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  1. Preface Architecture theory is a considerably broad subject, an amalgamation of numerous artistic and psychological sensibilities. However, regardless of architectural movement or era, one idea has proved itself a philosophical mainstay. In the words of architect Louis Khan; “architecture is the thoughtful making of space”. For centuries, architects have been concerned with how physical forms shape and manipulate the spatial void they are placed within, exploring how this influences the ways in which human beings interact with space. Even though digital game levels are intangible, players interface with these spaces in a fashion to how their own bodies would interact with the world around them. Hence, level design can be approached through an architectural lens to enrich the player’s experience of digital spaces. In this assignment, I shall explore how level designers have utilized architecture theory in their craft. Throughout, I will introduce and explain several spatial principles and present a curated range of game spaces that employ them. This will display the ways in which level designers have utilized, subverted or otherwise re-purposed architectural theory to enrich player experience, but may also show how genre affects these decisions. Emotionally-guided Planning of Space A ‘parti pris’¸ often shortened to ‘parti’, is a planning technique that some architects use early in their design process to identify their project’s layout and spatial qualities. Usually a sketch of the site’s overhead layout, the parti can be informed by external ideas which often transcend the physicality of architectural form. Through this approach, an architectural piece can become a physical manifestation of the philosophical concept it was founded upon. Meaning ‘spirit of place’, the Roman concept of genius loci has been adapted by architects to describe when a place is recognized for a remarkable or memorable quality. For some level designers, the genius loci may exist through an intended gameplay experience that is shaped by their game genre. In horror game Dead Space 2, hostile enemies were omitted from the chapter ‘Déjà Vu on the Ishimura’ which subverted player expectation and placed it among the most memorable moments of the game’s campaign. The genius loci here can be considered as being the elevation of dramatic tension throughout the level’s spatial atmosphere. Place and Space Figure-ground Theory Generally, it can be assumed that both architects and level designers must possess a fundamental understanding of how shapes and spaces are visually organised. A way for this to be achieved is application of gestalt theory; the psychological study of human perception. Level designer Christopher W. Totten refers to level design as “an art of contrasts”, in which the gestalt component of figure-ground theory can be applied. Figure-ground theory states that all components within a person’s visual field can be separated into two contrasting elements: ‘figures’ and ‘ground’. For Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts”. Through the lens of architectural design, this idea is present; form and space must be considered equally to be distinguishable and understood. Architect Francis D. K. Ching defines the relationship between figure and ground as “a unity of opposites”, alluding to both elements having equal significance to a visual composition. There are two ways in which the placement of figures will determine how the surrounding ground is visually processed: Positive space is created when figures are arranged to imply shape within them. The ground itself can be perceived as a figure. Negative space occurs when Figures are placed distantly from one another, making the ground appear shapeless and uncontained. Ching reinforces how the base principles behind figure-ground theory remain significant when applied to Architecture, claiming that “architectural form occurs at the juncture between mass and space”. This perspective echoes throughout the application of spatial theory in both architecture and level design. Here, mass and space are the tangible equivalents to figure and ground. There must be always be a perceivable contrast between form and space to retain visual clarity. The contrast between figure and ground has numerous was of being achieved, including colour, value, and texture. N++, as a two-dimensional platformer, does not adhere to many architectural sensibilities. Despite this, the game’s minimalistic level design highlights the symbiotic dichotomy between mass and space. The figures and ground are easily identifiable from each other due to their heavily contrasting colours and values (see Figure 1). Fig. 1: N++ 2016. 'Parkour Park Prototype' level. [screenshot by the author]. Here, the white masses shown are physical structures, and the navy-coloured void is the space in which players navigate through. The placement of obstacles and enemies within the playable space help to prevent the player from alternating their perspective of the game’s figures and ground, a problem that occurs when both elements of a visual composition have roughly equal presence. Some levels in N++ are prone to this problem, where their masses and spaces dominating equal space and disrupting the distinction between figure and ground. This is exacerbated when the level’s masses appear to be extensions of the surrounding game border (see Figure 2). Highlighting the shortcomings of a minimalistic colour palette, scenarios like these have potential to confuse the player, as the game environment consequently becomes more difficult to read. However, these abstract visual compositions could be considered a positive or otherwise intriguing quality, contributing to the level’s genius loci. Fig. 2: N++ 2016. 'Learning Process' level. [screenshot by the author]. Landmarks Urban designer Kevin Lynch proposed that urban city environments are comprised of five key elements. One of these elements, landmarks, can be considered a significant level design tool to enrich a game’s environment. At an urban scale, landmarks are typically physical structures like towers, distinctive buildings, or statues, that serve as spatial anchors or reference points for pedestrians. Furthermore, landmarks have potential to contribute to a space’s genius loci. Lynch believed that the “principal factor” for an object to be considered a landmark was its visual contrast to a background, which could be achieved through application of figure-ground theory. The Eiffel Tower is perhaps one of the most renowned examples of a landmark utilizing figure-ground effectively. Here, the sky itself is the ground in which the figure is placed upon (see Figure 3). This grants Paris a landmark of immense scale that can be observed and referenced several kilometres from its origin. Fig. 3: Gustave Eiffel 1889. The Eiffel Tower. Landmarks as World-enriching Figures Naturally, Level Designers can use skyboxes in outdoor environments to similar effect. The skybox can also be made visually distinguishable from the game’s horizon, resulting in a significant amount of negative space to be used as the ground for landmark figures. In World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, players are immediately greeted by a monolithic structure upon their arrival to the fictional city of Dazar’alor (see Figure 4). This structure is a gilded, Mesoamerican-influenced pyramid that houses the upper echelons of the native society and their seat of power. Visually, the pyramid contrasts its background to a similar magnitude of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Fig. 4: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. 2018. Pyramid landmark in Dazar'alor. [screenshot by the author]. The placement of Dazar’alor’s pyramid echoes architectural conventions of spatial elevation. Ching identifies how the physical elevation of a structure is often a culturally informed decision, venerating the site’s religious or social importance to the area it has risen above. The pyramid itself is among the tallest locations on the entire continent of Zandalar, indicating its significance to the city’s cultural identity. Home to the Zandalari Trolls, the races’ occupation of the structure symbolises their dominance and mastery over the land. This notion continues through the bold, triangular shape of the pyramid, which mimics the surrounding mountains. Similarly, the Citadel in Half Life 2 carries a similar theme of dominance over the surrounding landscape, but in such a way that it appears overwhelmingly oppressive. The Citadel’s futuristic, muted features and monstrous size have a discordant but contrasting presence among the dated, brick-and-mortar apartment blocks of City 17. The tower evokes a sense of dread or unease, which is fitting, as Totten explains how the game establishes very early that the Citadel is the location of the game’s primary antagonist. Using Landmarks as Diegetic Pathfinding Devices Additionally, level designers can place landmarks throughout game levels as physical goals or locations that the player must reach. The impact of using waypoints in this manner can be augmented by an architectural technique that Frederick describes as “denial and reward”. Generally, the intention behind this is to make arrival to a landmark or destination feel more satisfying. In the context of level design, denial and reward is used during the player’s passage to a landmark. Landmarks become temporarily obscured from view, only to be revealed later from a new distance or perspective. Revealing the landmark from increasingly closer distances can indicate the passage of time to player in a natural and unobtrusive way, compelling the player to proceed. Journey utilizes this technique well. The game’s primary objective is to reach the mountain, a distant landmark that is introduced almost immediately after the game begins. The mountain often leaves the player’s field of view as they complete puzzles and traverse the abandoned landscape, but will occasionally resurface, appearing closer to the player. The physical qualities of the mountain are layered; new details are made apparent to the player as they get closer to the summit. These details include changes in weather, as well as the addition of small ruins and structures that would have been impossible to see from a greater distance. Further Exploration of Positive and Negative Spaces Positive Spaces in Urban Environments In urban environments, architectural figures are often placed in such a way that shapes the within them, implying spaces without using form. These positive spaces act as “dwelling” zones where people are typically found to socialise. The Nolli Map demonstrates the use of these spaces throughout the entire city of Rome, Italy (see Figure 5). Fig. 5: Nolli 1748. Segment of the 'Nolli Map'. Major cities in World of Warcraft, social environments using the same considerations of positive space. Like many urban environments, the positive spaces in the city of Stormwind are shaped by the placement of architectural figures. Overhead, the city is shown to have its districts separated by rooftop colour. This is the primary way in which each district’s visual identity can be distinguished. Characteristics like these, although simple, reflect urban planner Kevin Lynch’s criteria used to define ‘districts’ in urban cities, another one of his five urban city elements. Additionally, Stormwind’s layout uses canals to further separate these spaces, resulting in the transition between the city’s district a being very apparent to players navigating through the city. In Stormwind City, the Trade District is typically where social interactions between players’ game avatars are concentrated. By observing a figure-ground plan of the area, (see Figure 6), these hotspots are shown to be within the district’s positive spaces. Fig. 6: Tancock 2018. Stormwind Trade District Figure-ground Diagram. The high number of players in this zone can be attributed to the clustering of character services that are otherwise sparsely located in the game world, namely the Bank and Auction House. Like many dwelling spaces in urban architecture, the high player activity can be taken for the Trade District’s landmark. This mirrors the findings of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, that designer Claire Hosking references in her exploration of positive spaces. The positive spaces in the Trade District can be considered a ‘social canvas’, where the high concentration of players has increased potential interaction. These spaces can be utilized by level designers to create memorable social gathering places. Negative Spaces in Multiplayer Shooters Like positive space, negative space in urban design is defined by the spatial relationship between architectural figures. Here, negative space occurs when the arrangement of figures does not imply space, making the ground appear uncontained and shapeless. The use of negative space can be further considered from a three-dimensional perspective. Like landmarks, playable spaces can be visually identified by contrasting the negative space surrounding them. The rampant popularity of the Unreal Tournament map Facing Worlds (see Figure 7) is often attributed to its use of negative space. For arena shooters, the use of negative space allows players to distinguish other players, both hostile and friendly, from great distances. Additionally, negative space aids in the identification of power weapons and game mode objectives. Fig. 7: Unreal Tournament 1999. ‘Facing Worlds' multiplayer map. Level designer Jim Brown compares the use of negative space of Facing Worlds to the lack thereof in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map Favela. Here, the environment’s negative space is more difficult to distinguish from the playable space, leading to confusion and frustration from players. Despite this, Brown admits that the map’s environmental design was faithful to its architectural source material; the favelas of Brazil. The primary threat in competitive shooters comes from the presence of hostile players. Therefore, level designers must emphasize negative spaces to make all players identifiable from the game environment. This approach should reduce external factors, outside of the individual skill of the player, that reduces the frustration from failure. In this context, the ‘failure’ comes from being killed by an enemy player. In Modern Warfare 2, the single-player mission ‘Takedown’ is also set within a Brazilian favela, utilizing the same level design language and lack of visual clarity as its multiplayer equivalent. Level designer Dan Taylor uses this level to justify that “confusion is cool” but admits that these situations should be carefully and sparingly implemented. It can be argued that using negative space to a similar extent of Facing Worlds would have detracted from the level’s experiential qualities. Repurposing Architectural Conventions for Level Design Although many spatial considerations of level design are analogous to their architectural roots, the ways in which people and players experience these spaces are inherently different. Totten manipulates architect Le-Corbusier’s philosophy towards modern architecture, as he states how Level design is often constructed around challenges or situations that must be overcome by the player; “the game level should be the machine for living, dying, and creating tension by exploiting everything in between”. Some principles of architecture must be subverted or otherwise manipulated to achieve said intended experience. Spatial Considerations of Multiplayer Map Design First introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops, the multiplayer map Nuketown has been embraced by game modding communities and has since appeared in later Call of Duty titles. Nuketown’s popularity, like many other renowned competitive multiplayer maps, could be partially attributed to its use of synergy between positive and negative spaces. The spatial organisation of Nuketown (see Figure-8) is based on a suburban living space. Positive and negative spaces are combined in order to separate to allow for both dwelling and movement spaces. Similar layouts can be found on various College and University campuses. Fig. 8: Tancock 2018. Nuketown Figure-ground Diagram. Although multiplayer maps like Nuketown follow the same spatial arrangement of real suburban spaces, the purpose of these spaces is manipulated to better serve the shooter genre. The outdoor positive spaces of Nuketown are located on either side of the level’s layout and contain the initial player spawn points. These areas are safe from enemy fire unless encroached upon. To encounter members of the opposing team, players must make the conscious decision to venture from the safety afforded by these spaces into the central space, where lines of sight are opened. The map uses vehicles as figures to define this negative space. In level design, the aspects of prospect and refuge spaces can be considered. These spaces share some of the architectural considerations of positive and negative space, where Nuketown’s central area can be considered a prospect space, as the space is an open area that exposes the player to potential threats. The large suburban houses that dominate each team’s side of the map are, alternatively, refuge spaces by way of their positive space being used break enemy sightlines and protect the player from gunfire. The dichotomy between prospect and refuge spaces in multiplayer level design should inform a player’s spatial experience by exploiting their survival instincts; players within prospect spaces are likely to subconsciously seek the shelter and protection of a refuge space. From here, the player may once again venture into the prospect space to engage enemies. Additionally, players can use the houses’ balconies to gain a vertical advantage to the centrally-contested prospect space, although this requires sacrificing the safety granted by the houses’ refuge spaces. As a final consideration of Nuketown’s level design, the level’s layout is comparably small to other maps found in the genre. Naturally, this means that the transition between positive and negative spaces are more frequent, raising the frequency in which players will encounter each other. The genius loci of this level could be attributed as a high-paced, thrilling multiplayer experience. Conclusion Architecture has long been concerned with spatial theory. Over time, this philosophy has guided and established design principles that remain considered even today by contemporary architects. From my research of architecture theory, it is apparent that the medium’s spatial lessons have been embraced by level designers. Where contemporary architects are guided by the virtues of human comfort and efficiency, level designers can craft virtual social environments by adhering to similar rules. Alternatively, level designers can use the implications of game genres to repurpose architectural theory entirely, allowing players to be subjected to numerous emotional experiences. From overwhelming dramatic tension, to the empowerment from claiming a tactical advantage over a contested space, level designers have been shown to achieve genius loci that are unique to digital games. Exploiting the relationship between positive and negative space can foster a competitive atmosphere in what would otherwise be a safe and social space. Video games provide virtual experiences that are meant to be interacted with, where levels act as the stage on which those experiences are presented. *Note: This article is re-published in full, with permission from the author. References can be found at the source, linked below. Source: https://charlietancock.com/third-year-written-assignment Follow Charlie Twitter: https://twitter.com/tancoque Portfolio: https://charlietancock.com/portfolio Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. Creating the game space for the player to explore is another aspect of game development that can prove daunting. Despite all the games we’ve played, it can be hard to actually break down what makes a good level or environment. Today, I’m going to try and shed some light on this topic, and explore how there is a difference between level design and environment design. World Building Both terms “level design” and “environment design” may be viewed as interchangeable by developers, but to be able to talk critically about games, I’m going to separate them. Environmental design has become a major part of how game designers treat their game spaces over this decade. Some examples would be crafting decaying cities in the Souls series, to the original environment of Horizon Zero Dawn, and many more. Environmental design is about the aesthetics, architecture, and in some cases the lore of the world. You’re not just building a crazy mix of platforms and rooms, but a coherent world that feels as alive (or dead) as possible. The rise of environmental design has gone hand-in-hand with the popularity of open-world games. Treating your game space this way had lead to some of the best titles released this decade. Enivronmental design establishes the world… With that said, there is one limitation that has reared its head. Games that focus on environmental design may be pretty to look at, but may not offer much in terms of actual content. For that, we turn to level design. Crafting the Challenge Level design, in the context of this article, will refer to the act of creating content with the explicit purpose to test the player. In this case, it’s the act of creating a challenge; be it through enemy placement, traps, or a specific test within the game space. If we’re talking about open-world games, level design also refers to missions that lock the player in a specific area. The purpose of level design is to create interactive situations (or events) within the environment. A popular term for this in open-world games is “points of interest.” Typically, level design is hard-coded by the designer (although there are exceptions, such as Spelunky). As a designer, you’re thinking smaller than the full game space, but deeper in terms of the area that you’re working in. While environmental and level design work in tandem, it’s about two different goals. Architect or Trap Maker? For today’s video games, it’s not about viewing the design of your game strictly from an environmental or level design point of view, but combining them both. The goal is to create a game space that feels alive, but at the same time, there should be challenge within the world. The example I have in mind today would be Blighttown from Dark Souls. From an environmental standpoint, Blighttown is a decaying shanty town with a giant poison lake at the bottom. The place is dirty, disgusting, and a place for the forgotten to live. …and level design is thinking about what the player is going to be doing. From a level design standpoint, Blighttown features several key aspects of challenge. You have moving between the different floors, enemies spitting poison darts, the dreaded elevator, and moving through the poison at the bottom. In this way, Blighttown’s challenge felt like an organic growth from the environment the designers created. Many open-world games tend to treat environmental and level design as two separate entities. You have the wide world where nothing really happens or challenges the player, and then the set missions or challenges that are engaging. There has been a push towards having an “AI Life” system or having the game generate situations to happen; either procedurally or random events. This is not the same as having the game spawn situations around the player, but having them happen organically with or without the player’s involvement. The point is that you need to think about things from both a world view and at the moment to moment layer in order to create an engaging game space. The Best Worlds Games over this past decade have shown just how much thinking about a video game from an environmental and level design standpoint can elevate a game. If you want your game to stand out, you have to deliver on a beautiful-looking world that also has things to do in it. Creating great levels or game spaces takes a lot of work, and we’ll be talking about the key traits of that in an upcoming post. Source: http://game-wisdom.com/critical/environmental-vs-level-design Follow Josh Website: http://game-wisdom.com/author/adminjosh Twitter: https://twitter.com/gwbycer?lang=en Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJPQyAGAbIcXZXfM01oOPOA Discord Channel: https://t.co/WW9k1iVqje?amp=1 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. Level design is something you almost always have to go through when making a game, but it’s one of the most overlooked segments of game production, especially on small/indie production teams. Here I’ll try to give some advice on how to make a good level design, by using examples from my own experience. I’ll mostly use recurring games as references (Bad Company 2 and Mirror’s Edge), because they are games I played a lot and feel comfortable mentioning, and because they have fairly different gameplays.WHERE TO START ? Mirror’s Edge The first step before making any “real” level design, is to put everything in perspective before going blindly in any direction. Define what actions are allowed (and what aren’t) by the game design of your specific game, then what intentions or constraints you want on your level. Focus on what makes your game unique. What can the player(s) do in the game? What elements of my game can harm, kill or put the player(s) close to the losing conditions? Is there a theme, or a particular focus I want to put in this level/area of a level? What mechanic stands out in my game? USE GUIDELINES TO TEST & CREATE YOUR LEVEL When making MAZE’s safe zone, we put some clear guidelines down: “We want the safe zone to be square-shaped, with one door on each side of this square, and it should not take more than 30 seconds to run from one side to the other. The safezone is also a “vegetation backup” so it should contain… vegetation.” From these precise directions, we made a huge, square shaped forest, with all the liberty to put any type of vegetation, terrain modifications, little landmarks… Editor view of the safe zone (the train wreckage at the left can be used for scale) Before asking a playtester, or just other people to give you feedback on your level, you must be able to clear your own mistakes and correct your level accordingly. To do so, define key points to help you create your level. It can also help you when testing the level on your own. Having precise constraints allows you to take more liberty to design around them. In my opinion, it’s better to have some rock-hard, definite constraints than no constraints at all, especially when making a game aimed at someone other than just yourself. It gives you directions, and you can be as free as you want on every other part of your level when creating it. DESIGN LEVELS SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR GAMEThe more you design your level while keeping in mind your game design, the better it will be. An example of this can be seen clearly on Source games. When playing Counter Strike, try to play 2Fort (a Team Fortress 2 map) on a community server. You can also find any classic CS map on a custom TF2 server. If the map has not been altered, you’ll see that most of the depth of each map loses its value. It’s not as fun playing de_dust2 on TF2 as it is on CS. This is because dust2 was (brilliantly) designed with Counter Strike’s gameplay in mind, which is very different from Team Fortress 2’s. 2Fort — Team Fortress 2 Try to do the same for your levels: If your environments are imported in other games, they should not be as equally rewarding to experience than in their original game. If your level seems really classic, well, you fucked up. No harm done, but my advice at this point would be to delete completely the faulty level, erase its dullness from existence and start again, from scratch.USE REFERENCES FOR YOUR FUTURE LEVEL The most obvious references when designing a level are the visual ones. Find architectural drawings or photos who capture well what you want to implement in your environment. If you have some references & concept art used in your art direction, be sure to include them. Your artist(s) will be happy to see their work was not only used to be put on the studio walls to look cool. A reference for a level I’m working on(Photo by Asia Chmielewska) Here’s an easy trick that often pays off when I’m looking for references: If you find an image that you want to use as a reference, try to find the author of the picture. The artist’s style, eye, whatever you want to call it, will not be in the one picture you randomly found on Pinterest. Use it to your advantage. This is what I did with the photo above, and looked at other photos from Asia Chmielewska (check her out if you like architectural/urban photos she makes awesome photos). The main problem I had when making a paper level design (I’ll talk about it in literally one paragraph), is that slopes are cool, but they need to lead somewhere. So I found other references I can use to create what’s at the summit of the slope, and it will probably be super coherent because it was in the same photo collection. Neat.DESIGNING ON PAPER Once you have all this preparation part down, you can start actually designing the level… on paper. It’s way faster to iterate on paper than recreate your level digitally.  My point here is that you should find a "way" allowing you to design your level quickly, so you can iterate swiftly and easily change layouts, details etc. Most people would use paper, but if you prefer using Photoshop, Paint or woodworking, go for what is best for you. From this point on, I’ll drop different points and things I use to design levels, without any ranking. Once you are designing your level, iterating over and over again, you can use or focus on these points to help you enhance your design: VERTICALITY The intro cinematic of The Shard, Mirror’s Edge’s last level. The Shard is the tallest building in Mirror’s Edge’s city, and also the last level of the game. The introduction cinematic of the level gives you the feeling that you are against your biggest challenge, like if the building itself is the final boss. How? By making you enter from the parking underneath the overwhelmingly tall building. You haven’t even started playing this level, but you already know the stakes are high. One of the simplest elements that often separates a good level design from a bad one is verticality. Verticality creates, vantage points, Landmarks, Occlusion and Focal Points (see the other points below). Vantage points are really important to give exposition to your players. They are probably best used when creating a multiplayer map, as they can be fully utilized by players, whereas AIs usually aren’t advanced enough in games to use vantage points at their fullest. It still is important in single player games to give exposition to your players, give them a better view of what challenges will come next. It’s also a really easy way to give your player a powerful feeling. Anyone standing on top of something will tell you: you’re better here than if you were standing at ground level. Anatomically accurate representation of Verticality In MAZE, we use verticality to convey the aggressiveness and strength of the maze itself: The walls stand tall, trapping the players. The maze walls would look inoffensive if they were just too high for the player to vault over. In Mirror’s Edge, verticality is also used as an “enemy”: You have the cool, powerful feeling I described before when you are on top of a building, but you also know that if you slip, you’ll die. In short: Verticality is easy to use because it’s a natural feeling. Utilize it and don’t overthink too much.LANDMARKS Screenshots from the 3rd and 7th level, located at different places in Mirror’s Edge’s city The Shard (the big rectangular building) and the “multiple white tips” building are visible throughout the game and help players locate themselves inside the city. Valparaiso’s lighthouse (Bad Company 2) Most of Bad Company 2’s maps have a singular building, or setting, to help player differentiate the maps and also give them more personality. For example, Valparaiso’s landmark is its lighthouse. It’s probable that most players refer to Valparaiso as “the lighthouse map”. Landmarks are unique and memorable locations in your level. They help players locate themselves, in the level but also inside the whole game, and will make your area/level stand out.FOCAL POINTS The clear focal points (and landmarks) of Heavy Metal are the wind turbines. Heavy Metal is the biggest map in Bad Company 2. Heavy tanks fight each other while infantry tries to escape the firefight and go from one flag to another through areas with little to no cover, all while being careful about the choppers hovering over them. Wind turbines are scattered all along the area. Apart of being a memorable landmark, they are a really practical focal point: by looking at them, players watch the sky, and thus are reminded to be careful about the choppers in the area, as well as the many snipers who are waiting on top of the mountains on the edges of the map (and sometimes on the wind turbines). A simple focal point can change a lot on how people will experience a level. Put focal points wherever you want to guide the player’s eyes. From that point, you just have to choose how to make your focal point stand out. Going to extremes is the easiest way to go: Big, bright, colored.COVER/OCCLUSION Panama Canal — Bad Company 2 The Bad Company series offered a new way of designing cover, with a fully destructible environment. As you’re playing, walls explode, leaving players more and more vulnerable. Shootmania grids In Shootmania, you’ll often find grids in levels. You can’t shoot through them but can watch your opponents movements and give the info to your team. These grids offer cover, but no occlusion. Cover is about providing… cover (yay!) to the player(s), but can also be used to hide informations from them. It’s called occlusion. Cover and occlusion naturally happen whenever you put some solid object on your map, like a wall. You can’t shoot or see through them. You can create cover/occlusion with verticality (like the canal in the Bad Company 2 screenshot above), but also less tangible ones with lights, shadows, sounds, etc. Just think about providing interesting situations to your players. The more cover and less occlusion they’ll have, the safer they’ll feel. A simple situation involving cover in Mirror’s Edge: Players must take cover to the right to avoid being shot by the cops in the main hallway WORLD COHERENCE This industrial area seems functional. (Mirror’s Edge) Buildings in Bad Company 2 lack coherence. You can’t imagine that someone was living here. Make sure your environment is coherent with the game’s reality. To hem your level in the game world, it should always stay coherent: If your enemies are supposed to exist (as in “living THE LIFE”) inside a level, make sure the hallways are wide enough for them to use, that they have toilets and stuff like that. In the photo above, you can see that Bad Company 2 lacks coherence in its building interiors. It was probably done on purpose to offer better situations in mutliplayer. You sometimes have to sacrifice coherence to offer a better experience, but try to avoid finding yourself in these position. DESIGN COHERENCE Red is used to suggest a way to go to the player. The cop is in red too, so you know you’ll have to deal with him at some point. (Mirror’s Edge) In Mirror’s Edge, the red color is associated with Faith, the character embodied by the player, contrary to usual game codes with red being the color of negative stuff (enemies, traps…). Some areas are highlighted in red too guide the player in case he doubts what he should do. You’ll never see red used for something not related to Faith/the player. If the player is used to shooting red barrels every time he sees them because it has always given him some kind of reward, DO NOT create a new situation in the same level / area of the game where he might kill himself if he shoots a red barrel. It is important to be aware of the “codes” you put down on your game. Players are used to playing this way. Their behavior in games are heavily influenced by other games they previously played before trying yours. They will then confront these global video game codes to the first situations of your game, to try and figure what codes are applying to your game. You must be aware of the messages you convey, especially in your first levels, as they will be the bases the player relies on while experiencing the rest of the game. Think of your player as a child, with your game being his upbringing. If you send mixed messages to your kid early on, he’ll be really confused later. Be clear about your messages. Have great kids. One way to fix our red barrel problem, could be to change the color of the new barrel, so the player is aware that he should approach the situation a bit differently.CHOICES “Arland”: The first part Mirror’s Edge’s first level There are at least 4 possible routes to go over the electric fence: 1. Use the easy, suggested route and use a springboard (the red pipe) 2. Jump over on the right from the little chimney-thing 3. Wallrun then walljump from the wall on the left 4. Go to the middle roof on the left and jump over the fence from there These 4 choices are presented to the player in a smooth, binary way: you first have to choose whether you want to go to the right (1. and 2.), or to the left (3. and 4.). Then another binary choice is presented. It adds a lot of value to the level, while still leading to the same place. The player doesn’t feel trapped, or lost, when seeing this situation. Games are mostly about making choices, and Risk/Reward situations. Be sure to offer your players multiple approaches to the same situation. It adds replayability, and gives the player a better sense of freedom. Putting minor choices such as the one in Arland is also an easy way to prevent boredom for the players. Side note: Arland is at a point in the level where the player can take the time to choose his approach. On a chase scene later in the level the player shouldn’t, and doesn’t want to stop running: a unique & clear route is presented. ASSET LIST/ PRODUCTION LIST The same building is used all over the same area. And it’s not really a problem: people just want to shoot at each other. At some point you’ll have to start listing what props, sounds, effects and whatever other thingies you want to use on your level. That way, you can ask the qualified people if they can make these assets for you, or not. In this case, you’ll have to think about optimization, and modularity. Your assets should fit well with other assets, in order to have as many combinations as possible among them. FLOW Flow is a very important part of game and level design. I recommend that you check Jenova Chen’s thesis on flow. I can’t explain it better than him. Flow is mostly about making a level challenging enough for the player , without it feeling too hard to overcome. It is also about making sure the player doesn’t experience any snag: You have to make sure your player doesn’t get stuck on corners, or fails to interact with something etc. RHYTHM Rhythm is something I really like to focus on. It’s very close to the Flow and the Game Design itself. And just like Flow, it’s kinda hard to explain, as it’s really about feeling it. One way to feel it for me is to think about the inputs the Player will most likely do. Mirror’s Edge is very good for this. Most of the game revolves around muscle memory, and being in rhythm when doing runs over and over. Putting rhythm in your game will help players get into the Flow. CHOKE POINTS Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base — Bad Company 2 To arm the two objectives from Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base, infantry has to go through a narrow road, heavily defended by the opposite team. They can also try to attack by sea or land, but time has shown that the victory for this base is almost always determined inside the yellow zone on the image above. Whoever controls it wins the round. Choke points are the areas of your level where your opponents will most likely meet, and a big part of the fight will go there, with restrained movement. Counter Strike maps are all designed with choke points in mind. I would suggest you study these maps if you want to learn more about it. MULTIPLE I wrote “MULTIPLE”, all caps and everything, on my draft. It must have seemed very crucial at the time. So it’s staying here until I find what important piece of knowledge MULTIPLE refers to.CONTRAST — OUTSIDE INSPIRATION Mirror’s Edge Contrast is something vital in black & white photography. In order to have a more pleasing photo, and add depth, you have to think about alternating between dark and white zones. It’s a really precise thing, but a good segway to talk about using other medium’s rules. If you know rules used in photography, painting, cinema, or something else (gardening or sports for example), put them to use when designing your level! Of course every medium has its own rules and it’s better to design with them, but some of these rules may overlap, and it probably won’t have been done before.COLOR THEORY, COLOR HARMONY Same game, different areas, different moods, different colors. (Mirror’s Edge) The same level (Isla Innocentes) can relay a drastically different mood when changing atmospheric colors (Bad Company 2) Colors convey different emotions, and can be used to transcribe a specific mood you want to emphasize on your level. Having the same palette used in similar areas of your world is a good thing to do. You don’t need to use extremely different colors by level like in Mirror’s Edge, nuances always are a good option, and better than just throwing random colors around.BALANCE Balance is more important in multiplayer games than in solo ones. It’s about providing a fair encounter for all the players. The easiest way to balance your level is to use symmetry. But it’s been used over and over since the beginning of level design, so now we’re kinda forced to get more creative, and it’s for the best. If you give an advantage at one area of the map, using verticality or cover for example, be sure the other side also has the same kind of area somewhere else. N.B.: Most Counter Strike maps are not balanced (and mostly CT-sided), but the halftime alternation in the game design provides some sort of balance to the whole game. Seeing the big picture is important. Visual balance is also important in levels. Just like composition in other visual arts, most of the time you want to present balanced images to your player, and sometimes surprise him with a very harsh composition. Here again, symmetry is always the easy and sure way, but getting more creative to find balance is way more interesting for you and your players. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE Side note: During this scene, walls are left naked to encourage the player to use powerful wallrun kicks instead of pick a gun and shoot his way out. Mirror’s Edge run & gun gameplay is shitty: it lacks feedback, slows you down and is overall very limited and boring. It’s like the designer didn’t want you to use guns. And it’s the case. They made a design decision, and it payed off. The game distanced himself from other FPSs, by emphasizing the lightweight running and hand-to-hand combat. Your level and your game don’t need to be the best at every possible thing you can find in games.MENTAL MAPPING Arica Harbor — Bad Company 2 Arica Harbor is one of the most played map in Bad Company 2. There are many reasons to that, and one of them is the depth and various situations it offers, while staying simple. Players can locate themselves really easily. They have a mini-map, the A,B,Cflags appear at all times on the screen. Flags are aligned along the main road. There are different heights in the map (to add verticality), but it is painless to remember: It goes down like a stair, from the mountain to the sea. You should always be careful about your players mentally mapping your layouts, especially when making a game aimed at a large audience. The easier it is for a player to remember where he went, how the level is arranged, the better his experience will be. To facilitate mental mapping you can provide unique props or details to help differentiate between two almost identical hallways, put floor numbers in stairs, vantage points, landmarks, focal points etc. Keeping the same logic throughout a level also helps a lot. If your game involves backtracking, mental mapping goes from important to REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. No-one wants to get lost in a game, trying to find an exit. Make sure you are helping the players as much as possible to avoid frustration.CUT THE NOISE As fun and tempting as it can be for a level designer, you shouldn’t add too much to your environment. Having dull and empty areas is not a good thing, but over-saturating it with props everywhere will just make it worse. Details in your map must not come in the way of playability. DO WHAT YOU ARE “Leper Squint” At the end of the day, you should still feel that the level you designed comes from you. These points are important, but it’s the only one you should always respect. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make your level/game feel different, or look like a particular style, it will never feel unique unless you invest a part of yourself in what you create. . . . . . Alright, that was my advice on level design. I’m a piece of shit, so some of these points might seem wrong to other gamedevs, or wrongly named etc. But hey, feel free to call me out on it, or write your own advice piece. I like talking about LD in general so whether you have a different opinion, or are a beginner seeking advice, drop me a DM, a comment, a mail, shout my name really loud… be original, I’m not going to list all your options. Although they’re here. - Niels . . . . . *This article has been posted in its entirety with permission from the author Original Source: medium.com/ironequal/practical-guide-on-first-person-level-design-e187e45c744c Follow Niels: Website: fuckgamedev.itch.io/ Twitter: twitter.com/fuckgamedev
  4. This article is a portion of the thesis titled "What Level Design Elements Determine Flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom" by David Eliasson. The 'Results' and 'Analysis' portions for Doom have been left out of this posting, along with several other sections. Please follow the link at the end to read the full thesis. We hope that you'll find something of value in this piece, and would love to hear what you've learned from it in the comments below. Happy reading! Abstract This thesis presents a comparative study between Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016) to determine how these fast-paced games facilitate flow in their gameplay. The second chapter looks at formal definitions of flow and level design to establish a vocabulary for following chapters. Through formal analysis the level designs of both games are then examined to establish what elements in them guide players and keep the flow in gameplay. The thesis also examines how the initial gameplay design principles, which are rooted in the older shooter genre, have impacted the level design. The author uses screenshots from both games, interviews with the design teams and published literature on game design for the study. It was found that the architectural design of a level in hero-based gameplay (Overwatch (2016)) could control the pacing by changing the elements that enable certain types of movement such as climbing or creating setups that favor one team over the other. On an individual player level, flow is kept with intentional placement of light and bright colors to guide the player. While Doom (2016) uses different abilities and movement sets for its hero, the tools of guiding the player proved to be very similar but with heavier focus on environmental markings and lights. In both cases the look of these guiding tools was adapted to fit into the game world without breaking the player’s immersion. Introduction Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? “Heroes” and “Doom-guy” are references to different player avatars from the two games this study is based on. “Heroes” comes from the online fps multiplayer game Overwatch (2016) where players control one of several heroes, all with their unique abilities and means to traverse and interact with the environment. “Doom-guy” is the space-marine protagonist of the Doom (2016) single player campaign. The first part of this thesis’s title “What level design elements determine flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom.” addresses two theoretical parts of level design; principles and flow. To establish what principles exist in a field which is heavily dependent on which genre it is and as its own individual game. What principles determine which elements should exist and their placement so they enhance flow and do not disrupt it. In turn provides immersion by catering to players’ suspension of disbelief. The second part of the thesis consists of a practical examination of the two games to pinpoint these elements within their levels to determine if they create and continue to enable flow. The purpose of this thesis is to examine what level design principles exist to curate flow and then to compare two games with different mechanics and player abilities to examine how those principles are applied in each game to support the intended experience. Background These two games were chosen since they were both nominated for the same awards during 2016’s Game Awards. They were nominated for: Game of the Year, which Overwatch (2016) won. Best Studio/Game Direction, which Overwatch (2016) won Best Action Game, which Doom (2016) won Both games are also grounded in the old-school fast-paced FPS shooter genre. Jeff Kaplan game designer on Overwatch addresses this in the GameSpot video interview (GameSpot 2016) The Story of Overwatch: Return of the 90s Shooter (which refers to Doom (1996), Quake 2 (1997), Team Fortress Classic (1999) & Team Fortress 2 (2007)) and how these games have influenced the Overwatch (2016) development. In the interview Kaplan talks about how they want to bring back fast-paced gameplay with free-flowing movement abilities. In his opinion, this has been lost over the past decade as the design philosophy in the fps genre at large has moved closer toward mimicking reality. The goal of Overwatch (2016) was to bring back intuitive gameplay where players compete to get to alternative vantage points and use unique abilities to maneuver as well as neutralize enemies. With focus on the player’s ability to control how they traverse through a level. Kaplan continues to explain their level designs guiding goals and how they work to facilitate this. These are: Heroes First - Levels are meant to support the heroes’ differences and so they are built to create different opportunities for each hero’s movement abilities and skills. Maps should feel intuitive enough to navigate that they do not draw away attention from the heroes. Diversity of Experience - Levels should be playgrounds for different playstyles and skill levels, with built-in vantage points to climb and chokepoints for close combat. Environments should be diverse enough for all hero types to shine. Clarity of Space - Players should be able to smoothly navigate levels even if it is their first time playing them. They should have enough affordances to clearly direct them and distinguish between travel areas and locked areas. Every playthrough, players should find new, alternative ways to maneuver through the level. The environment should be visually clean, with clear points of interest. Immersive World Fantasy - Each level should be a fantasy-rich and inspiring version of real-world locations to further immerse the player in being the hero. Environments should also provide a clear view of distant areas to make the levels feel as a part of a larger, surrounding world. Doom (2016) is heavily influenced by its predecessor from 1996 in terms of level layout and how they make speed into a key element for more intuitive gameplay. In an interview (Graft 2017) Marty Stratton game director on Doom (2016) talks about this and how the team aimed to recapture the original game’s essence of fast-paced, agile combat. Creating a fundamental core design principle of gameplay resulting in a constant push-forward combat tactic. Stratton defines this as combat chess, consisting of: Speed of movement. Players’ ability to in an agile way move around in the environment. Individuality of demons. Prioritize enemies based on their unique traits and how they work in unison, variation of demons presents different challenges. Distinctiveness of the weapons. Like distinctive enemies determine which weapon best deals with facing various kinds of demons as well how they feel to interact with. Overall power of the player. Players’ health, weapon damage, reload speed and how well they are equipped overall to face various kinds of demons and obstacles. “Make me think, make me move”. This concept refers to a style of gameplay where, due to the player’s fast movement speed, challenges must be solved as they move through the environment. So, all information needed to solve those challenges must be clearly visible and easy to understand as the player maneuvers the environment. In the same interview Stratton also states: “The right size arena, with just the right amount of space, actually made the players feel even faster, … Your top-end speed is good but you’re more agile than you are fast. If you’re in the right space, it can just feel perfect. We spent a lot of time during development finding exactly what the rightsized spaces are for Doom to make you feel quick and agile, but still under control.” Here both Stratton’s and Kaplan’s design principles match, both are looking back into what now could be called classics. Striving for gameplay where a player’s control over their avatar determines how good they are at the game, as long the game provide enough feedback and has mechanics that are in tune with the levels they traverse. To summarize, there are similarities in both design philosophies, showing that they strive for: Core gameplay centered around player avatars and their abilities. An immersive world with plenty of affordances for varied playstyles Simple but stylized environments which clearly show that the avatar belongs in them as well clearly showing how to traverse them. So, what have these games done to facilitate these design goals and how does these it affect the flow within the games. What elements do their levels contain and what principles have they used to guide their players? Previous Work This section explains the fundamentals and guiding principles of level design to provide a vocabulary for the methodology. What is a Level? Game development terminology describes the term “level” as multifaceted. Scott Rogers writes in Level Design: Processes and Practices (2017:102) that a game level can be the environment the player is currently traveling/performing actions within. As well as a numeric sense of how far they have progressed within the game or as a representation of an avatar’s power. In his book, Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Games Second Edition (2014:225) he defines four different variations for this term, Rogers states that this is due to a limited professional vocabulary within the industry. These are: Level: Environment/location where gameplay occurs. Level: Physical (in-game) space based upon specific gameplay experience. Level: Unit of counting player’s overall game progression. Level: Term for marking character progression and improvement. The first two definitions are aimed toward environmental aspects where the first encompasses the larger play space and the second definition refers to the smaller sections within the space. For example, the desert in Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainment 2012) represents a large level that the player can travel through and at various places there exists explorable caves. The caves are parts of the desert level but each cave is their own level and would be broken down to more levels if the caves would contain various locations. Anna Anthropy (Anthropy, 2014:40) explains this divide further by defining and breaking down levels as scenes which in themselves are built by various scenes, “A scene is a more atomic, fundamental unit of gameplay than a level, or a world, or a region in a game world.” To continue the previous example from Diablo 3 the various rooms within the cave are independent scenes connected by traversal scenes. A traversal scene would be a bridge presenting a challenge the player must clear to proceed, Anthropy means that if any form of progression occurs it is a scene of its own. For the scope of this thesis levels are defined as Rogers described them as a main level containing certain sublevels instead of the in-depth definition which Anthropy talks about. Instead Anthropy’s definition of scenes, especially traversal scenes is being used to examine how levels facilitate flow. What is Level Design? Ernest W. Adams in his book Fundamentals of Game Design, explains it as “The level designer creates not only the space in which the game takes place—its furnishing and backgrounds—but also the player’s moment-by-moment experience of the game and much of its emotional context.” He also notes that level design is “…the process of constructing the experience that will be offered directly to the player using components provided by the game designer.” Christopher W. Totten in his book Level Design: Processes and Experiences makes the distinction between level design is neither art nor game design even though it is dependent on both, just as they are dependent on it. Level design is not about the creation of assets or definition of game mechanics but a middle point of both as the level should work to facilitate core mechanics and thus shape its landscape accordingly. To make use of assets so they enhance, rather than hinder flow in the game. Ernest W. Adams argues as well that it is the level designer who puts it all into practice as they design the challenges and set the mood in the levels. Huaxin Wei and Chaoguang Wang also state that level design is its own position, apart from that of game designers and environmental artists. It is the role of the level designer to guide players through the game and so they must work in close tandem with programmers and artists as “In the actual design process, it is important to communicate with artists and programmers to get their attention on the functionality of a game level, which is realized in both the operational and the presentational structures.” They write how the levels are more than their design and visuals, they embody the player’s possibilities to navigate through and interact with the level. Jess Schell states in his book Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses: “All a level designer does is arrange the architecture, props, and challenges in a game in ways that are fun and interesting — that is, making sure there is the right level of challenge, the right amount of reward, the right amount of meaningful choice, and all the other things that make a good game. Level design is just game design exercised in detail — and it isn’t easy, for the devil is in the details. Level design is different for every game, because every game is different.” This thesis will view the position and work of a level designer as one who builds the player experience based on a design goal with the tools made available from programmers and artists alike. What is Flow? One of the challenges with level design is to determine how the dramatic curve is shaped throughout the level so as to produce a balance between action sequences and rest areas. A generalized term for this is called “flow”. The vision for each level is for players to flow seamlessly through them without breaking the game’s immersion. