Here’s a list of tips for people creating singleplayer episodes. Some of these tips are from an article I wrote for Howto JCS a long time ago but most are new.

Some design tips:

– Before you even place a single tile in JCS you should know what the level is going to be about. Even better is if you make a sketch of the general layout. You should also think of how each level fits into the entire episode. You can make an episode that is comprised of a handfull of totally unrelated levels but that would be boring and it would also not be a real episode. Instead try to make the levels ‘connect’. Make the 2nd level the logical next step after the first, etc…

– Ask yourself this question: What is the point?
Why should Jazz go through all the trouble of ridding your levels of baddies and making it to the end? There doesn’t have to be a real story in the episode; it can be as simple as that Devan is planning to do something particularly evil again and you have to stop him (although that would be a bit lame).
What I mean is… There has to be a goal. Otherwise, things get boring fast. A goal makes levels interesting, it’s something you can work towards, look forward to… Without that, levels are reduced to random obstacle and enemy generators. Or to put it another way, you are reducing yourself to a random obstacle and enemy generator. Not a pleasant thought :P.
The next step in adding meaning to your levels would be adding an actual story. An episode doesn’t necessarily need one, but it CAN really help to spice up your levels. A good story adds loads of atmosphere. And above all, it makes the player wonder what happens next.

– Be different. Why would anyone want to play your level if it’s the same as all the other ones they’ve played?

– When you design your levels, put some structure and logic into them. Both nature and buildings have a certain ‘layout’. There’s a logic to the way a location fits together. A building generally has a main hall with an entrance and it has corridors that lead to other rooms. Even something as chaotic as a forest has some logic to it. There’s no point in creating endless corridors that all look roughly the same.

– Design consistently. When something is in the back- or foreground at one point, don’t make it a platform you can stand on somewhere else. It’s confusing. Definitely don’t change what objects represent over the course of the episode. Also, use the tileset logicaly. For example, what looks like a platform which you can stand on, should BE a platform you can stand on. If you confuse and frustrate the player he’ll hit Esc and quit before you know it.

– It is always a good idea to create different paths for the player to follow and different ways to overcome obstacles or solve puzzles. Make the player feel clever by allowing him to come up with a way of his own to do something or to get somewhere. Remember though that quality is more important than quantity, so you shouldn’t make loads of paths that are all really boring. Just make a few that are all very cool.

– Reward the player. If he goes through a lot of trouble to get to a certain point and finds out there’s nothing there he will be very disappointed.

– Suprise deaths aren’t fun. If a player has no way of knowing there’s a booby trap in the next room and get’s killed as a result, it’s unfair. You should warn him in some way. In the case of a booby trap, you could have skulls or blood (or whatever else the tileset provides) lying around.


And some general practical tips:

– Don’t use the standard Jazz tilesets. They’ve all been overused to death. Browse through the J2O download archives. There are plenty of excellent custom tilesets just a few clicks away…

– Use plenty of eye-candy. Good eye-candy makes good environments, good environments make good atmosphere, good atmosphere…

– Find some cool music on the internet to go with the levels or make your own.

– Don’t use “rapid fire” pickups. They make the game too easy.

– Don’t use sucker tubes too often. People like to PLAY games. Not just
to sit and watch. We have TV for that!



If you just read through this whole thing and haven’t got the faintest idea what I’m talking about OR if you are just looking for some good examples, check these out:

“The Lost World episode” – by Ninja Dodo and Jaws
I did my best to apply all the rules I mentioned above in this episode. So basicly, this is what I’m talking about.

“Tomb Rabbit” – by Kejero
An excellent episode with great design, cool puzzles and amazing environments. Did I mention great design?

“Another Story” – In a way, this was the first ‘real’ episode. This amazing little pack of levels, tileset and music, totally changed the way people made singleplayer jazz levels. It had a great story and was simply really well-designed…

“Half Life” – by Valve (distributed by Sierra)
I know what you’re thinking… “What has this got to do with Jazz?” Well… I have to admit, not much, but it has everything to do with perfect level design. It is also one of the few 3D shooters that actually has something of a story. If you’re looking for inspiration on putting together good levels, this is the game to play (It was a huge inspiration to me while designing LWE).

(The first three can all be found in the J2O downloads. As for Half Life, I suggest you take a look at the demo here.)


If you’re interested in reading more about level/game design, I can definitely recommend these:

“Design Speech 1999” – A very interesting speech by David Perry about game design.

“Game Design, Secrets of the Sages” 2nd edition (published by Brady Games) – THE book on everything that goes into developing games, including level design.

“Gamasutra” – Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a weird name but it’s actually an excellent site about game design.


Comments

Ninja Dodo on April 07, 2002 06:00

It is perfectly possible to create a good episode with other people’s tilesets, Bjarni. So that shouldn’t be a problem.

Bjarni Cool on April 07, 2002 06:00

Cool, but I can´t create a episode. I can´t create a tile-set. :-(

Bjarni Cool on April 09, 2002 05:00

Thabk you! :-D ..eh..eh..I…eh…eh…

Hawkin 87 on April 15, 2002 05:00

Considering that I’ve had a few (Have a few, really) episodes on my HD, left to the dust because of “poorness” in quality, this should help immensly. Make another help for tlesets!!! Oris that Agama’s line of work…

Super Saiyan on April 15, 2002 05:00

Really Nice Article. I know someone is makeing a episode too. Im sure he can improve the lvls with this.

