), things that shouldn't be there, vehicles that aren't working properly, make sure there are as few bugs as possible before publishing the level.

Additionally, ensure people cannot accidentally or on purpose, skip parts of your level that you don’t want them to. Catapults, rocket powered anythings and un-bolted jetpacks are common ways this can happen. Consider adding a roof or patch of horrible gas to your level if necessary. Additionally, if you are catapulting towards the end of the level, ensure something stops sackboys after they reach the scoreboard, otherwise they can end up miles past the end of the level.

4. Decorate your level. Too many levels are too bland. Unless that is intentionally your look, put some time into making your level look different, use the decorations and stickers well, and create a look that goes along with your level. Also, use music. No music for a whole level is a turn off. Don't forget to put in sound effects. The options are pretty amazing. Just a simple creak or crack adds to the ambiance of the level and helps create a fun environment. It's always a nice touch. I suggest doing this when you feel you're done with the layout of the level. Don't forget to change the visible option to OFF if you don’t want speakers in your level.

4.A. Pick a theme for your decorating. The opposite of course is a tendency for people to just start tacking on every imaginable sticker in all the wrong places. For example something so seemingly insignificant as the colour on an arrow showing where the player should go. If your level is set in a temple and has a serious tone then putting a neon pink arrow in there (versus a thin black one) really detracts from the overall look and atmosphere of the level.

5. Put some thought into your enemies. Too many enemies are being made on just one plane and are easily ignored by skipping up or down a plane. Restrict a player's movements onto one plane or make your enemies wider. Just make sure they are still either killable or avoidable.

6. Prizes should be worthwhile. In the Beta, I had collected over 25 rocket sleds and variants. There are 20 enemies who all look very similar to each other and personally I wouldn't ever use any of those 20 in any of my levels. (There are some others which are good that I may use). There are some decorations I've seen that hurt my eyes seeing them in a level. I don't want to have to keep staring at them in my pop-it. Just because you made it, doesn't mean you have to give it away. Put some real thought into your prizes. A good reward is one you want to use or at least see again.

7. Replay value. A good reward is also one you have to work for. Lets say you have just created a brilliant boss and you do want other people to have the chance to use it. Don't just give it away if it's not the end of your level. Hide it well, and make it a challenge for people to find the good stuff. Only the dedicated should get their hands on your new uber-boss.

It doesn't even have to be anything big. An example: There is a score bubble clearly visible above you but it's inaccessible, next to it is what looks like [whatever], with a sticker switch on it. At the end of the level, you unlock a sticker. This sticker you can put on this sticker switch you saw before and you get this score bubble. It's very clever, and gives a reason to replay the level.

8. Replay value again. To keep a player coming back, why not put multiple paths into your level. Make them diverge early and not right at the end so that a player is almost looking at a new level when they come back.

9. It might be 2D but there are 3 planes. Use the planes wisely. Some of the best early submissions so far have got some platforming action across all three planes. As a counter-point, don't make it too complicated as the feature in the game of making sackboy jump to a certain plane sometimes can make things difficult for the player.

10. Platforms, not crawl spaces. Some of the platforms are too cramped together to allow any chance at jumping to the next platform easily. Again, unless it is intentionally trying to make the job difficult, make sure there is room for your sackperson to jump to the next ledge and they aren't just going to hit their head on the ceiling above and plummet to their deaths.

11. Play, Create, Share. Play Published levels. The basic things you see around you when playing can give you the most basic of ideas, which can turn into the most advanced. Figure out how they other people's machine work. If these machines have problems, try to fix them yourselves! Recreate Media-Molecule made objects. We all know that Mm created all their items with the in-game tools. HOW exactly did they create them? Find out! In a test level, take out the object and highlight certain parts of the object to see what it is made out of. Then recreate it to the best of your ability. For example, I copied the premade seesaw to see how to make it, and now I can make a seesaw anytime I want!

12. A Creator is not the same thing as a player. Don't just think of yourself as the creator, think also yourself as the player. Remember, the people who are going to play your level DO NOT know what they are doing. So, at some point, you have to think that way. This way, you find those "sticky" situations, where a player gets stuck and has to frustratingly restart a level. It may be that just an arrow sticker is necessary to help make things clearer, and of course, mouths can help too.
This also helps with noticing how complex things can be. Things aren't always as obvious to you as they are to other people.

