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"In many video games, the player has control of the camera. However, the developer can control what's on screen through use of the environment to direct the player's movements and attention. Miriam Bellard has been referring to this as spatial cinematography. Miriam's talk explores spatial cinematography in theory and practice using examples from GTA V Online DLC (pre-production to final art). A truly cinematic experience can be developed by adapting film concepts such as shots, editing and 2D screen design as well as understanding how the player interacts with and perceives the game environment. Miriam discusses the effect of the 3D environment on the cinematic experience, including through movement, player attention, and spatial design." Follow Miriam Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiriamBellard Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/miriam-bellard-a4339a127 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
Introduction The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and insight for designers who are creating or working on a multiplayer level. I will address such topics as Flow, Item Placement, Initial Design, Architecture, and Testing. Although Capture the Flag and other team games are rarely addressed specifically throughout this document, because they are typically for a minimum of four players (two teams of two), with a higher number more often being the case (e.g. 4 on 4, 6 on 6). That being said, many of these guidelines will apply to those types of games as well. (The major new issue in a cooperative/team game is how the new goals will affect gameplay. For example, if capturing the flag and returning to your base is more important than killing your opponents, then a speed power-up may become more important than a better weapon. For another example, consider a location in the map that might be very difficult to hold in free-for-all play, but would become very easy to control for two teammates.) There are many accepted design principles that apply to level design in general. These will not be discussed in depth in this document, and include such things as: Attention to detail. Use of a consistent theme. Effective use of sound and lighting to convey an atmosphere. Sufficient time on either end of the design curve (i.e. planning and testing). However, there are many aspects of the multiplayer experience that can be handled incorrectly if approached from a single-player point of view. This will often result in the production of lower quality, unbalanced, poorly planned levels that will provide a disappointing multiplayer experience. For emphasis: You cannot reliably design good multiplayer levels from a single player point of view. Since overall level flow and item placement are two of the ways in which multiplayer level design differs most dramatically from single player level design, these two aspects will be mentioned first, then followed by more general design principles. Important: The following design guidelines in this document are general rules. As with all general rules, there are always exceptions and special cases. Sometimes good level designers can ignore some of these guidelines and produce excellent levels... but it's not the way to bet. Flow For purposes of this document, flow is defined as a combination of direction of movement, speed of movement, and pace of movement through a level. In a level with an extremely high degree of flow, a player will be able to move at a relatively consistent pace from any area of the level to another with a minimum of dramatic changes in direction and speed. In a level with poor flow, there will be starts and stops, awkward geometry to navigate, edges and corners to get stuck on, and many dead-end areas. Multiple entrances and exits Ideally, any major area in a level should have at least two (and preferably at least three) ways in or out (e.g. a room might have two hallways leading into it, a ledge above it that the player can drop from, and hole in the floor that a player can jump into to get to another area (three ways in, three ways out). To explore the idea of multiple entrances and exits, and the resulting effects on gameplay a bit further, imagine a room like the one below. "W" is a powerful weapon, and "H" is a health kit, and the room has exits/entrances on the north and east walls, and is somewhat flat and unremarkable: It's relatively simple in this particular example for a player to "camp" the weapon by standing in the corner and keeping a sharp eye on both doorways, attacking any player who tries to enter, and using the health kit to counterbalance any damage he or she might have received. Keep in mind that this "camper" does not have quite the same advantage that he would in a typical first person shooter (i.e. It's much more difficult to be sneaky in a game where the other player can easily look at your part of the split screen to see where you are), but it's still a tactic that can have a significant effect on gameplay. Consider the change below: Another door has been added on the west, the health has been moved to the NW corner, and the weapon has been moved to the south wall. Three doorways across a much wider field of view are more difficult to watch than two, and if the player still tries to camp the weapon, he or she has to move back and forth a bit more to obtain the health. This also leaves the camper open to attack by two or more other players from radically different directions (and it's much more difficult to watch what two or three people are doing on the split screen than it is to watch what one person is doing). For another approach, consider the