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  1. Always be creating...New content! It is easy to stop or pause after finishing a project and not move on to something else. If the last project was too stressful or demanding, then try something with less detail or scope, start experimenting with new brushwork building methods or different gameplay setups. Stop the dust from settling and dive right back into your next masterpiece! There are many ways to keep momentum going between projects. Experiment with new themes or texture styles, try to build some architecture at an odd angle like at 30, 45 or 60 degrees or find some concept art you like and recreate it to scale! Set yourself deadlines It's easy to get distracted adding details and being absorbed with tangent ideas when you should be focusing on the end goal, finishing and releasing your map! Setting yourself goals will focus your time on what is really needed and make you think twice about adding stuff that is not really necessary for the final outcome. A series of short deadlines are especially good if you are working with a limited time frame project because you can see progress much quicker and be more motivated to finish. Deadlines help to break a map down into smaller steps and more manageable tasks which can create a much better focused and rewarding map making experience. Never stop iterating I was once asked to create three different versions of the same encounter and at the time I could not understand why. It is impossible to know if your first version is going to be the best iteration if there is nothing for comparison. What may seem like a waste of time with duplication of work can be a useful validation of what design you have finally picked. Always consider the iteration process if what you are creating is nothing special or remarkable. Some might say the downside to the iteration process is that you can create more work than is required, but that does not mean the process is worthless. Don't be afraid to iterate because of the extra work involved, just save the different versions as prefabs. A real world example of iteration is city architecture, which often changes as people adapt places to suit their current needs. Expansions, extensions, extra routes and different styles of details can all work towards creating a better visual tapestry. Be inspired by others Hardly anyone can be creative in isolation without being influenced by something else around them. There are countless images, films and books that swim around our subconscious allowing us to come up with fresh ideas. If you are suffering from a creative block or not sure what to do next then search for concept art, go to the library or buy a coffee in a bookshop and browse some architecture books. The Internet has a vast collection of concept images, architectural photos and plenty of other types of artwork (sculptures, videos etc.) that can be used as sources of inspiration. Even if you take a concept image literally and create something similar, it will still be your interpretation and be a useful exercise for building new content with the editor. Try to avoid symmetry It is so tempting to create symmetry in architecture or gameplay setups because we see mirrored structures around us all the time and think it is the right thing to do. You can easily find a church or modern day building with identical sides and matching facade features. Symmetry is something you should be aware of at all times and actively trying to break. Try to use 90 degree rotation steps instead of mirroring functions when copying and pasting architecture (especially floor layouts) Move various facade elements vertically up or down to create an imbalance. Look for obvious vertical or horizontal lines and move elements around to break the pattern. Change the size of matching (size of flames) objects and change the style of identical pairs by removing/adding (boarding up windows with wood) something. *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. Create layers over time A classic mistake to make when setting up game encounters is to allow all of the AI to attack at once without any spawn delays. The player will end up just being overrun by AI from all directions and the encounter will quickly descends into chaos. There is a good chance that most players discovering this 'surprise' will not enjoy it. The trick to any encounters is pacing, to stagger the spawning over time and create different waves that are triggered via an event. As the different waves are spawned in, the encounter can eventually build up to a crescendo event and a distinct pause. The break in the flow might seem counter intuitive, but this is the moment to look around, investigate and explore the environment. Limit attack direction Most players approaching an encounter will expect the enemies to be attacking them from one direction and will not expect attacks from multiple angles (side or flank) all at once. This does not mean multiple attack directions should never be used, but wide angle (135+ degrees) attacks should either be linked to a skill level or that the player has plenty of good equipment to cope with the situation. Often players will claim they want enemies to be smart and more intelligent/aggressive with their attacks, but there is a point at which enemy attacks from too many different angles at once can be regarded as cheating or a cheap trick by the level designer. If you are planning to attack the player from multiple angles be aware that this kind of tactic can become tiresome if used too often. Compliment attack types Most game enemies have a couple (1-2) of different types (range, melee, AoE or debuff) of attacks and the level designer is responsible for creating different combinations of the enemies with complimentary attacks to challenge the player in different environments. Each enemy individually should not be much of a threat, but once they are grouped together they should become part of a complex puzzle of different threats which the player has to learn how to prioritize in order to survive. Some group encounters are more difficult than others and that is mainly to do with how many of their abilities overlap and how diverse they are with attack types. A group of enemies which has a single attack (1 melee or 1 range) will be far easier to deal with than a group with a large variety of different attacks because of priority concerns. This is how difficult can be scaled up or down when creating encounters for the beginning or the end of a map. Roller coaster pacing Many games are built with a pacing, a distinct ebb and flow to how events unfold and an intensity to the encounters. Some games vary the rate of pacing by using different activities like using reflexes for encounters and lateral thinking for puzzles. When designing a map try to break it down into zones or bubbles of player activity. Consider each zone being a mixture of different types of encounters and try to vary the pace by having sections where there are puzzles. Remember to keep the combat away from the boundaries to each zone and don't be afraid to create empty spaces to allow players time to breath before the next climb upwards on the roller coaster. Always iterate As encounters become more complex with larger groups, multiple waves, and special events, the testing of the pacing can quickly get time consuming because the order of each new encounter will affect the overall flow. I highly recommend to start the testing at the beginning each time to make sure the encounters are balanced in sequence, otherwise there is a good chance a gameplay difficulty spike will appear due to lack of resources. *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. Landmarks Are Signposts If a play tester is getting lost then