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  1. "Environment artists and level designers are faced with a difficult job of creating whole worlds from nothing. Many developers have found thoughtful methods for addressing this task through experience and personal research, but what if someone else could do that early research for us? Enter, Interior Design. Last year I presented how some simple Interior Design Theory applies to games. This time we will deep dive into more complex Interior Design techniques and practices and examining how to apply the principles of Order, Enrichment, and Expression to master space and place." Follow Dan Twitter: https://twitter.com/danjohncox Website: https://danjohncox.com/ 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. We here at Next Level Design love being able to learn from other disciplines and interfaces, and apply them to game design and level design. We hope you'll find something within this article that you can use in your own designs. If you do, please share by commenting below. Happy learning! *Note: The following is a portion of an article which was shared on canva.com. It capture some of the main points, but there are detailed examples provided within the source article which are not included here. Please follow the link at the end for the full article. As consumers of design, we’ve all likely experienced this scenario at some point. But as designers, we want to make sure we’re not creating design layouts that might cause viewers to hurry to hit that back button in their browser or trash a flyer in frustration. So what’s the key to a design that’s well organized and easy to navigate? Starting with the foundation of a strong composition and good flow will get your project on the right track. Composition: A Definition for Designers Composition refers to the way all the elements of your design are arranged to create a cohesive whole. It considers actual elements you might add to a design, like typography, photos, or graphics — but it also takes into account “invisible” elements that contribute to the overall visual effect of a layout, like white or blank space, alignment and margins, or any framework you might use to arrange your design (such as a grid, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds). A careful composition should visually lead viewers through the design in a way that makes sense and happens naturally without a lot of thought on the part of the viewer (otherwise known as “flow”). This act of composing, of being thoughtful and intentional about how you piece together a layout, is a skill that applies to many different types of visual arts, from painting to photography. The nice thing is that once you learn the basics of strong composition, you’ll find that they’re useful for all sorts of creative endeavors. Now let’s look at some of the tools and techniques traditionally used to create effective, visually engaging compositions. Visual Weight & Balance: Create a Clear Hierarchy A good composition isn’t just a neatly arranged collection of shapes, colors, and text. Every design has a purpose and communicates a message to its viewers, and a well-planned composition helps prioritize the design’s most important information and reinforce its message in a way that makes sense. This process of arranging information by its importance is often referred to as establishing a hierarchy. No hierarchy (or an inadequate one) makes for a confusing design that has no visual flow, and we don’t want that. Let’s look at two key elements of a clear hierarchy, focal points and balanced organization: Choose a Focal Point A focal point pulls people into your design and gives them a place to start looking at your composition. If viewers only had a couple seconds to glance at your design and take away one impression or piece of information, what would that be? That important element should be your main focal point, and to ensure it’s what people see first, you’ll want to find a way to emphasize that piece and make it the most visible part of the layout. Keep reading to see this concept at work in actual design projects. (Via Dribbble. Design by Mara Dawn Dockery.) How to do that? Through giving your focal point visual weight. When a design element has visual weight, it’s what stands out the most at first glance. It’s visually “heavy” because it makes its presence felt in the layout — you can immediately tell that it’s important, and it attracts your attention through something about its appearance, often by contrasting with the rest of the design. There are a lot of techniques to choose from to give your focal point visual weight, including but not limited to: Size Shape Color Texture Position Let’s walk through some examples: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Make It Big Attract Attention with Unusual Shapes Choose Stand-Out Colors Add Texture for Visual Interest Position for Maximum Visual Impact Balance and Organize the Rest of the Design After a focal point gives viewers an entrance into your design, then it needs to be organized in such a way that they can navigate the rest of the layout easily. This is where the hierarchy really comes into play to give viewers a clear pathway to travel through the composition. Should their eyes move down the page? Across? From one section to another? How the rest of the design flows from the focal point will be key to a successful composition. You can guide viewers through your layout with some of the techniques we’ve already discussed, but most designs will benefit from an overall structure or organizing principle. Instead of just randomly throwing elements into your design and hoping it turn outs ok, being thoughtful and intentional about building your composition will always create a more usable and visually appealing experience for your audience. Let’s look at some common techniques: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Use a Grid Try the “Rule of Thirds” Consider Symmetry Leave Some White Space Leading Lines: Create Movement to Lead the Eye Leading lines are literal or implied lines that lead viewers’ eyes where you want them to go — usually to the focal point of your design, but sometimes just from one section or element of the layout to another. Leading lines can take a number of different forms, including: Diagonal Lines Diagonal lines create movement or imply direction across the design, often from top to bottom and left to right, like with reading. Another common technique is to use two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions to direct users’ focus to a single point. If you’ve ever taken an art class during your school days, a common exercise is to draw a road or pathway extending into the distance: two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions, starting out wide but narrowing until they meet at a spot on the horizon known as the “vanishing point.” This is diagonal leading lines in action, and one of the most basic ways to create depth and perspective in a composition. The following website design uses this concept to organize its product image gallery. Notice how the diagonal lines created by the yellow shape in the background (along with selective blurring) create a sense of depth in the design. Via Dribbble. Design by Cosmin Capitanu Z Shapes & S Curves: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Repeating Lines and Patterns Repetition can act as a leading line, guiding your gaze in a certain direction. It may take the form of repeating lines, shapes, or other elements arranged in a directional way. Repetition can also be a great way to reinforce a visual theme and add a sense of rhythm to your design. Even in-text elements that repeat, like bullet points or numbered lists, can help organize a design and give it a sense of flow. The following magazine layout repeats a visual theme of diagonal lines and triangular shapes in two ways: on individual pages or spreads (to guide readers through the content) and throughout the issue (to create consistency and a sense of rhythm through the whole publication). *Note: Click on the Image for a larger version Via Behance. Design by Bartosz Kwiecień. The Human Gaze: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Over to You Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Read the full article here: https://www.canva.com/learn/flow-and-rhythm/ Follow Janie Twitter: https://twitter.com/janiecreates Website: https://janiekliever.com/ 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. Josh Foreman, 20 year gaming industry veteran, shares what he considers to be the pillars of PvP level design, then demonstrates how he's used these pillars in the making of actual levels. Prefer reading? Check Josh's Blog for an article that largely covers the same info: https://joshforeman.artstation.com/blog/PrbL/level-design-for-pvp-fps Follow Josh Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpGvqKfhZF4ipJ7kWFDt0Mg Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshuaForeman Website: https://breathoflifedev.com/ 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
