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Robert Tamayo

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Troll Levels: Anti Design that Works

I enjoy watching people play so-called Troll Levels in any game. I used to hate Troll Levels because they are the antithesis of good level design. But I've come to appreciate them for a few reasons.

Good Troll Levels are Designed for the Metagame


There are bad and good troll levels. The bad ones are absolute trash.

The good ones are also trash. But they are trash in a different way.

The Troll Level works because it betrays the confidence of the player in the metagame. Trolls work because the metagame is telling the player to jump and hit the block, as learned from experience. But then the Troll Level kills you for doing that. If a Troll Element is not based on the metagame, it becomes trash.

Good Troll Levels are Funny, not Cruel


Sometimes the Trolls are cruel. If so, then the level is trash. People have fun playing games and overcoming challenges. They don't have fun being mocked and ridiculed.

Troll Level creators that understand this can usually develop a following, as their Trolls are humorous and enjoyable.

Good Troll Levels are Still Usually Unappealing Aesthetically


There is usually nothing good about a Troll Level. They are still designed in an ugly way, and with an ugly intent: to betray the player. If the betrayal is done for the player's entertainment, and done well, then it is a successful Troll. If it is not done well or it is done with malicious intent, then the Troll fails.

A useful heuristic to use when making a Troll Level is to think of it as making a Droll Level - a fun, humorous level, not a difficult, boring level.

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