Long before I started developing games, even long before I used my first computer, I have been obsessive with a particular aspect of making a game; level design.
There is something very captivating about creating your own world. The freedom of designing landscape, scenery, terrain, pathways, and everything you can think of, exactly the way you see fit. Then the ability to interact with the world you’ve created, is just as, if not more alluring.
Somewhere in an old storage box, I have a mountain of drawings from my childhood, all depicting levels I envisioned back then. Nothing excited me more than making levels for a game. I had drawn levels for Super Mario 64, Wario Land 3, Yoshi’s Story, and much much more. Just the idea of interacting with these levels in a video game got me all fired up. If Super Mario Maker was released when I was a kid, I would literally have jumped through the roof in euphoria.
If you don´t know, Super Mario Maker is a game for the Wii U where all you do is design your own Mario levels, then play them. This idea was the exact definition of my biggest dream back then. I spent hours on end dreaming about making those levels in an actual game, instead of on paper. I would play the sounds in my head, as I imagined Mario jumping across the obstacles I had drawn, making his way to the next level.
It actually saddens me that this game wasn’t made during my childhood. It would have been the best thing in the world, while now, it’s nowhere near as enticing. I would have poured endless hours into it, contrary to the few minutes I’ve now only spent checking it out. It disheartens me that I can’t invest myself as much into games as I did back then, without being bothered by the feeling that I am wasting time, and should do more productive things.
At least there is a silver lining to this. Today, I am actually working with level design as I dreamed of back then, for my own game, nonetheless! I can make levels as detailed and expansive as I wish, without the restrictions and limited boundaries of the in-game editor. Using my own assets, I can make the levels look exactly what I want them to, alongside my own characters and gameplay mechanics. That freedom is what I truly dreamed of when I was a kid. I can wholeheartedly tell that young me would have been very excited and proud of what I am doing today. That’s a thought I think is important to value!
This is how my levels are depicted today. Not as colorful or caricaturist as my early designs, but when applied in the development cycle, and accommodated with tile sets and decorative assets, it becomes a wholesome level, my earlier self would love to explore! I will delve more into my process of designing a level in a plentiful post of its own.