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow from a general perspective of everyday life and the different obstacles people face, although these are applicable on games as well. Csikszentmihalyi suggests three conditions which must be met to produce flow. Firstly, when the activity shows “…a clear set of goals”. These goals are intended to provide a purpose to the intended activity and keep channeling the player’s attention for the duration of the game and so keep them immersed. Secondly, flow is “…a balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills.” If the challenge is greater than the players’ current skillset it risks becoming frustrating as the odds for them to overcome the challenge diminish. If the player’s skillset is greater than the challenges it risks becoming dull, the balance between these two should allow the players to face and complete challenges equal to their skill. Third and final is “…clear and immediate feedback.” Players should not doubt where they are going given what their goal is and so levels should always inform the player how they progress. These three conditions of clear directional goals, clear understanding of skill versus challenge and constant feedback will be the lens this thesis examines the games through. What is the Goal of a Level Designer? Ernest W. Adams lists certain principles regarding level design and explains briefly what is essential about them. These principles are: “The space in which the game takes place.” It’s the game designer job to create the games features but it is the level designer who determines when, where and how those are presented. “The initial conditions of the level.” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose. “The set challenges the player will face within the level.” What challenges the level produces, either environmental obstacles or enemies as well as in what sequence they appear. “The termination conditions of the level.” What must the player accomplish in order to complete the level and in what ways can they fail? “The interplay between the gameplay and the game’s story, if any.” If the level has a narrative its design must present it accordingly to the player. “The aesthetic and mood of the level.” How the player experiences the intended aesthetics is up to the level designer. They are given a tone and then decide at what pace it is revealed. “Atmosphere.” This connects with the aesthetics of the level although in a larger sense as it encompasses lightning, colors, visual effects as well audio to produce the intended experience. “Pacing and progress.” This ties into what conditions and challenges exist in the level, as it determines how frequently the players are challenged and when they have a moment to rest. “Tutorial levels.” They are separate from the main game levels and are a safe-zone where the player can learn new abilities and where new challenges are presented in a set order. Out of these principles, this study looks foremost at the architectural space within the level and how it is designed to form paths and how the atmospheric effects provide visual guiding tools. It also looks at environments from two aspects. What challenges the layout presents based on the limitations of character movement and how players overcome these challenges. Also, how environmental markings are placed to direct players. Purpose The purpose of this thesis is to gain an understanding of which elements and principles determine flow. Then see how these are used to guide players in fast paced games such as Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016). This will be accomplished by firstly conducting a comparative study of these two games to analyze their flow based upon knowledge of what guides a level designer and which goals they strive towards. This study emphasizes the importance of designing a seamless flow throughout the level, allowing players to become immersed in the way they travel and interact with levels through gameplay. Secondly by conducting a formal analysis of the levels from these games to determine how their architectural layout is designed. How do these environmental elements work with how players traverse throughout the level? The focus is on gaining an understanding of how these game levels are executed to constantly guide the players forward with minimal risk of breaking immersion. The underlying question is: What in these environments subconsciously guides the player during play? Analysis Procedure Elements of flow are for example architecture layout, environmental objects/markings and various visual effects. Examples of these might be how a building is designed to open/close a line of sight or how objects and environmental markings form directional arrows. How lights and sounds draw players’ attention. These are the most commonly used ways to guide players but it is sometimes difficult to make them feel integrated within the level. Both games are analyzed in three steps. These are: During gameplay distinguish the following elements: Architecture: How buildings and paths provide moment-by-moment information as players traverse. How they are shaped based upon the avatar’s mobility and do these affect the line of sight. Objects: How objects such as crates, ladders, ledges etc. either become hindrances and blocks paths or provide alternative traversal routes. Markings: How environmental markings such as signs, scrapes, blood etc. form directional arrows. Visuals: How visual effects such as wind, light and sounds are meant to draw the player’s attention to them and guide them further along. Do these elements fit into the three flow categories? Clear directional goals: Are players always aware of where they need to be going by following these elements. Skill vs Obstacle: Are players able to overcome obstacles while moving or do they have to stop. Clear Feedback: Do they provide clear visual feedback before and while players interact with them or as they pass them. Do these elements and flow categories support their initial design principles? Avatar based gameplay. World created for various playstyles. Clean world for quick reading. This approach is looking at how the landscape and objects in the environment allow the players to either traverse the level or stop them. Does the background continuously telegraph where players should go next and is it all in coherence with the game’s overall aesthetic and design? A different approach to this study would have been to conduct interviews with the design team behind both games about their process and the principles they have followed. This would have given concrete data on their work, how they chose their elements and most importantly why they chose these. However, this would not have been possible given the scope of this thesis. Results Overwatch Overwatch is a multiplayer online fps game developed and released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016. Each player controls one of a variety of heroes in a competitive six versus six-person teams. The goal of each match is to capture an objective through one of several game modes, and in doing so defeat the enemy team (Blizzard 2016a). At launch the game featured a roster of twenty-one unique heroes and twelve maps based on real world locations. The game is set 60 years into the future and Jeff Kaplan talks about their vision during development. The aim for these levels was to create an imaginary reflection of what our current world could come to be in a society with heroes. Rather than a realistic translation of what exists today, they strived to build a better future for the world. Show something more than war torn cities and grim gray environments, something we could strive towards and hope for. Kaplan goes on to talk about how each area should be a place their players would want to visit. Levels should be a place where they would want to spend a long time, they should allure players to explore them and try to traverse them in as many ways as possible. Avatar Mobility For this thesis Overwatch’s hero roster is divided into three categories based on their mobility, high, medium and low. High mobility heroes can climb walls or have an ability which allows them to reach high vantage points, alternatively use this ability to find other routes to the objective. Hanzo (see Figure 1) is one of the heroes with high mobility. He is a ranged attack hero with the ability to, for a short duration climb walls, both in a vertical and horizontal direction. Hanzo can also leap off in any direction can while climbing. Figure 1: Overwatch character Hanzo climbing the wall towards the right. His direction is shown by the dust cloud left behind him. Hanzo’s climbing ability depends on his distance from the wall. For Hanzo to climb walls they must be relatively clean from any sort of bumps or extensions, and to climb over edges they can not extend too far out from the wall. During the climb players are facing the wall, removing any possibility to respond should an enemy player appear which makes Hanzo an easy target for the duration of the climb. This risk of being ambushed has the potential of a high reward, should players reach a high vantage point from which they can utilize their long-ranged attacks. Medium mobility heroes have abilities that allow them to either temporarily fly or teleport, which can be used to gain an advantage during fights or avoid areas by passing over them. Pharah (see Figure 2) is one of the heroes with medium mobility. She is a ranged attack hero equipped with a jetpack that allows her to leap into the air to either to levitate for a short duration or fly short distances. In addition to her jetpack she has an ability that allows her to burst short distances. When this ability is used midair, Pharah can reach higher areas, alternatively cover more distance in a shorter amount of time. Figure 2: Overwatch character Pharah levitating midair while activating her ultimate ability. While Pharah is airborne she has limited movement speed, making her slower in the air than she is on foot. With no option for cover she risks becoming an easy target since players must look in the direction they are flying. She also requires open outdoor areas to fully utilize her flight potential which restricts her indoors. It also allows her to reach high vantage points with the tradeoff of being more easily spotted by enemy players. Low mobility heroes are restricted to the ground and have no abilities for either exploring alternative routes or reaching advantage points. Reinhardt (see Figure 3) is one of the heroes with low mobility. He is a melee range attack hero with the ability to charge towards enemy players in a straight line and pin them against obstacles. Figure 3: Overwatch Character Reinhardt using his charge ability. Being restricted to the ground has no actual disadvantages since each level offers various rooms and other passages which offer protection from any attacks from above. At key points in each level, heroes with high mobility are forced to descend to proceed further or clear an objective. Although that is not to say that medium and high mobility heroes cannot use the ground to the same extent as low mobility heroes. Rather they are suited for an agile playstyle which uses the environment to their advantage if they can traverse freely and be used to their full potential. To support the different kinds of mobility as well as to increase the attraction for players to explore and seek alternative routes, Blizzard has removed drawbacks such as fall damage. Players falling from great heights take no damage upon landing, as long as they fall inside the level’s perimeter. This makes exploration risk free, so players do not need to hurt their avatar should they fall down into a group of enemy players. Instead they should be given the element of surprise and rewarded for their interest in exploring the levels in detail. The strength of a hero’s abilities is therefore dependent on the player’s expertise. This feeds into players having to become more observant of their surroundings since enemy players could potentially come from various directions, creating an active gameplay. Level Layout The level layout in Overwatch maps changes throughout the game to give advantage to different teams, attackers/defenders and different mobility heroes. Early in maps advantage is often given to high and medium mobility heroes through open spaces with alternative route options. This can be seen in both the Hanamura (see Figure 4) and Kings Row (see Figure 5) map. In both maps their first objective of two is displayed, these are capture points where one team is defending and one is attacking. In Hanamura attackers come through the gates on the right side and despite those being the main point of entry there are four different openings surrounding the door. There is open sky for flying heroes to enter and navigate and on the right of the gates there is an entrance into the little house providing cover for low mobility heroes. This open space and short distance between covers favor low and medium mobility heroes since most walls have larger extensions and most roofs are leaning downward making it difficult to climb and find a vantage point. Figure 4: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. The first objective is located inside the house to the avatars left. Figure 5: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The first objective is located behind the trees and car to the avatar’s right. For King’s Row attackers come in from the left and just like in Hanamura there is plenty of open sky and the statue in the middle offers a two-way split. Just like Hanamura, this location provides an open space with some cover options for low mobility heroes. This location is favorable for low and high mobility heroes due to it containing more objects which block teleportation and force flying heroes to expose themselves. This puts medium mobility heroes at a disadvantage. The walls of the buildings are cleaner than in Hanamura so they support climbing to vantage points, most noticeably the opening on the second floor in the upper right corner. The statue and the house behind it contain doors which offer cover suitable for quick ground movement. There are some covers present in both locations for the defending team heroes to take cover in but due to the capture points being exposed, the odds of being overrun are great. In Hanamura the first point is located within the house to the left. Inside is an open space with bare walls and multiple entering points. In Kings Row defenders are pushed to the walls of the building behind the trees and car, leaving them out in the open if they wish to hold it. There are options to cover it from afar but this leaves the point open to be captured if there are no defenders on site. These points are located a short distance from the attacking teams spawn points which are placed beyond the walls in both maps, whereas defenders must traverse the entire map to reach it. Because of these facts attackers have the advantage on capturing it early on. This advantage disappears when the attacking team reaches the second objective point. Hanamura’s (see Figure 6) second point is indoors, now openly exposed in the middle of the room. The layout of the room and the lack of cover forces the heroes to move close to the center, leaving them exposed to defenders on either side. There are three entrances leading straight to the middle and two more on each side of the capture points, all converging toward the middle. To the avatar’s left, there are stairs visibly connected to a plateau which goes along sides and ends where the avatar is standing. The porch has pillars, like those directly opposite of the avatar, surrounding it and granting protection to defending players. Now the attacking team must traverse the entire map whereas the defending team’s spawn point is in an adjacent room behind the avatar. Because of this, the defending team has the advantage on protecting the objective. Figure 6: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. Second objective point is the open area in the middle of the room, lit by sunshine coming in from the roof. It is the same in King’s Row (see Figure 7) where there is a narrow, crooked path containing multiple smaller rooms leading up to the second objective. This gives defending heroes the possibility to set up hidden defenses. To the left of the avatar there are concealed plateaus, surrounding the objective point. Defending low mobility heroes has the advantage as players are forced into the same space, restricting agile high and medium mobility heroes. Figure 7: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The second objective, an open platform at the end of a crooked path, is located in the bottom left corner. One factor which differs in King’s Row compared to Hanamura is the second objective which is transporting a vehicle (the car seen Figure 6) onto the platform. In order to transport the car, players must be near it. This restricts high and medium mobility heroes on the attacking team but favors high and medium mobility heroes on the defending team since their abilities allow them to outmaneuver the heroes transporting the car and launch surprise attacks from various vantage points. Such vantage points include the roof directly opposing the avatar as well the smaller room on its right. A third example of this level design is the Volskaya Industries map (see Figure 8). As in the previous two maps the map’s first objective point is an open area located outside. A short distance away is the attacking team’s spawn point which is located inside the building past the wall in the right-side corner. The map’s second objective point is located inside, with various smaller rooms and passages surrounding it. What differs between Volskaya Industries and the previous two maps is the fact that this level caters to all mobility categories. High mobility heroes can make use of the smooth walls and various entrance points without risking to much exposure. Medium mobility heroes can use their abilities to reach the same places high mobility heroes as well make us of the open skies, passages and rooms to move around the map. Low mobility heroes are offered the same routes as other heroes since the same openings and possibilities of cover exist on all levels. Closed-in openings at ground-level offer protection from other low mobility heroes as well as offering cover against flying heroes. Open areas on the second floors are accessible to various heroes and while they offer high vantage points, those points leave the heroes exposed due to a lack of cover options. Figure 8: In-game screenshots taken from the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. First objective point (left) and second objective (right). Both points are the square areas in front of the avatar. In these three maps, the game’s designers have catered to all three mobility types as players can choose to traverse these levels in various ways. Their layout provides players with alternative passages and invites them to explore them to reach new vantage points. There is a shifting advantage between the teams where attackers benefit from being aggressive early on while defenders must be tactical. These early parts are also more suited for medium/high mobility heroes. The later parts of the maps tend to favor the defending team and low mobility heroes. The levels facilitate this by having the first stage of the map be an open environment which, as the attacking team advances, narrows down. In coherence with how the distance of each team’s spawn point changes so does the time required for each team’s heroes to respawn and reach the rest of their team. Analysis Overwatch Below follows an examination of Overwatch’s levels to determine how they facilitate flow. Environment By studying the architecture, objects, marking and visuals in Hanamura (see Figure 14) it is determined that this level primarily uses objects as well as lights to guide players. This view is the first players on the attacking team see, with five locations where the environment draws the players’ attention. From left to right, the first circle shows traffic signs where one is an arrow pointed inwards toward the street and the other is a warning sign placed above the arrow in such a way that it lets players notice it first and then the arrow. The second two circles show traffic lights which are natural objects for people to look towards while traveling. Below the middle traffic light is a huge wooden door with an emblem upon it, marking its importance and letting the attacking team players know they are targeting an area of importance. The last two bubbles contain a parked car and a restaurant icon, displaying a humanoid creature. What makes them noticeable are their size and recognizability. They are both facing toward the street, same as the arrow sign and them being relatable objects with a clear front and back end, makes them natural arrows. Figure 14: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. Figure 15: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. King’s Row (see Figure 16) also uses lights to guide its defending players outward and luring the attacking team inward. The first object both teams see as they enter is the large orange lamp hanging from the ceiling. With its bright light and size, it points out a place of importance. The dark orange lights along the floor show the path and like the large lamp signals importance, the floor lights invite players to follow them. The blue lights inside the rooms set a cold, rather saddening tone, making them less inviting to follow. The start zone of the attacking team on King’s Row (see Figure 17) uses light and the architecture to guide the players. The lights within the left circles start at street level and slowly move diagonally upward and inward to the screen center, almost blending in with the roof above. The roof is pointing diagonally downwards into the middle, in the same manner as the bus in front of the avatar and theater sign on the right do. These guide the player’s vision toward the middle and into the large, blue lit tower, hovering behind the bus which seems to hold an open area for players to explore. Figure 16: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. Figure 17: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements Both the attacking and defending teams’ spawnpoints in Volskaya industries (see Figure 18) use lights and buildings to create directional arrows. The lights catch the players’ attention and guide them as the building points downward into the center of the screen where a light blue light indicates that the map continues further in that direction. In these maps, the sides surrounding the critical path are purposefully made dull and important by comparison to funnel players toward certain areas. These elements guide both teams, pulling both the defending and the attacking team inward. Figure 18: In-game screenshot outside attacking (left) and defending (right) teams spawn point on the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements. Flow So, do these level design elements found within these three levels support flow? Clear directional goals? Yes, as players traverse the level, elements within the level keep telegraphing to the players where the next objective lies and which path leads them toward it. The layouts contain plenty of open space in the first half and narrows down around the second objective where the players are guided more strictly Skill vs obstacle? Yes, each hero, regardless of their mobility category are shown available routes and these are visible as players approach them. Players must not stop and search for a way in as the open level design is clearly guiding them. While there is a main road to any objective, there are always various alternative routes if players control a hero with more mobility. Clear feedback? o Yes, every important building, object and sign are created so they can always be spotted and reached if possible. All heroes have passages they can take and if the player knows the limitations of their hero they do not need to wonder if they can reach them, unless they are looking for more original routes. Design Principles Overwatch has an avatar based gameplay where the player’s expertise and control over their hero determine their success in each match. It also has a level design which allows for all three mobility types to traverse in more ways than one. Its visual design makes it easy to tell what can be interacted with and which paths lead where. Based upon this analysis it can be said that Overwatch has successfully achieved their initial design goals. Reflections The purpose of this thesis is to examine level design to determine what within the design enables flow. First off, this is a broad topic addressing the subject of level design which by itself lacks a unified meaning. The meaning of level design changes depending on developers and genre and most have their own level design principles. Even flow has a different meaning and implementation, depending on the genre and intention of the game. However, there are commonly used principles and a vocabulary which helps game developers in different genres to find common ground. Looking at Doom (2016) and Overwatch (2016), despite their similarities the dramatic curve in both games differs a great deal. This is partially due to the size of their maps. Overwatch (2016) has short maps made for bursts of gameplay with certain points focusing on combat. In Doom (2016) levels are longer, contain more content and most areas are a mixture of combat and travel area. Leaving their different artstyle aside and focusing on key elements, they can be broken down into the same objects and elements. Looking at these elements as basic building blocks there are lights and arrows. Regardless of their size and aesthetics, the leaning buildings in Overwatch (2016) and the pools of blood in Doom (2016) fill the same function. Street lights or fires, they are given a meaning once they have aesthetics which are in coherence with the overall environment. Objects found in one game would become immersion-breaking if put into the other. The games use the same building blocks, just re-skinned to suit their own game’s aesthetic. This brings into focus how much of the flow in the games is dependent upon the assets graphical styles as well as their location. Compare the environment outside of both teams spawning points in Volskaya Industries with the first outdoor level the Doom-guy experiences. Both contain environmental elements (houses in Overwatch (2016), mountains in Doom (2016)), that are leaning toward the left. Even replacing their narrative-specific models and textures and replacing them with untextured primitive objects, these elements would still point players in the right direction. The same principles applies to the lights, as the value contrast they provide would still catch the players’ attention. However disguising them in appropriate graphics feeds into the overall immersion of the game, making them fulfill their purpose and enabling flow. Both these games have succeeded in creating aesthetically appropriate elements for each map which serve to subconsciously guide players. Conclusion Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? To conclude, the elements found in these games facilitating flow are simple elements of light and direction. Simple in this case means basic building blocks which have been created, with a specific function in mind for a specific location. Dark areas exist to enhance spots of light and make them more alluring for players. The lights are then placed and given specific colors and intensities to create a specific feeling. Each opening has a specific purpose, either to create a vantage point for the player of lead to an alternative path. In Overwatch (2016) levels are changing as they progress to cater to the various heroes and their different mobilities. All heroes can always find a route best suited for their hero, either by using an alternative path to reach objectives or finding an area where their hero’s abilities offer them an advantage over those of the enemy team. Ability-based gameplay is the key to this game and the levels does nothing but enhances this. Read the full paper here: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1146250/FULLTEXT01.pdf Follow David Website: https://davideliasson.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/eliasson_david?lang=en Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  5. This article by Deanna Van Buren (who assisted on 'This Witness') makes a compelling case for collaborating with an architect (or learning more about architecture yourself) . What you're about to read below is a recap of the full article, which is linked at the end. The article covers 9 essential areas: Developing architectural narratives Integrating landscape and architecture Building design Deploying materials & textures Scaling, proportion, and style Details Transitions Characters and environment The space in between In this recap, we will be covering 'Developing Architectural Narratives', 'Details', and 'The Space in Between'. The areas not covered here hold a lot of value, so we strongly recommend readying the full article. DESIGNING FOR GRAVITAS: THINGS TO CONSIDER There are 10 basic things that games tend to do that could be avoided with some design knowledge and application. I am going to refer to some games other than The Witness as both successful and less successful because they are popular, diverse, and frankly most of them I really like. It would be nice to see them taken to the next level so that the environments are not distracting and incongruent with the goals they are trying to achieve. Developing Architectural Narratives It is always helpful to remember that landscapes and architecture are based in the temporal, physical, and institutional constraints of the real world. What is the topography of the land? What materials are available to us? What climate are we in? What are the zoning laws? Where is the sun coming from? Therefore, one of our first questions we asked Jonathan’s team (Thekla) was “What direction is north?” They replied, “What difference does that make?” I knew then that we would need to recreate and reframe the real world constraints with which we had been working. In order to design customized environments we would need to develop a narrative and new kinds of constraints that would define it. So how do we create narratives that deliver rich environments? Sometimes in an effort to create a holistic identity or world, video games commit to one style/period, or genre yet this is not how environments exist in reality. Our built environments have history, a story across time. They are layered. In The Witnesswe use this passage of time to create the narrative so the environments are a series of adaptively re-used buildings and landscapes beginning with prehistoric times to the present day and beyond. Each building and landscape is designed in response to the needs of at least one civilization and in some buildings all three civilizations are expressed. For example, at the edge of the island is a concrete factory that sits in a quarry. The environment registers how the Stone Age people (Civilization I) began to quarry stone for tombs through small cuts in the cliff side. Then one can see where the stone was mined at a larger scale for religious structures such as churches and cathedrals in Civilization II. A church is built here both carved and constructed from the stones being quarried around it. As Civilization III developed, even larger stones were mined and used to make concrete, a more contemporary building material. Small stones were also required as aggregate and the church was converted to a factory in order to scale this process and construct other buildings on the island. As a gameplay wayfinding element, the factory exhaust rises up out the old steeple. Inside factory equipment integrated with the religious frieze panels provide the game artists with additional opportunities to tell a deeper lever of narrative. While architectural narratives like these were easy for us to develop, they may not be as easy for gameplay developers. For us the gameplay constraints were more challenging. We were fortunate to have a developer like Jonathan who provided us with what became our primary constraint-game play. The rules of The Witness with regards to gameplay were rigorous and finite in many ways. As architects, we had to learn about what this meant. It is one of the things architects need to understand when working with developers and an aspect that developers can more rigorously apply to environmental design. Integrating landscape and architecture - Follow the link at the end to read this section Building design - Follow the link at the end to read this section Deploying materials & textures - Follow the link at the end to read this section Scaling, proportion, and style - Follow the link at the end to read this section Details Along with understanding scale and proportion comes the proper rendering of details in the architecture. These may be done to avoid abstraction of space if your art style is refined or making them simpler if things are of a looser style. What is most important is being consistent with the level of detail and the scale of these elements. It is something we spent a while on in the witness so that the lighting, stairs, door handles, furniture, or window openings are all developed at the same level of consistent detail and in alignment with our art style. For us, it made doing modern architecture difficult at times and we worked hard to create details that reflected these assemblies in a low poly yet realistic way for the painterly quality we wanted. The Witness: Hub Chapel This scene from Ether One looks great, but making this small change would harmonize the entire space. Mirror's Edge is another game that does a particularly great job of detailing most of its elements. They make strategic use of building systems such as electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems with color to guide gameplay movement and perception. It is visually pleasing due to the lack of noise yet it is rich at the same time just by understanding materials, transitions, details, and assemblies of the built world. Even a game like Relativity that is diverse spatially but simple in its execution has an incredible consistency that makes it wonderful to be in. Another beautiful but quite different game that also makes good use of detail is Relativity. It is diverse spatially, unique in its style and simple and consistent in its palette and details, which I think helps you to feel immersed in this MC Echer-esque world. Detailing contrasting components well is also a great opportunity for good design. For example, the integration of layers of time in The Talos Principle is interesting, and it is these moments that it could have been nice to think about how they would integrate given they are very prominent in the environment. Rather than stick things on the stone, these technological pieces could have been integrated in the tectonic of the old castle wall in a more sophisticated way that would have added some gravitas to the look and feel of the game, supported the narrative and built on the textures that had. Transitions - Follow the link at the end to read this section The Space in Between While the architecture itself is important the relationships between buildings is just as important as the building itself. They are part of an overall scene that you are creating in every moment, and understanding how buildings can create outdoor rooms and a diversity of spatial experiences definitely enhances gameplay. The Talos Principle is an example of a game that has some great spaces that are scaled really well and others that are not so much. In many areas there is a flatness to the experience since there is no strong vertical expression or experience of the architecture that would traditional be found in castles due to their purpose and use as place for protection and surveillance. The open spaces, courtyards or baileys where you are shooting are too large compared to the wall height, and what would have been the interior spaces of the castle. An opportunity would have been to harness the design of castles and the development of the radial form of the medieval city to help with the experience of the game and provide more interest to the experience through spatial variety that reflects the historical narrative of this time. Most buildings prior to the Modernist movement have a hierarchy to them like the church nave or the grand entry. This flattening of the architectural experience in the agency of gameplay goes counter to our experience of this type of architecture and is a missed opportunity. Why not use the logic of these buildings to enhance gameplay? Many games also often have large spaces that have game assets floating in them. An unrealistic building or room density does not provide containment of the events unfolding. Often objects are out of scale to one another or larger than any element might be in reality. For example, the Gone Home entry foyer in plan is massively out of proportion with the height and the scale of any suburban home as viewed from the outside. The assets are floating in the space in ways that feel out of context with the real experience of domestic space pulling us out of the immersive reality. The player is drawn to the objects because they stand out in a bare room but it seems like they would have been more successful by integrating assets into well-scaled environments. They could use the space itself to guide players to these components in a sophisticated way perhaps through light, color, and detail. Gone Home is one of my favorite games to play because it makes use of 3D and 2D representation of this space. It would have been more powerful to create a house or even a compound that had some logical complexity to it and generated a domestic environment that made sense and enhanced the game play experience by drawing on our personal memories of home. CONCLUSION While all these aspects of design are important, the most critical thing that I teach to professionals and students alike is to just wake up and pay attention to the world around you. I hope that these recommendations can help you do that even if you choose not to work with an architect. I would also like to conclude by presenting a bigger vision for this collaboration. I believe that everything we do creatively influences our larger cultural context. As more members of our society begin to play games in well-designed digital environments, we will ultimately improve the visual literacy of our population. In doing so, I believe there is a reverse effect where we will start to expect more from our physical environments rather than ignore them as we often do now. We will start to question the strip mall, the big box stores, suburban landscapes filled with McMansions and the bland colorless panelized architecture we crank out in the United States, at least. Maybe through the immense creativity found in the creation of digital environments we can envision better physical environments that foster imagination, community, sustainability, and well-being. In doing so I also hope that we have moved further down the road of accessing the power of video games to change the world around us for the better. Read the full article here: www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php Follow Deanna Twitter: twitter.com/deannavanburen?lang=en Website: https://echoinggreen.org/fellow/deanna-van-buren/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. a Chunk

    The Architectural Imagination

    edX is once again offering "The Architectural Imagination" What is it? The Architectural Imagination is a free online course that aims to help you "learn fundamental principles of architecture — as an academic subject or a professional career — by studying some of history’s most important buildings." What will you learn? How to read, analyze, and understand different forms of architectural representation Social and historical contexts behind major works of architecture Basic principles to produce your own architectural drawings and models Pertinent content for academic study or a professional career as an architect Why should I care? Architecture is inextricably tied to level design and environmental design. In this course, you'll learn foundational concepts that will allow you to build visually pleasing and believable game environments. Click on the link below for a full description of this fantastic FREE course on architecture from Harvard Professors, a full course syllabus, and of course to Enroll in the class. Read More and Enroll: https://www.edx.org/course/the-architectural-imagination-2 Check the thread in our Design Discussion Forum to access some of the content from the course:
  7. Hello Everyone! It has been a long, long time since I have written an article but what can I say Inspiration hit me! Before I begin, I want to say the way that inspiration struck all came across by taking part in an online course I recently just finished on CGMA which was ten weeks long. Thank you very much to Em Schatz for putting the course together and to Patrick Haslow for being a great tutor and taking the time to review my work. Introduction: Now I have worked on a range of titles as a Game Dev and Level designer, but as my career has switched over to AAA for the last five years I have noticed a common thread with the projects. That thread is Combat. What you make of combat within games and especially in AAA games is up to you and heck, I hope we get to talk about it in detail in the future but, none of us can deny how popular action is, in all mediums. With the projects that I have been working on, a lot of combat spaces have been designed by myself and by my teammates. So I have seen a lot of AI blood shed, as well as seen some good and bad examples of levels for combat. While working on this course one of the weeks we are asked to design a combat space (Ranged combat with guns). I completed the level and it is not the perfect example of a combat space, but it is one that I am extremely proud of. After this it got me thinking, “What makes a good combat level?” The question yet still haunting me, I decided to try to find out more. Sadly, there is not as many resources as I had thought would be available (If you know some great ones please do send them over to me). This is a great article though so please do read this, it was another inspiration for this article. Past Thoughts: I even went back to think about how I was taught at my University, and how bad my levels then were for combat. For what plays such a massive role in the gaming industry we were not taught anything about this topic: How to design levels for the purpose of Combat. Now with my xp of working in the industry for a while, making different spaces for combat, I finally feel that I can help. Hopefully, someone who reads this will find this useful, and it will also build a topic of discussion for many more and far better designers than me to help us understand Level Design for Combat. (see how I worked the title, into the article? Pretty impressive.) Keep in mind that I will only be talking about Combat involving guns, designing for close quarter combat, or turn based combat will not be mentioned here. (Here is a great article on DMC’s combat design) This article will only be focused on the level design involvement of combat as well, not breaking down anything to with weapon or mechanic design. With that out of the way I am going to be breaking down how to create a level built for gun combat step by step. Let Us Design It! Metrics: One of the first steps to designing a good combat space is first by understanding your Metrics. The subject of metricts I do not feel is mentioned enough when creating a level and how vital it is. Metrics determines the spaces of your levels, how high the cover should be, how wide corridors are, and much more. As for who decides the metrics for your game, that is a task for the level design team. It comes with experimenting in a ‘Gym’ it is tough to decide as you must decide by what feels right. I personally have only been involved with it once in my career and it is a tough thing to figure out. Create spaces for you and your teammates to test (This here is a ruler where I would time the players movement speed and jumping length) (having a range of boxes I used this to test jumping heights, single and double) You get the point that I am making. Once you have these gyms set up, have others test them out to see which they agree feels the best. These numbers and sizes will change depending on the view of your game, TPP, FP, Isometric, etc. Once you have the metrics, make sure that you are constantly checking them. (Side note, make sure that the document is easy to read and people understand it from first glance) Here is an example of what I put together when creating my combat level: From what you can see, the documents are very easy to read and you roughly get a sense of scale when looking at them. (Again these are not perfect documents, as it would be good to have tables listing the numbers on the documents as well so designers can have one place to look quickly without scrolling down several pages to get to the info they need) With these figures you have a great starting point, make sure that you are constantly referring to these documents. This is super important as not only does it allow you to make sure the architecture of your world is to scale. It allows you as a level designer to start understanding how verticality on two floors can play into combat, how to signal to players which rooms are safe while others they must be on their toes. Final point on this is now how you can combine the believability and theme of your architecture with the great feel of your gameplay. “A rule of thumb when creating metrics (Again all depends on your game, in the world of game/level design there are no hard rules only suggestions and what suits your game the best) is to make sure that your differences between a main door vs a side door, a main corridor vs a side corridor. Is that the main is double the size of your side, the reason for this is it is visually different. Increasing your main door size by just 1m is not visually distinct enough, so try to do it by doubling as visually it makes an impact on the players’’ Now you may be thinking that our time working with sexy metrics is over, but oh no no no there is still some fun to be had here sweet child. We have set up the rules for our architeture but now we need to set up rules for the combat spaces themselves. Because we were smart enough to set up the metrics for the architecture before it makes things a little easier for us. With the combat spaces, the elements you want to focus on are: Correct Cover Height & Width Cover Spacing (Buffer Zone) Cover rules on Architecture Weapon Range Enemy Archetypes Cover Height & Width: This is an easy one, for this we are focusing on what dimensions the player can use for cover, from low to high cover. Making sure that it is clear and readable to the player what is cover and what is not. Cover Spacing: Now this one is extremely important and should be one you follow very closely. This here is the distance between covers, we use this to make sure that cover is not just randomly scattered all over the place. That it is clear for players to understand a cover route through the combat, but also that AI can make it’s way towards the player too. There could be other technical reasons too, but this is a very important to follow these rules. Cover Rules on Architecture: As you have seen above we have metrics for say our doors and windows, but in order for us to not just have these set up for traversal we need to think about how to best use them for combat. Making sure that there is always cover on a door so players do not walk into a room and get blasted in the face. How players can use windows as a sniping spot, etc. Weapon Range: In most games that involve guns, there is a whole array of weaponry with some games like Boarderlands having over a Billion Guns! With that in mind it is important to build spaces to help encourage certain styles of play. Thinking about sniper nests or areas for players to flank and use short range weapons like a shotgun to attack the enemy from behind. Before we do all this though we need to understand how far these weapons can shoot, what is the best distance to use said weapons. Enemy Archetypes: In your games there will more than likely be different enemies within your game. Again like the weapon range we as level designers need to make sure that we build spaces that allow these enemies to have the best space to shine, show off their skillset but provide players cool and unique ways to win. By understanding these enemy types, we as LDs can build unique challenges which force players to strategize, who they should take out first or even work together as a team to coordinate an attack. How Players Avatar Holds the Gun: This topic here was not mentioned on the list above as it is not the biggest thing to consider but it is a detail worth knowing. What am I referring to when talking about how the avatar holds the gun? I am referring to will the avatar be right handed or left handed. Small detail but a detail nonetheless as then you must make sure that there is cover with an opening for the weapon. If the avatar holds it more to the right, then on door frames make sure there is cover to the left, and visa versa. (A lot of game though now allow the player to switch the shoulders of which they aim from) Now you can see the amount of planning that goes into creating a good combat space before we even have opened the editor. These steps are vital in creating a great combat space for your game. (Please note these design pages which I have put together are to show you an example of what to plan, when you are putting your design doc together you can do way better, these are just to show you what I mean, use these as a learning point and make fare better documentation team!) Conclusion: This article has become an extremely long article already and there is still more to cover. So this is where I will end part 1, but we will move on to the next step following this, such as paper design and the actual Blockout. We will be breaking down the blockout I mentioned at the beginning of the article, breaking it down. Please Support: If you have enjoyed this then please be sure to check out my podcast (Level Design Lobby): iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K