A Quick Word on our Latest Steam Feature

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!


12 thoughts on “A Quick Word on our Latest Steam Feature”

  1. For me, it was the best (by far) Furbottom’s Feature because of the Difficulty. I mean, I really like some challenges once a while (like Super Meat Boy does).

    Stop whining about things that aren’t meant for everyone, just face it, if you can’t just don’t start spamming every forum you can saying “Too hard, please take it down”, it sounds childish as f*ck.


    • What can I say, dying repeatedly over and over again with hardly any progress just isn’t fun to some people. Including me. That’s why I dislike games like Super Meat Boy.

    • I agree with Shapeshift. I log on to the forum only to see a bunch of whining kids. Seriously? They could have easily completed the co-op (if they haven’t already) and avoided the problem. It’s not the end if the world if you keep dying…just keep trying!

  2. I’ll admit, this feature was quite the challenge for me. These guys tricks were great. They made it so rage inducing. I eventually gave up and did the co-op feature. But, I totally agree with what you said. They shouldn’t be threatening the guy for making something challenging. That’s like saying you threaten your math teacher because they gave you some really hard math problems, or threatening a dev for making a hard game. I honestly found the feature easy until the underground. Underground 3 screwed me over.

  3. I did the coop with my brother. I also commented on the other guys playlist saying how hard it was. Threatening him isn’t helping anyone. I just hope the guys at behemoth could get one or two guys to test the playlist before hand.

  4. Hey, good for you guys for taking responsibility. A lot of game company’s would’ve just ignored the responses. Thanks

  5. Look, I stated this before into the Steam Community, but nothing can save this playlist.

    I love difficulty in a game, heck, it makes the game even more challanging, but there is a difference between challnge and try and error. This last kind of game can work, see Super Meat Boy, everything is super fast, so even if you spent 30 minutes in a level, you whouldn’t get annoyed. Why? Because it’s meant to be this way, and the level design are fantastic.

    This won’t work on BBT. For many reasons. And still, this whole levels of this paylist were luck based, not skill based. Just see the jetpack part in one level: you have to grab a jetpack, use it, and get to a roof teleport, surrounded by 1 hit-kill spikes. And once you actually do it, you get teleported right away into a pool, so you have to jump again when you’re almost gonna touch the water, or else, you’ll get you head smashed into spikes. This is why doesen’t work, at all.

    And also, last example, some levels don’t explain you what to expect. They just “troll” you, and that’s not enjoyable. In some Underground level, there are some hidden spikes in some specific colored block, so this will make you think “I have to avoid stepping into those colored blocks”, but then, bunch of screen laters, you will step on the “right colored blocks”, and you’ll get killed by those spikes.

    Game Design 101, folks, you devs should know this way better then me.

    • The Behemoth chooses a wide variety of levels, super easy ones that make the hard core players bored, and hard core levels that make the casual players upset. How about, instead of getting ticked at a selection because it was too hard or used misdirection, play the level and decide if YOU enjoyed it, rather than deciding if someone else should have enjoyed it. I played the xbox version for a year straight and some of my favorite playlists were the most brutal, and they worked incredibly well, so don’t say that this game doesn’t work well with challenging levels, or trial and error levels. To me, it just shows that you haven’t played the game enough to have an opinion worth listening to, and that’s not a personal attack, it’s just based on my experience and what you are saying about bbt.

      The second thing to consider is, did this level designer attempt to make something feature worthy or did they make something that they would enjoy playing? I made a challenge arena playlist that won’t be featured, since it’s over a year old, but I love it, and my friends played the crap out of it. It was also incredibly hard and playing with people who hadn’t played it before caused them to rage quit all the time. Still, I’m glad I made it because it was what was fun for me to play. What’s more satisfying than creating a set of levels that makes your friends rage because they are so hard? I love making my friends upset, so why wouldn’t this level designer?

      The point is, some day it might be your level that gets featured. Do you want to create vanilla levels so you don’t offend anyone, or do you want to create stuff you like and want to play and pushes the boundaries of the game? Punishing the developers and the level designers for doing something they like forces the hand of The Behemoth and the level designers to be boring and choose the levels that are mediocre, but beatable. In other words: Lame.

      Aaron, thanks for straying from the beaten path. Do that more.

    • I’m a game designer and there is no 101 for what you’re talking about. It was especially difficult, yes, but that was the point. My only problem with the levels was the timed stages due to their insane difficulty (the touching the fan with jump to double jump again was brutal, especially when timed). Outside of that it felt fine. The whole “test and find things” can usually be done by jumping and then double jumping as you hit the invisible block. Not every level is designed to be finished the first time — learning to master the challenge is an important part of designing things too.

  6. I enjoyed the difficulty but ultimately there was one big problem I had — the later levels with time felt way too constrained. Really challenging things are fine if I can try over and over to master it, but when there’s a heavy time limit and the challenging part is from start to finish, it is hard to really master each area without a LOT of work.

    I managed to beat the levels after an hour / hour and a half, but was not too thrilled about the final 2 levels that were timed. Especially frustrating was the fan where you had to time your jump to scrape the bottom of the fan to get a double jump and do it twice in a row… it felt like I just lucked out when I finally got it. Just keep that in mind in the future when picking play lists — difficulty is okay as long as there isn’t an insane time pressure too.

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