13. Dying Requests.If you want to make something cool, and can only be done once in that level, be sure that the player can't die after that, or that there's a checkpoint where he arrives.
For example, you get to a checkpoint and find an air balloon, that balloon takes you to a very high platform, that balloon disappears, and then later you die. You go back to that checkpoint and find that there's no more balloon...What does a person do after that?
Restart a level, or leave and never come back.

14. Brainstorm! I know you all hate brainstorming, but it actually works. You think it won't help you, but when you draw/write down loads of words on a page they will form together into the perfect idea for a level. This can be a good estimate for some sort of theme.

15. Bigger isn't always better. Longevity is something you should plan out beforehand. The longer, repetitive levels that drag on are the most annoying. If a level isn't fun, and they end up doing the same thing over and over, they just leave. And why shouldn't they? Players look for accomplishments and fun.
This also applies with short levels. People come to your level to kill some time and have fun. A level should always be more than a few minutes long (Opposed to Rocket Car races...);
Also, never make things impossibly hard, that also take some time.

16. Complexity, thy name is you. I've always thought this, and the simplest of things are always better. Don't make things dangled up. The execution might be flawed in the end.

17. Give out a worthy finish. As the title says; The ending is always the most important. Think of it like a movie or a story, the ending is a key point. Tied into number 7, replay value, the better the ending, the more likely someone is to come back and play your level again, especially if they have missed some well hidden prize bubbles…

18. Grandma and spelling. If you are going to have mouths and storytelling in your level, check the spelling and grammar. And most of all, NO TEXT SPEAK. No1 tlks liek ths so wai typ lke it? NO ALL CAPS. and no all lower case, in level titles and in speech. It's very annoying, and a huge turnoff. People are looking for serious levels, and it's hard to take a level seriously when its title is like that...Oh and no LOLZ or LMAOS or FTWs either.

19. Publish. Post your work here! Advertise for yourself - do everything you can. Ask for constructive critisism, and don't be upset when you get it, it's a great way to improve. Want someone to revise and edit your work? Post it here! This place is for all the tips, hints and tricks you need to become a better creator. Ask any questions here, and I'm sure people will help you out.
Ask, comment, share.

19.A. Invite your friends Once you publish you level, get 2 or 3 friends in your group and run them through the level. If you have any secrets you want to share, it also adds to them feeling "special" and then they want to bring people in so that they can show off their skills. This is a great way of getting your level played by others, as people will be happy to guide others, and is also a good way to watch and see how and where people who aren't as familiar with the level as you get stuck.

20. Story, Theme and Cohesion. Levels that stick to a story and a certain theme are almost always the best ones. Check out any of MM's creations and you'll see the same. Regarding cohesion, many levels are a bunch of incongrous elements are stuck together and then called a level (ex. a plank of wood hanging from the green floaty material surrounded by sponge with a ball of glass on a square of rock sitting beneath it). Unless the theme of your level is mass chaos you should really pay attention that anything you put into the level matches the theme you have. Nobody should ever play your level and come across something that makes them say "that does not look like it belongs here".


Thanks to Forsaken for a large portion of this, along with Marino, Rabid-Coot, Muttjones, Docpac, Awesomemans, RedPanda and OCK.

That's all for now. Please add your own and I will keep this post up to date with the best general advice. I hope that this helps someone build a better level.

Forsaken
10-20-2008, 02:31 PM
Awesome, you finally posted this!
And it's good you did, seeing as some people already have the game.
This should really help a lot.

moleynator
10-20-2008, 04:09 PM
I think this is great. I was never going to make a rocket car level or anything too short. (unless it is a minigame)

The last point is good too. I posted my beta level here and it got good criticism from flak. :)

flakmagnet
10-20-2008, 04:32 PM
Thanks. It's good to see some feedback on the ideas.

When the servers are back online I will be happy to continue checking out other player's levels and giving constructive criticism and advice.

Danil_boy
10-20-2008, 05:18 PM
This is great, I think I'll use it when I feel I'm making a good level.
And you deserve something for this, grab a cookie! *Gives a cookie to flakmagnet* :D

flakmagnet
10-20-2008, 05:23 PM
*Shares cookie with Forsaken and the rest*

About half of this is Forsaken, there's also input from others in there too, I'm just the one who edited it together. Glad it will come in of use though.

Danil_boy
10-20-2008, 05:33 PM
*Shares cookie with Forsaken and the rest*

About half of this is Forsaken, there's also input from others in there too, I'm just the one who edited it together. Glad it will come in of use though.

