The Babylon Spire – An Exercise in Level Design

February 13, 2013
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I was recently asked to create a level layout during a one of my classes at the Art Institute, and the outcome of that is the Babylon Spire!

While a great system for a standalone adventure, the Babylon Spire is designed for online multiplayer RPGs. The level consists of minor and major boss battles, a bunch of tough enemies, numerous puzzles and a heavy emphasis on strategy and preparation. It even features limited opportunities to gain a special armor set to encourage multiple playthroughs. The design was inspired by Final Fantasy XI’s “Salvage” event, which was one of my favorite parts of that game.

I’m certain the design could be altered some to work outside of the RPG genre, though I also believe it could probably make a game all on it’s own if the concept were expanded. It’d be interesting to see where it would go on a larger scale, or maybe even just multiple towers among a large world map. Some towers with more floors, maybe some towers that sink underground, or are underwater… maybe floating towers, who knows. And the players could just traverse the world map conquering towers. Interesting, no?


A dark metallic tower rises skyward in the distance, in stark contrast to the barren wasteland that surrounds it.  There is nothing along the way but an open plain, spanning miles, void of wildlife and foliage.  To approach the Babylon Spire requires one to brave the carrion drakes that circle the tower.  There is no cover, no protection from the beasts as they swoop down and carry off the unfortunate adventurers, destined to be their next meal.  It’s a full on sprint for your life simply to reach the tower’s gates.  Once inside, you may as well have entered the devil’s lair itself, for the nightmare has only just begun.

Babylon Spire Rules

spire_largeThe Babylon Spire is designed as an event for online multiplayer RPGs.  The main objective is to explore the tower, bring your party to the top floor, and defeat the mega boss that resides there.  Players can also collect pieces of the Babylonian Armor set, dropped from various boss monsters inside the Spire.  The Babylon Spire event is timed, limiting a party to only 90 minutes inside before they are ejected from the Spire.  Parties must formulate a strategy to find the optimal path through the tower within the time provided, based on which items and/or abilities they require to defeat the mega boss.

The general layout of the Babylon Spire is designed to limit your progress.  It consists of five floors (four standard floors and one mega boss floor), and each floor is separated into multiple wings.  Successfully completing the objective inside a particular wing will grant your party access to exclusive items or imbue players with special abilities as a reward, as well as unlock the teleporter to the next floor.  However, once a teleporter is unlocked, other wings on that floor enter a lockdown mode, effectively preventing your party from gaining the rewards of two or more wings on any given floor.  It is therefore advised for parties to plan their path through the tower according to their primary objectives and time limit.


Objectives Per Wing

Each individual wing contains a single objective that must be completed in order to unlock the teleporter to the next floor.  These objectives come in three separate varieties:

  • Defeat all enemies
  • Solve the puzzle
  • Defeat the mini boss

Defeat All Enemies

A wing which requires the defeat of all enemies should have an obvious objective.  Defeating all enemies will unlock the teleport, and bestow some type of buff to all members in your party.

Available buffs are randomly selected, and include :

  • HP/MP Boost
  • Auto-Haste
  • Damage Boost +25%
  • Defense Boost +25%

* All buffs gained in this manner are limited to your stay inside the Babylon Spire.*

Solve the Puzzle

A wing which requires you to solve a puzzle can load one of four randomly generated puzzles of the following types:

  • Lamps  –  Activate all lamps in a particular order.
  • Switches  –  Activate all switches at the same time.
  • Patterns  –  Your party must move a series of blocks to build a correct image.
  • Weights  –  Your party must stand on the correct platforms.

Once completed, all puzzle wings grant a debilitating effect unto the final boss as their reward.  The nature of the effect is determined by the floor in which you solved the puzzle.  For instance, solving a puzzle on the first floor will always grant the same effect, regardless of which puzzle you had to solve.  The effects per floor are as follows:

  • Floor One  –  Auto-Slow  (creature’s attack speed is reduced)
  • Floor Two  –  Auto-Paralysis  (creature is permanently paralyzed, effect proc at standard rate)
  • Floor Three  –  Curse  (creature is cursed, max HP down -20%)
  • Floor Four  –  Debilitate  (creature’s special attacks only do half damage)

Mini – Boss

A mini-boss wing is as simple as it sounds.  A single mini-boss enemy will spawn inside the wing.  Defeating a mini-boss will unlock the teleporter, as well as load a series of items into your party’s loot pool.  Items include various money drops, special equipment, and a small chance at obtaining a piece of the Babylonian Armor set.  Babylonian Armor, as the rare drop from a mini-boss, is floor specific for each slot, detailed in the following list.

  • Floor One  –  Babylonian Sollerets  (feet)
  • Floor Two  –  Babylonian Cuisses  (legs)
  • Floor Three  –  Babylonian Gauntlets  (hands)
  • Floor Four  –  Babylonian Helm  (head)

Mega – Boss

The fifth and final floor houses only the mega-boss.  Exactly what you’d expect it to be, your objective is simply to defeat the boss.  Any special attributes or debilitations your party earned on the way up the Spire stay intact for the duration of the battle.    The mega-boss, like minis you encounter along the way, has a small chance to drop the body piece of the Babylonian Armor, as well as various money items and other equipment.

*Failing to defeat the mega-boss will result in your ejection from the Babylon Spire.*

  • Floor Five  –  Babylonian Breastplate  (body)

Upon defeat of the mega-boss, activate the portal to end your reservation of the Babylon Spire and be transported back to the entrance.  Successful completion of the Babylon Spire event awards the player with the title “Herald of Nebuchadnezzar.”  


I drew out some basic map layouts on graph paper, that again were inspired by the FFXI Salvage layouts. In this case, I made five floors, but it could of course be expanded to add more.