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Designing Engaging Dungeons

Posted by Rowan Powell on April 21, 2016 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I've been making a lot of progress on Axe Of Kings, adding lots of new content and getting players to try it out so I can try to gauge what's fun and what really should get an overhaul.


The original level designs for Axe Of Kings used the algorithm from the AI demo with some tweaks to allow it to make bigger levels, which gave some really interesting results and are enjoyable to look at ... but not very fun to play. The issues with this sort of level design stems from the fact that AoK is a turn based game, so moving down long corridors consumes a lot of actions, doesn't really give much interaction or reward for progress. You can see in the image below that the player would spend a lot of time moving around and not really doing much (Compounded by the issue of having 3 people in a party!).


The new levels are much, much more compact with small rooms being connected to each other by very short corridors, which keeps the mixups between having wider areas to kite back enemies but also choke points to take fights or cautiously move through. There are some problems in the larger levels of having the rooms all be a bit too similar (Which is less interesting due to the novelty rate, but also can end up with you getting a little lost, not ideal!).


The tree stumps and bushes also got removed, they ended up just being action-sinks which didn't really feel rewarding to destroy, they just got in the way of the interesting parts of the game, though pots take on a very similar role.


The pots in the current build block the player and enemy movement and can be destroyed (Much like the old tree stumps) but only take one hit to do so and give a big explosion of gems when they're destroyed which feels rewarding. They also have a chance to drop items which are very useful for your progression through the dungeon.


They key thing in the new builds is that there's always something directly nearby to engage with and gives the player a next task to follow which helps stop them finding a point to stop playing, the gem drops from the enemies, pots and chests help them feel rewarded for making progress through the dungeon. These (Along with some other factors i'll talk about later) have helped take the game from a stage where players would engage for maybe 30 seconds as they figured out the controls and got bored to now where the players will happily sit and play through many levels. The next thing for me to focus on is to give some more rare and interesting events in the levels, to keep them feeling fresh. I'm personally a fan of rougelike's odd hidden alternative victories such as making your way into a special section of the dungeon or bringing an item to a location, which helps for adding a bit of replayability.