In the Design Review series, I try to take game systems apart and see what is great about them. And also come up with ideas about the not so great parts.
For quite some time, we have been going through designing a map system for our game so I looked at some other games for inspiration and “Rayman Fiest Run” stand out to me (I will explain more on our map design and reasons behind it in the later post).
The first thing I wanted to mention is that Rayman’s map system is very intuitive – you get one blue node on the map unlocked by saving Teensy (blue guys) on each level. This taps into their “stars system” a bit and for a better understanding of the way map works it is required explaining the way they grade you after you completed the level.
On each level, you can collect up to 100 Lums (those yellow guys).
You get one Teensy just for beating the level(!), and others are acquired for getting 25, 50 and 75% or the levels Lums. By getting a 100%, you get a crown and unlock a harder level (I will cover it more down below), which you don’t even know exists before you perfected some level. I guess that way there is lower pressure for the beginner players.
And so those Teensises you get contribute to unlocking nodes on the path.
The game starts you with quite a few levels but then you need a bunch to unlock next ones and the distance between level packs increases over time. This is there to be sure that you understood main mechanics of the game, and you are ready for the next parts with more mechanics.
Other strength of this map is that it allows better players to get to the content that is not too easy for them and allows to keep them in flow in two particular ways.
I. Getting better scores on each level unlock later levels that let you skip some of the initial tutorial levels (maybe you are already familiar with the series or just a more hardcore player looking for some challenge)
II. You can unlock a harder version of levels by completing them perfectly (getting the crown). Developers show visually that this level is harder by having a skull image. These more challenging levels appear above the perfected one and more often than not features the same idea to the level but in a more challenging way (or even the same level with additional obstacles).
Completing these levels also gives you Teensies so you can skip ahead of the initial levels even more. Completing levels perfectly can be a challenge for more advanced players but more importantly for getting a crown they unlock a higher difficulty level instantly. The player knows about its difficulty so he can choose not to play it right away keeping him in flow for longer.
So, completing levels perfectly does a few things for the player – unlocks a new harder version that you can’t access any other way and this builds up curiosity. Every single Teensie adds to your overall progression so you will unlock new level packs. Collecting all Lums on the levels also gives you currency that is used to purchase new characters, etc. Which leads us to the unlock system.
Because they sometimes need to make the long lines of nodes between levels there are some unlocks on the map for you to get. They act as a more short term goal then the next level pack. Some of them are character unlocks but you don’t know what character it will be, so, it also adds to curiosity and the “one more level” feeling (new mechanics in the new level packs help as well). There are also other types of unlocks looking like presents that just give you Lums or things like that and nodes that unlock new moves – for example, gliding. (The thing to note here is that when you get this ability the game opens a level to teach it to you right away so that you don’t skip the tutorial accidentally like you can with other levels).
It is interesting that you only unlock an ability to purchase the character and not the character himself (And of course, you can buy Lums to buy those characters with)