following: The weapon has been moved to a spot between the two doorways where any player who moves through that corner of the room can quickly grab it, and the health is now by itself in the SW corner. Above the health is a shaft from the room above--impossible to travel up, but easy to see down and jump down. This produces some interesting gameplay possibilities and tactics. If a player is camping the weapon, he can be attacked easily through either doorway, and will find it difficult to watch both doorways at once. Suppose he decides to wait in the far corner, picking up health if he needs it, and ambush a player trying to get the weapon? It may work once or twice, but when his opponent catches on, the player will be attacked from a position of relative safety above, or his opponent will simply pay more attention to the player's position via the split screen. Relatively simple changes in room design and item placement can produce much more complex and flexible gaming situations. Note that teleporters, which instantly whisk a player from place to place, can serve to increase connectivity and flow within a level if the level geometry itself is uncooperative. However, teleporters are also easily abused by being used as a quick fix for substandard level design that shouldn't have seen the light of day in the first place. Clipping Geometry "Invisible boxes", "clip brushes", "see-through walls"--different terms for unseen geometry that aids the player in navigating through the level with minimal difficulty. Ideally, this aid should be of the subtle variety--anything that is too intrusive might distract the player from any immersion in the game world that has been created. For example, if there is a slightly protruding arch in a hallway that players tend to get caught on when moving down the hallway, the designer could place an invisible box along the length of the hallway on both sides with the inner plane of the box flush with the inner edge of the arch. What if the arch sides didn't protrude slightly, but instead stuck quite far into the hallway? A box that kept the player from getting anywhere near the wall would be an obvious and blatant "fix", but the designer could place a wedge-shaped brush on the near and far edges of both sides of the arch to gently force the player out and around the arch as they passed by. *Note: The use of clipping geometry will differ somewhat depending on whether the game in question is first person or third person. Something that might work well, and feel relatively unobtrusive from a first person point of view, might be very obvious and clumsy when experienced from a third-person perspective (and vice versa). This is just one area where a great deal of playtesting and feedback is essential. Dead ends In general, dead ends are a bad idea in any multiplayer level for a number of reasons: Dead ends promote poor flow. If a player has to stop or do a U-turn at the end of a dead end passage, then that area is somewhat awkward and clumsy. Dead ends are boring and/or frustrating. The player has to travel back through an area that he or she has just seen. Dead ends can easily result in "no-win" situations for a player. If he or she is trapped in a dead-end, there is no option for a tactical retreat. However, although the preceding points are generally true, in specific situations dead-ends can be useful (e.g. a powerful weapon or item can be placed in a dangerous dead-end in order to properly balance the value of the item with the risk involved in obtaining it). Summary: Have two (and preferably three) ways in and out. Think "outside the box". There are always multiple solutions to a level design problem. Use clipping geometry to aid flow and navigation. Use dead ends sparingly and for very specific reasons. Keep lines of sight in mind, and be aware that different camera views can produce unusual situations. Item Placement Poor item placement can turn an otherwise solid multiplayer level into an unbalanced and irritating gaming environment and can interfere dramatically with flow. Excellent item placement can add much-needed spice to an otherwise forgettable level, and accentuate the architecture and environment that has been created. The items in a multiplayer environment can be divided into four basic types: Offensive Items (e.g. weapons, ammo) There is generally a maximum amount of damage that a player is able to inflict in a given period of time in a given situation. Offensive items increase that amount. Defensive Items (e.g. health, armor) Defensive items increase the amount of damage that a player is able to endure, make that damage have less effect on the player, or allow the player to avoid those effects. Special/Other Items (e.g. binoculars, mine sweeper, jet pack) These are items that can somehow change the balance of the game in a way that isn't purely offensive or defensive (but could strengthen offense or defense for a player, depending on the player's particular situation). Team Items These are items that somehow affect game goals in cooperative play. The best-known example would be the flags in traditional two-team Capture the Flag. Flags are traditionally placed in two opposing bases that often have the same layout, geometry, and item placement (to more easily avoid giving one team a subtle advantage over the other). As a side note: As previously mentioned, this document does not focus on capture the flag (and similar games) to any great degree. However, one of the simplest ways to introduce a CTF-like element into a map for fewer players is to have some single power item or power spot on the map that a player gets points for holding or capturing. Item Quantity and Placement There is a