I apologize in advance if this post makes me seem like a total noob, cause I pretty much am. :P But bear with me if you can.
I'm having quite a bit of trouble incorporating level design into my game. There's a lot about the game that doesn't relate to level design at all (essentially, its a text/image-based simulation game where you are an owner of a number of horses, who you interact with, keep, train, compete with, and breed. The game is a sandbox in nature - there is no storyline, no ending, few game-set goals, and a million ways to play it). There are some things that I think would benefit from incorporating level design guidelines though, but I just haven't figured out how to yet. That's where I need help.
One of these things is the training system. It plays kind of like a "choose you own adventure" book, where you select from a list of multiple actions to do to the horse, and the horse will respond in some way, positively or negatively. Through this methodology you are able to teach specific moves to your horse (think dog training - you can teach the equivalent of sit, stay, come, etc). Obviously some moves build on others, so in a way its similar to levels - you have to teach move 1 (level 1) before you can teach move 2 (level 2).
There is currently no level design beyond the inherent challenge of "how do i teach this new move?". Training, game-mechanics-wise, does not change from the first move, to the last move. You always have actions to choose from, and the horse always reacts either positively or negatively. Each move is a puzzle from the perspective of "how do i teach", but not from the perspective of game mechanics. A lot of the game works because it takes place in your imagination, not necessarily on the screen.
I'm wondering if I should incorporate more level design into my training system. I'm having a lot of trouble envisioning how I could even go about this. Its a fairly novel way of thinking about it for me, so any help/pointers is very welcome.