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Category: Game Design

Laura Shigihara, a game designer and the composer of the “Plants vs. Zombies”-music, asked me about the level design process and I want to share this with you.

1. The Idea
Every puzzle, situation, or experience for Grappling Hook started with a simple separate idea.

My first puzzle ideas had been straightforward. I just thought about, how the Grappling Hook could be used.

Some puzzles are inspired by other games, like Mirrors Edge, Portal, Braid, Super Mario, …
This is interesting for me, because the game mechanics are very different and it is somehow an experiment, where I want to see, if the grappling hook is powerful enough to solve these situations.
The “Compactor” level for example, was inspired by Super Mario and Star Wars.

All of my favorite ideas for puzzles were born during playing. I love to watch how other people play the game. In the first month, almost every tester played the game different. Even later some testers explored new ways, how to use the Grappling Hook.
It also happened more than a few times, that I explored a new move/trick just by chance. The strong use of air-control to jump around corners, accelerating with the hook just by clicking for half a second, or “bouncing” off walls are some of those tricks.
This was always most exiting, because the game was already able to perform these tricks, but I didn’t know it was possible. The exploration of these new possibilities and later creating quests, that required the “new” features to solve the quest, was really a lot of fun.

2. The Sketch
For most puzzles I’ve created a simple sketch.
These are some of the first sketches with level ideas I’ve made for Grappling Hook:
Everything blue is level architecture. Red marks surfaces, where you can use the hook. Green is the path of the player or how he has to use the hook. Z is the target ( German: Ziel ).
At this time no dynamic level elements were planned and I have not even thought about a concept for the level-editor.
continue reading…

Hi, 🙂 I created more levels and even explored a new way to use the Grappling Hook. This is awesome, because I neved planed the feature and it works perfectly and is very cool. MacGyverism, yeayyy!! 😀

There are 15 levels right now. 20 are planned, but when I have more ideas for cool puzzels, then there will be more levels! I always try to make every level unique and the puzzels a bit harder then in the last level.

To prove that not all levels have claustrophobic proportions I recorded this video today: 😉


Hi, 🙂

I passed the exam on Tuesday and wasn´t lazy since then.

Last Changes:

  • Created 3 new levels. ( There are 11 right now. Around 20 levels are planned. )
  • Added some options to the luncher. ( VSync, Antialiasing )
  • Added a list of hotkeys to the construction-mode-hud
  • Fixed some visual glitches
  • Changed/improved the menus a bit

One of the new levels is a space-level. I think it is a good variation, because all other levels are indoor. There are plans to make the space a bit more lively than it is right now.

Here is a current screenshot:

Grappling Hook - Space Level

Hey, 🙂

I have worked hard on Grappling Hook in the last week, because I will have no time to work on it in the next 7 days. I have to learn for my exam. But I can hardly wait to build new levels and work on the final tasks. 🙂

Last Changes:

  • I use Geometry Instancing for the rendering of most parts of the level now. This improved the game performance alot, because the number of draw-calls is heavly reduced. This had many small side effects I had to fix. But it `s done now. 🙂
  • Height shading is now implemented with a shader. Height shading means, that everything that is below your position will be darker and everything that is above will be brigher. This supports orientation. You can see the effect on the screenshot.
  • Heiko, a game developer and good friend, played the game and gave me a lot feedback. Based on his feedback I made many small changes to improve the game and interface. Thank you Heiko. 🙂
  • I worked again on the sound and textures of the electric trap.

Grappling Hook - Height Shading

Hey, 🙂
the end of development comes closer. There is still work to do, but I think it will take less than four weeks. In the next month I will have my last exam and have to learn for it at least seven days. I hope, that I can release a public demo of Grappling Hook at the end of July. 🙂

Latest Changes:

  • many small improvements and fixes based on the last play-test
  • controls for left-handed players
  • fixed the last major issues in the physics system
  • recreated the electricity trap
  • added a space-skybox
  • new options menu to change mouse sensitivity, sound volume and graphics settings

Screenshot of the new electricity trap:

Electricity Trap

Hey, 🙂

I finished the turrets and added a full-screen damage indicator.

It took me quite a long time to create model, textures, sounds and laser-effect for the turret. Coding the AI and animation was done in a few hours.

The turret rotates independently on two axes and fires every 2-3 seconds a railgun-lasershot. Before every shot you can hear the laser charging. This gives you a chance to dodge or hide. You can not destroy the turrets, because Grappling Hook is a non-violent game. 😉 So you have to hide or keep moving. I think that supports the agile gameplay.


Should the turret have a real voice or beep like R2D2?

Hey, 🙂

some time has passed since my last update, because I worked on stuff, that is not visible on screenshots. But I don´t want you to think, that I’m lazy. 😉

Latest Changes:

  1. There are now two difficulty modes: normal and hard. ( Hard is really hard and quite different to play. )
  2. Implemented a UI-system and the most important menu-screens.
  3. Many optimizations for ray-checks, bloom-shader and other stuff.
  4. Some minor changes to the HUD.

Cya 🙂

Hey, 🙂 I worked on the menu in the last days:

  • Picked a better font
  • designed the logo and the 2 most important menu-screens
  • started to implement a small UI-System for the game

This is the main-menu:

Grappling Hook - Main Menu

And this is screen, where you can see your progress in the game and select the level you want to play: ( Every level will have its own thumbnail in the final version)

Grappling Hook - Level Overview

Any suggestions? 🙂

Hey, 🙂 except playing Mass Effect 😉 , i worked on the HUD of Grappling Hook:

  • new font
  • new crosshair
  • recreated textures
  • new models for pickups, checkpoint and the teleporter

So I almost finished the visual stuff.
Now I will concentrate on an overview map, new levels and the story.

Screenshot: 🙂

Hey, 🙂 it has been a while since the last update. So what has changed?

  • 4 play-tests with fresh testers ( Thank you Alex, Vasil, Heiko and Aaron 🙂 )
  • helmet for the player, so he doesn´t hurt himself when crashing with his head against the ceiling 😉
  • higher field of view to improve the sense of speed and overview
  • animated grappling device
  • many small improvements
  • feedback-polishing

Here is a current screenshot:

I’m still working on textures and the hud right now.

Hope you like it. 🙂