I want to point you all in the direction of an article I just read over at Kill Ten Rats, called “Level Design Milestones.” Zubon finished playing a game called The Wonderful End of the World, which I’ve never heard of, but is apparently similar to Katamari Damacy, which I’ve played. He made some brilliant cross-comparisons between “rolling up the world” games and Massively Multiplayer Games, which I’d like to highlight here.

In games like Katamari, you roll around a ball and pick up items until your ball is big enough that you can pick up larger items. This “snowballs” to the point where you are soon picking up objects that were barriers to your progress before, which Zubon outlines in his first point “Barrier Becomes Fodder.” This is a concept that can apply equally across all types of games, and probably should.

The things that give you grief in the beginning ought to become mooks at some point — the spooky troll that stalked your adventuring party in the dark and ripped them to shreds (true story) should eventually be brought low by your group. And maybe not just the once time. Maybe you encounter additional trolls with similar properties, and you’re able to make mooks of them all.

Obviously, you want to subvert expectations periodically, and have other enemies scale to provide a consistent threat to the party. Sometimes you want to give the fodder teeth, so that when the party says “we can take this guy,” they wind up running away with their tails between their legs. So, moving beyond the example, “Barrier Becomes Fodder” sounds like a gameplay trope to be recognized and played with.

I’ll let you read his article for the other two points, “Rapid Growth” and “Return to Start,” since I think the article’s worth a read. There’s also a great comment at the bottom of the article, urging MMO designers to look outside their own genre for inspiration. It’s one thing to ride on the success of others, but to be be on the edge, leading the pack, … should be a goal for every good game designer.