If you want to reach out to me, to give me some suggestions on good combat spaces or to see my bite size level design tips then please check me out on Twitter Read Part 2 here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  8. What is a videogame landmark, and what is its purpose? Landmarks in video games are unique structures or places that stand out within an environment. In gaming, they’re extremely useful for navigation. They’re often used as central points for large areas, with the purpose of giving the player a way to work out where they are at all times and a chance to gather their bearings. They are purposefully designed to stand out in the environment and draw the player’s attention. Landmarks frequently indicate something of importance, with the area surrounding a landmark holding special items, unique enemies, or progressing the game’s narrative. Various landmarks will be visited by the player during missions or side quests, and many just through free exploration. Other times landmarks are not accessible to the player, but serve as interesting set pieces or background environments. Some video game landmarks are more commonly known as ‘weenies’, a term which was invented by Disney to describe ‘visual magnets’ designed for Disney World. This word is used to describe more building like landmarks which are usually large and take on tower or spire-like appearances, like the various castles dotted around the attraction. In this way, all weenies are landmarks, but not all landmarks are weenies. As ‘weenie’ is more of a specialist term and the definition sometimes varies, I will use ‘landmarks’ in this article for clarity and continuity. Cinderella Castle - Walt Disney World Resort Which games feature landmarks? Landmarks are most often found in large, open world games where the player has the opportunity to explore lots of different places. BioShock Infinite’s Monument Tower is a perfect example of an engaging landmark that draws the player’s attention and fits in well with the game’s narrative. It’s grey complexion and shape stands out amongst the various buildings surrounding it, as shown in the image above. It is also highlighted by the shining light, which both attracts the players attention, and works well with the angel silhouette. It’s sheer size means that it’s visible to the player as they traverse the map, allowing them to explore without concern of getting lost. The landmark is seen close to the start of the game, and is also mentioned various times around Columbia in order to repeatedly draw the player’s awareness to it. Real life landmarks and their videogame counterparts When I began as a level designer, I found myself worrying about using real life environments as inspirations for my creations, often feeling like a fraud for using similar designs. As time went on, I realised the benefit of using familiar references to make realistic levels. In many popular franchises, whole cities and landscapes are used to inspire creative and interesting settings. I believe that real life environments should be taken as a guideline, and then altered to allow for player agency, in alignment with the game’s theme and genre. Seattle, U.S - inFAMOUS: Second Son With this in mind, real life architecture features good examples of structures that stand out and leave a lasting impression, making them good references for creating landmarks. As seen below, Stonehenge in England has a unique layout that would make it stand out among a regular environment in an open world game. It’s size and distinct composition could make it an ideal midpoint in a map, where the player can return to if they are lost. Stonehenge - England The Puzzling Pillar Ruins in Skyrim are a great example of a location possibly inspired by Stonehenge. Notice the similarities in terms of rock colour texture, rock placement and the vast expanse of almost bare surrounding land. Also pay attention to how the landmark is used to draw attention to the locked grate located just below by being a similar colour and contrasting in shape, purposefully informing the player of a hidden location they can explore. Puzzling Pillar Ruins - Skyrim There are innumerable examples of real-life environments which can serve as inspiration, so you should always be looking for references that catch your eye. They can provide hints about where to place your landmarks and how to accentuate them in game. Have a look at this lighthouse shown below: It is blocked by a gate and can be seen a few blocks over from the camera’s location. It is taller than the rest of the surrounding environment, and it’s white main structure stands out against the blue sky, making the area unique and easy to recognise. The colourful trees and tall iron fence draw attention to the lighthouse, practically begging for it to be looked at. If you were to take this into a game engine, it could be made even more obvious as a pivotal landmark by darkening the scene, making the lighthouse taller to ensure that it can be seen from various locations and by adding lights coming from the tower which could perhaps guide the player towards their next location. This is done perfectly in Alan Wake, as shown below, with the gritty, moody atmosphere helping to create a memorable landmark. The Lighthouse - Alan Wake Creating distinctive landmarks UNIQUE VISUALS The easiest way to make landmarks stand out is by making them visually different from the rest of the surrounding environment. Designers should consider landmarks which look different from various angles, allowing the player to have a sense of their location when looking at it from different places on the map. Large landmarks are good, as the player can easily see them at all times, but smaller landmarks such as the Three Dead Trees in Horizon Zero Dawn, are also useful for marking the beginning of a new location. Colours and different size scalings are great for making these stand out. Three Dead Trees - Horizon Zero Dawn Additionally, many videogames feature landmarks with certain shapes, designed to subconsciously inform the player of what they might face upon arriving in the area. Spherical shapes or squares, with lots of symmetry and a solid structure, can suggest that the landmark is a place of safety. Henry’s Watchtower - Firewatch On the other hand, asymmetric places of interest with lots of jagged edges can suggest that an area is hostile and that the player should proceed with caution. This can, of course, be used to subvert player expectations. Ring of Metal - Horizon Zero Dawn FREQUENCY AND PLACEMENT Designers should work hard to find the right balance between frequent and infrequent landmark placement. Too many landmarks can feel tedious and overwhelming for the player, whereas too few landmarks can feel boring and make the game world stale. Placing smaller landmarks near bigger ones can help give the map a more interesting appearance. Mini-map showing smaller landmarks next to bigger landmarks and locations - Skyrim Navigation bars and mini-maps are arguably the easiest way to guide the player towards significant landmarks. Adding small icons to your player’s mini-map can be used to show these, and help them travel without getting lost. Drawing attention to landmarks can also be done through lighting, similar environmental colour schemes and NPC dialogue. Navigation bar - The Sinking City This article is only scratching the surface of the potential uses and methods of implementation of landmarks in videogames. When you next take a trip or vacation, be attentive to your surroundings and take note of both larger and smaller landmarks that you encounter in real life. Ask yourself WHY they are eye catching, and use that to consider HOW you can implement something similar in your game. Don’t forget that each landmark should serve a purpose, so keep this in mind when creating fantastic designs to capture and draw in your player. Thanks for reading my exploration into videogame landmarks and how real architecture can inspire these creations! If you want to discuss this topic further, feel free to leave a comment or message me on Twitter at @SweilousDev. I have also added a few links below that expand more on this topic, for any of you who are keen to learn more. Theory of Theme Parks - Wayfinding in themed Design: The “Weenie”: http://theoryofthemeparks.blogspot.com/2015/08/wayfinding-in-themed-design-weenie.html Landmarks in Level Design - http://level-design.org/?page_id=2261 I hope to hear from some of you soon! Courtney Raine Follow Courtney Twitter: https://twitter.com/SweilousDev Website: https://www.courtneyrainedev.com/home Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on a selection of tips and tricks that I’ve tweeted over the last few months from my account @TomPugh1112 These tips are methods that Level Designers use to move players, encourage progression and create areas of immersive gameplay. The tips I’m going to share are general bits of advice that work in different ways for different games. As a Level Designer these tips should be interpreted in a way that is relevant to your level designs. Every game is different so every game requires a different approach. This selection of tips are in no way “rules” of level design. As far as I’m concerned there are no rules, only guidelines that help create the best experiences possible. Every designer has their own approach to creating levels and solving problems so please take these tips and tricks as just that, and not some gospel of level design. Each one of these “tips” could easily have a whole blog dedicated to it, and in the future I may write some. But for now I’ve tried to give as much detail in as few words as possible. Tip 1: Have clear and consistent Affordances An affordance is a rule that is created through your games level design. For example in “Tomb Raider” the player learns that if they see a piece of wood or a old cart which is angled in the air, they know that they are able to use it as a launch pad to make longer jumps. A simple real life example of an affordance is a door handle. A pull bar or a push pad on a door informs you what action you should take to open the door. It is very important to have clear and consistent affordances (rules) in your levels. You need to build a trust contract with the player so that they clearly understand what they can and can’t do in the game. You should avoid breaking this contract. If you do you’ll cause confusion and frustration for the player. How annoying is it in real life when a door says push but really means pull? There are times when your game may require you to break this contract with the player. In a survival horror game breaking affordances is a good way to create stress and put the player under pressure. Even this can be risky and may ultimately irritate some players. Tip 2: Use Leading Lines Leading lines are a technique that helps to guide the player’s eye towards a specific location, item or event. Use leading lines to subtly move players in the right direction without the need for additional prompts or breadcrumbing. Leading lines can range from pipes on the ceiling, hedge rows or different textures on the floors and walls. Leading lines can draw the players eye to an important gameplay moment. These should be used in combination with lighting and other techniques. For example you might have a new enemy you want to reveal to the player. Pipes along the roof and walls could be used to make sure players are looking in the right direction, while the area where the new enemy appears is nicely lit. These techniques in combination should control where the player looks. Tip 3: Make use of the Architecture to shape the play space You should always be looking at real life spaces and how their architecture can translate to level design. Architects have been doing the same thing as level designers for hundreds of years so it makes sense to examine and gain an understanding of architectural elements. Architectural elements should be used to shape your level designs. Structural components are tools for organising and shaping a space. Think about what your architecture can do before filling a level with crates as obstacles. For example, rather than placing crates in an open area why not position pillars that can still be used as cover but create a more believable space. By looking at real life spaces you can find ways of creating more believable levels with intuitive architectural elements. Tip 4: Learn to Teach Mechanics One of the jobs of level design is to introduce, pace and teach the player new mechanics when they become available. This is something designers new to the field often get wrong (and sometimes more experienced designers too). You’re very knowledgeable of your game mechanics which means that it’s very easy to make a difficult challenge. Making an introductory challenge is often where mechanic teaching falls down. You can use pacing techniques to plan mechanic introductions and the difficulty of skill gates. Get the pacing right and you shouldn’t have too much trouble with players understanding and trusting mechanics. The rough sketch below gives an additional idea of how this works. An improvement to the sketch would be to make sure that when the player picks up their new weapon they have some targets to shoot at in the area, such as some tin cans for example. This gives them an opportunity to learn the shooting mechanics without have to be concerned about enemies. Tip 5: Use Denial and Reward Denial and reward is an architectural technique that is primarily used to enrich a person’s passage through a built environment. Architects do this by giving people a view of their target and then momentarily screening it from view. This same technique can be used for progression in level design to enhance a players sense of progression. Give players a view of their objective, send them on a route where they can no longer see it, and then emerge them closer to the objective with a new angle of visibility. This image shows how you might start a level using denial and reward. The player can see the objective clearly, they can see the path is blocked and are given an alternative route to take towards the objective. In the following image the player will have a new angle of visibility and the objective being closer will reward them with a real sense of progression. The Last Of Us uses denial and reward in the Pittsburgh chapter. The player is given a glimpse of the yellow bridge (their objective location) and then loses sight of it for a while until it comes back into view. This chapter shows how denial and reward can be used to make a journey much more interesting. Tip 6: Give players a good starting point How players arrive in an area will influence their first move. Start players facing the right direction and be sure their start position gives them visual cues and options on how to proceed. The image above from Uncharted 4 demonstrates how you can craft the players starting position by giving them a clear view of the path ahead, leading lines and framing from the surrounding environment give a clear view of the objective location and the player can see openings and other options. This example uses multiple techniques but it is key to understand how all of these methods combine with the start location to give players a clear understanding of what they have to do. Sometimes this tip can be twisted, but in a cool way. For example the players path or exit could be positioned behind or above them. As long as the player has clear messaging of this it can encourage map exploration and discovery which can create a very rewarding experience. Games like Uncharted have instances of this. This can become a problem when you can’t control the players start position. In linear games it is easy to determine where the player is when a level starts and making sure they have clear cues can be done. But in an open world it’s much harder to be sure of where the players is. One way this can be done is to create areas of linearity within an open world. A recent example of this is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Guerrilla have done a great job of funneling players towards mission areas and creating linear experiences during story missions. In some cases this has been done by creating two or three different entrances to a location. Horizon: Zero Dawn is an excellent study on open worlds for more on this I recommend watching the GDC talk Level Design Workshop: Balancing Action and RPG in Horizon Zero Dawn Quests where Blake Rebouche goes into more detail on their process. Tip 7: Set up some boundaries Boundaries are a way of showing players when they are transitioning between areas. There are two types of boundary - soft boundaries and solid boundaries. Solid boundaries can be used to mark an area of surprise or enemy activity. You don’t want players to know what’s inside and you want them to clearly understand they are changing location. Soft boundaries should be used to entice the player into an area. You want the player to be able to see what’s inside and this should draw them into the area. Tip 8: Bread-crumbing If you’re struggling to get players to go where you want you could try using breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbing can come in many different forms including; a different texture on the floor, gold coins that put the player back on track and collectibles dotted along a path. In the above example you can see the gems in Spyro are placed in this area so as to draw the player to a higher location I find this and the example below to be two subtle ways of breadcrumbing the player without breaking immersion. Tip 9: Lighting You can use lighting to draw attention to exits, points of interest and enemy locations and it can be used as an effective way to guide players through a level. Lighting in levels should be used to highlight the following; exits, path guiding, enemy introductions and points of interest. In the images above you can see that exits, paths and enemies are clearly lit and visible to the players. These examples also show how lighting can help set a tone for your levels. Tip 10: Iteration is key The key to a good level is iteration and constant play testing. The sooner you can get a blockout of your level into the hands of someone the better. It’s through this initial play test that you’ll see the problems, find the solutions and make a start on improving your level. Don't be afraid to let people play your levels, after all that is why we make them. Conclusion: Well thanks for reading this two part blog! I hope you found some tips and guidance that will help you with your own level designs. Remember these are guidelines, not rules. I tried to go into as much detail as I could in as few words as I could. So if you want to talk more about a subject covered here, or not covered here then please feel free to leave a comment and start a discussion. Thanks for Reading, Tom Pugh. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/single-post/2018/10/20/Level-Design-Tips-and-Tricks-Part-1 Follow Tom Website: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPugh1112 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. Introduction:In this 2015 'Level Design in a Day' talk, Robert Yang displays an eminently entertaining combination of level design knowledge and unabashed personal opinion. The subject matter is wide ranging. We get a review of level design editors, in which Robert analyzes the transformation of these over time, and gets us thinking about what they may look like in the future. Also covered in some depth is architecture, how it's interwoven into level design, and where the two should converge and diverge. Follow RobertWebsite: https://debacle.us/Blog: https://www.blog.radiator.debacle.us/Twitter: https://twitter.com/radiatoryangYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/debacleus/
  11. The following article eventually was transformed in a full length book. The second edition of the book, 'An Architectural Approach to Level Design', can be ordered here - https://www.crcpress.com/Architectural-Approach-to-Level-Design-Processes-and-Experiences/Totten/p/book/9780815361367What is the difference between a good game level and a bad game level? According to American writer and philosopher Robert M. Pirsig, "quality" is indefinable, yet we have intuitive knowledge of its existence. If something is good, and therefore of high "quality", we invariably know it -- whether or not we can give a textbook definition of what makes it good.Therefore with our game levels, as with anything in design: if the level is good, gamers will know. In game design, the particular flavor of quality we hope to achieve is known as "fun". Unfortunately for us, saying that fun is indefinable doesn't quite work.The mysterious definitions of "quality" and "fun" are something that stump many a designer: how can a game designer determine whether their level is good?Many will answer by saying that levels must be properly playtested, but for some companies that may not occur until the game is nearly finished -- way past the stage of initial level design. So what are the guidelines of good level design that can help us conceive good experiences from the very beginning of the level design process?Scientists and usability experts monitor pleasurable experiences by observing the brain's production of the neurotransmitter called Dopamine, which provides feelings of pleasure and motivation when released into the brain. Controlling the production of this chemical in a player is a matter of using psychological methods to design our game environments.A level designer at Valve once stated in an interview that "experience was key" to creating game environments, and as such they began their design processes from "core mechanics", similar to the way many good game designs begin. Designing from the core mechanic, the basic action a player takes within a game, starts the designer with a sound plan. From this plan, many basic psychological tools can be employed to support the core mechanic and create a pleasurable spatial experience: reward systems, operant conditioning, Montessori Method-style interactions, visual communication methods, and numerous others.The basis of learning these methods and applying them to level design is understanding how they became part of our own "mental wiring". Like many things that are part of how we humans operate, they evolved from our prehistoric need to survive. Architectural theorists such as Grant Hildebrand highlight how many of our concepts of what are "pleasurable" in a spatial environment trace back to our own survival instincts.Games already manipulate these instincts, requiring players to maintain the well-being of their avatar to continue and letting near-death gameplay situations provide dramatic tension. Game environments can provide this same psychological dramatic arc and create pleasurable experiences for players. It is therefore fair to say that understanding the spatial psychology of our own survival instincts can make us better level designers.Architecture has for centuries revolved around creating human experiences through space. It is only in the last century, with the dawn of the postmodern movement, that it has become so heavily focused on the form of the building instead of the experience of being within. Modernists understood that a building was an environment for the creation of experiences: Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier is famously quoted as saying, "The house is a machine for living in", while Louis Sullivan expounded, "form follows function." We can take hints from their outlooks on spatial design, especially when it comes to survival. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs highlights physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter as the most necessary to humans. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Architecture is for creating pleasure by creating spaces that feel safe, while level design is about creating spaces that create a sense of danger that is pleasurable to battle and overcome. If to architects the house was the machine for living, the game level should be the machine for living, dying, and creating tension by exploiting everything in between. In this article, I will highlight level design strategies based on the psychology of survival and exemplified by classic gaming precedents and real-world pieces of architecture.The "Problem of the Protagonist"To better understand how to create better levels by utilizing human survival instincts, we must first understand the connection between our in-game avatar and these instincts. As far as animals go, humans are pretty lame: we have no large claws or teeth for fighting, no poisons, no scary markings, no horns, no great running ability, and no armor plating. Proportionately we are weaker than ants, which can carry hundreds of times their own body weight.We do have one huge advantage over pretty much everything else in the animal kingdom, however: our intelligence. With this amazing ability to reason, we can craft tools and gadgets that help us do everything from hunting down a wooly mammoth for our dinner to listening to hundreds of our favorite albums during our afternoon commute.Games take advantage of this weakness and reliance on tools by using something I like to call "the problem of the protagonist." This describes a common situation in many games where a character finds him or herself in a position of natural weakness compared to his or her enemies. This simulates humanity's own natural disadvantages against the beasts that made our pre-agricultural lifestyles a hassle.Game avatars, by their definition, are the player's representatives in the game world, sharing their natural strengths and weaknesses. Some games even try to more concretely solidify this relationship by making these protagonists silent or allowing the player to customize their appearance. Overcoming the disadvantages these characters possess as a human's representative is a popular mechanic in many games, such as Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. Samus Aran enhances her abilities with tools to become more powerful than her foes Of Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto once said that he envisioned it as a game where you began as a young boy in the forest who must gather items and become an accomplished adult. When the player has reached this stage, they can return to areas that were once threatening and feel that they are not afraid of them anymore. In the time between being the inexperienced child and being the accomplished and powerful adult, the player will feel the dramatic tension of nearly losing their (or more accurately, their character's) life many times.In Hyrule, Zebes, and many other designed digital worlds, players find themselves in environments that act as both safe havens and dangerous wildernesses; using the dichotomy to their advantage and overcome their own disadvantages if possible.The Sizes of Game Spaces and Human EmotionNow that we know how games put players in the role of a simulated weak human, we can understand how the relationship of this character to its environment helps us create better levels through our own survival instincts. The first and most simple element of this relationship is the size of the space relative to the size of the player character. Like real life, the size of the space someone inhabits can generate feelings ranging from absolute comfort to crippling fear, in the case of claustrophobia. In games, the size of spaces can serve to create or alleviate tension, or set the stage for dramatic encounters. When discussing the size of game spaces, they can be split into three simple groups:1. Narrow Space A small enclosed space where the occupant feels confined and unable to move. These spaces create a sense of vulnerability in the player's inability to properly defend themselves. These spaces are a staple of survival horror games like Resident Evil and Dead Space, the latter featuring areas where the player must crawl through confined ventilation shafts where no weapons or items may be used while Necromorph monsters make watch the player from nearby. Narrow hallways are a staple of survival horror games like Resident Evil The ability for these spaces to cause tension is clear: if something happens in them the player has little or no way of escaping the threat. In a narrow passage an enemy can literally become another wall of the space, diminishing the size of the space with each approaching step. This effect can be exacerbated with enemies and games specifically designed to elicit actual fear in the player, such as zombies or predatory aliens in horror games.2. Intimate Space Players controlling Mario can reach everything Peach's Castle, making it a very pleasurable space to inhabit. These spaces are neither confining nor overly large. While they can be large in overall scope, everything in the space should be immediately accessible to the player and within reach of their avatar and their inherent abilities. In a space like this, the player can feel as though they are in control, and that is the true importance of these spaces. One such example of this type of space is the hub environments of the 3D Super Mario games. In these spaces Mario can run, jump and utilize his other acrobatic moves to reach the limits of the space.These spaces don't necessarily have to be devoid of enemies either. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the designers wanted to utilize stealth gameplay in such a way that the player felt more powerful than their enemies. For this style of game they coined the term "predator gameplay."One of the elements of the game that assisted in the player's feeling of power was the level of control they had over the game's environments. Even in the largest rooms of the asylum, Batman can jump and swing from the highest structural elements and maintain his vantage point above his enemies. Fitting the character of Batman, players have incredible freedom over spaces that would be overwhelming and dangerous in other games. Players can feel as though they are Batman because they have control over their environment, giving them the ability to terrorize their enemies. Perhaps one of the most important elements of these spaces is that they can expand over the course of a game. As players receive new abilities, such as in the previously mentioned Zelda or Metroid games, the space of intimacy becomes larger. When Samus acquires the space jump she can reach higher ledges, when Link gets the hookshot he can cross wide chasms.3. Prospect Space While this space is the exact opposite of narrow spaces, it produces a somewhat similar effect. Coined by architectural theorist Grant Hildebrand, Prospect Space describes a spatial condition that is wide open, within which the occupant is exposed to potential enemies. The idea that this type of space is unpleasant originates in ancient times when humans would have to cross open wilderness to reach food, shelter, and safety, facing the threat of predators and the elements. The fear of these places is called agoraphobia. The people that suffer from this disorder feel uncomfortable in open spaces with few places to hide.In games these Prospects take on a few different forms. One type of Prospect is the Boss Room. Boss Rooms are typically wide-open places for staging elaborate encounters with strong enemies. One of the classic examples of these spaces is the Boss Rooms in the Mega Man series. Boss Rooms in Mega Man often feature little or no elaboration or places to hide from the attacking Robot Master. The other popular form of Prospect Space is that found in action games, where players are vulnerable to enemy fire. In games where players can exchange gunfire with one another, it's common for open areas, especially those viewable from higher elevations, to function as Prospect spaces that must be traveled through to reach goals or hiding places. The relationship between Prospect Spaces and the hiding places that they occur between is a very important one to game designers, and it is the second important element of the human survival instinct that can educate level designers.Prospect and RefugeThe definition of Prospect Space has already been described as an open space where the player is exposed to threats and feels vulnerable. If the open wilderness were all that was available to our ancestors, however, we wouldn't be here.Humans survived dangerous Prospect conditions by hiding in enclosed and intimate spaces referred to as Refuges. Refuges are places like caves and tree covered areas where early humans could look out into the Prospect spaces of wilderness and evaluate potential threats.Refuges have evolved over time to include things like covered porches, patios, or sunken places in rooms that have the impression of being separate spaces. They have the advantage of being either safely depressed into the ground or high enough to provide a safe lookout.When dealing with interiors, things like ceiling height can give a space the impression of being either Prospect or Refuge, with the lower ceilings of course being the Refuges. They also have enough shadow for the hiding person to not be easily visible to their enemies.Refuges have also historically been tied to water sources, since they provide hydration, security, and the potential to attract animals that can be hunted for food.While this seems like a simple concept, it is the type of spatial sequence that is created by the alternations of Prospects and Refuges that is of particular importance to level designers. Refuges allow humans to look out upon their surroundings in a safe manner When traveling, early man could rely on Refuges for safety at night or during adverse weather conditions. However, if this Refuge was temporary or simply a stopover for the human or group, they would use the Refuge as a place to look out for other Refuges. Making this goal would allow them to plan their passage over the Prospect space to the new Refuge, referred to as the "Secondary Refuge." Beyond the Secondary Refuge lies the Secondary Prospect, and so on until the final goal has been reached. Secondary Refuges can urge the occupant of a space forward As stated previously, the Prospect/Refuge/Secondary Refuge spatial sequence does not limit itself to travel over Stone Age plains, as these sequences are often featured in interior design. These examples are valuable to the level designer trying to come up with a path for their player. In a medium where there are still enemies lying in the Prospects, using Prospect/Refuge theory makes even more logical sense than it does in real architecture.Prospects are often used to create areas of circulation and movement. The IT University in Copenhagen's Atrium, designed by Henning Larsen Architects, creates a large prospect space for travel between classes. The Refuges are the classrooms themselves, which look or project out into the atrium itself. The projecting Refuge spaces are classrooms. The school somewhat appropriately features a program of study in Game Design. Likewise, the architecture of Le Corbusier has been described as being largely Prospect-based. One of his main design philosophies was that man should rise above nature. He projected this in his architecture by placing buildings on sites that the building would starkly contrast. Living spaces, like that in his most famous project, Villa Savoye, were lifted into the air by thin columns and the spaces within were wide and flowed into one another. Ribbon windows were used to give the human the maximum view of their surroundings. Selected views within Villa Savoye show the interior Prospect spaces In many ways, Le Corbusier would have been a great designer of first person shooter maps. His architecture features many instances of wide open spaces and ramps leading to higher ground, like those found in Villa Savoye itself. In these games, rising levels connected by ramps allow for players to find better vantage points from which to snipe their opponents, and the spaces of a place like Villa Savoye would be very conducive to this type of competition. His architectural style is not unlike that employed in the Boardwalk map of Halo: Reach (to readers of my blog: I just complimented the design of a Halo level... please take a moment to look outside at the flying pigs) with its own rising levels, viewpoints of the surrounding game space, and geometric forms. New Alexandria as featured in Boardwalk could very well be taken from Le Corbusier's Ville Contemporaine. On the other hand, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright is often considered to be Refuge-based. Wright felt that the hearth was the center of the home, where the family would gather for warmth and safety. He utilized this concept in many of his building designs, and used it as his own "core mechanic" to inform everything from his room layouts to placement on sites. He liked to place houses within large groupings of trees. Even if they did not end up built in such spaces, he demanded that all perspective presentation drawings from his office be drawn with trees surrounding the house. One example of a drafted perspective from Wright's office Wright had a fondness for depressed sitting areas, typical of Refuge spaces. This section drawing shows a living room space depressed into the site itself. Fallingwater is situated in the woods of Western Pennsylvania These Refuge spaces show up a lot in games where exploration and treasure finding are important mechanics. Wright may have found value in worlds such as those created for the Metroid Prime games, where Samus Aran fights her way through enclosed ruins and passages riddled with secrets. Environments like the Chozo Ruins feature large, sheltering cantilevers and heavy stone construction, adding the somberness of an abandoned city with its lived-in look. Concept art from the Metroid Prime series even at times resembles drawings of Wright's, like this one of the "Broadacre City" by showing similar spatial concerns. While these examples take Prospect and Refuge for their individual values, there are instances in games that create very exciting sequences of these spaces. One such example is the stealth environments found in the Metal Gear Solid series. I would argue that MGS's levels are actually based upon the Refuge-Prospect-Secondary Refuge sequence, as the stealth gameplay requires you to move from hiding place to hiding place. This type of gameplay changes mundane environmental elements like corners and lockers into safe places differentiated from the Prospect areas of the level with guards and cameras. Half-Life 2, on the other hand, features a rather inventive expression of the Refuge-Prospect-Secondary Refuge sequence in the beach areas of the game. In this level, the player must cross a long stretch of beach without alerting alien insects called Antlions. These monsters can hear the player character walk across the sand so the player must therefore use their Gravity Gun to move debris into bridge-like configurations between rock surfaces that the Antlions cannot reach. While not covered, the safe nature of the rocks makes them the Refuge spaces while the sand is the Prospect. Previously worthless throwaway props like metal plates and wooden pallets become the most valuable items in the game, similar to Snake's legendary cardboard box. These items become portable Refuges: they are weaker in function than the level geometry versions, but their valued is heightened nonetheless. Prospects and Refuges can also describe the mechanics of enemy encounters in games. To use Metal Gear Solid as an example: standard enemies are often found in areas where stealth is encouraged and therefore feature large percentages of Refuge space. In this way, Snake can sneak up on his foes and take them down silently in what is "typical" method of progressing through the game (people who still go through with guns blazing notwithstanding.) On the other hand, most boss encounters in MGS do away with actual Refuges altogether and opt for a more face-to-face spatial layout with most refuges existing as cover from weapons (again, with specific stealth-heavy examples like MGS3's battles with The End or The Boss notwithstanding.) Another series of games where the number of Refuges changes in battle situations are those in the previously discussed Mega Man series. As discussed, the boss rooms in these games are large Prospect zones. This spatial type is very conducive to the types of theatrical showdowns that boss fights embody. Likewise, fights with smaller enemies often take place in areas where Mega Man can leap from platform to platform, allowing players to find good vantage points to shoot from or places to hide from enemy fire, such as when facing down enemies like Sniper Joe. Spaces are given for hiding against minor enemies like Sniper Joe in Mega Man games while boss characters feature much more open rooms. Prospects and Refuges are very useful for level designers as well as the player. However, there are elements of even refuges that if taken too far can create uncomfortable situations for players. Like any spatial survival concept, however, these can also be of great use to the level designer who is well educated in their usage. Shade, Shadow, and Survival Refuges were previously defined as having a certain amount of shadow that hides humans from their enemies. Shadow, for our usage, will here be defined as a lack of light caused by a light source being obscured by aphysical object. Some games, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell use Shadow to such an extreme that it creates the sense of being a different space altogether. The developers of Splinter Cell call this concept "Shadowspace." Shadowspace creates the perception that one room is actually two: areas within the Shadow and areas in the light. Architecture shows us that this type of space is of great use when creating Prospect and Refuge experiences. In the Alhambra's Court of the Lions, located in Granada, Spain, visitors enter the space from a covered arcade and can look out into the courtyard, which is open to the sky above. While the columns of the arcade define a separate space, the shadows underneath solidify the impression that it is, indeed separate from the courtyard itself. Shadows create their own separate feeling of space in places like the Court of the Lions. Some stealth games use this to their advantage. What if there is a lot of shadow though? In situations where there is little light, moving from an area of light to dark becomes increasingly uncomfortable. This fear stems from the idea that what is in the dark space is not entirely visible to us and therefore, unknown, much like childhood fears of going into the basement. This has been put to great use in thrillers and horror movies such as Jaws or Paranormal Activity respectively. The idea is that the scariest thing is that which is your own imagination. In the case of Jaws, water acts like Shadow would in a game level. Despite the fact that most people know what a Great White Shark looks like, the shark in Jaws is not seen for about an hour into the movie. The mental image projected by the audience of it silently stalking helpless bathers was much more terrifying than what they could have captured on screen. By taking the concept of "shark" away from a corporeal fish, Stephen Spielberg made the idea of "shark" synonymous with the water itself. By the time that the shark does show up in the film, he is of such mythic proportions that he seems omnipotent in the ocean. More literally related to the concept of Shadow is the demon in Paranormal Activity. For much of the film, his presence seems to only impact action that occurs at night. In this way, when the house is its darkest is when the demon freely roams. The monster is also unseen, meaning that like the shark in Jaws it is omnipotent in the nightly shadows and the viewer's mind is left to fill in the demon's form with their worst nightmares. When the demon begins doing things to the couple in the daytime, the rules are broken and the viewer becomes even more terrified, he now owns the daytime as well. Games can use this to great effect in areas where lighting is scarce. While some games, such as military first person shooters, merely use a lack of light as a nuisance that must be overcome with things like night-vision goggles, games in the survival horror genre and some others use shadow to create feelings of risk for the player. In Half-Life 2, the designers place caches of items in small alcoves for players to find. While these are typically marked with the lambda symbol used by the in-game rebel faction, there are instances of supplies being hidden without this logo. These hidden areas are also known to be homes for enemies known as Headcrabs, some of which are powerful enough to paralyze the player character and leave him with very low health. This gives entering even small shadowy alcoves an incredible feeling of risk, since they can contain either helpful items or a dangerous surprise. Shadows create a space of dangerous unknown that can be used to instill a sense of fear. This move by a level designer can allow the player's own paranoia to fill in the space with whatever scary object they wish. Technological enhancements in games that allow dynamic lighting have given us games like Doom 3, Dementium: The Ward, and more recently, Dead Space. In Dead Space specifically, much of the game occurs in pitch-black surroundings with the player's flashlight as the only light source. In the tradition of allowing player imaginations to fill in the surrounding blackness, Necromorphs noisily move through an abandoned space ship around the player's character, a lone engineer ill-equipped for combat. As such, the least terrifying areas of the game turn out to be those where you are fighting visible enemies. It is the empty areas, pitch black but filled with the sounds of stalking mutants, where the player is the most terrified. Like the shark in Jaws, the Necromorphs command the environment with their lack of bodily presence. In the sequel to Dead Space, players revisit the ship from the original for a brief period. The player character's previous traumatic experiences aboard the ship give the player the expectation that it is a beehive of space zombies. The designers wisely withhold enemy presence for the first half of the player's visit to the ship, ramping up the player's own paranoia of the Necromorphs before unleashing them in a swarm. While the amount of time the player spends without an enemy encounter is specifically notable in this part of the game, it is not the first example of this phenomenon. Dead Space 2 utilizes traditional horror surroundings to utilize pre-existing horror-movie fears in players, such as having players travel through churches and pre-schools to evoke horror imagery from films such as The Exorcist or Child's Play. In this way the game pulls no punches, taking environments that are thought of as friendly or safe and corrupting them, again in the cases of the church and the preschool, then bathing them in an all encompassing Shadow that sound and environmental hints fill with paranoid fear. A ubiquitous darkness, atmospheric sound effects, and familiar horror imagery work together to intensify humanity's already existing fear of shadowy darkness. Shade, on the other hand, creates a very different type of spatial quality. Where Shadow is primarily used to hide objects or the nature of spaces, Shade is used to obscure objects and evoke a sense of curiosity in players. In the Middle Ages, Gothic churches were purposefully designed with windows that would diffuse light and create an ethereal atmosphere known as Lux Nova, or "new light." Also referred to as "Mystic Light", this condition was believed to bring patrons closer to God. This image, in the yet-to-be-completed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, demonstrates the diffused light used to create the effect of "Lux Nova." In the Mosque of Cordoba, it is combined with the rhythmic arrangement of columns to create the aforementioned sense of curiosity in the visitor, urging them to continue farther into the space and explore its experiential boundaries. Rhythm and lighting create a sense of curiosity If in games light is usually a signifier of spaces that are "safe" and Shadow is typically a signifier of spaces that are "dangerous", then Shade's middle ground creates a sense of Atmospheric Ambiguity. One series that uses this to great effect is The Legend of Zelda. Zelda games have always been about exploration and mystery. As a game about interacting with the myths of a fantasy world's past, it also contains a fair amount of "sacred" items and places. The dungeon designs in these games, therefore, showcase shaded conditions in a way that keeps players wondering what lurks around the next corner. For example, it was previously mentioned that high ceilinged, wide-open Prospect spaces are often the setting for climactic Boss battles. However, these same spaces are also traditionally used in the real world for sacred purposes: churches, temples, etc. Zelda games use this dualism to create temples that, when shrouded in a blanket of fog or Shade, exudes a sense of mystery that players will want to investigate. While a dark Prospect space would seem to immediately indicate a Boss and one with rays of light filling the chamber would indicate a sacred space, Zelda games tease the player by using Shade. In games such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, players often face a high ceilinged room with an ambiguously shaded lighting condition inside. While the final Boss room of each dungeon is very plainly marked with a skull on the in-game map and a golden Boss Door, other large encounters are placed to surprise players. Like other games in the series, Twilight Princess' dungeons are given back stories, adding to the feeling of sacred mystery. As such, walking into an ambiguous Prospect space is often an invigorating experience for players: am I about to fight a difficult mini-boss or am I about to get a new weapon? Often the drama builds as the player surveys then actually enters the room, then ends with either the door ominously slamming shut behind Link or Link's new weapon revealing itself bathed in a beam of light. This technique also finds its way into the game's overworld, where players occasionally encounter a skeleton knight in a bright but ethereally lit space. Eventually the player learns that this is the spirit of a past hero that will teach Link new moves, but the first encounter with this character is filled with dramatic tension. Players may expect a moment of repose in this obviously sacred space before armored knights suddenly attack Even in instances where the space does house a new item for Link, enemies often still attack the player before they may earn the item. In a way, this invasion of enemies into a previously sacred temple is not unlike survival horror games infesting churches and preschools with monsters: corrupting the sacred spaces of our society. While in survival horror this is used to instill fear, games like Zelda allow players more freedom in fighting enemies and turn these scenes into heroic battles. While used alone, both Shadow and Shade can be incredibly effective. However, when used together, they can keep players constantly guessing at the nature of the level they are exploring. Zelda's Boss Rooms are often shrouded in Shade that quickly dims and becomes black Shadow when the Boss attacks. Several games by Valve perhaps even more effectively utilize a collaboration of Shade and Shadow in their level designs. The first instance of this collaboration is in Half-Life 2: Episode One. It was previously mentioned that the enemies known as Headcrabs often hide in shadowy outcroppings in level geometry in this game. Weapons caches, left by the player's allies, also often occupy these spaces. One particular section of the game has players exploring tunnels lit by dim blue lights. Players are left to wonder what the nature of this space will be: will the stacked cars and shadowy doorways provide supplies or am I about to be attacked? Lighting conditions allow the player to question whether a tunnel is safe or not…this tunnel isn't. As the players press on into the space, a horde of Headcrab Zombies enters the tunnel and attacks. Zombies enter from any shadowy crevasse available and the player must hold them off with the help of an AI character. In this case the Shadow spaces that send mixed messages to players are combined with Shade that creates Atmospheric Ambiguity to lead up to a particularly dramatic action sequence. This theme is also prevalent in the Left 4 Dead games. These games have the added benefit of featuring an AI Director that controls the location and amount of zombies the player will encounter, making every game different. Levels must therefore be crafted to provide the most Atmospheric Ambiguity possible, as an area that was safe in a previous playthrough may now be the site of the biggest battle of the game. To achieve these goals, shadowy alleyways or tunnels are often combined with a B-movie fog and film grain that provide the necessary Shade condition. Removing the Shade and replacing it with all shadows or even heavy rain takes the atmosphere from one of atmospherically ambiguous co-op fun to a claustrophobic tension not unlike that in Dead Space. Materiality and the Heroic Quest In his book, The Origins of Architectural Pleasure, Grant Hildebrand describes Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the Hero's Journey, and the dangers to the Hero's survival during the journey, in terms of materiality. Materiality is the quality of materials in an environment. The beginning of the Hero's Journey, Hildebrand argues, began in a land of natural and pleasant material landscape. There were often quaint villages and lush forests near the hero's hometown, as well as a water source. Eventually something terrible happens to the hometown or someone in it, otherwise the hero of the story would have nothing to do that would keep our attention, so the Hero must leave home and venture into the dangerous world. Hildebrand goes on to describe how as the Hero gets farther from home, into what Campbell would describe as the "challenges and temptations" stages of his journey, the quality of landscape steadily decreases. Where there were once happy forests for the Hero to travel through there are now rocks and cliffs. Steadily these conditions too decline until the hero finds him or herself at the "abyss", where a climactic battle with evil or transformative event is to occur. The materiality of this location is often one of man-made industrial darkness or deadly swampland. In Beowulf's story of battling Grendel his journey takes him from the mead halls of Heorot to the slimy cave home of Grendel's Mother. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo must leave the quaint and happy Shire, venture through Middle Earth to unpleasant landmarks such as the mountains of Emyn Muil, and ultimately reach the fire and shadows of Mordor. The Hero's Journey can be expressed through the material qualities of each part's setting In games like Zelda and Super Mario Bros., it is easy to see how this idea translates into the material qualities of levels. Zelda games in particular begin in brightly colored and cheerful forestlands, such as Ocarina of Time's Kokiri Forest or Twilight Princess's Ordon Village. Each dungeon is like a Hero's Journey of its own: each tasks Link with defeating an evil monster to find a sacred item that will help the greater population of Hyrule. In this way, the Hero's Journey that is The Legend of Zelda is constantly changing material qualities from safe and natural to dangerous and industrial. Likewise each world in the original Super Mario Bros. begins in a simple grassland environment, to either a cavern or lake, then to a dangerous platforming level, then to one of Bowser's fiery castles. Changing materiality begins to describe the levels of danger present in these spaces. These literary descriptions of materials stem from the survival instinct to be near Refuge-like spaces. As stated previously, Frank Lloyd Wright even responded to this strong human tendency by adding trees to his drawings of new building projects. Height The final element of spatial survival that must be addressed is perhaps one of the most dramatic – height. Many people declare a fear of heights. However, high places can also serve as a strategic position for watching surrounding terrain. Towers, cliffs, helicopters, humans use all of these things to view their surroundings from a better vantage point. Le Corbusier believed that his architecture allowed man to "rise above" nature, and houses like Villa Savoye emphasize this by hierarchically organizing spaces with height. Grant Hildebrand, in his descriptions of Prospects and Refuge spaces, even says that high places can be valuable Refuges. The key distinction is the security of the high point and the nature of the area around it. Height can be a terrifying thing when the ground falls away and the player is left tottering on the edge of a seemingly endless hole in the Earth's crust. Height can likewise provide a very secure feeling when surrounding structure such as walls or railings envelops players. Why is this? In a way this is another example of the Prospect/Refuge relationship. High places with safeguards feel safe because there are things between the drop and us. Sniping would not be a very popular role in first person shooters were it not for this safe feeling. Le Corbusier uses height in Villa Savoye as the goal of the occupant in a building. If analyzed like a game, Villa Savoye's Core Mechanic might be "climbing." Ramps provide passage from the utilitarian spaces on the first floor all the way up to the roof garden. The reward for an occupant's passage is the ability to look down not only on the natural surroundings of the building, but on the other occupants within it as well. Game levels can function in this way as well. Making a sniping position a prize to be won can have a profound impact on a level. This "king of the hill" style sniping contest could allow opportunities for other Prospect/Refuge spaces in a map, where properly navigating cover allows players to move in on a sniping player. On the other hand, height when there is no enveloping structure keeping the player safe acts like a Prospect. The player is open to danger, but in this case, the greatest source of danger is not enemy creatures or combatants but the environment itself. This feeling is known as vertigo. Height used in this way is a very dramatic spatial element. Vertical elements such as structures or shadows can deepen the sense of vertigo by drawing the player's eyes deeper into the chasm. Conclusion Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman in their book, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, point out that there is pleasure in overcoming dangerous situations, a principle they say is one of the most basic ideas of game design. When levels are engaging, players know, even if they cannot verbalize what makes them so pleasurable. Some modern texts on level design only teach readers to model environmental models and scenery. The levels designed by learning from these books have no way of engaging the player and provide no discernable amount of experience, so level designers have to look to other sources for inspiration. The alternative is creating the experience boredom or frustration for players, which is counterintuitive to the goal of making a "fun" game. Level designers can take the concept of "pleasure from overcoming danger" to heart by utilizing the human survival instinct to create dramatic environments that play with the comfort levels of people interacting with them in a way that is motivated by creating pleasure. As stated previously, utilizing these spatial survival concepts to create levels gives players opportunities to not only interact with the game on a functional button-pressing manner, but also on a cognitive one that speaks to the instincts that help make video games fun in the first place. Also, while these concepts are incredibly important to the practice of level design, they are but part of an expansive whole. Concepts such as Operant Conditioning and the articulation of short and long-term goals were mentioned among others. Again, as Salen and Zimmerman have pointed out, pleasure is derived from overcoming danger. This article has been about the spatial dangers or elements of space that create the impression of danger for players. The other concepts describe elements of the pleasures that follow, and other methods for training players. For Further Reading: - Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert Pirsig - Chambers For A Memory Palace by Donlyn Lyndon and Charles W. Moore - Origins of Architectural Pleasure by Grant Hildebrand - Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman - Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman - Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture, and Urbanism: The Next Level, edited by Freidrich von Borries, Steffen P. Walz, Matthias Bottger, Drew Davidson, Heather Kelley, and Julian Kucklich *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6411/designing_better_levels_through_.php Follow Chris Website: http://www.pfbstudios.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Totter87
