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  1. a Chunk

    Gunplay - Westin Koessel

    Chapter 1: Hear me out Going as far back as the Halo trilogy, and especially in more modern games like Destiny, the aptly named Modern Warfare, and even Apex Legends, it has been commonplace to refer to all facets of the 'shooting' in one of these games as its gunplay. Which, in and of itself, is fine - vague and generalized word use is very helpful, and allows us to get complicated ideas across quickly when we’re trying to touch on larger points. For that reason, I don’t go around grilling people who don’t use perfectly accurate verbiage at every turn. However, more often than not, when I hear someone specifically refer to gunplay, I don’t think they mean what they think they mean. Perfect examples came out of the recent COD Modern Warfare. We all know that game has problems, and we’re not here to discuss them… but in reference to the game, you'll constantly hear “Yeah that game is really campy and the maps have too many windows and doors, and it’s really too bad, because the gunplay is just "so good". This same idea is communicated in and around plenty of other games, and is regular speech for an FPS player. Inevitably, the first thing that shoots into my head is, what do you mean 'good'? Yes, I completely agree that it feels good to shoot in Modern warfare. The hitmarker sounds, the weapons sounds, the animations, the screams of my dying enemy, even the smoke coming from the barrel of my gun contributes to that effect. The score that pops up after a kill, the guitar riff that plays when I level up. There are endless layers of feedback that all make me feel ecstatic, but at the end of the day, that’s just how I feel, not how the gunplay in Modern Warfare functions. And this is important, because how gunplay functions does contribute to how a game feels, but not in the sense we’ve already described. First of all, mechanics, in the long term, can create a meaningful fulfillment and feelings of personal growth as we understand and even master them. Then, these skills become practical, climaxing when we put this to use effectively, which is immediately satisfying. This whole paradigm is NOT as simple as "short term vs. long term satisfaction". Some of that instant gratification does come from mechanics, some comes from sensory stimuli, and the two can be distinguished. The former version of instant gratification, mechanical fulfillment, is one reason why watching great players is so fun. You get to feel some of that sweet second-hand dopamine as you watch them succeed in ways you only wish you could, even if you haven't seen the meaningful journey of practice that went into being able to play like that. While feeling is the word I’ve chosen to use within the context of this effect, as well as the former effect, when I describe them, they are obviously very different. One is pleasurable, and the other is meaningful, that is, earned, and therefore pleasurable. When you refer to a game in the way I described earlier, where our imaginary person attempts to diagnose the pros and cons of Modern Warfare, it seems like what is unknowingly being referred to is mechanical function. Just reflect on that quote from our imaginary MW player. First, he talks about the gameplay, the camping, then he talks about the maps, how they have too many variables, and finally gunplay. Context points to a conversation about mechanical function, but upon further questioning, most I've interacted with are almost always thinking about how the gun looks and 'feels', and not as a result of difficulty or cultivated skill, but as a result of punchy hitmarker sounds and realistic blood splatters. To explain it once more, and perhaps in a simpler way, imagine any shooter, but the gun models were replaced with inanimate bananas, and there were no weapon sounds or effects. Would it 'feel' good to shoot? In one sense, no, because there isn’t any convincing feedback. In another sense, the functional sense, it would feel no different than it does now, because weapon models, animations, and sounds are all just sensory stimuli. The game would play exactly the same way. Same kill times, same recoil patterns, same flinch, same mechanics to master. A game that all too often receives this treatment is Destiny, but it’s understandable. It is so unreasonably satisfying to shoot a hand cannon in that game, that it’s hard to separate how destiny’s gunplay feels and how it works. Which again, how it works does contribute to the feel, just in a different sense. And I’m going to use destiny as an example of why it’s so important to separate in your mind these two facets of shooting as a designer. If we are to look at destiny, on paper, without the seductive visuals of the dreaming city or my homegirl ada-1, you might be surprised of what we actually find. Many times Destiny has been compared to Halo, but when you really look at it, you will see that Destiny, in reality, will reveal itself. The first thing to look at would be your players movement and strafe within Destiny. Yes, there are plenty of advanced movement options, but the lack of mid-air accuracy successfully grounds players for most gunfights, so as far as gunplay is concerned, these are separated. So then, next, we can look at the players strafe. How good is it? Well, it’s not that great. Even with a max mobility build, it’s not