it may be due to the map architecture or colour scheme being too similar. Bold unique details or colours can make a big difference with helping players build up a mental picture quicker in their head for navigation. A landmark does not need to be something ginormous or even visually impressive, but it does need to be something visually unique with regards to the rest of the map. A way to see if this approach is working is trying to describe every location to a friend using 5 words or less. For example, the lake of lava, the giant waterfall, the blue tile room etc. If a location cannot be easily described with something unique then it is unlikely to be memorable or a good sign. Once every location in a map has an unique architectural feature or colour style, the player is much more likely to be able to move around the map quickly and spend more time exploring instead of wondering where they have been already. Materials Have Weight When a game location is built using materials like wood or stone they will come with preconceptions about their weight. Building materials often look and feel better when they are a certain shape relative to their weight. The player is unconsciously expecting them to be a certain look relative to their surroundings. For example a giant undamaged stone pillar should look like it can support its own weight and stand upright. The thickness, angle and shape are often derived from the material used and if the pillar has odd proportions then the presence is diminished. The same could be said for a stone wall between rooms that is too thin for the material used and the structural weight looks wrong. Regardless of how much a game may want to surprise a player with unbelievable structures and scale, the weight of real world materials has a great impact on the players impression of a scene and how believable it looks. Always Iterate This should be a mantra muttered every morning before breakfast! I cannot stress this enough that most tasks associated with game design rarely work first time, they are often tweaked, updated or changed over time. Architecture will often have more detail added, existing routes moved around and even silhouettes manipulated once the lighting is done! Always allow extra time for this by learning to build architecture over time in layers. Create Prefabs Not everything in a map has to be unique, interactive objects especially should be visually consistent. A classic use of prefabs is where an object (button/door) needs to be easily recognizable by the player for its functions and pop out from its surroundings as something important. Some projects like jam or speed creation events do not have the luxury of endless time and prefabs can be used to fill in details quickly. If there is enough time left after gameplay and lighting has been completed then the prefabs can easily be replaced with better unique detail. Embrace Vertical Designs When walking down the street most people will be looking forward and rarely will they be looking up at the top of buildings or down at their feet. People look forward because of their eye position and do not notice the details in their peripheral vision. This is why many games take advantage of this by hiding objects above or below player height. The trick to vertical designs is to find the right gradient angle, the right balance by which a player will be willing to look up or down to notice details and consider it a relevant path to explore. The first type of vertical design is varied floor heights that have obvious connections via steps or moveable objects. These types of designs create better spaces for exploration and encounters while challenging the player to be spatially aware. The second type of vertical design are generally isolated or areas high above the players movement/vision height and not obvious how they are reachable. These ledges, routes or secret places should be reusable spaces and offer the player an alternative viewpoint, a chance to enjoy the previous location but this time from a height advantage. A classic mistake that anyone new to level design makes is create a single floor height room with very little Z axis interaction. The best way to think about vertical design is like a Celtic knot, where floors weave up and down, over and under and create the surprise of an interconnected location to explore and take advantage of! *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. *Header Image Credit: Aurore Start With a Small Idea Everyone has grand ideas, projects involving mountains of details with complex gameplay systems. The problem with these ideas is that they are extremely difficult to know exactly where to start. They often involve so many different steps with such complex planning that they can easily be abandoned long before they reach a finished prototype stage. I find creating a small experimental idea using existing or placeholder assets can be the perfect way to gain momentum on starting a larger project. A small idea can also give you immediate feedback and be the perfect moral boast for when working alone or in a small group. Create Prototypes Game design rarely starts with an exact schedules or detailed project plan; it usually starts with a prototype. A short burst of inspiration to see if an idea is worth pursuing and developing into a larger (more organized) project. Never underestimate the power of prototyping or architectural/art style experiments. Inspiration is rarely a factory line or an on demand process and fresh ideas often need space and time to develop. Always set an end date or goal for a prototype so that it does not drift or lack direction and bear in mind what you are trying to achieve. Always Iterate Game design ideas are always shaped by iteration and it is highly unlikely an idea will be perfect first time around. The trick is not to be afraid of change and let ideas flow in several different directions before settling on the final choice. Many game designers rely on feedback from trusted sources or people who can articulate their issues with constructive feedback. Try to find a diverse collection of individuals who can help with quick iteration cycles. Not everyone can separate their emotions from feedback and see the bigger picture of what the idea is trying to be. Try to Avoid Dilution Be careful about 'watering down' an idea if it has gained a strong negative feedback reaction. An idea which creates an extreme reaction does not necessarily mean it is bad; it might be the implementation that is wrong. Always remember that bold ideas can be the defining moment of a game/map and should not be shied away from. The problem with dilution or 'design by committee' is once the core idea is compromised the overall quality of a game/map can lose its edge. The other side of the coin is that bold ideas can also be unpopular and create bipolar feedback. As long as you are happy not to win the popular vote then don't be afraid to pursue uncompromising ideas. Look for Patterns in Feedback There are many different types of feedback to consider when looking for advice on game design. The trick to understanding feedback is being able to filter out the opinions from the constructive advice. It is not easy to divorce emotion from feedback, but allowing time between reaction and response is always a good idea. One way to spot good advice is to look for feedback that forms patterns, advice which is similar or repeated by several different people. If many people are experiencing the same response there is a good chance that the presentation or implementation is wrong for the target audience. Even though feedback can be passionate and destructive it is by no means all bad as people will often only be bothered to create feedback when they care about something. The classic bipolar response of "I hate" or "I love" can be frustrating but this is better than no response at all. Some of the best games are often communicating to us on an emotional level which can generate such strong responses and this is what great games are all about. *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  5. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 17? Read it here: Color Contrast Intro Never rush your map. I know you are in a hurry to show it off to the world and get your name out there, but make sure you have taken the time to test, tweak, and review every little facet of your map. Sure you have contest deadlines at times, but most of the time you are on your own timeline. Don’t set deadlines for yourself. The only thing that will result it is you pushing the design and the building too fast and you end up missing things that you know you shouldn’t have missed. This is your creation; make it the best that it can possibly be. Don’t lie to me I know a lot of you will tell me that you definitely follow this guideline, but don’t lie to me. Designers are always anxious to show off what they have been working on all this time. Don’t get careless. Go over every lesson and every possible trick that you know. Have you taken the time to check every single one of your spawn perspectives? Have you observed what kind of paths a player will take from that position? Have you made sure that all of your weapons can be found easily? Does each area of your map have enough area introduction to spread out traffic and control combat congestion? Have you taken a look at the path maps for all of the important areas of your map? Look at every lesson one at a time and go over your map. Remember the importance of first impressions and knowledge of a map? Making sure your map is the best that it can be will help your map get out there and spread to the masses. Remember your credibility as a designer is on the line. If you lose your audiences trust, it will be hard to earn that trust back and you are going to have to use some crazy innovation techniques to re-grab their attention. Remember when I reminded you about how you scroll through the map forums and skip over thousands of maps? If you lose your player’s trust, that player will scroll past your creations on that forum. Don’t be one of those designers that get scrolled over. Take your time. Considering a change takes time While designing maps I have noticed a major mistake that many designers make because they are afraid of adding more time and effort into their creation. This mistake is setting your ideas in stone. Remember that while you did have a vision, maybe the way you went about it can be done better. If someone gives you a suggestion of changing something major, take that into consideration. Weigh the pros and cons of the change; don’t shut them out because they didn’t design the map and don’t have your vision. It is your player that you want to appease. Do not be afraid to make a big change to a map due to time or more effort. If you truly analyze it, you will grow as a designer. People tend to ignore suggestions of changes when they are done or close to done with their map. Even if you were about to publish it and show it off that night, if someone suggests something then put off that publishing time until you fully consider their suggestion. Remember that even after you have published your map that it can still be improved. Go back over your past creations and apply new things that you have learned to it. Take the time to improve it instead of just saying “I will follow that guideline on my next map”. Take the time to improve your skills as a designer with maps you are already familiar with. By doing this you improve all of your future creations exponentially. It takes patience to be a great designer and you can never practice too much. Trust me when I say that if you keep attempting tips and advice you will grow whether or not that advice was good. Experiencing what is bad is just as important. Read Chapter 19: Threat Zones 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. Level design is its own kind of playful art: part theatre and part architecture, you’re making spaces to challenge and delight other people. With the release of Super Mario Maker, Nintendo wants to encourage fans and players of all ages to try making their own game levels, opening this art to brand-new audiences. But a good level is about more than placing familiar objects on the screen. To help you get started, we asked 7 professional game designers for their best level design tips. Whether you’ve never made a level before or you already have some experience making games, their easy-to-understand advice is sure to help you get on the right track. TRY STRUCTURING YOUR LEVEL LIKE A STORY Many of the best Mario levels rely on narrative beats for structure. Start by drawing the player in with an inciting incident (a thwomp falling out of nowhere?)—it can include a key mechanic or theme that frames the rest of the level. Then, develop it. Think of different ways to use the mechanic or theme, and then challenge the player to get better at dealing with it. (Multiple thwomps, thwomps between pits, thwomps on pipes?) Start simple, and only add complexity after the player has proven they understand. Then, after you've built to the climax, try a third-act twist to cap off the level or turn the idea on its head. Make a joke (Thwomps pestering you all level? Have one fall into a pit!), invert the mechanic (Mario rides on top of the thwomps to the finish!), or try something different to make the last moments memorable. —Lena Chappelle, game designer/composer, ArenaNet PLAYERS SHOULD ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE TRYING TO GO Try using coins or other pickups as "breadcrumbs" to lead the player toward where you want them to go, or to hint at secret detours. Have people play your level often, so you can see exactly where players are likely to get lost or confused. —Kim McAuliffe, senior designer USE BOTTLENECK MOMENTS (DOOR FRAMES, EXITING A STAIRCASE/ELEVATOR, THIN HALLWAYS, ETC) TO CONSIDER WHAT INFORMATION YOU ARE PRESENTING TO THE PLAYER These are rare moments where you know exactly where the player will be looking, so use it to your advantage to support the narrative and/or the gameplay objective. —Beth Beinke-Schwartz, level designer EVEN IF YOUR LEVEL IS LINEAR, YOU CAN NEVER ERASE THE PLAYER'S FEELING OF BEING LOST Give hints and clues about the paths and choices available using things like color, lighting, or positioning in the frame/space. The goal is to make players feel smart because they chose correctly... even if there actually was only one path forward. —Laralyn McWilliams, senior designer, producer and director THINK ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN OBJECTS, NOT JUST THE OBJECTS THEMSELVES Put some elements near each other, look for a fun interaction, and try to design a way for the player to discover it for themselves. —Erin Robinson, game designer (Puzzlebots, Gravity Ghost) YOUR LEVEL IS PROBABLY TOO HARD You've played it dozens of times and you know the secret to beating it quickly. As you built your level, you might have started getting bored with your puzzles and you tweaked them to make them more interesting to you. By the time you finished designing the level, it's probably gotten too hard for everyone who hasn't already played it 100000000 times. My old boss used to say, "Reduce difficulty by 30%. And if you think you've already done that, reduce difficulty by another 30%." Some frustration in games is needed, but too much frustration makes people quit. Try starting levels with a win or positive moment for the player—let them take on a few easy enemies, or do a couple satisfying hops that lead to a reward. That way, you earn the player’s trust before you start turning up the heat. —Dana Nelson, Kinda Sweet Studios (formerly Lead Game Designer at Popcap and Lead Level Designer at Playfirst) BUILD A LOT, AND THEN CULL YOUR COLLECTION Become a curator for mechanics. Be prepared to trash about 1/3 of your ideas and content. If a puzzle or level doesn't give the player an "aha!" moment, ask yourself why you have kept it. —Molly Proffitt, Ker-Chunk Games (PrinceNapped) Source: https://boingboing.net/2015/09/11/want-to-create-mario-maker-lev.html *Note: This article is republished in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Follow Leigh Twitter: https://twitter.com/leighalexander Website: http://leighalexander.net/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/leighalexander1 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