  12. Several years ago my work tasked me to build a cooperative dungeon themed around a volcanic palace. We wanted the dungeon’s difficulty to rise across a series of rooms and end with a fight against the Fire King. At the half-way point through the level, we wanted to challenge the players with a combat-puzzle encounter.For my prototype of this encounter, I locked the players in a room with several waves of combat and environmental hazards. Each wave, the players needed to complete an increasing number of objectives in order to survive lava that would rise through the floor.Outside the specifics of the theme, I designed this encounter to test player coordination across multiple objectives under pressure. The encounter also served as a gear check through the enemies. In the abstract, this encounter is typical of raid design, which was our goal. The problem was the theme and converting my prototype to final art without losing clarity.In one of several meetings dedicated to solving this problem, another designer asked why the Fire King would have this hazardous room in his palace at all. This led to question about who (within the game’s fiction) built this room, why they built it this way, and what happened since it was built.When a level is able to answer these questions, it passes a test I think of as “architectural realism”. If a level does not hold up to this scrutiny, and we’re left saying “no one (within the game’s fiction) would have built this place or built it this way”, it fails the test of architectural realism.This concept overlaps with environmental storytelling, world-building, and immersion, all of which are important for high-fidelity AAA narratives games like Last of Us and God of War (2018). As an industry, we place a lot of value on these concepts.But my level was not for that kind of game. We used a distant 3rd-person camera, larger-than-life characters with exaggerated proportions, and abilities that worked at massive scales. We built our levels and the environment art to match.So, when one of these design meetings entered a third hour of argument to solve the problem of architectural realism, I was ready to ship the level as it was, in Mario-like abstraction where primitive meshes clearly conveyed their function. Immersion be damned.Architectural realism had no place in the problem we were trying to solve, and the efforts to pass its criteria wasted development time and made the encounter’s mechanics opaque. A bad application of best practices made my level worse.Now, when I see the ideas of architectural realism described as best practice, I remember how it can harm the development process when it does not serve the intended experience. Here for example, Mark is correct when referring to most real-world architecture, but most real-world architecture ports badly to video games. This is obvious for those of us who learned level design through modding; our rite-of-passage was to build a replica of our house—or school, or office—in Counter-Strike, Doom (1993), or one of so many other games with mod tools. This was a rite-of-passage because it was a painful realization that we can’t just copy what works in the real-world because the context is different. Even within the same genre, the context of Quake 3: Arena was different from Unreal Tournament 2004. An excellent level in one game will be different, often terrible, in another.The act of design is to recognize a context, its local needs and constraints, and find a solution that fits best. The practice of greyboxing is a way to prototype a solution, evaluate how well it fits the context, and—in professional game development—communicate the solution to the team. The study of level design is too often concerned with the skills of building and not the skills of design, which persist across genre convention. Christopher Alexander wrote about design this way in his 1964 essay “Notes on the Synthesis of Form”, where he created a visual metaphor of constraints and relationships. The dots each denote a constraint, and the lines denote relationships. The + and – along each line indicates whether the constraints support or conflict with each other. This visual metaphor is powerful because it lets us step aside from convention and any dogma around best practices to instead face the specific needs of the problem.In real-world manufacturing, material and production—what Alexander labels “economy”—are real constraints. Even in our digital world of level design, material and production are constraints we need to consider. We have our level construction processes, our art asset pipelines, and our production methodologies. We also have our studio cultures and divisions of responsibilities. All of these factor into the local context within which we solve our design problems.For my lava palace encounter, the values of architectural realism diminished once we recognized the whole context of our production process. Solving the encounter for world-building and immersion conflicted with too many other constraints. // Around the assumed best practices of AAA development, there are assumption of roles and responsibilities. In some studios, level designers are also layout artists, world builders, environment artists, content designer, scripters, and quest designers. Each game and studio has its own needs. (Jeff also clarified in a later tweet that his advice “can be true or false depending on the situation”) On another project as a professional level design, I spent several months sculpting and painting terrain. I placed foliage and props. Again, I did this work as a level designer. For the experience we intended to provide, we needed rolling hills and grass, and someone had to implement that solution to the design problem. This is level building, but we still call the job level design.As another example, look at Dear Esther. Where does the level design end and the environment art begin? This division is artificial until we separate design from building. To provide the right experience, the design of Dear Esther called for an island with terrain and foliage; it doesn’t matter whether it was a level designer or an environment artist who did the work of building.All of that said, when I see talk of “best practices” that don’t specify their context, I get grumpy. And when these “best practices” are directed at students, I get angry. I think about the days of my life wasted solving the wrong problems, and I think about all of the work I shipped that was less than it could have been. // What remains if we throw out “best practices” and say the quality of a design depends on its context?There are fundamentals we can still apply. Gestalt psychology has value. There are also psychological models like Self-Determination Theory to help us better recognize our players’ needs. I personally am skeptical of any application of shape- or color-theory that says “[x] will make the player feel [y]”, but there is still value in studying these areas as well.What remains is local level design, where our work serves a specific context to the best of its ability. To me, this enriches the many forms our levels can take, frees us from the International Style of AAA best practices, and returns us to our position as experience designers instead of overspecialized level builders. This lets us escape high modernism and enter postmodernism (and maybe we’ll catch up with the rest of the art world eventually).For students, my suggestion is that you shouldn’t greybox levels in Unity or Unreal by imagining a context that you can’t playtest. Doing this is making fan art levels, replicating solutions that already exist rather than learning how to solve. Instead, take a game with mod tools and an active community and design a level for that context. Seek feedback, not to hear how your level is good or bad, but to better understand who your level is for. Then build another level with this knowledge. This is the only best practice I know to learn the skills of design. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://andrewyoderdesign.blog/2019/02/23/against-best-practices/Follow Andrew:Website: https://andrewyoderdesign.blog/Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mclogenog
  13. This is the second part of a three part series of articles dealing with level design in action adventure games. Part 1 described Level Flow Diagrams, that act as the core of the level brief provided to a team by the Leads. Part 2 describes a process of expanding that brief into a detailed level plan. This stage of the process is most often carried out by a cross-discipline team of designers, artists and coders, who will expand the level brief into a detailed level plan, but this process can equally be the next step that an individual designer takes when designing a level solo. A Note on CollaborationDelegation and teamwork are vital given the scale of modern console development. Without them, leads become bottlenecks that slow development and sap motivation.The current trend is towards agile development whereby scrums are given ownership of individual problems. This has many advantages over the old waterfall methodology, but there is one pitfall to watch out for with peer-only teams.If a group of peers go into a room with the goal of making design decisions, the tendency won't be towards a design that everyone loves, but rather towards the design that everyone least hates.The psychology goes this way:1. Person X suggests a new idea that he thinks might be mint. It's not a complete idea yet, but he believes it has a kernel of goodness that could make for a unique piece of gameplay.2. Persons Y and Z who have not seen anything like this idea before quickly point out all the flaws in the idea.3. Person X, whose idea still needs nurturing, responds defensively, firing off hastily-thought out solutions that people also don't like.4. The idea is shut down and the group moves on. If person X brings it up again, people are going to think he is beating a dead horse.5. If person X brings it up again, people are going to think he is beating a dead horse.6. Next, Person Y suggests something that he has seen in a game before.7. Person X and Z both remember that being pretty mint in that other game, and they know it can be done, which means low risk.8. Everyone feels good as they write the tired, overused mechanic/scenario up on the whiteboard.9. Repeat.There is little to no way to get vision from a peer-only group unless they have worked together long enough that they are all on the same wavelength.There are two potential solves to this:1. Separate brainstorm and decision meetings.2. Employ a group design method I tested at Crystal Dynamics called a "The Thunderdome" (as coined by Mr. Ron Rosenburg.)Thunderdome!A "Thunderdome" gives each member of the level team the same deadline to propose a complete, individual solution to the entire design problem (in this case a paper map.) Once that (tight) deadline is up, the whole level team comes together and shows their individual solutions to their teammates, and everyone discusses the pros and cons of each one in a respectful way.Then the team (and the lead) cherry picks the best ideas from all the proposals and merges them into a unified team plan.This is the equivalent of forcing lateral thinking techniques in an individual. Humans naturally solve problems by brainstorming solutions until they find one that works, at which point they generally stop thinking about the problem. Lateral thinking techniques push us to go beyond that first working answer and try to find three to five more, to see if there is a better solution out there before moving on.When each individual in a "Thunderdome" creates their own solution, I guarantee that none of them will be the same, and the group will have multiple working solutions to pick from instead of one compromise solution. Of course this is not in the agile way -- which probably makes me a heretic who must be burned or something.Stage 2, Building Through FictionWith the Level Flow Diagram in hand, the next stage is to fill in the details.Architecting the level through storiesThis is the time to explore the level's stories because from them, the juiciest parts of the level's design will emerge.Regardless of the narrative of the game, each level has the potential to tell many layers of its own background story. Even an empty office has the potential to tell little stories that transform it from a dull set of plain rooms into a real place through artfully placed builder's tools, scrounged furniture, used cups, and discarded rubbish.But the real power of level stories has nothing to do with set dressing; it is in their ability to provide you with context-relevant gameplay scenarios that the story-based method really shines.To make the level real to the player though, first it must be real to you.A Cautionary Aside: Gather and Study ReferenceI would argue that the power to immerse the player, to absorb his attention completely, is the common attribute of the greatest and most successful games.Gathering and studying reference is critical to creating immersion for the player. It is something that the entire team should do, not just the artists.Everyone stores simplified constructions of reality in their mind; schemata that codify the critical features of the world around us. We use our schemata to recognize and interpret everything we experience.We also use those same simplified representations of reality to recreate it through art. Because no two people use precisely the same critical features to build their schemata, every person's art has a unique look, filtered through the lens of their uniquely simplified representations of reality.While schemata allow us to rapidly process the deluge of information we receive each day, they come with the cost of a blindness to data that does not fit with them. That data gets stripped away and left unprocessed. Because we rely on them constantly, we tend to trust them implicitly.But the fact that no two people have precisely the same schemata is all the clue we should need to realize that they cannot be trusted at all.When we are creating worlds in games, immersion is only possible for the player if we can convince the players that the space is authentic (whether stylized or not.) If the critical features on screen don't match up with the critical features of the player's schemata, then he or she will not be fooled by it.So as game makers we must have really precise schemata to convince the widest selection of players.When designers or artists rely on their standard schemata to judge their own creations, they are mistakenly assuming that others will judge their work using similar standards as they do. This can be particularly egregious when people from one country try to reproduce locations from another. American dumpsters sitting in the back streets of Paris or French road signs on the streets of Chicago might seem acceptable to the developers because they do not mismatch with their very simple schemata of those distant locations, but these contextually inappropriate placements will be laughably inaccurate to people really familiar with those places.Given that games are released worldwide, it is difficult to overestimate the damage to audience immersion and perception done by poorly researched levels for a large percentage of your audience. Remember, it's your worldwide reputation on the line.Case Study: Kung Fu Zombie Killer!!Blurb: When the living dead smash up his martial arts studio, Wu Shu master Ken Kong must punch, kick and chop his way through the zombie apocalypse while gathering humanity's remaining survivors on his quest to save the You Tube celeb of his dreams. Style:'70s exploitation movie visual themes mixed with a Japanese anime-inspired visual language. Highly stylized over-the-top combat, unrealistic physics, fun gaming conventions reign over realistic game rules. Street Fighter meets Pikmin in this zombie-filled romance beat 'em-up. Game Pillars:Fluid Environmental Kung FuThink Jackie Chan: Ken Kong picks up and uses everything around him to dispatch his zombie foes.Whether he is slamming doors into their faces, or ripping off one zombie's arm to bludgeon another to death, Ken Kong's simple multi-lock, rhythmic fighting system turns combat into a bloody storm of body parts and flailing fists.Protect the survivors!As Ken Kong saves the living from the living dead, they join the crowd that follows him, urging him on to greater feats of martial prowess. Different types of survivors can either bolster Ken Kong's abilities or can be applied to tasks throughout the game:Police - Shoot any zombies they see.Nurses - boost to Ken's health recovery.Martial artists - increased survivor resilience.Workmen - repairs.Geeks - hacking.Civilians - Cheering (boosts Ken's damage) and fortification building.Etc.The more there are of a given type of survivor, the better the crowd's abilities become. The crowd will stay together and can be ordered around by Ken, but they must be protected from being bitten by the zombies or the whole crowd could become infected.Secure each levelKen must shepherd the survivors to a location that can be fortified so that they will be safe.This could mean securing the entire level, or just one section of it. The crowd itself does the fortification, barring doors and boarding up windows. The more survivors there are, the faster repairs are done. Essentially they are closing enemy spawn points, and Ken must stem the flow of enemies while the fortifications are in progress or the crowd will be eaten by zombies.ThemeWhile the film Planet Terror is a good starting point for the mock '70s horror exploitation movie feel, Kung Fu Zombie Killer has a more lighthearted Viewtiful Joe feel at the same time.MotivationKen is in love with the YouTube vlogger jenna126xyz. In fact, he is her only fan. Throughout the game, Ken forces everyone he saves from the zombies to sign up as fans of jenna126xyz in an attempt to win her heart.Given the ludicrous nature of this game concept, it might at first seem that there would be little point in rigorous research or fictional development, but I contest that there still is.Even a world with a silly premise will resonate more fully when effort is made to realize it in its entirety.Example Level: Hospital Second FloorAfter watching jenna126xyz's most recent tearful videocast, Ken Kong is now trying to rescue Jenna's grandmother from a hospital overrun by the undead. The idea is that you see Grandma almost immediately, but can't get to her without the Hospital Director's keys, found near the end of the level, giving you an objective and a goal. The Hospital Director, on the bottom floor, will not come out of his secure office until the building is secure, forcing your secondary goal (save the survivors) before you can open the way to grandma.A Boss fight is worked into Grandma's room, and once that is done the level can pretty much end -- a fairly bog standard level flow.The section of the level we are going to focus on is the Second Floor, highlighted in red on the Level Flow Diagram above.A hospital is hardly an original setting, especially in this context. Hospitals are obligatory whenever there are zombies around: Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, and Planet Terror are just the tip of the iceberg. So the challenge is to walk this well-trodden ground and still make something somewhat fresh. The key to that is to look around you.Preparation: Designing from lifeWhen deciding how to tackle this hospital level, it would be tempting to begin by looking at the many other examples of hospitals in competing games, and while it is useful to learn what has already been done, it wouldn't help us get original ideas for this particular level.You are likely to be able to rattle off a list of areas from your head that you would expect to find in a hospital, from waiting rooms and restrooms to operating theaters and canteens. Most likely the overriding impression you will have in your mind will be long, seemingly endless hallways with single or multi-bed wards off them.But when you actually go to a hospital, there is so much more to see. There are gift shops, libraries, kitchens, rehabilitation areas with gyms or pools.There are auditoriums, children's play areas, janitorial closets, elevators and their associated maintenance areas. There are courtyards, roof gardens, underground parking lots, and changing rooms for the doctors and nurses, with lockers and showers.You also see just how many more off-limit areas there are than public ones. Some are secured with passkeys, others with ordinary locks.These locked doors lead to record rooms, office spaces, drug and equipment storage rooms and all manner of other administrative areas. Their doors are either solid or have very small reinforced glass windows. A great deal of research can be done from books, movies, and the internet but nothing can replace personal experience. While not everyone can go to the pyramids or an abandoned space station whenever they feel like it (unless you're Richard Garriott, of course), most people could visit an abandoned or ruined place near them (as long as is safe to do so) that will evoke a similar mood and mystery on a smaller scale. For our purposes that means there are many places where people could potentially survive a zombie attack, along with lots of opportunities for us to realistically gate the player. The key is you must look, in order to find inspiration. The trap of arbitrary spaces There is nothing more amateurish than arbitrary architecture, by which I mean spaces obviously only built for the player by the game designer. Whether it is a city street or an ancient ruin, it is the designer's job to build spaces with a fictional purpose as well as a gameplay purpose. When a player enters a temple that has no space for worship, or a tomb with no burial chamber nor rhyme nor reason behind its layout, he or she will not be convinced that they are exploring a real place. The worst starting point for a level is a series of featureless, functionless boxes joined by corridors into which gameplay is inserted from a list of gameplay goals. Levels built that way may as well be randomly generated. Even if you are creating an outside space, studying ordinance survey maps to see how real world topology looks and going for a stroll in the hills will let you turn a bland height map into a believable outside space. The difference between a height map that has been pulled up and down randomly, and one that appears to have simulated real weathering is enormous. Looking at real spaces for inspiration will bring the physical rules of building construction to the forefront of your mind, it will inevitably bring truth to your work and give you ideas that you would not otherwise have thought of. You must design the spaces of your level primarily for the people living in the game world and then adapt it for the player. Starting Point: Floor Plan I'm going to use this section of a hospital floorplan, based on a general admissions unit from a real hospital, to show how one floor of the level might be constructed through fiction. First off you can see that while the majority of the areas are not designed for the public to wander around, access to them is relatively easy. For instance, the admin area is easily accessible by climbing over the reception desks from the waiting room, even if the two doors were closed and locked. The only rooms that are likely to be kept locked at all times are the workrooms, the records room, and the storage room. They would most likely have keycard or combination locks so that staff could relatively easily get in and out but patients couldn't wander in willy nilly. The examination rooms would most likely have been unlocked when the zombies arrived, but along with the nurses room, the manager's office and the W.C, they could have been locked by survivors trying to escape the living dead. Red and Blue Keys There have been an untold number of physical key card puzzles in games, and almost as many broken-down elevators. The hardest challenge in design is avoiding the clichés when trying to disguise the keys and locks in the levels. Kung Fu Zombie Killer is a beat em up, so most rooms on this floorplan are probably too small to fight effectively in. The rooms can be scaled up to an extent without becoming ludicrously oversized, but it is general note that as games lean towards more believable spaces there is a greater need for better camera and animation systems to cope with confined spaces. The reality is that without unique abilities, there is little that hasn't already been done a hundred times when it comes to player gating. The standard options have been so thoroughly explored, re-dressed and reskinned, that many games these days have simply begun to do away with them altogether. Games like GTA let you go almost anywhere and attack problems from any angle. Their gates are metagame gates; the beginning and end of missions, the opening of new city areas. They don't struggle to mask the opening of the game world in fiction -- they make it very clear. I'm not arguing for one way or the other; both can be done well or poorly. In this game, I'm using NPCs as keys; they are keys that can be eaten by your enemies. If your keys die, then you won't be able to achieve some (or potentially any) of your goals. Populating the level Now that we have a better understanding of our location, it is time to look to any ramping documents and decide what sorts of scenarios have to be fit into the level. Kung Fu Zombie Killer's NPCs are also used as the game's help system, pickups, power-ups, quest givers, quest items, achievements, secret items, traps and puzzles. They are ultimately flexible from a gameplay point of view, but even better, they add life and narrative to the game. We want to place the following in this section of the level based on a ramping plan: NPC's to save: • A security guard - who shoots zombies and has a security pass • ~2 doctors - who heal the crowd and lower chance of crowd infection • ~4 nurses - who increase Ken's health • ~18 civilians - who contributes to Ken's damage bonus by cheering Items to use: • toilet • letter openers • sinks • heavy swinging lamps • dishes of scalpels • table lamps • windows • flower pots • wooden chairs • head-height glass cabinet doors Zombies to Kill: • Tons of them. Sculpting the play path When working into realistic spaces the first thing to do is work out how much you want to modify the physical flow from room to room. This comes down to how linear or open you want a level to be. For the sake of this example we are going to funnel the player fairly heavy handedly just to illustrate some of the ways it can be done. In this case I used two standard techniques; the permanently blocked door and the hole in the wall. The fiction for these changes is fortifications that are so drastic that they can't be undone, and walls that a large number of zombies have burst through. These two types of permanent changes to the floor plan can dramatically change the way you move around a realistic space. The first step is to define the primarily play path. I have funneled the player in a big circle all the way round to the storage closet above the entrance, where the security guard is hiding with a nurse. The security guard is necessary to unlock the door on the east wall, the only way through which you can reach the staircase and exit this floor. The barricades can be disassembled by any survivors if you approach from the side where the crosses are. The fortification point is this floor's zombie spawner. Ken has to fight on the patio while the survivors build the barricade, before jumping back into the building at the last second. The more survivors Ken has released, the faster that the barricade can be built, but the player needs to make sure that there are no (or few) zombies left inside the building because the survivors are vulnerable while fortifying. Everything else is fairly self-explanatory; there are four bonus civilians and a nurse that can be unlocked from the manager's office if the player backtracks with the security guard, lots of zombies to kill, and a second barricade that can be dismantled to create a shortcut if backtracking is necessary through this space. Set dressing The simplest examples of level stories are told through the "forensic" placement of art; bloody hand prints on the walls, discarded children's toys, and overturned tables and chairs. They don't affect gameplay, but they provide mood and richness to the level. For masterful use of storytelling through set dressing, look at Fallout 3. Every area had its own stories to tell from depravity through to insanity, all laid out in the artful placement of everyday objects. Those small forensic clues can be expanded to full narratives describing the fates of characters you may never meet in the game. For instance, you might find graffiti scrawled in blood on the walls describing somebody's final moments, but finding a room with its doors off its hinges, a toppled pile of tables and chairs just behind it and a fat, satisfied-looking zombie sitting in a puddle of blood, tells a similar story while also offering you the chance to respond. This level is filled with possibilities for those details and they can all be pulled out of the backstory of these survivors. The Backstory As I sculpted the play path I wanted, I was coming up with the following back story: Zombies first came into the waiting room from the stairwell. The security guards managed to fight them off and managed to permanently block that door. Meanwhile, two patients ran and locked themselves in the toilet. Next, zombies started coming in through the entrance. The hospital staff moved everyone out of the waiting room and barricades were set up trying to secure the admin area. Meanwhile, the zombies in the stairwell manage to smash through a wall into one of the examination room. Another permanent barricade was set up, and just to be sure, a security guard locked the next examination room's door as well, just to be safe. By this point zombies have started climbing over the reception desk and break through the right hand door into the admin area. Everyone evacuated further back into the offices except one doctor who hides under a desk. A nurse was already hiding in the manager's office, and she let four patients in as the zombies swarmed the admin area. The rest of the survivors ran towards the patio, but a mass of zombies smash their way in through the patio door and the survivors find themselves surrounded. Groups crush into any nearby room and lock the doors behind them, leaving some unlucky people locked out in the corridor. Almost the entirety of this story -- plus the stories of the other humans that didn't survive this attack -- can be carefully laid out in the artwork. The more questions you ask, the more stories can be hinted at: • Is there a reason that the security guard ends up with that particular nurse in the storage room? • Is there a reason why one nurse has access to the securely locked manager's office? • Who shut the door of the North East workroom, shutting the zombies in there with a group of (now dead) nurses? The upshot of using this method will be a sense of authenticity during play that you cannot achieve any other way. While players may not consciously pick up even half of the detail you are putting in, they will feel it. They will be drawn into your world in a way that more laissez-faire methods simply cannot achieve. Thunderdome Part 2 Now, were I a member of a level building team, the map I've created above and the back story that goes with it would be presented along with all the others: one from each team member. They would be reviewed by the whole level team, who having all thought it through deeply, are now informed critics, under the watchful eye of the lead that wrote the Flow Diagram. Each design would be unique and all would have their plusses and minuses. No one design will be so perfect that it will be better than everyone else's in every respect. I know there would be better ideas on the table than mine because I work with talented people. But perhaps some of my ideas would be end up being selected and they would go into a final level layout that would be better than anything any one of us could do alone. Fact. And that's magic. Summary • Research thoroughly; there are many people who will know if you skimp. • Always visit a real location for inspiration. • Always start from an architecturally sound floor plan. • Sculpt the play space with events that occurred before the player arrived. • Define the back story through the design and let them feed each other. • Write down the back story so that as the design is realized on screen; all departments can express it through art, animation, and sound. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132801/action_adventure_level_design_.php Follow Toby Website: www.focalpointgames.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/mechabadger
  14. "An article describing how to make a multiplayer level from scratch to the end for a realistic setting“Index: Introduction Small Tale Used Level Design Terms Basic Strategy Balance Introduction The first basic Layout Settings Making it more complex General Area Settings Special Talk about open Battlefields Strategic Summary Improvements With Tactic Elements Introduction Battelareas Introduction Basic Rules CTF Example BOMB Mission Example Mission areas Introduction Basic Rules Moving Mission areas CTF Example BOMB Mission Example Movement Modifiers Hallways or what happened between the Areas Spawn points Stopping the Player Tactical Summary Navigation/ Orientation in the Levels Introduction Eye Catcher/ Special Areas Overview/ Understanding of the Level Different Level Sizes Art for Gameplay Introduction Lighting Textures Architecture & Geometry What about Details & Beauty? Sound for Gameplay Round Based vs. Reinforcement Game modes Mirrored vs. Uneven Map Layout Realistic & Arcade Game design vs. Level design Creativity Final Words & Questions IntroductionI am writing this article to share my personal experiences and opinions about realistic multiplayer level design. Some of my old maps don’t follow these rules and I made mistakes myself, but I learnt from my failures and by sharing this knowledge with you I hope you will make better maps without going through the same arduous learning process.You should have a basic understanding of level design and I`ll try to explain everything as simply as possible. Experienced mappers, even if you don’t make multiplayer maps with realistic settings, should read it, too, because you might find some interesting aspects you didn’t think about and as a good level designer never stops learning you may well learn something new. Personally, I am not limited to realistic settings but that is what I’ve worked on for the last few years. The level design for a sci-fi/ Wild West/ Stone Age/ cartoon multiplayer game with some tactical elements and team play is very similar.For anybody who thinks these rules/schemes might be too systematic always remember: “You can only break the rules if you understand them in the first place!”, in this aspect it is very similar to the art world.In this article, I’ll explain how to make a multiplayer map from scratch and then tell you how to improve it. At the end of the article we’ll take a look at different game modes/layouts and how they might affect the levels design. As usual, I tried to write this article in an interesting fashion and added a lot of pictures and illustrations. Please don’t be lazy and skip the examples, because I explain some important concepts in them. When I talk about players and teams I assume they all have similar skills and experience. It’s not down to luck that hard-core gamers usually win against noobs, but in a balanced team match if one side consistently wins it might be because the level designis bad and that is what I want to talk about. In general, the article is for team based multiplayer with fixed spawn points. Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch with random spawns is not what is this article is about.Small TaleWhen I first played multiplayer games I started to think about why some levels are more fun to play than others. All of my first MP experiences were maps made by professional designers. I started to analyze them and I compared the good ones with the bad ones. When I started to spend more time in the MOD community with maps from fans, the most important fact of map design was proved: Gameplay beats everything! Some ugly looking action quake 2 maps were the most played maps on the servers and the nicer looking maps were rarely played. I know that this sounds a little too easy but if you think seriously about the maps out there you will notice that most level designers care more about the aesthetics than the gameplay of their maps. If you’re thinking about professional map design, the aesthetical quality of your maps is very important. However, if you don’t care about gameplay you shouldn’t start a professional career at all.I have worked with a lot of different level designers, from absolute noobs and MOD mappers to professional designers and some who just thought that they’re professional. A lot of them work without a real schematic system and if they created a good map, more often than not, it was down to good luck rather than skill. Used Level Design TermsIt might be silly to explain these terms to an experienced mapper or gamer but I have noticed that everyone has different associations with these terms. So I just want to explain my interpretation of these terms so we are on the same level of understanding.CQB: Close Quarter Battle; Even closer than short range; normally lots of cover; ideal range for shotguns or sub-machine guns; scoped weapons are useless; this game-play supports fast movement and reflexes.Short range: Similar to CQB but not so close; ideal range for shotguns or sub-machine guns; scoped weapons are still useless; supports fast movement and reflexes; maximum range to throw grenades.Medium range: Ideal range for normal rifles; shotguns become useless and sub-machine guns become weaker; scoped weapons start to become effective; from now on only possible to fire grenades with a grenade launcher; reflexes and movement are still important but aiming becomes more difficult.Long range: Snipers paradise; ideal range for all weapons with scopes; for weapons without scopes it’s really hard to hit anything; normally only with a small amount of cover; you should have good aim instead of running/firing skills.Stealth areas: Areas where silent/unnoticed/tactical movement gives you a big advantage; normally with lots of cover; several dark spots to hide. You can move through the whole area without being seen by a camping enemy.Roamers: Players who prefer to be between the two; instead of real defense or assault; they need a lot of room and combinations of quick connections between the areas to react to the different game situations.Rusher: People who just want to run through the whole map as quickly as possible; they want to reach the mission goal as fast as possible; surprise the enemy with speed/reflexes is their mottoCampers: Most hated kind of player except cheaters; you can find them in all realistic multiplayer games so you will have to learn to deal with them; they prefer to hide/stay in real nasty positions until an enemy runs into their line of sight; prefer short and CQB situations because then they don’t need a lot aiming skill, natural enemy of the rusherSnipers: Guys who prefer to run around in long/medium range areas with scoped weapons. It is a misconception that snipers are the same as campers because a smart sniper will change position after each shot, normally long range fights between snipers are more tactical, there are snipers who run around like rusher guys except obviously they avoid CQB/short range fights.CTF: Game Mode: Just for the few unworldly people who never heard about Capture The Flag. Two teams have to protect their relevant flag while having to steal the flag from the opposition. They can only score if they bring the enemy’s flag to their own one which has to be in its home position. BOMB: Game Mode: One team attack and have to place one bomb at one of several spots which another team is guarding. They need time to place the explosives and until the bomb blows up (timer), the original defending team still has the chance to disarm it.DOMINATION: Game Mode: I use several variations of this gamemode in this article. In general you have to control of one or more areas/spots which you have to protect. You score regarding the time you hold them.VIP: Game Mode: One team has to escort a special player on their team to one or more specific point(s). The other team has to find and kill the VIP on his way to the rescue point(s). Basic Strategy BalanceIntroductionThe strategic plan behind every map is the key to a good map. These first deliberations will determine if the player can roam without real confusion. If the mission is basically balanced, then you will help yourself a lot because you will not have to make major alterations to the map at a later date. Everything you will read in this chapter is in the conceptual game world. Here we don’t care about the positions of trees, houses or rocks. Stay in this basic world as long as possible and only continue with more detailed sketches when you are 100% sure that the basic strategy concept behind your map kicks ass!The First Basic Layout SettingsSetting the basic layout of your map is the first and most important step in level design, and one that is often overlooked. Just picture all the possible paths of the player as simple lines and you will begin see a basic geometric layout. Normally you can make a basic sketch for every game mode. The sketches should contain only the most important facts and rules of that game mode, nothing more. Some explanations of the example sketches: The quality/accuracy of the sketches is very rough and basic and art skills are not important here, gameplay rules. If it looks symmetrical it should be assumed it is symmetrical. Based on these sketches I want to show several possibilities for the round and reinforcement game modes. The first sketch is for a normal CTF game and not for a round based game mode. The stars mark the spawn point and the point of the flag. These are very simple example sketches and should only show the main intentions of these game modes, e.g. for CTF there should be three ways to every flag and the layout is usually symmetrical and balanced for both teams. The horizontal line between the three ways is the minimum amount of freedom you should include to switch between the routes.The second sketch is for a standard BOMB mission. Team blue has to place a bomb at one of the bomb spots and then has to defend that area until it explodes. Team red has to prevent team blue from accomplishing its mission. The plan is for a round based game mode. For the bomb mission we have two bomb places where team blue can place the bomb and every bomb site has three entrances. Team red is able to reach the spots faster because they have to defend these positions. This is the reason why it usually shouldn’t be symmetrical for both teams.Making it more complexNow let’s improve the basic sketches because every one of your maps shouldn’t be like my first example. The following examples are just one of a million possibilities and you will design many alternatives.We start to analyze the changed CTF mission. The basic intentions are still the same but the left and the right way have changed. The left side became more complex in the center. This should avoid strong concentrations of enemies in the middle defense positions. Even if it is easier to come through the middle part it is still hard to get directly to the opposite base. You can come with a large amount of fast and good players very close to the enemy’s base but the ‘last few meters’ can be very hard. The right side is still unchanged in the middle area which might raise the danger in that area but as soon as you come close to the enemy’s base you get more possibilities to react to the enemies defending strategies or to bluff the enemy on one side and switch quickly to another entrance.Now the bomb mission for the round based gameplay: the two main ways for team blue to reach the bomb spots still have the same length but they now come from different directions and give the player the possibility for a third way to get to the bomb spots to make it more interesting. On the left side team blue has a chance to take a longer and less flexible way but coming in from behind. For team red this way is less interesting because there is no direct way to the bomb spots. Remember that team red needs fast/short and good possibilities to switch between the two bomb spots at any time. At a minimum I would make two ways or one big way which they might come from as soon as team Blue has placed the bomb. On the right side team blue has got a tunnel which leads them to the back entrance of the mission area. This way is shorter than the new way on the left side but in general a tunnel is more dangerous for attackers and has a higher risk. These were easy examples but in this stage of development you should be thinking about the main battle areas in the middle and the mission areas of the different teams. A more complex middle area shouldn’t have a lot of ways to the mission goals. On the other hand several good entrances to a mission spot shouldn’t have very easy ways to reach them. It has to be balanced through the ways and between the ways itself. We will discuss later in this article how the size of the map should affect your basic design.I imagine you already have enough of your own ideas and if not it really helps to analyze current well known maps to understand what I’ve explained above. Normally you shouldn’t create extremely complex path systems because the player wants to learn his environment quickly and shouldn’t be confused by too many different routes. Please don’t think that you have to translate these geometric lines exactly in 3D! Of course you should change, for example, the angles of the corners, and the straight lines later, as you need it to be in your specific situations.General Area SettingsAfter these two first steps you should bring your vision of the look/setting/environments into play by adding it to the basic sketch. Still a very rough sketch but it might help you to get a better feeling of what your map might look like.For the CTF mission I chose a jungle setting and thought of some different environments which I can use for the different ways and areas. The light blue is for a beach (ocean, river or lake), the bright brown is for a stony mountain area with few plants but with bigger rocks as hard cover, the dark brown are caves or tunnels. Dark blue green is for deep jungle with several big trees and a lot of sight cover. The dark green is for normal jungle and the bright one for grass. The environment layout is symmetrical but the combinations are always different especially in the middle area and the way to the base. These areas should have a lot of landmarks because the player should always know where he is and where he is going, it helps for orientation and is very important to the immediate feel of the map. The left will be long range, the middle way is close combat with a dangerous way over the grass to the base and the right way is middle range and stealth in the tunnel. Be sure that you implement different areas for the different kind of players like normal roamer, stealth players, rusher, sniper and CQB freaks. Of course with some settings like on a ship you can’t support snipers very well. This will be understandable for the player but if you make a big desert map without having some mid range areas it might confuse the players of that type because they will not find a location they are happy with. It is the same if you call your 45 horse power car a ‘sports car’ and then being surprised when people laugh at you or don’t take you very seriously 😉 Now take another look at the third bomb mission sketch and you will see that I have used the same system to allocate my environments. The mission areas have very different combinations of environments and the ways to these spots are different for each team. For the general setting I chose a harbor/urban environment. The dark blue is a small river with concrete walls around it, the bright blue is directly at the harbor, and the brown defines warehouse areas. For the urban part on the right side I chose a normal street (green), inside of houses (pink), sewer (dark red) and backyards (purple). It doesn’t matter if you are a stealth CQB freak or rusher, now every bomb spot has the possibility to make you happy but you can still orientate yourself just by the different settings around you.Sewers are normally something for stealth players (e.g. caves or dark back routes, warehouses, apartments, machine rooms, etc. for CQB freaks). On the other side, you can have open areas (e.g. streets, open fields or beaches for the sniper fans). Generally, every environment is for a specific kind of gameplay. Be sure that you mix it well and retain a balance because after a long beach there shouldn’t be suddenly a hard-core CQB area unless the route was already too easy and you need some kind of difficulty here for the player. Assigning the environments is almost independent of the kind of game mode you have chosen, just be sure that it is very different. You find a lot of different