very effective. The insanely high bullet magnetism within Destiny can’t help, but I digress. Most combat is grounded, and the strafe is of little effect. Next, we can look at weapons. Almost all weapons are hitscan, and what is projectile usually (99 times out of 100) tracks your target. For the sake of making a point, humor me, how about the maps? Well, with Destiny 2 especially, we see nothing but Treyarch-like 3 lanes, and flat ones at that. This is starting to sound familiar... The last facet to consider would be any system baked into the mechanics, like descope in Halo. Well, Destiny doesn’t have descoping, but it does have hefty flinch, or aim punch as some call it, where enemy bullets cause your aim to jump about and render your gun inaccurate.. Not only is a strong flinch present, but most weapons are also inaccurate when fired from the hip... Okay, so considering all of this, why does it feel like Halo? Well, as far as I can tell, it’s almost exclusively because of the time to kill. This is where Destiny is closest to Halo, with an average TTK of around 1 second. And so, even though we may feel there is a connection to Halo, and there is, when we parse through the mechanics one by one, Destiny isn't "just like Halo". In reality, it's a lot more like a Call of Duty game. I trust you see what I mean, reader. You're a smart guy. You know that there’s usually more than meets the brain when it comes to this stuff, and I'm sure you'll agree it to be extremely important to look under the hood before we make claims about how good or bad a mechanic is. You probably already know this, but this thought process can be applied to anything, in order to separate the superficial from the real, and not just with gunplay. Chapter 2: Shoot me And, while we’re here, I’ll expand on what I personally find to qualify as ‘good’ functional gunplay. Right off the bat, the suffix of gunplay, play, assumes the presence of, well, play. In other words, some sort of give and take. Some sort of interaction. Going back to Modern Warfare, the games functional gunplay consists of very little give and take. You essentially put the crosshair on your opponent, and click. Attachments combined with the mounting mechanic will often completely nullify recoil, and most COD players already know instinctively to aim at center mass to prevent flinch from knocking them off target, because flinch will severely punish you for aiming at the head by making you miss entirely, which means you never really should go for headshots unless someone isn’t looking at you. All of this, by extension, is less opportunity for 'play' within your shooting mechanics by discouraging the player from aiming at the crit spot. Now, with the games near instant kill times in mind, and the distinct lack of any strafe, again, the game is essentially point, click, and move on. Yes, technically, there is some gun play, some give and take, as you still have to do the aiming, with a little bit of recoil to account for. To that I would say, if the only requirement for good gunplay, functionally speaking, is the generalized presence of aiming, then every shooter ever made would qualify as having ‘good’ gunplay. No, this can’t be the bar we set, I think we can do better. The first way we can do better is with projectile based weapons. Projectiles, while harder to use, are just as accurate as hitscan. The obvious difference being that one must aim ahead and utilize his spatial awareness to account for bullet travel time in order to land shots. Many have said that projectiles are "messy", and that hitscan is the cleaner choice, but projectiles, assuming no other factors are involved, are perfectly accurate. There’s no loss of control as to where your bullets land, they’re just harder to land. Instead of aiming here, you aim 'there', in accordance to your projectile speed and how fast the target is moving and in what direction. This introduces a layer of play, not only within yourself as you master spatial awareness, but when considering projectiles on the slower end of the spectrum, like rockets in Quake, this starts to introduce a layer of play with your opponent, as he can preemptively move away from, and sometimes even react to, the projectiles as they travel, which you then have to adjust for in the future. This becomes an adjustment which your opponent can predict, and then play around, and the cycle of 'mind-play' repeats. Not only are projectiles an incredible source of depth in our games, but they also solve what we could call the 'problem of ranges'. Look, every game is made with target ranges in mind, which is why we often see damage fall-off implemented into games like overwatch and Destiny. This is needlessly frustrating, as it’s next to impossible to predict just how much damage my shots will do. And the question does need to be asked, if I’m landing my shots, why are my bullets arbitrarily doing half damage, and when I take a few steps forward, now full damage? What if I only took one step forward? Or half a step? With this system you inevitably run into these thresholds, which can’t really ever be predicted. You have a vague idea of how close you need to be with a hand cannon in Destiny, but It’s not like there’s a ranger meter in my UI telling me how far my enemy is from me, and so even after hundreds of hours of practice, it’s still impossible to always grasp exactly how much damage I can do. I