Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'landmarks'.



More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Forums

  • Design
    • Projects
    • Design Discussion
    • Tools & Tutorials
  • Off Topic
    • Games Discussion
    • General Discussion
    • Site Support & Feedback

Categories

  • Articles
  • NLD Originals
  • News
  • Projects

Blogs

  • NLD Dev Blog

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


About Me

Found 20 results

  1. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 22? Read it here: Rule of Thirds Intro Sometimes when a player experiences a map for the first time they don’t start with a spawn perspective. Sometimes they get an overview of the map that allows them to make decisions and gain a first impression before they start playing or have any sort of control of what they are seeing. Sometimes a player doesn’t have control over what they see during cinematic sequences and where they look next. These perspectives that players do not have control over are what we call static perspectives. Your terms Static perspectives are a powerful tool in a designer’s toolbox for creating the experience the designer envisions. The designer has full control over static perspectives. They are something that are fully owned by a designer and are very predictable experience-wise when compared to other design theories that rely on hypothesizing what players will see and do. However, with great power comes great responsibility. When things don’t go a player’s way while traversing a map they have the chance to blame themselves because they control their own perspective. However they have no control over static perspectives like map overviews so if they have a bad map overview or see a bad screenshot the fault falls on you as the designer. Don’t ever give your player’s a reason to doubt your credibility as a designer. Remember how important those first impressions are. Painting a picture When preparing a static perspective, always remember that you are painting a picture or film that your players are witnessing. Remember that you are an artist trying to sell your work to your audience. Use whatever techniques you can think of to make your static perspectives as pleasing as possible. Take note of the color contrast that exists in your picture. Remember your eye catching techniques to draw attention to things. Remember the rule of thirds and place important landmarks, incentives, and deterrents on the focus points of the static perspective. Remember the importance of teaching your players your map to provide them the knowledge they need to have a full and enjoyable experience. Static perspectives are also a great tool for area introduction. Remember that level design is a smooth cohesive process, not just a bunch of individual parts. Everything works together as one and learning to combine and mix and match techniques is a delicate but powerful skill. Examples Static perspectives can be many things. Screenshots of your map in a thread on a level design forum are a great example of static perspectives. Sometimes a camera exists that is used to give an overview of a map while players select their weapons. Maybe there is a security camera that players have access to but can’t control and can see the map in the camera’s perspective. Perhaps you created a film to show off your map. In the case of batches of perspectives, remember the perspective variance concept when using various techniques. Games have used many static perspectives throughout the ages and learning to see them as pieces of art will allow you to adjust them and plant a particular opinion or impression on your customers. That. Is. Power. Read Chapter 24: Advertising 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
  2. Follow Game Design with Michael YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBDJsz_SgRaV96Xd9gqEemg Twitter: https://twitter.com/GigityMcD 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. Light is a path Often the primary route through a map is highlighted with arrow signs, architectural shapes and item/encounter placement. Another possible type of pathing is the placement of lights, because most players will automatically be drawn to light and avoid darkness. To create a path of light place strong light source next to all architectural exits, highlight the most obvious route through an area and try using light styles (flashing or blinking) to focus the player's attention. The lit path does not need to be the most direct route, much like road signs in cities are not always the fastest route the same can be said for paths of light! Keep creating contrast A map with uniform light levels is a badly lit map! Just like architectural details create better location visuals, the same can be said for contrasting light. The intensity of light is a way of drawing attention, moving the player towards a point of interest. A map full of flat uniform lighting has no sense of direction; it might as well be a maze! To create contrasting lights start with darkness and gradually add light sources with a high intensity value and a long attenuation to reduce the harsh light boundaries. Once the light sources have been setup then add ambient fill lights either to smooth the shadow gradients or if darkness is a prominent game mechanic keep the ambient fill lights near the light sources instead. Shadows are dramatic When films were black and white cinematographer understood the value of shadows and realized that architecture was a canvas, a surface to splash silhouettes upon to suit the mood of the film. Shadows are more than just blobs of grey thrown in the corners. Shadows can accent architecture, create tension and enhance the atmosphere. When placing light sources always consider nearby architecture and look for the possibility of a dramatic shadow. A way to distort a row of bars across a wall, project a silhouette of a cage upon a ceiling or frame the outline of building across the sky. Dramatic shadows are impressive, memorable and bring an ordinary flat surface to life. Colour is emotional The colours we see around us in nature often invoke emotional responses and coloured light is no different. From a blue cloudless (cold) night sky to a yellow bright (hot) midday sun, the colour of a scene can help to build an emotional narrative. Coloured lighting come with player preconceptions and strong reactions to certain colours that often create an emotional response like blue/grey for coldness and yellow/red for warmth. For example a giant two storey wood/stone banquet hall could have warm fires (yellow) at ground level and be cold (blue) lights close to the ceilings and around the first floor balconies. Always break symmetry Lights are probably the worst offenders for symmetrical placement because the lighting is often the final phase to the level design process. Easily copied and pasted around, many designers will ignore what should be highlighted and simply duplicate the lights around and sometimes even match symmetrical architecture at the same time. The problem with symmetrical light placement is it creates a uniform light level which is visually dull and to make matters worse the layout of the shadows are mirrored as well! A quick and easy solution to this problem is to switch off some of the light sources and vary some of the light intensities. This will break the uniformity of light/shadow and create the illusion of a location which has aged over time because of missing light sources. *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. 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
  5. 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
  6. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 11? Read it here: Smooth Spawning Intro So we know we can move players around using different techniques in path manipulation, but how do we observe that? How do we analyze a player’s movement? How do we visualize a player’s movement? The tool that I tend to use is a little something that I like to call path maps. An intro to path maps A path map is a map of all the possible paths that can be taken on a designated level based on a given position of the player. There are two different types of paths that exist in a path map. Objective paths are the shortest paths possible to the player’s current goal from the player’s current position on the map. Divergent paths are paths towards other possible goals that force players to “diverge” from the main objective path. As players move around the map and make decisions, objective and divergent paths change accordingly. Being able to observe a path map at any given point in time is essential to truly mastering path manipulation. When to use path maps The basic time to observe a path map is typically based on a particular spawn point. This allows the designer to analyze where a player plans on moving as soon as they spawn and allows the designer to adjust that to his/her liking. Another popular use of the path map is from incentives or landmark areas to understand where a player will move after arriving or acquiring what they traveled there to achieve. The current direction of the player is important when drawing a path map from a designated position on the map. Divergent paths are typically based on the player’s current perspective. Divergent paths may also exist behind the player if the player possesses enough knowledge of the map. Keep in mind that there is typically one objective path and many divergent paths. Divergent paths are just simply all the possibilities that the player may choose to take based on certain situations. For example if a player is going for the rocket launcher, and knows that the sniper is around the corner there would be a divergent path to the sniper. It is the designers job to decide what paths are most likely to exist in various situations. From divergent to objective To reiterate, objective paths is the shortest path to the player’s current goal. A player’s goal is ever changing as they traverse around the map and make decisions. When a player spawns his initial goal is to get to his winning objective. Now imagine that while traveling down the objective path a rocket launcher or other incentive catches his eye. He now changes his current goal to achieve the rocket launcher. The new objective path is now the shortest path to the rocket launcher, and the old objective path is now a divergent path. Now imagine that a player has beaten him to the rocket launcher. His goal no longer exists so now his objective path must change. If the player that grabbed the rocket launcher is a teammate then it is more than likely that his old objective path will become the objective again. However if the player is an enemy, then the enemy is a deterrent. The player’s new objective path may now be to the nearest piece of cover. At that point the player may choose to remove the deterrent or seek safe passage and his objective path will change accordingly. Utilizing path maps is a strong tool in observing specific situations when analyzing your path manipulation. Use it well. Read Chapter 13: Area Introduction 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. For the past few months I have been researching several different games. During that time I have been researching games like "Uncharted 4" and "The Last of Us" (made by Naughty Dog). With this article I want to share my knowledge with my fellow peers, in the hope of empowering and motivating them to learn more about level design. This will be a crash course on the different elements of level flow, that level designers can use to make informed decisions about their level design. 1 - Introduction: What is level flow My definition of level flow: "When the player knows what to do, where to go. But not always know how to achieve/get towards that goal." (keyword: Spatial Awareness) It is a state where the player has a pleasant experience, traversing through the level. It goes hand in hand with game flow. This definition is quite vague and that is because level flow is a broad subject. For simplicity I will split up "level flow" into four smaller pieces. In high-level terms, these are some of the elements we level designers use to guide the player(s).. "I need to know about geometry and composition? But I am not an artist?!" Yes, I am also not an artist but I do believe that everything is in some way intertwined with level design. Mastering small bits about these subjects will allow you to make more informed design decisions. Geometry Think about collision, physical interactive objects, shape design. Composition A) Focal points. Funneling the player with use of Geometry/Assets. B) Contrast (positive & negative space): Between, Space, Lighting or Color. Scripted Events Companions, Enemies (AI), Moving/Patrolling around. Other events that makes the player move: such as an explosion or a fallen tree trunk. Storytelling Text/Signs (direct) Assets placed in a particular order, like pickups scattered across the map or barrels in a corner (indirect) Geometry, Composition and Scripted Events can be combined to create Storytelling elements. Being able to master these sections will allow you to guide/move the player to where ever you desire them to go. /// Here are some examples of flow elements that can be used to guide the player through the level: 2.1 - Examples: The use of lines Lines, Arrows Shape Silhouettes, Pathways... Lines have two points, a begin and an endpoint. A line affords direction. It is a 2D object that moves in a direction. We can see lines as arrows and arrows afford direction. In this example, multiple objects in the scene will hint towards this focal point, the mega structure. Nathan Drake points at the landmark. (not in this picture, but in game he does) The pathway underneath them, leads towards the landmark. The shape of the mountains. The shape of the houses (especially the roofs) The contrast between the mountains and the forest. As you can see lines are powerful tools to indicate direction. They help to guide the players eye from A to B and visa versa. 2.2 - Examples: Landmark Visibility Landmark definition: An object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables the player to establish their location on the map. Landmarks can be used to determine someone's location, approximately from the landmark. Therefore it is a method to improve flow in the level. An exceptional level designer would work together with the environment artists, to make sure that each area is recognizable. They should work together to determine the line of sight and the visual language of the area. In this example, Joel will be able to see the bridge from multiple angles. This allows the level designer to create a level that doesn't go into a linear/straight direction. As walking straight towards the objective is boring and no fun. The high buildings on the side also helps to frame the bridge, funneling the player towards the objective. The only indication the player needs to know is how far away they are from the bridge. If they are approaching closer to the bridge, they can assume that they are going towards the right direction. 2.3 - Examples: The use of Color Using Color as Affordance: Color can be used to indicate the player, that a certain object is able to afford something. It can be used to contrast the scene, shifting the focal point. In this example, all reachable & climbable ledges have these "light yellowish" color casted on them. Informing the player that those afford to be grabbed/climbed. This is a clever way to indicate something to the player, without it breaking the immersion. By blending in with the cliffs, using the same "earthly" tones. You can also use color to invoke an emotion from the player. Bright shades of red and yellow might indicate danger , while a blue color let them think about water, the sky, calmness or peace. 2.4 - Examples: Repetition, good or bad? Repetition is beautiful as humans can see patterns. Nature is build up out of patterns and we love it. But when you repeat it too often, it becomes boring. You can compare it to listening to the same song for 100x times. At first you might like the song, although after repeatedly listening to it, you might come to hate it. This problem is also true in level/environment design. Do not let the player(s) traverse through areas that all look the same. What is the point of exploring if everything looks the same? You can keep it look coherent, but be sure to have a bit of variation. As mentioned in the previous point: Color is a nice way to break up the monotone feel of a scene and to attract the players attention. 