Hello Ninjas! This is Alex from Nevernaut Games, a 4 person team from New York City, about to launch our first ever game, SlashDash, on Xbox One July 17!
This is a post written by our artist, Armand, where he talks about the evolution of Rock Garden, the first level in SlashDash, and how it and the game changed during development. Let’s start by showing you what it looks like now:
Let’s talk level design! We’re going to run through all nine SlashDash stages (you can find the rest on our tumblr: http://www.nevernautgames.tumblr.com/), one by one, talk about our design process and give some gameplay tips. Starting with Rock Garden. Ready to get nostalgic?
OG SlashDash. In the dawn of time, when shots could kill and ninjas couldn’t drop the flag, when the SlashDash mechanic was so new that the game was called Ninjas, there were…choke points. Lots of ‘em.
The biggest changes to Rock Garden were early responses to the game’s evolving core. When we differentiated the weapons, making shots stun and katanas kill, playing the lone sniper with deadly shots was no longer possible. At the same time we were trying to emphasize SlashDashing & teamwork. The final Rock Garden is a bit simpler, with more breathing room. The “L” Blocks in the center courtyard are taller now, with more space to teleport and SlashDash through.
Ninja spawn points are in the corners, half-concealed behind a house. Those houses are our standard not-teleportable distance, useful for teaching new players the teleport’s limitations.
It’s easy to communicate an impassable wall when the obstacle is big and square, but rectangular obstacles can be tricky. The Garden Pool is too wide to teleport through horizontally, but not vertically. We stressed that in the art, putting tall shrines on the left and right, while making the center look more open.
Early SlashDash had huge rectangles fill in the background to show the score. The concentric circle background was designed to serve the same purpose while invoking the raked gravel patterns of a zen garden. It was a big step in conceptualizing the art style for the game.
Game Mode Variations:
We probably won’t show all four Game Mode maps in the future, but I’m going to include them all here as an intro to how we approached designing for different modes.
The choke points in CTF Rock Garden staunchly divide the map in two. But while the team goals are stationary in CTF, the Shoguns in Assassination can travel all over the map. Gameplay revolves around shifting your enemy’s objective while chasing after your own. The map is looser, with more room for shooting and passing the Shogun.
Out of the gate, the Shogun will run towards the primary colored ninja, Red or Blue. You might want to slash him to your teammate before going on the offensive.
In Free for All modes, combat tends to gravitate to the center of the map. The courtyard is expanded into a battle arena, with an outer ring for players with a more defense style.
Mirror Match Maps require more room! Especially on the early maps, like Rock Garden, where we want players to get a feel for controlling five ninjas at once.
Mirror Match spawn points are always different because A) We have to make room for the five ninja configuration and B) Ninjas don’t respawn in Mirror Match. It’s last man standing. Blue would totally dominate that left lane if their ninjas reappeared there with invincibility, but in Mirror Match it’s no longer Blue’s territory the moment the Blue squad steps off.
These maps also have water – an obstacle that blocks ninjas from walking, but not from shooting. More on water next time.
Important PSA: The red bridges don’t block shots either! Be careful leading your ninjas across.