Ah I forgot, I guess I'll have to give them a cookie aswell then!
By the way sorry to you guys wich I forgot earlier, but now I'm thanking you!
*Gives a cookie to everyone who helped making this thread/guide* :D

ConfusedCartman
10-20-2008, 11:23 PM
Very good resource. Stuck and moved to the "Help!" section.

RAINFIRE
10-21-2008, 12:21 AM
great post dude and i will be referring back to this a lot when i get the game

docpac
10-21-2008, 01:39 AM
Great resource. I appreciate the props. ;)

One suggestion for number 2 or 3:
Take a break when you feel you're done testing. Come back and play your level after an hour or so and see if it's still easy. It may have been easy after playing and working on it for several hours but might not be so easy for someone completely new to the level.

I ran into this problem with my 'save the train' level. It was easy enough after spending 8 hours working on it.. but I had a really hard time completing the level the next day.

qrtda235566
10-21-2008, 02:11 AM
Can I make some suggestions?

1.Don't put your level in all caps or all lower case
It's very annoying, and a huge turnoff. People are looking for serious levels, and it's hard to take a level seriously when its title is like that...Oh and no LOLZ or LMAOS or FTWs either.

2.Nonlinearity
If there's one thing I know people like is a choice. People will play your level again if they know there's more to it than what they just played. It doesn't even have to be anything big. I saw something very clever before. There is a score bubble clearly visible above you but it's inaccessible, next to it is what looks like [whatever], with a sticker switch on it. At the end of the level, you unlock a sticker. This sticker you can put on this sticker switch you saw before and you get this score bubble. It's very clever.

aer0blue
10-21-2008, 06:13 AM
Very useful information and I agree to every bit of it. I hope to slowly (but surely!) nail down every aspect as I grow into a more experienced Creator. :) Thanks for the good guide, flakmagnet!

OCK
10-21-2008, 07:57 AM
Great work. I was planning to do something similar to this but you have covered pretty much everything. A couple of things I would add though:

Decorate but don't OVERdecorate There seems to be a tendency for people to just start tacking on every imaginable sticker in all the wrong places. You should also think through something so seemingly insignificant as the colour on an arrow showing where the player should go. In other words, if your level is set in a temple and has a serious tone then putting a neon pink arrow in there (versus a thin black one) really detracts from the overall look and atmosphere of the level (at least it does for me, what do you think?).

Story, Theme and Cohesion I personally appreciate a level that has a story and a central theme. One of my favorite levels from the beta was Sky Pirates. It was original, fun and chock full of humorous dialogue that was a pleasure to read. Every level I make will have a story and a lot of thought will be put into what the characters you meet say. Regarding cohesion, I have played so many levels where a bunch of incongrous elements are stuck together and then called a level (ex. a plank of wood hanging from the green floaty material surrounded by sponge with a ball of glass on a square of rock sitting beneath it). Unless the theme of your level is mass chaos you should really pay attention that anything you put into the level matches the theme you have or the story you are trying to create. Know one should ever play your level and come across something that makes them say "that does not look like it belongs here".

aer0blue
10-21-2008, 08:04 AM
Know one should ever play your level and come across something that makes them say "that does not look like it belongs here".

Happened to my level within the Create process. A few times, too... I ended up scrapping whole rooms and starting over, because it just did NOT fit the theme...at all!

So, very good point there.

OCK
10-21-2008, 08:08 AM
So, very good point there.

Thanks. It really seems like not many creators look at their levels from this standpoint and if we all did then instead of what are otherwise good levels we can make make great levels that really stand out. It's all in the details. :)

flakmagnet
10-21-2008, 08:41 AM
Some great tips so far. OP has been updated. Some have been amalgamated into other points as they were similar, some have been added on at the end.

Thanks for the input. Keep them coming.

muttjones
10-21-2008, 10:36 AM
nice this has made me want to make levels more than before.

btw, uh....what did i help with?

flakmagnet
10-21-2008, 01:03 PM
Part of your response to Forsaken's original post about using the older and younger generations to test ended up in point number 2. It was re-worded to make it all the same style, but it's in there.

Forsaken
10-21-2008, 01:42 PM
Lol, even if I did pretty much half of this, I hardly accept the credit =P flak was the one who brought the guide back to life, and reworded some things.

And great info guys, this will be just as perfect with more help and contribution.

RedPanda
10-21-2008, 07:30 PM
Also, to add to "Publish Your Level" - INVITE YOUR FRIENDS! You will probably have more than you want in just a few weeks after the games launches. People I played with on the beta would invite me to their friends as soon as we ran 2 levels together, so I know it's a common thing. Once you publish you level, get 2 or 3 of them in your group and run them through the level.