3.1 - Examples: Movement in a Static World In a static scene, movement will catch the players eyes. When characters or objects move from one position to another position, they create a line. (See example 2.1) As I mentioned previously, a line indicates direction. We can use a dynamic element to guide the player through the level, creating flow. Video by: Dops Gaming Do you know the way? In this example, Nathan breaks out of prison with two of his comrades. In this action packed scene, your goal is to escape the prison. The player can experience this scene as stressful and rushed. You aren't prepared for this. You don't even know the layout of the prison and now you have to make a break for it! During this moment, the player doesn't want to constantly think about where they need to go and accidently get lost. This is where the two side characters take it over and guide you through the scene. 3.2 - Examples: Movement, Following the Crowd I don't know where to go, guess I follow everyone else. This is another example of movement being used. Similar to the previous example, the player is confronted with a high intensive experience. Where "yet again" the goal is to escape from the mess you're in. Video by: theRadBrad (fragment: 10:30 - 13:30) In all the chaos you don't know where to go, so you follow the crowd. Where ever they go, you will follow. Your only goal is to get out and keep Sarah safe. The crowd is moved by "seemingly" uncontrollable events in the scene. An exploding car would drive the crowd to the opposite direction, towards safety. 3.3 - Examples: Movement, Subtle environmental hints It doesn't have to be complicated. The previous two examples requires the developers to create AI with a behavior system. Although that could be really cool, it's also complicated. Video by: IFreeMz (fragment: 42:18 - 42:30) A subtle tumble weed rolling in a certain direction or in this example; a swan flying away into the distance. It tells you to keep moving in "that" direction. 4.1 - Examples: Flow through Storytelling elements The easiest noticeable storytelling elements are: Text, signs Decals Meshes placed in a deliberate order You can make patterns or create contrast to highlight an object. Due to how the tank is angled 45 degrees, it naturally guides the player towards the left side. The tank is used as a physical barrier/obstacle to guide the player to the left. Signs will tell you where to go. The left billboard reads: "Medical Evacuation, Use Tunnel" while the right billboard reads "Salt Lake City, Military Zone Ahead". Given that the theme of the game is about survival, the player wants to avoid danger. Another example is to use breadcrumbs to assist your player through the level. It can be a way to indicate the player that they are on the right path. 5.1 - Why everything I mentioned about composition is wrong (kind of...) Well, 3D levels are created in...3D. Cool 2D -> 3D street art from talented artist: Julian Beever It is easier to make a 2D picture look nice from one view. But in games where the player can freely roam around and explore, they usually have multiple views on an object. You and the environment artists can make everything look nice, but you probably don't have all the time of the world to make it perfect. However, as a level designer you can plan ahead and make sure to get the most out of the level, by setting up rules for yourself. Limit the views the player can have. Pay detail to the more important aspects. What do you want the player to see? Try out different lighting setups. Guide the player through the map with use of flow elements! Make the chances that the player wants to go off-track unlikely! Don't place landmarks at spots where you don't want the player to go to. Uncharted 4 levels feel very open. But secretly their levels are linear, with a golden path. There is no point in going off road, there is nothing there anyway... oh look a cool mountain! (road 66) 5.2 - How Naughty Dog makes sure you still see their cool views! A dedicated button! With a press on a button (L3), they allow the camera to momentarily reposition itself, aiming at the focal point. Using this method, the developers have total control on what they want the player to see. 6.1 - Demonstration: Flow Gone Wrong, how to recognize the designers intentions. The good, the bad. To demonstrate on how you can used your now new profound knowledge to recognize flow elements in other games, I will dissect a level section in Uncharted 4. (Chapter 2: Infernal Place) Something to keep in mind: Nathan doesn't have a map, he doesn't use a compass. What a badass. Video by: Moghi plays (fragment: 8.49 - 10:50) Steps performed by the player: The player sees a tower and grapple hook his way towards it. He proceeds to climb up the tower with use of the grooves. Climbs inside of the tower. Walks around the plateau. Falls in the ocean, trying to find a pathway. Re-spawn Can you recognize what goes "wrong" in this small section? What do you think caused the confusion by the player to suddenly fall off the map, into the ocean? Was the player misinformed, weren't there enough flow elements? To my observation, they placed a lot of flow elements to guide the player but because of a few poorly placed assets. It unintentionally outweighed the other flow elements placed by the designers. The cues that should have helped the player Direction This wooden bar seemed to afford to be hooked. It doesn't, but it does points towards the objective. Direction & Shape Language A pointy triangular rock. Points & triangles can be seen as arrows, arrows indicate direction. In this case this rock is telling us to go upwards. Color These grooves have a light yellow rim. In example 2.3, I explained that Uncharted 4 likes to use color to indicate towards the player, that it affords something. Text & Speech Nathan knows something you don't know. "Onward and Upward" he says. He hints to keep going up. This is a critical cue that gets triggered a bit late. Summarized With so many flow elements, the player shouldn't had to be confused right? The reason for the confusion was likely because of two elements. The doorway The wooden balcony When we convert the picture to black and white, we can see that the difference in contrast makes your eyes focused on the doorway and the wooden plateau. The doorway affords to be walked through, gates are strong methods of guiding the player. They have a strong attraction to them. You want to walk through it to see whats on the other side. The imbalance between the contrast in shape, lighting and color made the doorway and wooden board pop out more than intended. A solution? A potential solution to this problem would be to highlight the grooves a bit more. With use of decals, color or by perhaps destroying part of the construction. Any kind of additional indication that tells the player that they can climb the tower. But nonetheless, without applying my potential solution. You can also jump of the cliff and the game would re-spawn you on a spot with a nice view of the wooden bar. It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Is this the real reason? It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Another theory of mine is that the designers at Naughty Dog planned this all along and this part was supposed to play out like this, to slow down the pacing of the player. Showing them that it is important to look around the environment to find clues. There are really uncountable ways to guide your players. We might never know the truth. 😉 *Note: This article is shared in its entirely on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1792/how_level_flow_works_in_uncharted_.php Follow Trinh Website: https://www.trinhleveldesigner.com/index.html Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trinhleveldesigner/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. Preface Architecture theory is a considerably broad subject, an amalgamation of numerous artistic and psychological sensibilities. However, regardless of architectural movement or era, one idea has proved itself a philosophical mainstay. In the words of architect Louis Khan; “architecture is the thoughtful making of space”. For centuries, architects have been concerned with how physical forms shape and manipulate the spatial void they are placed within, exploring how this influences the ways in which human beings interact with space. Even though digital game levels are intangible, players interface with these spaces in a fashion to how their own bodies would interact with the world around them. Hence, level design can be approached through an architectural lens to enrich the player’s experience of digital spaces. In this assignment, I shall explore how level designers have utilized architecture theory in their craft. Throughout, I will introduce and explain several spatial principles and present a curated range of game spaces that employ them. This will display the ways in which level designers have utilized, subverted or otherwise re-purposed architectural theory to enrich player experience, but may also show how genre affects these decisions. Emotionally-guided Planning of Space A ‘parti pris’¸ often shortened to ‘parti’, is a planning technique that some architects use early in their design process to identify their project’s layout and spatial qualities. Usually a sketch of the site’s overhead layout, the parti can be informed by external ideas which often transcend the physicality of architectural form. Through this approach, an architectural piece can become a physical manifestation of the philosophical concept it was founded upon. Meaning ‘spirit of place’, the Roman concept of genius loci has been adapted by architects to describe when a place is recognized for a remarkable or memorable quality. For some level designers, the genius loci may exist through an intended gameplay experience that is shaped by their game genre. In horror game Dead Space 2, hostile enemies were omitted from the chapter ‘Déjà Vu on the Ishimura’ which subverted player expectation and placed it among the most memorable moments of the game’s campaign. The genius loci here can be considered as being the elevation of dramatic tension throughout the level’s spatial atmosphere. Place and Space Figure-ground Theory Generally, it can be assumed that both architects and level designers must possess a fundamental understanding of how shapes and spaces are visually organised. A way for this to be achieved is application of gestalt theory; the psychological study of human perception. Level designer Christopher W. Totten refers to level design as “an art of contrasts”, in which the gestalt component of figure-ground theory can be applied. Figure-ground theory states that all components within a person’s visual field can be separated into two contrasting elements: ‘figures’ and ‘ground’. For Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts”. Through the lens of architectural design, this idea is present; form and space must be considered equally to be distinguishable and understood. Architect Francis D. K. Ching defines the relationship between figure and ground as “a unity of opposites”, alluding to both elements having equal significance to a visual composition. There are two ways in which the placement of figures will determine how the surrounding ground is visually processed: Positive space is created when figures are arranged to imply shape within them. The ground itself can be perceived as a figure. Negative space occurs when Figures are placed distantly from one another, making the ground appear shapeless and uncontained. Ching reinforces how the base principles behind figure-ground theory remain significant when applied to Architecture, claiming that “architectural form occurs at the juncture between mass and space”. This perspective echoes throughout the application of spatial theory in both architecture and level design. Here, mass and space are the tangible equivalents to figure and ground. There must be always be a perceivable contrast between form and space to retain visual clarity. The contrast between figure and ground has numerous was of being achieved, including colour, value, and texture. N++, as a two-dimensional platformer, does not adhere to many architectural sensibilities. Despite this, the game’s minimalistic level design highlights the symbiotic dichotomy between mass and space. The figures and ground are easily identifiable from each other due to their heavily contrasting colours and values (see Figure 1). Fig. 1: N++ 2016. 'Parkour Park Prototype' level. [screenshot by the author]. Here, the white masses shown are physical structures, and the navy-coloured void is the space in which players navigate through. The placement of obstacles and enemies within the playable space help to prevent the player from alternating their perspective of the game’s figures and ground, a problem that occurs when both elements of a visual composition have roughly equal presence. Some levels in N++ are prone to this problem, where their masses and spaces dominating equal space and disrupting the distinction between figure and ground. This is exacerbated when the level’s masses appear to be extensions of the surrounding game border (see Figure 2). Highlighting the shortcomings of a minimalistic colour palette, scenarios like these have potential to confuse the player, as the game environment consequently becomes more difficult to read. However, these abstract visual compositions could be considered a positive or otherwise intriguing quality, contributing to the level’s genius loci. Fig. 2: N++ 2016. 'Learning Process' level. [screenshot by the author]. Landmarks Urban designer Kevin Lynch proposed that urban city environments are comprised of five key elements. One of these elements, landmarks, can be considered a significant level design tool to enrich a game’s environment. At an urban scale, landmarks are typically physical structures like towers, distinctive buildings, or statues, that serve as spatial anchors or reference points for pedestrians. Furthermore, landmarks have potential to contribute to a space’s genius loci. Lynch believed that the “principal factor” for an object to be considered a landmark was its visual contrast to a background, which could be achieved through application of figure-ground theory. The Eiffel Tower is perhaps one of the most renowned examples of a landmark utilizing figure-ground effectively. Here, the sky itself is the ground in which the figure is placed upon (see Figure 3). This grants Paris a landmark of immense scale that can be observed and referenced several kilometres from its origin. Fig. 3: Gustave Eiffel 1889. The Eiffel Tower. Landmarks as World-enriching Figures Naturally, Level Designers can use skyboxes in outdoor environments to similar effect. The skybox can also be made visually distinguishable from the game’s horizon, resulting in a significant amount of negative space to be used as the ground for landmark figures. In World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, players are immediately greeted by a monolithic structure upon their arrival to the fictional city of Dazar’alor (see Figure 4). This structure is a gilded, Mesoamerican-influenced pyramid that houses the upper echelons of the native society and their seat of power. Visually, the pyramid contrasts its background to a similar magnitude of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Fig. 4: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. 