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Free-to-Play Level Design: 'Each Centimeter Has To Be Perfect'

In Gamasutra's latest feature, 13 year arcade veteran turned free-to-play developer Xavi Fradera writes about how the two styles of development have a lot in common -- including catering to an unforgiving audience.
In Gamasutra's latest feature, 13 year arcade veteran turned free-to-play developer Xavi Fradera writes about how the two styles of development have a lot in common -- including catering to an unforgiving audience. "With most games you buy at a shop, replayability is not prioritized. The completely opposite happens with coin-op games; each level will be played hundreds of times by the same player," he writes. "This is mainly the starting levels, since they are the ones the player has to master if he wants to progress in the game. These levels have then to be thoroughly designed, each centimeter has to be perfect, gameplay-wise. The bulk of the production effort has to be focused on these levels." Fradera says that one great tip from his arcade days is developing later levels first, and then going back and creating the first levels of the game when the design methods and gameplay concepts are proved out, so they're created when everything is running smoothly. Why is it so important? In arcade titles, "If there's something that can be improved, something that's not fun at all, something wrong or missing... in the end, the player will get bored quickly, or even worse, annoyed, and that will be enough reason to stop playing the game." "With F2P games, the situation is very similar (specially for shooters)," he writes. "The player plays each level thousands and thousands of times in different game modes, so everything has to be perfect: each centimeter of the levels, each game mechanic, no lost opportunities... because, as we know, that means the player will leave the game and look for another one on which to spend his money." The full feature, in which Fradera shares more insights that translate between the two styles of development, is live now on Gamasutra.

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