Are Level Editors worth it?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by jrjellybeans, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. jrjellybeans

    jrjellybeans New Member

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    I keep running into games with level editors but personally never use them. In fact, I've met a couple up and coming developers who insist on putting them in their game. They think that putting a level editor in their game will make them more fun.

    So, I wanted to know some other peoples opinions on this matter.

    How much does putting a level editor in your game increase it's value?
    Do you personally use them when you're playing a game?

    I never found playing around with them very fun...
     
  2. spoiltvictorian

    spoiltvictorian New Member

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    They are fun, and they go a long way to give your game longevity. Here's the thing - what are you building the default levels with? You might as well make yourself a nice tool for creating content, and then give it away.
     
  3. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I think that the majority of the time, they're just a gimmick for developers who can't be bothered to put enough gameplay in by themselves.

    I'm not even using a level editor in game dev right now. Well, other than Notepad++.
     
  4. Shaz

    Moderator Original Member

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    It depends what the game is. Reflexive's Ricochet and Big Kahuna series both have large communities due in part to the games having a level editor (and theirs wasn't a case of not enough quality levels in the game) - they are still going strong years after being released, and fans are calling for yet another sequel to each.

    It's not just providing a level editor though - it's providing a means for players to easily share their levels with each other. If they can't share levels, or doing so is difficult for the technically-challenged, then you're not going to gain a lot from it.
     
  5. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    I completely agree... its the easy sharing of levels with others that makes it work. By easy, I mean possibly not even having to leave the game.
     
  6. Jamie W

    Original Member Indie Author

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    I put a level editor in Qwak, it hasn't been used much..

    It's not easy to create good quality interesting levels. Also, you need to make the editor itself fairly fool-proof (more than if it was just you using it etc).

    I also provided a mechanism where people can upload level packs to the games' server; and other players can download and play their level packs.

    It hasn't really taken off.

    I'm thinking, it's mostly because I've not made the editor itself user-friendly enough; plus, Qwak levels are not easy to make fun; plus, they need to submit their level packs through the website, rather than just click a button in game.

    It's something I'm likely to revisit in future games, and I believe if done right (and I have a few ideas how to do things better), could really help develop 'community' and more buzz about your game, not to mention longevity.
     
  7. Jamie W

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Snap!!! :)
     
  8. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    You should definitely write one for your own ends, assuming it's the sort of game that could benefit. And these as often as not are better done in the game as you can draw the levels with the actual code and be assured of some wysiwyg action.

    Having said that, I would keep this stuff on a #define and not show it to the public as it then becomes something that should be as slick and professional as the rest of your game, but we all know level editors only need to just work. It will suck time to do it better than the minimum standard.

    However, sharing levels and shit like that can bring some longevity and a few people would find it added value. So put a "modding" page on your website with that #define re-enabled would be my advice.
     
  9. richtaur

    Indie Author

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  10. JarkkoL

    JarkkoL New Member

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    I don't have experience in developing 2D games, but for 3D you definately should have a WYSIWYG level editor instead of trying to take the shortcut and make your modelling software a level editor, or use XML or whatever to build your levels. I have been in couple of projects which have used 3DSMax as level editor (due to lack of time/budget to develop own, laziness, incompetency of developers to realize the power of level editor, you name it) and it's just horrible pipeline to work with. But on the other hand it takes significant effort to make a good editor. It's more like a long term investment to make an editor which pays off over time.
     
  11. vjvj

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    IMHO the biggest value in including a level editor is the *community* that forms around it. The boost in longevity and whatnot is just a fallout from that.

    So I think you should first ask yourself if you really want to create/support/maintain an active modding community or not, then decide from there.
     
  12. defanual

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    Yeah, depends on the game and the execution (and volume of spread / players to some degree).

    Off the top of my head I think Fantastic Contraption has done well and pretty much sold well on the basis of a well executed and easy to use level editor (I haven't used it personally, but I imagine it has to be well executed and easy to use to win).

    GDC Austin: How Fantastic Contraption Became A Fantastic Hit
     
  13. stupid_programmer

    stupid_programmer New Member

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    If you are making a 3D game then having at least a in house editor is almost neccessary. Its a real pain to try and make levels by hand or try and bend a modeller to do what you want. I used C#/SlimDX to create a WYSIWYG editor for a 3D game in four or five days and C#/GDI+ for a 2D game in two. Its not like you have to drop weeks and weeks of time into an editor. If you make one for yourself and its fairly stable then why not release it? If its for a casual game it doesn't have to be bulletproof but not crashing every five minutes either.

    To just make an editor to make one and hope people make a bunch of levels probably isn't a good idea. But if you can make it easy to play custom levels then its not like including the editor is going to drive away sales.
     
  14. jrjellybeans

    jrjellybeans New Member

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    This has been a fantastic read everyone! Thanks a bunch.

    We WERE using Game Maker which has it's own built in level editor. As such, we're not very familiar with making one on our own :(

    The one we're going to build for our next game (which will be in Flash), was planned to be pretty bare bones.

    The thing about level editors is that just like with the actual gameplay it takes time / money / effort to create a USER FRIENDLY level editor. We were wondering if it was worth it!

    Thanks for the insight all! It's really got us thinking!
     
  15. jrjellybeans

    jrjellybeans New Member

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    In addition, I'm wondering if the affect of a level editor depends on the type of game.

    I would think that LEs would function better in either a large budget FPS or RTS game or a simple puzzle type of game.

    I guess the Ricochet proves otherwise, however...
     
  16. vjvj

    Indie Author

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    You should talk to Mike Hommel from Hamumu Games. I'm pretty sure he got some really good leverage out of his level editors, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is still an active modding community for his games from several years ago. He might have some good insight for you.
     
  17. Bad Sector

    Original Member

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    I highly and fully agree, especially on the modelling software as a level editor part :). To extend on that, personally i believe any engine that doesn't come or integrate with a level editor (a program which is designed to make game levels) is pure shit, except maybe a few shaders (if any) and math libs (if any) :). And if it comes with an editor, it better be self-contained without the need of an external modeling tool to create level geometry, so people can start using it right away to build levels. In other words, it better be something like Hammer or UnrealEd :).
     
  18. magallanes

    magallanes New Member

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    Little Big Planet?
     
  19. lightassassin

    lightassassin New Member

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    Dare I say it a game that lacks content and makes up with it for mod tools/map editor would be Torchlight.

    Once you finish the story line (very short imo) it all comes down to the mods. In time I expect there will be some awesome mods, but as it currently stands there isn't much.

    I believe it really depends on the game and what support you intend to give. If you build a full editor and wish to release it do take note that while it can extend the life of a game it means people will expect the support in the long run even if sales have died off.

    If you're building say a episode based game with shorter dev times to bring a story to life then releasing map editors and mod tools might not be a great idea as you may create a competitor with your own product. Then again, if you're releasing a FPS and aren't expect to release one for another 3-5 years then mods tools are your best bet for keeping it going for that projected life time.
     
  20. cyodine

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    So if you were thinking of cashing in later with an expansion pack, having a level editor might ruin that approach? I'm wondering how profitable expansion packs are (not complete sequels, just expansions) in the casual market.

    Also, for some games, if you support in-game uploading and downloading of content (hence ease of access), wouldn't you need to somehow 'police' the content to prevent "non-family friendly" content trickling in? This would depend on the flexibility of the game and editor of course. But if so, this would be additional overhead. I mean, for instance, if the game actually allowed users to create and use their own bitmap sprites (or dialogue text too I suppose) in the editor this could create quite a bit of content that many other users would find rather objectionable, and po'd at the developer for letting it creep in.
     

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