If you have any secrets you want to share, it also adds to them feeling "special" and then they want to bring people in so that they can show off their skills. :hero:

lordflash11
10-21-2008, 07:38 PM
Excellent :)

flakmagnet
10-22-2008, 09:46 AM
OP updated. More tips coming soon. Thanks again everyone who is putting in their thoughts.

FlowersInHisHair
10-23-2008, 10:25 AM
How about "Don't throw an idea away until you've tried it". Bad ideas can lead to good ideas, and you can always learn from mistakes.

docpac
10-24-2008, 07:57 PM
A few more suggestions. :)

Tinker in the lab.

Try out new ideas or designs before trying to incorporate them into your level. It's always best to experiment or create key parts of your level in a clean environment. This will help prevent any accidental erasing or ungluing of objects or entire sections of your creation.

It's also handy to create objects like enemies, cars, and other contraptions above the actual level before placing them on the ground. This helps to prevent accidentally gluing your object to the floor or other objects.


Try to avoid using overly complicated shapes. You will likely run into the "Object is too complicated" message and fill your level thermometer faster if you use too many curves or jagged edges.

If you get the "Object is too complicated" message, cut the object in half and glue it back together. It is now counted as two separate shapes but should retain the same effect.

floor3013
10-24-2008, 08:50 PM
I think a good tip it to make your levels look professional. Some of the most popular levels I played in the best were all square blocks od wood: euughh! Give some materials some texture, and round of the edges to create a natural, flow-ey look, a lot more real and professional.

THE-FAT
10-28-2008, 02:16 AM
Wow, awesome job. Still reading just wanted to point out a type before I forgot.

11. Play, Create, Share. Play Published levels. The basic things you see around you when playing can give you the most basic of ideas, which can turn into the most advanced. Figure out how they other people's machine work. If these machines have problems, try to fix them yourselves! Recreate Media-Molecule made objects. We all know that Mm created all their items with the in-game tools. HOW exactly did they create them? Find out! In a test level, take out the object and highlight certain parts of the object to see what it is made out of. Then recreate it to the best of your ability. For example, I copied the premade seesaw to see how to make it, and now I can make a seesaw anytime I want!

Think it is supposed to say "the". Thanks for the advice.

BassDeluxe
10-28-2008, 01:59 PM
You might want to put something about the Corner Editor. It's easy to overlook and ignore, but it is extremely useful.

LordDax
10-29-2008, 07:00 PM
Can we get this added to the creator tips?

Of course compiled With the edits, updates and suggestions people have made. Which I have been devouring in my learning proccess btw :)

DaSaintFan
10-30-2008, 04:24 PM
A few more suggestions. :)

Tinker in the lab.

Try out new ideas or designs before trying to incorporate them into your level. It's always best to experiment or create key parts of your level in a clean environment. This will help prevent any accidental erasing or ungluing of objects or entire sections of your creation.

It's also handy to create objects like enemies, cars, and other contraptions above the actual level before placing them on the ground. This helps to prevent accidentally gluing your object to the floor or other objects.



Amen to this.. I count how many times in the Beta version I actually did this, where I'd accidentally wipe out the entire ramps/backgrounds, before I finally realized I should have been creating objects WAY off to the side before dropping them in the game...

Plasmavore
11-04-2008, 06:59 PM
The Answer to 'Creator's Block'
If you have 'Creator's Block' (The LBP version of Writer's block) then just make a large blank level and just create cool objects. Capture all of them and then put them into your levels when necessary.


Another point that leads onto this is, don't just not decorate your level with deco that does not fit, also do not decorate it with objects or materials that do not fit. For example if making an underwater level, you cannnot include a sack material. do you find a bit of cushion in a volcano? Have you ever seen a floating orange in the sky. No sir-ee-bob. I'm guessing.

Pulov Yuran
11-09-2008, 02:02 AM
This was great man, I almost died laughing at the parts about spelling and caps.

Although, there's something I think I'd like to add...

1. Play, create, and share....to your strengths. If you're a good storyteller, try to make the characters speak for the level (though still remember this IS a platformer, not an RPG.)

2. Establish the overall idea of a level early. Try and make the connection with your target audience in the beginning of your level. Perhaps you're not keen to the idea of serious level; maybe you're more likely to opt for a funny level, involving humorous dialogue and amusing situations (beware the line between clever and forced humor). Do this early on, instead of being serious at the start and pulling an Indigo Prophecy in the final leg of the level.