  4. For the past few months I have been researching several different games. During that time I have been researching games like "Uncharted 4" and "The Last of Us" (made by Naughty Dog). With this article I want to share my knowledge with my fellow peers, in the hope of empowering and motivating them to learn more about level design. This will be a crash course on the different elements of level flow, that level designers can use to make informed decisions about their level design. 1 - Introduction: What is level flow My definition of level flow: "When the player knows what to do, where to go. But not always know how to achieve/get towards that goal." (keyword: Spatial Awareness) It is a state where the player has a pleasant experience, traversing through the level. It goes hand in hand with game flow. This definition is quite vague and that is because level flow is a broad subject. For simplicity I will split up "level flow" into four smaller pieces. In high-level terms, these are some of the elements we level designers use to guide the player(s).. "I need to know about geometry and composition? But I am not an artist?!" Yes, I am also not an artist but I do believe that everything is in some way intertwined with level design. Mastering small bits about these subjects will allow you to make more informed design decisions. Geometry Think about collision, physical interactive objects, shape design. Composition A) Focal points. Funneling the player with use of Geometry/Assets. B) Contrast (positive & negative space): Between, Space, Lighting or Color. Scripted Events Companions, Enemies (AI), Moving/Patrolling around. Other events that makes the player move: such as an explosion or a fallen tree trunk. Storytelling Text/Signs (direct) Assets placed in a particular order, like pickups scattered across the map or barrels in a corner (indirect) Geometry, Composition and Scripted Events can be combined to create Storytelling elements. Being able to master these sections will allow you to guide/move the player to where ever you desire them to go. /// Here are some examples of flow elements that can be used to guide the player through the level: 2.1 - Examples: The use of lines Lines, Arrows Shape Silhouettes, Pathways... Lines have two points, a begin and an endpoint. A line affords direction. It is a 2D object that moves in a direction. We can see lines as arrows and arrows afford direction. In this example, multiple objects in the scene will hint towards this focal point, the mega structure. Nathan Drake points at the landmark. (not in this picture, but in game he does) The pathway underneath them, leads towards the landmark. The shape of the mountains. The shape of the houses (especially the roofs) The contrast between the mountains and the forest. As you can see lines are powerful tools to indicate direction. They help to guide the players eye from A to B and visa versa. 2.2 - Examples: Landmark Visibility Landmark definition: An object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables the player to establish their location on the map. Landmarks can be used to determine someone's location, approximately from the landmark. Therefore it is a method to improve flow in the level. An exceptional level designer would work together with the environment artists, to make sure that each area is recognizable. They should work together to determine the line of sight and the visual language of the area. In this example, Joel will be able to see the bridge from multiple angles. This allows the level designer to create a level that doesn't go into a linear/straight direction. As walking straight towards the objective is boring and no fun. The high buildings on the side also helps to frame the bridge, funneling the player towards the objective. The only indication the player needs to know is how far away they are from the bridge. If they are approaching closer to the bridge, they can assume that they are going towards the right direction. 2.3 - Examples: The use of Color Using Color as Affordance: Color can be used to indicate the player, that a certain object is able to afford something. It can be used to contrast the scene, shifting the focal point. In this example, all reachable & climbable ledges have these "light yellowish" color casted on them. Informing the player that those afford to be grabbed/climbed. This is a clever way to indicate something to the player, without it breaking the immersion. By blending in with the cliffs, using the same "earthly" tones. You can also use color to invoke an emotion from the player. Bright shades of red and yellow might indicate danger , while a blue color let them think about water, the sky, calmness or peace. 2.4 - Examples: Repetition, good or bad? Repetition is beautiful as humans can see patterns. Nature is build up out of patterns and we love it. But when you repeat it too often, it becomes boring. You can compare it to listening to the same song for 100x times. At first you might like the song, although after repeatedly listening to it, you might come to hate it. This problem is also true in level/environment design. Do not let the player(s) traverse through areas that all look the same. What is the point of exploring if everything looks the same? You can keep it look coherent, but be sure to have a bit of variation. As mentioned in the previous point: Color is a nice way to break up the monotone feel of a scene and to attract the players attention. 3.1 - Examples: Movement in a Static World In a static scene, movement will catch the players eyes. When characters or objects move from one position to another position, they create a line. (See example 2.1) As I mentioned previously, a line indicates direction. We can use a dynamic element to guide the player through the level, creating flow. Video by: Dops Gaming Do you know the way? In this example, Nathan breaks out of prison with two of his comrades. In this action packed scene, your goal is to escape the prison. The player can experience this scene as stressful and rushed. You aren't prepared for this. You don't even know the layout of the prison and now you have to make a break for it! During this moment, the player doesn't want to constantly think about where they need to go and accidently get lost. This is where the two side characters take it over and guide you through the scene. 3.2 - Examples: Movement, Following the Crowd I don't know where to go, guess I follow everyone else. This is another example of movement being used. Similar to the previous example, the player is confronted with a high intensive experience. Where "yet again" the goal is to escape from the mess you're in. Video by: theRadBrad (fragment: 10:30 - 13:30) In all the chaos you don't know where to go, so you follow the crowd. Where ever they go, you will follow. Your only goal is to get out and keep Sarah safe. The crowd is moved by "seemingly" uncontrollable events in the scene. An exploding car would drive the crowd to the opposite direction, towards safety. 3.3 - Examples: Movement, Subtle environmental hints It doesn't have to be complicated. The previous two examples requires the developers to create AI with a behavior system. Although that could be really cool, it's also complicated. Video by: IFreeMz (fragment: 42:18 - 42:30) A subtle tumble weed rolling in a certain direction or in this example; a swan flying away into the distance. It tells you to keep moving in "that" direction. 4.1 - Examples: Flow through Storytelling elements The easiest noticeable storytelling elements are: Text, signs Decals Meshes placed in a deliberate order You can make patterns or create contrast to highlight an object. Due to how the tank is angled 45 degrees, it naturally guides the player towards the left side. The tank is used as a physical barrier/obstacle to guide the player to the left. Signs will tell you where to go. The left billboard reads: "Medical Evacuation, Use Tunnel" while the right billboard reads "Salt Lake City, Military Zone Ahead". Given that the theme of the game is about survival, the player wants to avoid danger. Another example is to use breadcrumbs to assist your player through the level. It can be a way to indicate the player that they are on the right path. 5.1 - Why everything I mentioned about composition is wrong (kind of...) Well, 3D levels are created in...3D. Cool 2D -> 3D street art from talented artist: Julian Beever It is easier to make a 2D picture look nice from one view. But in games where the player can freely roam around and explore, they usually have multiple views on an object. You and the environment artists can make everything look nice, but you probably don't have all the time of the world to make it perfect. However, as a level designer you can plan ahead and make sure to get the most out of the level, by setting up rules for yourself. Limit the views the player can have. Pay detail to the more important aspects. What do you want the player to see? Try out different lighting setups. Guide the player through the map with use of flow elements! Make the chances that the player wants to go off-track unlikely! Don't place landmarks at spots where you don't want the player to go to. Uncharted 4 levels feel very open. But secretly their levels are linear, with a golden path. There is no point in going off road, there is nothing there anyway... oh look a cool mountain! (road 66) 5.2 - How Naughty Dog makes sure you still see their cool views! A dedicated button! With a press on a button (L3), they allow the camera to momentarily reposition itself, aiming at the focal point. Using this method, the developers have total control