  7. Follow Mare and Raigan Mare's Twitter: https://twitter.com/maresheppard?lang=en Raigan's Twitter: https://twitter.com/raiganburns Website: https://www.metanetsoftware.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
  8. Follow Matt Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattthorson?lang=en Website: http://www.mattmakesgames.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. Josh Foreman, 20 year gaming industry veteran, shares what he considers to be the pillars of PvP level design, then demonstrates how he's used these pillars in the making of actual levels. Prefer reading? Check Josh's Blog for an article that largely covers the same info: https://joshforeman.artstation.com/blog/PrbL/level-design-for-pvp-fps Follow Josh Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpGvqKfhZF4ipJ7kWFDt0Mg Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshuaForeman Website: https://breathoflifedev.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. Hey everyone, it has been too long and I am sorry about that, I meant to finish up this final section of the topic last month but got distracted. Regardless, I am here now to give you my final article of the year, and thank all of you for reading my articles and wishing you all a Merry Christmas & Happy holidays. Now what could be more Jolly and Christmasy than that of how best to defeat your enemies in ranged combat. If you have not read my previous entries in the series I do recommend that you check Part 1 and Part 2 out before continuing with the finale. Recap In previous entries we spoke about how important it is that you understand your metrics for the weapons, cover, avatar and much more. We next discussed the importance of 2d maps and research. With all of that in motion I can now go forward and show you my blockout. To give some context as well, as I mentioned in the previous articles the layout we will be looking at today was from my time on the CGMA Course I took part in earlier this year. This challenge was to create a combat layout of a certain size (30m x 30m). There was no theme, no story, etc, just pure focus on making a great combat layout. We were given a set of LD Kits that we could use as well for these blockouts. Now with this in mind lets see the magic. Level This was the 2d map of the level, a 30x30 map: Here is a top down shot of the blockout: I wanted to share these just because I have seen people talk online about not doing a 2d plan or google sketch up before starting a level as they “do not want to constrain themselves”. I am writing to say that is not true, they are tools to help you plan your level. When you look at the two images you can see that there are differences, as I needed to make some to help the level improve. Just showing you how planning does not restrict you, these planning tools are there to help you, then you can go to adjust accordingly. A 2d map helps you create a footprint of your level, it can not and will not represent how it will feel with the overall camera, mechanics etc. Changes With me mentioning how it is important for you to make changes from your plan to your blockout, let us talk about some of my changes. The biggest one for sure is my mix up with the height. I have raised the back section of the level. In the previous article I mentioned that I wanted to section off my level, and I divided it into quarters like so: With having some combat take place within interiors and other combat areas take place out in exterior areas. Yet when I was running through my level I noticed that although you can feel differences in sections they do not feel so different, so by raising up parts of the level you would feel a difference, a transition. Not only this but it would help divide the space up even more, one half would be raised while the other would be lowered, one half is in an interior space while another would be exterior, again helping the space feel memorable and helping players build a mental map. This was not the only reason I wanted to raise up the space, it was to put players at a disadvantage, to increase the challenge. Something to memorise “It is easier to shoot down, than up” so by dividing the space and having players start on the lower section, it would make them feel as if they were charging into enemy territory. Second biggest change you can see between the map and top down shot was that of the cover placement. That one for sure is always going to change, as you can plan but for sure that is always subject to change, as until you understand how the enemies will move, which archetype of enemy you will use, etc., these are always ideas at best. I did not get functioning enemies in this level working, but I did place down placeholders and routes for the enemies to still help me shape the encounter. From this I was able to help picture the cover and plan the combat fronts for my level. Now these are some of the changes, I do not wish to go into too much detail here as there is still so much to talk about and we are almost 1000 words into this blog. As mentioned previously it is okay to make changes, as iteration is how we as level designers make better levels. We do not accomplish it in the planning stage. We do not ace it in our first blockout. We make it slowly with each iteration. Walkthrough After discussing these changes, let’s break down the level step by step to show you my design choices and why I made them. First up, is the players starting position: As you can see in the blue circle, the player starts in the bottom right corner, in almost a corridor like space. So there are a few things to break down in why I chose this starting position: I did not want the player to start exactly in the corner so later on the level can open up and feel bigger, so by manipulating the space and eating it up I can make it feel larger as the player progresses The starting position is a safe space for the player, allowing them to gather their bearings without feeling threatened. From this position I can slowly feed information to the player, when they turn left they can see another section of the level and a challenge, making sure players do not get overwhelmed with everything going on. I wanted to slowly give information to players. You can see this slowly happen so that players can tackle certain challenges one at a time, and it is also a way to encourage exploration. With the fact that players do not know the whole space, nor can they see it, they will want to go and explore. The space opens up more and more, so the player can start to see more and take in more information. Something to remember is “How we interact with the world, comes from how we see it” If you want players to plan and stick to more of one area, show more of the level, if however you want players to go and explore, then slowly feed them information. 