2018. Pyramid landmark in Dazar'alor. [screenshot by the author]. The placement of Dazar’alor’s pyramid echoes architectural conventions of spatial elevation. Ching identifies how the physical elevation of a structure is often a culturally informed decision, venerating the site’s religious or social importance to the area it has risen above. The pyramid itself is among the tallest locations on the entire continent of Zandalar, indicating its significance to the city’s cultural identity. Home to the Zandalari Trolls, the races’ occupation of the structure symbolises their dominance and mastery over the land. This notion continues through the bold, triangular shape of the pyramid, which mimics the surrounding mountains. Similarly, the Citadel in Half Life 2 carries a similar theme of dominance over the surrounding landscape, but in such a way that it appears overwhelmingly oppressive. The Citadel’s futuristic, muted features and monstrous size have a discordant but contrasting presence among the dated, brick-and-mortar apartment blocks of City 17. The tower evokes a sense of dread or unease, which is fitting, as Totten explains how the game establishes very early that the Citadel is the location of the game’s primary antagonist. Using Landmarks as Diegetic Pathfinding Devices Additionally, level designers can place landmarks throughout game levels as physical goals or locations that the player must reach. The impact of using waypoints in this manner can be augmented by an architectural technique that Frederick describes as “denial and reward”. Generally, the intention behind this is to make arrival to a landmark or destination feel more satisfying. In the context of level design, denial and reward is used during the player’s passage to a landmark. Landmarks become temporarily obscured from view, only to be revealed later from a new distance or perspective. Revealing the landmark from increasingly closer distances can indicate the passage of time to player in a natural and unobtrusive way, compelling the player to proceed. Journey utilizes this technique well. The game’s primary objective is to reach the mountain, a distant landmark that is introduced almost immediately after the game begins. The mountain often leaves the player’s field of view as they complete puzzles and traverse the abandoned landscape, but will occasionally resurface, appearing closer to the player. The physical qualities of the mountain are layered; new details are made apparent to the player as they get closer to the summit. These details include changes in weather, as well as the addition of small ruins and structures that would have been impossible to see from a greater distance. Further Exploration of Positive and Negative Spaces Positive Spaces in Urban Environments In urban environments, architectural figures are often placed in such a way that shapes the within them, implying spaces without using form. These positive spaces act as “dwelling” zones where people are typically found to socialise. The Nolli Map demonstrates the use of these spaces throughout the entire city of Rome, Italy (see Figure 5). Fig. 5: Nolli 1748. Segment of the 'Nolli Map'. Major cities in World of Warcraft, social environments using the same considerations of positive space. Like many urban environments, the positive spaces in the city of Stormwind are shaped by the placement of architectural figures. Overhead, the city is shown to have its districts separated by rooftop colour. This is the primary way in which each district’s visual identity can be distinguished. Characteristics like these, although simple, reflect urban planner Kevin Lynch’s criteria used to define ‘districts’ in urban cities, another one of his five urban city elements. Additionally, Stormwind’s layout uses canals to further separate these spaces, resulting in the transition between the city’s district a being very apparent to players navigating through the city. In Stormwind City, the Trade District is typically where social interactions between players’ game avatars are concentrated. By observing a figure-ground plan of the area, (see Figure 6), these hotspots are shown to be within the district’s positive spaces. Fig. 6: Tancock 2018. Stormwind Trade District Figure-ground Diagram. The high number of players in this zone can be attributed to the clustering of character services that are otherwise sparsely located in the game world, namely the Bank and Auction House. Like many dwelling spaces in urban architecture, the high player activity can be taken for the Trade District’s landmark. This mirrors the findings of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, that designer Claire Hosking references in her exploration of positive spaces. The positive spaces in the Trade District can be considered a ‘social canvas’, where the high concentration of players has increased potential interaction. These spaces can be utilized by level designers to create memorable social gathering places. Negative Spaces in Multiplayer Shooters Like positive space, negative space in urban design is defined by the spatial relationship between architectural figures. Here, negative space occurs when the arrangement of figures does not imply space, making the ground appear uncontained and shapeless. The use of negative space can be further considered from a three-dimensional perspective. Like landmarks, playable spaces can be visually identified by contrasting the negative space surrounding them. The rampant popularity of the Unreal Tournament map Facing Worlds (see Figure 7) is often attributed to its use of negative space. For arena shooters, the use of negative space allows players to distinguish other players, both hostile and friendly, from great distances. Additionally, negative space aids in the identification of power weapons and game mode objectives. Fig. 7: Unreal Tournament 1999. ‘Facing Worlds' multiplayer map. Level designer Jim Brown compares the use of negative space of Facing Worlds to the lack thereof in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map Favela. Here, the environment’s negative space is more difficult to distinguish from the playable space, leading to confusion and frustration from players. Despite this, Brown admits that the map’s environmental design was faithful to its architectural source material; the favelas of Brazil. The primary threat in competitive shooters comes from the presence of hostile players. Therefore, level designers must emphasize negative spaces to make all players identifiable from the game environment. This approach should reduce external factors, outside of the individual skill of the player, that reduces the frustration from failure. In this context, the ‘failure’ comes from being killed by an enemy player. In Modern Warfare 2, the single-player mission ‘Takedown’ is also set within a Brazilian favela, utilizing the same level design language and lack of visual clarity as its multiplayer equivalent. Level designer Dan Taylor uses this level to justify that “confusion is cool” but admits that these situations should be carefully and sparingly implemented. It can be argued that using negative space to a similar extent of Facing Worlds would have detracted from the level’s experiential qualities. Repurposing Architectural Conventions for Level Design Although many spatial considerations of level design are analogous to their architectural roots, the ways in which people and players experience these spaces are inherently different. Totten manipulates architect Le-Corbusier’s philosophy towards modern architecture, as he states how Level design is often constructed around challenges or situations that must be overcome by the player; “the game level should be the machine for living, dying, and creating tension by exploiting everything in between”. Some principles of architecture must be subverted or otherwise manipulated to achieve said intended experience. Spatial Considerations of Multiplayer Map Design First introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops, the multiplayer map Nuketown has been embraced by game modding communities and has since appeared in later Call of Duty titles. Nuketown’s popularity, like many other renowned competitive multiplayer maps, could be partially attributed to its use of synergy between positive and negative spaces. The spatial organisation of Nuketown (see Figure-8) is based on a suburban living space. Positive and negative spaces are combined in order to separate to allow for both dwelling and movement spaces. Similar layouts can be found on various College and University campuses. Fig. 8: Tancock 2018. Nuketown Figure-ground Diagram. Although multiplayer maps like Nuketown follow the same spatial arrangement of real suburban spaces, the purpose of these spaces is manipulated to better serve the shooter genre. The outdoor positive spaces of Nuketown are located on either side of the level’s layout and contain the initial player spawn points. These areas are safe from enemy fire unless encroached upon. To encounter members of the opposing team, players must make the conscious decision to venture from the safety afforded by these spaces into the central space, where lines of sight are opened. The map uses vehicles as figures to define this negative space. In level design, the aspects of prospect and refuge spaces can be considered. These spaces share some of the architectural considerations of positive and negative space, where Nuketown’s central area can be considered a prospect space, as the space is an open area that exposes the player to potential threats. The large suburban houses that dominate each team’s side of the map are, alternatively, refuge spaces by way of their positive space being used break enemy sightlines and protect the player from gunfire. The dichotomy between prospect and refuge spaces in multiplayer level design should inform a player’s spatial experience by exploiting their survival instincts; players within prospect spaces are likely to subconsciously seek the shelter and protection of a refuge space. From here, the player may once again venture into the prospect space to engage enemies. Additionally, players can use the houses’ balconies to gain a vertical advantage to the centrally-contested prospect space, although this requires sacrificing the safety granted by the houses’ refuge spaces. As a final consideration of Nuketown’s level design, the level’s layout is comparably small to other maps found in the genre. Naturally, this means that the transition between positive and negative spaces are more frequent, raising the frequency in which players will encounter each other. The genius loci of this level could be attributed as a high-paced, thrilling multiplayer experience. Conclusion Architecture has long been concerned with spatial theory. Over time, this philosophy has guided and established design principles that remain considered even today by contemporary architects. From my research of architecture theory, it is apparent that the medium’s spatial lessons have been embraced by level designers. Where contemporary architects are guided by the virtues of human comfort and efficiency, level designers can craft virtual social environments by adhering to similar rules. Alternatively, level designers can use the implications of game genres to repurpose architectural theory entirely, allowing players to be subjected to numerous emotional experiences. From overwhelming dramatic tension, to the empowerment from claiming a tactical advantage over a contested space, level designers have been shown to achieve genius loci that are unique to digital games. Exploiting the relationship between positive and negative space can foster a competitive atmosphere in what would otherwise be a safe and social space. Video games provide virtual experiences that are meant to be interacted with, where levels act as the stage on which those experiences are presented. *Note: This article is re-published in full, with permission from the author. References can be found at the source, linked below. Source: https://charlietancock.com/third-year-written-assignment Follow Charlie Twitter: https://twitter.com/tancoque Portfolio: https://charlietancock.com/portfolio Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  11. 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 2? Read it here: Knowledge is Power Intro What is path manipulation, you say? Well obviously it is the way of manipulating paths. More specifically it is learning how to control a player’s movement throughout your map. While players are free to choose how they travel around a map the designer has the ability to completely influence their decisions through various techniques. Some of the more obvious techniques being weapon placement and objective placement, but there is much more to path manipulation than just that. What does Path Manipulation consist of? What makes players move the way they do? If a player sees a Rocket Launcher are they going to head straight for it? If a player sees a bunch of explosions are they going to go near them? If a player finds an optimal sniper perch are they ever going to move? Path manipulation is a good majority of level design. Everything in level design works together to create a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. Placing spawn points around a map is important to Path Manipulation as they decide which direction and where a player begins their journey around the map. By placing weapons on the map you encourage players to move around the map trying to gain an edge over their opponents. By adjusting lighting and color contrast you can encourage players to look towards and explore various areas of the map. By placing a turret in one spot and fusion coils in another spot you force players to work around their area of effects. Controlling your audience Why is controlling player movement so important to us? One of the main reasons is to show off the various parts of a map that we have put our time and effort into. Why build a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing room if players rarely take the time to traverse it? Another good reason is to “teach” the players about the important parts of your maps like power weapons, landmarks, and objectives. Knowledge is power, right? Designers also use path manipulation to ensure that certain parts of the map don’t get congested with combat. It ensures that players do not end up fighting in a huge chaotic mess and allows them to utilize their skills in more organized encounters. By controlling player movement we craft their experience to our liking. The golden rule The golden rule of path manipulation is to remember that players are most inclined to take the shortest path possible to their current goal until their goal changes. When learning to control player movement this must always be kept in mind. It is your job as a designer to know what persuades players to want to wander from their current goal. By default the player’s long term goal is to win the game and will first do what it takes to win the game, and as time progresses and as players explore the map they will change their short term goal to achieve that long term goal of winning the match. There are various techniques that exist all of which will be covered in extensive detail in future lessons. We build maps to offer players a particular experience. Path manipulation is just one of the many tools at our disposal that we can use to share our dreams. If we want players to circle around a map in a warthog, path manipulation allows us to give players that experience. It is not something to be taken lightly. Read Chapter 4: Perspectives 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
  12. Follow Chubzdoomer Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaDTauiGdnvTwG_CFmSIOoQ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Chubzdoomer Website: https://chubzdoomer.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
