When it comes to puzzle games, the Level Design process is what makes (or breaks) a title. Furmins doesn’t escape this rule either. The ultimate judges will be – as always – players around the world, but here at Housemarque we are confident with the results we achieved in the 80+ levels included in the game.
Today we have a little talk with David Navarro and Tomi Turunen, respectively Level Designer and Senior Level Designer of the game, to shed some light on the actual thinking behind the Level Design of Furmins.
“I’ve been a Designer on Outland,” says David, “and got transferred to Furmins when our action platformer shipped. At that point, Furmins had already been in development for several years”. When it comes to the creation of levels and how they were polished, David says: “Fortunately, we have an excellent tool set that runs within the game itself, so there’s very little friction between the original idea and the actual creation phase. With the exception of some slightly more complicated elements such as vehicles, generally we can have an idea and test it almost simultaneously. Then, once the gameplay is working as intended, the level is decorated to match the general style set by the Art Director.”
Tomi is Furmins‘ Senior Level Designer. “I was previously working on Dead Nation and its DLC: Road of Devastation“, he recalls. “When I got to work with Furmins the levels and the game world were basically done. So my levels have been mostly additional stages or replacements to some older levels. All the tools were already working nicely, and for that reason I have been mostly playing around with the level editor, building interesting situations or adding puzzle elements here and there. Also, I’m very proud of the decorations I’ve added.”
When questioned about the criteria used to decide if a level is good enough, and what are the challanges a player should expect from Furmins, David goes for a honest “When the Lead Level Designer says it’s good enough” (Occam’s Razor is indeed a team’s favorite). But that’s not all, of course. “Generally”, continues David, “we want to give the player good value for money, but the level of challenge is there to entertain the players, not to punish them. Furmins is a game to enjoy, not to brag about with friends if you beat it.”
Tomi is all about coming up with simple and entertaining levels: easy to pick up, fun to master. “Most of them survived the cuts!”, he gladly tells, “and about the challenge, we tried to make the learning curve just right, both fun and engaging.”
The gameplay elements and mechanics introduced bit by bit in the game are a delicate matter: get those wrong and all the rest will not matter much. “We’ve cut hundreds of individual levels from the game, but no whole game mechanics”, David says, “considering the time they take to implement, it was paramount to choose carefully which gameplay elements would make it in the final version of Furmins. Fortunately, it seems we made the right decisions in the pre-production stage, as none needed complete rethinking”. This, of course, doesn’t mean Furmins will not evolve update after update. As Tomi puts it: “As usual, we have a huge list of features that we would like to introduce at a later stage or even in a potential sequel…”
If you liked the first part of this interview, be sure not to miss Part 2, available on the blog in just a few days!