4. Presenting the player with knowledge and options. From this position the first thing players can see are windows, this informs the player that there is an interior space in front of them. This is crucial for a later choice, as it is foreshadowing how the space is divided. (These windows would be blocked by glass as well, hinting to my second point) Next is the opening on the left, by having that negative space as well as the cover there as well it peaks the players curiosity, and with the fact that in the west we read left to right it is the first thing players can possibly help pull players in that direction. As players turn the corner, we move on to their next view: (Before we break this next step down, I just want a huge shout out to a truly amazing Dev Miriam Bellard, Miriam has such a phenomenal mind for design. In her superb talk Environmental Design in Spacial Cinematography Miriam talks about how each view of the level should contain vital info for the player. I really enjoyed that and tried to think of it as I blocked out this level, anyway side note over, do check out Miriam’s talk and follow her on twitter if you have it) In this shot I wanted players to have a decision point, this space allows players to See the Challenge and then allows them to Plan for said Challenge. In this shot we would be able to see one enemy: From here players can decide if they should engage in combat, or move closer. To help pull in the player I have done a few things. Number one is having the enemy have a patrol path, so the enemy won’t be static so the lineup for the perfect shot is there, but only for a limited window. Number two is through cover placement, if we look at the cover it is a stepped position to help players move through the space. By staggering the cover like this it still allows the player to feel safe as they move through. giving them an advantage. Now I do this because this is the first enemy encounter, so I want players to feel safe and still decide as they move through the space. Another choice that will be noticed from earlier is that there are more windows hinting to the player that there is still an interior space to be explored. As the player gets closer they see an option to enter the building. Now this entrance not only works because it is an extra option for the player so that the player can strategize, but also it helps to add loops to the combat. (With combat loops, the aim is to make sure that players or enemies do not run into dead-ends, or out of choices (over simplified explanation)) From this position players can possibly see the other enemy as well, alerting them that they are outnumbered. If players chose to enter the interior space, one of things is that I wanted it to feel different than the exterior space. I did this in two ways. First is with the ceiling, it instantly feels a lot more claustrophobic as well as feels limiting in where to shoot, as now players will only aim on the X & Y axis vs that of when outside where they have more freedom to aim higher. Secondly is through lack of cover, compared to where we were, there was a lot more cover close by, while here there is a lot less. Most of the cover comes from the architecture itself. Once the player has picked their path they can then start to engage the enemies in combat. In order to make sure that space helps players know best how to tackle this encounter is by making sure that the Fronts are clear to the player. (Fronts - mean a clear line of combat, knowing where your cover is and knowing where the enemies line is. We all see those games where we are walking around and suddenly see a lot of crates in an area, we as players know that combat will take place here) EF = Enemy’s Front PF = Player’s Front In this space there are actually two Fronts of combat, in the picture above we will be engaging in combat from this direction to start as we take on our two starting enemies, however there are two enemies up the stairs that the player is not aware of. For pacing, the encounter would go along the line where players would engage with the first two enemies, after one has died then an enemy from uptop the stairs would start attacking the player so the Combat Fronts would change. A reason for doing this, is to keep the encounter engaging and challenging. By moving the fronts, it means players will have to move as well, making it so they do not camp at certain spots. Creating movement in the fronts allows players to see more of the space and master it. Gears of War were great at this, as they would have sections of the level where players had to fight their way up to take down an enemy using a turret, only for the enemy waves to attack the player while the player had the turret, making re-use of the level as well as allowing the player to see the level from a different angle. By also switching the front as well, I am now changing the difficulty of the encounter. During the first Front players and enemies are both on the same level of height, while when it changes the enemy is now higher than the player. In order for players to get on the same height as the enemy, it means that they have to cover more ground and expose themselves before they can get up the stairs. What I have done to help the player, but also another way to help encourage movement within this combat space, is by mixing up the cover height. In these pictures you can see that some cover are 1m Low cover and while high covers are 2m tall. Now we could go into how the different sizes of cover impacts players, but we are already pushing the word limit here, so I will say that by having some High Cover it blocks Line of Sight so players will have to move around in order to line up the shot that they want. By using Low Cover as well, it may not always be the safest option for the player, again forcing them to move. This will also help players strategize as they chose which cover to move to. We could continue you on with the level, as this so far is only just one quarter of the level. However, during the time of writing this it is getting closer to xmas, so I am going to cut things short around here. Also, go enjoy your time as well with the ones that you love. Learning Points Although I have only showed you a section of my level, let us talk about what you should take away from this article and apply to your own combat encounters: Starting Point - When choosing how or where to start the player, think about a safe space in which players can get their bearings first (unless it is an ambush situation) Revealing Information - Depending on the situation will dictate how much you will want to show your player. Just remember that the amount you show will impact how players move, as well to make sure you do not overload your player too much. Provide choices for the player - this can just be as simple as which cover to use, but by providing a choice it helps players feel that they are in control. Provide Combat Loops - It is simple but will help reduce frustration for players, by making sure that they do not end up in dead ends, it helps keep the flow of combat engaging. Establish your Fronts - Make it clear where the fight will take place so players can best prepare themselves Change the Fronts - It is great to have your fronts, but by changing it part way through combat, it encourages movement and allows the player to see and understand more of your space Mix Up Cover Height - Mixing up cover height is great for variety, as well as having players interact with the space differently Height Level Changes - Are a great way to break up line of sight, change up the difficulty as well as a nice way to break up the traversal and process of aiming. You can do it by making your space two floors, but also just by raising an area by 1m. Every game, combat encounter, and level is different so these are not hard rules, more of suggestions. It is