  13. The following is portion of a massive guide on designing levels for CS:GO, written by Exodus. They represent the current edition of the guide, as of October 30th, 2019. The full contents of the guide are shown in the index directly below. This article consists of portions that should be applicable to many different games and editors. Please follow the link at the end of this article to read through the original guide. Index 1. Prologue 2. Layout 2.1 Meeting points/Battlefronts 2.2 Chokepoints 2.3 Staging Areas 2.4 Bombsite entrances 2.5 Post plant areas 2.6 Simplicity > Complexity 2.7 Unused Space / Areas without serving a purpose 2.8 Negative space 2.9 Support various playstyles 2.10 Allow advanced tactics and teamwork 2.11 Wingman specific chapter 3. Routing 3.1 Avoid obstructions 4. Flow (Chapter written by @oliver_irl) 4.1 Natural guidance 4.2 Decision-making 4.3 Loops 5. Navigation/Intuition 5.1 Landmarks 5.2 Roof detailing/Alignment hints 5.3 Detailing 5.4 Consistency 5.5 Visual indicators for plant zones 6. Timings 6.1 General 6.2 Battlefront timing 6.3 Avoid wasted time 6.4 Rotation time 6.5 “Around the world” 6.6 Measuring timings 7. Risk and Reward 7.1 General 7.2 Risk and Reward via route design 7.3 Risk and Reward via sound design 8. Sightlines 8.1 Long sightlines 8.2 Tight angles 8.3 Pixel angles 8.4 Vertical sightlines at ramps 9. Verticality 10. Auditive Design 10.1 Spatial awareness 10.2 Environmental Audio 10.3 Sounds of interactable Objects / Triggered sounds / Positional hints 10.4 Allow sneaky plays 11. Cover 11.1 Avoid Head peeks 11.2 Natural Cover 11.3 Overpowered Cover 12. Models/Props 12.1 Model shape and model collisions 13. Scale/Dimensions 14. Grid 15. Visibility 15.1 General 15.2 Environmental Lighting 15.2.1 Colouring 16. Spawns 17. Buy zones 18. Clipping 19. Basic Optimization 20. Presenting your map 21. Playtesting 22. Dealing with feedback 23. Further guides and tutorials 1. Prologue Playing multiplayer games on well-designed levels is usually a great experience while playing on flawed maps often leads to frustration. If you’re designing levels, you obviously want people to enjoy the levels you create. However, if you’re new to the scene, it’s hard to start out without prior experience of what’s good and bad. This guide aims to assist you in your design choices by providing ‘good measures’ in moments of uncertainty during map creation. This guide isn’t meant to be a fixed ruleset, rather it’s supposed to be a piece of reference material to lead you in the right direction. Since I joined the mapping community back in 2014, I’ve witnessed a lot of unique and interesting maps – good ones, bad ones and most of them in between. Almost every level can become a good one, if enough time and the right changes are put into it. Iteration is the key for a good layout. Hopefully this paper will assist you in making the correct decisions and adjustments to your current and future projects. It’s designed to help you succeed in mapping and as a paper of facts and tips to revisit later. While this guide is aimed at the classic defuse game mode in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive it can still be beneficial for other game modes and games with a similar style. 3. Routing 3.1 Avoid Obstructions Players in Counter-Strike are always focusing on positioning, crosshair placement and tactics. This implies, that basic movement around the level mostly works on an intuitive level without actually looking where players are going. To allow players concentrate on the greater things, movement should be hindered as little as possible. Main travel routes must be free of obstacles and collisions as smooth as possible. Keep floors in these areas smoothly even and move detailing to the sides to keep paths clean. 4. Flow (Chapter written by @oliver_irl) The kind of flow important in CS:GO level design is about flow of movement and action. 4.1 Natural guidance Examples of flow of movement is when the player is lead forward and not backwards. You want to move towards the opponent and the objective so the level shouldn't be designed in a labyrinth kind of way, but instead one area should flow naturally into the next. You want the player to feel like they are in control and give them the opportunity to make decisions on the go, so the overall goal should be to make the flow of movement smooth so that the player can always be in motion. Examples of flow of action is what options the player has in the event of an encounter. In CS:GO you have to think about the map holistically [/as a whole]. Everything is interconnected, so every area can be an isolated "war zone". If the level has enough cover and options to use utility, then that contributes to good flow. 4.2 Decision-making Flow is about decision-making. Do you let your players play the way they want? Do you feel in control when you enter a bomb-site? You don't really notice when levels have good flow in them. Bad flow can be recognized once certain parts of the map feel uncomfortable for the player and the map doesn’t allow the player to make decisions. You can see that the movement is disrupted in the second example and the player is moving backwards for a moment. Guiding players naturally in the environment contributes to good flow, and players don't have to stop and think about where to go. In addition to that it keeps the movement going forward. 4.3 Loops Loops are especially important for CS:GO, since you can use them to get better positioning on your opponent. They are so elegant they work when you want to take a bombsite as a terrorist, or hold the site as a terrorist. Players use them to fall back if you lose an engagement, and loops give players more than one option at any given time. 5. Navigation/Intuition 5.1 Landmarks Subconsciously, players take in the rough look and shape of their surroundings to find their way through an environment more intuitively. Therefore, many maps rely on landmarks. Landmarks are unique, mostly large, structures which are visible from large portions of a map. Having a large focal point like this available makes it easy for players on a new map to get the grasp of a layout quicker than without such a landmark. A great side effect of landmarks is the possibility to align grenade throws by putting their crosshair somewhere on the structure. A prime example for landmarks is the TV tower on Overpass. 5.2 Roof detailing/Alignment hints Learning how to use utility grenades on many maps can be quite a time intensive task. In order to make the learning process as accessible as possible, make use of detailing above the playable area in a way, that objects help aligning grenade throws. One example how to it, is the placement of antennas on rooftops. 5.3 Detailing Contrast and detailed areas attract players. Use this knowledge to guide players through a level as much as possible. Highlight and detail accessible doors, corridors and other points of interest. Tint usable doors in a certain colour while leaving inaccessible doors in shades of grey or rather muted colours. Keep the detailing and contrast in non-accessible areas at a low level to avoid disorientated players. 5.4 Consistency Players should never be confused by all kinds of aspects in level design. Intuitive navigation through gameplay space requires consistency in design decisions. An example for this is the colour coding of interactable elements such as doors. If you decided that an openable door is tinted in a vibrant colour such as red, all openable doors should be tinted with the same colour. Highlighted accessible door on the community map Thrill 5.5 Visual indicators for plant zones Intuition can be further improved by placing visual indicators on bombsites which show where the C4 can be planted. This indication can be achieved by placing decal sprays around the bomb target trigger or - more elegant – incorporate the indicator into the visual design of the bombsite architecture. Do: Highlighted plant zone on the community map Breach Highlighted plant zone on the community map Iris Don't: Missing plant zone indicators on Mirage 8. Sightlines Lots of fights in Counter-Strike take place around corners, therefore you, the mapper, must pay some special attention to the various angles in the level. 8.1 Long sightlines It’s recommended to avoid super long sightlines, where it’s only possible to make frags with a sniper rifle. The Dust 2 spawn to spawn sightline is ignoring this, but it is working fine there, because early round picks shouldn’t happen with every type of assault rifle. You must own a rifle dedicated for long range battles. The Terrorists also have an option to avoid this sightline and enter the mid through a more central path. The remaining sightline is so long, that you can achieve frags with an assault rifle as well. Since CTs aren’t supposed to get active mid control early in the round, they don’t need the possibility to frag enemies from spawn to spawn with an assault rifle. That being said, I personally do not recommend to create such a spawn-to-spawn sightline. 8.2 Tight angles When blocking out a map, it often happens that tight angles are created by accident and enable long and overpowered sightlines. Luckily they are easy to fix by moving the causing corners a bit. 8.3 Pixel angles Like tight angles, pixel angles are a result of slightly misplaced corners. These types of angles are questionable for multiple reasons including optimization, unintuitive gameplay and unfair advantages. An example for such an angle is in the sightline from the B balcony on Mirage all the way through apartments: 8.4 Vertical sightlines at ramps When creating ramps or elevation changes, it is important to think about the line of sight between players. If the player on the upper part of a ramp is standing behind cover, he might be able to see the player on the lower part, without being seen by the opponent - if it’s done wrong. To show this off more clearly, I found these examples on Dust (1) and Cobblestone. When a Terrorist on Dust is coming straight through the underpass area, the Counter-Terrorist on the upper area is able to see the enemy’s feet without being seen himself. On Cobblestone on the other hand, the underpass area is created in a way that the attacking players are side-peeking towards the upper area of the big ramp. This way both parties have the same chances in a firefight without massively unfair advantages. Don’t: Do: 11. Cover 11.1 Avoid Head peeks When a player is barely able to look over cover, it is called a head peek. If an opponent is encountering a player behind such cover, barely half of the player’s head will be visible to the opponent. As a result, the encounter between these players leads to a frustrating and unfair firefight. Creating head peek cover is one of the most common mistakes mappers do. The reason for this is simple. The default grid size in Hammer is 64 units and the height for head peek cover is 64 units as well. Gameplay, sightlines and firefights around these are very strange and not enjoyable at all. It’s recommended to use below-head cover (~56 units) and above-head cover (~72 units) like on Dust2 A site instead. But not only those classic cubic boxes are enabling them, misplaced ramps and stairs often create head peeks, too. Try keeping them to a minimum. 11.2 Natural Cover Most Counter-Strike maps utilize crates and boxes to create cover. Unfortunately, some of them rely too much on it, which feels unrealistic and repetitive pretty fast. Whenever it seems possible to integrate cover into the architecture of a map, do it. This does not mean using boxes as cover is a bad thing. It just should be balanced out, so the map is looking like a believable space.   11.3 Overpowered Cover When adding cover to a map, it’s important to not overdo things. Some level designers mistakenly create too many powerful spots without playtesting beforehand to see if there’s even the need to do so. A possibility to limit the strength of a hiding spot is to be not covered towards all possible angles. A good example for this is the Dust 2 A site. Most of the common positions offer cover for 2 of the 3 bombsite entrances. This way the defender has enough cover to work with, but not enough cover to always feel safe. A lot of maps prove that some more powerful cover is working as well though. If you really want to add some powerful cover to your map, there are still possibilities to handicap it. These areas could be crafted like a death trap, without an easy way to leave them - shall they be contested with an incendiary grenade for example. This disadvantage will even out the fact, that players hiding there can’t be seen from any of the entrances into the corresponding area. A fitting example for this is the “ninja” corner on Mirage A site. 19. Basic Optimization In the very early stages of prototyping, optimization is not really an important thing. Until the very basic shape of a layout is created, it’s ok to work with no proper skybox, because changes are way faster and easier to apply. This can quickly be achieved by using the cordon tool. However, as soon as the basic brushwork is completed, it’s good to start caring about it. Set small and non LOS (=line of sight) blocking brushes as func_detail and start creating a proper skybox. Another rather simple optimizing technique is to disable collisions on props further outside the playable area. Doing these things will not only improve performance but also reduce the compiling times of a map significantly. A well optimized map can run well on a low-end system while poorly optimized maps often have trouble on medium to high-end systems. A detailed guide on optimization is linked down below since this is not the main goal of this guide. 22. Dealing with feedback Mapping newcomers often crave for feedback, but don’t really know how to deal with it. What you secretly expect, are people saying that your layout is awesome and could be the next Dust 2. Unfortunately, this will most likely never happen. Sometimes feedback will be harsh, but you shouldn’t let yourself be discouraged by that. If people are harsh with their feedback, there must be some reason for it and only shows the urgency of changes and that things can’t stay as they are. Counter-Strike is a competitive game and therefore people might become emotional very quickly. If you ask these people to explain their feedback a bit more detailed, most of them will respond nicely and help you fix the flaws a layout may have. Don’t respond that you feel mistreated. It’s in the nature of CS that players get annoyed by poor design decisions. You, the mapper, must learn to deal with feedback like this. “Feedback” à la “Valve, add this pls” is pretty much useless. Sure, it’s nice to read, but this is no useful feedback at all. Personally, I’d rather see someone complaining that the map’s balance is “crap”, than just telling me “good map”. Level design is very iterative and therefore every mapper should be happy when people showcase the flaws a layout may have. Accept feedback and consider changes. Don’t be ignorant with a mindset, that your layout is already perfect. If all you want to see are compliments, don’t ask for feedback. The above being said obviously only applies, if you actually did receive feedback. This is one of the reasons I created this guide. Aspiring mappers should have some guidelines to work with, while missing feedback from other players. 23. Further guides and tutorials CS:GO 6 Principles of Choke Point Level Design (World of Level Design): GDC Talk about CS:GO level design by Volcano and FMPONE: Follow this link to read the full guide: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1110438811 Follow Exodus Twitter: https://twitter.com/El_Exodus 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
  14. Level design is something you almost always have to go through when making a game, but it’s one of the most overlooked segments of game production, especially on small/indie production teams. Here I’ll try to give some advice on how to make a good level design, by using examples from my own experience. I’ll mostly use recurring games as references (Bad Company 2 and Mirror’s Edge), because they are games I played a lot and feel comfortable mentioning, and because they have fairly different gameplays.WHERE TO START ? Mirror’s Edge The first step before making any “real” level design, is to put everything in perspective before going blindly in any direction. Define what actions are allowed (and what aren’t) by the game design of your specific game, then what intentions or constraints you want on your level. Focus on what makes your game unique. What can the player(s) do in the game? What elements of my game can harm, kill or put the player(s) close to the losing conditions? Is there a theme, or a particular focus I want to put in this level/area of a level? What mechanic stands out in my game? USE GUIDELINES TO TEST & CREATE YOUR LEVEL When making MAZE’s safe zone, we put some clear guidelines down: “We want the safe zone to be square-shaped, with one door on each side of this square, and it should not take more than 30 seconds to run from one side to the other. The safezone is also a “vegetation backup” so it should contain… vegetation.” From these precise directions, we made a huge, square shaped forest, with all the liberty to put any type of vegetation, terrain modifications, little landmarks… Editor view of the safe zone (the train wreckage at the left can be used for scale) Before asking a playtester, or just other people to give you feedback on your level, you must be able to clear your own mistakes and correct your level accordingly. To do so, define key points to help you create your level. It can also help you when testing the level on your own. Having precise constraints allows you to take more liberty to design around them. In my opinion, it’s better to have some rock-hard, definite constraints than no constraints at all, especially when making a game aimed at someone other than just yourself. It gives you directions, and you can be as free as you want on every other part of your level when creating it. DESIGN LEVELS SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR GAMEThe more you design your level while keeping in mind your game design, the better it will be. An example of this can be seen clearly on Source games. When playing Counter Strike, try to play 2Fort (a Team Fortress 2 map) on a community server. You can also find any classic CS map on a custom TF2 server. If the map has not been altered, you’ll see that most of the depth of each map loses its value. It’s not as fun playing de_dust2 on TF2 as it is on CS. This is because dust2 was (brilliantly) designed with Counter Strike’s gameplay in mind, which is very different from Team Fortress 2’s. 2Fort — Team Fortress 2 Try to do the same for your levels: If your environments are imported in other games, they should not be as equally rewarding to experience than in their original game. If your level seems really classic, well, you fucked up. No harm done, but my advice at this point would be to delete completely the faulty level, erase its dullness from existence and start again, from scratch.USE REFERENCES FOR YOUR FUTURE LEVEL The most obvious references when designing a level are the visual ones. Find architectural drawings or photos who capture well what you want to implement in your environment. If you have some references & concept art used in your art direction, be sure to include them. Your artist(s) will be happy to see their work was not only used to be put on the studio walls to look cool. A reference for a level I’m working on(Photo by Asia Chmielewska) Here’s an easy trick that often pays off when I’m looking for references: If you find an image that you want to use as a reference, try to find the author of the picture. The artist’s style, eye, whatever you want to call it, will not be in the one picture you randomly found on Pinterest. Use it to your advantage. This is what I did with the photo above, and looked at other photos from Asia Chmielewska (check her out if you like architectural/urban photos she makes awesome photos). The main problem I had when making a paper level design (I’ll talk about it in literally one paragraph), is that slopes are cool, but they need to lead somewhere. So I found other references I can use to create what’s at the summit of the slope, and it will probably be super coherent because it was in the same photo collection. Neat.DESIGNING ON PAPER Once you have all this preparation part down, you can start actually designing the level… on paper. It’s way faster to iterate on paper than recreate your level digitally.  