Today’s blog update was written by Vojta (the second person in the team of that name), and in this update he’ll try to explain how does Patrik and him contribute to the development of Blackhole.
Just recall the feeling of playing a new game and thinking about how to get through a certain level. You know what your goal is, you can feel you’re getting close but still, it seems like something is missing. Then you get a ‘light bulb moment’. “I see! Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before?” you think while you’re enjoying the short-term feeling of euphoria. Or maybe after the 50th attempt you finally finish that insanely hard level and you curse the people who designed that level.
In Blackhole, Patrik and I are going to be these “people”. Our job is to design the game levels, in which you, the players, are going to spend certain amount of the playtime. Is there anything difficult about this? Yes, even this job has its pitfalls. The most common problem is probably the difficulty of the level. Our goal is to make a level that will challenge the player, but won’t cause frustration. We want to make levels that will grab your attention by being interesting. They will require some skills (both logic and motion based). Levels that will make you feel the things described at the beginning of this article (and hopefully only the positive feelings).
Each level design starts with a couple of ideas and sketches, these are then made in our editor and tested.
How can you even get a job like this? The truth is, that I don’t feel like I’m working. Making my own levels is my hobby, which has accompanied me for a significant part of my life. I’ve always preferred the games which contained the developer tools or some kind of a level editor. Often I’d spend more time on that than the game itself. It was the same with Patrik, who I met thanks to this shared interest of ours. Our collaboration started with a couple of maps and modifications for our top favorite game series of all time - Portal. But let’s move to year 2014. This was a key year for us, because in this year Blackhole was announced for the first time. We both had a chance to try it at a few different events in the Czech Republic and meet Fiola and Gelu. I instantly became addicted to Blackhole, but I didn’t think at all that one day the crew might need a help from a level designer. And then we suddenly got an opportunity to join the team and do the thing that Patrik and I enjoy the most - creating content for other players.
Now let’s go back to the news. The chapter Eternal Thirst is mostly waiting for our internal playtest. The feedback is very important during the creation of the levels. I usually follow a rule which says that the players find the levels three times more difficult than we do. However, sometimes you can still make a frustrating part, which is not even that interesting. We tend to adjust the levels quite often and reduce their size to improve the clear arrangement and playability.
This weekend we will start to actively work on the Up & Down chapter. We can’t wait for the new game mechanics which we’ll be able to use. That’s where I see the huge potential of Blackhole. It has a lot of game mechanics. We can then combine them together in all sorts of ways and present you the interesting ones through our levels.
Of course we also find ourselves under the pressure of time. Nine days to the internal deadline, and the levels are the first thing you need. Without the levels you don’t have any playable content or the space for dialogues. Furthermore, Gelu needs to have enough time to do all the tiling work. And if you’ve read any of the previous articles, you know what can happen with that. We have to finish as many levels as we can. The levels shouldn’t be altered too much after the game release, because speedrun is one of the essential parts of Blackhole. Tweaking the levels would require a reset of the leaderboards (and that could aggravate a large group of the players). On the other hand, we don’t want to rush the creation process, so we try to give the levels all the attention they need.
As Vojta said already - we’re close to finishing the chapter Eternal Thirst and I can’t wait to start working on the levels for the next chapters! Collabing with Vojta is enjoyable and it constantly increases the motivation. When we create a new level, we sit down and discuss it. It’s important to refine everything so it’s is the way we want it and so the level flow is good and it can be finished in a short time, if the player tries hard enough.
I would also like to confirm that this job seldom feels like a job. We’ve got experience from the past (since our first meet-up), and making puzzles with Blackhole elements is fun, if there’s a good idea involved. :) If I am unsure of anything, there’s nothing easier than simply asking Vojta, it’s easier to work together! We’ll try to finish all levels in time so you will be able to play Blackhole soon!
From the sketch to the making - Patrik has his levels planned since the beginning
We’re looking forward to seeing your reactions and solutions to the levels, I and Patrik will definitely watch a lot of Blackhole let’s plays.
I also hope that in the future the core dev team will decide to share Blackhole level editor with all players, because that would add a new dimension to the game for the players who like to make levels as much as we do.
Thank you for following our dev blog! See you soon again! :)