about knowing when to apply them as well. I do hope they help you when you create your future levels. Improvements This small encounter space may be something I am proud of considering the time constraints I made it in. Yet that does not mean it is a perfect space, I know that there are some things I need to adjust and change in order to make this a more memorable level. I am going to mention a few of them here, so you can make even better levels than myself. Help make each section more memorable - I spoke about how I tried to divide this level into quarters, which I think I did okay, but I should have experimented with local and global landmarks so players would instantly recognize the sections a little better. I tried with the architecture of the space, however I should have looked at more propage ideas as well. Less Cover - Now that is not a sweeping statement for the overall level, just in certain sections I should have reduced the amount of cover, that way it would encourage more long range combat forcing the players to hold their ground in certain sections. Tweaked metric guideline - For this space it may not seem like a huge deal but my cover buffer was 2m, I think I should have pushed it for 3m to have more space and not have certain areas feel as tight as they did in the level. Have actual enemies - Now these red boxes helped me for sure, but nothing is better than having actual AI inside your level, as that would give me far better feedback for my level. For sure there is more than this, but these are the bigger issues at hand when I go through this level. As I said before, we do not get everything right the first time we do it. Our levels get better with each iteration. With that said, if you have enjoyed this article and level, then maybe you want to see another level I did this year, which has objectives, a theme and a location to show you how I applied these rules to a new space. Check it out here: Please Support If you want more Level Design tips then please follow me on twitter. If you want more quality LD content and want to imagine how my silky voice sounds, then please come check out my podcast. iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K 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
  11. Hello all of you fantastic and wonderful people, I am BACK! I just want to say thank you all so much for the support and kind words from part 1 of my article. Great to see that many of you enjoyed it and feel like you have learnt something from it, but we can not linger in the past, instead we must look forward to the second part of what makes good level design for combat. Introduction In the first part, I discussed how important it is for you to understand your metrics, scale, weapon, etc. All this planning helps you to create great levels, now that we have an understanding of these crucial elements, it is on us as LDs to crafts spaces that players can have a great amount of fun and enjoyment with. In this article I will be breaking down the next steps of the process of the 2d design, then looking at a level I created and breaking down what I think made it a good level for combat. Pre-production - Research Now that we have gathered all the useful information to help us we need to move through to the research stage of our level design. This stage can not and should not be skipped, it is crucial to not only making a good level but also a believable level (A quick side tangent, always keep in mind and to quote my friend Stuart Scott we are creating ‘Believable not realistic spaces’ meaning we do have creative freedom within our levels) Now you will be set a location for your level, this could be a castle, maybe a hotel or even a space station. Regardless of what that location may be you will need to make sure that you have an understanding of how these spaces work such as: What rooms do this area normally contain? Where is the toilet? How do people interact with this location before the player arrives? How does it connect to other spaces? What is its architectural style? Where can you find this location? Which country is this location located? And other such questions, in order to answer these then you must first do research. You can do this by googling pictures, then entering google maps to find a real life example, you can start to see how the location looks in real life. Videos are also a great help, or there might even be an example in other games. I strongly recommend of gathering not just images of the location but also floor plans as well. The reason for this is it helps you see the overall picture of a location as well as how some typically look. Not only that but this is a great starting point for your own level, as you can use this as a basis for your level. Even better with this, you can not start to see which rooms in a floor plan can be kept, removed or altered. Maybe there are too many rooms that are dead ends which do not give a good loop for combat, or there are not enough spaces for hidden loot, well now you can tweak these in your floor plan but still keep that location based in reality. From doing your research not only will you have a basic understanding of how the locations flows together but you can grasp the theme of location, how it looks at certain times of days, How it will look if it is abandoned or when it is fully functional. Now the gathering resources is in full motion, you can use many different cool tools to store them, from it either being a folder on your computer or Pinterest or Google Docs as long as you have easy ways to access your files that is the most important thing. It is important because you will need to make sure you have access to them while creating your level to constantly reference. Yet it is not only important for your beautiful LD eyes but it will come in handy in reviews, so that when leads or directors are checking your work they can see why it looks the way it does but also helps them understand how you got to this layout and why, also this will really help your teammates in Enviro Art so they can get a much more vivid vision of how the location should look. As for example you may be asked to build a level set in a church, but this church is built in a Latin community. Yet when I think of a church I visualize a huge Gothic church in the shape of a cross, but that would never fit inside a Latin community. By doing your research you can see how different areas and communities view the same space, making sure you create more authentic and believable spaces. Once you have gathered enough references (50 images minimum in my opinion) you can start to move to the next step. Pre-production - 2d Map One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “Max should I do 2d maps, is that the right way?” now for me the answer is yes. I used to do them and then stopped and just jumped straight into the blockout, but I noticed that my quality of my work decrease as well as it taking longer when staring at that ominous blank screen. There are many reasons I believe 2d sketches to be important, such as: Quicker to start work on blockout Easier to address feedback Allows you to see the flaws quicker Helps you go through multiple iterations before choosing and starting a blockout Now I know some of my other friends and other designers I have met use Google Sketch-Up before creating their blockout as it helps get a better sense of scale. Honestly both are great, the point you should take away from this section is that you need to plan before your blockout. People also feel that when they do a 2d map or a form of planning they feel that they are trapped? I put a ‘?’ because you should not. This is a plan meaning this can and should change, this is your starting point! Meaning that you can and must make changes as you see fit, I even did this in a recent level I made, do not be afraid to change from your plan if it does not feel right. Now with these points added to your pipeline of level creation we are going to do a break down of a combat level I created and break it down. (Before we do this though, do make sure to check out this great article which is fantastic for what to think about when creating your levels and brings forth some additional points on things to consider when making your levels) Case Study - Part 1 Okay, you now know how important pre-production is to your level, we are now going to get to the sexy part, which is the level itself. I created a small combat level for a task, now we will be breaking down the level and showing what I believe helps make this level good for combat. Quick side note, all of those documents in part one were my design rules and metrics and those were what I was referring to when I created my level. This level was not built or set on any particular location, we had a week to create Three combat spaces, so there is no reference images, just more of me creating a space that felt right. With no research I had my restrictions for space of 30x30m as well I could only use five enemies, with cover spacing of 2m and with that I created my 2d map. As you can see, it is not the prettiest of sketches but it gets the job done. It is very important when you do a sketch that you do use grid paper. The reason for this that you can get a sense of scale as well when it comes to putting it in the editor it you can translate the cube on the paper for 1m and use that to block out your level in the editor. When creating the level (and hopefully you can see this) that I wanted essentially split the space into quarters, so that the player could feel a difference in each section, but also feel a sense of progression. Quartering the level allowed me to reveal information to the player slowly, not just throwing them into the middle of a battle ground. It allows the player to focus on the task at hand, before showing more slowly, also by hiding certain information from the player it also plays to their disadvantage making the challenge feel even stronger. Another reason I was splitting up the space is the fact that it can and will reduce Long lines of sight. This way it forces players to move through the space in order to engage in combat, while also making them move to get an understanding of how the space is connected. Part of how I quarter the level is by dividing the space between interior and exterior spaces, most of the right hand side is set in the interior space, while the left hand space is kept in the open space to the exterior. This is handy for combat as players will have a different feel in each of the spaces. Exterior - players will have bigger spaces to engage in combat, having flanking opportunities, as well as having a larger line of sight to deal with and keep an eye on as enemies progress. Interior - players will be kept in a much more narrow space forcing them to focus on the front of combat as they battle with the enemies to move forward. Not only is this designed to have a visual separation but also designed like this to provide a number of ways in which players have to deal with the different encounters as well, making the space feel different too. You have now seen why I have decided to quarter the layout but it would not be much of a plan if I did not think about how the enemies occupy this space. Here is the plan I had for my enemies in the space as well: (The enemies are the Red Diamonds with the giant E, inside them. While the player is the Green Circle, with the P inside it) Before I jump to why I have placed the enemies in this position I want to talk about the players position first. This is sometimes an oversight when designing a level but trust me when I say, how the player first sees the level will inform how they play your level. One of the biggest/basic mistakes I see in beginners work is that the designer places the player facing the wrong direction, so make sure you place the players avatar facing the direction you want them to move towards. Look at how Mario always faces the right as players must move right. With that same context I have it so my player faces forward leading them towards the window and to the turning on the left (we will break down why that is important later) but a big reason why I have placed the player a bit away from enemies is for safety. Players can start my level without feeling pressure right away. Allowing them to find their bearing before entering combat. Switching gears now, we will look at enemy placement, now I have only showed you their starting off placement not their patrol route. We will talk about their route when it comes to the blockout phase. One of the key things I have tried to do here is that I have tried to hide enemies from the players initial view. If you look at both the top right and bottom left, there are two enemies in each section, yet only one is visible in the players initial LoS. The reason behind this is: To surprise the player, this way it keeps the engagement interesting Reward the players who do not go in guns blazing, those who statergise and truly take in the level will be able to not be caught off guard. Conclusion From this article I hope you have understood the importance of research and planning, this is a necessary stage to make great levels, as well as seeing some questions you should as yourself as you start working on your level. Always make sure to build up a library of references because the more you know the more authentic and believable your space will become. Floor plans are a great place to start when it comes to creating your own 2d maps, as you can use them to help ground your level or even the foundation of your own level. 2d maps don’t need to be art, as long as it is understandable and makes sense then that is the most important thing. Plan the position of your player and your enemies as that will help you get an even better understanding of how the level will actually flow with your objectives. I was planning for us to start looking over the blockout of the level but honestly I think it has turned out better that we have focused solely on the planning phase of development. Because now you can understand how important it is, as well as see my thought process when creating this level. Next will be the concluding part of this mini-series on making a combat level. I did not want to explain all of my design choices in this post as you will see in the next part that some of changed, but also I believe it will be better to see them within the level I have built. Please Support Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you have found it useful. If you do want to hear more about my thoughts on level design, then please checkout my podcast: iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K Read Part 3 Here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears 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
  12. ""Creative Process for Level Designers” is a short talk from design consultant Steve Lee (previously a level designer on games including "Dishonored 2" and "Bioshock Infinite"), that covers a series of fundamental ideas to consider throughout the process of making a level. Topics discussed include how to overcome the so-called “blank canvas”, the meaning and importance of designing iteratively and elegantly, and some tips on playtesting." Follow SteveTwitter: https://twitter.com/essell2?lang=enWebsite: http://www.essell.org/Follow Digital DragonsYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOXWdtUOYjKgFOQmhN8aORwWebsite: http://digitaldragons.pl/
