Creating the ‘new’ in level design

In Brief

  • For secret and alternative routes to be appealing, the need to offer something ‘new’.
  • This ‘new’ can take three forms and is often efficient to produce:
  • The visual ‘new’ A route that looks visually different from the rest of the level.
    • This can be efficiently created by reusing assets from other levels.
  • The rewarding ‘new’ A route that offers a generous helping of power-ups.
    • As power-ups are used through out the game, such routes require no new assets.
  • Challenging new A route that takes existing assets, but re-arranges them to form a greater challenge.
    • Such routes must reward the player for his/her efforts. However, the reward can consist of a power-up.

Secret and alternative routes are keys ways of creating irresistible optional content. However, they are only irresistible if they offer a ‘new’ experience. These experiences can consist of the visual ‘new’, the rewarding ‘new’ and the challenging ‘new’.

The visual ‘new’

The visual new consists of a space that is visually different the rest of the level. The more visually different the space, the more rewarding it is for the player.

Development cost: The visual ‘new’ has a higher cost as it requires assets that won’t occur elsewhere in the level. However, costs can be reduced by reusing assets from other levels. This technique must be used with caution as over-used assets will lack a ‘new’ quality.

Example: Some of the alternative routes in Flying Battery are set outdoors and so offer a visually different experience from the main level (which mostly occurs indoors). In this instance, the development cost is not too high, as the outdoor scenes have been borrowed from latter levels (such as the Sky Sanctuary level and the Flying Battery boss section).

The rewarding ‘new’

A secret route can simply offer a generous helping of rewards (such as power-ups) to create a ‘new’ experience.

Development cost: Low – Rewards (such as power ups) are assets that are reused through out the game and are not especially created for any one level.

The challenging ‘new’

The challenging ‘new’ is a route that contains an especially tricky combination of obstacles. The obstacles themselves are taken from elsewhere in the level, but have been arranged in manner to increase the degree of challenge.

Such routes trigger player curiosity, as the obstacles appear to be guarding a valuable object. The player is motivated to complete the route to satisfy this curiosity.

To avoid disappointment, such routes must contain something that will appropriately reward the player’s efforts. (Rewards can take the forms of ability power-ups or mini-games (Mini-games are discussed here).

Development cost: Low – The route simply reuses assets that exist elsewhere in the game. The designer only has to spend time rearranging these assets to create a suitable challenge.


  • By re-using assets in ‘new’ ways, secret and alternative routes can offer irresistibility.
  • The benefits of irresistibility will create a magical experience
    • However, the re-used assets ensure this experience is efficient to produce.

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Methods for creating irresistibility Choice from the Perspective of Developers Creating the ‘new’ through abilities


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