Level Design and Tile Sets

I’d decided from quite early on that I wanted project ghostlight to use a tile-based aesthetic, as it would not only fit the style I wanted to achieve, but also allow me to create large and complex environments without creating lots of custom areas.

tile-based games are comprised of a tile set, a single image containing all the ’tiles’ a single board will use. Fortunately, unity fully supports a single image having multiple sprites inside of it, unfortunately, however, is each tile would have to be it’s own object with it’s own individual properties, which would create a large amount of overhead and complexity. I was struggling with a way around this concept for a while until I ran into Sam, the dev behind FreakZone Games at a local gaming meetup.

Off-topic for a moment; Sam’s games are really good, so you should go and check them out at the link above!

Sam ended up recommending a Unity asset called the 2D Toolkit, which has a built in Tile set creator, allowing me to create an entire 2D level using my tiles, without all the overhead.

The next step would be designing my level, the most important thing was for it to teach the player the mechanics they required for the rest of the game, so for this level I focused on the most basic mechanics:

  • Jumping
    • A sequential jump (think like the 3D Mario games)
    • Jumping on enemies is how you kill them
  • Shining your torch
    • Shining the torch at a lamp lights it and acts as a puzzle solving mechanic to open doors
    • Shining the torch at flaming enemies (ghost-firey-stuff) extinguishes the fire and allows you to jump on them to kill them
      • Some enemies could only be extinguished from certain directions
    • The torch beam can be reflected by mirrors

Whew, seems like a lot to teach a player over one small level. From looking at the list you can tell some mechanics, such as jumping on enemies to hurt/kill them, are common features of the 2D Platformer genre, and so may be easier to show.


The above was my final design for the first level, I’ll do a little walk through of the first section, but anyone who’s interested in level design or game design, it’d be worth looking through the rest of my plan, and try to figure out what each area is trying to teach or test, or what I could do better.

So the player starts with a pillar to his left blocking that direction, and some pillars in the background, so the natural direction to go is right, moving this direction the player meets a small wall, allowing them to figure out the most basic controls (jumping, moving, etc) without any fear of failure.

The player is then immediately tested on this skill with a basic jump over a gap, but again with no risk of failure, whilst performing this jump the player will probably see the series of platforms with items (coins or something), but at the moment they cant seem to jump high enough to get on top of it. So they keep moving right, the one direction they’ve found that yields progress.

They jump onto the smaller block, as they’ve learnt they can do, and then immediately jump to get the coins/ascend the hill and WOAH SEQUENTIAL JUMPING WOOOOO.

So jumping twice in a row allows the player to go higher and further, now the player can use this skill they learnt and put it to the test to grab more loot from the area they couldn’t previously reach.

Hopefully that made sense, I just finished creating this level design yesterday so wanted to share it with you. Hope you enjoy! And I’ll leave you with a portion of the Tile set I finished last night 🙂tileset

– Josh


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