  13. 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: http://polyknightgames.com/level-design-designing-for-flow/ Follow Eric Website: https://emgrossman.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/EM_Grossman
  14. The level of detail required varies greatly depending upon which stage of development a project as at. Some designers are very detail focused to begin with, and work on fleshing out the larger context of that detail over time. Others start out with very basic, high level concepts, and incorporate more detail as they go along.Regardless of what your natural inclinations may be, one thing is almost universally true - when you begin translating your ideas into a virtual space via an editor, there's great benefit to starting with a rough blockout of your play space. In this short article, Andres Rodriguez relays the wisdom he's gained as a designer on games such as Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us.Solid Foundations MatterAndres cites the importance of blockouts for fast iteration, composition, and framing: Designing for Brains and BeautyBlockouts are also a great tool for assuring that pathing and points of interest are clear, and that players can easily understand the space they find themselves in: The Role of Blocking Within the Full PipelineFinally, we must look at the role of blocking out not within a vacuum, but as part of a larger process. Decisions made at the blockout stage impact art and lighting, for example. The reverse can be true as well - there's value in understanding how the spaces we design will impact lighting and shadows. Understanding the interplay between the various steps in the design process will ultimately result in better levels. The quotes above are excerpts of an article that can be read in full here: https://80.lv/articles/attack-the-block-steps-to-better-level-design/Follow AndresWebsite: http://www.arodz3d.com/ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/arodz3d
  15. IntroductionThe following is a recap of an article from David Ballard that was posted on 80 Level. Follow the link at the end of this post for the full article. In this article, David walks us through his multiplayer level design process. David explains that he had originally build for co-op play. Representation of the PlayerIn order to be able to understand the players will feel and interact inside a play space, it's critical to put yourself in digital shoes. From there, you must understand and support the overall conceptual goals and approach of the game you're designing for. Blocking Out the General SpaceAt the Blockout stage, David worked on things like geometrical focal points, movement options, and scaling. He started off with a drawing, and made adjustments as needed as he transitioned it into a 3D world. Making AdjustmentsAs is always the case in a collaborative environment, it's critical to be flexible, and able to develop creative alternatives quickly. Adding Assets to the LevelIt's time to get fancy. After plenty of playtesting and iterating, David's next step was to begin adding assets. ConclusionFinally, the level is complete. David looks back at the rewards and lessons that came of it. Source: https://80.lv/articles/the-last-of-us-multiplayer-level-design-process/Follow DavidSite: http://www.davidgballard.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/DBalArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/dbal
  16. Who is Hardy?Hardy LeBel has been in the game industry for over 20 years, with stints working as the lead designer of ONI and Halo, and as Design Director of Microsoft Game Studios. He's the founder of The Video Game Career Academy. Series IntroIn this Youtube series, Hardy helps us Learn Level Design. The series is broken into 5 parts as follows: What is Level Design? Intention Invention Iteration Intro to Unit 2 Level Themes Level Concepts Integrating Game Mechanics Gameplay Building Blocks Physical Construction Surprises The Video Series Learn Level Design Class 1: What is Level Design? Learn Level Design Class 2: Intention Learn Level Design Class 3: Invention Learn Level Design Class 4: Iteration Learn Level Design Class 5: Intro to Unit 2 Learn Level Design Class 6: Level Themes Learn Level Design Class 7 & 8: Level Concepts (parts A & B) Learn Level Design Class 9: Integrating Game Mechanics Learn Level Design Class 10: Gameplay Building Blocks Learn Level Design Class 11: Physical Construction Learn Level Design Class 12: Surprises Follow HardyYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRTexStRSiHNR21y4hdx4Yw/videosTwitter: https://twitter.com/RazdByBears 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
  17. In this article, originally posted on Bungie.net, Chris Carney, designer at Bungie for 15 years, shares some insight into the level design process used to create the Halo: Reach map The Cage. His intent is to provide food for thought for those jumping into Halo's Forge Mode, but it's most definitely applicable to anyone with an interest in level design.The article starts off at...well...the start of the design process: Chris suggests starting out by answering 3 questions: How many players is your level going to be designed for? What are the Primary and Secondary Gametypes that will be played on it? Will the maps have Vehicles? Of course, these questions may vary depending upon the game you're designing for, but you get the point. Once you have your answers, we move on to the initial design stage. The form this takes can vary greatly from person to person, so Chris suggests using whichever method works best for you. For the purposes of this article, Chris ultimately decided to use The Cage as his example level. He stated that it "started off as a small to mid-sized, 4 – 8 player map, intended for Team Slayer and map possession gametypes such as Stockpile that was going to use some ideas from Lockout and feature outer circulation similar to Ascension and the Pit." Chris then begins to systematically work through what he calls "the seven essential multiplayer design elements." Element #1: Simplicity Element #2: Orientation Element #3: Navigation Element #4: Flow/Circulation Now we get into the nitty gritty - the actual design process used for The Cage. Chris started out knowing that the level would consist of isolated combat areas, akin to Lockout. He explains that they used colored cardboard cutouts to start out, with green boxes representing rooms, blue rectangles being bridges, a yellow circle signifying a platform, and red circles designating alternative movement options (teleporters, lifts, jumps). Element #5: Hard Points Chris continues to share further iterations, along with supporting cardboard cutout images, which you can see by following the link at the end of this post. And then he comes to the next of his seven essential elements. Element #6: Layout of Game Objects Which brings us to the final critical element. Element #7: Iteration After this brief interlude to finalize his list of essential elements, Chris returns to The Cage. And finally, we get to the editor. Chris jumps into forge and begins constructing his well prepared level, making various further adjustments as he went along. As was the case earlier, Chris provides more detail on the iteration process, which can be seen in the original article. And with that, we reach the end of our lesson. Read the full article here: http://halo.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=29601 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
  18. Splash Damage has released the Game Design Document for Dirty Bomb to the public. One section of this document consists of notes on the Map Designs. This section can be seen below:Map Designs: Gallery: Terminal Redux: Dome Redux: Vault: Heist: Castle: View the entire document here: https://www.splashdamage.com/news/the-design-of-dirty-bomb/