My point here is that you should find a "way" allowing you to design your level quickly, so you can iterate swiftly and easily change layouts, details etc. Most people would use paper, but if you prefer using Photoshop, Paint or woodworking, go for what is best for you. From this point on, I’ll drop different points and things I use to design levels, without any ranking. Once you are designing your level, iterating over and over again, you can use or focus on these points to help you enhance your design: VERTICALITY The intro cinematic of The Shard, Mirror’s Edge’s last level. The Shard is the tallest building in Mirror’s Edge’s city, and also the last level of the game. The introduction cinematic of the level gives you the feeling that you are against your biggest challenge, like if the building itself is the final boss. How? By making you enter from the parking underneath the overwhelmingly tall building. You haven’t even started playing this level, but you already know the stakes are high. One of the simplest elements that often separates a good level design from a bad one is verticality. Verticality creates, vantage points, Landmarks, Occlusion and Focal Points (see the other points below). Vantage points are really important to give exposition to your players. They are probably best used when creating a multiplayer map, as they can be fully utilized by players, whereas AIs usually aren’t advanced enough in games to use vantage points at their fullest. It still is important in single player games to give exposition to your players, give them a better view of what challenges will come next. It’s also a really easy way to give your player a powerful feeling. Anyone standing on top of something will tell you: you’re better here than if you were standing at ground level. Anatomically accurate representation of Verticality In MAZE, we use verticality to convey the aggressiveness and strength of the maze itself: The walls stand tall, trapping the players. The maze walls would look inoffensive if they were just too high for the player to vault over. In Mirror’s Edge, verticality is also used as an “enemy”: You have the cool, powerful feeling I described before when you are on top of a building, but you also know that if you slip, you’ll die. In short: Verticality is easy to use because it’s a natural feeling. Utilize it and don’t overthink too much.LANDMARKS Screenshots from the 3rd and 7th level, located at different places in Mirror’s Edge’s city The Shard (the big rectangular building) and the “multiple white tips” building are visible throughout the game and help players locate themselves inside the city. Valparaiso’s lighthouse (Bad Company 2) Most of Bad Company 2’s maps have a singular building, or setting, to help player differentiate the maps and also give them more personality. For example, Valparaiso’s landmark is its lighthouse. It’s probable that most players refer to Valparaiso as “the lighthouse map”. Landmarks are unique and memorable locations in your level. They help players locate themselves, in the level but also inside the whole game, and will make your area/level stand out.FOCAL POINTS The clear focal points (and landmarks) of Heavy Metal are the wind turbines. Heavy Metal is the biggest map in Bad Company 2. Heavy tanks fight each other while infantry tries to escape the firefight and go from one flag to another through areas with little to no cover, all while being careful about the choppers hovering over them. Wind turbines are scattered all along the area. Apart of being a memorable landmark, they are a really practical focal point: by looking at them, players watch the sky, and thus are reminded to be careful about the choppers in the area, as well as the many snipers who are waiting on top of the mountains on the edges of the map (and sometimes on the wind turbines). A simple focal point can change a lot on how people will experience a level. Put focal points wherever you want to guide the player’s eyes. From that point, you just have to choose how to make your focal point stand out. Going to extremes is the easiest way to go: Big, bright, colored.COVER/OCCLUSION Panama Canal — Bad Company 2 The Bad Company series offered a new way of designing cover, with a fully destructible environment. As you’re playing, walls explode, leaving players more and more vulnerable. Shootmania grids In Shootmania, you’ll often find grids in levels. You can’t shoot through them but can watch your opponents movements and give the info to your team. These grids offer cover, but no occlusion. Cover is about providing… cover (yay!) to the player(s), but can also be used to hide informations from them. It’s called occlusion. Cover and occlusion naturally happen whenever you put some solid object on your map, like a wall. You can’t shoot or see through them. You can create cover/occlusion with verticality (like the canal in the Bad Company 2 screenshot above), but also less tangible ones with lights, shadows, sounds, etc. Just think about providing interesting situations to your players. The more cover and less occlusion they’ll have, the safer they’ll feel. A simple situation involving cover in Mirror’s Edge: Players must take cover to the right to avoid being shot by the cops in the main hallway WORLD COHERENCE This industrial area seems functional. (Mirror’s Edge) Buildings in Bad Company 2 lack coherence. You can’t imagine that someone was living here. Make sure your environment is coherent with the game’s reality. To hem your level in the game world, it should always stay coherent: If your enemies are supposed to exist (as in “living THE LIFE”) inside a level, make sure the hallways are wide enough for them to use, that they have toilets and stuff like that. In the photo above, you can see that Bad Company 2 lacks coherence in its building interiors. It was probably done on purpose to offer better situations in mutliplayer. You sometimes have to sacrifice coherence to offer a better experience, but try to avoid finding yourself in these position. DESIGN COHERENCE Red is used to suggest a way to go to the player. The cop is in red too, so you know you’ll have to deal with him at some point. (Mirror’s Edge) In Mirror’s Edge, the red color is associated with Faith, the character embodied by the player, contrary to usual game codes with red being the color of negative stuff (enemies, traps…). Some areas are highlighted in red too guide the player in case he doubts what he should do. You’ll never see red used for something not related to Faith/the player. If the player is used to shooting red barrels every time he sees them because it has always given him some kind of reward, DO NOT create a new situation in the same level / area of the game where he might kill himself if he shoots a red barrel. It is important to be aware of the “codes” you put down on your game. Players are used to playing this way. Their behavior in games are heavily influenced by other games they previously played before trying yours. They will then confront these global video game codes to the first situations of your game, to try and figure what codes are applying to your game. You must be aware of the messages you convey, especially in your first levels, as they will be the bases the player relies on while experiencing the rest of the game. Think of your player as a child, with your game being his upbringing. If you send mixed messages to your kid early on, he’ll be really confused later. Be clear about your messages. Have great kids. One way to fix our red barrel problem, could be to change the color of the new barrel, so the player is aware that he should approach the situation a bit differently.CHOICES “Arland”: The first part Mirror’s Edge’s first level There are at least 4 possible routes to go over the electric fence: 1. Use the easy, suggested route and use a springboard (the red pipe) 2. Jump over on the right from the little chimney-thing 3. Wallrun then walljump from the wall on the left 4. Go to the middle roof on the left and jump over the fence from there These 4 choices are presented to the player in a smooth, binary way: you first have to choose whether you want to go to the right (1. and 2.), or to the left (3. and 4.). Then another binary choice is presented. It adds a lot of value to the level, while still leading to the same place. The player doesn’t feel trapped, or lost, when seeing this situation. Games are mostly about making choices, and Risk/Reward situations. Be sure to offer your players multiple approaches to the same situation. It adds replayability, and gives the player a better sense of freedom. Putting minor choices such as the one in Arland is also an easy way to prevent boredom for the players. Side note: Arland is at a point in the level where the player can take the time to choose his approach. On a chase scene later in the level the player shouldn’t, and doesn’t want to stop running: a unique & clear route is presented. ASSET LIST/ PRODUCTION LIST The same building is used all over the same area. And it’s not really a problem: people just want to shoot at each other. At some point you’ll have to start listing what props, sounds, effects and whatever other thingies you want to use on your level. That way, you can ask the qualified people if they can make these assets for you, or not. In this case, you’ll have to think about optimization, and modularity. Your assets should fit well with other assets, in order to have as many combinations as possible among them. FLOW Flow is a very important part of game and level design. I recommend that you check Jenova Chen’s thesis on flow. I can’t explain it better than him. Flow is mostly about making a level challenging enough for the player , without it feeling too hard to overcome. It is also about making sure the player doesn’t experience any snag: You have to make sure your player doesn’t get stuck on corners, or fails to interact with something etc. RHYTHM Rhythm is something I really like to focus on. It’s very close to the Flow and the Game Design itself. And just like Flow, it’s kinda hard to explain, as it’s really about feeling it. One way to feel it for me is to think about the inputs the Player will most likely do. Mirror’s Edge is very good for this. Most of the game revolves around muscle memory, and being in rhythm when doing runs over and over. Putting rhythm in your game will help players get into the Flow. CHOKE POINTS Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base — Bad Company 2 To arm the two objectives from Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base, infantry has to go through a narrow road, heavily defended by the opposite team. They can also try to attack by sea or land, but time has shown that the victory for this base is almost always determined inside the yellow zone on the image above. Whoever controls it wins the round. Choke points are the areas of your level where your opponents will most likely meet, and a big part of the fight will go there, with restrained movement. Counter Strike maps are all designed with choke points in mind. I would suggest you study these maps if you want to learn more about it. MULTIPLE I wrote “MULTIPLE”, all caps and everything, on my draft. It must have seemed very crucial at the time. So it’s staying here until I find what important piece of knowledge MULTIPLE refers to.CONTRAST — OUTSIDE INSPIRATION Mirror’s Edge Contrast is something vital in black & white photography. In order to have a more pleasing photo, and add depth, you have to think about alternating between dark and white zones. It’s a really precise thing, but a good segway to talk about using other medium’s rules. If you know rules used in photography, painting, cinema, or something else (gardening or sports for example), put them to use when designing your level! Of course every medium has its own rules and it’s better to design with them, but some of these rules may overlap, and it probably won’t have been done before.COLOR THEORY, COLOR HARMONY Same game, different areas, different moods, different colors. (Mirror’s Edge) The same level (Isla Innocentes) can relay a drastically different mood when changing atmospheric colors (Bad Company 2) Colors convey different emotions, and can be used to transcribe a specific mood you want to emphasize on your level. Having the same palette used in similar areas of your world is a good thing to do. You don’t need to use extremely different colors by level like in Mirror’s Edge, nuances always are a good option, and better than just throwing random colors around.BALANCE Balance is more important in multiplayer games than in solo ones. It’s about providing a fair encounter for all the players. The easiest way to balance your level is to use symmetry. But it’s been used over and over since the beginning of level design, so now we’re kinda forced to get more creative, and it’s for the best. If you give an advantage at one area of the map, using verticality or cover for example, be sure the other side also has the same kind of area somewhere else. N.B.: Most Counter Strike maps are not balanced (and mostly CT-sided), but the halftime alternation in the game design provides some sort of balance to the whole game. Seeing the big picture is important. Visual balance is also important in levels. Just like composition in other visual arts, most of the time you want to present balanced images to your player, and sometimes surprise him with a very harsh composition. Here again, symmetry is always the easy and sure way, but getting more creative to find balance is way more interesting for you and your players. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE Side note: During this scene, walls are left naked to encourage the player to use powerful wallrun kicks instead of pick a gun and shoot his way out. Mirror’s Edge run & gun gameplay is shitty: it lacks feedback, slows you down and is overall very limited and boring. It’s like the designer didn’t want you to use guns. And it’s the case. They made a design decision, and it payed off. The game distanced himself from other FPSs, by emphasizing the lightweight running and hand-to-hand combat. Your level and your game don’t need to be the best at every possible thing you can find in games.MENTAL MAPPING Arica Harbor — Bad Company 2 Arica Harbor is one of the most played map in Bad Company 2. There are many reasons to that, and one of them is the depth and various situations it offers, while staying simple. Players can locate themselves really easily. They have a mini-map, the A,B,Cflags appear at all times on the screen. Flags are aligned along the main road. There are different heights in the map (to add verticality), but it is painless to remember: It goes down like a stair, from the mountain to the sea. You should always be careful about your players mentally mapping your layouts, especially when making a game aimed at a large audience. The easier it is for a player to remember where he went, how the level is arranged, the better his experience will be. To facilitate mental mapping you can provide unique props or details to help differentiate between two almost identical hallways, put floor numbers in stairs, vantage points, landmarks, focal points etc. Keeping the same logic throughout a level also helps a lot. If your game involves backtracking, mental mapping goes from important to REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. No-one wants to get lost in a game, trying to find an exit. Make sure you are helping the players as much as possible to avoid frustration.CUT THE NOISE As fun and tempting as it can be for a level designer, you shouldn’t add too much to your environment. Having dull and empty areas is not a good thing, but over-saturating it with props everywhere will just make it worse. Details in your map must not come in the way of playability. DO WHAT YOU ARE “Leper Squint” At the end of the day, you should still feel that the level you designed comes from you. These points are important, but it’s the only one you should always respect. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make your level/game feel different, or look like a particular style, it will never feel unique unless you invest a part of yourself in what you create. . . . . . Alright, that was my advice on level design. I’m a piece of shit, so some of these points might seem wrong to other gamedevs, or wrongly named etc. But hey, feel free to call me out on it, or write your own advice piece. I like talking about LD in general so whether you have a different opinion, or are a beginner seeking advice, drop me a DM, a comment, a mail, shout my name really loud… be original, I’m not going to list all your options. Although they’re here. - Niels . . . . . *This article has been posted in its entirety with permission from the author Original Source: medium.com/ironequal/practical-guide-on-first-person-level-design-e187e45c744c Follow Niels: Website: fuckgamedev.itch.io/ Twitter: twitter.com/fuckgamedev