fine balance to item quantity. There should be enough items to make it relatively easy to get the most basic necessities (e.g. basic weapons, some degree of health/protection), but not so many items that the challenge is eliminated and the player is stumbling over some new item every few steps. Generally, there should be fewer of the more powerful items in a level. There would be no reason to pick up the weaker items if there was a better item nearby. The more rare and powerful items can also be placed in locations that are more difficult and/or more dangerous to reach. There is nothing necessarily wrong with placing a powerful item in plain sight in the middle of the level where it is easily reachable by all the players. This placement in itself can add an element of danger as players wait nearby, simply watching the item, and attack other players as they approach. Just realize that much of the action will occur around that powerful item, and that there should be sufficient incentive for players to travel to other parts of the level. Powerful items can also be used to "balance" the level. In other words, if there is a powerful item or weapon at a certain location within a level, a good designer will be likely to put a similarly powerful item or weapon in another area of the level. This accomplishes three things: It makes it less effective to try to "camp" either item. It encourages players to move gameplay around the level. It makes it harder for a player to continually have both items and more easily control the game. Finally, some weapons can be placed in such a way that they are not only balanced to some extent, but also encourage more game flow and movement through a level. One simple example would be to place a sniper rifle in an enclosed area in the depths of a level--in order to make the best use of it, a player would have to get the item, and then travel up to the top of a high tower to get the best vantage point from which to snipe at other players. Ammunition and Minor Item Placement The placement of ammunition (if it exists in the game separately from the weapons), and the placement of minor items can be a much more subtle process then the placement of powerful items, and can be approached in different ways. Furthermore, many of the fine points will be very dependent on specific game mechanics. For example, a game with differing levels of health (or healing potion, or whatever generic "more life" item it happens to have) can have a much more complicated and "fine-tuned" item layout than a game with only one type of healing item. If a game has multiple weapon types and multiple ammo types (or even multiple ammo types for each weapon), this will result in more fine-tuning and more complicated decisions for the designer. A good general rule to remember is that if a player has everything he/she needs in one area, then there's little reason (gameplay-wise) to leave that area and explore the rest of the map. Item Setting It can add significant atmosphere and "feel" to a level if the items are placed in appropriate settings, and not just strewn about in relatively equidistant spots. One good (albeit subjective) rule of thumb: Every area of a level should be attractive enough for a player to want to visit it. Creating a proper item setting is a much more subjective process than some of the ideas that have been mentioned previously, as it deals with artistry and aesthetics rather than easily quantifiable factors such as damage and movement. Items, especially powerful items, are best placed like a gemstone placed in a ring. Impressive and/or detailed geometry, eye-catching lighting, or even props and other items can all be combined to create a memorable setting for items. Camping Revisited As was touched on above, it is very easy to create a situation in a multiplayer level wherein a powerful item (or even a not-so-powerful item) is placed in such a way that it is very easy to defend once it's obtained, and a player can "camp-out" at that location and dominate others who attack that position or try to get that item. For example, a machine-gun with a large supply of ammo and a health kit are placed at the end of a long corridor, behind a pillbox with a small "gunner slot" to shoot through. A player can stay there for a long time racking up victories with relative ease. While this example is an extreme one for illustrative purposes, it is easy to make this mistake in more subtle ways. This mistake becomes less likely if the designer uses the "at least two ways out" guideline, and incorporates some sort of vulnerability into every major item placement. Item Placement and Player Start Locations There seem to be two schools of thought on placement of player start locations relative to weapons and items, the first being: "Players should have to work to get good items/weapons. Gameplay becomes boring when players always have access to all the good items immediately upon starting a level." The opposing point of view goes something like: "When it's a difficult process to get good items and weapons, then the player who wins any particular skirmish always has the advantage, since he/she already has all the good stuff, and the defeated player has to restart, recollect items, and possibly fight off a beefed-up opponent while doing so." There is no clear answer or definitive formula to resolving this issue. Both points have some validity, and it will usually be safest to try to place your player spawn points while keeping both these points in mind. This is an issue that is usually resolved best with a great deal of playtesting. Ideally, player start locations should be placed with the following additional things in mind: Player starts