Indivisible’s Level Design
Hi! It’s Me!
Me is Mathew Kumar. I’m the Lead Level Designer on Indivisible! I was very briefly mentioned in an earlier post without being named, but, whelp, here I am. I’ve been working on Indivisible for several months now, but you won’t have seen any of my work yet, so you’d probably like to know a bit more about me and my plans as part of the team!
Like Brandon Sheffield, our recently announced lead writer, I was a video game obsessed jerk who ended up entering the industry via journalism. I entered game development as there comes a point where “holding opinions on games” turns into “I’m pretty sure if I could do something with these opinions!”
I’ve been very lucky in my life that, for example, the team at Queasy Games took a chance on me as just a jerk with opinions, and that I was able to take such a meaningful role in the creation and design of the levels in Sound Shapes. Outside of that I’ve been able to work in consulting roles on brilliant titles such as N++ and They Bleed Pixels, among others.
My gaming lineage starts in Scotland as a tiny child with an Amstrad CPC (a system that I’m going to assume most of you haven’t heard of) and complex open-world platformers such as Jet Set Willy (same?) and progresses through all the classics you know and probably love. I fall on the “Super Mario Brothers 3 is better than Super Mario World” side of things, if you’re digging for reasons to hate me. And my favorite system ever is the Neo Geo Pocket Color… if you’re digging for other reasons to hate me.
Oh, and I believe Scotland should be independent and black cats are the best. Those are reasons to love me.
The team at Lab Zero have been working insanely hard since Indivisible was crowdfunded at the end of 2015, and it’s my job to pull a lot of the work they’ve done into a cohesive experience. With the experience of two backer previews, 2018’s E3 and the addition of my fresh eyeballs, we’re able to make informed decisions on creating the balanced, paced Metroidvania-inspired title you’ve been anticipating through a laser focus on Indivisible’s design challenges and opportunities.
So, for example, if you’ve played through our backer previews, it’s worth noting one big change that comes from my new regime of terror: Ajna’s first ability, axe-hang, will be changed from something that can be done over and over to just once per jump.
This comes from our renewed focus on providing an in-depth, challenging platforming experience while also allowing our environments to feel like real places. By giving the player limitless verticality at such an early stage, it constrained our level design into placing awkward blockers when we didn’t want you going up; and made many exploration challenges too simple or monotonous treks up walls (often with un-fun punishment falls). It also decreases the chances players will use the axe-hang habitually rather than explore other solutions. We’d even noticed from playtesting that players would forget to use Ajna’s silky wall jumps, making their movement through the world less flowing. It’s a good example where a restriction actually opens up a lot more potential. And with Ajna’s power increasing across the game, that’s not to say she’ll stay limited in her verticality for long.
We’re making these decisions together as a team, with each of Ajna’s behaviors being tested and re-tested. I’m already looking forward to a long period of iteration and polish on each of Indivisible’s levels, finding the fun that will help drive you through the stunning story and art the rest of the team has put together. I really can’t wait for you to see what we’ve been working on!
Lots of love,
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