Saturday, November 8, 2008

LBP: When players die.

A few nights back my friend Mike and I were playing some user created LittleBigPlanet levels. We jumped into one of the Shadow of the Colossus tribute levels and we reach a part where we have to ride our sponge horse, Aggro, across a bridge. *Spoilers* The creator was obviously trying to emulate Aggro's pivotal fall down a chasm because as soon as we reached the end of the bridge it disappeared. Sponge Aggro falls into the spikes below, dragging me and Mike with him. Now in hindsight we were supposed to jump off at the last second. I could go on about how bad that was in level design terms, but that's an entirely different post.

What I'd like to focus on in this post concerns what happened after we respawned. Not only did the creator not put a checkpoint before the bridge scene but on our trekk back to the bridge to try again, we found that the bridge does not respawn. Not only that, but an entire portion of the level was missing. Obviously, the creator didn't expect anyone to die at this point in the level inspite of the entire lack of indication that the bridge was going to disappear.

It's a disturbing trend I've been seeing now and then in user levels. I've run into a similar problem while creating my own level. A section involves hanging from a sponge trapeze thing as shown in this blueprint I made at

If the player drags the trapeze sponge thing all the way to the other side and makes it, then all's well and we can move on. However if the player dies and spawns back on the left side of the fire pit...

Well, now we have some trouble, don't we? The player went back, but the trapeze sponge didn't follow them. At this point, you can expect the player to become frustrated, go back to their pod and never play your level again. Perhaps they will also leave your level a nasty rating.

But how do we resolve this? One way would be to make an emitter of the trapeze sponges, but then you've got to implement a complicated set of triggers going back and forth. Respawning a sponge when the player spawns and killing the sponges stuck on the other side.

A simpler solution is to attach elastic to the trapeze sponge's bar to pull it back when the player lets go of the sponge.

So we want the elastic to be really low strength. Strong enough to pull the sponge back but weak enough to not impede the player while they're pulling it across the hazard. LittleBigWorkshop's blueprint tool is interesting, but kinda rough. As you can see, it's hard to represent exact things like where to attach the elastic.

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