should not be in a direct line of sight with each other. If they are, this potentially eliminates a major part of a good multiplayer game: maneuvering and responding based on where your opponent is (or where you think he is), and reacting to his movements with appropriate strategy or tactics. Player starts should be placed in places that are "off the beaten path" to some extent. It can put a player at an unfair disadvantage if he/she appears in the middle of a central combat area in the level, and can be frustrating if he/she is immediately defeated before gaining any real momentum. There should always be at least two nearby exits from any player start location. A player spawning into the game in a no-win situation (because a beefed-up opponent has them trapped in a dead end) is simply a result of poor level design. Secrets Finally, placing items in "secret" locations is generally a bad idea in multiplayer levels, since there will often be one or more players who don't know how to obtain the item (bad enough), but may be unaware that it even exists (worse). This sets up a dynamic wherein one player can easily dominate another player or players, only because of the "insider" knowledge that he or she possesses, and results in a blatantly unfair situation which can frustrate and anger players. (Note that I am not referring to items that are simply very difficult to obtain. If everyone knows where it is, it isn't a secret.) Again, although the preceding is generally true, there are some ways to make secrets work in a limited way in multiplayer games: The secret shouldn't be a "game-winner". A secret that gives someone an overwhelming advantage in a game = bad idea. A secret that helps a player slightly, or that simply gives some background color, or information of some kind about the game world = good idea. Secrets that are a relative "one-shot" (i.e. once the secret is discovered, pretty much all the players will know about it) are much less unbalancing. Secrets that have a random factor can work. These can be fun without being too unbalancing. For example, suppose there's a somewhat out-of-the-way spot where a powerful weapon will appear 5% of the time instead of the regular health that appears the rest of the time. Further suppose that there is no additional ammo for the weapon, and that there is no other weapon of this type in the level. This results in a player randomly finding this weapon on rare occasion and only using it for a very short time (thus being likely to establish no serious advantage). In a situation like this, "insider" information can be fun and can produce some interesting gameplay situations (as players begin to shadow the other player trying to find out where the "odd" weapon came from). Summary: • Balance item quantity carefully--enough items, but not too many. • Use powerful items sparingly and in a balanced way. • Spread minor items out, and avoid all-in-one locations. • Place items in a setting to be more aesthetically pleasing. • Make locations of powerful items dangerous or vulnerable. • Handle secrets with care to avoid unbalanced gameplay. Initial Design The initial design process can be a dramatically different one for different designers. Some individuals greatly enjoy it, because it allows them to visualize the level in broad strokes and come up with various ideas without necessarily needing to address some of the more "tedious" or "exacting" details that will appear near the end of the construction process. Other designers struggle to come up with a new and creative idea, or a broad outline, but excel in providing the fine points of a level's look and feel. Some level architects plan out their levels in exacting detail on grid paper beforehand, or work from detailed concept sketches, while others simply start from scratch, allowing ideas to evolve as they work. Both approaches have their pros and cons: A high level of preplanning assures that the designer won't wander off down the wrong track and possibly waste a great deal of time and energy, but can also stifle creativity and force a designer into "mental blinders" that reduce his or her potential. Summary: Everyone has their own way of working... but don't be afraid to think "outside the box" of your own habits, and possibly discover methods that will work better for you. Also, don't assume that work habits that were effective with one set of tools/one game/one design process will work well all the time. General Testing and Game Mechanics Testing is at least as important in multiplayer levels as it is in single player levels, and some would say that it's more important because the actions of a group of players are more unpredictable than the actions of a single player. While multiplayer levels are simpler in some ways than single player levels, players in a multiplayer setting can try new things (and find new problems) that might not have occurred if they were playing alone. Some design questions become exponentially more complicated when designing levels with a multiplayer focus. A few of the basic points to consider in testing and game mechanics: Testing Start Locations If you are one person testing a multiplayer level, it's easy to overlook non-functional or flawed start locations, especially if the start location is not always randomized, and if you do not have any sort of artificial opponents. Always make sure all start locations work consistently and correctly. Gameplay habits We all have a tendency to do things in a certain way, and repeat habits. The only way to be sure that the gameplay in a level isn't broken in some major way is to have the level playtested by someone (preferably many players) other than the designer. That being