sub-settings for the different kind of players and for orientation. I hope you are smart enough not to make every warehouse area identical to all the other warehouse areas in the levels. These areas should be different even if only subtle changes are made e.g. lighter/darker, empty/crammed, completely different kind of crates, more/less machines, no/some offices, decayed/clean, really tall/thin.Special Talk About Open BattlefieldsI understand if people think that this kind of level design is strictly for that ‘old fashioned’ tunnel system or especially for ‘Quake based games’ but what about the open battlefields you have in “Battlefield 1942”? It is actually quite similar because even on big battlefields you are leading the players along main routes, but there is more freedom of movement in-between. Therefore, I would suggest that you first paint the main routes as plain surfaces, already with their specific environment. Then you should paint the tunnels and valleys, and the blocks between the main routes. You can also see open fields as battle areas and mission areas which have no real connection between them. It is just one large area which is so huge that it already has strategic elements in place. I’ll talk later in this article about battle and mission areas so don’t get impatient.Strategic SummaryIt doesn’t really matter how you make your sketches at this point, it is more important that you really think about the strategic game mechanic and the flow of your level before you start with more detailed ideas. Believe me; I saw enough sketches from other designers who already put every waterfall or tree in their very first sketch, even before they noticed that the gameplay in that level might be really unbalanced or boring. Of course, it is not wrong to think about where you want to put your waterfalls or other nice ideas for your level but, for the moment, keep your ideas where they are as you will use them later on. The most important thing to remember when you are making a basic sketch is that it has to be balanced! An unbalanced map is always bad; especially if you are making non-symmetrical maps. If the strategy is balanced you are already on the safe side but it still might be a funny map if a few tactical elements are not 100% equal for each team.Another thing I would really like to emphasize is the originality of your map layout. Try to develop your own ideas, be experimental, and always try to create something new and unique. Normally you have enough time at school or work, in a traffic jam or on the bus just to think about some new basic level layouts. If you are really stuck for ideas and you decide to copy an existing map then please at least be smart! Nobody really needs a Mongolian version of de_dust with just different textures and the same boring architecture. If you really want to copy de_dust then try to make it original in your own way e.g. change some tunnels to open areas (and inverse), replace level limitation-walls with cliffs, improve the variation in the main battle spots, add a new stealth way, mirror the layout or certain parts of it, or better still, change everything! Improvements With Tactic ElementsIntroductionSo far I have been talking mainly about strategic elements, but the player also needs some really good tactical possibilities. The player doesn’t necessarily see your strategic deliberations but he directly sees your tactical ones, so be sure that they are good and fresh.After forming your basic plan, you can already build a very rough version of your map in your editor. It is a good idea to test your map by running around while timing how long it takes to get to different areas of the map. If you find that it takes you 2 minutes to run to the allocated battle zone and the other team takes only 30 seconds, then you should really change your strategy layout. Move the battle zone or slow down/speed up the players in certain areas so that everything works fine again. This will be explained in more depth later in the article; just never forget to test your map at an early stage with a clock.Battle Areas IntroductionBattle areas are the places where the two teams meet if they start running from their spawn points with the same speed. If you have a game where not every player has the same speed, you should think carefully about where to place your battle areas. You need to make them big enough so that; if the slowest player and the fastest one want to reach the field, the faster one should have an advantage (e.g. reaching a good sniper spot without any real danger or jumping into the alternative tunnel without seen by the enemy). Here, you can already see that tactical elements are really important to support the different kind of players you have. A large sniper area should normally have an alternative route inside for really fast scouts. Even a big CQB warehouse should have a longer hallway between the crates for some mid range fighting.Basic RulesBefore we take a look at your example maps, we must learn some basic rules of battle areas. I’ll try to explain the basic intention of these rules in small, understandable sketches, feel free to improve them and don’t use so many crates like I’m doing it here. These sketches are solely for the intention of demonstrating these rules. The rest of the design might not really be perfect, but it’s is the intention that really matters. If I am talking about entrances, it is not always simply a doorway into a big room; it could also be a roof, a canyon, or a hill. It just depends on the situation.1) There should be always more than one entrance to a battle area for each team (or the only entrance should have enough cover in front so there are at least two possibilities to appear in the area).There is nothing more stupid than when the player knows that in 12.3 seconds the opponent player will come through that specific door. If the level design makes player movements too predictable, then it is a bad level design!In the first situation I placed some crates in front of the entrance. Now the other player can either come around the right or the left side of the boxes, or perhaps he can even jump on the top of them and perform a surprise action. Of course, there is a mass of different possibilities to enhance it, not just two or three ways but especially with nice architecture.The second possibility is similar but a little bit more confusing for the player. At the beginning he might think there are two completely different ways. Soon he will notice that both ways lead to the same result. Of course, this depends on the distance between the two entrances and the distance to the lurking enemy. For a sniper who is 150m away, it’s quite a lot easier to protect these two entrances than for a rifleman who can only be 20m away. If you really only have two ways for each team to enter the battle area, it is always good if one of the enemies can never see both entrances clearly from an advanced position.2) Campers should never have an easy life!When you place your tactical elements, always take a look at where there might be typical camper positions. If you have such a situation, be sure that he can never see all entrances to the battle area, and that the opponent always has a fair chance to move around him and shoot him from behind. If you have an important door which a camper might hide behind, make a second door near the first one. If there is a good position to see both doors, place an object (e.g. a crate/pillar/bush) in front of one of the doors to obscure the camper’s vision. Always remember that sniper positions might also make very good camper positions, so they should be treated the same way! If you want sniper positions in your field, every team should have a minimum of two, and they all should be able to see each other. A sniper position, in this case, is a single spot. If you have a big hill or a house with some windows for snipers, it is enough because you can never predict exactly where they will appear. The best way to defeat a sniper is with a countersniper. Both snipers should have more than one position to attack from, otherwise it might become boring and the only challenge is to reach the position as quickly as possible. At least one sniper position should be bad, and every sniper position should have a counter sniper position. If one sniper position is too powerful, then it could easily become very frustrating.The first example is typical. The player wants to run out of the battle area but there is a nasty camper behind the crates. In this situation he might have some problems. The player is able to jump on the big crate in the middle or he can go around the big crate from the left and the right side. The left side has an additional way to appear from another situation. It is impossible for a camper to hide next to the crates and protect himself from all areas of attack.For the second situation I chose another well-known problem. A camper might be able to hide very well in the yellow field (bushes/rocks/etc.) and protect the north entrance. Even the small crate in front won’t change a lot, but a simple walk around reduces the advantage of this camper area drastically, especially if the east entrance is on a higher level than the north one.Another good solution to weaken campers is to give the players a chance to use their special equipment or to use the special features of your engine. For example, you have to cross a long tunnel and you know that there is someone with a sniper rifle at the end just waiting for you to jump down. Why not make it easy for the player to throw a flash-bang inside or quickly run to the entrance of the tunnel into an alternative route which you can only reach with the help of a smoke grenade? Of course the smoke can also come out of a pipe or you can switch off the light, etc. It is the same with windows; a grid always looks nice but if it makes it too difficult to blow out the sniper with a grenade then it is bad for the gameplay.In my sketches, I only work with easy elements like walls and crates. With more complex architecture and interesting terrain, you should find enough new situations to avoid the widespread camper problem. You will never prevent it completely but this will make it more fair and fun. 3) Give the player enough tactical possibly, make him unpredictable.If there is only one big cover in the middle of your area it’s quite easy to know where your enemy might be. If you see a grenade falling next to your foot, it would be cool if the enemy doesn’t always know that you have to come around a certain corner to find him. The player should be able to move less predictably through the field. It is quite boring to know that in every round/match, very similar situations will happen.If your area is just flat without any higher levels, it doesn’t just look boring, it is also bad for cool tactics and the enemies normally always know at which height is/are your head/nuts. A good terrain and architecture with different floors is really a blessing! You can prevent a lot of complex cover placement with some hills and valleys. Firefights between levels of different height are always fun in urban environments, especially if you can switch them quickly. Terrain levels might give a fresh variation of different views (e.g. from a high hill you can see behind the rocks where you presume a nasty camper is hiding, or down in the valleys you can see below the car and shoot at the feet of enemies who might hide behind it). You really have to check all different kinds of positions and their tactical possibilities and be sure that everything is fun & balanced! Use alternative kinds of cover; soft cover (e.g. bushes, grass), half cover (e.g. small boxes, trees), and full cover (e.g. big rocks, house). For example, if you want to prevent the sniper in the upper window seeing the roof on the right side, just place a tree in-between. Now only lucky hits and covering fire through the tree might be a success and in a lower level, the tree trunk is a nice half cover. If you want one team to be able to pass easily from one big cover to another, just place several bushes there. However, as soon as they are spotted, they might have a real big problem. Such elements can not only be tactical and funny for the stealth player, they can also be exciting too. Sadly, it is true that a lot of level designers forget to include these soft cover elements (bushes etc).This is just a simple example of tactical variations. The player is coming out of the south entrance. He can choose between the left and the right way around the crates (full cover), to reach the other boxes. Behind this crate he has four different possibilities: the two different sides of the box (normal), the tunnel which leads into the house (surprise change, higher level) or jumping into the trench to sneak forward (stealth way and higher level). If he chooses the right way at the beginning he can go into the house (CQB and windows are half covers), in the watch tower (sniper point) or he can climb on the roof of the house (high level) with a few air-conditioning ducts (half cover). At the end of the house he has some bushes (soft cover) which might help him to sneak forward but won’t help him if he is on the roof.4) Include special ways for special players.No, I don’t want to tell you again that you should include stealth and rush ways. Real special ways should support people who like to take extreme risks or absurd ways to really surpass the enemy. I wouldn’t say that this is a must to have in every battle area, but a few in your level would really increase the fun factor. I’m thinking about hard jump combinations (e.g. to reach another floor which you can use to walk around your enemy, or to reach the upper part of a tree to hide inside). Other special ways would be secret and hard to find; climbing tracts or areas which you can only reach together with a teammate (i.e. a ladder). I don’t think I have to make a special sketch for this last rule, just don’t forget the pro and hard-core players might really thank you for such small ideas.Imagine a main battle area like a large room which gives the player a lot of different possibilities to cross it. If you add some more, smaller routes to improve the tactical possibilities in your battlefield, then treat them the same as you would the strategic routes. For example, the short way is fast but more dangerous and the longer/more difficult one could make it easier to avoid campers. There should be never an ultimate route (or routes) or an ultimate position. Everything must have advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of player! Keep this in mind and try to follow these rules as closely as possible, and the players will have some really exciting firefights in your level.Don’t be afraid to force the players to move fast on some ways or to stop them if you have to. If you don’t want the players to cross the square very quickly, just place the only good cover at the border (in the middle there is some kind of ‘death zone’ every smart player will avoid). If you want the player to move a little bit faster, just make a bigger hallway with no cover and you’ll see that every clever guy starts running here. Okay, you don’t always need to make it so hard but sometimes you have to, especially if you have moving missiongoals like VIPs or flag carriers. I’ll talk more about this topic later.CTF ExampleOkay let’s start talking about the main battle areas of your CTF example map. Normally, you don’t have to draw the areas in your sketch. I guess you are smart enough to imagine it yourself. The following explanations about the areas are just examples to help you get the right idea about how to make it in your own map. The size of the areas have nothing to do with the sight/fight range inside, they just mark them. #1: Beach, long range, bright area, less cover:At the beginning the player can appear at a lot of different spots behind some rocks and bushes. The large part in the middle beach has much less cover and you need some backup support and cover from behind to reach the other side. If you take the high risk option, you can swim to a bigger rock on the left side in the middle. There, you can climb up and you have a greater advantage against the opposing forces. Imagine some fast-moving scouts and the player will have some real thrilling sniper battles here. It is a high risk to choose that way if you want to flee with the enemy’s flag, but this can be your advantage because nobody would expect it. “No risk no fun”#2: Cave & rocks, short range & CQB, dark light, a lot of hard cover:This is completely the opposite of #1. The dark light, the short range & CQB drastically reduce the advantage of a scoped weapon. There are so many rocks and bushes that two really lucky teams can pass without even seeing each other. At the beginning of the area there is less cover so these places are more dangerous. But you can start running over these ‘dead zones’ from a minimum of two positions to avoid too powerful camper positions. The middle part is a little bit higher than the entrances to that area. This is to avoid sniping possibilities for too long a distance between the rocks/bushes. This is a very good route to choose if you have the opposing flag because the enemy might lose you inside.#3: Deep jungle & ruins, medium range & short range, medium light, some sight cover:Because this will be the main battle area, the number of tactical possibilities in this large, long field should be very high. I chose to add ruins because it increases the tactical variations, and because urban elements and nature dominate the environment which helps the orientation. Tall trees and ruins provide the hard and full cover here. A tunnel and a small creek around the decayed buildings increase the number of tactical variations and make the area more interesting for stealth players. Even if you have some sight cover, there should always be some small fields without a lot of cover. It would be bad if, in the main battle zone, two teams could pass each other while running into the enemy’s base without seeing each other. In the main battle zone, the players should really have a fair chance to find each other and have a lot of exciting firefights. The sight cover and the medium light should increase the thrill factor but it shouldn’t become too dominating. #4: Medium hill, medium range, good light, mainly hard cover with a few sight cover:The whole battle zone is on the top of a small hill, so the opposing players can’t see each other until they come closer. Due to the mountain setting there are a lot of rocks and just a few bushes. The gameplay will be very basic: to run from stone to stone while fighting with the enemy. The area is medium-dangerous or easy and not for the special kind of player. A few more bushes on the right side or a small ruin exactly in the middle would make the area more tactically interesting. Then the fastest team can gain control of the ruin and have a good position to fight against its enemies. Of course the slower team should have a fair chance to blow out the snipers/campers in the ruin e.g. with several spots where they appear, more sight cover at the beginning, or some really good counter sniper positions.BOMB Mission ExampleThe bomb mission has one more battle zone but in general they are much smaller than the battle zones of the CTF example. If the strategic possibilities are higher than the battle zones are getting smaller. This is a very simple rule and if u don’t believe it just imagine a BOMB mission with 10 battle zone where everyone is as big as the beach zone in the CTF example. I guess a majority of people would say: “Whoo damn big map but I thought the intention of the designer was to create some cool fights/matches instead of a sight-seeing tour through North America”. Of course this depends on the expected number of players for your map. I’ll explain this in more depth later so let’s continue talking about the battle zones of the BOMB mission example.#1: Harbor next to the sea, medium/short range, good light with some dark spots, mainly hard cover:In the normal harbor setting we can use what I like to call the ‘mapper’s crate disease”. Please try to place your cover objects only where they fit. If you are using crates and boxes, they should be next to warehouses, storage areas, market places or harbors. If you see whole Arabian/Italian cities covered by wooden boxes or islands/deserts overflown by crates then it is normally a leveldesigner with a low poly engine or someone without enough imagination. Hey you can blame me, too, but I got sick of too many crates and learned to avoid them. Just find other cool cover elements especially architecture. You won’t believe me but recreating can be done WITHOUT using crates all the time.Never mind, now we are in a harbor area and we can use a mass of containers here. The battle zone shouldn’t be linear. The player should have a lot of merged/linked routes that he can take e.g. jump into the water (slow but very stealthy) move between the crates (fast but might be risky because the enemy appears at a very short range) or through some nearby warehouses (darkness is stealthy but risky). To avoid a “liaison” with the enemies should be almost impossible but as soon as the fight starts the game-flow shouldn’t slow down due to the many small tactical possibilities. Additionally, it’s always cool to give the player some extraordinary playgrounds e.g. freighters, cranes or ferries. If you have the possibility to include such objects, then they should be part of the gameplay, e.g. the crane as a wonderful sniperposition, the top of a freighter as an alternative way, or a decayed, resting ferry as a connection between two sides of the water. It depends on the harbor setting, but a few plants are never wrong, except if it’s a real high-tech/new industrial harbor next to a nuclear power station or chemical waste depot.#2: Warehouse, short/CQB range, dark/medium light, mainly hard cover:One of the smaller warehouses in area #1 has a big entrance to some real storage areas. This directly leads to the left mission area. I guess for some of the level designers out there this might be the best place because they can place even more crates . In big storage's you can easily add different high levels which might cause really cool fights between the metal walkways and the wooden boxes. Be sure that there is a real advantage to use a higher floor because normally it’s difficult to find a safe way down again. Light can be a really powerful game-play factor in these areas. Fast and easy routes are illuminated by moonlight through big windows in the ceiling or artificial light in the lower levels. If you balance the upper and the lower levels in the right way (avoid too powerful sniper-positions, give the player a little bit of freedom to roam through the big rooms), you can expect some enjoyable firefights in here.#3: Street/indoor, long/medium/short/CQB range, good/medium light, mainly hard cover with a few soft cover:To make a long street both fun to play and balanced is very difficult. Normally, long streets cause boring sniper battles if the street is narrow and doesn’t have a mass of cover, (e.g. cars, doorframes,trees, etc.) or alternative ways through apartments/backyards/gardens or over roofs and balconies. Such urban battlefields are normally not in harmony with the engine used. Balance, fun and performance are the understandable reason why most level designers would choose many more corners instead of a mainly straight street. If you still want cool street fights like in the movie “Heat”, plan it seriously and think carefully about the snipers and campers. Make sure that the attackers have a fair chance to reach their mission areas. Shortcuts or stealthy ways through indoor areas are a good solution to this problem. Snipers are normally useless in a CQB situation and if you have some more small ways than usual, campers avoid camping in alternative routes. In the game world, you can compare it with a sniper battle in a long hallway which is rarely always great fun. Sniper fights, especially in urban areas, should be in wider spaces rather than narrow ones. So let’s place a few low poly cars and several trees on both sides. Additionally, the entrances to the houses provide really good cover. Several stairs and cellar entrances increase the amount of normal cover on the street. Now we add some places to make the attacker more unpredictable, like some balconies/windows or shortcuts through parks/gardens/backyards. The defenders shouldn’t have a mass of cover at the end of the street. It is better if the defenders have to move around a lot and choose different cover objects further away to be a real danger to the attacking troops. Defending positions should never be so powerful as to see the whole street. Use the trees as sight cover to force the defenders to occupy a minimum of two or three positions in order to watch the whole street or battlefield. Of course, the enemy must also have some nice counter-positions.#4: Sewer, medium/short range, dark/medium light, a few hard cover:Normally if people think about tunnels in multiplayer maps, they think about nasty guys who wait at the end of the duct with a scope until an enemy walks around the corner. So if you really want to make a longer sewer system, try some of the following ideas: don’t make the tunnels too narrow, the background of the corner for the attackers should be darker, the corners where the defenders might wait should have a bright background, try to make more than one tunnel (or other alternative ways e.g. through cellars or let the players go up and down through a backyard), avoid really long tunnels and think about the special equipment in your game, especially all kinds of grenades! For the players, tunnels normally always look the same and they might lose the orientation very quickly. So add, for example, some obvious graffiti, unique trash constructions (e.g. toilet paper which points into specific directions, newspapers always lie on one side of the sewer, etc.) or, for the attacker, the tunnel always goes upwards.#5: Backyard, medium/short range, medium light, mainly hardcover:A typical backyard is the place where the criminals in an ordinary police series nearly always run away from the cops, climb over a mass of fences and walls and finally fall over some plastic trash bags. I think this already explains the key elements that make a typical backyard. You need a lot of up and down in combination with fences and a lot of small cover like garbage bags/boxes. If the setting fits then even some decayed ruins, pipes or balconies increase the amount of possibilities Ben‘s small bible of realistic multiplayer level design for the level designer here. Just follow the basic rules, make some cool positions and always add another counter position so the enemies can force the opponent to keep moving. Be sure that the backyard has its typical lighting, make it really wet & dirty, and avoid placing too many crates. Mission areas Introduction I guess you guys still don’t have enough about battle zones but now we have to talk about something new. Mission areas are similar to battle areas except for two things: they are more critical/important and normally one team don’t just walk/run/’bunny hop’ through it, they are actually doing something there. The mission area is the zone around the flag in CTF, the place of the hostages in HOSTAGE RESCUE, the bomb spots in the BOMB mode, etc. All the time one team has to do something in a map, aside from ‘only kill enemies’ (DM/TDM). Because of this, they need some special attention. In general, you might say: “It doesn’t matter what happens in the whole match as long as the two teams come together in the mission areas”. I wouldn’t agree with this because the map needs a high fun factor across the whole map. On the other hand, it is true that in the end the two teams should at least meet in the mission areas.Normally, one team is defending and the other team is attacking or every team has to attack/defend. If only one team has to defend, it’s harder for the attackers. If they have to attack and defend, it assumes some basic allocation of available work in the team like roamers, defenders or rushers. Think about the different roles of the different teams before you start building your mission areas. A stupid example would be a building without any entrance, absolutely great to defend but kind a dumb to attack.If you compare the walk of an attacker through a map with the escalation of a classic drama, then the mission area is the climax. The adrenaline of the player has to pump through his veins if he is 10m away from the flag, he has to sweat like a pig while he is placing the bomb or has to collapse after he brought the VIP to the rescue point with 1% health. Mission areas have to be exiting and risky but never unfair! “No risk no fun!”Basic RulesLike for the battle zones, I have set out some basic rules for the mission areas and their placement. These rules can be very different and are strongly affected by the game mode you use. So please read them carefully and only use the ones which might fit with the mission goals of your level.1) The difficulty of the mission area depends on the time the attacking team has to stay there.In the standard CTF mode you just have to grab the flag and continue running to your home base. Normally you only have to stay in the mission zone for a few seconds but, during the last time mission, objectives become increasingly difficult and more tactical. This means the designers have to change their old design opinions. If you lose 90% of your teammates & ammo just to reach the DOMINATION point, and you have to hold it for the next 10 minutes against a superiority of 10:1 without any good defending positions, something is obviously wrong.You have three possibilities to solve that problem. The first one is to make it really easy for the attacking team to reach the spot but then make it hard as hell to hold it. If the defenders have no real defending positions then it is obvious that the original attackers will find it difficult to protect their mission spot.The opposite would be that it is really hard to get control of the area but then it’s quite easy to hold it. It is always hard to attack a well-guarded fortress but if your team was able to do it, then why shouldn’t the old defenders have a tough run against it as well?The third solution is to make the difficulty of the attack and the subsequent control almost balanced. Of course, this sounds like the best solution but it is also the hardest to achieve. I suggest that you should try to make your own mix and don’t use too extreme situations.2) The difficulty of the mission area depends on the number of possible successful strikes from the attacking team.Okay, it sounds weird but just imagine a CTF match where my 85 year old grandmother can easily defend the base for 4 hours against 20 hard-core, bloodthirsty, professional Quake players. It might seem ridiculous and frustrating but, believe me, something might have gone seriously wrong with the design of the mission area.In a CTF map, for example, there should be a fair chance that a good run against the opponent’s base is a success. This doesn’t mean that every time you walk to the enemy’s flag you can grab it and move back. Normally, defending something is easier than attacking it. This is the reason why not every assault should be a success. A good tactic and a little bit luck should be the key for a successful strike and the level designer should give the teams a fair chance to do this. Remember: “The best team should always win!”Now you can say that in a real mission based map (e.g. with a BOMB objective) the challenge for the attacking team is always harder than for the defending one. In my opinion, in a round based game with clear attacker and defender roles for the teams, the ratio should be something around 2:3 or even 1:2. If every team has to attack and defend, the ratio should be of course equal like in CTF or DOMINATION.3) If the defender team has more than one mission area, they have to stay close together.Normally, if the defenders have more than one point to protect they have to split the team. The attackers can stay together and, if the skills between all of the people on the server are about equal, the attackers can win against the outnumbered defenders. So the other teammates have to run to the other mission area and try to rescue whatever they can.Now imagine a BOMB mission where the bomb timer is 20sec and the fastest player need 40sec to run/jump/bunny from one bomb spot to the other one (and we shouldn’t forget the disarming time). As I already mentioned earlier in this article, always run around in your map with a stop watch. Take care to look at the routes between the mission areas.For example, if the bomb time is 60sec and the disarming time is 20sec, then the minimum two ways between the mission spots shouldn’t be longer than 10-20sec. You should always give defending team some extra time to fight against the original attacking team, depending how hard it is to reach the bomb.4) A defender should never see all of the entrances to the mission area from one good position; keep the hot spots free from campers.This automatically means that every mission spot has a minimum of two entrances. Actually, there is no problem if the camper decides to keep all entrances in his field of view, as long as he stands in the middle of a big open space. This important rule is for the defenders and maybe for the attackers, too, which depends on the game mode. If the attackers have to stay in the zone for a few seconds/minutes, they quickly become campers too. This is absolutely normal but just don’t make it too easy for them.Just imagine a hill with a mass of sight cover next to a mission spot where the attacker first has to run 30m over an open field. At least, you have no real fun checking all of the thousand possible sniper positions whilst making sure that you reach the hot area alive. The argument that mission areas should be really challenging is okay but it shouldn’t be frustrating!If you have a lot of hard cover around your defended objective (e.g. crates/pillars/rocks), make sure that the camper can never hide in one position where he can see all entrances. There should always be one side open which he can’t protect when he is watching another possible route to the mission spot.5) More mission areas for the defending team automatically means higher difficulty for the attacking team.I guess that is very obvious, as soon as the defenders have to take care of more than one position they have a big disadvantage and need a small bonus (or the attackers a small disadvantage). Just imagine a team which has to protect five different bomb spots or a very big DOMINATION area. They should have an easy job defending the area(s). An unpredictable enemy is always the most dangerous one because they have to encounter something equally challenging (e.g. a fast connection for the defenders between the objectives with a very good fortification). Now the protectors have to move a lot but as soon as they detect the attackers, they can beat them easily. This means the tactics/strategies of the assault team have to come behind enemy lines, unseen, instead of playing Rambo. 6) The mission goal has to be absolutely obvious in the area!Make absolutely sure that the mission spot is very easy to detect. For CTF, this is more or less a minor problem because a flag is normally very easy to spot, except if you hide it deep down in a dark pit. Designers for a BOMB mission, for example, should be much more careful. If the player reaches the large mission area, which is a big warehouse full of wooden crates, and he knows that he has to blow up the brown crate with the drugs, it might cause frustration. Make the drug box green, with special bright light around it, a big red cross on the ground or place some unique and obvious objects around it. Every noob player which enters the warehouse must say: “Hey these single green crates in the middle of the bright room, with the red flags around and with all the red arrows pointing at it must be my mission objective.” Okay, this might be a little bit extreme in a realistic setting but I think you get the point.Moving Mission areasYou can forget most of the text I wrote in the previous chapter if you have a level with a moving mission objective like a VIP or train which one team has to protect and the other team to kill or destroy. There are normally two kind of moving mission objectives. A player controlled character/vehicle and a scripted objected which always uses the same route.Firstly, take a look at similar VIP game modes. You should find a minimum of two rescue points or one bigger area; otherwise the defending team would just heavily camp around one spot instead of roaming/moving around. Calculate the areas where the two teams encounter each other for the first time. These battle zones have to be quite complex or there has to be a high number of different, smaller battle zones. All of these battle zones need at least one alternative way out besides the obvious short way to the rescue points. As soon as the defending team knows where to find the VIP, they will try to intercept him on his way to the next rescue point. If it is absolutely obvious which route will be taken by the VIP, it is too easy for the defenders and not really much fun. There still should be some kind of exciting challenge after the first encounter. When the defending team has no real clue which will be the chosen rescue point, they have to roam around again and hope that they get the right one. Good team play is the key to success here, for both teams. The second possibility would be an object which moves on a scripted route. One team must try to defend the train/truck/ship until it arrives at a certain area and the other team will attack it and try to foil the opponent’s plan. As soon as the two teams see each other for the first time, a long battle zone begins. Along the way there are usually several small defending positions and main battle zones. Around these spots, the fights are particularly hard and between them, fights are more infrequent. Because the objective is very predictable, there should be several alternative ways for fast guys to attack these defending positions from the side. If the defending team has to do small missions at these hot spots, treat them like normal mission areas.Take care about snipers and campers as I have already explained. The rescue points, in particular, are very critical. Some positions that are too powerful can destroy the whole fun of roaming and searching for the VIP in the areas before. Everyone would just stay next to the extraction spots if it is that easy to protect them.CTF ExampleFor the CTF example, both mission areas have to be similar so I only need to explain one of them. The area starts shortly after deep jungle in the middle, after the cave, and after the rock/mountain area. The whole area has a ‘military base’-setting with some small huts, tents, bunkers, and watchtowers etc.The cave exit is already very easy to defend because it is quite small compared to the two canyon entrances. So it doesn’t have any special defending constructions unlike the main/short way through the middle. This route is the fastest one and, because of this, the defending positions here have to be the strongest ones. Of course, it should not be impossible to attack, but some obvious bunkers, sandbags, etc. are definitely okay to slow down the enemy here. One watchtower has a main sniper position where you can just about see the cave entrance and most of the way down the middle. He can’t see the last entrance because there are several trees as sight cover on that side. It might be a good sniper spot but everyone knows that the watchtower is there and the sniper has no real possibilities to hide himself very well. The way from the beach is one of the longer ways to the base but, because the sniper tower can’t see it, there should be a few weaker special defending positions.The flag itself is not on a very big open place. It has some huts around which have no windows so the campers inside the buildings cannot protect the area to all sides. The players inside the watchtower can see the flag from above but if you don’t kill the guy up there until you reach the flag it’s your own fault. Around the mission area, sight cover (e.g. bushes or long grass) should be rare otherwise they might become favorite spots for campers.BOMB Mission ExampleOf course we already know two mission areas for the BOMB example. Let’s say the attacker’s team has to blow up some special crates with electricity for SCUD rockets, whatever, just something easy to detect.At spot #1 we have a warehouse (brown), a street (green) and a backyard (purple). For the attackers, the fastest and easiest way is obviously the street. So the defenders have several very good defending positions behind cars, inside shops and windows to make it very hard for the attackers to come closer. Especially high defending positions are very good because attackers have problems finding good cover behind cars or other low objects. Several sniper positions should make the defending sharp-shooters more unpredictable. Remember that the defending team might start an assault in the back of the attackers force if they come from spot #2 and this shouldn’t always be a massacre. The warehouse area should have less good defending positions because CQB, stealth, and short range battles through the warehouse are normally hard enough. The different high levels in the warehouse create different ways out of the mission area. From the upper ones it shouldn’t be possible to go down very quickly but these are still very good positions to support the rest of the attacker’s squad and to surprise your enemy. The backyard area is normally a very rare route of the attackers but some stealth/scout players might give it a try and should have a reward for the long and risky walk.Spot #2 is a less open space than spot #1 because on the left side it has a CQB indoor section and, on the right side, a backyard part. Only in the direction of the defender spawn point do we have a more or less long/medium range section. So the majority of areas surrounding the mission spot # 2 are CQB and short range. This will mean that it might be harder for the attackers but they can appear very quickly very close to the bombing area. It is definitely more of a stealth and tactical challenge for the attackers to reach it. The indoor part could be something like a decayed flat with all the nice possibilities you can have in such an environment. Broken holes in the wall, kitchen, furniture, and several alternative ways should spice it up to a high thrill factor. Lighting here shouldn’t be very dark; especially the corners should be bright enough so that no campers can hide here. In general there must always be two ways for the attackers to enter the room or another way around the room; otherwise campers have a huge advantage in this close battle area. The hard part for the attackers here should be to enter the house because it is still a very short and quick way. Several open windows and doors give the defenders a lot of possibilities to appear, and they can still attack from spot #1. The backyard part should have several different high levels because the houses are very close together. Jumping over bigger metal trash bins, climbing up on balconies or a small shortcut in a cellar is really the minimum if you want to make this section fun. Light should be gloomy but definitely not too dark because it is a very tight area. It is okay if the middle of the backyard is a little bit darker, or there are some spots which are really dark, as long as the background from both sides is bright enough that you can see the shape of the player. The third possible way is the complete opposite of what the attacker had before. He is coming out of a gloomy/creepy tunnel in a medium and long range section. This won’t be very easy for the attacker and, additionally, it is a very long way compared to the other ones. So it should be much easier for the attackers if they choose this way, otherwise nobody will take this way and building it was just a waste of time. Movement Modifiers Now I just want to talk a little bit about different situations which the player can pass and what you have to take care about. Of course, un-climbable walls, pillars or containers are movement modifiers, too, but I already talked about them at length and, in the next part, I would like to concentrate on typical passable sections.Small hills or stairs:Here I mean smaller situations where a passable section blocks the view between two players (e.g. longer stairs inside a building or a small hill which is just a little bit higher than a player). They are quite common in levels and are a good solution if you need cover but it shouldn’t really slow down the game flow, and the action between different high levels is much cooler than just on a flat ground. Due to its small distance, there is no real disadvantage for the player who has the lower position unless the enemy can see his legs before he can shoot back. Such situations can be very frustrating on main ways so please try to avoid them as much as possible. In houses, or on more sneaky alternative routes, they are more or less allowed but not really welcome. If you have serious problems with such a passage, create some good possibilities to throw grenades (especially flashbangs) or build a window next to it where you can see the nasty camper position in his full beauty.Bigger uphill or downhill sections:If the high level is not very big just treat them gameplay-wise like flat ground. Especially outdoor maps should never be just flat because it looks/feels unnatural and boring. In my opinion, even bigger streets or places should never be 100% flat; small changes really create a completely different feeling. As soon as the height differences and distances become bigger, and the player really has to look up or down for a longer time, it can quickly become such a ‘D-day feeling’. I think that in general, it is harder to defend/assault from a low position against an elevated position. In this case, good cover and possibly alternative ways or specials are necessary. On the other hand, a lot of people forget the sight factor in such a situation. If you look downhill it is normally harder to spot a player than if the enemy is at the top of the hill with the sky in the background. Of course, taking into account the usual camouflage factor of your game. If you have just red T-shirts versus blue T-shirts, the last point is less important.Jumping passages:They can be used to spice up your level but please don’t use them too much because jumping in a FPS is always a mess. Jumping up some crates or rocks is no real big deal but jumping from one house to another one, especially if the jump is not very easy, can quickly become very frustrating for the majority of players. On the other hand, hard-core games really like such passages so it can be cool to have a few less obvious situations like these in your levels which make the good gamers happy. There are two things you should always remember if you are going to have the player jump somewhere. The first point is that you normally only look in the direction where you want to jump. On flat ground it is no big deal to strafe or to walk backwards but if you jump you normally don’t have a lot of time to look around and search for enemies. So be careful with longer and harder jumping parts in hot areas. The second point is sound. If the player wants to pass such a part in your level he is normally making specific jump sounds which can be located by better players very easily. Try to be sure that after the passage there is a little bit of cover regarding its danger level so it doesn’t become an absolute death zone all at once.Doors and holes:Such situations are very common in multiplayer levels but as soon as they are in battle areas without alternative routes they become bottlenecks. The size of them should normally regard the amount of people that pass this section and its environment. For example, if the main way into a warehouse battle zone goes through a door, it should be more like a gate instead of a thin scratch in the wall. However, nobody will really complain if the sneaky alternative route leads through a normal door into a common house. Sometimes they very quickly become death zones if they are very small and lead directly into a hot battle area or mission area, especially without useful cover behind it. If there is absolutely no real solution (e.g. due to a performance reason), then the minimum is some bushes as sight cover against campers from the other team.Doors which you first have to open are always elements which slow down your game flow and should only be used due to performance reasons or as a tactical element. Personally, I am not a big fan of usable doors in multiplayer maps because I always try to speed up the gameplay. It is rare that I really want to slow down my play speed unless I notice that one of the routes is too fast or that one team needs a disadvantage in one area.Small tunnels and air vents:Every time the player has to crouch or go prone he is weak. He cannot react very quickly (e.g. running to cover or turning around if he is prone). So place such situations carefully. Normally, a small hole is not a big deal except if it is in view of an enemy defending a position. If the player has to crouch or prone for a longer time (e.g. in an air vent), in most cases it is a trap as soon as he is noticed. The enemy can easily throw a grenade in the tunnel or shoot through the thin walls. Surviving such a section should be rewarded (e.g. coming out behind the enemy’s lines or with a very good position to stalk opponents without a lot of risk). The risk factor of entering and exiting should depend on the advantage the player will get.Ladders:They are a quick and a very easy method to connect two different high levels. Ladders have the huge advantage, for the level designer, in that you don’t need a lot of space. On the flip side, being on a ladder is a disadvantage in most realistic games because you can’t shoot. This is the reason why you shouldn’t often place them in hot battle areas, unless the player can reach a very good position (e.g. a sniper tower or a sneaky shortcut). Additionally, they slow down the game flow so you should think carefully about whether this is what you want in this specific situation. Normally you should try to solve it with stairs if it is easily possible.Hallways or what happened between the AreasI think you have probably noticed that I am always talking about zones and areas but rarely about what happens between then. In general, you should try to keep the passages between battle- mission areas very short because they can be bottlenecks and just walking isn’t as fun as fighting. The width should always regard the amount of players that will pass the section. A main route should be much bigger and maybe have some small alternative routes nearby and inside the connection and also a sneaky, alternative route. There are three typical kinds of connections depending whether you want to slow down, speed up, or just want to keep the game flow neutral.The first way is to slow down the game in hallways or canyons. If you want to achieve such a situation, do not create alternative ways, just a normal, more or less wide hallway or canyon. Then the cover elements like rocks or pillars should be placed at the sides without an opportunity to walk around. As soon as players from two teams meet each other here, they normally take cover behind your objects. They have to stop unless they go in the middle again and start fighting. At least this slows down the gameplay and makes this section more dangerous. You shouldn’t use such a type in routes which are already very long because these ways are more often used by faster players and they don’t like it if they are suddenly in a slow gameplay section.The second way is to keep the player moving and therefore speed up the game flow. One possibility is to create small alternative ways or shortcuts very nearby and with several connections to the main route. For example, a cellar which leads parallel to the road or a second route over balconies while the rest of the players keep running on the street. The second possibility to increase the flow is intelligent cover placement. If the cover (e.g. trees, walls, pillars) is in the middle or built so that you can continue walking in the original direction, then you can keep on moving if you see an enemy. Just switch the side of the wall and for a few seconds the enemy can’t see you because you have changed your position. At the end, it doesn’t really matter exactly what you build as long as both sides have the opportunity to change their positions erratically as soon as they see each other. It makes the fights between them more interesting, and the areas more fun. If you build it well, the player won’t really notice the difference between the areas and the connections and this is the way it should be. The last way is actually the worst one and should be used carefully. It is simply a hallway without any alternative routes or really good cover (e.g. a normal, boring hallway which goes around a corner). No team has cover and the fights are normally very quick. They are very simple, less interesting and not a lot of fun. You can use these for less important connections or just keep them very short. The really big problem appears if they are long because then they turn into death zones. Make absolutely sure that you avoid long hallways without any alternative ways or enough cover, especially between important areas. Spawn pointsPlacing the spawn points is a very important part of your level design but a lot of people simply finish their levels and throw in their spawn positions sloppily. A good placement is the base of your levels and is normally the first experience the player has in your level. Okay, I hope that points 30m above the ground were due to not enough sleep or a wired code bug. In general, the spawn points should have a minimum of 0.5m - 1m (different from game to game) between each other and the people should spawn as a solid group, and shouldn’t appear somewhere else (e.g. at the 2km long beach.)Additionally, it is important to avoid spawn campers (people who wait next to the spawn points and kill player as soon as they appear) because this is extremely frustrating. One possibility to avoid spawn campers is to split into several smaller groups with different positions. Another solution is placing a lot of spawn points so it is difficult for the camper to predict where the player will spawn. Of course, you should try hard to avoid camper positions next to the spawn points (e.g. with walls, sight cover or one way doors). Placing the spawn points in the middle of a big open field where a mass of campers just have shooting practice against completely helpless players is obviously stupid. You should also take care about the direction of the spawn points. If the player first has to make a 180° turn until he knows where he is and which direction he has to go, even the worst camper has all the time on earth to kill him. The killed player might be a little bit frustrated and confused. The easiest way is to let the player look in the direction he has to go and have absolutely nothing to camp for behind him. Especially people who play a map for