Hi guys, Aaron here!
Every once in a blue moon, I find that my desire to share a playlist with neat ideas wins out over my concerns about accessibility. It would appear that this week’s Solo Feature on Steam was one of those times. Acknowledging that, let me put two things out there before I continue:
1. The tail end of this playlist is HARD. Like, really hard. This is definitely something that should have been communicated in my forum post and on the blog; sorry about that! In the future, we are going to make sure the difficulty rating is posted front and center.
Also! Don’t forget that completing the Coop Feature will also unlock the same prisoner. As an added bonus, if you already happened to complete the current Coop Feature, new prisoners will unlock earlier in the playlist! We also make a habit of revisiting prisoners regularly, so even if you didn’t get a chance to unlock someone this time around, it doesn’t mean the chance is gone forever.
2. There is NEVER a reason to attack a level designer for the contents of their playlist. Remember that it is The Behemoth that chooses to feature a playlist, so please keep your feedback kind and constructive.
Everyone should have the freedom to make whatever they like without having to worry about how it will play to a wider audience. Heck, we’re the ones saying, “hey, this might be something you like”, so if you disagree with that statement, this is one of those rare times where you actually SHOULD shoot the messenger. I mean, well, metaphorically speaking.
Now with THAT out of the way, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a bit of insight into the different factors I personally considered when selecting this particular Steam Feature and why we ultimately feel that this week’s playlist made the cut. For a general guideline for playlist creation, check out Furbottom’s Tips.
Originality & Execution
Our level selection team felt SnakeBD’s playlist pushes the limits of what sort of challenges you can throw at players in BattleBlock Theater. For how difficult things can get by the end of the playlist, the challenges did not feel arbitrary: the player always has JUST enough room to get the job done, and as long as you’re quick on your feet and paying attention, luck is not a significant factor.
Difficulty & Fairness
Arguably, some of the later sequences of this week’s feature require trial and error, whether we’re talking about hidden spikes or maximizing jumps. The saving grace for me was that in each case, SnakeBD ramps up the difficulty on those mechanics, or warns the player that maybe the regular blocks in this level aren’t to be trusted.
For instance, in “Underground I”, the player is shown a few sections with spikes under “solid” blocks; later on, you’re expected to either “test the waters” or use monkey-bars or other block types whenever possible. Is this too much to ask? It very well may be, but I don’t disqualify playlists due to difficulty so long as we can get A++’s on Normal Mode (as always, choose Insane Mode at your own peril! We do not make completion in Insane Mode a requirement to be featured.). Instead, we try to vary the difficulty every time we feature a new playlist, that way we can cater to all skill levels: easy one Feature, difficult the next.
Mechanical & Cosmetic Theme
We often look to see if there’s a concept explored throughout the playlist, either in how the levels look or what challenges are presented. If so, this is a cool added bonus! In the case of “Heaven to Hell”, we get both: the appearance of the levels communicates the journey described by the title, as do the mechanics (clouds in “Heaven”, tricky bits in “Hell”, ducks and horses in between). Again, not essential to be selected as a feature, but pretty nifty regardless.
Anyways, sorry if this week’s Feature wasn’t your cup of tea; it can be tough trying to please a wide audience without skipping over some of the cooler ideas you designers come up with. I hope that a bit more transparency will help out in the future, but in the mean time, know that I’ve been putting myself through heaven and hell trying to get through on Insane Mode. Just, you know, for fun. Wish me luck!