understood, you can at least playtest better as a designer by doing everything you can to break up your habits--if you find yourself always following a particular path in a level, then consciously go another way. Pretend that you haven't memorized every nook and cranny, and try to play like a new player: "Gee, I wonder what's over here..." Try to look at your map with new eyes, and you will often find problems or possibilities that you didn't realize were there. Gameplay mechanics Be aware that all games--even all multiplayer combat games--have different (sometimes radically different) gameplay mechanics. A couple of notable examples: Camera Angle Lines of sight are as important in multiplayer level design as they are in single player level design. Being able to see an enemy, or be seen by an enemy, is a key factor to victory. When playing from a third-person perspective (again, depending to some extent on camera movement) it's relatively easy to see where players are in relation to one another, and, if you are in a relatively high position, to potentially get a bird's-eye perspective on the entire field of play. In addition, when you are in a low position in a third-person game, it can be quite difficult to see what is above you when compared with a first-person game. When playing a first-person game, your field of view is limited horizontally to approximately 90 degrees, so losing track of your opponent can happen in the literal blink of an eye. In a first-person game, it's pretty much impossible to see anything that your in-game character wouldn't be able to see (i.e. you see through the character's eyes). In a third-person game, the circumstances involved in having a third-person camera view that doesn't necessarily change consistently with player movement can result in a variety of unusual possibilities at any given moment: If it's a console game, no players can see the others directly, but everyone still knows where all the players are by looking at split screens. No players can see the others directly, but players can shoot the other players (e.g. with a weapon like the grenade launcher or mortar that can shoot in an ascending-descending arc). Players can see each other directly, but players can't shoot each other. (This can happen if the players are positioned in such a way that the camera sees around a corner or over an obstacle for each player.) One player can see and shoot at another player without it being possible for the other player to see him directly, or hit him with return fire. (This could happen if, for instance, a player had a high vantage point, and was behind an obstacle of some sort. Direct fire from the other player would hit the obstacle, and arcing fire would either overshoot or collide with other geometry.) Line of sight issues are further complicated by the fact that any player might be able to kneel or drop prone at any time, which could change any of the above situations. It is also possible in some third-person games for a player to change the camera angle without actually moving (by rotating the camera in place). This makes it possible to stand facing in one direction, but keep a 360-degree watch. This would, of course, only provide an advantage in certain situations, and if you have the control skills to make it useful. Also, consider the effect of ground cover on combat. In a first-person game, the heavy use of ground cover (e.g. bushes, low walls, obstacles) can easily obscure the field of play and add a hide-and-sneak element, emphasizing the importance of accurate prediction of an opponent's tactics. In a third person game with any sort of height to the camera angle, this sort of ground cover is more of a simple obstruction to movement than a serious influence on tactics and strategy. These issues become very important to a level designer when questions about gameplay, balance, and tactics arise. Auto-Aiming For another example, consider the subject of auto-aiming. Auto-aiming (when the computer/game system does some of the work of aiming for the player), gives a very different feel to a skirmish, and a player must concentrate more on positioning, movement, and any other ways in which he or she can help the auto-aiming system along, and less on accurate crosshair positioning and shot-timing. Summary: Test extensively with real gameplay. Break up habits. Get another point of view. Alter your design to best utilize the specific gameplay mechanics and tactics that will be involved. Research To make good multiplayer levels, and to continue to grow in his or her skills, a designer needs to play lots of good multiplayer levels, and, unfortunately, the only way to play lots of good levels is to wade through even more levels that aren't so good. While you're playing a particular level, analyze what is working in that particular level--very simply, what makes that level good and not bad? If you don't know quite specific answers to that question, then you may not be able to create the same great gameplay and fun experience in your levels, and if you do, it may be by accident rather than by design. Finally, write things down. That may sound obvious and slightly juvenile, but you will not remember important things if you don't. I have a simple text file called "tips" that I just copy and paste tidbits of various kinds into--technical tips, design tips, interesting gaming anecdotes, "here's a great idea for a level" bits, obscure design facts, and so forth. If you have any doubt if you should put something in, go ahead and put it in, then review the file periodically and weed out things that are outdated, have lost their usefulness, or were just never quite as useful as you thought they might be. Summary: • Keep looking. • Keep learning. Source: http://www.robotrenegade.com/articles/multiplayer-level-design-guide.html *Note: This article is shared in full on Next Level Design in accordance with the Creative Commons Guidelines noted on the source site. Follow Patrick Website: http://www.pjwnex.us/ lvlworld: https://lvlworld.com/author/pjw 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