the first time normally just start walking in the given direction. If the first seconds of the map are already frustrating and confusing, the map will be rated badly and people will give up playing very quickly.Also, keep the spawn point a little bit away from the mission objective, otherwise you die while defending it and respawn next to it again. This is simply not fair to the attackers who have managed to come so far. On the other hand, the attackers can quickly move a few additional meters and become spawn campers because they can see the start positions from the mission spot. If they have to move a few more seconds to the spawn points, it’s very rare that they wouldn’t prefer to win the match or to get a point at the mission goal instead of becoming spawn campers. Of course, there will be always kiddies who will do it but just try to follow some of the hints above and it shouldn’t be as much of a problem.Stopping the PlayerI guess a lot of designers don’t really think how to stop the player until they are already deep into building their level. The barriers to stop the player leaving the level or to reach special spots sometimes look like quick solutions. In general, you can say that invisible walls should be prevented as much as possible. Personally, I have fewer problems using an invisible wall to block a street which would lead out of the map if there are some other obvious elements which show the player that the street is blocked. Some simple, easy to see road blocks where the player can’t jump over is, in my opinion, okay. The same goes for special fences which I only use to surround the level and are impossible to pass. Of course, a natural or realistic border is much better, like houses, high walls, mountains, etc. but if your map is a village which is surrounded by rocks it feels unrealistic. Especially in maps for non-arcade games, you should really try to prevent that ‘arena-feeling’. Other smarter solutions are, for example, water which pushes the player back with the flow, or to create a mix out of the different elements. Other barriers can be used to stop the player reaching spots inside the map (e.g. to prevent them from jumping on a roof which wasn’t planned to be reachable). If the player can reach such spots by just jumping or using special moves, it is normally bad level design! As soon as the player uses 0.1 cm wide trims, just add an invisible ramp that he slides down. If the trim is obviously passable, then please don’t use invisible walls, just make the trim smaller. The same goes for slopes; if the player can jump up the hills in your game, make them steeper or stick a rock inside. Adding invisible walls here is just lame. Something different is if the players use some kind of ‘human ladders’ to reach higher positions. To a certain degree it is cool to support teamplay but if you need 4 or more people to reach the roof of a house, it will completely destroy your game design and balancing. I think it’s fair to use invisible walls to stop these extreme possibilities. Unlikely arcade games places which you can reach with extreme moves like rocket or grenades jumps should be prevented in realistic games, too. On the other hand, it’s quite rare that a game calls itself ‘realistic’ and you can survive such moves.Tactical SummaryThe player might feel your well balanced strategy plans but he will always see and get in touch with your tactical elements as well. Balancing them is much more difficult because players will always give their best to find weak spots and use them for their advantage. It doesn’t matter if they find an extremely advanced sniper position where you didn’t intend to have one, or if they start to camp in the hallways instead of fighting in the battle zones. On one hand, players seem to be stupid because they don’t do what you want but, on the other hand, they are smart enough to destroy your map if you haven’t planned it well.Try to ask friends how they would move through your map, where they would camp or which area is, in their opinion, unbalanced. Don’t be surprised that multiplayer is normally played by several human beings and they all play/feel it differently. If you have played a lot you should know what normally works in other designer’s maps and what kind of elements are good and bad. Experience and fair criticism from your fans/friends/teammates are still the best way to polish your map. A good map simply has to grow like a good painting and it won’t get better by itself.Especially today, multiplayer is bigger and more complex in terms of gameplay and level design so it is impossible that your very first version is already perfect. Ignorance and arrogance are the poison of the community. Of course, people will always fight and argue but please try to be more or less fair and try to respect the opinion of your friends and fans. Navigation/ Orientation in the Levels IntroductionI think it’s nothing new for level designers that they have great concepts for a really complex and cool map but as soon as they release it, nobody is playing it on the servers. Especially big maps are simply too large and misleading. Of course, the designer knows the map inside out but people playing it the first time get lost, are frustrated and will never give the map the chance it might deserve. Not without a reason, small levels with very simple design are often the most successful ones. This is the reason why it is very important to give the player a lot of guidance and landmarks which helps them to orientate. Of course, if the game you create the level for supports big open fields, maps in his HUD, or compass with waypoints, it’s less important. But even here you should never neglect adding navigation spots and to split the level into recognizable parts. Never forget that, if the player gets lost in your map the first time, it doesn’t matter how great your gameplay ideas are because he will never experience it and will switch the map/server in frustration. Orientation and navigation are very important for the success of your map, I can tell you this from my own personal experience. Eye Catcher/ Special AreasAs I have already mentioned above, one of the best ways to help the player orientate in more complex levels are special eye-catchers or special areas which the player will remember. If you remember the last examples for the BOMB and CTF modes, I split the level into different, very unique parts which gives the player the first basic understanding of where he is. As soon as he knows that he is around the harbor area and not in the backyard he might remember what to do if he comes here again. Especially for team communication, it’s a great help. After a few minutes or rounds, there will be a simple pattern of different areas in the mind of the player and he will start to use this for tactics and he can choose his route with purpose. For example, he knows that the harbor area is more medium and long range but after it there are the warehouses which will lead directly to the mission objective. He knows it is short range and CQB so he should be careful and take the right equipment. If the whole map looks very similar, it doesn’t really matter if the designers have placed a few more rockets here and a few more plants there. For the first impression of the player, everything will look the same and the map will become uninteresting or at least frustrating. Light settings, architecture, vegetation, styles, textures, furniture, visual range, and sound should vary as much as possible in your map but should also be consistent in the different areas! On the other hand, don’t make it too extreme because if the player has to remember too many different areas or styles it becomes confusing and the result would be the same if everything looked the same. There have to be just a few easily memorable and very distinguishable landmarks.This is the first step for the player to get a very rough understanding. It is similar to your strategic planning, but now the player needs help to orientate himself in more detail. In the end, it doesn’t really matters if the player knows he is on the beach or in the jungle if he doesn’t know where to go. What is the right direction or where might the enemy come from? Now you should add some special objects or elements which help the player to navigate in detail. For example; the player runs into a house and around some corners and as soon as he comes out he already lost orientation. If he then sees a nice looking red car at the right side and cool graffiti on the wall on the left side, he might remember. The next time he might choose the left side because the way passing the red car only leads back around the house. Of course, this only works if you only have one nice looking red car and one such special graffiti in your level. Other objects can show the direction: if the blue player runs out of the jungle on the beach and he sees a boat wreck he might remember that the nose of the sailboat leads to the red base and he had better use the other direction. Such small clues and unique elements can be extremely helpful. Things which the player can already see from a long distance or things that are visible the whole time are even better. A big crane which is visible and always points in the same direction, a skybox with a sunrise on the right side, or a big tower with several bright lights in the middle of the maps are other examples. At least at every cross or on every big area you should have such elements.Overview/ Understanding of the LevelSuch hints mentioned above might help the player remember the map quicker but the very first time he still doesn’t know exactly where to go. That’s why overview and quick understanding of the map is even more important. Try to think about that when you make your strategy plans.First of all, when the player starts he should already spawn in the right direction so he only has to go straight. Around the spawn points the layout should be quite simple and absolutely not complex! Really try to strongly guide the player in the first seconds or let the player see several exits/entrances which he can choose from but then no more cross-routes before he comes to the first battle areas. A good, recognizable part of the level at the beginning without any conflict with the gameplay also helps a lot.The main routes should be very obvious. If you play the map for the first time, the chance that you first follow the bright bigger hallway is much higher than if you choose the darker, smaller alternative route into the battle area. At the beginning, the player should be guided by easily recognizable routes and, as soon as he knows the map a bit better, he will start to try the other ways and with the elements in the previous topic he will quickly be able to connect the different ways. This is the reason why you should split your levels with urban settings in battle areas and have connections between them. The player will go into the area and the only exits are easily visible. Logically, a level with just a mass of small rooms and hallways is much harder to learn than a well-structured one.Different Level SizesThe size of your level has a huge impact on your gameplay and is heavily influenced by the game mode, whether you have vehicles, and the game you create the maps for. For example Battlefield 1942 maps simply has to bigger than a normal Raven Shield map because in one game you have vehicles and in the other game you play some kind of a S.W.A.T. team.Okay, vehicle maps should be obviously big and quite open. So what kind of criteria should these big maps have? They should be very open because a big map with static routes is either very complex with a lot of alternative routes (which only confuse the player), or they are boring because you can’t switch the route for half a minute. Short maps should be very compact but be careful that they don’t become too boring by limited possibilities. You have to find the perfect compromise between pliability, navigation, orientation and still guiding the player somehow. Bigger maps are generally for more players but please make them wider instead of longer! Nothing is more annoying than having to walk for half an hour before something happens. On the other side, it is bad to create maps which only start to flow if the server reaches the maximum number of player for the game. If the game only supports 32 players then a big map should already become really fun with 20 people and even with 10 people it should still be entertaining. It’s better to create maps which are really fun with just half of the players so you are flexible and the chances of the map being played on both small and large servers is much better. Let’s first talk about non-symmetrical mission based game modes like BOMB and discuss how big you want to build your map. The times you can see here are just examples and in the real game they will never so exact.In general, the attacker team should need two times longer to the mission goal than the defending team. So I’ve drawn three examples which you can see above. The first third of the attacker’s route is where tactical possibilities should really start at the latest. Here, the ways should start to split. The amount of cover increases and the player should start to take care instead of just blind rushing. In the first third there should be absolutely no possibility for base campers! In the first example the attackers need 90 sec to reach the mission objective. Some people might say that this is not a long time for a really big map but if you look at the time where the player might have their first encounter then you see it is 67.5 sec! Do you really want to walk/drive for over a minute before the action might start?! Probably not, so a 90 sec map is definitely too big for the mass player who wants to have quick action. For the second example the attackers need 60 sec to reach the mission spot and the first action might take place at around 45 sec. For me, that sounds like the maximum passage of time for a map that will have some success. Of course there will be always hardcore tactical players who don’t care how long they walk, but this won’t make your map universally popular. The last example is shorter with 30 sec to the mission goal. With 22.5 sec to the first encounter, it is a pretty fast one. If you make it even shorter, there is a high risk that fast defenders will come too close to the attacker’s spawn positions so be careful. Some good advice is that short/fast maps should have a lot of urban elements because in purely outdoor maps it’s very hard to control the speed and the routes that the players take. If it’s not really a swamp map with a lot of fog, the distance a normal player runs in 22.5 sec is definitely shorter than the normal view distance in modern outdoor maps. So be very careful with snipers/campers around the spawn points.Now let’s look at how the same numerical example looks like with symmetrical maps and with no clear defenders and attackers like CTF.The times are from a case where, when the match starts, a perfect player from team B makes an attack against team A, grabs the flag and runs back to score with it. In the first example you would ideally need 90 sec to reach the mission goal. After around 45 sec you might meet your first enemy. If the dead player respawns at once and starts running straight away, the attacker from team A can encounter him again after 67.5 sec if he hasn’t lost any time in the first fight! After another 22.5 sec, he can finally reach the flag and might already kill another player and now has to run back for another 90 sec. All in all, these are three minutes of an absolutely perfect attack and, as we all know, a perfect run without any lost time in a normal CTF match is almost impossible. So if you try it very often and walk around a lot you will usually need longer than 180 sec which is, in my opinion, already too long. Remember that in a normal CTF match you cannot even roughly calculate where the players will fight because of the normal re-spawning system in such game modes. The second example also takes a long time if we think that this is the most perfect way. But here, the action is already much more packed. The two minutes of intensive possibilities for action sound much better for a big, enjoyable map. However, it is realistic that for a normal run you might still need around three minutes which is borderline. Now in the last example, 30 sec to the enemy’s base seems to be suddenly very short but they remind us more about the fast, thrilling CTF matches which we had with the Quake and Unreal games. Personally, I have less problems to run a between one and two minutes to capture a flag but they should be loaded with action which can only be achieved in medium or small CTF games or in big maps on big servers. So the bigger you plan such a map, the more open the map should be, otherwise the action would be too rare. On the other hand, small maps should be more compact because then tactical gameplay is even less important than pure combat skills. Art for Gameplay IntroductionIn this section I don’t want talk how to make your level look beautiful. It is more about how art elements like lighting (Visibility), textures (Orientation) and architecture (Movement) might affect your gameplay.It might be that I’ve already talked about some of these tricks in some of the earlier examples but now I want to complete the list and bring some of those ideas together.Such elements can be in harsh contrast with the art factor which will make your level look nice and the art will support gameplay. Like in single player games, discussions between the art department and game designers or AI programmers can be daily. In general, the gameplay should rule over aesthetic aspects because fun is more important than “visual brain wanking”. First design your levels and if you are the first time somehow satisfied with the final playability, start to make the level look nicer with less important details and color arrangements.LightingLike I already mentioned above, the main intention of using light for gameplay is definitely visibility. The brightness of an area affects the general speed of action and movement. In a gloomy/stealth part of your level, the player will normally move more slowly and carefully than in a bright one, except in the case of quick surprise actions from an ambush or a camper. Also, dark areas give the player a higher chance to navigate through the area unseen but not completely unheard. I will talk later about sound for gameplay but, for now, don’t forget that in darker areas, sound become more important than in strongly illumined ones. So your stealth ways should be generally darker then the fast ways for rushers. Even in outdoor maps with a day setting, you can influence the brightness with shadows from hills, buildings or trees. The darker a section is, the better camouflage works. So even a little bit of shadow can help a lot in the jungle. In some examples, darkness can almost completely eliminate cover. Just imagine a bright base which one team has to assault which is surrounded by pitch black night. The attackers can move around it almost unnoticed without losing sight of their goals. They will become big problems as soon as they come closer, but this offers them a completely different style of tactics than the normal “running-from-cover-to-cover”. Don’t forget that such ideas can become weaker if the game you design for supports night vision, flashlights, flares or similar equipment.I think it is slowly becoming clear that darkness can be used as a tactical element so let’s talk about brightly lit areas. In these areas it is much harder to hide so a player might move faster. Because he can see the enemy much better, the action will be generally much cleaner and faster. Visual detection is much more important than sound detection so these bright ways are the preferred ones for rushers where reflex and good aiming are more effective than tactics. For the ambitious tactical hardcore player, this might seem frightening at first blush. On the other hand, real team play can now really be the difference. While moving from cover to cover, other team mates have to be wary of possible spots where the defenders appear and make quick pop-up attacks. Such quick defending strikes are much easier in bright areas so while running forward you simple have to trust your back-up team. Good real-world examples are actually indoor paintball matches. Camouflage is normally absolutely useless because of the colorful sports suits and the fact that you can die after one hit. Fast reflexes are of high importance but you need good support guys to keep the enemy busy and behind their cover.The second gameplay factor of light is the help for orientation. If the player jumps down into a big cellar, he can quickly recognize it by the lighting. Bright light can lead the player on the main route, and color shemes can show him on which side of the CTF map he is located.TexturesTextures affect the gameplay completely differently to lighting because the main purpose is navigation and orientation instead of visibility. Of course, the textures also affect visibility but first let’s talk about its main intention.In arcade CTF maps, the bases have normally blue or red textures and not without good reason. As everybody knows, it helps the player to know exactly which base he is located in. In maps with a realistic setting, it might very stupid if the terrorist base has blue stripes and the S.W.A.T. spawn point has blue ones as well, so let's think about other solutions to use the textures as an help for orientation. The best way is actually to separate the maps in clearly different areas like we already did during the strategy planning phase. For example, a harbor area uses a completely different texture set to a backyard. Try to make sure that the textures are really different. For example; red, clean bricks and a gray, dirty concrete are much easier to recognize as different settings than two standard house textures with slightly different colors. Additionally, the chosen materials have to fit to the area; a wooden high-tech industrial complex simply doesn’t look right. Now the player comes into an area which is dominated by brick textures and knows exactly which area he is in. Large areas with memorable surfaces are even noticeable in a stressful fight or hunt because this is what fills most of the player’s screen. Of course these simple hints and only work in maps with a lot of urban elements. In bigger, complex outdoor maps, where the navigation might be different due to a low view range, you should try to use your vegetation as orientation help. Palm trees at the beach, high trees in the big jungle, and small trees in the mountain are just an example, the same goes for grass, bushes or even flowers. For a lot of designers (especially if they’ve created a lot of SP maps), consistency is very important. In multiplayer, however, it is overruled by gameplay aspects, especially if it helps the player to understand the map much easier. Please don’t make the borders between the areas too extreme otherwise it looks cheap. Remember: “In realistic maps the gameplay elements should be hidden as much as possible to create a believable scenario.” As I have mentioned above, textures can also affect the visibility of the player. It is quite obvious that the right surfaces support the camouflage effect of the player skins. A black player is very well hidden in dark, night, urban maps, etc. These things don’t need a lot of explanation. If you have a dark cellar and the walls are bright, the stealth effect becomes much weaker. So if you really want to modify the visibility by using light, make sure that the textures fit, too. Architecture & GeometryIn general, architecture directly affects the movement of the player and, of course, his visibility. One of the main intentions of geometry is actually giving the player cover, so let’s talk about the different kinds you can use.You can create half cover which is only really useful if the player is crouched or prone. It is harder to use and this decreases the effect of it. For balancing a defend/attack position this is a better solution than removing the cover completely because it is better to have weak cover than no cover at all. The second kind is full cover which protects the player completely whether he stands or crouches. This is actually the most powerful and frequently used cover in games; like bigger trees, columns or edges of houses. Behind such a structure, the player only has to fear indirect fire like grenades and air strikes so try to make sure that the enemy has at least a small chance to counter such a position or to shoot through. For example; a way around, enough cover in front so he can come very close, sniper and support spots to make sure that he stays behind the cover while the rest of the team move forward, or sight cover to sneak close. Cover doesn’t automatically slow down the game flow because here we have two kinds of cover. The first one has only one way around, like a column next to a wall or the edge of a big house. If the player hides there, he is much more predictable for the opposing player. He can only come out at one spot or stay where he is, so move ment in such areas will be much more careful and therefore slower. For fast attackers, a route with such cover would become less attractive so move cover next to the walls/borders or make it bigger if you think that the defenders have a disadvantage. The other kind is cover where the player has much more possibilities to surround e.g. a column in the middle of a room, a stone/tree on an open field or a small house. Here, the hiding the player has many more ways to surprise the enemy; he can appear at two sides and sometimes he can jump at the top or even go inside. An area with mainly such cover is an eldorado for quick tactical players and normally it’s harder to defend. Personally I like such situations with a variety of different possibilities but be careful regarding the balancing. A good counter against it for the defending team are some positions from where you have a good view of almost the whole area like towers, windows, etc.I think I have already mentioned this above but please don’t always use the same kind of cover, especially crates! Of course, they are very easy to build, are very friendly to the performance, and you can get them in almost every size but just try to be a little bit more innovative. Okay, even I used it a lot in my harbor and warehouse maps in this article but only because it is very easy to explain and it is a short word ;-). I’ve already tried to build maps intending to use as few crates as possible just to see if it’s feasible. I mainly used stones, trees, edges, columns, doorways, furniture, big machines, trenches, railings, windows, etc. Of course, it was possible and the only crates you can find are more decoration than part of the gameplay. If I can do it, you can do it too. Architecture doesn’t always mean cover so use your creativity not only to find different kinds of cover. Try to vary ways to go up and down, not always stairs or ladders e.g. with slopes/piles of dirt, ramps, broken pipes, elevator shafts, crates (or other objects) to jump up, cranes, planks or one way holes to jump down. Then you should think also about ways through walls, not always doors. Try to use windows where the player has to jump through, broken holes in ruins, bigger half open gates or pipes which the player has to crawl through or air ducts. The same counts for ways over trenches or cliffs. Instead of normal bridges, think about planks, fallen trees, pipes, cranes or situations where you can only jump over while running/sprinting.All of this variety can be easily used to balance the difficulty and speed of routes and to make areas more different from each other. Orientation and navigation becomes much harder if you always use crates, ladders, doors and the same looking bridges. Every time you place such elements, remember if you’ve already used something similar in your level think about something else instead. Another important factor of placing architecture or other geometry is the comfortable movement around. Very narrow passages in a battle field should be avoided. If you make gaps between objects then make sure that is obvious that you can’t go between. A gap where the player is 2cm too big to fit through is just frustrating. Run around your level and make sure that even for an inexperienced player, the movement is easy and you can’t get stuck anywhere.What about Details & Beauty?I can’t stress enough that performance and gameplay are always more important than the beauty of your map. Of course a nice looking map will get more attention at the beginning but if people notice that the bad performance makes the map unplayable with more than four players, nobody will play it anymore. Obviously the same goes for the gameplay, especially if all of your small details make the player get stuck or cause a very uncomfortable movement. So the main intention of details should be small gameplay elements like a hole/gap in a ruin, curtains around windows, a branch of a tree to jump on or a thin metal railing. The next intention of details is to create the right atmosphere. For example, break walls in ruins and place dirt on the ground, use metal support pieces in warehouses or clean looking furniture in mansions. If you and the players/testers are happy with your map and you have a good performance, start to add unimportant details like broken tiles on the wall/floor, adding a knob to your cupboard, folds in your carpet or make the pipes even more smooth. Don’t go crazy with adding details in your multiplayer maps, normally player just runs through your rooms and as soon as the action starts nobody cares that you wasted 3000 polygons for the picture frame around your favorite FHM model. If you think that an area has a lack of details then first try to use textures or shadows. You can easily combine it with gameplay e.g. a cellar room: Place your lights so that the cover casts a lot of shadows on the walls/floor, use different wall textures, make the unimportant and boring areas much darker then the good looking ones, add some simple structures under the ceiling and throw some dirt on the ground. Normally that’s already enough to make a room prettier using the existing elements without wasting a lot of time adding scratches in the walls/floor or placing high poly objects. Of course such hints are very general and I absolutely don’t want you to make your maps ugly. Especially the main areas need special attention art wise because beauty is also very important for the first impression but pure art aspects are not part of this article. If you are interested in beautification, don’t forget to check my other article(s) (more will come in the future) regarding art.Sound for GameplayPersonally, I rarely used sound in multiplayer maps except to create atmosphere. Maybe because I created my maps in the good old days when surface textures with different walking sounds were something pretty new. Especially in areas where visibility is less important than sound detection. For example, in a dark room where you can normally sneak through very silently, some louder metal/glass plates are interesting and fresh gameplay elements. The same can be said for water passages because it doesn’t only makes you slower, it is also a different, louder sound and every enemy in the vicinity can hear that there is someone in the water. Such small gameplay elements will become more interesting with better technology so don’t forget about them if you create maps for the new cutting-edge games.I also saw that several designers used to trigger sound elements if you move through specific areas, like a barking dog if you use the route through the backyard. Personally I don’t like such things because there is no fair way to avoid them ... hmm unless you can throw a grenade over the fence to blow up the stupid mutt ;-). Something different are mission/game specific sound events like an alarm siren triggered by the enemy or pick up sounds of the flag/mission objective. They can of course be used to balance bigger maps with several objectives. Round Based vs. Reinforcement Game modesThere are two main differences in making levels for round based game modes and game modes where the players re-spawn constantly. The first one is the size of the maps. If the player spawn in the same positions every round, he doesn’t want to walk for very long before the fights start. Of course this is similar to maps for reinforcement game modes but in a round based mode, the people stay dead until one team wins. So the number of possible fights is much more limited and so is the size of the maps. Especially the rounds should be quite short because dead people have to wait for the round to end before they re-spawn again. So a bigger map will become quite boring, people have to walk a lot and dead people stay dead for a long time and get frustrated. On the other hand, round based game modes can be much more tactical because the start situation is always equal in every round. You can calculate tactical situations much better because you know more or less where the main battle areas will be. For you as a level designer, this makes the design easier but bad places have a much bigger impact on the level design then in re-spawn maps. On such maps an unbalanced area is less critical because almost the whole map can be a battle ground. For example, a powerful defending sniper position can ruin the fights around a mission area every round, and the attackers will avoid the area as much as possible. If the player re-spawns continuously, such a sniper can be nasty, too. But as soon as he is finally dead, the fights might start to move to other places or they never really happen. Fights in such maps are less focused on certain areas but this doesn’t mean that you are allowed to create a few unbalanced parts of the map. Both game types require a different design philosophy. One needs perfect focus on certain areas while the others must be a unit of well combined battle areas or just one huge battle area. Mirrored vs. Uneven Map LayoutIt is a well-known fact that the arcade game modes like CTF must have a mirrored map layout. This is okay as long as the maps stayed small with no vehicles and the gameplay was very arcadey. Since we can build bigger maps with vehicles and the main intention is to create a realistic feeling battle field, even unmirrored layouts became usual for CTF and similar game modes. This is, of course, nothing new for round based games with normally clear attackers and defenders. If the role of the team is clear, it is easier to calculate the balancing progress. Mirrored maps are generally easier to build and to balance. They should be used for open and arcade game modes where the realistic feeling of the level is less important than the pure gameplay itself. For example, if you play CTF it is already unrealistic and then it doesn’t really matter if one side of the city has blue paintings and the other side is almost the same with more red on the walls. The biggest problem now is to find a good solution to increase the orientation and navigation because you have two parts which are very similar. Of course you could make all the trees on one side red and the other side blue but I hope we all agree that this would look stupid even in fun maps. For a realistic scenario you should try to find much smarter solutions. Like I’ve already mentioned above, variation is quite important so why shouldn’t the bridge on one side be a couple of pipes and on the other side a few wooden planks. This can be used almost everywhere as long as the gameplay at both places stays the same, for balancing reasons. Another idea, which can be well combined with the previous one, are different styles in the areas. One side of the map is dirty with broken old cars and a lot of graffiti and the other side is a more clean, noble area where the house owners wash their cars every weekend. I think it is logical that the break between the two styles shouldn’t be very abrupt and should make a little bit sense. If there is absolutely no way to separate the two parts style-wise, you can still go back to the old school “color solution”. Using blue and red should only be your last way. Just don’t make it so extreme and artificial like you know it from pure arcade games like Quake. Colorful banderols around trees, graffiti on house walls, marks on crates, cars or even flags are not great ideas but still better than any extreme solutions like blue vs. red grass.Just make sure that it fits as well as possible or that it looks like a paintball team marked their combat areas. A completely blue stone looks way too freaky but if it looks like that someone painted a big blue square on the stone it is already much better.Unmirrored levels have the complete opposite problems than the mirrored ones. On one hand, if you do it a little bit smart and follow the basic rules in the previous chapters above, navigation and orientation won’t be a big problem. On the other hand, now balancing is your biggest issue. That is the reason why unmirrored levels are much harder to design than mirrored ones. Making a few different textures and placing a few detailed objects doesn’t need a lot of design skills compared with making a perfectly balanced map with two different sides. I’ve already talked a lot about how to balance unmirrored maps for round based game modes so this time I will concentrate more on how to do this for reinforcement levels. If your battle fields are very big and open, it is easier because a flat hill is almost the same as a flat valley. As soon as the terrain is really different and you have a lot of bigger objects, balancing starts to become difficult. For example, if at one side you have a bigger hill in front of the regular base defense, the attackers might have an advantage but on the other side you have a valley. Now you need to think about what you have to change so that the attackers have more problems with the hill, or how much cover you have to place in the valley so it is balanced again. You have to think about almost every place in the map and how to balance it differently to the other side. This is very critical and because it is almost impossible to calculate all kinds of combat situations, it is actually impossible to balance it perfectly. The only real solution is a lot of experience and a mass of testing the map if you want to create an unmirrored level where both teams have the role of attackers and defenders. Expect that the first versions of your maps get a lot of bad feedback and you will have to tweak it a lot. So stay in close contact with your test team and make a detailed test plan. After the first general tests you should start to concentrate on certain areas and let the QA focus on these areas until the feedback is detailed enough so you can really balance them. If you and the test team do the job well, nobody will really notice the small balancing problems. Of course some fans will always complain about this and that area but it will be the minority and is simply the calculated risk of unmirrored maps. Just do it as good as possible. Realistic & Arcade Even if your setting is realistic, the game itself can be very different. It can be something ultra-realistic like American Army or something more arcadey like Action Quake. The strategic design for both kinds of extremes is almost the same. They all need a balanced basic structure and good navigation/orientation. The real differences are in the tactical elements.If the player can only move realistically for the majority of the game the player it is quite slow. If the player dies very quickly, tactical team play und unpredictable gameplay are the key game elements instead of rushing and making crazy stunts. Cover should be closer together and in bigger battle areas, support/cover spots for the attacking squad become very important. Always think about camper and sniper positions and how the opposing team can counter them with tactics. If one hidden sniper can cover the edge of an important house and the attackers can only peek around the corner and get a headshot or run for four seconds over an open field with no support from the back, it might become quite frustrating. If the first three squad mates have to die before you know where the damn sniper is lying, you should increase the tactical variation heavily. On the other hand, if one 40mm grenade can be fired accurately over 200m and kill everyone in a radius of 5m, the defenders also need the possibility to become unpredictable. In a realistic game it is simply a fact that the defenders have a huge advantage. So if the attackers want to be successful they have to change the tactics very often, use smoke grenades, counter sniping, covering fire, etc. to break through the defense lines. You as the designer, have to give them all these possibilities and if the players don’t use them and keep playing like Rambo's it is simply their fault. On the other side, if the player can run with 50 kilometers an hour, he has to care less about snipers if he has to sprint four seconds to another cover spot. Taking the risks and cool stunts are strong elements for the fun factor of more arcade game modes. Yes, it was simply cool in Action Quake to strafe, jump 20m to the next roof and surprise the other team. Just make sure that such cool stunts are possible in your maps, the fans will really like to make completely crazy actions. Now campers and lame phlegmatic base defenders have no chance and the whole game becomes faster and more aggressive. Now a single Rambo player can wipe out a complete noob team with less problems, but hey that is Hollywood action and the player’s problem, not yours. As long as the Rambo player can do it in every team because your map is well balanced, it should be okay. It is your job as a level designer to support the features of the game you build for. If you make your map so extremely hard and boring for attackers and defenders, that it is the same as playing an ultra-realistic game, you definitely did something wrong.Game design vs. Level designI guess what I am telling some of the level designers out there might come as a bit of a shock. From my experience of working with a lot of other designers, quite often they would complain about the game design without thinking that something with their level design might be wrong. Normally there is a fine line between game design and level design but smart people are able to think in the right way and know where the problem might be. So my advice for the level designer with problematic areas in their maps is to consider that there is a fair chance that it can be his fault, too. For example, the game designer decides that all thin wooden planks are destroy-able. Now the level designer complains that he sometimes needs indestructible boards because otherwise the opponent can destroy the only cover in that area very quickly. He decides that some of the planks in his level cannot be damaged. Okay, if something has special features it should be obvious that all similar objects have the same abilities. Continuity is an old school design rule and should never be changed. If you have problems with one of the special objects in that specific situation then you simply shouldn’t place it there. Just use your brain and think about another solution like a lower stone wall as cover or whatever. Causing frustration and perplexity is the last thing you want in your level.I know that you are now waiting for an example where the game design is wrong instead of the scolded mapper. Especially the problem of badly designed/balanced weapons shouldn’t affect the level design. If a flash-bang blinds everyone in a radius of 50m, the designer shouldn’t make too many small areas in the level. Frag grenades which you can throw through the whole level and it remember more about artillery shouldn’t produce levels where every wall is 30m height. Before the sub machine-gun is too powerful and the mappers only design wide open fields in their levels, they should start a small revolution against the game designers. I guess since you’ve read the article this far, you have enough experience to remember enough of the other examples. Discussions are good as long as both sides are able to accept that they might be wrong, and are able to make compromises. CreativityI could probably write a completely new article on the subject of creativity but I would like to keep this short. If you read through the whole article, please don’t expect that you can now build the greatest levels of all time. Perhaps you can now create some quite solid multiplayer maps but they are still nothing really special without your own creative input! Every good designer has his systems which he uses to create levels but even the best didn’t have their greatest ideas on command. Normally you think about a problem or something which might spice up your level until you get a headache and then suddenly, when you least expect it, you find the solution. Great ideas can come to you; under the shower, on the toilet, smoking on the balcony, before you fall asleep or whenever you are relaxing. This is normal and nobody can expect you to come up with ideas to order.Great ideas are born if you don’t think about the problem and suddenly it pops up into your mind so try to make sure that you work in a peaceful, inspiring environment without a lot of stress around you. Go out for a walk, customize your desk like a greenhouse (an extreme example but I’ve seen it done), relax or do something completely different as long as you don’t have to think very hard. If you have no real idea about your strategy plan, just use an already approved old school one, modify it a little bit and then you might have cool ideas for the tactical parts. At least this is how it happens to me very often.It is nothing really new that level designers take their ideas from movies, music videos or even from some cheap B-movie style TV series. A single scene in any action movie can already give you the idea of a tactical scene in your new level. Take this as a base and complete it with a strategy plan, do some research about the environment and you will get enough other ideas to fill the level. In the end nobody knows that it was a Bon Jovi video which gave you the mental kick for a kick ass map because it was just the first impulse for your own creative work.Final Words & QuestionsWho am I writing this for? Definitely for the level designers out there. Sharing his own knowledge so that everyone might learn something and improve their skills is becoming a rare virtue in that community. I hope even more people start to write about their experiences because even I still want to learn something new and I bet you guys have even more cool ideas. On the other hand, I hope a lot of non-level designers are reading this long article to get a better idea about the work we are doing every day. It is already science and almost an art to make good multiplayer levels and it seems that the majority of people still don’t understand that.I guess several designers might say that everything they have read here is just a waste of time because it was all logical and everybody knows the basics. However, I think there is a big difference between knowing something and doing what you know! If I think back to some of my maps, I would find many failures even though I was already clear about all of these rules. Writing these basic rules helps me to internalize it and it might also help you to think more clearly about them after you have read this article.Building a multiplayer map shouldn’t normally be a really big deal but to design a good one is even harder than designing a single player map. On the other hand, it is normally harder to build a good, solid single player level. I don’t want to start now with the never ending discussion about whether it is harder to make a single player or multiplayer maps. If you have ever built for both for a long time, or even designed them professionally, then you will have your own opinion which you simply have to respect. Other people’s opinions have a smaller impact on my one but, of course, I always welcome fair discussions.Why are you reading this article? ... I guess you should have a good answer by now because you’ve already read through my small bible and if you didn’t read anything, shame on you ;-). I hope after reading about the well-known or boring aspects, you have learned something new and enjoyed reading it.Thank you for reading,Benjamin Bauer*This article has been posted on Next Level Design with the authors permissionSource: http://www.benb-design.net/Articles/benb_article02.pdfFollow Benjamin:Website: http://www.benb-design.net/Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_qb1MnHEV4xaVBpQaigspQ
  15. In this article, originally posted on Bungie.net, Chris Carney, designer at Bungie for 15 years, shares some insight into the level design process used to create the Halo: Reach map The Cage. His intent is to provide food for thought for those jumping into Halo's Forge Mode, but it's most definitely applicable to anyone with an interest in level design.The article starts off at...well...the start of the design process: Chris suggests starting out by answering 3 questions: How many players is your level going to be designed for? What are the Primary and Secondary Gametypes that will be played on it? Will the maps have Vehicles? Of course, these questions may vary depending upon the game you're designing for, but you get the point. Once you have your answers, we move on to the initial design stage. The form this takes can vary greatly from person to person, so Chris suggests using whichever method works best for you. For the purposes of this article, Chris ultimately decided to use The Cage as his example level. He stated that it "started off as a small to mid-sized, 4 – 8 player map, intended for Team Slayer and map possession gametypes such as Stockpile that was going to use some ideas from Lockout and feature outer circulation similar to Ascension and the Pit." Chris then begins to systematically work through what he calls "the seven essential multiplayer design elements." Element #1: Simplicity Element #2: Orientation Element #3: Navigation Element #4: Flow/Circulation Now we get into the nitty gritty - the actual design process used for The Cage. Chris started out knowing that the level would consist of isolated combat areas, akin to Lockout. He explains that they used colored cardboard cutouts to start out, with green boxes representing rooms, blue rectangles being bridges, a yellow circle signifying a platform, and red circles designating alternative movement options (teleporters, lifts, jumps). Element #5: Hard Points Chris continues to share further iterations, along with supporting cardboard cutout images, which you can see by following the link at the end of this post. And then he comes to the next of his seven essential elements. Element #6: Layout of Game Objects Which brings us to the final critical element. Element #7: Iteration After this brief interlude to finalize his list of essential elements, Chris returns to The Cage. And finally, we get to the editor. Chris jumps into forge and begins constructing his well prepared level, making various further adjustments as he went along. As was the case earlier, Chris provides more detail on the iteration process, which can be seen in the original article. And with that, we reach the end of our lesson. Read the full article here: http://halo.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=29601 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  16. Next Level Design has been given permission from the author to host this entire book in PDF format. Download the attached PDF at the bottom of this article for the entire book, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70zStill not sure? Read through this section on lighting that was recently posted on Next Level Design: In addition, we've included another small section of the book right here: pg. 25 INTRODUCTION Due to games’ ever-increasing complexity and the expanding nature of levels in general, it can certainly be said that levels are not easy to design. Levels, as said before, are combinations of dozens of different aspects, the conglomeration of which render them complex by nature. This combination of complex systems itself requires good design from the start in order to avoid an inconsistent and downright messy result. Because the different aspects are so interdependent, it’s very important not to lose sight of a level’s ‘big picture’. This chapter highlights some of the issues that can pop up when designing a level, as well as some more minor aspects to keep in mind. The overall design is the foundation for a level. Without a clear, strong design, there is no solid base on which to build the level. THE CREATION OF A NEW WORLDThe most important part of a successful level is its beginning. The way a level starts will determine a great deal about how the rest of the level will evolve and how quickly. In these days of growing complexity, efficiency and speed are valued highly. Getting off to a bad start or using bad work methods can cost time which is usually at a premium to begin with. Part of starting a good design is foreseeing potential problems before anything is created. By doing this early in the process, a good level designer can quickly and easily modify the design to better fit the available time, workload, difficulty, technical limits, or all of the above.How one begins a new level is different for every person. One designer may write everything down in a design document while another, like me, just plans it out in their head. The method used also depends upon if one is working in a team environment. Working with a team means that the level’s design must be communicated throughout the team which usually means some sort of written, drawn, or quickly modeled design that can be passed around and/or presented. How it’s done isn’t important as long as several key aspects are kept in mind and the end product is of a sufficient quality. If the technology used cannot create lush jungles, for example, then this must be recognized before starting.A design should progress only when exactly what is wanted and how to accomplish it is known. Exact information is the key to this. Again using the jungle example, one must know what the jungle will look like, the colors it uses, the overall style, how the player will move through it, if the engine can render thick vegetation, what kind of physics will be involved, and too many more to list here.To assist in this task, I have developed a type of checklist that is at the base of everything I design. The list compares several key values against each other to see if they are possible and if they should be modified. It also helps define the values better. The list checks to see if the rules of, for example, lighting and composition are contrary to each other and if the goal is possible and what direction to take. This extensive chapter will mostly be about the latter.A level is complex and it takes increasingly more time and effort to successfully complete one; thus failure is not an option. All the areas that could potentially cause a problem should be identified before starting any work. Once the design process starts it should go smoothly; design dilemmas should not occur or, if they do, should be easily overcome with few modifications to the overall plan. Getting stuck can be very demoralizing and time consuming. pg. 26THE CHECKLISTA level always begins with a goal, a theme, or both. The goal may be that the game requires a medieval castle, or that it’s missing an ominous environment, or that the level is to be the central hub of the game.After identifying the basic idea, certain key information needs to be pinned down before starting the level. This ‘key information’ will be referred to as ‘the keys’. The keys communicate important properties about the level. They are the key words the level is built around and provide more information on the level’s requirements.The following are questions to determine the key information for the level-to-be: • (1-Time) How much time is there available? Is there a deadline? • (2-Tech) What tools and game engine will be used? • (3-Limitations) What limitations are there? Is there a shortage of art assets or staff/personal skill limit? Can anything be made or are some aspects beyond the scope of the project because of their complexity? • (4-Requirements) What kind of requirements are there? Are there any specific elements, for example, special buildings or areas that have to be in the level? When compared to the rest of the game what visual style or theme must the level adhere to? • (5-Purpose) What is the overall purpose? For example, is it a multiplayer practice level or a singleplayer boss arena? • (6-Gameplay) What should the gameplay be like? How should it be played? Should there be enough room for a large boss encounter? Or does it need to be large enough to contain a large number of enemies attacking the player? Perhaps it’s a vehicle level? Or it is a stealth level? And so on. • (7-Theme) What theme and/or style will the level have? Will it be a castle or a jungle? Will the style be cartoonish or realistic?This is all essential information for a level. The order of the list is not as important as the answers. Once the essential elements of the level have been identified it can be run through a checklist to see if it holds up. Will it work? Look right? Play right?The keys provide the information while the checklist determines if it is possible or not. The checklist combines two or more keys in order to determine if they fit together or not. If the desired theme is a jungle, but the engine can’t handle rendering dense vegetation, then these are two keys that do not fit together and the design will need to be adjusted accordingly. This is the type of information the keys provide: essential information that design decisions can be based on before actually starting work on a level. Thinking ahead is the key to success.The checklist itself is a system for asking questions and making comparisons. The questions are different each time, but the comparisons remain the same. Verify that the individual elements compliment each other.Here's the entire Table of Contents: Download the attached PDF below, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70z *The Hows and Whys of Level Design is hosted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: http://www.hourences.com/Portfolio: http://www.hourences.com/portfolio/Twitter: https://twitter.com/HourencesYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Hourences/feed The Hows and Whys of Level Design.pdf
