The Invisible Power of Metrics
At their best, systems and levels inform each other but through the timeline of development, they can fall out of sync. To actually complete a game, there must come a time in development when plans are truly finalized. No project adds a plotline hours before launch, but sometimes a game can be elevated through the exploratory moments in the earlier stages.
As a level designer, metrics, like how far a player can jump, are a key tool in my toolbox and should never be changed lightly. However, if our goal is to develop the best product, some flexibility is needed. This is particularly evident in games like Overwatch 2 where the cast of playable characters constantly expands. When designing a level for Overwatch 2 a level designer needs to consider the existing abilities and those that might later. This also means that a systems designer needs to understand the assumptions and principles of the levels. However, a growing product may eventually want to add new elements that do not neatly fit into their earlier agreed-upon constraints.
While there is a cost, expanding constraints is potentially beneficial. Odd abilities like the hookshot in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time might not have been a part of the initial plan but it is the only item in the game that lets Link move vertically. If it was added in development, most levels would need to be restructured, but the game would be better for it. Though this is not always true. In Hades, there are no abilities that interact with the environment. However, the core of the game revolves around building combos. If an environmental ability was added, every level and system would need to be reshaped to account for it, if not why include it?
As games are a creative medium we can become fairly attached to ideas, but we need to keep in mind that we may not have found the best ones. It is important to adapt and communicate alongside other disciplines as we move toward our goals, together.