In 2010 I started at Crystal Dynamics to work on the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. Within my first two weeks, I was entered into a “Thunderdome” exercise in which I had two days to revamp a traversal level, competing against a senior level designer who had worked on Assassin’s Creed 2. A winner would be chosen after the time expired and that level used in the game.Prior, I had never designed a level for a game using more than a simple jump mechanic where the player could only land on their feet. You can probably guess that I lost, but what started was my education into the intricacies of laying out levels that use complex player traversal mechanics.For the purposes of this article I define Traversal Gameplay as any gameplay where the player is actively moving around a space. Stepping up or down, hurdling, mantling, climbing and swinging are all examples of traversal gameplay (but there are lots more!). Before we dive into talking about principles, we need to identify the types of traversal level design which these principles apply to. Then I will dive into the meat and potatoes of this article. Types of Traversal Level DesignLinear – Setups where there is only one main path. These can be action moments, story moments or just a simple down beat in the level intensity ramp. Think Nathan Drake climbing up a cargo net hanging behind a plane in Uncharted 3 or climbing up a radio tower in Far Cry 3 or 4: Open – Setups that have multiple branching paths. Open setups allow the player to choose one of many branching routes to get to the objective. Examples include hubs in Tomb Raider or any of the big cities in the Assassin’s Creed Series: Enemy Encounter Traversal – Either an open or linear traversal path that has enemies in it. When enemies are present, you need to adhere to a few extra rules to make sure their behaviors play out correctly and the space allows for smooth fluid engagements. Think of bounty hunts or assassinations in the Assassin’s Creed Series or any of the Tomb Raider and Uncharted levels that use lots of verticality and combat: General PrinciplesPrinciples that can apply to any of the three above types. My focus is on third person and first person games, some of these may not apply to side scrolling games.1. Utilize 3D SpaceWhen I lost in the Thunderdome exercise, my big mistake was only making a path the player could climb up, down, left and right. Great traversal setups let the player move around a space, inside the space, on top of the space and even under it.Think of a cabin in the woods. For it to be “great” to traverse around, you need to be able to climb the outside walls, into the cabin, out of the cabin, onto the cabin roof and even under the cabin through the crawlspace. Utilizing all the space makes the setup feel more natural, encourages choice and promotes replayability. Even if a path is linear utilizing the 3D space will freshen up the gameplay path and make it feel more exciting.2. Variety is the Spice of Life Most games with traversal these days have a lot of traversal mechanics: ledge climbing, hand hold climbing, drain pipe climbing, pole swings, etc, etc. The last thing you want to do is use the same move over and over again when there is such a large bucket of moves to choose from. A general rule is to never use the same traversal mechanics more than two or three times in a row. Please note, this is a general rule. Certain mechanics like monkey bars are fine to use more than that because the move is so quick. When in doubt, feel it out through play testing.Another general rule is to not go in the same direction for too long. Another way to think of it: “Is the player pressing the same inputs over and over again in my level?” An example of this is a ledge the player is shimmying along. A designer could layout a long straight ledge that takes thirty seconds to scoot down, like in the below drawing. That can be very dull. Spice it up by breaking the ledge and making the player go up or down to continue. For example, in the drawing below, we can break the ledge and insert climbing between ledges and handholds as well up and down movement. By taking one action and breaking it into six different actions, you get a more varied and fun feeling to the path. Open setups can have long straight paths because they are architecturally necessary. For example, Assassin’s Creed has them all over the place, but it works because the player can break out of them at almost any time. This can be seen in the image below, where the player is not locked into a long straight path while shimmying along the roof. 3. No Vague Traversal GeometryIf the player can climb on it or perform any other traversal move, it needs to be crystal clear that it is a traversal path. If it looks like you can traverse something, players will try. If they think they can traverse and cannot, then they will get frustrated. This usually becomes a problem when a level goes from being block mesh to being arted. Keep an eye out for it yourself and in play testing.Take a look at how other games deal with this. Last of us uses the color yellow and in their traversal primitives to draw the player along: Uncharted places special blocks for handhold climbing that are different than the wall they are placed upon so they stand out. Look