  17. Splash Damage has released the Game Design Document for Dirty Bomb to the public. One section of this document consists of notes on the Map Designs. This section can be seen below:Map Designs: Gallery: Terminal Redux: Dome Redux: Vault: Heist: Castle: View the entire document here: https://www.splashdamage.com/news/the-design-of-dirty-bomb/
  18. Table Of Contents: I. Introduction A. Purpose B. Audience C. Thanks II. Getting Started A. Links 1. Articles 2. Forums B. Decision Time C. Drawing Up a Layout D. Testing Time III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose B. Definitions 1. Tournament Mode 2. Device #1 - Levels 3. Device #2 - Items C. Fundamentals 1. Verticality 2. Balance 3. Flow 4. Connectivity 5. Scale D. Layout Types 1. Single Atrium 2. Duel Atrium 3. Tri Atrium E. Examples 1. HUB3AEROQ3 2. CPM1A 3. PRO-Q3DM6 IV. Item Placement A. Purpose B. Weapons 1. Shotgun 2. Grenade Launcher 3. Rocket Launcher 4. Lightning Gun 5. Railgun 6. Plasma Gun 7. BFG C. Ammo D. Health E. Armor/MH 1. Placement 2. Sets F. Other 1. Powerups/Holdables 2. Shards/+5h's V. Level Design Considerations A. Purpose B. Architecture C. Clipping D. Aesthetic E. Lighting F. Performance VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps 1. Creation 2. Types B. In-Game Sounds C. World Dangers 1. Lava/Slime 2. Void 3. Traps D. Spawnpoints 1. Amount 2. Location E. Vertical Transport 1. Teleporters 2. Jumppad 3. Elevators 4. Stairs I. IntroductionA. Purpose This guide will attempt to clarify the seemingly mysterious methods, rules, and design techniques one should take into account when attempting to create a competitive level. Specifically, the guide will focus on the aspects of mapping for the Challenge ProMode mod for Quake III Arena. I know, you're probably wondering why you would need this guide when you've already got all those other great articles around. But this particular guide will be a sort of culmination of previous knowledge–taking in all past information and conglomerating it into one single comprehensive article. Hopefully this will make it much easier for the beginning mapper to create quality competitive maps without having to take ages to learn all the aspects of creating them. The guide is to be used as a sort of reference book. Although reading it one time through is okay, it is best to treat it as if it were a kind of manual. You don't usually read manuals straight through, but instead keep them handy for looking up various things at different times. B. Audience This guide is for anyone who has ever thought about, is presently considering, or is thinking about creating a serious playing tourney map for Quake3. While not a guarantee, the guide will set you in the right step forward to get your maps play time on actual servers. Even if you are just wanting to create a fun non-competitive tourney map, the guide will still be of use. C. Thanks Before I get started I would just like to thank all of the guys over at the Promode Forums for putting up with all the testing of my maps and for actually showing me most of this stuff. II. Getting StartedA. Links First of all, there are already some very informative articles out there which have a great deal of useful information in them. Much of what this guide says is simply shadowing what some of these articles have already said. 1. Articles: - TwoAM's Level Design article (Link Not Available) - DM4 Discussion (Link Not Available) - Lunaran's Design Theory (Link Not Available) - Gameplay is King (Link Not Available) - HowTo: Level Design (Link Not Available) - Spawnpoint article (Link Not Available) 2. Forums: - Promode Forums (Link Not Available) - CPMA.ORG.UK Forums (Link Not Available) - XSReality (Link Not Available)B. Decision Time Before you even start your map, you should decide exactly what you are wanting to do with the map. This is A Good Thing(tm) to do for any map you do, not just tourney. So you need to decide if you really want to do a competitive tourney map, or if you'd rather just do a "fun" tourney map. What's the difference? Well, the biggest visible difference occurs in the layout/item placement area. But there are also hidden differences one can only see during the design/creation stage. This is because the mind set that you need for one type of map verses the other is completely different. So in doing a "serious" tourney map, the whole design process is going to be different from a "fun" tourney map. You will have to constantly test the map with players who know what they are doing, and you will also have to make every decision based on how it will affect the gameplay of your map. "Fun" tourney maps, on the other hand, usually will have a decent layout, but on average, will not have enough depth or complexity to quench the thirsts of the more serious players. These type of maps will also usually focus as much attention on the looks part of it as the gameplay part of the map.C. Drawing Up a Layout So now that you have correctly chosen the path of the Enlightened (making a competitive tourney map of course!), you will need to design a layout for the map. This step is the single most important part to the map, so much care and thought is needed in the process of the design stage One thing to caution in designing your layout is careless randomness. Although starting out with a "kewl room" and "going with the flow" to create your level might seem like the right thing to do at the time, in the long run it will most likely cripple your map. This is because, unless you're an expert at this stuff, making rooms as you go results in a layout which usually doesn't work very well and lacks the depth and strategy needed in a tourney map. Instead, you should intelligently come up with a design either on paper or in your head. You don't need to necessarily come up with every little detail of the level, but at least get a rough layout of the map going. In the alpha and beta stages you will most likely end up making many small changes to the layout so you don't need to be worrying too much about the first few layout attempts Here is an example of a rough sketch I did for my level wvwq3dm3: [See Pt. III of this guide for more details on designing your layout.] D. Testing Time This next part is also quite crucial to the design of your map. Once you get that killer layout drawn out, churn out a simple little alpha map for some players to get a hold of. In this first alpha map, you want to get all of that basic layout that you thought/drew out and apply it to 3D brush form. Don't worry about any texturing, detailing, or lighting in this first version. You just want to get the basic "skeleton" worked out. This includes one of the hardest parts for many mappers–getting the scale right. So the main purpose of these earlier map testing projects is for getting a feel of what works and what doesn't. To do this, you'll probably want to enlist the help of a clan or some players from one of the forums I have linked above. If the general consensus of the testers is that the map's layout doesn't have what it takes, suck it in and scrap the map. After all, that's why you're doing an alpha–to see if the layout works. Often, even if the layout isn't all that great to start with, enough changes to it in the early stages of design can improve the gameplay drastically. A sample shot from the alpha of my level wvwq3dm6: III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose This section is going to attempt to go into detail on some of the design theory behind creating good layouts. I will first make some simple definitions in an attempt to give the mapper a clear view on what exactly it is that he is mapping for. I will then go into more detail, describing the different aspects of a good layout. However, this section will not try to give you a quick "easy-as-1-2-3" way to making great maps. Instead, when you understand the basic fundamentals, you will be able to apply what you know to an actual map. Just remember that experience is the best teacher though. You can know all the fundamentals in the world, but experience will still take you that extra step and make it that much easier to create your maps.B. Definitions1. Tournament Mode [also called: tourney, 1-on-1, DM, match play] A type of play, specifically in the FPS genre of games, in which two and only two players oppose one another with the single goal of "scoring" more "points" than their opponent. They must do this by killing their opponent more often than they themselves are killed. a. Basic: In its simplest form, players would "float" in an empty 2D space with absolutely no interferences or boundaries. Also, players would be completely balanced in that there would be only one single method (weapon) to "score" on their opponent by. One hit would kill, and there would be nothing to pick up. Players would reappear after being scored upon exactly as they were before. b. Complex: Quake 3 has added many things to complicate this process though, and in this case, complicating things is a good thing to do. Roaming around an empty space with no items would get awfully boring after about three seconds. There are two main "devices" which Quake3 utilizes to create a fun and strategic experience for Tourney Mode–3D Levels and Items.2. Device #1 - Levels The function of the level is to create a continually interesting playing field for the players. Without any items at all, a level already presents several new strategies for the players. All of these strategies in and of themselves give the players sufficient reason to traverse the level, if only to gain the tactical edge. a. Higher Ground: Players on higher ground (a higher ledge or floor) have several advantages over the lower player. (1) Higher weapon utility - weapons "work" better because your line of sight opens up more and because you may use the floor as a backstop for any splash damage weapons. (2) More freedom of movement - Players at higher levels have more choices since they can simply drop down to any lower level they wish. (3) Cover - Players may take cover more easily by using the floor/walkway that their feet are on as cover simply by moving back out of sight from the player below. b. Multiple Routes: Players can now make intelligent decisions as to which routes they will and will not take. This allow for much more strategy since it will make the players have to predict which route their opponent has taken at any given moment. It also allows for new gameplay opportunities such as ambushes and route cut-offs. c. Cover: Level architecture provides important coverage of players so they are not in the line-of-sight of their enemies all the time. d. Distinct Geographic Features: Levels provide players with useful information as to where they are in location to their opponent and to the rest of the level. This allows the player to create a mental map of the level in his head.3. Device #2 - Items a. Control: This is one of the most important functions/aspects of an item set. Players must now relocate from their starting position to the locations of different important items in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent. He may do so either by gaining a better weapon, gaining more life (in the form of health or armor), or a combination of the two. With this, the idea of control is introduced. Players must now find the best way to be able to gain all the items needed to gain the upper hand while still fighting off his opponent. b. Higher Ground: As stated in the Level category, weapons further the desire of players to attain a higher position than their adversaries. This is due in part to the increased line of sight, therefore making their weapons more effective. It is also due to the way splash damage weapons work. Since they explode on contact with any surface, it is naturally easier to hit someone from above since the radius of possibly damaging them is greatly increased with the induction of the floor. c. Ceiling Splash Damage: Splash damage weapons also introduce the possibility for ceiling splash damage. This is often a way for the mapper to give as much or more power to the lower level players. The mapper must make sure to have the upper floor ceilings low enough for this to be effective if he wishes to implement this strategy. d. Sound Cues: Due to Quake 3 having assigned sounds with the pickup of items, players can now predict where their opponents are based on the sounds of items they hear. This leads to all sorts of new strategies for players to take advantage of. They now have reason to bypass a certain item due to it possibly giving away their position.C. Fundamentals1. Verticality As you probably remember from the definitions section, this is one of the aspects that a level may introduce to increase the playability and strategy of the map. The intelligent mapper must take advantage of the 3D space allotted to him by creating multiple tiers/levels to further the gameplay of his map. With proper verticality, the gameplay will be greatly diversified and interesting. So how do you create good verticality in your map? (as opposed to bad verticality) Well, besides the obvious point of adding more levels to it, there are also specific ways you can create interesting play. Here is one way: In the first design, the mapper has foolishly decided to put all three levels directly on top of each other. (Silly mapper!) Thus, the only possibly way of adding visible connections between the levels will have to be through the use of holes made in the floor. The second picture shows a better way to layout your tiers. In this method, the mapper offsets the different levels so players can have much more contact with players on other levels than their own. 2. Balance [Lunaran's explanation] A perfectly balanced map would ultimately be pretty boring to play. See the link above for a very good explanation of what too much balance can do for a map.On the other hand, a completely unbalanced map can also make for boring play in that the first player to gain control will keep control easily. The ideal is a map in which there is enough unbalance to make it interesting yet not so much as to make it overwhelmingly controllable. DM4 is one of the more unbalanced maps you will find, yet it is also one of the most popular precisely for that reason. - Symmetry - Please, do not make your levels completely symmetric. This effectively halves the gameplay of the level since there is now only half of the level which is unique. The only reason q3tourney2 can get away with being symmetrical is because it has an asymmetric item placement. Even then, q3tourney2's gameplay is severely limited because of its symmetry. 3. Flow [Lunaran's explanation] Generally, a map needs to have a circular flow on the macro level. Not necessarily resembling a circle, but a flow in which the player doesn't have to turnaround and do a 180 all the time but instead can just run around the map in loops. Flow is very closely related to the layout of a map, so you'll want to see that section for more info. - Dead Ends - Generally, dead ends are a very, very bad thing. They abrupt the flow and slow down the gameplay. But every so often the mapper can in fact use a dead end to house an important item. DM4's MH deadend is probably the best example of this. The player has to risk being trapped in the deadend in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent by gaining the MH. 4. Connectivity [Lunaran's explanation] This is a word often used to describe a well-playing level. People often say "That level has good connectivity." The word actually describes how well players areallowed to flow throughout the map from one section to another. The more paths/openings a level has, the more connective it will probably be. It is always good to have a somewhat high connectivity because this gives the player options on where to go, resulting in increased strategy. Just be careful not to make too many passages from one area to another, otherwise it turns into Swiss Cheese and loses the effectiveness of the layout. Achieving proper connectivity often can be a difficult thing to do for many mappers. Often maps suffer from what I call "room-hall-room" syndrome. This iswhere the player can easily tell one section of a map from another due to there being strict and distinct passages from one area to another, thus creating poor choke-points and bad gameplay. Instead, the mapper should attempt to create a continuously flowing map where rooms flow into other rooms. Maybe an illustration will help: As you can see, the first pic is simply a room connected to another via a simple stairway. Not only does this create a very bad choke point, but it also creates bad connectivity. The second pic shows another possible way, which would provide much more connectivity. There are now 3 possible routes from the lower level to the upper level. One route via jumppad takes you to an even higher level (3), the second route uses a teleporter, and the third route use the stairs method. 5. Scale This aspect of the layout is often one of the hardest to nail down for many mappers. One must strike a balance between too large/open and too small/tight. Onething that helps is to look at some other good maps and get a feel for the scale used in them. You could even use the -bsp2map function of bspc to create a pseudo test map to check out the maps scale and quantify it. For example, with my map wvwq3dm5, I de-compiled CPM1A since I was wanting my map to be similar to it in scale. I then measured the distances between different floors, measured the width of walkways, and measured the distance of various jumps.Also, another important thing which the mapper needs to get right is the "chunkiness" of the architecture. Paper thin walls don't do well for gameplay or for aesthetics. Here are some specs to help you out (none of these are "official", just what I have observed): - Walkways - CPM1,3 type = 128 units wide. 192 units is also common, and if you're doing major hallways/walkways you will need even larger. - Distance between Levels/Floors - Average seems to be about 256 units. - Atrium Size - 1024 units for smaller/tighter maps - Wall Thickness - 64 units D. Layout Types Over the years, there have been a number of basic layout types that have worked. Just by looking at the major successful 1v1 maps you can already start tocategorize them into various groups. Here are some of the most common layouts that have worked: Note: These are just here for guidance. Don't think for a minute that you HAVE to follow these layouts. Feel free to experiment and find what is best. 1. Single Atrium [hub3aeroq3, q2dm1, q1dm4, cpm7] This type of layout consists of only one main area with smaller sub-areas usually surrounding the main atrium. Since there is only one atrium, there's often fouror more separate levels to the map. Flow usually ends up being somewhat circular on the outside of the main area with players inextricably pouring into the middle for the main fights. Play is usually very fast with mid-ranged hide-and-seek type play from multiple levels in the main atrium. On the "outside loop" the play usually results in quick up close and personal skirmishes. Item placement usually consists of the armors on opposite sides of the outer loop, and a major item such as Mega Health in the central atrium. 2. Duel Atrium [cpm1a, cpm3, hub3tourney1 (cpm12), ik3dm2] The seemingly undisputed champion of recent Quake 3 maps. This layout consists of two separate atriums (large rooms) which are connected "at the hip" There are usually at least three distinct tiers (levels) to each atrium with hallways/passages winding all about the two atriums going from tier to tier via stairways, jumppads, or teleporters. As far as item placement goes, you'll often find an RL and an armor of some kind in each atrium. This item placement works here because the pair of RL's and pair of armors correspond to the 2 players who are dueling in the map. Duel-Atrium style often results in there being a player in each atrium for half the time, and then the other half of the time will be brief medium distance fighting. It also can create "armor running" in which a player traverses from one atrium to the other to grab both armors and remain in control of the map. A duel-atrium map will usually result in a figure-8 style of flow, therefore keeping players on the go all the time. 3. Tri Atrium [ospdm4 (mrcq3t6), pro-q3dm6] This layout often leads to the most strategic and complex, albeit slower games. Although the gameplay can't really be compared to that of the duel-atrium style,one could still say its basically a duel-atrium map with a third room tacked on. This third atrium may be either larger or smaller than the other two. Since there is a bigger footprint with this style, there are often only two or three floors at any one point in the level. Players will now not see each other quite as often as in other styles of layouts, and when they do, it will more likely be at longer distances. Item placement can be similar to the duel-atrium style with an armor in the two equal sized atriums. The third atrium, depending on its size will usually serve as either the main fighting forum, or as a regrouping area for down players. E. Examples One of the best ways to develop a layout is to look at current map layouts that work. This section will specifically analyze three different maps, one from eachof the categories above. 1. HUB3AEROQ3 [single atrium] This map's layout, originally developed by Preacher, is probably one of the best examples of the fast play a single-atrium map induces. The map has a total of 4 floors for players to traverse on. As you can see in the following illustration, the lowest section/floor is in the center of the map. It then gradually increases inheight as the players make a complete circle around the center atrium. The 2 teleporters in the center bottom create good opportunity for the player to get to both the mid and top levels. This results in players being seen only sporadically in the central atrium at different ledges and also jumping down into the teleporters and vanishing from the wide open. The teleporter on the left hand side however, is the key one. The area surrounding the GA teleporter is often subject to a number of heated battles due to the fact that the teleporter takes you from the bottom of the map to the top very quickly. Not only that, but it also give the player quick access to the railgun up top. As far as item placement goes, the second pic shows how the red and yellow armors have been places separate at opposite ends of the outer loop. Also, the Megahealth's placement in the middle creates many interesting fights in which players can come from any number of areas and angles by simply dropping down. Lastly, the Green Armor area, with its important teleporter, functions as a regrouping area for down or newly respawned players. - Here is a key control point for the up player. The area in red represents where the player can be to have access to all of these areas. The blue lines representtop level routes and Lines Of Sight (LOS) which the players have immediate access to. The green lines represent drop down routes and LOS's which the playeralso has access to. Not only does the player have access to all of these, but he also can guard the important RG teleporter, and more importantly the MH area. One disadvantage of this area is that the player can't directly defend the RA area, therefore leaving his opponent open to grab the RA. 2. CPM1A [duel atrium] One of the most popular CPM maps ever, and my personal favorite, this map sports a nifty duel-atrium style which works very well. Three major floors make up the map (although you can't see that from the pic below). What you can see, however, is the general flow of the map. The two atriums are connected diagonally with the hallways wrapping around in between. The single set of reciprocal teleporters are very important to the map due to the fact that players can venture from the bottom to the top very quickly. This results in many great fights because the top level players who are in the hallway section can keep track of both teleporters at once, therefore maintaining control. But if the up player decides to get either Yellow Armor, he has to give up his position of control for a moment, therefore allowing the down player to regain control. There are also the 2 jumppads that are shown in the pic which allow for vertical mobility. These are not used as often, but may allow players to sneak up on their opponents or launch surprise attacks. In the second pic, you can see how the author has decided to separate the armors at opposite ends of the map, in separate atriums, and at separate levels. This makes it harder to run the armors for the up player, but instead makes the player have to work for it. - This next pic shows one of the key control areas to the map. The red area is where the player will often be. Here, he will have access to the YA to the left, and the 2 25h's behind him. On the upper level, the player has 3 options to take. These are again represented by the blue lines. The green lines once again represent the LOS areas which the player may keep track of their opponents. With the railgun, this upper player is in one of the best positions due to the multiple routes and multiple LOS's he has access to. Not to mention the teleporter LOS. Probably the only big disadvantage to this position is the difficulty it is getting out of it. The player has to either turn around and go down the dangerous hallway with their opponent potentially waiting for them, or he has to jump into the wide open atrium to get to any of the other areas (blue & green lines). This leaves him open to any kind of attacks that his opponent might launch on him. - This final pic shows another key control area for the player. Once again there are 3 good upper level escape routes/LOS's (blue lines) and 3 good lower levelescape routes/LOS's (green lines). The player also has a LOS's to the full set of reciprocal teleporters, meaning he can fully control them, therefore keeping the player on the bottom level better. For items, the player has access to the mid-level YA and either 50h. But to do this, he must make the dangerous wide open jump across, opening himself up to attacks once again. 3. PRO-Q3DM6 [Tri Atrium] This map, being the favorite id map of many players for competitive play, is one of the few tri-atrium tourney maps that work. Even though the q3dm6 layout is very large and spread out, the map shrinks immensely when learned and due to the speeds which players can get to in the map. The pic below shows the relative sizes of the 3 atriums. As you can see, the middle one is the largest and the two outside ones are slightly smaller and elongated. The flow is very circular, taking the players from one atrium to the next in sequence. Most passages eventually lead to the center however, therefore creating the most action in this central atrium. With the addition of the bottom-to-top level jumppad in the center and also the MH, this makes for some very interesting action. Due to the extreme verticality in the center of the map, many long range hide-and=seek fights occur with the railgun/rocket launcher. In the side atriums however, fights usually will be more horizontal with long LOS's therefore once again making the railgun an important asset. This is why the railgun has been intelligently placed at the end of a somewhat dangerous pathway. Players must either travel along the pathway, or make a dangerous jump from the RL platform. In the second pic below (the gray one), you'll notice that the armors have been placed for maximum separation between each other. This is to prevent easy armor-running by the up player. The MH's position is much like that of HUB3AEROQ3 in that it has been placed in the bottom middle, making it a dangerous item to grab. - Here is one of the primary control points of the map. When the player is anywhere in the red-zone, he has two top level routes/LOS's (blue lines), two mid-level routes/LOS's (green lines), and 2 bottom level routes/LOS's (yellow line). This allows the player to guard all entry points to the MH, therefore allowing him to grab the MH himself. It also allows the player to escape via any number of routes if in conflict. One disadvantage is the jumppad right ahead of the player. This can allow for his opponent to get right in his face very quickly, possibly allowing his opponent to regain control. IV. Item Placement A. Purpose In the last section, it was mentioned that items are one of the devices used to complicate gameplay. This section will further go into how to place items in your level–when to put something in, when not to, where to put it, etc. There, of course, isn't any set rules for this kind of thing, but there's plenty of useful previous knowledge which may be applied to your current maps.B. Weapons We'll start with the most important items of course! Without weapons, play would get boring extremely fast. With Quake 3, id decided to try and balance the weapons as much as possible. Why you ask? Because if any one weapon completely ruled everything else, players would end up only going for that weapon and once they got it, would be able to easily control the map. (see BFG) And on the opposite end of the spectrum, if any one weapon was weaker than everything else by a large margin (besides your spawn weapon), there would be no point in having it. What unfortunately ended up happening though was that the hitscan (mainly the railgun and machine gun) weapons began to rule play. This resulted in gameplay which relied on pure aiming skill as opposed to the skill of the player as a whole. Since then, Promode has fixed this problem with a number of weapon tweaks to the weapons. So now, in Promode the weapons are balanced a little bit better with the RL, LG, and RG being the "terrific three" of the lot. So where does that leave the mapper? Well, with the weapon set being like it is, the mapper doesn't get many choices. Currently, pretty much 99% of the competitive tourney maps have the following weapons: SG, GL, RL, LG. The RG is also in most maps, but every once in awhile it is excluded. The PG is in every once in awhile it seems, depending on the map. BFG almost never (although that might change with the new CPM changes to it) So there is not really that much question as to WHAT weapons you should put in your map (with the exception of the PG and RG), now just a question of WHERE you should put them.1. Shotgun (SG) a. Utility - The shotgun is a frequently understated weapon which used in the right hands can deal some heavy blows. It is most often useful to the down playerbecause it is a step up from the MG and gives the player something to use until he gets a major weapon. The weapon's effectiveness is directly proportional to the type of map it is–tighter maps mean it is more powerful, larger, more open maps mean it is less effective. Plan accordingly. b. Placement - I've noticed that in most maps the SG is placed in a somewhat well frequented area, yet off to the side and not the center of the attention. Also, if you are wanting the down player to be able to grab it quick, make sure there are a few respawns close by. c. Amount - Usually 1. Sometimes 2 depending on the map. d. Ammo - To give down players even more of an edge, one may include an ammo pack right next to the weapon. Other than that, the SG doesn't usually need all that ammo around the level, if any at all because the players don't often use the SG enough to warrant the need. If you do put ammo in, 1 pack should be enough.2. Grenade Launcher (GL) a. Utility - Another overlooked weapon, the GL can also be useful to the down player. In close combat, a direct ‘nade to the face can cripple a player's opponent. The weapon may also be used in conjunction with other weapons to confuse the player into either stepping onto a grenade or walking into the line of fire of another weapon. Third, grenades can be very useful to block off different areas temporarily or to spam lower levels when you know the player is below. Overall, the GL adds a lot of depth to a level. It provides for more interesting fights (although it can slow down play sometimes), therefore it is almost always good to have a GL in. b. Placement - Two schools of thought on this: Place it high and encourage spamming, or place it low to discourage spamming. Both are actually valid techniques, but it really depends on the map and what the mapper is wanting to do with it. Just know the consequences of the placement ahead of time. c. Amount - Almost always one. d. Ammo - Really doesn't need any usually. However, if it's a rather large level or you are wanting to produce spamming, then include a pack of ammo.3. Rocket Launcher (RL) a. Utility - Ah, the mighty Rocket Launcher! With Promode's changes to its velocity and damage, it is now the major weapon to have. Its vast possibilities for use is one of the reasons why it is so popular. Players can use it in close battles to bounce their opponents around, mid-range battles by predicting where their opponent is going to be and usually hitting them with splash damage via walls or ceilings, and long range to protect certain doorways or spam various areas. It also, of course, allows the player much more vertical mobility with the rocket jump. b. Placement - Most often, the RL will end up being not only a highly used weapon, but also a spamming weapon. Because of this, it is usually good to place any RL's in the map in the more frequented areas. Place them in central locations making the player expose himself to get it. If you decide to have two RL's in your map (which is usually a good idea) you will most likely want to spread them apart in opposite atriums and likely on different floors. c. Amount - 1 or 2. It seems as if more and more maps are sporting 2 RL's as this allows for more rocket spamming and lets each player grab an RL, making it a somewhat standard weapon when dueling. d. Ammo - If you are wanting to encourage spamming, you'll want a few ammo packs in your map also. With 2 RL's, not as many packs are needed, but it might work to put an ammo pack next to one of the RL's (CPM1A does this). This makes the one RL more important to control than the other. Overall, 2 or 3 ammo packs is usually good for the RL.4. Lightning Gun (LG) a. Utility - Provides excellent short to mid-range offensive capabilities. Due to its fast (somewhat) hitscan nature, it is often used in combos or to finish off the opponent. The weapon is usually the most effective in smaller single or duel atrium style maps where long range battles don't come into play as much. b. Placement - From what I've noticed on maps, the weapon is usually placed in a "sub-area" or side room off the main area. This area is frequented every so often, although not continually. So why does this type of location usually work for the LG? I think its because the LG is more of a specialized weapon, and something that needs to be sought after to get. Its usually in a side area because this creates just enough danger (but not too much danger) to allow the players to grab the weapon, yet still make for interesting battles over it. c. Amount - Definitely only 1 is needed. d. Ammo - Usually, the mapper wants to make the ammo somewhat scarce in order to limit the weapon somewhat. Sometimes there is an ammo pack a hop, skip, and a step away to allow the player a little more long lasting flavor with the weapon. Only do this if you don't think the LG is powerful enough as is, and needs a bit of extra ammo to keep up with the other weapons. Otherwise, just place 2 or 3 ammo packs around the map in order to make the player have to move around to stay loaded.5. Railgun (RG) a. Utility - Covers the long-range combat aspect quite well. Also may be used in combos to finish off enemies. Acts as a great spawn-raper in Promode unfortunately (or fortunately depending on who you are) Can be over-powering in more open maps, so its inclusion is not always a good idea. b. Placement - By default, the RG is a very dangerous weapon. Therefore it needs to be in a somewhat dangerous location. Either place it in the open, making players have to expose themselves, or place it in a dangerous area like a small dead-end or 2-door area. For example, CPM1A's RG placement is perfect because it makes the player very susceptible to an attack from his opponent, and initially renders the weapon not as effective since it is on the lowest level. Careful when thinking about putting it at a top level, as this might encourage unneeded sniping. c. Amount - If you do decide to include the railgun, never include more than one. d. Ammo - Almost always none. Every once in awhile 1 pack which is dangerous to grab.6. Plasma Gun (PG) a. Utility - This weapon does decent to good in every area of combat (short to long range), yet it doesn't excel in any. This may be the reason why it is often left out–another weapon can do its job. At close range, the PG can eat away at a players health faster than any other weapon. At medium to long range, the weapon usually serves as more of a defensive weapon through the use of spam. It also is the anti-railgun as it can confuse the player with the RG when his opponent is shooting a bunch of projectiles at him. b. Placement - May usually be placed in a similar manner to the LG. Often it serves as more of a down player weapon, so it may also be placed in an easy to get spot, yet out of the way. c. Amount - No more than 1 if any. d. Ammo - Usually only 1 or 2 packs. If you are wanting more spamming with the PG, for example if the RG is becoming too dominant, give the player more ammo.7. BFG The BFG has no place in the serious tourney map, especially the vQ3 one. It reduces all strategy into a simple "Whoever has the BFG wins" type play. Recently, the Promode mod has made some big changes to the way the BFG works. With these changes, the BFG now acts as a slightly faster, slightly more powerful RL. While with these changes, a level might actually work now with the BFG, I would still have to say to leave it out. It's a bit late in the ballgame to be adding a "new" weapon to the weapon set, and I seriously doubt players would accept the map for tournaments or in leagues because of the BFG–no matter how well it works in the map.C. Ammo I know, I've already gone over this in the weapons section. But here are just a few general rules to follow: - Don't place ammo by its respective weapon. Instead, you should place the ammo a little ways away to make the players traverse the map more. - 3 ammo packs for any single weapon should be the limit. More often than not, 1 or 2 ammo packs will be plenty. - It is usually a good idea to group different types of ammo into groups of 2 or more. This focuses on one area instead of 2 to remember, which makes for both simpler gameplay and better reason to visit the one single area.D. Health Not usually a huge issue in item placement, yet health placement still has some certain guidelines to follow: - 150-250h is usually the range of health per level (not including +5h's) Larger levels require a bit more usually. Also, the amount greatly depends on whether you want players to have access to more health and less armor, or vice versa. For example, CPM1A gives the players a total of 225h which is quite a lot for such a small level. This shifts the focus over to the armors more though. - If there is a Megahealth in the level, less health is needed. - Put health into different types of groups to diversify gameplay. Usually, you'll want to limit it to just a few main areas in the level to group health in. Don't spread the health out too evenly, otherwise gameplay will dull since players will be picking up health every where they go. Place the larger groups of health in more dangerous and fought over areas, and place smaller amounts of health in "down" areas. Just don't make it a kamikaze run for the down player to heal up. - 2x25h vs. 50h - With a 50h in there, players can deny their opponents health easier. With 2x25h, if the player has >75h, he can only take one of the 25h's, therefore leaving the other one for his opponent. Therefore, if in testing, the up player is denying the down player health too often by picking up the 50h's, change them to 25h's.E. Armor/MH Armor is one of the most important items to control in a level, so much care is needed in adding armor to your level. The armor you choose and its placement in the level can dramatically affect your level's gameplay: such as the importance of different areas, the paths players will take, and the balance and controllability of the map.1. Placement A few guidelines regarding the placement of armors: - Spread the armor out as much as possible. You don't want players to be able to run the armors too easily. - The danger in grabbing an armor should match its respective armor. Meaning the RA should be more dangerous to get than the YA and the YA should be more dangerous to get than the GA (Green Armor). Note: "dangerous" doesn't necessarily include world dangers like lava or the void. The danger can also be in relation to the other player. For example, if an armor is out in the open on a bottom floor, the player must expose himself to possible attacks from a number of angles. - There should be interesting architecture and sufficient verticality surrounding most armor locations. This is because the area of the armors will most likely be fought in the most, so the players need different angles and levels to attack from. - One thing that has been successful in the past is to put an armor (specifically the RA) in an easily camp-able/defendable spot such as the RA+MH in Q1DM2. What this will do is give the down player a chance to control the armor even with limited weaponry due to the chokepoints going to the armor. If done right, this results in some very interesting fights for control of the major armor. Note that the rule above about interesting space should be more important than ever if you are to use this method. - The GA often serves as an armor for the down player, so place it accordingly. Often the GA will be placed in a regrouping area out of the way. - Treat the MH as a kind of armor. It usually has slightly higher precedence than the YA, but not quite as high as the RA.2. Sets There are quite a few combinations of armors one can have in a level. Here are a few of them (Taken from Pure Imaginary's post in this thread - Link Not Available😞 a. 2 YA (MH) - Often ends up in players armor running the map all the time. Usually more fast-paced but often results in an unbalanced map when one player is able to run the armors. An MH is useful in making for better games since it gives for the down player a chance to get back up. b. 1 RA, 1 YA (MH) - Similar to the 2 YA system. The map usually must support this set by being unbalanced in relation to the RA and YA. No third armor makes it hard for the down player to get back up if both the RA and YA have been taken. The addition of the MH makes play more interesting since it will often up RA vs. MH+YA. c. 1 RA, 2 YA (MH) - Better player will often end up with RA + YA by running armors. If the map can somehow allow for RA vs. 2 YA fights, it will be better. An MH will further mix up things, making the inevitable armor runs not as effective. d. 1 RA, 1 YA, 1 GA (MH) - Balances out the map more because the down player can grab the GA+YA against the up RA player, therefore making the RA weaker. With the MH thrown in, the down player can now attack the RA player and possibly gain the advantage. e. 1 YA, X GA (MH) - With 1 GA, this system becomes similar to the 1 RA, 1 YA system except the MH will become more important. With 2 GA's, it is similar to the 1 RA, 2 YA system, except once again armor isn't as important as health.F. Other1. Powerups/Holdables These items (quad, enviro, regen, invis, haste, flight, medkit, and personal tele) absolutely have NO place in a competitive tourney map. Why you ask? Powerups don't belong in a level because they are all based on a certain amount of time that they are effective. Because of this, whenever a player has a powerup, his opponent simply can run and hide until the powerup is gone, therefore slowing up the game immensely. The medkit isn't good because its annoying to have your opponent use it right as you're about to kill him. The Personal Teleporter isn't good because it makes the game too gimmicky–you'd never know if your opponent is about to disappear. 2. Shards/+5h's These items are often overlooked and just randomly placed in areas, but they can actually serve some quite useful purposes. - They provide important sound cues as to where the opponent is. Because of this, it is always good to put shards/+5h's in varying numbered groups. If the mapper does this, a player can know where his opponent is based on whether he hears 3 shards or 4 shards being picked up. Groups almost always range from 2-5 shards/+5h's. - Shards/+5h's can also make certain areas more powerful than others. The classic example is q3tourney2 in which the 10 shards in the main room make that room much more valuable to control (as far as armor goes) than the other YA room. - Important to the down player. A down player in CPM can pick up a single shard after he respawns and therefore be alive even after a RG hit. V. Level Design ConsiderationsA. Purpose This section will focus on the other aspects of level design besides gameplay. These aspects, however unrelated they may seem to be, will still be directly or indirectly related to the gameplay of the map.B. Architecture This topic is often misunderstood by many mappers. Many mappers love the kind of architecture that makes the map more "pretty" while the players want the kind of architecture that makes the map more interesting to play in. Often times, mappers have the false idea that players want completely empty rooms with "padded walls" when in fact the opposite is true. Now, when I say architecture, I'm talking about any brushwork that the player can interact with or move around which will result in more interesting play. Well placed architecture can provide players with a number of things such as cover, higher ground, lines-of-sight, and trickjumps. Here are some ideas to help you when doing architecture:Cover - A simple pole or obstruction in the middle of the room (such as in q3tourney2) can make an area a whole lot more fun to play in. Players hide and seek around the obstruction taking quick shots at one another. Castle-wall type structures (also could be bars in a window) also provide an interesting dynamic to the gameplay of a map. As players walk by, they are exposed every so often because they are not behind a structure. Higher Ground - Simple deviance in elevations can greatly change the way an area plays. A few stairs here and there to change the height of one area over another make for better fights in general. Just be careful not to make your floors too "bumpy", otherwise players will get annoyed at not being able to aim correctly. - NOTE - One thing to watch out for when doing your level is low overhangs such as doorways. Its not usually good to be speeding through the level only to run your head into a doorway that's 16 units too low.Lines-of-Sight - Fully detailed levels can provide for more interesting play if they can give the players better angles in which to attack from. For example, an L-shaped hallway with completely flat walls will not be as fun as if the hallway's halls were riveted and the corners were rounded off a bit .If this were to happen, when players are at opposite ends of the L-shaped hallway, the architecture would allow them to fight better by shooting through the rivets or bouncing grenades off the angled walls. Here is a pic in case you didn't catch what I was saying: The top drawing shows the flat-walled cornered hallway. The only option the players have is move forward into sight in order to fight their opponents. The second drawing however, shows the more detailed walled, angled cornered hallway. The green represents the "riveting" in the wall which can be shot through at certain angles/heights. Players now have more angles to shoot their opponents from without giving away cover, and also may bounce grenades off the angled walls or use splash damage more effectively. Trickjumps - One of the best things that the mapper can unknowingly do when adding architecture is to give the players more options by trickjumping. More will be said about this later on in the guide, but for now, know that well placed architecture will inevitably spawn trickjumps. For example, any small changes in height such as stairs will automatically allow the players to double-jump off them (in CPM of course!). Any ramped brushes such as trims will also allow the players to reach areas they couldn't before hand. For this reason, adding ramped trims to the sides of stairways can often be a way to introduce more trickjumps. C. Clipping Closely related to architecture, clipping is often overused in levels. Its really not all to hard to know when to clip. Here is the key thing to remember: The clipping of a level should match the visual This means that if it looks like a player should be able to get caught on a light fixture, don't clip it off! If it looks like a player can get up on top of a roof, don't block it off! So when do you use clip brushes? - Clip bumpy floors to smooth them out. Players never like it when they can't aim due to being constantly jumbled around while running along. - Use angled clips to smooth out certain details jutting out from walls. Just be careful not to use it too extensively. D. Aesthetic Just a few notes about the aesthetics of a map. First of all, many mappers have a misconception that players care nothing for the aesthetics of a map when in fact they do. They like a good looking map just as much as the rest of us. But the crucial difference is that they care for the gameplay of that map a lot more than its looks. Also, when developing the aesthetic of the map, make sure to test it out in different configs to make sure it works. For example, a higher picmip setting on some textures could potentially wash out any distinguishing features–therefore making it harder for the player to navigate the level. Another thing that aesthetic is good for is to mark different areas of a map. Things such as weapons, items, different rooms, and floors can be marked with distinguishing textures to allow the players to navigate the level better. So don't feel confined to doing the same old plain gothic aesthetic. Feel free to make your map good looking and well playing at the same time. Just be sure that the aesthetic never hurts the playability or performance of the map. E. Lighting Lighting is closely related to the aesthetic of a map. The brightness of the lighting in a map has been discussed between mappers and players frequently in the past. Mappers argue that they want their maps to have moody atmospheres, and players just want to be able to see their opponents. Lighting however, really shouldn't be that big of an issue. In a standard competitive player config, pretty much any map will be bright enough, and if it isn't, you are doing something terribly wrong. So just develop the map to look good in lightmap mode, and every once in awhile, check it in a player's config to make sure it looks okay in vertex mode. As long as the lighting has no affect on the gameplay, feel free to do whatever you want with it to make it look good in lightmap. Once players start complaining about dark areas in the map, you better get it lit. F. Performance Here is another touchy issue for the mapper. There is that magical ratio between performance and looks that every mapper must attain with his map. For the competitive tourney mapper, he must always be watching out for poor performance throughout his map. So how do you know where to stop adding detail and start optimizing? The best way is to have the map tested on a number of different systems in order to see if there are any slowdown areas. Many mappers rely on the r_speeds tool, but this doesn't take into account a number of other performance hogs such as fill rate and overdraw. For this reason, checking the framerate in conjunction with checking the r_speeds is the best method for you yourself to test the map. Things to watch out for: - shaders with multiple stages can greatly increase the amount of fill on the screen. - texture use: check \imagelist and make sure your texel count isn't too high. What's too high? Compare with other maps. - overdraw will result in extra tris and pixels being drawn. Hint/build properly. - as a general guide, r_speeds usually need to stay below 7 or 8k - in major areas that will see a lot of action (not that kind of action...), watch out for slow downs with both players in there spamming each other. - speaking of spam (mmm... spam), if you decide to have the PG in the level, watch out for slow downs with that weapon - often overlooked, if you are wanting the level to play well with bots, make sure to simplify the map with botclips as much as possible. Also, if you can, try to clusterportal the map. This will relieve the CPU a bit and will hopefully make the map play better with bots. VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps While it isn't necessarily required for a level to have trick jumps, they do add certain extra dimensions to the level. Trick jumps allow skilled players to be rewarded (in the form of an item or strategic advantage) taking jumps or risks they normally wouldn't. Trick jumps also add to the "cool factor" of playing a map and watching a demo of the map.1. Creation This is one main question about trick jumps that needs to be answered however. Do you, the mapper, knowingly add trick jumps to your map, or do you allow the players to find the jumps themselves? It seems as if everybody has a different opinion about this (as demonstrated in THIS thread - Link Not Available). On the one hand, players like to discover trick jumps on their own. Obvious trick jumps that look like the mapper put them in are never as good as the player found trick jumps. But on the other hand, its extremely difficult for the mapper not to know about the trick jumps in his map. Unless of course, he's a bad Q3 player. So this still leaves us with the question of what to do about trick jumps. I personally think the best way to go is to make the map in such a way that there will be trick jumps that are somewhat obvious (although not forced) and then there will be trickjumps which will be brought up to the surface as the map gets played more. This is one of the many marks of a great tourney map. If the map has been built right (plenty of architecture, not "padded-walls"), trick jumps should show up. 2. Types Promode has introduced a number of new possibilities as far as trick jumps go. If you're not an avid player of Promode, yet still want to map for it (is this possible? ) then you'll want to know the trick jumps available. There are a number of articles written which explain the Promode physics and the new trick jumps associated with it. If you really want to get in depth about trick jumps, you'll want to read these: - Promode Movement: Art Meets Science (promode.org) - Link Not Available - Promode Movement (cpma.org.uk) - Link Not Available Here are the basic trick jumps (for explanations on how to do them, see links above) you'll need to be aware of: a. Circle Strafe Jump - Allows players to jump very far distances such as gaps. This can allow for players to take shortcuts or to surprise their opponents. CPM1A's jump from upper YA to opposite path is a good example of this jump in which players can exit quickly after grabbing the YA. b. Double Jump - Allows players to jump greater heights using any varied height surfaces like stairs. A good example would be on CPM3–going from the lava walkway up to the RL using a double jump. Also, since a double jump is due to the player jumping consecutive times in under 400ms, very low ceilings can allow the player to double jump. (e.g - q3dm14tmp) c. Ramp Jump - This jump is another addition of Promode. When players jump off of a ramp, if the ramp is sloping up they will gain vertical speed and if the ramp is sloping down they will gain horizontal speed. The steeper the angle the more effect it has on the movement (up to 45 degrees at least) This presents a number of possibilities to the map. d. Double Ramp Jump - A combination of the double jump and the ramp jump, this trick jump can launch players in many circumstances. It was used extensively on CPM4 with ramped lights, allowing players to get to higher levels quickly. e. Tele Jump - This is essentially a double jump going through a teleporter. The jump allows the player to gain speed quickly after teleporting, or to get to different areas of the map quicker .For example, on CPM1A and CPM3 players can reach areas otherwise impossible to get from that location. In order to allow tele-jumps, make sure the teleporter destination is on the ground and not floating in midair. Also make sure there is nothing in the way for the player to bump their head on when jumping out. f. Framerate based jumps - DO NOT include framerate based jumps in your map. Most often, these come in the form of the 64-unit jump like the one in q3dm13 to the MH. Pmove_fixed has partly fixed this problem, but its still not a good idea.B. In-Game Sounds Adding target_speakers to the level to generate ambient sounds is not usually a good idea. It will only serve to hinder the gameplay, so its best to leave them out. Players need to concentrate on their opponents and the sounds associated with them picking up items–not on world noises. C. World Dangers In the right situation, the addition of world dangers can further the gameplay of a certain part of a map. World dangers include lava, slime, void, and traps. Often if the mapper decides to include a world danger, he should place it around an important item like MH or RA.1. Lava/Slime Probably the only world danger the mapper should use. Not every level should have this, and when it is used it should be used sparingly. Proper placement will result in making an area of a map more dangerous than others because the player has to risk falling in and hurting himself. Two consideration go along with this. The mapper has to decide how much the lava/slime will hurt the player, and he has to decide how hard to make it to get out of the danger. The dangerousness of the area will of course increase depending on how much hard it is to get out of the lava/slime. 