can’t ever really know. Now THIS is what I call messy. On the other hand, projectile weaponry doesn’t require damage fall-off to keep fights within certain ranges, as the travel time of a projectile inherently makes shooting at players who are further away, harder. Once implemented, the developers need only tune how fast the projectiles will travel, until his or her idea of the perfect median encounter range is found, while still allowing for an excellent player to deal full damage if he can land those difficult shots at range. Seriously, God has handed us the perfect design solution via physics, so why are we so apprehensive to utilize it? Moving on, I believe that we can also do better with the player strafe and movement in our shooters. It’s hard to determine how fast is fast enough for base movement speeds, or strafe acceleration. Do not assume that more is always better. In fact, some games will sport such extreme abilities that the rest of the game starts to fall apart. For example, I can spend a year meticulously designing a Titanfall map, just to have someone grapple across it in one go and completely nullify the level design. Now that's frustrating. I think there's a balance to be struck here. Simply put, I just want to be able to avoid damage. My goal is to always allow the player to live and succeed, even with 1 health point. If play is an interaction, I want to be able to interact with my opponent as he shoots at me. Standing in place and seeing who wins as determined by the whims of flinch should not qualify as gunplay (looking at you, PUBG). The way I see it, my own gunplay is only half of the 'play'. The other half is how I am interacting with my opponent with my strafe, and larger scales of strafe like general movement, geometry manipulation, and advanced movement options. This is about as far as I can go within the context of this topic, because I would have to start introducing specific mechanics from specific games into the discussion to take it any further, and I don’t want to go that far. You get it. Next up, we can do much better with the likes of recoil, spread, and bloom. Randomness doesn't work, because any random penalty is incredibly frustrating, as I know it wasn’t merited by the other player and wasn’t a result of an honest mistake on my part. There’s nothing I could do about it. On the other hand, any random benefit is devoid of meaning, as I know I didn’t earn it, and therefore have nothing to be proud of, and nothing to learn from the win. With that in mind, predictability is key when talking about these things. Recoil, you're up. Some games, especially some PC games, are very heavy handed with the recoil. I’m not the biggest fan of recoil, but I would totally respect it, and do totally respect it, if and only if recoil patterns are predictable. Pulling your thumbstick or mouse down at a rate proportionate to your weapon rise, all while tracking your enemy, certainly is a skill. The problem arises (pun intended) when games, often for the sake of realism, introduce random recoil patterns, and especially horizontal recoil. Even the ‘random’ vertical recoil patterns in games aren’t truly random. That is, they have a general direction. A predictable unpredictability. Horizontal recoil, however, is not the same. Unless there exists a weapon with horizontal recoil that tends to only one side of the weapon (which doesn't exist), horizontal bouncing is entirely uncontrollable. It changes directions radically. Even if you knew when the recoil would bounce left or right, we just don’t have the reaction speed as humans to cancel this out on the fly, which means I don’t have control. To put it as simply as I can, that’s why everyone hates the Flatline and Spitfire in Apex Legends. Spread… oh man. Spread is a tricky one. First of all, it should go without saying at this point that random spread is never good. Hitting your shots is not a rewarding experience when you know it’s random, and missing is just annoying, because it's not up to you. So, what then entails a perfectly predictable spread? Honestly, the shotguns in Apex Legends and Gears of war are the only examples I can think of at the moment, and I don’t think there’s a better way of going about it without changing how the weapons themselves fundamentally work. Fixed pellet placement. Hipfire spread on non-shotgun weapons, on the other hand, is a different beast, especially when sustained auto/semiautomatic fire is in question. We all know how annoying it can be to die to someone with a spray weapon in an FPS, hip firing his way to victory. This is true for almost any game, Key word being almost. Think on Call of Duty, where your killcam reminds you of the clueless player that just bested you, as he hipfires and hits all headshots, likely on accident, leaving you saying “ah come on, he just hip fired me!” Let's create our own weapon to use as an example, in the image of all militaristic shooters. We'll call it the… D… the D-78... the D-789 Reaper or something. Nice and boring, just the way developers like it. Now, of course this weapon, while aimed in, is pinpoint accurate. While hipfired, however, the spread becomes a cone. While this cone is no longer pinpoint accurate, all of the bullets will land within the cone, which means, if the cone is about the same size as the enemies hitbox, that all of the bullets within the cone will land. It’s like your bullets