  15. The following is a recap of an article which is shared on 80 Level. It captures Jon Michael Hickenbottom's experience of the Level Design for Games course offered by CG Master Academy. Jon is currently a Level Designer at New World Interactive, and has worked on games such as Insurgency and Day of Infamy. Getting Started Off the bat, this was my first time using both Unity and Maya to block out levels. Challenge accepted! Coming from a background of Source Engine and Unreal Editor, I had never used a modeling package to create layouts in this fashion. While nervous on how I’d adapt, I quickly discovered the speedy back and forth between Maya and Unity to be very helpful with making iteration and refinement of shapes in the scene painless. Furthermore, Unity was quickly generating collision automatically to help me get from blockout to playtesting within seconds. With Unity and Maya synced up, I was ready to get started! Using Reference An important first step for me is to find reference and inspiration. Google Images, Flickr, and Pinterest are always solid sources for image inspiration and direction. I enjoy discovering supplemental inspiration from art history books, cinematography and “art of” books from various games. Assembling images into a mood board for assignments in either Pinterest or Photoshop kept me focused, and became a catalyst for creativity when encountering mental blocks along the way. The found images began to spark new ideas that may not have otherwise been considered. For a section of the course, the theme was centered around the Wild West. I wanted to create a sense of scale, beauty, and risk within each of my levels. I tried to focus my reference search on shapes and spaces that could communicate this to the player. Inspiration was found in the remarkable art by William Henry Holmes, the thoughtful cinematography of Roger Deakins, the detailed environments in the Desperados series, the splendor of Westworld, and childhood memories of Back to the Future 3. One exciting discovery was remembering the photos I had taken on a summer trip to Zion National Park. These became great references for the shapes and aesthetic of the blockouts. Carrying around a camera or camera phone is a perfect way to easily build a personal reference library that you never know when will come in handy. It also serves in sharpening one’s eye for composition and framing! Scale Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Painting with Shapes Emilia Schatz redefined my understanding of how to paint with shapes. I started a rough idea of my layout on graph paper, but I quickly jumped into Maya to get started. Throughout the course, I challenged myself in these projects to be more comfortable off the grid and break from symmetry. With a background of level editors that encouraged the use of the grid for either organization or optimization, it was a refreshing endeavor to live comfortably off the grid, while still maintaining the use of metrics and proper scale. Living off the grid allowed me to thoughtfully paint shapes without restriction and limitation, thus focusing more on the artistic aspects of level design. This focus was freeing, and I could foresee the creative synergy that would occur between designers and artists as we move to understand the disciplines of one another. Within the past few years, I’ve sought to become a better artist in my pursuit to become a better designer. This course strengthened that pursuit. Through Emilia’s lessons, I began to appreciate the thoughtfulness required of each shape I created and each object I placed; not just from a level designer’s perspective but in how my choices could, in turn, affect a fellow collaborative artist’s workflow. One wonderfully valuable tip was the power of the cube. I had always struggled to understand how complicated terrain and landscapes were created in games like Uncharted. Emilia introduced us to her use of the almighty cube. By squashing, stretching, and slicing a cube, the forms of various terrain elements begin to take shape. In moving these manipulated cubes within one another, it became clearer as to how to craft natural, seismic formations. The idea at this stage was not to worry about optimizing and welding vertices; it was more important to paint shapes, compose compositions, and create interesting spaces. Composition Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Landmarks & Internal Compass Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Crafting Districts & Nodes As we moved from singular areas to large spaces, Emilia introduced us to the idea of nodes, edges, and districts. As I began to map out my level, I began to discover the points of intersection— these are considered nodes. Nodes can be described as intersections and decision points within your paths. They also become great positions to form your compositions around. We can be certain the player will circulate through these points, and therefore be perfect for framing your compositions. Emilia encouraged us to set up various cameras to keep our focus on shaping and refining strong compositions at these points. Edges help communicate that you are entering into a new space. These can be thought of as linear elements that help divide one area from another. I tried to place these around various districts within the level. For example, a grand wall and gate at the entrance help communicate the borders of the town, a small fence shows where a graveyard starts, and a large archway was placed to divide the market area from a military camp. Finally, building your spaces to include identifiable districts helps promote identity and contrast within your levels. It also allows for interesting points of connection between spaces. Bringing all the elements together, the following image shows some of the various district identities I tried to communicate: a marketplace, jagged graveyard, elevated upper class, separated lower class, and the nature surrounding all of these. By employing compositions at these nodes, structuring identifiable edges, and creating distinct districts, I hoped to implement a spatial composition the player found interesting to explore, discover, and inhabit. Bringing It All Together Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Conclusion This course provided me with a masterclass of knowledge that I’ve only scratched the surface on here. I’ve found a renewed outlook on crafting levels with intentional shapes and heightened shape language. It continually stretched and challenged me as a designer, and helped me build a sturdy confidence in tools, perspectives, and genres I had never explored before. I learned how to trust myself more, and free myself to create designs that expressed what was true to my heart. I count myself fortunate to have learned from Emilia Schatz. Her constructive feedback never wavered, and what she shared was always what I and the class needed to hear most. I encourage anyone—at any experience level—to take this course. It has fundamentally changed how I will approach level design. I highly recommend CG Master Academy and especially Level Design for Games with Emilia Schatz. For the full article, follow this link: https://80.lv/articles/introduction-to-level-design-for-games/ Follow John Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonmichael Website: https://www.jonmichaelcreations.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  16. What is a videogame landmark, and what is its purpose? Landmarks in video games are unique structures or places that stand out within an environment. In gaming, they’re extremely useful for navigation. They’re often used as central points for large areas, with the purpose of giving the player a way to work out where they are at all times and a chance to gather their bearings. They are purposefully designed to stand out in the environment and draw the player’s attention. Landmarks frequently indicate something of importance, with the area surrounding a landmark holding special items, unique enemies, or progressing the game’s narrative. Various landmarks will be visited by the player during missions or side quests, and many just through free exploration. Other times landmarks are not accessible to the player, but serve as interesting set pieces or background environments. Some video game landmarks are more commonly known as ‘weenies’, a term which was invented by Disney to describe ‘visual magnets’ designed for Disney World. This word is used to describe more building like landmarks which are usually large and take on tower or spire-like appearances, like the various castles dotted around the attraction. In this way, all weenies are landmarks, but not all landmarks are weenies. As ‘weenie’ is more of a specialist term and the definition sometimes varies, I will use ‘landmarks’ in this article for clarity and continuity. Cinderella Castle - Walt Disney World Resort Which games feature landmarks? Landmarks are most often found in large, open world games where the player has the opportunity to explore lots of different places. BioShock Infinite’s Monument Tower is a perfect example of an engaging landmark that draws the player’s attention and fits in well with the game’s narrative. It’s grey complexion and shape stands out amongst the various buildings surrounding it, as shown in the image above. It is also highlighted by the shining light, which both attracts the players attention, and works well with the angel silhouette. It’s sheer size means that it’s visible to the player as they traverse the map, allowing them to explore without concern of getting lost. The landmark is seen close to the start of the game, and is also mentioned various times around Columbia in order to repeatedly draw the player’s awareness to it. Real life landmarks and their videogame counterparts When I began as a level designer, I found myself worrying about using real life environments as inspirations for my creations, often feeling like a fraud for using similar designs. As time went on, I realised the benefit of using familiar references to make realistic levels. In many popular franchises, whole cities and landscapes are used to inspire creative and interesting settings. I believe that real life environments should be taken as a guideline, and then altered to allow for player agency, in alignment with the game’s theme and genre. Seattle, U.S - inFAMOUS: Second Son With this in mind, real life architecture features good examples of structures that stand out and leave a lasting impression, making them good references for creating landmarks. As seen below, Stonehenge in England has a unique layout that would make it stand out among a regular environment in an open world game. It’s size and distinct composition could make it an ideal midpoint in a map, where the player can return to if they are lost. Stonehenge - England The Puzzling Pillar Ruins in Skyrim are a great example of a location possibly inspired by Stonehenge. Notice the similarities in terms of rock colour texture, rock placement and the vast expanse of almost bare surrounding land. Also pay attention to how the landmark is used to draw attention to the locked grate located just below by being a similar colour and contrasting in shape, purposefully informing the player of a hidden location they can explore. Puzzling Pillar Ruins - Skyrim There are innumerable examples of real-life environments which can serve as inspiration, so you should always be looking for references that catch your eye. They can provide hints about where to place your landmarks and how to accentuate them in game. Have a look at this lighthouse shown below: It is blocked by a gate and can be seen a few blocks over from the camera’s location. It is taller than the rest of the surrounding environment, and it’s white main structure stands out against the blue sky, making the area unique and easy to recognise. The colourful trees and tall iron fence draw attention to the lighthouse, practically begging for it to be looked at. If you were to take this into a game engine, it could be made even more obvious as a pivotal landmark by darkening the scene, making the lighthouse taller to ensure that it can be seen from various locations and by adding lights coming from the tower which could perhaps guide the player towards their next location. This is done perfectly in Alan Wake, as shown below, with the gritty, moody atmosphere helping to create a memorable landmark. The Lighthouse - Alan Wake Creating distinctive landmarks UNIQUE VISUALS The easiest way to make landmarks stand out is by making them visually different from the rest of the surrounding environment. Designers should consider landmarks which look different from various angles, allowing the player to have a sense of their location when looking at it from different places on the map. Large landmarks are good, as the player can easily see them at all times, but smaller landmarks such as the Three Dead Trees in Horizon Zero Dawn, are also useful for marking the beginning of a new location. Colours and different size scalings are great for making these stand out. Three Dead Trees - Horizon Zero Dawn Additionally, many videogames feature landmarks with certain shapes, designed to subconsciously inform the player of what they might face upon arriving in the area. Spherical shapes or squares, with lots of symmetry and a solid structure, can suggest that the landmark is a place of safety. Henry’s Watchtower - Firewatch On the other hand, asymmetric places of interest with lots of jagged edges can suggest that an area is hostile and that the player should proceed with caution. This can, of course, be used to subvert player expectations. Ring of Metal - Horizon Zero Dawn FREQUENCY AND PLACEMENT Designers should work hard to find the right balance between frequent and infrequent landmark placement. Too many landmarks can feel tedious and overwhelming for the player, whereas too few landmarks can feel boring and make the game world stale. Placing smaller landmarks near bigger ones can help give the map a more interesting appearance. Mini-map showing smaller landmarks next to bigger landmarks and locations - Skyrim Navigation bars and mini-maps are arguably the easiest way to guide the player towards significant landmarks. Adding small icons to your player’s mini-map can be used to show these, and help them travel without getting lost. Drawing attention to landmarks can also be done through lighting, similar environmental colour schemes and NPC dialogue. Navigation bar - The Sinking City This article is only scratching the surface of the potential uses and methods of implementation of landmarks in videogames. When you next take a trip or vacation, be attentive to your surroundings and take note of both larger and smaller landmarks that you encounter in real life. Ask yourself WHY they are eye catching, and use that to consider HOW you can implement something similar in your game. Don’t forget that each landmark should serve a purpose, so keep this in mind when creating fantastic designs to capture and draw in your player. Thanks for reading my exploration into videogame landmarks and how real architecture can inspire these creations! If you want to discuss this topic further, feel free to leave a comment or message me on Twitter