on what they want the player to see. 6.1 - Demonstration: Flow Gone Wrong, how to recognize the designers intentions. The good, the bad. To demonstrate on how you can used your now new profound knowledge to recognize flow elements in other games, I will dissect a level section in Uncharted 4. (Chapter 2: Infernal Place) Something to keep in mind: Nathan doesn't have a map, he doesn't use a compass. What a badass. Video by: Moghi plays (fragment: 8.49 - 10:50) Steps performed by the player: The player sees a tower and grapple hook his way towards it. He proceeds to climb up the tower with use of the grooves. Climbs inside of the tower. Walks around the plateau. Falls in the ocean, trying to find a pathway. Re-spawn Can you recognize what goes "wrong" in this small section? What do you think caused the confusion by the player to suddenly fall off the map, into the ocean? Was the player misinformed, weren't there enough flow elements? To my observation, they placed a lot of flow elements to guide the player but because of a few poorly placed assets. It unintentionally outweighed the other flow elements placed by the designers. The cues that should have helped the player Direction This wooden bar seemed to afford to be hooked. It doesn't, but it does points towards the objective. Direction & Shape Language A pointy triangular rock. Points & triangles can be seen as arrows, arrows indicate direction. In this case this rock is telling us to go upwards. Color These grooves have a light yellow rim. In example 2.3, I explained that Uncharted 4 likes to use color to indicate towards the player, that it affords something. Text & Speech Nathan knows something you don't know. "Onward and Upward" he says. He hints to keep going up. This is a critical cue that gets triggered a bit late. Summarized With so many flow elements, the player shouldn't had to be confused right? The reason for the confusion was likely because of two elements. The doorway The wooden balcony When we convert the picture to black and white, we can see that the difference in contrast makes your eyes focused on the doorway and the wooden plateau. The doorway affords to be walked through, gates are strong methods of guiding the player. They have a strong attraction to them. You want to walk through it to see whats on the other side. The imbalance between the contrast in shape, lighting and color made the doorway and wooden board pop out more than intended. A solution? A potential solution to this problem would be to highlight the grooves a bit more. With use of decals, color or by perhaps destroying part of the construction. Any kind of additional indication that tells the player that they can climb the tower. But nonetheless, without applying my potential solution. You can also jump of the cliff and the game would re-spawn you on a spot with a nice view of the wooden bar. It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Is this the real reason? It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Another theory of mine is that the designers at Naughty Dog planned this all along and this part was supposed to play out like this, to slow down the pacing of the player. Showing them that it is important to look around the environment to find clues. There are really uncountable ways to guide your players. We might never know the truth. 😉 *Note: This article is shared in its entirely on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1792/how_level_flow_works_in_uncharted_.php Follow Trinh Website: https://www.trinhleveldesigner.com/index.html Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trinhleveldesigner/ 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. 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
  6. The following is a recap of an article which is shared on 80 Level. It captures Jon Michael Hickenbottom's experience of the Level Design for Games course offered by CG Master Academy. Jon is currently a Level Designer at New World Interactive, and has worked on games such as Insurgency and Day of Infamy. Getting Started Off the bat, this was my first time using both Unity and Maya to block out levels. Challenge accepted! Coming from a background of Source Engine and Unreal Editor, I had never used a modeling package to create layouts in this fashion. While nervous on how I’d adapt, I quickly discovered the speedy back and forth between Maya and Unity to be very helpful with making iteration and refinement of shapes in the scene painless. Furthermore, Unity was quickly generating collision automatically to help me get from blockout to playtesting within seconds. With Unity and Maya synced up, I was ready to get started! Using Reference An important first step for me is to find reference and inspiration. Google Images, Flickr, and Pinterest are always solid sources for image inspiration and direction. I enjoy discovering supplemental inspiration from art history books, cinematography and “art of” books from various games. Assembling images into a mood board for assignments in either Pinterest or Photoshop kept me focused, and became a catalyst for creativity when encountering mental blocks along the way. The found images began to spark new ideas that may not have otherwise been considered. For a section of the course, the theme was centered around the Wild West. I wanted to create a sense of scale, beauty, and risk within each of my levels. I tried to focus my reference search on shapes and spaces that could communicate this to the player. Inspiration was found in the remarkable art by William Henry Holmes, the thoughtful cinematography of Roger Deakins, the detailed environments in the Desperados series, the splendor of Westworld, and childhood memories of Back to the Future 3. One exciting discovery was remembering the photos I had taken on a summer trip to Zion National Park. These became great references for the shapes and aesthetic of the blockouts. Carrying around a camera or camera phone is a perfect way to easily build a personal reference library that you never know when will come in handy. It also serves in sharpening one’s eye for composition and framing! Scale Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Painting with Shapes Emilia Schatz redefined my understanding of how to paint with shapes. I started a rough idea of my layout on graph paper, but I quickly jumped into Maya to get started. Throughout the course, I challenged myself in these projects to be more comfortable off the grid and break from symmetry. With a background of level editors that encouraged the use of the grid for either organization or optimization, it was a refreshing endeavor to live comfortably off the grid, while still maintaining the use of metrics and proper scale. Living off the grid allowed me to thoughtfully paint shapes without restriction and limitation, thus focusing more on the artistic aspects of level design. This focus was freeing, and I could foresee the creative synergy that would occur between designers and artists as we move to understand the disciplines of one another. Within the past few years, I’ve sought to become a better artist in my pursuit to become a better designer. This course strengthened that pursuit. Through Emilia’s lessons, I began to appreciate the thoughtfulness required of each shape I created and each object I placed; not just from a level designer’s perspective but in how my choices could, in turn, affect a fellow collaborative artist’s workflow. One wonderfully valuable tip was the power of the cube. I had always struggled to understand how complicated terrain and landscapes were created in games like Uncharted. Emilia introduced us to her use of the almighty cube. By squashing, stretching, and slicing a cube, the forms of various terrain elements begin to take shape. In moving these manipulated cubes within one another, it became clearer as to how to craft natural, seismic formations. The idea at this stage was not to worry about optimizing and welding vertices; it was more important to paint shapes, compose compositions, and create interesting spaces. Composition Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Landmarks & Internal Compass Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Crafting Districts & Nodes As we moved from singular areas to large spaces, Emilia introduced us to the idea of nodes, edges, and districts. As I began to map out my level, I began to discover the points of intersection— these are considered nodes. Nodes can be described as intersections and decision points within your paths. They also become great positions to form your compositions around. We can be certain the player will circulate through these points, and therefore be perfect for framing your compositions. Emilia encouraged us to set up various cameras to keep our focus on shaping and refining strong compositions at these points. Edges help communicate that you are entering into a new space. These can be thought of as linear elements that help divide one area from another. I tried to place these around various districts within the level. For example, a grand wall and gate at the entrance help communicate the borders of the town, a small fence shows where a graveyard starts, and a large archway was placed to divide the market area from a military camp. Finally, building your spaces to include identifiable districts helps promote identity and