become 50 times their normal size, while being just as effective. I know that's not always true, it varies, but bear with me. Now, imagine shooting at someone with this cone vs. aimed down sights. Rather than aiming in, wouldn’t it be easier to hip fire, and always have at least part of the cone on target? Yes, and paired with random spread, this means the chance for perfect accuracy with much less effort required. It’s easier to always be partially on target while using a flashlight instead of a laser pointer, which means you almost always have a chance to hit. In this scenario, hip firing is easier, and potentially just as effective as pinpoint accuracy while aiming in, which is why we get frustrated. It’s inherently easier, partially random, and depending on the game, is almost just as rewarding as aiming. After all, the saying is risk vs. reward, not... less risk, similar reward. The solution to this one of two extremes. Either you can make hip fire on the R-765 Dynasty, or whatever it's called, unusably inaccurate, or make it perfectly accurate. Let's think. Making hip fire spread worse will make it less rewarding, and therefore not as frustrating as often… but at the same time, will crank up the random factor, and make it all the more annoying when someone does get lucky with the hipfire. Not good. The alternative, perfectly accurate hipfire, may just completely solve the issue at hand. No randomness, and hipfire is no longer inherently easier. Hmm… think back, we don’t say “ah, he just hipfired me!” in Halo, do we? In fact, noscopes with certain weapons are considered harder and more impressive! If you then want to incentivize aiming in while keeping hipfire predictable, you could even add something like increased recoil to hipfire. Not random recoil, but increased recoil. We're killing it! Design is easy! Finally, while I hate to say it (that's a lie) we could just do away with bloom. With the recent launch of Halo Reach on PC, this is just in time. With bloom, your shots become increasingly inaccurate if you shoot quickly, which encourages you to pace your shots, and rewards the patient. Or at least, this is what it proposes to do. In reality, it forces you to pace your shots, lest your bullets become forfeit to random spread, while it often rewards the goofball who just spams his trigger and gets lucky. Once again, the problem lies in the unpredictability. The defenders of this mechanic always say “well I like bloom, because you have to pace your shots” and while patience may be worth rewarding generally speaking, it’s not a reward if it’s forced on you. And more than this, the random spread that comes along with this fake patience is just not worth it. Again, I like it when I’m watching a Quake duel, and patience wins out over the other players aggressive play now and again. That can be cool. Bloom, however, especially in reach, is a terrible implementation of that idea. All right! That's all I have to say about Gunplay today. Keep in mind, the scope of most of these arguments will inevitably be limited to what we see in shooter orthodoxy. To many of these questions and proposals, I would personally just get creative, and make entirely new weapon archetypes and entirely new games and systems. But, within the trends that define almost every modern shooter, these were my thoughts. Thanks for reading! Follow Westin Twitter: https://twitter.com/_Xandrith Website: https://westinkoessel.wixsite.com/portfolio Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. How much thought have you given to the level design in top-down games? This video from Game Soup provides some great food for thought, looking at the attributes of CrossCode's level design that set it apart from other top-down games. Follow Game Soup Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGPMrF9AN_D9BrmSmMeV3hA Twitter: https://twitter.com/gamesouplp 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. "In many video games, the player has control of the camera. However, the developer can control what's on screen through use of the environment to direct the player's movements and attention. Miriam Bellard has been referring to this as spatial cinematography. Miriam's talk explores spatial cinematography in theory and practice using examples from GTA V Online DLC (pre-production to final art). A truly cinematic experience can be developed by adapting film concepts such as shots, editing and 2D screen design as well as understanding how the player interacts with and perceives the game environment. Miriam discusses the effect of the 3D environment on the cinematic experience, including through movement, player attention, and spatial design." Follow Miriam Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiriamBellard Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/miriam-bellard-a4339a127 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. Introduction Why was your first time in a Destiny raid remarkably more exciting than your last? Some would cite Destiny's 'feel' juxtaposed with the franchises notoriously shallow systems as the culprit for the dopaminergic delta. Some would hearken back to the good ol' days of Destiny, when raids like the Vault of Glass were apparently just 'better' than they are now. Others might even blame our inevitable disappointment on the games so-called 'overreliance' on repetition. Whatever you think the reason is, I'm here