at @SweilousDev. I have also added a few links below that expand more on this topic, for any of you who are keen to learn more. Theory of Theme Parks - Wayfinding in themed Design: The “Weenie”: http://theoryofthemeparks.blogspot.com/2015/08/wayfinding-in-themed-design-weenie.html Landmarks in Level Design - http://level-design.org/?page_id=2261 I hope to hear from some of you soon! Courtney Raine Follow Courtney Twitter: https://twitter.com/SweilousDev Website: https://www.courtneyrainedev.com/home 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. Next Level Design has been given permission from the author to host this entire book in PDF format. Download the attached PDF at the bottom of this article for the entire book, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70zStill not sure? Read through this section on lighting that was recently posted on Next Level Design: In addition, we've included another small section of the book right here: pg. 25 INTRODUCTION Due to games’ ever-increasing complexity and the expanding nature of levels in general, it can certainly be said that levels are not easy to design. Levels, as said before, are combinations of dozens of different aspects, the conglomeration of which render them complex by nature. This combination of complex systems itself requires good design from the start in order to avoid an inconsistent and downright messy result. Because the different aspects are so interdependent, it’s very important not to lose sight of a level’s ‘big picture’. This chapter highlights some of the issues that can pop up when designing a level, as well as some more minor aspects to keep in mind. The overall design is the foundation for a level. Without a clear, strong design, there is no solid base on which to build the level. THE CREATION OF A NEW WORLDThe most important part of a successful level is its beginning. The way a level starts will determine a great deal about how the rest of the level will evolve and how quickly. In these days of growing complexity, efficiency and speed are valued highly. Getting off to a bad start or using bad work methods can cost time which is usually at a premium to begin with. Part of starting a good design is foreseeing potential problems before anything is created. By doing this early in the process, a good level designer can quickly and easily modify the design to better fit the available time, workload, difficulty, technical limits, or all of the above.How one begins a new level is different for every person. One designer may write everything down in a design document while another, like me, just plans it out in their head. The method used also depends upon if one is working in a team environment. Working with a team means that the level’s design must be communicated throughout the team which usually means some sort of written, drawn, or quickly modeled design that can be passed around and/or presented. How it’s done isn’t important as long as several key aspects are kept in mind and the end product is of a sufficient quality. If the technology used cannot create lush jungles, for example, then this must be recognized before starting.A design should progress only when exactly what is wanted and how to accomplish it is known. Exact information is the key to this. Again using the jungle example, one must know what the jungle will look like, the colors it uses, the overall style, how the player will move through it, if the engine can render thick vegetation, what kind of physics will be involved, and too many more to list here.To assist in this task, I have developed a type of checklist that is at the base of everything I design. The list compares several key values against each other to see if they are possible and if they should be modified. It also helps define the values better. The list checks to see if the rules of, for example, lighting and composition are contrary to each other and if the goal is possible and what direction to take. This extensive chapter will mostly be about the latter.A level is complex and it takes increasingly more time and effort to successfully complete one; thus failure is not an option. All the areas that could potentially cause a problem should be identified before starting any work. Once the design process starts it should go smoothly; design dilemmas should not occur or, if they do, should be easily overcome with few modifications to the overall plan. Getting stuck can be very demoralizing and time consuming. pg. 26THE CHECKLISTA level always begins with a goal, a theme, or both. The goal may be that the game requires a medieval castle, or that it’s missing an ominous environment, or that the level is to be the central hub of the game.After identifying the basic idea, certain key information needs to be pinned down before starting the level. This ‘key information’ will be referred to as ‘the keys’. The keys communicate important properties about the level. They are the key words the level is built around and provide more information on the level’s requirements.The following are questions to determine the key information for the level-to-be: • (1-Time) How much time is there available? Is there a deadline? • (2-Tech) What tools and game engine will be used? • (3-Limitations) What limitations are there? Is there a shortage of art assets or staff/personal skill limit? Can anything be made or are some aspects beyond the scope of the project because of their complexity? • (4-Requirements) What kind of requirements are there? Are there any specific elements, for example, special buildings or areas that have to be in the level? When compared to the rest of the game what visual style or theme must the level adhere to? • (5-Purpose) What is the overall purpose? For example, is it a multiplayer practice level or a singleplayer boss arena? • (6-Gameplay) What should the gameplay be like? How should it be played? Should there be enough room for a large boss encounter? Or does it need to be large enough to contain a large number of enemies attacking the player? Perhaps it’s a vehicle level? Or it is a stealth level? And so on. • (7-Theme) What theme and/or style will the level have? Will it be a castle or a jungle? Will the style be cartoonish or realistic?This is all essential information for a level. The order of the list is not as important as the answers. Once the essential elements of the level have been identified it can be run through a checklist to see if it holds up. Will it work? Look right? Play right?The keys provide the information while the checklist determines if it is possible or not. The checklist combines two or more keys in order to determine if they fit together or not. If the desired theme is a jungle, but the engine can’t handle rendering dense vegetation, then these are two keys that do not fit together and the design will need to be adjusted accordingly. This is the type of information the keys provide: essential information that design decisions can be based on before actually starting work on a level. Thinking ahead is the key to success.The checklist itself is a system for asking questions and making comparisons. The questions are different each time, but the comparisons remain the same. Verify that the individual elements compliment each other.Here's the entire Table of Contents: Download the attached PDF below, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70z *The Hows and Whys of Level Design is hosted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: http://www.hourences.com/Portfolio: http://www.hourences.com/portfolio/Twitter: https://twitter.com/HourencesYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Hourences/feed The Hows and Whys of Level Design.pdf
  18. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying either a game that they are making or one that they are playing! I have been thinking about what to write about, what deep design philosophies can I share with my fellow devs? So many wise thoughts and the one I landed on is “Where is the Toilet?” Now you may be thinking “What the F*** does this have to with Level Design” and I am glad you asked, even though I did not like your sass there. When I ask this question I am asking about the research you have done before building this level and also where is the toilet in your level. (The ‘where is the toilet part’ may not apply to all games or levels) In case you hadn't guessed this post is going to be about Level Designers needing to do more research before starting work on their levels. I know this sounds like an obvious part of level design but I see a lot of young level designers go in and making the level instantly without much thought. I too was guilty of this when I was younger as well. Now when creating anything, the blank screen can be the most intimidating thing ever! We have all been there staring at the screen thinking, “where to begin?” well the answer should always and I mean always…….. No back chat here sonny Jim. Research! So what research am I referring to for level design then? First think of the theme of your level, such as Victorian, utility, native, and also the location of your level as well. A house out in the mountains of Alaska will be designed different to a house in London’s city centre. Gather as many reference pictures as possible for your research. One of my leads (Daniel Molnar, great guy and very intelligent level designer) said to me, “Only when you have 100 pictures, do you start to understand the space” And true to his word he would not let me touch the editor until I had enough pictures, an understanding of the space and how it worked. Thanks to Dan I made a great sewer level and now know the stages of the sewage processing system. So ever since that I ALWAYS try to make sure I make time to do my research, sadly I do not always get as long as I want but I do make sure I have enough pictures to help me create a picture in my head. Now that you understand the location of your level and the theme you want to start looking into the architecture of these buildings and areas. As level designers, we should be looking at architecture regularly. (A cool article on what it was like for architects to work on video games: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php). Look around the room you are sat in now, and see how many indents, angled corners and other shapes there are which make your room Not a box. Once you start to research these things you will start to pick this stuff up. One thing which is noticeable with inexperienced LDs work is all the rooms are boxes. Architecture is where we see a lot of real level design work every day. How their structures of these buildings affects how we move through them, the layout of rooms, what rooms they have in these buildings, space certain rooms may need and how the flow from one room to another works. One of my favourite things to research is floor plans of buildings. Each of these layouts will be different depending on the theme and will obtain different items as well due to the theme. These will not only help influence your design but also help your artist (or artistic side depending on how you are working) understand how to decorate your level and may possibly help you guys come up with interesting methods to signpost. Another reason is you never know what you might see, which could inspire your design and provide you with something even more incredible. Now for example look at this power plant, which in my opinion is super cool, this top catwalk is interesting as instead of the bridges connected maybe the player has to rotate them from the ground floor to get them to join. With all these layers and sections, it looks like a great area for traversal. Being able to go up, around and under this area is amazing. When it comes to white boxing your level you will be able to show these images to your artist and they will be able to understand what you mean by those giant boxes. “Pictures speak a thousand words”. If you were to put a twist on this power plant and to make it feel like a maze, then now you want to start researching what? Mazes! 10 gold stars (Sounded way more patronizing than I meant it to be). So now we can see that there dead ends but also viewpoints to allow players to find their bearings. When designing this level we can add vantage points for players to scan the area for clues, maybe even have loot/collectibles in certain dead ends to reduce player frustration and reward exploration. Summary on why research/reference is important: - Give you a better understanding of what is believable in this theme. - Provide an idea for your artist on what you want. - Inspire your design choices Where is the toilet? Now onto the second part of the blog (I swear readers are going to get sick of that question) of where is the toilet? Dan had now let me work in the editor it now came time for his reviews on my work, and what was the question he asked me for each of my levels! Yeah you know what it is, now we working together on Tom Clancy’s The Division – Underground which in case you do not know is a procedurally generated dungeon expansion in which players travel through the underground areas of New York, from the subway system to the sewers to clear out the threat brewing underneath the civilians feet. Overall the review was going well, the flow was good, it had good landmarks for players to orientate themselves in case they were lost. But Dan felt some of these areas were not believable because there were no toilets. Because the Division is based on reality I had skipped one thought process when doing my research and that was “How would these spaces of been used before chaos struck?” Boom mind blown, I had created these thrilling and high octane areas but not grounded them in reality or the law of my game’s world. Dan then showed me one of the Senior LDs work who was working on a subway level and what did he have….toilets. His space felt not only good to play through but also was grounded by reality. (Some playthroughs of the expansion HERE) These critics’ could have been avoided had I done my research on these areas I was making and thought about how they are originally used and not just how I would use them for good combat or traversal. If you go back and look at those pictures of the floor plans I have in this blog. You will see how all of them have bathrooms laid out on them. The floor plans are mainly residential or commercial buildings so they will. When making your level, (again will not apply to every game or level) think about how was this spaced use before the player reached it and more than likely how did the people inhabiting this space use it? Because if they are bipedal human-like creatures I think we all know that they will need to use the bathroom at some point or another. Next time you are in a realistic gaming setting, try and find the bathroom, as it will most likely be there. Hope this helps guys and “Where is the bathroom?” is a question I keep asking myself when creating my levels as well as researching the buildings, themes, environments etc, for my game. I hope it makes you think about carrying out your research before starting work on your level. Which trust me will make your level much better and more believable. *This article is posted on Next Level Design with the author's permission Source: https://www.gamesfounder.com/articles/do-your-research-wheres-the-toilet-level-design/ 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
  19. Bobby Ross has put together an awesome Visual Guide to Multiplayer Level Design, based upon Ben Bauer's "Ben’s small bible of realistic multiplayer level design". Much like it's inspiration (which is well worth your time as well), this guide is relatively comprehensive in the range of subjects it covers, starting out with definitions of basic terms, and getting into things such as composition and Shape Language. The main sections are as follows: 1: Terms 2: Strategy 3: Tactics 4: Map Scale 5: Orientation & Navigation (Art) 6: Round vs Reinforcement 7: Map Symmetry 8: Realistic & Arcade Style 9: Supporting Game Design 10: Credits It goes without saying that this guide is perfect for the more visual learners amongst us. However, there's tremendous value to be found here for everyone. The design of the article itself is a thing of beauty that needs to be seen (or re-seen). Check it out, and share your takeaways from it. Source: http://bobbyross.com/library/mpleveldesign Follow Bobby Website: http://bobbyross.com/ Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbyross6 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp .galleria, .galleria-container { height:480px !important }
