Fall Guys - Level Design Techniques
After playing more Fall Guys and making a couple prototypes, I’ve decided to delve a little deeper into the level design principles used. This isn’t a general game design/research analysis like my last one but a more level orientated focus. My aim here is not to say its good or bad design but try see what they do and why.
Design from the core
Each level is designed around a theme or at least the games main theme - a gameshow. This means that when creating levels the designers can look to shows such as Takeshi’s Castle or Total Wipeout for inspiration. At the core, the levels need to evoke that emotion of amusement that gameshows bring. This is mainly done with challenge, chaos, competition and a little schadenfreude.
Levels in Fall Guys rarely need exposure since the objectives are so simple. Some of the races ensure that you can see the finish line at all times - like Big Fans - meaning the player is constantly aware of where to go. Exposing them to the goal at all times.
Layering & Immersion
Something that you may not initially think about Fall Guys is that it IS immersive. It may not be realistic or cinematic, but you can easily get sucked into the game world and play for hours. Its hard to determine what causes the immersion, but the good design and enjoyability of the game are at least strong components, with the inconsistent difficulty acting like pacing, these all generate a state of ‘flow’. Levels do use layering, each level tends to start off easier and add more mechanics/challenges as the player progresses closer to the finish line. Slime climb is a good example as its literally made of layers that get more and more difficult as you climb.
Up the ante
Normally, upping the ante means making the game harder as the player progresses. But with a game with inconsistent difficulty, how does Fall Guys do it? Some levels as previously mentioned do slightly increase in difficulty throughout the stage but as a whole, upping the Ante is done at random intervals. This is the randomness in difficulty the designers wanted to make each play different and to ensure players weren’t getting too bored with easy levels or exhausted with overly tense/difficult levels. One minute you can be chilling on ski fall, jumping through hoops. The next, you're escaping the rising slime with countless challenges and obstacles on slime climb.
Situational awareness is used to not just increase difficulty but increase tension. Narrower paths, large swinging obstacles makes the player feel uneasy and pressured. The open spaces make them feel more secure: the start and ending mostly. They use it to give players advantages and disadvantages and use a mixture of open and narrow spaces to play with the players mind and alter the feel of gameplay.
Scalable rewards & Difficulty ramping
I’ve mentioned difficulty already, so i’ll be brief. It ramps up inside some stages but each stage has random difficulty. It was a design decision that ended up being perfect for a gameshow. Now, rewards. The rewards in Fall Guys when it comes down to it, are cosmetic only. You cannot change the gameplay whatsoever and you can earn or buy currency to get more cosmetic items. The rewards dont necessarily get better, especially if you arent bothered about cosmetics. But the rewards arent what people play the game for, its more of a way to express yourself in bean form.
The game does use a little foreshadowing. The cinematic overview of the level before each stage shows the player what they will eventually come up against, foreshadowing whats to come.
Colour as a design tool
When it comes to colour, it can be used for different purposes: Information (meaning of the colour),pyschological (feeling of the colour) and emotion (emotion or mood of the colour). All colours also have positive and negative connotations, but when you look at Fall Guys, you only get the positive. Fall guys use almost every colour since the themes allow it, but they’re always saturated and stimulating - making me believe the colours are purely emotive. You get the passion and action from the red, the happiness and creativeness from oranges, the fun yellow, rejuvinating green, calming blue and imaginative purple (mostly really seen in the future themed levels).
*Edit - After seeing a video of Joe Walsh and JJ (Lead Game Designer and Level Designer for Fall Guys) talking about slimb climb. I think I noticed JJ mention using different colours for different layers on Slimb Climb. This would mean they are using colours for information too, as a way to show progress in the level and segment the layers clearly. This is something I didn’t notice myself but im a junior and thats why I love finding these things out!
There are a few valves I have seen in Fall Guys. They stop players backtracking and can be seen used in Rock ‘n’ Roll. It‘s used here to stop players being able to run up the opposing teams lanes and disrupting them too early on. It seperates the gameplay of the level from pushing as a team avoiding obstacles to getting it past enemies, rather than the first section also being filled with enemies aswell as obstacles, what mayhem that could be.
Fall Guys and chokepoints go together like bread and butter. Having a race to a finish with 60 people and wanting to cause mayhem? Have them all squeeze through a gap only 2 of them can get through. This creatles a bottleneck of players and you can see players grabbing eachother and diving over eachother. It creates what one of the design pillars intended “chaos”. Not only that, it helps keep the quick/skilled from pulling away from the newbies (like getting the bullet in Mario Kart when you are last vs bananas when you are first). These chokepoints create epic moments of chaos and fun for players and are an amazing tool for the level designers to use for this game.
Skill gates flood Fall Guys too. Essentially each area of a race where you face a challenge is a skill gate. You have to repeatedly try until you pass, or be eliminated and jump into another game with more gating. This constantly improves the player and upskills them quickly to get used to the game. Inherently then, optional pathways act as optional skill gates that create triangularity for the game. High risk, high reward for the short path. Low risk, low reward for long path.
Fall Guys does actually have checkpoints. These simply stop the player having to start from the beginning, which can be extremely annoying if you have completed a difficult part of the level. The reasoning for these checkpoints also coincides with some points made by Earnest Adams in his blog— Available here: http://www.designersnotebook.com/Columns/029_Bad_Game_Designer_2/nosave029_bad_game_designer_2.htm
Most of the column is irrelevant since Fall Guys is multiplayer but you can see that Mediatonic are favouring the player as much as possible with their checkpoint system.
Now I have actually analysed some key techniques used by Mediatonic for Fall Guys, I think that my next level prototype will try to incorporate techniques they have used, aswell as focusing on the levels gameplay, not just the latter.
Thanks for reading!