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  1. As our frequent readers know, one stylistic cornerstone of InnerSpace is the image of a strange, foreign tower jutting out from rock formations, bending over the curve of a hollowed-out planet. These aren’t merely exterior decoration, though, as the player can enter and explore many of these towers. We’ve written about our level design process in the past, but as the game evolved, so too has this methodology. Here, I wanted to reveal a bit about our new tower design process, and show a bit about what goes into creating a game about flow. Here’s a quick version of the steps: 1. Draw it on paper, usually during meetings or the bus ride to and from work. 2. Whitebox in Unity with ProBuilder, creating plenty of abhorrent geometry. Iterate ceaselessly. 3. Apply modules to create the form, balancing looks (important) with function (still important, I guess). 4. Finalize and optimize geometry. This is the point of no return, so all iteration leads here. Each stage carries a number of considerations, from the speed of completion to what the player sees when they exit the tower. Through each step, these considerations morph and take on different weights as we move from 2d to 3d, then through different versions of the same central concept. In the end, we hope to end up with a smooth space that provokes curiosity and encourages the player to fly in daring ways. Step 1: Draw It This stage covers everything from tiny doodles in my pocket sketchbook to slightly larger, more deliberate drawings in my larger sketchbook. Early on, we’re looking to nail down the overall form, the core mechanic concepts, and the essential flow and feeling of the tower. Rough photo of the rough sketch. This is the height of precision-engineered levels. It helps to look at this method in contrast to more traditional, some might say, precise versions of level design. Whereas an FPS or more floor-bound game is served well by rooms plotted on graph paper, we face a central challenge of designing levels in full 3d with a player in near-constant motion. So, instead of encountering spaces as individually parseable, explorable segments, an InnerSpace player instead moves endlessly. Any evaluation or decision-making needs more lead time, and spaces themselves have to facilitate forward motion. While taking measurements and relating space-traveled to time-traveled is useful, the core of each tower rests in the possibilities for forward momentum found within. What’s it all for? The lofty goal of each tower is: introduce a new space in the world, mechanically and experientially, drawing them to explore and find lost relics. Each tower should build on player’s flight knowledge and lead them somewhere new. Where to start? Site selection Whether in the shallows, mountains, or fallen into an abyss, a tower’s context plays a role in helping shape the kind of interaction that suits it best, as well as the space we have to work with. This context also sets up the basic shape the tower will take. For example, if nested against mountains, the tower will likely rise vertically to match the terrain, wrap around the ridge, or possibly shoot through the mountain itself as a series of tunnels. Central Concept Each tower is built according to a combination of ideas, coalescing around a central chamber, an essential flow, or both. Chamber: The focal point around which the rest of the tower is built. It’s usually a goal or a resting spot of some kind, and isn’t always an entrance. Essential flow: As mentioned above, the player is in constant motion, and InnerSpace is meant to be more relaxing than stressful. That means that more confined spaces (i.e., anything indoors) need to present decision points without introducing hard stops that would force a player to crash. We have areas where it’s advantageous to stall, but even when stalling the plane moves. Regular maze-like room layouts won’t work. Instead we key into the concept of “flow.” Flow isn’t very scientific here. It basically means that I can draw a line through a level that doesn’t curve back on itself at an angle less than, say, 45 degrees. It’s a loose concept intended to help make levels that take advantage of constant motion. In a tower (or section) designed around flow, a general shape will form out of this initial stroke. Because this stage doesn’t worry about 3D precision, the flow can remain relatively loosely defined, forming an idea of the shapes and structures that will be needed to actually form the space. One final consideration at this stage is the way our tower will sit on the interior curve of the planet. Because the structures become rather large, they can stretch across multiple gravity tangents. Inside, this results in spaces that appear to curve upward and hallways at interesting angles. Beats: Larger towers are usually made of a few different shapes and segments, each designed independently, but with context in mind. When imagining how each will link together, it’s helpful to think of each segment as “beats.” This turns compounds of structures into a kind of rhythmic build, linking the feeling of motion to the twisting, expansion, and contraction of space at different intervals. Once a number of sketches covering these angles are complete, it’s time to prototype in Unity. Step 2: Whitebox with ProBuilder This takes up the bulk of our time in level creation, but there’s not a whole lot of new philosophy at this stage. In Unity, we use a tool called ProBuilder, which lets you create and edit (relatively simple) geometry directly in-editor. This greatly speeds up prototyping and iteration, as we no longer have to hop between Blender and our scene to make level adjustments. Without this more organic editing ability, it would be a sight more difficult to build levels to fit the model so-far discussed. The general form, in ProBuilder