at how the red handholds pop against the blueish grey wall: Most of the climbable ledges in Tomb Raider have an element of white in them for the same reasons: 4. Forbidden is DesirableThe coolest places to traverse are the places we fear to be in real life. That’s one reason why climbing on tall buildings is fun in the many games that have that type of experience now. When you need to spice up your level, add a dangerous feeling place for the player to go. You don’t have to add extra gameplay for it to be special, just the feeling of being in that place will be meaningful and fun for the player.For example, in Batman Arkham Knight there is a level where the player must glide on top of a zeppelin. I spent ten minutes just walking around on top of the zeppelin, looking around and soaking in how cool it was to be a dangerous place with an awesome view. For me, it was one of the coolest moments in a game filled with awesome traversal moments and all I did was one glide move and then walk around. Another similar example is the Synchronization Viewpoints in the Assassin’s Creed series. You do the same traversal moves as you do elsewhere in the city, but it feels great because you travel up so high. Naughty Dog is the king of these with examples like the train hanging over a cliff, hanging behind an air plane, climbing along moving trucks and trains. All of these are spectacular because they put you in a place you fear in real life. 5. When in doubt, Move it AboutAdding movement is a great way to make an aspect of your traversal more exciting. Something static in the environment can become fun moments with just a little bit of movement. Uncharted 3 had a cool example with two chandeliers the player swings back and forth on in the Chateau level. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate added a super fun element when they allowed the player to climb on moving horse-drawn carriages. The movement took what could have a been a simple set piece and turned it into an exciting adventure. 6. 180 Degree Turns are bad. When the player gets to the next step in a traversal path, try really hard not to have them turn 180 degrees around to continue along the path. It is not intuitive for the player’s next path to be directly behind them, a lot of players look 180 degrees in front of them for the next path. Also, the 180 degree turn usualluy must be done in a small space in these cases, when a larger space is needed for the turn to feel fluid and smooth. For example in the drawing below, if the player jumps up to a ledge, pulling himself up, do not make him turn all the way around to make the next jump. 7. Leave Room for the Camera The camera lets the player see all the cool traversal moves the player is doing. Problems with the camera mostly occur in third person games because the camera is on a track behind the player. Because the camera follows behind the player, it can knock into geometry in the environment. When that happens the camera can jerk or pop. Notice in the image below from Shadows of Mordor how there is lots of room for the camera to move around the player as they travel along the ropes, allowing for smooth camera movement. Special Enemy Encounter Principals These are specific to when there are enemies in the traversal level. 1. Quick Paths are Good When the player gets attacked by enemies, they need fast traversal escape routes to allow them to get to get out of harm’s way. A fast route would be a traversal path that the player may maneuver through quickly. If all you have are long traversal routes that leave the player exposed, then players will get frustrated because you are leaving them open to attack for too long. Not all your paths need to be quick, but enough so that when the player assesses (makes their combat plan), they can easily find a quick way out. The Shanty Town level in Tomb Raider 9 is a good example of lots of quick traversal routes to get the player out of danger. 2. Allow Enemy Attacks Everywhere Sometimes when a level is created or enemies added to an existing level, the layout may have places where the player cannot get attacked. This is bad not only because it makes the enemy AI look unintelligent, but also because it can break the 4th wall for the player. Also, the player does not have to move, breaking the basic combat loop of assess -> move -> attack. That breaks the intensity of the encounter. A flushing behavior can be anything that harms the player and forces the player to move. The easiest solution in most cases is to modify the layout just enough so the enemy can throw a grenade or perform a flushing behavior to get the player out of the safe spot and back into battle. In Tomb Raider 9 I inherited a level with raised platforms certain enemies could not climb up and I didn’t have art cycles to change it. If that certain enemy type was the last type alive, things could get wonky because the enemy did not have a behavior to force the player off the platform. Rules are Meant to Be Broken Please keep in mind that these are all general rules and that special case situations or mechanics can change that. For example, The glide and grapple combination in the Batman series is one of the most fun traversal combinations ever made and feels great to repeat often: The same can be said of web swinging in Spider Man: These principles may apply to most of your game’s traversal mechanics, but always feel through your layout and watch play testers to decide when something is a special case scenario. Thanks for reading! *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TravisHoffstetter/20160107/263175/Traversal_Level_Design_Principles.php Follow Travis Website: https://www.travishoffstetter.com/