contrast within your levels. It also allows for interesting points of connection between spaces. Bringing all the elements together, the following image shows some of the various district identities I tried to communicate: a marketplace, jagged graveyard, elevated upper class, separated lower class, and the nature surrounding all of these. By employing compositions at these nodes, structuring identifiable edges, and creating distinct districts, I hoped to implement a spatial composition the player found interesting to explore, discover, and inhabit. Bringing It All Together Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Conclusion This course provided me with a masterclass of knowledge that I’ve only scratched the surface on here. I’ve found a renewed outlook on crafting levels with intentional shapes and heightened shape language. It continually stretched and challenged me as a designer, and helped me build a sturdy confidence in tools, perspectives, and genres I had never explored before. I learned how to trust myself more, and free myself to create designs that expressed what was true to my heart. I count myself fortunate to have learned from Emilia Schatz. Her constructive feedback never wavered, and what she shared was always what I and the class needed to hear most. I encourage anyone—at any experience level—to take this course. It has fundamentally changed how I will approach level design. I highly recommend CG Master Academy and especially Level Design for Games with Emilia Schatz. For the full article, follow this link: https://80.lv/articles/introduction-to-level-design-for-games/ Follow John Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonmichael Website: https://www.jonmichaelcreations.com/ 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
  7. Welcome to the Lighting Master Course, courtesy of Andrew Price of Blender Guru. Andrew adeptly guides us from the basics of lighting, into more advanced concepts. Here's an overview of the course: Part 0: Intro Part 1: Direction Part 2: Size Part 3: Color Part 4: Readability Part 5: Emphasis Ways to Improve your Lighting (demonstration) Follow Blender Guru Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOKHwx1VCdgnxwbjyb9Iu1g Twitter: https://twitter.com/andrewpprice Website: https://www.blenderguru.com/ 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. Great looking models, textures, and ambiances and lighting are very important to making our games look as good as they can. Yet without a solid composition to build upon, the visual structure of our environments will be never as compelling or attractive as they can be. The Challenge: Creating compositions in a real time game environment is different from static images such as a photograph or painting in the sense that the camera or the player’s frame of reference is always moving. The player moves through a 3 dimensional space, which effectively creates a brand new composition with every frame. This is similar to film, but can differ if there is a ‘free camera’, where the player has physical control over what the camera is looking at. If this is the case there are no guarantees that the player will be looking where you want them to, when you want them to. With a free camera the artist needs to persuade the player’s eye (and camera) to the places they want them to look, or go. Due to the complications created by an ever-changing frame of reference and an unpredictable camera, level composition should be looked at as the sum of many smaller compositions instead of one large one. All possible viewing angles and player/camera positions should be considered and then the appropriate compositions built from these starting points. Creating Compositions: Elements and Principles The “elements of design” and the “principles of design” have been called the language of art, or the building blocks used to create art. For the environment artist, they are the modular pieces, tile sets, prop objects, and lights we have to build our levels. 1. The Elements of Design The elements of design provide a tool set to the artist similar to visual Lego pieces with which images can be constructed. There are 7 types of elements... Line shape size space colour texture value Line: Line is anything that is used to define a shape, contour or outline. It communicates length and direction, and can have an emotional impact on the viewer depending on its angle. The 4 different types of lines are horizontal, vertical, oblique, and curved. Here are some examples… Horizontal lines: These imply calm and rest. Vertical lines: communicate power and strength. Oblique lines: suggest movement, action, or change Curved lines (S lines): portray quiet and calm Lines are a very useful for leading the eye of the player to a desired location, or in the direction you want them to travel. Shape: shapes are created through combinations of lines, but can also be made by a change in colour or tone. The following are the different categories of shapes... Geometric – architectural shapes, manufactured or ‘inorganic’ Organic – natural shapes, or those created by curved irregular lines Positive/Negative – the shapes created by the physical objects that occupy space, or lack thereof. Static – stable and immobile shapes Dynamic – shapes that imply movement or activity Size (scale): Size is the relationship between the proportions of shapes, since you don’t know how big anything is until it’s placed in reference of something else. Differences in size will place a visual emphasis or lack of emphasis on a shape. Space: This is the negative space (or negative shape) created through the arrangement of negative shapes. Colour: The subject of colour would be a whole separate paper, or book even, so I’ll define it very briefly. Simply put, every colour is the result of mixing a Hue, a Value, and an Intensity. Colours can be warm or cool. A wide range of contrasts can be created using colour. For a more thorough explanation, refer to Johannes Itten’s “Art of Colour” Texture: Environment artists are well acquainted with textures. As an element of design,' texture' refers to the way a surface looks. Matte, shiny, bumpy, etc. are all textures. Value: The final element is value. This is also sometimes called ‘Form’. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of an object, a shadow, or a colour. Value can be increased or decreased by adding white or black, or increasing/decreasing the intensity of its lighting. The location of light sources and their intensity has a huge influence on a appearance of the scene and on the emotional response of the player. 2. The Principles of Design: The “Principles of design” are the techniques used for the effective arrangement and distribution of elements into a composition. The principles are... Balance Direction Emphasis Proportion Rhythm Economy Unity Just as multiple elements can be combined together, so can multiple principles. Artists are definitely not limited to one principle per image. By understanding and applying these principles to our levels we can be more effective in achieving our visual goals, and communicating our ideas to our audience. Balance: Balance is a result of the fact that the player’s eye will unconsciously use the middle of the screen as a fulcrum, a center point of the left and right side. Balance is achieved by arranging elements so that neither side is visually overpowering or heavier than another. All the elements an artist has to work with have a visual weight associated with them, depending on their colour, value, and size. Dark elements weigh more than light elements, large elements weigh more than small elements, etc. Maintaining visual balance requires consciously distributing an appropriate number of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ elements on either side of this fulcrum, at appropriate distances. There are 2 ways to balance elements on the screen, symmetrically, and asymmetrically. Symmetrical Balance is pleasing to the eye and has an emotional effect of peace, calm, and tranquility. There are 3 different types of symmetrical balance… Translatory, Rotational, and Axial. Translatory Symmetry is where elements at the same height in the Y axis are copied from right to left. Rotational (Radial) Symmetry is the rotation of elements from a common pivot Axial (Mirror) Symmetry is where elements are balanced equally on both sides of the fulcrum Asymmetrical Balance: Asymmetrical balance is achieved by arranging elements of differing size and weight unevenly around the fulcrum so that they balance each other respectively. Another asymmetrical balance is one large dominant element offset by many smaller/lighter elements. Asymmetrical compositions generally have a greater sense of visual tension and have an opposite emotional effect on the player than symmetrical balance. They instil a feeling of excitement, curiosity, or anxiety. Direction: Direction is given by the arrangement, angle, and distribution of elements. The visual flow created by direction is used to lead the player’s eye through a composition, or even more literally, used to physically lead the player where the designer wants them to go. Direction can be used to emphasize depth and the scale of a location or area. the placement of dark and light values are very powerful tools for creating direction. Emphasis: The emphasis in a level is the