So lately I have been brainstorming the level structure for TotemHead. My earlier post talks about a 2.5 D map structure, which functions like a 2D sidescroller, but has added depth (see DK Country Returns, Little Big Planet). This type of game works great for a simple "Hub Level" type of world where TotemHead can access the communication levels, but I'm running into some real problems!
PROBLEM: This is boring. The Forest/Village World is technically the Hub World that houses all the other levels in the game (kind of like the level selection island in Super Mario World). But this world is also where the meat of the story takes place, and there should be an exploration factor in it. TotemHead can only walk- he is a top-heavy, clumsy block of wood. That's no problem because for the most part, you will be playing within the communication channel with other characters, not out int he physical world. But just walking forward and running into another challenge is boring; and because Afternoon, Dusk and Night all ALSO take place in the forest and village, the level will get very monotonous to walk through for a second, third and fourth time. Even if the scenery does change with the time of day and storm. So here is my solution:
Rather than just a linear 2.5 D Sidescroller, this map looks more like a maze (also appropriate for the main internal level mechanics). There are multiple ways to get to the end of the forest, and points of interest can be scattered about. This gives the player incentive to explore the Hub level with the possibility of finding a new path each time they have to run back through. This doesn't need to be too involved, but it at least gives a bit more grounding to the central world that carries the story.