to tell you why I probably disagree. Not just about Destiny, but more specifically about the real reason any game stagnates. The best design never makes a choice for the player. Get it? No? Okay. I'll do my best to explain why this is relevant as simply as I can. If there exists an invariably 'correct' way to play a raid, or game, or class, or even map, the player is subsequently robbed of his/her free choice and only needs to acquiesce to succeed. As long as one or even multiple predetermined ideas are forced on a player, the player is not an influential factor. He's just a warm body, on his way to the factory we call 'modern video game design' to pull a lever the very same way he pulled it yesterday. Yes, some are better and more efficient at pulling that lever than others, but that's why things get stale. That's the real reason Destiny raids aren't as fun as they once were. When you load up a raid, and you're killing a big ass knight for the 30'th time, what are the quantifiable differences between this run and your first? Well, for starters, you've already killed this boss. As I stated earlier, Some will likely argue the point of repetition, so I'll preemptively indulge. Repetition is only detrimental if every cycle is the same as the one before it. To quote a famous Romanian level designer, your map only starts to stagnate when it's played the same way over and over. Repetition is actually a boon for a designer who knows how to wield its potential. It can create a beautiful dynamic where the meta for any given game or map evolves over time. It's rare, but I've seen it. Rocket League and Melee come to mind. That's why we can't blame stagnation on reiteration alone. The foundational design theory of an experience is what matters, and I can give some examples. Imagine you're going to play The Vault of Glass. Right off the start, you have to activate and defend 3 spires by standing in them, and deterring enemies from resetting your progress. That's it. There aren't any exceptions. Once your team has figured out what Bungie wanted you to do, that's the end of your neural activity. From then on, it's muscle memory training. In a couple weeks (if that) you will have experienced everything the raid has to offer, because every encounter passed that is designed the exact same way. Even if execution is incredibly hard, you know what to do. There is no more exploration, there is no more theory crafting. You stand here, and if you die, you change nothing and do it again. See what I mean? Good Design doesn't force these choices on people. If these encounters were designed differently, they could potentially evolve and hold replay value over long periods of time as people discover and create new strategies, as well as potentially new areas via similarly open-ended levels. Cooldowns & Systems First of all, cooldowns are a silly way to balance something. You can't give an ability integrity just by slapping on an arbitrary 14 second timer. As far as the grand scheme of a game goes, cooldowns DO balance the overall pacing and predictability of any given title. In that way, a game like Overwatch is balanced. On the other hand, you can't take something that's over-rewarding and make it okay just by making it rare. If it's stupid, it's stupid. Could one consider a tactical nuke 'balanced' if you gave it a 1 minute long cooldown? No? How about 10 minutes? It doesn't matter. If it's better than it is hard, then it's not right. In the very same way, the multitude of 'I win' buttons in games like Overwatch and Destiny aren't balanced. I don't care how long you have to wait between uses. Inversely, If a mechanic has integrity, it doesn't necessarily need a timer. This isn't to say that I think you should be able to spam everything all the time. That's not the point. The point is that you could design abilities in a way that allows the player to choose between them, which is intentionally allocated space for creativity. Systems, on the other hand, are often packaged and communicated by the developer in a way that makes us think we have creative control. A designer will say something like 'you can do x' as if you're being allowed the freedom to do 'x', when in reality, the system was designed in a way that the only choice you have is 'x'. Things like the ability to meat shield in Gears of War 4, the ability to spartan charge in Halo after sprinting, or vaulting in PUBG come to mind. They were designed to seem like you can do more, when in reality, if anything, your options have decreased after implementation. In the same way, the lead level designer for God of War admitted to 'tricking' the player into feeling like he could explore, when in reality he knew you couldn't. Faux design is everywhere, and it all wants to look like the real thing. Is it deep, or convoluted? Let's look at a game like World of Warcraft. I often hear WoW combat referred to as one of the deepest gameplay loops of all time, but is it? I don't really think so anymore. While It took me years of playing the game to realize, WoW eventually fell right under the category of design theory I'll start calling 'predeterminism.' Once you learn every ability, every quirk, and get proficient at every ability and even every class (barring how ridiculously long this takes) it becomes apparent. Especially in the highest level of pvp. The best players literally always know what the other player is about to do. Every pro match could be boiled down to players who are all excellent at their ability 'rotations' and excellent at punishing mistakes in those rotations. That's how players win games. They don't 'make plays' because the game won't allow them to. They simply have to manage what they have better than the other team, and pounce when the opposition makes a mistake. There are no 'surprises' at even the highest level of play, because the game is just that limiting. It still takes a tremendous amount of skill because of just how many things you have to track, but at the end of the day, that's convoluted. It's hard, and impressive, but convoluted. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, there is absolutely no overlap in utility within the sandbox of abilites. For example, every class has an 'interrupt' ability that literally only interrupts casts. Multiply this straightforward utility times 30 or 40 and you have a class in WoW. Some abilites do damage, some are defensive, whatever. This system means that I'm never actually presented with many real choices. If I want to interrupt someone, I press interrupt. Combine this system with a game where there is no aiming, and only an effectively 2d space, and you actually end up with a super shallow and thought discouraging game that usually rewards the person who has put himself through more hours than the other person just to learn how to 'play correctly.' Intentionality & Player Creativity With those many examples in mind, you may be asking yourself how one might go about preventing 'predeterminism' within his/her map or game, and maybe more importantly, how can one design with intent and still allow for individual creativity? To be frank, I'm still trying to figure this one out myself. I have ideas, some even well implemented and successful, but this is an incredibly hard thing to nail down into one sentence, although I am positive that such a sentence could exist. For now, I will try my best to provide pointers and examples. First of all, you need to build your map or game from the ground up with merit serving as your standardized currency. If you want something that's crazy powerful, that's fine, just make sure it's crazy hard. If you commit to this philosophy, you are paving the way for true creativity to shine, because no matter what insane things people eventually come up with, you can bet it will be hard to compensate and that you won't have to touch it. And remember, adding a cooldown to something that isn't balanced doesn't actually mend your design, it just makes that unbalanced ability happen less. Second of all, you do need to design counters within your map or sandbox. This might sound contradictory, but creativity only exists and is only necessary within set limitations. The trick is to just never force a player into using your predetermined and intentionally designed counters. If the only way to succeed in any given situation is to simply obey the design, you've gone too far. Third of all, you need utility overlap. If every part of your map, or every ability, or every weapon in your game only serves one purpose, then the player doesn't really get to think any more than 'this does this.' There's no choice, contemplation, or forward thinking. Imagine a gun that also knocks you backwards when you shoot it, which would overlap movement and offensive utility. Fourth of all, keep it simple. While the phrase 'easy to learn, hard to master' is overused at this point, it still rings true as the ultimate goal. If you design a simple, open ended toolkit that only limits the player by what his own ability allows, then you don't have to worry about adding artificial depth via complications, cooldowns, or gameplay systems. Lastly, always allow for the potential of swift counter-play. People constantly cite the longer kill times in Halo as the reason for the good players ability to turn the tides of a seemingly lost battle through sheer skill, but that idea has been long since debunked. What really allows a good player to turn on an enemy, or even take out multiple enemies, is the potential for brevity. In Halo's case, the magnums perfect time to kill compared to its average time to kill is the source of this potential, along with the ability to dodge bullets. It doesn't matter how long or short fights are, what matters is that I can kill you faster than you can kill me, if I play better than you. Apply this theory to everything, including counter play opportunities in level design. If I'm good enough at something, I should be able to do it quickly, or at least faster than someone else. Conclusion Once players learn the "right" way to play an encounter, a map, a class, or game, there is no longer any room for creative thought. The highest level will revolve around executing the already present and built in "correct" way to play. To avoid this, balance your design with player merit as your proverbial currency, create overlap in utility within your sandbox, and allow for swift counter-play. The best design never makes a choice for the player, but rather presents choice. We are facilitators, not dictators. Follow Westin Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwVxACgMT67Zq6CkgCtrCdg Twitter: https://twitter.com/_Xandrith Website: https://westinkoessel.wixsite.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
  5. 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