2. Void Probably shouldn't be used. Players get annoyed when they are in the lead, are full of ammo and weapons, and stacked up on armor–and then fall into the void. 3. Traps Unless you can conceive an ingenious trap which will further the gameplay of the map, its probably not a good idea to add any kind of traps. This usually will lend to slow gimmicky gameplay.D. Spawn Points First of all, read over Hoony's spawn points article here (Link Not Available). It explains everything quite well, and the inherent problems associated with the current spawn point system. Besides that article, there aren't really any concrete rules on placing spawn points. So I'm just going to describe some of the effects that may result from doing the spawn points a certain way.1. Amount No, there is not a magical number of spawn points you should put in your map. Just know that fewer spawn points (lets say under 😎 will often result in more spawn-raping. But then again, more spawn points could make it more likely for the down player to spawn directly in front of his up opponent therefore giving him a free kill. Note that spawn-raping isn't always necessarily a bad thing. That is one of the things that made dm4 such a great level–the frag runs that could be had by the experienced player. So if it's a type of level where you want more spawn-raping to occur, than lower the spawn point count. 2. Location Once again, it comes down to what you are wanting in your level. If most of the level is open and railgun spawn-raping is a problem, it might be a good idea to put more spawns in untraveled, unexposed areas. Generally you will want to place most spawns in less traveled areas anyway. Also, make sure to keep them near walls and out of major pathways–otherwise you might get unwanted spawn frags.One other thing you can do is place spawn points on major items such as armors or the MH. This works effectively in maps such as CPM1A and CPM3 because it gives the down player a better chance at survival if he happens to spawn directly on an armor/MH.E. Vertical Transport1. Teleporters Teleporters are probably the best mode of vertical transport when going a somewhat good distance. In recent Q3 maps, it seems as if mappers have almost been afraid to use them, instead focusing more on jumppads. Teleporters are good however, because they keep the flow going better than jump pads. This is because jump pads create stop-and-go type play. Some of the best tourney levels have a number of teleporters, for example dm4 had 5, and aerowalk had 4. Two problems you should be aware of appear when putting a bunch of teleporters in your map. First of all, players can get confused as to which teleporter takes them to which area, thus steepening the learning curve of the map. Not really all that big of a problem since you're not designing the maps for newbies, right? The second problem that arises with the addition of teleporters is the possibility of telefrags. This problem occurs most frequently when the map has reciprocal teleporters. So does that mean you shouldn't include 2-way teleporters? That really depends on the map. CPM3 contains a good implementation of a 2-way teleporter set in that the teleport destination is off set from that actual teleporter by a strafe jump. Some players think telefragging completely ruins a map, while others think it adds strategy to the area. So if, in testing the map, the players complain about telefragging, you might want to reconsider your teleporter system. 2. Jumppads Jumppads are a relatively new addition to tourney maps which Q3 introduced. If you do decide to use jumppads in your level, you must be very cautious as to how you place them. First of all, as mentioned earlier, jumppads often create a stop-and-go type flow, which ends up slowing down the map. Secondly, jumppads can render the player useless and open to any rails that his opponent can get in. With those issues in mind, here are some general rules to abide by when placing jumppads: a. Flight Cover - Unless you're purposely wanting to make a jumppad dangerous to use, you'll want to make sure the jumppad has some kind of cover from enemy line-of-sight. Not necessarily the whole flight, but at least part of the flight. See CPM1A for an example. b. Height - Know when you should be using jumppads as opposed to some other form of movement. If the player just needs to go up a half a level or so, stairs are usually a better mode of transportation. If the player needs to go from the bottom level to the top level, a teleporter might serve better.3. Elevators These kind of got left in the dust after Q2 when Q3 added jumppads. One of the things that was holding them back from being used more extensively in Q3 maps was the borked up sound associated with them. Luckily, arQon has fixed this in his recent CPMA build. Now mappers can associate any sound he wishes with the elevators. So what are elevators good for? They are somewhat multipurpose in that they can serve as vertical transporters for relatively small height changes or multilevel height changes. They also add strategy to the level for two reason. First, players can now hear where their opponent is going depending on what elevators their opponents take. Secondly, players can deny their opponent vertical transport rights by sitting on elevators or guarding elevators. Because of this, make sure that it doesn't hurt the gameplay if a player does do this. Just make sure you tweak the speed of the elevators to fit the gameplay. Nobody likes going up an elevator for what seems like an eternity. Q2DM1's main atrium elevator is a great example of what a lift can add in terms of gameplay. Many an intense fight has occurred on that elevator due to a down player running away from his opponent by trying to get to the top of the map. Another good example is the lift in the recent Q3 map FFDM2. This lift is the single vertical transporter in the room, making it a heated point of battle. A player from below may hear his opponent go up the lift and rocket-jump up to meet him with a shotgun blast to the face. 4. Stairs Ah, the old standby–stairs. Stairs should probably be the most used vertical transport, especially for small height changes. Stairs keep everybody moving and don't hinder gameplay at all. They also can provide for more possibilities for player movement such as trick jumps and so on. Some guidelines: a. Stair-Height - Long flights of stairs usually disrupt the gameplay of a map. Stairs work better for shorter height distances. Replace with a different mode of transport if need be. b. Step-Height - Q3's maps pioneered the 8-unit step height. Recent tourney maps seem to have gone with larger step heights such as 12 or 16 units. Once you do go with a certain step-height, try to maintain some consistency with that step-height throughout the level. Also, remember that higher steps make it easier for players to double-jump off of them. c. Trim - The mapper has the option of adding trim to the stairways of his map. In doing this, he can potentially create a number of new trick jumps in the map, so be aware of that. Source: http://polyculture.co/polyculture/cdg/ Follow JoelWebsite:http://polyculture.co/polyculture/ Twitter:https://twitter.com/mcdjoel Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  19. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying either a game that they are making or one that they are playing! I have been thinking about what to write about, what deep design philosophies can I share with my fellow devs? So many wise thoughts and the one I landed on is “Where is the Toilet?” Now you may be thinking “What the F*** does this have to with Level Design” and I am glad you asked, even though I did not like your sass there. When I ask this question I am asking about the research you have done before building this level and also where is the toilet in your level. (The ‘where is the toilet part’ may not apply to all games or levels) In case you hadn't guessed this post is going to be about Level Designers needing to do more research before starting work on their levels. I know this sounds like an obvious part of level design but I see a lot of young level designers go in and making the level instantly without much thought. I too was guilty of this when I was younger as well. Now when creating anything, the blank screen can be the most intimidating thing ever! We have all been there staring at the screen thinking, “where to begin?” well the answer should always and I mean always…….. No back chat here sonny Jim. Research! So what research am I referring to for level design then? First think of the theme of your level, such as Victorian, utility, native, and also the location of your level as well. A house out in the mountains of Alaska will be designed different to a house in London’s city centre. Gather as many reference pictures as possible for your research. One of my leads (Daniel Molnar, great guy and very intelligent level designer) said to me, “Only when you have 100 pictures, do you start to understand the space” And true to his word he would not let me touch the editor until I had enough pictures, an understanding of the space and how it worked. Thanks to Dan I made a great sewer level and now know the stages of the sewage processing system. So ever since that I ALWAYS try to make sure I make time to do my research, sadly I do not always get as long as I want but I do make sure I have enough pictures to help me create a picture in my head. Now that you understand the location of your level and the theme you want to start looking into the architecture of these buildings and areas. As level designers, we should be looking at architecture regularly. (A cool article on what it was like for architects to work on video games: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php). Look around the room you are sat in now, and see how many indents, angled corners and other shapes there are which make your room Not a box. Once you start to research these things you will start to pick this stuff up. One thing which is noticeable with inexperienced LDs work is all the rooms are boxes. Architecture is where we see a lot of real level design work every day. How their structures of these buildings affects how we move through them, the layout of rooms, what rooms they have in these buildings, space certain rooms may need and how the flow from one room to another works. One of my favourite things to research is floor plans of buildings. Each of these layouts will be different depending on the theme and will obtain different items as well due to the theme. These will not only help influence your design but also help your artist (or artistic side depending on how you are working) understand how to decorate your level and may possibly help you guys come up with interesting methods to signpost. Another reason is you never know what you might see, which could inspire your design and provide you with something even more incredible. Now for example look at this power plant, which in my opinion is super cool, this top catwalk is interesting as instead of the bridges connected maybe the player has to rotate them from the ground floor to get them to join. With all these layers and sections, it looks like a great area for traversal. Being able to go up, around and under this area is amazing. When it comes to white boxing your level you will be able to show these images to your artist and they will be able to understand what you mean by those giant boxes. “Pictures speak a thousand words”. If you were to put a twist on this power plant and to make it feel like a maze, then now you want to start researching what? Mazes! 10 gold stars (Sounded way more patronizing than I meant it to be). So now we can see that there dead ends but also viewpoints to allow players to find their bearings. When designing this level we can add vantage points for players to scan the area for clues, maybe even have loot/collectibles in certain dead ends to reduce player frustration and reward exploration. Summary on why research/reference is important: - Give you a better understanding of what is believable in this theme. - Provide an idea for your artist on what you want. - Inspire your design choices Where is the toilet? Now onto the second part of the blog (I swear readers are going to get sick of that question) of where is the toilet? Dan had now let me work in the editor it now came time for his reviews on my work, and what was the question he asked me for each of my levels! Yeah you know what it is, now we working together on Tom Clancy’s The Division – Underground which in case you do not know is a procedurally generated dungeon expansion in which players travel through the underground areas of New York, from the subway system to the sewers to clear out the threat brewing underneath the civilians feet. Overall the review was going well, the flow was good, it had good landmarks for players to orientate themselves in case they were lost. But Dan felt some of these areas were not believable because there were no toilets. Because the Division is based on reality I had skipped one thought process when doing my research and that was “How would these spaces of been used before chaos struck?” Boom mind blown, I had created these thrilling and high octane areas but not grounded them in reality or the law of my game’s world. Dan then showed me one of the Senior LDs work who was working on a subway level and what did he have….toilets. His space felt not only good to play through but also was grounded by reality. (Some playthroughs of the expansion HERE) These critics’ could have been avoided had I done my research on these areas I was making and thought about how they are originally used and not just how I would use them for good combat or traversal. If you go back and look at those pictures of the floor plans I have in this blog. You will see how all of them have bathrooms laid out on them. The floor plans are mainly residential or commercial buildings so they will. When making your level, (again will not apply to every game or level) think about how was this spaced use before the player reached it and more than likely how did the people inhabiting this space use it? Because if they are bipedal human-like creatures I think we all know that they will need to use the bathroom at some point or another. Next time you are in a realistic gaming setting, try and find the bathroom, as it will most likely be there. Hope this helps guys and “Where is the bathroom?” is a question I keep asking myself when creating my levels as well as researching the buildings, themes, environments etc, for my game. I hope it makes you think about carrying out your research before starting work on your level. Which trust me will make your level much better and more believable. *This article is posted on Next Level Design with the author's permission Source: https://www.gamesfounder.com/articles/do-your-research-wheres-the-toilet-level-design/ Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  20. "An article describing my opinion that art and emotions are an important factor in level design compared to common design“ Index • Introduction • "Small Tale“ • What is Art/Design ? • When is the time to bring art in design ? • Show your own emotions • Creating emotions for the player • Color-itself-contrast: • Bright-dark-contrast: • Cold-warm-contrast: • Simultaneous contrast: • Quantity contrast: • Quality contrast: • Architecture and composition • Imported art • Mistakes which you could do • Final wordsIntroduction First I have to say that this article is based on my own experiences and opinions. I simply want to define another way to see levels in general. Before I wrote this article I talked with a lot of people - level designers and artists who have never touched a computer mouse, like my last art teacher in school. I was in an advanced art course in school and of course - like every normal art student in school - I hated theory and history of art. In the end I think it helped me to understand my own work at the computer in another, better or more interesting way. Of course there are plenty of intolerant people out there who would never like the thinking of some designer geeks who perceive levels as art, but I don‘t care about it, especially if I think back in history. Like you already noticed, I‘m writing this article in a very personal way simply because art and emotions are in my opinion something very personal and I hope even more people think about it in a similar way after reading this article. Sorry for the article being a bit long, but I take the subject matter serious. But I always try to lighten the text with some humor, pictures, small stories and examples.Small Tale Before I really start, I have to tell you a small tale about my school time, where/why I really started to think about art and level design. Every student in a Bavarian/German secondary school has to do in his 13th year of school a major work on his own. I was able to choose between a project in math and one in arts, and you can bet that the decision was definitely an easy one. Of course I decided to do the work in art. I asked my teacher whether I could do something with the Q3A engine, but of course he had absolutely no clue about computers. After some long discussions and presentations we found something he would accept: "A virtual museum of the 20. century“. He didn't accept my NS:CO maps because in his opinion I don‘t solve any kind of creative problems there and simple design is not suitable for this kind of work - no, the intolerant bastard wasn't able to understand anything. Then I spent more than 3 months working on the problem of how I can translate common 2D art in 3D rooms. Actually, the whole work was pretty boring and very dry, but while I was building the virtual museum levels - with all the knowledge about art theory in my head - I started to think about the possibility of influencing old school art in modern level design. The more I thought about it I was sure that it had already happened. At the end I got 12 out of 15 points on my work. I didn't get more because I had to add hallways to improve the performance, and my teacher simply said: "If you are not able to make a real museum, you did the wrong work or the technology is not ready for such an experiment!“. Then he told me something about 'Render' or 'CAD' , but it looked like he had already forgotten that you should be able to walk through the museum in real time with a normal PC - no, I never liked my teacher. What is Art/Design? Now we have to clear "what is art?“ in general. I just show you what I found in an internet dictionary (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/) :Art:n 1: the products of human creativity; works of art collectively; "an art exhibition“; "a fine collection of art“ [syn: {fine art}] 2: the creation of beautiful or significant things; "a good example of modern art“: "I was never any good at art“ [syn: artistic creation, artistic production] 3: a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation; "the art of conversation“; "it‘s quite an art“ [syn: artistry, prowess] 4: photographs or other visual representations in a printed publication; "the publisher was responsible for all the artwork in the book“ [syn: artwork, graphics, {nontextual matter}] If you read this you might think that making a map definitely matches this description, simply because it‘s creative or because it‘s beautiful. Believe me - this would be too simple, especially because it‘s called level design. Now on the other hand we have to take a look on the word "design“ (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/) : Design:n 1: the act of working out the form of something (as by making a sketch or outline or plan); "he contributed to the design of a new instrument“ [syn: designing] 2: an arrangement scheme; "the awkward design of the keyboard made operation difficult“; "it was an excellent design for living“; "a plan for seating guests“ [syn: plan] 3: something intended as a guide for making something else; "a blueprint for a house“; "a pattern for a skirt“ [syn: blueprint, pattern] 4: a decorative or artistic work; "the coach had a design on the doors“ [syn: pattern, figure] 5: an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions; "his intent was to provide a new translation“; "good intentions are not enough“; "it was created with the conscious aim of answering immediate needs“; "he made no secret of his designs“ [syn: purpose, intent, intention, aim] 6: a preliminary sketch indicating the plan for something; "the design of a building“ 7: the creation of something in the mind [syn: invention, innovation, excogitation, conception] v 1: make or work out a plan for; devise; "They contrived to murder their boss“; "design a new sales strategy“; "plan an attack“ [syn: plan, project, contrive] 2: design something for a specific role or purpose or effect; "This room is not designed for work“ 3: create the design for; create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner; "Chanel designed the famous suit“ 4: make a design of; plan out in systematic, often graphic form; "design a better mousetrap“; "plan the new wing of the museum“ [syn: plan] 5: create designs; "Dupont designs for the house of Chanel“ 6: conceive or fashion in the mind; invent; "She designed a good excuse for not attending classes that day“ 7: intend or have as a purpose; "She designed to go far in the world of business“ As you can see, it‘s not really easy to say "level design“ is pure ART or pure DESIGN and that‘s definitely not the intention of this article! In my opinion something is only really creative - and then art, based on the above definition - if it‘s based on emotions, if it creates emotions or is in a way more or less ingenious or original. It doesn't have to be political, force the viewer to think about something, be based on exceptionally great skills, etc. Sometimes when the artist wants to show the viewer an intention of his, he submerges it in the background, and this creates the feelings or emotions that he wants to project into the art product. On the other hand there is e.g. Dadaism: "a nihilistic art movement (especially in painting) that flourished in Europe early in the 20th century; based on irrationality and negation of the accepted laws of beauty“ (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/). One artist just turned around a urinal, put it on a table and then it was real art for a few days. I don‘t expect that anyone really understands this, but in some way it was freaky and ingenious - he was simply the first one. If we want to be serious, common level design is definitely more design than art, but in my following text I try to give you impressions and ideas on how to change this a little bit - otherwise it will become boring or cheap. As a level designer you should always have the wish that your work will become something more interesting, not just a bunch of bits where some kids play slaughterhouse.When is the time to bring art in design? After we clarified the different terms we should think about how we can add more art and emotions to our levels. One important factor is simply to give a specific scope for development. It is absolutely impossible to be creative in any way if someone else designates in detail what you have to do. Another death for art is if you have to do an exact copy from a photo or another game/etc. Of course a mapper has to work with sketches on paper, but that is only the second step in developing a level.The first approach should be always an impression, a picture or movie which influences you, or a freaky gameplay idea. The first part should be completely in your imagination before you note down your thought. On the paper you can place your ideas and integrate them in a well-designed gameplay. My sketches never go in detail - I always create a gameplay then I am painting a raw map with exact proportions. I need it to build the first basic model of the map in the editor. Within these rough blocks I slowly increase the number of details, lighting, textures, sound, etc... but you have to roll back to your first thoughts again and process them in your already designed environment. This progress is exactly the right time to use your creative freedom as mentioned above.Show your own emotions There are two main possibilities in dealing with emotions in art. First we start to project your own feelings down in the map. This sounds more complicated than it is. It is a very subjective and personal way to design and you shouldn't be absolutely disappointed because other players don‘t notice that while you filled the room with furniture and wallpaper your favorite Britney Spears CD has broken. Okay, I think now you know what I mean and now back to the topic. You have to find a way how you can impress your feelings in the current part of the level. The easiest way is to work with colors. Just imagine that you are a small child. In your right hand you have a lot of pencils and in the other hand you have a coloring book version of your map, which is only printed with sharp black lines. Now it should be your job to shade the picture with the colors which are most suitable to show the full facet of your current feelings. Remember to use contrasts and different colors as well, otherwise the player might think you felt damn bored when you built the level. After this small return to your childhood you can open your eyes again and choose the textures which best match your vision. Hey, closing the eyes and thinking back shouldn't be a stupid or cheap drug experience - sometimes it really helps if you think something is wrong with how the level feels or you are missing something specific but you don‘t know what. But of course colors are not everything, and one of my personal favorite methods is lighting. With interesting shadow play you can not only energize a boring looking scene without wasting a lot of polygons but you can simulate your feelings as well. Whether your emotions are confused, depressed, or out of control, it doesn't matter, you can always project them in your levels with a little bit of fantasy. If you are choosing the lighting it shouldn't be important if you are in a bad or good mood, because normally you already represent that with the choice of colors. But it is still important that lighting and textures fit together. I am not sure if architecture or gameplay can be a mirror of your current mood, but if it is possible at all it would only happen in the subconscious. On the other hand this might explain why my levels are always big and complex ;-þ. Ditto for details and sound in my opinion. They have less to do with your current feelings, because they are something which you normally place deliberately. But they play an important role if you want to create emotional feelings for the player. I already did some minor or funny experiments - while building ns_junglecomplex I only heard hardcore music. Of course now I cannot say if I would have built the level in another way or style with e.g. church music. Personally I can only say that the whole level is more rough than previous levels, which were built with blues or jazz. Yes, music can influence your emotions and thus your level to a certain degree. Creating emotions for the player The second method used to deal with emotions in art is to influence the player directly with intentional sentiment. An easy word for this process would be "atmosphere“. This might sound a little bit provoking, because atmosphere should be an essential point for every mapper. I learned that "standard“ level designer talk about atmosphere consists of 90% about "gloomy atmosphere“ and the remaining 10% about "happy“, but that is normally only an excuse for boring shadows. I already talked about colors in the section above, but there your own emotions should show you the right ones. Now we start to talk how to influence players with colors. This is very easy and doesn't need a long explanation. I guess everyone learned in school something about this e.g. red = hot/love, blue = cold/endless, green = relaxing/hope. Other colors transport other meanings, too, like e.g. white = sterile/clean, yellow = danger/warning. But not only the color itself can be a tool for you, don‘t forget e.g. temperature or quality. A whitish red has definitely another expression than a strong red, and a table with a pallid wood textures looks cheap compared with a robust one. I‘ll talk about this in more detail below. In my opinion contrasts are very important! Definitely the most common one is black vs. white. The bright parts always have something safe/friendly as opposed to the black parts which everyone always handles with a little bit of care because they are dangerous/sinister. But although everyone uses it and is proud of his "gloomy atmosphere“, we should try some other contrasts and check the whole common list:Color-itself-contrast: e.g. yellow vs. red, yellow vs. blue, red vs. blue. Working with the three basic colors is the easiest contrast and the most powerfull method to make objects distinguishable from each other (excpet with shaders of course). Personaly I use it rarely, never with intent and I have no real good picture of it.Bright-dark-contrast: This is an optical primary contrast. The easiest way to work with this contrast is with light. Between white and black is the whole optical world, all colors and the complete greyscale. It is one of the main methods to create a 3D effect. I guess every mapper knows that his level looks extremely strange/boring if he forgot to compile the light. Sometimes you can increase this effect to highlight something or you can enliven a scene without wasting a lot of polygons. Cold-warm-contrast: This is very subjective and relative, e.g. a reddish orange vs. a greenish blue. I guess a player would have a strange feeling in an orange meat locker or inside a blue furnace. Another easy contrast. Cold-warm-contrast: If you mix two colors and the result is grey they are complementary. e.g. yellow vs. violet, blue vs. orange, red vs. green. The simultaneous contrast is an optical complementary contrast. If you look at something which is intensely blue and then you close your eyes, you see the opposing color, orange. I really like this uncommon contrast because in my opinion it enlivens and freshens the scene even more than some other contrasts. Quantity contrast: This has less to do with the colors itself but with the balances among them. If a specific color dominates a scene then evey other single color is in contrast with it. e.g. a red ski suit inside a big white avalanche. This is of course another good method to highlight something. Quality contrast: You can get very different results if you mix a color with grey. The color loses its intensity/quality and is now in contrast to its original one. Perhaps it might be an interesting contrast but personally I never really used it with intent. These are the main contrasts of colors which you can create with textures or lightning. But colors aren't the only things in a level which create atmosphere or influence the player. Let‘s talk about the contrast of form. The appearance of a level is normally very blocky because of the grid of your level editor. Creating curves is one way to avoid that problem, and another one is to use map objects (imported models from another 3d model editor e.g. 3D-MAX or Milkshape). Both of them delight/soothe the eyes of the players and can make your level very stylish. On the other hand, sometimes a mapper simply doesn't want an elegant feeling, he want it rough and hard (no I don‘t mean his sexual liking's!). For example you can make a wonderful mansion with a lot of nice looking details, everything smooth and full of curves but as soon as you go down in the cellar, everything becomes coarse. The player would feel the difference at once even if you work without light contrast. Another possibility of highlighting something special is to place a coarse object inside a very curved background. Now you know some different possibilities to enliven your level and to increase the richness of emotions. I can talk for hours about different contrasts e.g. sound, movement, details, etc. but contrast is not everything. Before you try something new you should definitely test some more variations. A single contrast may not be strong enough or has an effect on every player. For example, you have a jungle, night setting with two cottages and you want to place some lights. As soon as you place a single white light you have a bright-dark, quantity contrast in addition to the form contrast of the cottages and the organic plants around them. Now imagine if you would a change in the light to a little bit of red/orange (yes, I said: "a little bit“ !! we don‘t want to create a stupid looking Disney/Chuck-Norris scene) and automatically you have a simultaneous (red - light vs. green - plants) and cold-warm (red - lights vs. dark/blue - sky) contrast. In the eye of the viewer the cottages become now even more friendly, interesting and the surrounding area even more threatening, dangerous. I don‘t want to force you to use contrasts everywhere. Sometimes no or less contrast can create an even better feeling. Especially in realistic outdoor settings you should be more skimpy with your contrasts. Please don‘t start to write down a list of contrasts which you would like to use, while you plan your map! The idea to work with ANY kind of art element should come more or less spontaneously. Simply follow your design sketch and then you should feel that something is missing. You simply have to develop the right feeling/vision.Architecture and composition We talked long enough about contrasts and emotions in our levels, now it is time for some other aspects of art. Now I want to take a look at architecture and composition. Architecture has always been esteemed as art as long as it isn't simply a copy! I am tired of telling other people that they should please use their brain and try to create their own architecture instead of making copies of existing buildings. You should see it as a challenge to be your own architect. Of course it is obvious that in a normal boring part of a city you can‘t start to place extravagant or modern buildings. On the other hand the mansion of a drug lord should not look like a drab building which you would normally use in a harbor setting. In my opinion if you have the chance to be creative you should really take advantage of it! I don‘t know why, but most mansions I see in computer games are in a neo-antique style. Especially some original European styles are very interesting as is modern art architecture. All of them could have amazing gameplay elements and would be something fresh for the player‘s eye. The architecture of your houses should always fit in the current environment. A blocky style definitely doesn't fit into an old district or old city. The blocky style only fits in industrial or harbor settings or if this part of the town is relatively new. Such a blocky town planning always reminds me about America and is normally totally different compared with what you find in older European cities. Town planning only plays a minor role in the history of art but you can find it in baroque parks. In my opinion gameplay and performance should be more important than a well-designed part of a town. Okay, I know that normally every editor uses a 90° degree grid and it is not very easy to work against it. Composition might play an important role for paintings but it is very hard to use it in level design. If you want to work with it you simply need some basic knowledge about theoretical art. As a small memory aid I copied what I found in my favorite/lifesaving internet dictionary for you (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/😞 Composition:n 1: a mixture of ingredients 2: the way in which someone or something is composed [syn: constitution, makeup] 3: the spatial property resulting from the arrangement of parts in relation to each other and to the whole; "harmonious composition is essential in a serious work of art“ [syn: composing] 4: a musical work that has been created; "the composition is written in four movements“ [syn: musical composition, opus, piece, piece of music] 5: musical creation [syn: composing] 6: the act of creating written works; "writing was a form of therapy for him“; "it was a matter of disputed authorship“ [syn: writing, authorship, penning] 7: art and technique of printing with movable type [syn: typography] 8: an essay (especially one written as an assignment); "he got an A on his composition“ [syn: paper, report, theme] 9: something that is created by arranging several things to form a unified whole; "he envied the composition of their faculty“ For level design we should take a look at point number three: "harmonious composition is essential in a serious work of art“. Yes, composition is used to create harmony. Such a harmony is often desired to create a specific feeling. If you have a scene which is strongly dominated by horizontal and vertical lines it would totally destroy the strict, still, organized harmony if you add something organic/angular/aquiline. On the other hand you can strongly influence a chaos/natural arrangement if you place something very blocky within it. It might destroy the harmony but on the other hand it is of course an eye-catcher. Players normally need things which stick out for orientation and navigation. You should simply give it a try. Normally I automatically include composition if I plan a town or develop special architecture. For me it is simply another element for adding harmony or disharmony.Imported art Okay, we have been working the whole time on how to improve your level but why not make it even more simple? Why not simply import art in your level e.g. as a texture or model? Do you really need a lot of skill/thinking to include a model or texture into a level? No, even Garfield the cat can implement this. Of course I am doing this too, but definitely not to improve the art level in my map! In one of my last NS:CO level (ns_beachhouse) I included pictures which were simply holiday images from fans. I asked them to send me some pictures. Imported art can be used to invigorate your level but it has definitely nothing to do with the topic of my current article. We want to improve the quality of level design, not to present your modelling/2D skills or the abilities of other artists. That doesn't mean that artistic models or textures couldn't really help your level! I was just talking about single models and textures which have less to do with the surrounding artistic/atmospheric environment.Mistakes which you could do Art within level design for me is only another interesting aspect. It might be wrong to give art a very important role in your map. Gameplay, performance and quality is definitely still more important than anything else. In my opinion it would be wrong to say this level is bad because e.g. he follows no aspects of art or the designer chose the wrong contrasts. On the other hand it might be incorrect to compare the art you know from museums or school with the art I am talking about here. It is nonsense to say something like: "Hey, Ben ns_junglecomplex has the similar feelings like many pictures from Vincent van Gogh, which I saw in Paris.“ Personally I have no problem with such compliments but they could be a little bit too freaky… Yes, it is true that art can be extremely boring for most young people - I am young, too - but it is wrong to forget everything we know about art, especially if you are doing a creative process like level design! Keep everything simple, otherwise even the more experienced people would never notice some details. It shouldn't be very common in your level. A museum with a hundreds of old pictures in every small room will definitely flash you the first time - the time of flash is different from person to person - but then your eyes/you get sick of it. The same would happen in your level if you have too many different things drawing your attention or you are using the same technique all the time. Try to be diversified and innovative where possible.Final words What a surprise! I was making a small break while I was writing this article and was watching TV. I switched between the channels and there was an interesting documentation about history of computer games and its different influences. There an American professor compared the way the designer of Myth - an old render adventure - worked with textures and light with the work of Rembrandt - a famous Dutch painter of the 17th century. This professor was not the only one who saw parallels between game design and art itself. The reason why I am telling you this is that I have mostly the same point of view and was reinforced by the documentation. Otherwise I am happy that they didn't talk about level design because then I would have to rewrite most parts of the article again ;-). No, I am not one of these freaky art geeks! I just wrote down what I remember from school and what I am still using during the creation of levels. I hate to tell it but it is true that some of the theoretical stuff you learn in school might be helpful in your future. Perhaps you wonder why I wrote this article. Of course I want to bring more new/exacting/fresh elements to level design, and if you are not a level designer perhaps you start to see maps with a new point of view. Perhaps you have some more respect for the people behind your favorite levels and start to think why. But for me creating a level is a very personal process and I wish that even more people felt like that. Every normal level was built out of nothing. The level designer is the only one who brings life into the map and he is the one who gives it a soul. The level is a reflection of the thinking of its creator. He is the person who determines how everything will look. If you would take a look at the map of a designer who is color blind I guess you‘ll see some very funny texture combinations. Perhaps that example is too simple but that is his view. I guess you know what I mean. You have read to the end and you might have learned a lot of general and theoretical knowledge/nonsense. Now it is your turn to think and try to develop your own ideas and styles. The most important thing should be that you start to use your brain. You can be proud of yourself if you create a wonderful looking level but craft skills alone are nothing if there is nothing intellectual behind it. Perhaps you don‘t share this opinion with me, no problem, contentious discussions enliven the community. Thank you for reading, Benjamin Bauer *This article has been published on Next Level Design in its entirety with the authors permissionSource: http://www.benb-design.net/Articles/benb_article01.pdfFollow BenjaminWebsite: http://www.benb-design.net/ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_qb1MnHEV4xaVBpQaigspQ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  21. Intro This tutorial will cover where to look for ideas/inspiration and how to put them on paper for current or future reference. Please note that this is not the right way of doing things. This is simply my methods of producing and documenting level design ideas.Looking for Ideas There are lots of ways how you can find ideas. Sources of inspiration are practically endless, but the problem is that some are harder to spot than others. Little things such as a shape of a flower can give an idea for an organic level. It's just a matter of how you look at things. Here's a brief list of where you can find ideas: - Digital and printed photos - Movies - Real life architecture - Concept art - Video games - Nature patterns For me one of the most important parts of the level design is atmosphere. I play games to escape reality, to feel like I am in a different place. The way a level designer can create (visual) atmosphere is by paying attention to shape, space and lighting. What kind of shape is it? How does a space define it? How much does a light reveal of that space? All those questions are important to achieve atmosphere. Sound plays a big role in atmosphere as well, as showed in Doom 3 and Condemned games. If you choose to look at architecture for ideas, then my suggestion would be to take a look at contemporary architecture. The reason it can spark a lot of ideas is because it has interesting looking shapes that are wisely defined in space. Most of the structures don't have a lot of textures or small details on them, therefore you are free to use your imagination. *TIP: German publisher Taschen produces some of the most affordable contemporary architecture books of great printing quality.Sketching Ideas Once you found inspiration or got an idea, it's wise to put it on the paper, so you won't forget it. Plus planning a level on the paper before building it in the level editor, guarantees to save you time and prevent most mistakes that could be encountered later in the design process. I suggest using printer and grid paper. Printer paper is great for rough sketches of shapes. Grid paper is more precise and let's you plan the space more wisely.*TIP: Fine point Sharpie marker is great for putting ideas on paper, because you can apply pressure for rough and solid lines. When I find an interesting shape, I draw several variations of it on the printer paper. Some are top view and some are side view. It's wise to put a little note of that next to the sketch, so in the future you won't be confused. Once I'm happy with the shape, I define the space by cross-hatching with pen outside the shape. Making a small solid rectangle for the player size to show the proportions can be useful. Next step would be to use grid paper or continue on the printer paper and add more notes for the sketch. Here's a list of things you can add notes for: - Item placement - Height level - Direction of stairs/slope surface - Entrance/exit points*TIP: Try not to be too specific when putting ideas on the paper, so you can add and improve them later in the design process. At this point you should have enough information to open up the editor and start blocking the level out. Outro I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments or questions you can contact me at the links below. *Note - This article does not represent Yan's current approach, which has evolved during the 10+ years since this article was first published. Source: web.archive.org/web/20090412012908/http:/www.methodonline.com:80/ld_ideas.htmFollow Yan Website: methodonline.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/idMethod
  22. In this Blog Post, Zi Peters discusses what he considers the basics of level design in First and Third Person Shooters: There are some considerable differences between single player and multiplayer level design. In a single player game you have a lot more control on how the player is manipulated, but with multiple human players you can’t as accurately foretell how they will act and react to each other. This is also the beauty of it all, as it generates a lot of tension and increases the excitement of the experience. Outsmarting another human opponent is far more rewarding that taking down AI. Single player levels are created with a limited amount of objectives in mind that once completed the player will then progress to the next level. The player may choose to replay this level on subsequent play through attempts, but even then the amount time spent playing it will still be fairly little. The amount of time to be spent by a player in a multiplayer level is to be quite extensive, meaning that there is the risk of boredom if the level doesn’t provide enough options. Also the time spent in these levels means that any faults or weaknesses of the map will be discovered and exploited, leading to unbalance. From here, Zi goes on to cover the following aspects of level design in some detail: Process - What should you focus on? Core Mechanics - Leverage the unique mechanics of the game you're designing for Player Tactics - Accommodating various playstyles Game Modes - What are you designing for? High Concept - A big idea Size - Why size matters Layout - Balancing complexity Flow - Layering flow patterns Choke Point - Where and when Combat Areas - limiting predictability Navigation - Landmarks Weapons/Items - Ideal locations Balance - Crafting fairness Terrain/Architechture - Building variety and verticality Navigation - Visual distinction Playtesting - Identifying problems Summary The desired achievement of a multiplayer map is: Durability to still remain fun even after countless hours of play Accessibility through clear navigation of the map Allow players to get into the action quickly Provide options for countering the enemies position Design around the core mechanics of the game Allow for variable tactics to lead to success Support multiple modes of play Minimise the advantage of players who know the maps well Read the complete article to find out how to achieve these goals - zipeters.com/2012/10/31/fps-and-tps-multiplayer-basics/ Do you agree with the goals Zi has listed? What other goals do you set for your levels?
  23. Architecture is undeniably an essential tool in level design. In this GDC talk, Claire Hosking explains how architecture can be utilized to set the mood and increase the players immersion within a space.What are your take away's from this talk?What would you add that's not been touched on here?