Night Angel
11-15-2008, 03:09 AM
This is a very excellent guide. Thanks to all who contributed!

Bear
12-03-2008, 02:12 PM
This has helped me a lot, before I spent like two hours decorating a small trap, though now I've realised that I could've just changed the material :(

Cheers :D

Little Big Planet Legend
12-19-2008, 08:37 PM
can i have a cookie ?

Miglioshin
01-03-2009, 12:25 PM
Also I have a suggestion:

Try not to be unfair with the player.
I.E.:
Put in a long jump is ok, but not too long, if you miss 1 step is unfair to fall down.
Falling object that kills with no reason and without a warning...
Try to let the player have fun, try to create passages that SEEMS hard but they are not.
This will bring the player think ''yeeesss! how amazing I am!!''.
And be sure to provide your real-hard spots with 2 or 3 double-life checkpoint (before and just a normal 1 after...).
Useing a magic mouth to make the player-sackboy ''think'' about the easiest way to overcome that spot is not a bad idea...

misterwonderloo
01-20-2009, 06:09 PM
i review my self in lots of this items........... it's the creative process..... hard but important to my day life................

people say that little big planet is create, play and share..... i disagree........... i'll rather put things this way:

create, create, create then play and share........ :)

Risumm
11-06-2009, 07:28 PM
18. Grandma and spelling. If you are going to have mouths and storytelling in your level, check the spelling and grammar. And most of all, NO TEXT SPEAK. No1 tlks liek ths so wai typ lke it? NO ALL CAPS. and no all lower case, in level titles and in speech. It's very annoying, and a huge turnoff. People are looking for serious levels, and it's hard to take a level seriously when its title is like that...Oh and no LOLZ or LMAOS or FTWs either.

When reading this, I thought of something my dad told me (while he was watching me create a level).

Giving characters some personality is a very good idea, so it's not always a bad idea to have All Caps (even though I hate it), and words as Lol, Lmao and/or ftw etc.
I might not be the best creator in LBP, but when it comes to the text, I know what I'm doing.. Most of the time...

In a medieval style level, a 'guide' would say this:
"Hello sire. If you wish to slay the dragon that haunts our fields, climb the mountain on my right. I shalt send my apprentice after you, to accompany you in your battle with the dragon", rather than: "Hi Sackboy. Go up the mountain to kill the dragon. My helper will help you when you start to fight".

As you can see, even though it (most likely) have correct spelling, their words differse alot from each other. This can make a major difference in the level, even though both would be correct.

Another example can be seen in one of my levels (Cardboard Adventure), where an afro dude tells the player about an "Up'n'down'di'Thingie", rather than calling it an elevator, as he does not know that an elevator has already been invented.

I hope you won't curse me for giving you some critism, for this awesome guide.. Which I surely will use! Thanks for the guide!

ARD
11-06-2009, 07:31 PM
Nice bump there, son.

SHENOA77
11-06-2009, 07:35 PM
Also I have a suggestion:

Try not to be unfair with the player.
I.E.:
Put in a long jump is ok, but not too long, if you miss 1 step is unfair to fall down.
Falling object that kills with no reason and without a warning...
Try to let the player have fun, try to create passages that SEEMS hard but they are not.
This will bring the player think ''yeeesss! how amazing I am!!''.
And be sure to provide your real-hard spots with 2 or 3 double-life checkpoint (before and just a normal 1 after...).
Useing a magic mouth to make the player-sackboy ''think'' about the easiest way to overcome that spot is not a bad idea...

Thanks Miglio, great tips. Now if only you would put 2 or 3 double-life checkpoints in your 7th Idol challenge level then maybe I can beat it, lol.

iGotFancyPants
11-07-2009, 03:13 AM
Epic bump xD

elder_warlord
11-07-2009, 04:10 AM
Happened to my level within the Create process. A few times, too... I ended up scrapping whole rooms and starting over, because it just did NOT fit the theme...at all!

So, very good point there.
very good indeed...i have also scrapped whole levels...just didn't have the right 'feel'...

Coxy224
11-07-2009, 12:16 PM
Well this thread may have been epicely bumped, but the advice still holds strong. All of these things are still needed in a LBP level - so this guide really has beaten the test of time.
Although it's not quite as good as mine ;)

psman012
12-20-2009, 02:55 PM
Great tutorial, helped me a lot, thanks!