geometry. At this stage, it’s all down to building and iterating to strike a balance between realizing and improving upon the initial sketch. Taking the sketches, I build out the essential structures, then size internally and externally to fit both the site and the allowances of the plane’s speed and handling. Usually, this amounts to lengthening hallways, expanding angles on curves, or dropping pillars into the middle of tall chambers. While our foundational ideas are formed with certain assumptions about how the game plays, it’s only in-engine that such projections are proven, or else shown to be delusions. A look from inside the “central chamber” of this tower. Throughout this stage I produce a hefty pile of abhorrent geometry (sorry, Steve), but it mostly gets the job done as we perform playtests and iterate on the towers. While the surroundings are taken into account throughout the process, it’s usually after a few stages of iteration that the whiteboxed tower is dropped into the environment, where more changes can be made if necessary. Step 3: Give It Form To speed our level creation process, and save the sanity of our 3D artists, we’ve maintained a modular tower construction(kitbashing) system throughout the project. At this stage, we select modules and actually form the tower. The same tower, “skinned” with modules. You can see how the exterior expresses the interior form, while adding on additional detail. Also, note how the segment on the right bends towards the left- this is accounting for the planet’s curvature. There are some basic rules here. For one, the tower itself should obey, or at least bear evidence of, the changing direction of gravity as it straddles the curvature of the planet. As a result, towers tend to exhibit braced, almost cantilevered forms that push up and out from the water. While we have to be careful not to design death traps within the interiors, we gain much more freedom when constructing the external shapes of each tower. Beyond basic constraints and needs (i.e., the modules should cover/contain the interior form), the specifics of each tower arise out of fun and experimentation. What shapes and forms would be cool to fly over, around, and under? In some cases, this thinking has resulted in additional rooms or sections being grafted into the outside of towers. Since stylistic considerations enter into it here, it’s worth mentioning our two tower materials and the way they interact: stone plates and metal rails. If you remember our tripartite aesthetic goals from way back, you’ll get why using these materials well is so important. Visually, rails add contrast and dynamic, strong lines that can support or cut across the “body” built of stone plates. In terms of the aesthetics of worldbuilding, the rails define form and show, quite boldly, the way that a tower stands against the changing gravity across the planet’s surface. Functionally, in terms of the player’s experience, they help delineate and hint at a tower’s interior flow, and they themselves form exterior flight paths. Step 4: Boolean + Detail This step has little to no design work, and is basically up to Steve, one of our 3D artists, and whether he wants to put up with my ProBuilder geometry or not. So far, he hasn’t flat-out refused to do it, so kudos to him there. The direction of the rails hints at the flow of the interior. Here, you can also see glass and some of the hanging civilization added in the last stage. Here, there’s a fun process whereby the individual module meshes are joined into one, optimized piece (rails and stone separate). Then, the interior form is subtracted from this mesh, and it’s all further cleaned up and detailed with floor patterns and doors. Certain towers have interior structures added, though these usually emphasize, rather than fully alter, the flow of a space. Finally, relics and other discoverable points of interest are placed, along with external structures like hanging gardens and the rail-dwelling civilization that built them. As well as we can, we repeat this process for everything from towers to natural formations in the Ice World and beyond. While I love the process and the details, ultimately it comes down to how well the spaces flow in their final form, and how empowered and enlivened a player feels tackling their halls head-on. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: Follow Eric Website: Twitter:
  2. In this 6-Part Youtube series, -m0zidesigner- shares his level design process, step by step. Watch how he develops the map from the early blockout stage, breathes life into it through detail work and lighting, and then releases a polished map.Watch the entire series and you're bound to come away with something that will help you improve your own process. And even if you don't, I think you'll enjoy watching the map come alive. Contents: Part 1: Map Blockout Part 2: First Pass Static Mesh Work Part 3: Detail Work Part 4: Creating Level Collision Part 5: Level Lighting/Tutorial Part 6: Map Complete! Part 1: Map Blockout Part 2: First Pass Static Mesh Work Part 3: Detail Work Part 4: Creating Level Collision Part 5: Level Lighting/Tutorial Part 6: Map Complete! Follow Mozidesigner Youtube: Twitter: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  3. 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: 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: *The Hows and Whys of Level Design is hosted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: The Hows and Whys of Level Design.pdf
  4. "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 ( :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“ ( : 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“ ( 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 (😞 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: BenjaminWebsite: Youtube: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord: