Interview: Christa Agius and Tommy Prentice discuss Lemmings' Creatorverse update and what player-made levels will bring

1 month ago 53
  • Fans have demanded a level editor for some time now
  • The essence of the level editor stems from the original on the Amiga
  • Plans to improve the social aspect are in the works

You might have noticed that earlier today, we revealed that Exient has introduced the Creatorverse update to Lemmings. As you've probably guessed from the name, it allows you to create your own levels for yourself and others to enjoy. 

It's a noteworthy update, then, and the first time Lemmings fans have had this option for quite some time. So, we decided to chat with Christa Agius, COO, and Exient and Tommy Prentice, Product Lead, all about it.

Can you introduce yourselves and your role on Lemmings to our readers?

Christa Agius: Sure! I'm Christa, the COO at Exient. I oversee the company’s operations and core teams, including the team working on Lemmings.
 
Tommy Prentice: I started at Exient as a Programmer on the core tech team and recently transitioned to a Product Lead role, focusing on the product direction of Lemmings.

What's the elevator pitch for Creatorverse for those unfamiliar?

Tommy Prentice: Creatorverse is our awesome new in-game level editor for Lemmings. It lets players dive into a playground where they can design their own levels, experiment with game mechanics, and test new ideas. They can then share these levels with friends and the broader Lemmings community. We also have leaderboards to highlight the best levels, offering a platform for players to showcase their creativity and understanding of the game’s delightfully fiendish mechanics.

What made you decide that now was the perfect time to introduce a level editor to Lemmings?

Christa Agius: We've been considering adding a level editor tool to the Lemmings mix for quite some time, especially given the love players showed for creating levels on the original Amiga games. In fact, our own Lemmings mobile community has consistently requested a level editor through conversations with us on Facebook and Discord. It's been a persistent topic, and we're excited to finally bring it to life.
 
Tommy Prentice: Absolutely. There has been latent demand for an editor, and over the years we've watched in awe as fans bring fresh perspectives to level creation, especially when we’ve met with at events. We've developed robust tools and traps for players to explore, so now is the perfect time to let them take the reins and delve deeper into the mechanics of Lemmings.

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When creating a level editor, getting the usability right is naturally crucial. What design choices did you make to ensure it was as easy to understand and use as possible?

Tommy Prentice: We started with the internal editor used by our designers and adapted it for players, but clearly we had to go back to basics in terms of UI and usability, or else it simply would not have worked very well. Through playtests, we identified and smoothed out rough spots, like ensuring players understand trap placements and how elements like portals connect. We also implemented validation to ensure players can only publish levels they've successfully completed themselves. 

The creative essence of the editor remains the same as players would have found on the original Amiga games – fundamentally players just love building their own levels and proving their skills. However, our mobile version of Lemmings was already quite different from a UI perspective, and the editor opens up even more new dynamics plus opportunities for social sharing, which we've integrated at a deep level.

There's a huge social element to Creatorverse. What do you hope this will bring to the game?

Christa Agius: We’ve already seen increased interaction among VIP players during our early access phase. They quickly began sharing and challenging each other with custom levels, which is fostering an even more vibrant community. We also think the editor could attract newcomers to the game – people who are excited to create, not just play.

Tommy Prentice: We’ve also noticed an uptick in engagement on platforms like TikTok, where players have been previewing level creations to their followers. It’s great to see the top creators already making a mark, and we’re eager to see how this evolves now the editor feature is fully public.

As you mentioned then, the level builder was previously only available for VIPs. What did you learn during this test period and did anything change based on player feedback?

Tommy Prentice: Absolutely. Our Discord community provided valuable feedback during a preview phase, especially our hardcore players who understand the game deeply. We also learned quickly that we needed to balance accessibility for new players while catering to the more advanced skills of veteran users. This has helped us fine-tune the feature to be welcoming yet challenging.

What features have you implemented to help with discoverability to ensure good quality levels rise to the top?

Tommy Prentice: We’ve implemented search filters and backend algorithms that rank levels by average playtime, difficulty, and fail rate. This system helps players find levels that match their skill and energy levels, ensuring they can quickly access content that suits their preferences.

Are you planning to reward players for creating popular levels?

Tommy Prentice: Yes, we’re working on several ways to enhance the social aspect even further. For example, we want players to be able to build a following, and we’re even considering integrating popular user-generated levels into the main game progression. This could free up our Lemmings designers to focus on new projects while spotlighting top creators. 

Do you have any other upcoming plans for Lemmings after the launch of Creatorverse?

Christa Agius: We’re also exploring ways for players to create entire planets filled with their levels, even naming them, mimicking the existing monthly Lemmings Season x Planets DLC cycle. This gives them a taste of being a game developer and aligns with our vision of fostering a creative and engaged community. The Creatorverse complements our regular content updates, offering a new dimension for players who want to explore their creativity and design skills, enriching the overall gameplay experience.

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