environmental focal point of a location. This is also known as a ‘center piece’ or a ‘hero object’. Direction can be used to lead a player through an area, but you don’t stop them with emphasis points of interest, the area will not be interesting and they’ll run past all your hard work. Proportion: Proportion in composition refers to the size relationship of elements versus each other, and vs. the world as a whole. Structural proportions (like the distance between a ceiling and floor) are used for a number of things. They can create visual emphasis and importance, and can have an emotional effect on player such as power, intimidation. Proportion also refers to the Golden Mean and the Rule of Thirds. In videogames our dynamic and player-controlled camera’s make it difficult to implement these aspects of proportion into our compositions, but in certain circumstances they can be a used. These proportional ‘rules’ have been studied for hundreds of years, and are very important in composition due to the emotional response it brings from the viewer. The golden mean is 1 : 1.618, or this… The rule of thirds is the division of screen into 3 equal sections vertically and horizontally. When elements are placed at these intersections the composition will be more pleasing to the viewer. Rhythm: Rhythm is the repeating occurrence of visual elements. Rhythm is visually soothing to our eyes and people instinctively will follow a rhythmic pattern. In a composition, Rhythm can be used to create depth in a scene. It can create a sense of movement, or place emphasis on an object. Economy: A level in a videogame is typically filled with movement, VFX, sounds, and maybe a little too frequently someone trying to shoot you. With all of this action (and distraction) a composition needs to read very quickly and clearly. If it is too complex, cluttered, or subtle, it will be missed and lost. This is where ‘economy’ comes in. If you can remove an element within a design and the design still works then you can communicate your composition more efficiently. When creating a composition there is no need to offer more than what is required. Use what you need, optimize where you can. (Just like polygon modeling:) The following are different examples of economy, using symmetry, direction, rhythm, and size, and emphasis. Unity: The last of the principles of design is Unity, also called ‘unity within variety’. Unity is the relationship between all the separate elements of a scene or level. It creates a feeling of ‘wholeness’ to a scene, the sense that everything is tied together visually. One method of achieving unity is through proximity. When placing props for example, small clusters or groups is more aesthetically pleasing to a composition than randomly scattering them about. Repetition also results in unity. This can be the repetition of colour, shape, texture, or other elements. Continuation is a more subtle technique involving controlling the eye movement and intentionally leading it back into a composition. -jeremy price *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JeremyPrice/20110318/7258/Applying_the_Elements_of_Design_and_Principles_of_Design_in_Level_Art.php Follow Jeremy Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjeremyprice Website: http://www.artbyjeremyprice.com/ 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/hkxwVml0D
  9. The level of detail required varies greatly depending upon which stage of development a project as at. Some designers are very detail focused to begin with, and work on fleshing out the larger context of that detail over time. Others start out with very basic, high level concepts, and incorporate more detail as they go along.Regardless of what your natural inclinations may be, one thing is almost universally true - when you begin translating your ideas into a virtual space via an editor, there's great benefit to starting with a rough blockout of your play space. In this short article, Andres Rodriguez relays the wisdom he's gained as a designer on games such as Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us.Solid Foundations MatterAndres cites the importance of blockouts for fast iteration, composition, and framing: Designing for Brains and BeautyBlockouts are also a great tool for assuring that pathing and points of interest are clear, and that players can easily understand the space they find themselves in: The Role of Blocking Within the Full PipelineFinally, we must look at the role of blocking out not within a vacuum, but as part of a larger process. Decisions made at the blockout stage impact art and lighting, for example. The reverse can be true as well - there's value in understanding how the spaces we design will impact lighting and shadows. Understanding the interplay between the various steps in the design process will ultimately result in better levels. The quotes above are excerpts of an article that can be read in full here: https://80.lv/articles/attack-the-block-steps-to-better-level-design/Follow AndresWebsite: http://www.arodz3d.com/ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/arodz3d
  10. 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
  11. Lighting: The theory behind lighting out your levels. How to create an interesting setup and what to watch out for. IntroductionLighting is one of the most important and influential elements in environments. It has the power to make or break the visuals, theme and atmosphere.Lighting is often forgotten or underestimated. Designers often add it quickly and without much love. While in the past that was partially excusable by the weak hardware and game engines, these excuses just won't hold up anymore. Lighting is just as important as geometry. Without lighting there is no environment but just a group of 3 dimensional objects. Lighting has the capacity to bring life to a group of objects and take them to the next level of quality. Its purpose goes further than just giving the players the ability to see where they are going.It creates atmosphere. It makes places look scary/cozy or warm/cold. It augments the three dimensional feel of objects and it creates composition and balance to lead the player's eyes around. Yet considering all of that there is a very large group of games and levels out there which use nothing more than white ambient lighting everywhere.The SourceThe most basic rule of lighting is that it always needs a lightsource. Even more important, and this is the second rule; the light should appear to be cast by a source. It is impossible to have lighting in an area with no source, like in this bad example. Info P083: UT2004 level DM Rankin – Personal work – Owned by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example While there is plenty of lighting in this corridor it's impossible to tell where the light is coming from. This completely breaks the illusion and looks fake.Also to be avoided is lighting that is out of balance with the size of the source. For example, a small light source that somehow manages to illuminate an entire room or corridor, like in this bad example. Info P084: UT level CTF Ortican – Personal work – Owned by myself and textures by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example Keep things in proportion!Light sources can be anything: small or large lamps hanging on walls or from ceilings, the moon or the sun, crystals, lasers and other type of high tech beams, fire, mirrors, magical effects, water surfaces that bounce back light, lava or radioactive slime and so on. Everything is possible as long as there is a noticeable source.The same goes for the brightness of the source itself. If the lighting is very bright the source itself should not be dim. It should be just as bright and, if possible, have effects like a glow to enhance the brightness. Info P085: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example The left example is bad because the lamp appears to be disabled even while the environment does seem to receive lighting of it. The brightness of the light source and the brightness of the lighting in an area must be balanced and appear equal.Related to this is the next important aspect. Show the player where exactly the light is coming from. The area near a source should look the brightest. A logical thought. Info P086: UT level CTF Raid – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example The first example is bad, the second one is good. The first one is bad because the entire area has an equal brightness which is strange. It doesn't feel as if the lighting is really coming from the lamp. The lighting should be considerably brighter near the source than ten meters further away in a corner. It should fade out as it travels further and further away from the source. It should show variation and that's not only more realistic but it also helps the lighting composition. Show a direct influence from one element on the other!ColorsThe most complex rule of lighting is that colored lighting is a must and absolute requirement in almost every situation. Colors can make or break a composition; they shape the atmosphere and emotions associated with an area and they simply make environments more interesting and lively to look at.Most light sources in the world cast lighting that, in one way or another, have color. Therefore it is not very realistic to place white lighting in the environment. For example, a lamp might cast yellow light because it is surrounded by yellow glass. Or perhaps it is an old lamp and the glass is beginning to change color due to the wet environment it is in. Or perhaps the light is shining on a yellow wall thus causing the light rays to bounce off and carry the yellow color to another surface which results in the seemingly yellow lighting.That bouncing is the radiosity effect and as up to now there still aren’t any games which can offer correct and complex radiosity lighting.Therefore, until there is such technology available, one must color the lights oneself instead of relying on how the atmosphere or materials might enhance the lighting. They won't because of the limited technology. If color isn't added, the result will be very bland and fake.Another aspect of lighting is the light temperature. There is a theory that says light is energy and the stronger the light the more energy it has and thus the warmer it is. The temperature influences the strength. Info P091a: lighting temperatures – Owned by myself 1600K is sunset and sunrise and 1800K is a candle. 