Yu-Gi-Oh on April 15, 2002 05:00

dude!! i tottally agree!!
Im making an episode to!
yeha right! im going to draw my lvl but eh, i like the disign tips!

Link on April 15, 2002 05:00

I think I should try making an episode sometime. I haven’t really been into level-making for a while, but this has inspired me to make some.

the WINNER on April 16, 2002 05:00

Heh! My Mission Impossible just needs THIS article! :D

Taz on April 16, 2002 05:00

Nice article. I think everyone can make a Single Player episode NOW! ;)

>>Møønblãzé<< on April 16, 2002 05:00

YaY!
Great article, might i get a 3 level episode done in some few years

…“It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care” -Peter Gibbons, ‘Office Space’

Ninja Dodo on April 17, 2002 05:00

Hawkin, actually tilesets are also my line of work but since there are already plenty of articles about tilesets here I thought another one wouldn’t be a good idea. I did post some tips as a comment to one of the tileset articles here though…

AcId on April 17, 2002 05:00

hmmm… I can make tilesets that I think are good, but when I look at them when I post them on the site, the only thing keeping them from getting a 5 is Bjarni popping up with his big bag of 10s. I like my tilesets, but would you suggest I use someone else’s like Disguise or Agama’s?(I know, they aren’t the only wonderful tileset creators, but I can’t list you all!)

BlackRabite on April 18, 2002 05:00

I was actually thinking of creating a single player episode out of My Story. The only problem is I need a custom made tileset, and I can’t make one. (Inanimate objects would still pose a threat if they fired missiles, and putting the Tweedle boss event on a weak spot would make it work as a boss)

Hellraiser on April 19, 2002 05:00

The only problem with homemade episodes, is that they appear in the “home cooked levels” episode, along with all your other custom levels. I think it would be cool if we could make our own j2e files, and have them be selectable on the episode menu.

maybe someday, someone will find out how to edit a j2e file to put in your own levels, episode name, and pictures. It’s within the realm of possibility, I just don’t have the tools to do it.

Ninja Dodo on April 20, 2002 05:00

Actually it is possible to create custom j2e files. The problem is getting them on the episodes list. You see, Jazz allows only a limited number of episodes on the list. So if you add too many others get crowded off the screen. TSF (If installed in a different directory than 1.23) doesn’t have this problem as much because it has fewer episodes (only tsf and homecooked). I created a j2e file for LWE but if you use it with 1.23, Shareware demo is pushed offscreen.

byggemester on April 20, 2002 05:00

Spaztic on April 22, 2002 05:00

I feel so cheated ;P

Piccolo on May 18, 2002 05:00

Thanksalot buddy,
some of your tips are really useful,so they will be used in my updated version of Some Continueing Episode!

PS:Download my levels!

DoubleGJ on September 27, 2002 05:00

OK, NInja Dodo, but how can I MAKE the j2e?

ScionFighter on October 02, 2002 05:00

Ninja Dodo, polish version of TSF have TSF episode, 4 original Jazz2 episodes, Holiday Hare episode, Shareware Demo episode and Home Coocked :)(yay, we are rich :)). BTW, Answer the JSZ Jazz’s question!

Ninja Dodo on November 24, 2002 05:00

Well, I know TSF also comes with the original game but if you install 1.23 in one directory and TSF in another then there’s only 2 episodes in TSF

You need a special program and it’s pretty complicated.

White Rabbit on May 30, 2003 05:00

This rules. It’ll help a lot of ppl. I’m one of them. :-)

Ninjajazz on May 24, 2004 05:00

COOL! even i am so poor level editor…sniif!

jasonlee on December 26, 2004 01:21

come duel!!!!!!!!

jazzrox on January 17, 2005 18:54

but i need jcs in order to do it ninja! can u put a download on jazz2online so i can get it please?

Violet CLM on January 18, 2005 02:25

JCS comes with JJ2. If you don\‘t have JCS, you either have a shareware, OEM, HH98 or Mac version. Buy JJ2/get a real computer.

Jarno vos on February 08, 2005 17:48

HAHAHAHAHA
———————
All People Have JCS But NOT If You Have Downloaded From The Net!!!!!

adampadam on July 19, 2005 07:22

How can you download:jcs.from the net

Violet CLM on July 19, 2005 20:16

You can\‘t. It comes with JJ2.

NovaStar on September 06, 2005 12:12

Oh, you\‘re all VERY much more lucky than me.
I can\‘t make tilesets nor can I make a level! Help!

chet208 on March 18, 2006 17:16

Well i made A few episodes only 1 is good enough for this site. And still, it\‘s not that great. And i made a tile set and uh… I\‘d rather not talk about it ( to horid).

a on July 06, 2006 15:56

lala

FOX282 on April 26, 2007 06:35

Nice!!
very helpful!

Radu on May 29, 2007 17:46

Thank you!
My last episode was awfull!

I want to say Very helpful

KMT 655 on March 14, 2009 11:25

How do we play the games?????????

Haggis McHaggis on August 03, 2009 17:05

At first,

I\‘d like to thank you for this guide. The tips helped me a lot and the examples of good levels you gave even more!

The guide is good structured, not to long and easy to read.

Greetings,
Haggis McHaggis

TLATER on December 24, 2009 14:39

At first: thank you!

but what`s a booby trap ?

jak23ft on December 30, 2009 21:00

How do you make an episode?