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  1. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 3? Read it here: Path Manipulation Intro You know what the best part about design is? Observing something from the smallest units possible and understanding what changes to those small units can do. By observing the smallest unit of an idea you can tweak the idea from a smaller setting. You can essentially take a larger problem and break it down into the smallest chunks possible and find the chunk or chunks that are causing the problem. Learning to keep track of all of these small chunks is essential to being adept at any sort of design. So what is one of the most significant and smallest observable chunks that I have discovered so far in level design? That chunk is the same as any media relating to a TV or monitor or any display similar... a single frame of relay to the user. In essence a screenshot in time of what the user is seeing. In this case I call those screenshots, Perspectives... One moment, in time Yes I am saying exactly what you think I’m saying. This topic is about the importance of a screenshot of a player’s current perspective, whether it be in 1st person or in 3rd person (in the case of driving vehicles). Analyzing a screenshot in time can tell you a lot of things and learning to modify that screenshot is essential to controlling your player’s decisions. A perspective will tell you what the player’s current visible options are. A perspective will tell you what the player has their attention on. A perspective is worth a thousand words... Drawing a perspective It is important to note that a perspective requires; a focus point or position, a point of view, and a direction. Point of view in a first person shooter is almost always going to be first person. The main focus point is going to be the player. After those two, the direction (a three dimensional direction) will define the perspective. The focus point is based on the player’s movement around the map utilizing path manipulation to move the focus point around, essentially the player. The direction is based on the player’s current eye focus and where their attention lies. Learning to control the direction of a future perspective is vital to having full control over a player’s decisions, movement, and feelings. Learning to mix the power of manipulating perspectives as well as manipulating the position of the focus point is crucial to any true level designer. Worth a thousand words While analyzing perspectives, analyze them as a picture... as a piece of artwork. We will be utilizing various art theories to analyze perspectives. In the thousand words that perspectives give us you can find the general sense of feeling (fear, excitement, etc), where the main attention lies (and thus where the eye is drawn to), and what is being noticed and how much. Understanding a split second in time makes for a lot of little chunks to analyze. I will teach you the important perspectives to keep an eye on. I will teach you what you need to analyze in the pictures presented to your player. And always keep in mind that the designer’s perspective is in no way the same as the player’s perspective. That is essential to being a good designer. Being able to see what your player sees. If you can’t do that then you are crafting the wrong experience. You are crafting the experience from what you see way up in the sky. Not from what the player sees right in front of them on the bottom floor. Don’t make it fun for you... make it fun for them. Read Chapter 5: Deterrents Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  2. 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
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