2800K is a regular light, 5000K is midday sun and so on. Thus the chance that the light in the game environment would cast pure white lighting is rather small.Also notice that red is actually colder than blue. Arc welding or lightning are blue because they are much hotter and stronger compared to a pretty weak, regular, orange fire.A warm blue and a cold red contradict what you will read in a few pages about the warmth of a color. Remember that blue is only warmer than red in a scientific perspective. Emotionally, on the other hand, red probably feels warmer than blue. Common color associations are at the base of that feeling. When something is hot it will glow red while cold things like water and ice are blue. They influence our perspective toward colors. These are very powerful clichés.Another reason to use colors is the composition. In fact one color is not enough most of the time; at least two colors are needed or else creating contrast will be impossible. If only one lighting color is used, that very important color contrast is lost and the result would again be very bland. Info P091: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example Change is also necessary in order to form a composition and one color can not offer the necessary changes. The colors used need to be balanced. They need to strike the right balance between providing enough contrast yet still complement each other. Harmony is the word to remember well when dealing with lighting.Before being able to work with lighting colors one must understand how colors work. There is a huge difference between the regular colors used to create textures and the colors used to light an area with. Lighting is made of RGB, which stands for Red, Green and Blue. CRT monitors and TV's use this system as well.On the other hand paintings, pencils, prints and so on are CMY. They operate on three totally different primary base colors: Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Or, in very simplified terms, blue, red, and yellow; the primary colors - which are often learned about when one is very young.The real difference between the two systems lies in how they create colors; or how they mix. CMY colors will end up as a brown black mess when mixed together. Think about what happened to all the colors when someone mixed all the paint together back in grade school.RGB on the other hand will end up as white when mixed. Shine multiple colored lights at one spot and they will end up creating a white spot.The important difference for us is that certain color combinations which work great in a painting will never work out in lighting! And the other way around. It is impossible to use a color combination that works in CMY for lighting because of two reasons.First off, any color viewed is a mix of the three primary colors. RGB mixes differently so the colors it creates simply will look different than those created by CMY. This is especially a problem when one color accidentally mixes with another in spots, something that is bound to happen when working with lighting. Mixing blue and red in CMY might look nice in paint but when red and blue are used in lighting they will create purple spots. Certain variations and mixes of colors are not the same in both types.Secondly, lighting RGB (notice the word lighting in front of it as what's about to be explained is only true for lighting) simply doesn't have all the colors CMY has. Converting color combinations is therefore not always possible. RGB does not have dark yellow, dark red and so on. It can't create dark colors because lighting cannot be dark - it is always light. It can however be more or less saturated or intense but not dark. Black light doesn't exist. And thus neither does gray or brown light exist.One could say that lighting uses simpler colors and has more limitations. There are fewer colors and less subtle changes to use because of the lack of dark colors. Lighting is constrained to a relatively small set of colors that can be used.What makes this even more difficult is that half of those available colors almost never work out well in most themes and subtle changes in hue or saturation are barely noticeable. Colors like purple or pink are almost impossible to use in most themes and styles because they simply do not fit in nor look natural. Using them will most likely result in some weird and unrealistic disco style rather than anything else. The palette of colors to use is very small and mainly consists of yellow, orange, blue, cyan, red and a tiny bit of green.Never use painter logic and rely on mixing brighter lights with darker lights to create changes in your environment. Dark colors do not exist! One can only see a difference when a light's color or saturation radically changes so subtle changes won't be noticeable. Here's why: Light is always a gradient. It always creates a lighter area and a darker area. Lighting simply starts somewhere and then fades out as it travels further away from its source. If one attempts to create contrast by using darker and brighter lights of the same color then the result wouldn't show a contrast at all but would look weird because some lights would appear too weak to be possible.Now that the theory of color has been explained, it is time to apply this knowledge to light application in a level. The idea behind colors is to allow them to add to the theme and atmosphere and to let them create a composition to aid the eyes and to keep things interesting.Colors continued: composition and choicesColors offer various types of contrasts and feelings. It is essential to understand them and use them correctly in order to create interesting and fitting lighting for the level.One should almost always use more than one light color in the level. As mentioned before, the key to create an interesting look and composition is to create well balanced contrasts. Too little or too much contrast is bad. Info P092: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example Neither looks good. The first picture is very repetitive and thus boring because everything has the same lighting color. The second picture has so many different lighting colors that there's no harmony and it looks completely random. This is undesirable.Avoid weak compositions or very harsh ones. When transformed into the flow charts, previously seen in the composition chapter, the above two pictures show clear problems. Info P093a and P093b: Scanlines The line either has very little change or the change is so hard and sudden that the eyes hit several steep walls when they follow the line.The line should show changes that are quite noticeable yet flow enough to not hurt the eyes. Info P094: Scanline It is for this reason that the right combinations and placement of the lighting colors are needed. I personally always use two main light colors such as blue and yellow and then a third color, like orange, to give extra contrast and difference to a few special elements.The third color is to prevent the two main colors from becoming repetitive. Too much of the same combination can also become boring. The third color's purpose is to occasionally break up that combination.I refrain from using four colors because too many colors can make things look random. It should never look like a mess; unity is the goal.Composition-wise, lighting colors should follow the same rules as highlights. Their composition must be evenly spread out so there are no large spots of the same color which could unbalance the visuals in that area! If the entire right side of a room only has blue lights and the left side has blue and yellow lights it might appear unbalanced. This also depends on the composition of other elements such as the architecture and any moving geometry though.Now one may wonder what colors to use and combine. Combining colors in lighting is about more than just finding a random combination that looks cool. There are systems and arguments that help create the right combination. The lighting colors should not only enhance the visuals and the composition but they should also enhance the theme and atmosphere. The choice of what colors to use depends, for a large part, on the theme and desired atmosphere. A scary theme requires cold colors for example.There are different types of color combinations and each one of them offers another type of contrast.First of all there are cold and warm colors. Some colors feel cold, such as blue, while others feel warm, like orange. Cold colors are blue, green and purple. Warm colors are yellow, red and orange. It is logical that combining a warm and a cold color can give nice results.Another type is the strong and easy color combination. Some colors are very aggressive and powerful while others are very easy and relaxed. Strong colors grab a lot of attention even if they are used in small amounts. Red is the best example of this. It is such a powerful color that even a small spot in an environment can be dominating. Info P095: TCOS Carnyx – Personal work – Owned by Spellborn NV – Modified version to fit the example In this picture the one thing that stands out the most is the red light. Red is incredibly aggressive and thus should be used with caution since it can make the player forget everything else in the scene. That might not be the desired effect.Other aggressive colors are orange and then yellow. Easy colors are the colors that invoke comfort and calm. They rest the eyes. Easy colors are blue, green, and purple.The last type of color combination is the light and dark one. Is the color closer to white or closer to black? The simplest way of checking if a color is light or dark is to think what would happen if it was converted to grayscale. Think of what a copy machine would do to it. Red is a dark color. It becomes almost black when converted to grayscale. The same is true for blue and purple. On the other hand green, and especially yellow, are bright colors.Choosing the right color is not just a random choice. The better the choice the better the contrast will be and therefore the better it will look. Two cold colors should not be chosen as the main light colors, for example. One is better off combining different types of colors together like a warm orange with a cold blue.The best combination of colors to use in lighting is yellow with blue and all the variations on it (for example orange-blue and yellow-turquoise).Yellow is a bright, aggressive, and warm color while blue is a dark, easy, and cold color. It is the only combination that manages to use the opposites of all three types, which is also the reason why it is used in so many games. The yellow also is subtle enough to not draw all the attention to itself like red would. And next to all that it is also the most natural combination. More on that later.To complicate things more, there is one element which can make the effects of each of these different types stronger of weaker and that is saturation. White is a special color that feels neither cold nor warm, aggressive or easy. Apart from being a bright color, it is very neutral so lowering the saturation of a color can neutralize the effects a little and that can be useful. In order to achieve a balanced look it's necessary to find the right saturation for the colors. If all the colors are one hundred percent saturated the result would probably be a very harsh look with very strong colors. Info P096: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself and textures by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example While creating contrast, unity should not be forgotten. In the example above the contrast is way too harsh resulting in an ugly, unbalanced, and unrealistic situation. It is the balance between the two that forms the key to success. I usually pick colors that are only fifty percent saturated but whatever works for the particular situation is good.Slightly desaturating your main colors is, in most cases, the way to go although there are always exceptions. For example, colors like red will turn pink when desaturated. There are also a couple of light sources that always need very saturated light; fire for example.The amount of saturation something has can greatly alter its look or feel. A very white blue feels colder than a very saturated blue. This is important when one is after a cold feel.And that brings us to another very important point: theme. As mentioned before colors are not randomly chosen. 'Because it looks nice' should never be the sole argument about why color X is being used. The color combination should not only fit together but it should also enhance the theme and atmosphere. For example, if the theme is an ice environment, then lots of warm colors, like orange, shouldn't be used. Info P097: Example – Personal work – Owned by Spellborn NV The first example is bad, the second one is good as it feels colder. A cold environment needs cold colors; blue for example.People associate colors with feelings. The whiter the color is the cleaner or colder the area will appear while darkness is experienced as scary or depressing. When I design a new level I always ask myself the question 'What color do people associate with the theme I have in mind?' If I design a lava environment it's very clear I will need a lot of red and orange lighting.After I have my first main color I always try to find the second main color. The second main color has to create a contrast yet look nice in combination with the first color. When my theme involves lots of water or a sea my first main color will be blue and my second color yellow. A dawn environment asks for yellow or perhaps even a deep orange as the first main color and blue as the second main color. Humid environmentsfeel better with some green and so on.As mentioned in other chapters it is about clichés. People need to quickly recognize something and they can do that through clichés.Sunlight is perhaps the best example of how radiosity and contrasting colors work and how the atmosphere affects the color. Unless it is noon, direct sunlight is always slightly colored. Think of what color the sun has in the evening or at dawn. It will appear as orange or yellow most of the times. Indirect sunlight has a color as well. It is usually a blue/slightly purple color. Info P098: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself In these evening beach photos the color of the sun and ambient lighting is readily apparent. The direct sunlight is orange while the ambient light is blue. White lighting is, in almost all situations, unrealistic; just as coloring an entire outdoor area with the same color is. In most situations there should always be two colors around. One for the direct sunlight, which is likely a type of yellow, and one for the indirect sunlight, which is usually a type of blue. Not only is this realistic but it will also look much better.Texturing and lightingTexturing can make or break your lighting. Textures are the base for the lighting. The texturing of the world carries a large responsibility. While I already explained this theory in the texture chapter I would like to give a few common mistakes extra focus.If a texture is too dark it cannot be lit well. The same goes for overly bright or white textures. They will look very bright when lit. Info P099: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself A solution could be to up or downscale the intensity of the lights but that is not the best way to go. In the end the fault lies in the texturing and not in the lighting so it is the texturing that has to be fixed. Fix the cause, not the result.Changing the light intensity will also cause trouble if the level uses a combination of dark and bright textures (a snow level with dark buildings for example). Downscaling the light intensity would make the darker textures appear even darker and if one were to upscale it the bright textures would look way too bright. Therefore the textures used in an environment should be balanced and have roughly the same level of brightness!The same is true for colors in textures. The colors used in textures can influence the look and feel of the lighting and they will. It is essential to foresee which lighting colors to use while texturing the level. If the textures in an area are, for example, very orange and yellow it might end up weird when they are later lit with blue lighting. Info P100: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself If the design is to light the environment with many blue lights for whatever reason, then, during texturing, it should be ensured that the textures are desaturated enough or have roughly the same color as most of the lighting.The point is that the texture choice can heavily influence the lighting. Textures and materials are the base for lighting, and if the texturing isn't in harmony with the lighting, then one of the two is going to suffer. All elements in a world are connected and influence each other.Article Source: https://www.moddb.com/tutorials/lighting-in-game-environments-the-hows-and-whys*This article is posted in its entirety 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
  12. "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
