Nowadays, games cannot be taken seriously without having unlockable challenge levels. Ok, it’s probably not that extreme, but it can be a great addition to your game for several reasons. It can present extra content for hardcore gamers that want to unlock everything, encouraging multiple playthroughs. It can also help to engage players and spice up the gaming experience by deviating from the core gameplay. But for us there is an extra reason…

What all game developers probably recognize, is that you can think of too many cool features for your game. When we were in the beginning (read: ‘more than a year later’) of the development of Caromble!, we realized that we had too many features planned for the game. Almost every new level would introduce a new gameplay feature. Finally we became smart enough and decided to choose a list of features to implement and just leave the rest be (I miss you so, oh ‘gravity switch’ and ‘teleporter’). This turned out to be a good decision (still I’ll never forget you…). There is so much more we can still do with our current set of features, that I believe we could make a hundred more levels with these, without becoming repetitive. It is a pity though, that some of the cool features we ‘invented’ are not in the game. But thank goodness we have some unlockable challenge levels!

Caromble! features 24 story driven levels, these are at the heart of what Caromble! is. When certain targets are met in the story, a challenge level is unlocked. A challenge level is a small simple area, in which the player gets one specific task. These levels can be crazy strange and each one stands on itself. No rules, just fun! This allows us to introduce a new feature only for that level. And why not, everything is possible in the HAVEFUN (Hypnotically Abstract Virtual Environment For Unconventional Needs (name suggestion pending)); the simulation room in the mothership designed for training purposes (story pending).

The tasks in the challenge levels range from: ‘hit as many blocks in 1 minute’ to ‘survive as long as you can with a single ball’. These challenge levels provide small ‘snacks’ (as Mark Overmars (professor and creator of Game Maker) once called them in one of his lectures on game design) that allow for a quick play, but are very entertaining for the thrill of beating the highscore. Some examples of ‘snack’ games that are very addictive, partly because of the highscore aspect, are: Jetpack Joyride, Super Hexagon, Super Cratebox and (why was I addicted to this?) Bookworm Deluxe. If the challenge levels in Caromble! provide some of the fun and addictiveness that these games have, I’ll be very happy.

As challenge levels are not part of the ‘core’ Caromble! experience, we work on them in our spare spare time (first spare time is reserved for core Caromble! tasks). Last week I had some of this precious time and created 2 challenge level prototypes. For now I call them WallSafety and BallFrenzy.

In WallSafety the player gets one ball, and one ball only, and is burdened with the task of surviving for as long as possible. The score is given by the seconds survived. The catch? The level sides are made of blocks that are destroyed by hitting it with the ball 1-3 times. Behind these blocks awaits nothing more than emptiness, thus death:

 WallSafety

 

In BallFrenzy the task is to have as many balls in play after 45 seconds. Each block that is destroyed creates another ball:

 BallFrenzy

These challenge levels provide a different gaming experience than the core gameplay and hopefully give Caromble! extra appeal. They are fun to create (because it is so simple) and fun to play (because it is so simple). The objective and scoring mechanic are very transparent and perhaps this simplicity makes it so fun. Games have become much more complex over the years and I think that sometimes we long for the simple gameplay of the old days. In that way, games are a nice analogy for life.

 

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