  13. The Importance of Planning I think there are a lot of different and often very good ways to start a level and what you should do depends greatly on the kind of game you want to create something for, your own experience, and so forth. So there’s no ready recipe for that. In general the most important thing is to think things through. Properly sit down and think about what it is you want to make. Especially if you are new to this. I do a lot by the flow, because I base what I do on previous experience and I know it will work out anyway, but if you are new to it – plan everything. Whether you plan by just sitting down somewhere and thinking it through, or by drawing a plan, or by using Lego, it doesn’t matter. Just ensure you think it through in detail. Exactly what are you building? What are the potential problems you might face? What will make this special and unique and can you amplify that further? Sculpting The Landscape The Solus Project I’ve used World Machine for one of the sections in The Solus Project but it didn’t help too much. Our landscapes are too specific and small for World Machine. I do use World Machine to generate distant mountains and landscape elements though. Works very well for that. The way you should build the landscape depends so much on exactly what you build. You should of course always take the player’s camera angle into account. A real time strategy game with an overhead camera would see different things than a first person player of course, but other than that it is a very wide question. I personally start out with nothing more than the landscape and sculpt it until it is about what I had in mind. Then I place the biggest rocks on buildings on top, and continue with sculpting the landscape. These objects give me a better understanding of scale, distance, composition and so forth. Style VS Reality A stylized look can be really cool, I love The Walking Dead for example, but it is not my style. I like keeping it realistic, but at the same time I don’t want to make the real world. There is enough of that around us already, and if you do that you need to do it super well because everyone is going to compare you attempt at realism with what they know of the world. That makes it hard to pull off properly. Going more artistic solves that, and it is more fun also. It gives you a lot more possibilities to create something impressive and memorable. Don’t Confuse the Player I tend to place things carefully. Like a tree that fell down can create a line, a kind of border where it fell, so I will deliberately place these kind of things to create subtle barriers and lines where I need them to guide the players in the right direction. Even if people can just step over said fallen tree, you tend to recognize these kind of lines and borders and change your navigation accordingly. Navigation aside there is also visual composition to keep in mind. You don’t want it cluttered with random elements, so I will place things to create balanced and varied yet not too varied areas. In TSP in particular also tend to place stone blocks in rows, statues, or blue ship debris to highlight certain directions or areas. Look At The Sky The skies in The Solus Project are all built by me from scratch. They are not actual skyboxes, but gigantic 3D skies. The planets you see are a million units across and actual 3D objects that orbit the world. The first Unreal taught me that skies are crucial to the experience, so I have always put a lot of emphasis on making good skies. A sky should be varied, have a sense of scale, drama, and give a clear indication of where the light is coming from. The sun in general is crucial. I see a lot of people simply paint in a bright dot in the sky with a lot of bloom and be done with it, but I spend many days making my sun and it consists of many different layers of flares. The great majority of my sun has nothing to do with Bloom or Lightshafts or such at all, it is all done by hand, and I think people greatly underestimate the work you should invest in making the sun and the sky. Do Light Early On I always do basic light early on, after I placed the majority of most important geometry, just to get a sense of space and feel for it, but after that I will hold off doing lighting until texturing and geometry is nearly entirely finished. You cannot do lighting if you don’t know what kind of colors your textures will have, so that must come first for me. Keeps development streamlined also by doing things in clearly divided steps. Lighting has a major impact on gameplay, for example it can help or confuse the navigation of the player by highlighting or darkening the exit. It can make the player careful if it is dark, or it can make the player feel more stressed if there are for example a lot of blinking red lights, and so forth. Everything is Connected In general everything has an impact on everything. If you build games you should always look at the entire picture and never do one thing independently of another. Optimize Your Scene A lot of students hit a problem with optimization for two reasons. First of all they never really get forced to think about it, because a portfolio piece is almost always small in size, plus doesn’t has to run on a wide range of platforms and devices, so they never get to cover the optimization part of the job. And secondly this is also something that just needs a lot of experience, which you don’t have if you start out. I don’t really care if I can make one particular area look nice, that isn’t very hard to do, what I care about is if I can mass produce similar graphics and art throughout dozens if not hundreds of locations in the entire game, and done in such way that I never have to go back in and optimize it. So when I begin building something, I will immediately take into account everything that could potential slow either me, the player, or the hardware down further down the line and I try to cover as much of it as I can right away. Think about the big picture, and think it through what could all end up being slow, and tackle it all before it is a problem. Guide The Player I tend to create pockets of free space, followed by linear sections and bottlenecks. So you can explore freely in certain areas, but there is only one way out of each of those areas. I ensure the way out is always in a way special, for example the top of a hill, or near a large statue. So you can find it back and feel naturally inclined to go there, yet still have the opportunity to go elsewhere also. If you look at a game like GTA 5 which is pretty much entirely about trying stuff out and doing whatever you feel you want to do, that still has a very streamlined singleplayer experience build in as well I would say. So it is perfectly possible to combine the two, but it depends on the type of game on exactly how you are doing it. Technology Does Not Kill Creativity If the technology becomes better you actually have less need for avoiding creative risk because you don’t have the tech to worry about and you can thus go all out on more creative games. I think that that is actually happening in a portion of the market because powerful and free engines like the Unreal Engine create a new kind of niche market. It attracts small teams who don’t need a multi-million dollar hit game to survive, and thus those teams can focus on more creative experiences. That said, there are of course also a lot of run of the mill kind of games being released, but I don’t think the tech is to blame there. What you we are dealing with in general is a games market that has exploded over the past few years. 10 years ago it was very hard to sell a game without a publisher, nowadays there are a 100 different ways of getting your game out there. That attracts a lot of people, and a lot more games get made because of that. That consequently also means you will have a lot more copycats, simply because there are so many more games and because it is so much easier to step into the market. On top we have seen the mid tier developers disappear over the last couple of years, only to begin bouncing back up now. For a couple of years now we have been left with only some of the largest studios around, and those large studios can’t usually take the risk of doing something too new or creative due to the budgets involved. Budgets that are nowadays a lot higher than they were before, and games made for a market that has a million times more competition then 10-15 years ago. Original Article Location: 80.lv/articles/10-rules-of-building-great-games-and-levels/ *This article is posted in its entirety with permission from the author Follow Hourences Website: www.hourences.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/Hourences
  14. Bobby Ross has put together an awesome Visual Guide to Multiplayer Level Design, based upon Ben Bauer's "Ben’s small bible of realistic multiplayer level design". Much like it's inspiration (which is well worth your time as well), this guide is relatively comprehensive in the range of subjects it covers, starting out with definitions of basic terms, and getting into things such as composition and Shape Language. The main sections are as follows: 1: Terms 2: Strategy 3: Tactics 4: Map Scale 5: Orientation & Navigation (Art) 6: Round vs Reinforcement 7: Map Symmetry 8: Realistic & Arcade Style 9: Supporting Game Design 10: Credits It goes without saying that this guide is perfect for the more visual learners amongst us. However, there's tremendous value to be found here for everyone. The design of the article itself is a thing of beauty that needs to be seen (or re-seen). Check it out, and share your takeaways from it. Source: http://bobbyross.com/library/mpleveldesign Follow Bobby Website: http://bobbyross.com/ Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbyross6 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