  20. The Forge Fundamentals articles will systematically review the fundamentals of constructing good maps, beginning at the idea stage, ending at a finalized map, and discussing everything that should be considered in between those two stages. The core concepts that will be discussed are essential aspects of any solid forge map, and should always be fresh in our minds. This series covers the following subjects: • Preplanning • Spawning • Cover • Flow • Weapons • Aesthetics • The Total Package Note: This is a series I wrote and released on Forgehub several years ago. I'm re-posting it here primarily to have it posted online at a site where I have complete control over it. The Forge specific info is mostly outdated, but the commentary on Gameplay in Halo maps is still relevant. Part 1 - Preplanning Let's start at the very beginning of the life of almost every great forge map - preplanning. Preplanning is an incredibly important part of designing a map which is, unfortunately, often overlooked. Preplanned maps tend to require fewer time-consuming changes in forge. Preplanning can help you increase your productivity as a map designer and improve the quality of your finished products. There are two main parts to preplanning great maps - generating ideas and developing an idea. Generating Ideas Ideas can be tough to come by - Sometimes they might come from places you've visited or want to visit, pictures, dreams. They might even appear in your mind without an obvious trigger. So, how can you go about creating an environment in which ideas can begin to bubble to the surface? One logical suggestion is to look at a lot of forge maps (Check out Forgehub Archives HERE). Another is to Look at maps from games other than Halo (Lvlworld, a Quake 3 mapping forum, is an excellent resource). You can always look to developer made Halo maps for inspiration as well. Taking a portion of a map that intrigues you and designing something completely different around it is a good exercise. Looking at buildings or at nature can often spark ideas. Taking a walk outside can help a lot - Something as simple as an interesting facade on a building or the curve of a road may be the beginning of a great map. Of course, there is also the World Wide Web. You can search through images of buildings constructed with different styles of architecture (there are numerous styles out there - check out Wikipedia's list HERE). Maybe even a tattoo or a mandala may lead to a moment of inspiration. Developing an Idea In my experience, there is a very strong correlation between how well developed an idea is prior to building, and the quality of the final product. Any time spent fleshing out an idea will be well worth it in the end. Once an intriguing idea for a map has arisen, a good next step is to figure out what the basic structure of the map will look like in a decent amount of detail. Ideally, the map should be planned with enough detail that a person who sees a sketch or model of it will be able to recognize the map once it's in Forge. It's not necessary to go to the lengths of deciding which forge pieces will be used to construct each portion of the map. Going into specifics such as that can actually hinder the developmental process. There are various ways to create conceptual designs, and the method that will work best may vary largely from person to person. Some people can visualize an entire map in their mind, while others require something physical to look at. If you're one of the former, well...lucky you. If you're one of the latter, then there are a few tools that can be utilized to help bring a map to life without placing a single block. Drawing rough sketches on graph paper is a common practice for many forgers - if you don't have graph paper on hand, you can always use Virtual Graph Paper. Freehand drawing can also work well, especially if you're artistic. However, If you really want to understand the ins and outs of what you're going to build, a 3D modeling program like Google Sketchup is highly recommended (You can download it HERE and mess around - it's free!). There are many guides online to help you learn how to use the program if you're unfamiliar with it (Sketchup's Official YouTube Channel is a great resource - it has a lifetime's worth of videos explaining Sketchup and the process of developing ideas, plus other cool design-related stuff). Of course, there is always the option of taking a basic idea and going right into forge to build it. There are both upsides and downsides of building maps this way - it's much easier to judge things like scaling and lines of sight when you're making a map in forge, but it takes much longer to move a wall or room in forge than it does on a piece of paper or a model. Another major downside of forging ideas straight from your brain is the risk of becoming overly attached to structures and becoming reluctant to make changes due to the time spent building them, even if it's for the better. It's generally not a good idea to jump right into forge and start building unless you can clearly visualize what you're going to make, and are absolutely certain you can do so without becoming attached to what you build. Regardless of which method is used to develop an idea, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind throughout the developmental process. Firstly, know what game types and player count the map will focus on. It's also a great idea to build areas meant for spawning into the geometry of a map. As the map is developing, it's wise to watch out for design flaws like scaling problems (Is the map too big or small to fit the desired player count? If so, should the map or the intended player count be altered?), poor lines of sight (can one area dominate all entrances to another?), too much or not enough cover (can a player get from point A to point B without being exposed to more than five angles on the map, and without awkwardly running around crates). These types of things can become plainly obvious when looking at a sketch or a 3D model. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Use the tools at your disposal to ferret out problems early on in the developmental process. Make thorough assessments as a map progresses, testing out various solutions based on feedback, and being willing to make the necessary adjustments.Making Adjustments This brings us to the final subject for this article, which any serious forger should be serious about - being open to constructive criticism. Viewing your map with an inflexible bias towards its current state, and being resistant to feedback as a result, almost guarantees mediocrity. It’s a good practice to spend more time analyzing what can be improved than admiring what's already good. Approaching forge with the right attitude can make all the difference in the world. A beginner with an open mind and the willingness to listen and learn can quickly attain the knowledge and skill necessary to build a better map than someone who is experienced but resistant to feedback. To make the most of feedback, view designs as flexible pieces of clay rather than solidified bricks. Part 2 - Spawning At first glance, placing spawns seems like a simple endeavor. Just place spawn points around the map, right? If only it were that easy. Sometimes poor spawning alone can mean the demise of a map. The goal of this article is to go over some of the fundamentals of creating an effective spawn system to maximize the potential of a competitive map. Starting Spawns When it comes to placing initial spawns, there are no absolutes . There are, however, some good guidelines that can be followed which have proven to work well. When placing initial spawn points, both teams should be placed on equal ground whenever possible. Spawning one team closer to a power weapon or power position than the other team can end up being the difference in who wins the game. On symmetrical maps, initial spawns should be placed in identical positions on either side of the map. On asymmetrical maps, starting spawn locations should be balanced, inasmuch as it's possible, taking into account things like power weapon placements, power position locations, and any other factors that may provide an advantage. Respawns The best location for a respawn point is in a relatively well protected area - placing them near or directly behind cover is always a good policy. A player should never spawn out in the open without the ability to reach a protected area before dieing. Giving players a fighting chance should be a top priority. The positioning of respawn points is not the only factor to consider - the orientation of spawns (which direction they face) is equally important. A player that spawns facing a wall can find it very disorienting. Anyone who has spawned looking at a wall, turned right and left in an attempt to ascertain their location, and then died before even having a chance to move should understand the importance of orienting respawn points correctly. Aiming spawn points so that players will spawn looking at main pathways or open areas of the map is of the utmost importance. There are many theories about how respawn points should be dispersed throughout a map. Those theories can range from using every respawn point available, to severely limiting the number of respawn points. There are many factors which may go into deciding which strategy is best for a particular map. A small 1v1 map obviously doesn't need over 250 respawn points on it. On the other hand, overly restricting the number of respawn points can result in spawning that is too easily punished. Respawn points should not be restricted to one or two sections of a map. As a general rule, in team games the majority of respawn points will be located in bases since they are generally more protected and allow players to respawn safely. However, an ample number of respawn points should also be placed in other areas of the map. Though this is probably an extreme example, if all of the respawn points on a map were located within bases, it could result in an unbreakable spawn trap. Spawn Zones There is much that could be written about spawn zones. Rather than attempting to go into great detail, this section will focus on covering some of the basics of the subject. On symmetrical game types like CTF (where each team is designated one side of the map) the best way to guarantee that each team will spawn on their side of the map is to put 3 identical spawn zones on each side, assigned to the team that should spawn on that side of the map. For some extra assurance, an Anti Spawn Zone can be placed on each side also, assigned to the team that should NOT spawn on that side of the map. On asymmetrical gametypes like Oddball, King of the Hill, and Extraction, it's often best to have no spawn zones at all. This means that players will not be restricted to spawning in particular portions of the map. Slayer is a unique case - the choice to setup a map with no spawn zones (dynamic spawning) or with sided spawns (static spawning) is often a matter of personal preference. On symmetrical maps, it's always a good idea to test both options and see which works best. Asymmetrical maps should almost always use Dynamic Spawning. There are additional ways to use Spawn zones also. As an example, if one or two respawn points on a map prove to be problematic, the easy solution is to delete them. However, another possible solution is to surround them with either an Anti or Anti-Weak Spawn Zone, which would allow those respawn points to remain on the map, but result in them being utilized less frequently. Part 3 - Cover Cover is an essential element of a good map. Properly implemented cover should allow players to spawn safely and move fluidly, while also contributing to the desired type of gameplay. There are numerous factors to consider when trying to ensure that the cover on a map works well. Lazy Cover vs. Structural Cover There are two main types of cover - lazy cover and structural cover. Lazy cover refers to any piece of cover that isn't a functional part of the structure of a map. Lazy cover generally serves only one purpose - providing cover. A random piece sticking out of the ground in the middle of an otherwise open area is an obvious example of lazy cover. The mohawks on Narrows and the crates on Solace could both be considered lazy cover. While lazy cover can be effective, and is often better than having no cover at all, it is far from ideal because it generally looks unnatural and often impedes natural movement. The second type of cover is 'structural cover'. Anything that is a functional part of the structure of a map and also provides cover qualifies as structural cover. There are many ways of implementing structural cover - angles or indentations in walls, changes in elevation, or doorways and pillars incorporated as part of an architectural theme can all provide cover on a map. Cover Influencing Immersion Forethought is necessary in order to successfully implement structural cover into a map. As a beginning forger, the tendency is to construct the basic layout of a map first, and then add cover afterwards. Maps constructed in this way are often filled with lazy cover, and lacking in structural cover. This can result in a map that looks like a bunch of pieces that were thrown together haphazardly. As a forger gains experience, there is generally a desire to make something more immersive. While making an immersive play space can seem daunting, structural cover can go a long way towards creating a sense of immersion because it makes a map feel and look more real. The ability to implement structural cover into a map is something that generally comes with experience. Whenever possible, structural cover should be built into a map during the preparation period rather than being added at the end of the process. The difference WILL be noticeable. Catering Cover to the Desired Gameplay Style When designing a map, it's helpful to keep in mind the type of gameplay it's intended to foster. If the gameplay will focus on close quarters combat (a lot of melee battles and short range weapons), then it should be designed with a lot of tight spaces and sharp corners. If the focus will be on long range battles, then there should be an abundance of long, open lines of sight. Most competitive maps focus on mid-range battles, since they are the type of battles that best test a players skill while reducing the effect of the built in randomness of weapons as much as possible. When the focus is on mid-range battles, a map should be constructed with that desired range in mind. If during the building process it becomes apparent that there is a line of sight that is too long, then the structure of the map needs to be adjusted to shorten that line of sight. There are many ways to incorporate structural cover to create mid range battles. If, for example, there is a long straight hallway, there a few ways to reduce the line of sight to the desired distance. The hallway can be angled or curved, or an elevation change can be implemented within the hallway. Either of these options will result in a better looking, better playing map than taking the easy way out and simply placing an object in the middle of the hallway to break up the long line of sight. In fact, placing blocks or pillars in the middle of main pathways is something that should always be avoided because they prevent players from being able to strafe freely. Cover should complement movement, not impede it. Part 4 - Flow "This map has really good flow." "The map just doesn't flow very well." These types of comments are frequently heard when discussing the merits of a map. What does 'flow' mean, and what can be done to create the elusive 'good flow'? Flow generally refers to the direction and pace of movement through a map. While there is no secret formula that guarantees a map will flow well, there are some good standards that can be followed. Player movement should be smooth The pace of play should be neither hectic nor stagnant Connections should be intuitive and have a clear purpose Power weapons and power positions should encourage players to constantly be on the move Movement There are 4 basic methods of movement in Halo - walking, jumping, taking a gravity lift, and teleporting. Each of them affects map flow differently. Teleporters can move players long distances in an instant. They can be effectively used to improve movement in areas where it's lacking, but they can also result in teleporter camping and leave players feeling disoriented if implemented improperly. It's generally best if teleporters are set up so that players exit moving the same direction they were going when they entered. The teleporter to top gold on the MLG version of Zealot is a good example of how not to implement a teleporter, as it is unintuitive and disorienting to exit a teleporter facing the opposite direction from which you entered. Also, a teleporter exit should have a clear path leading from it with plenty of room for players to maneuver - people shouldn't be left staring at a wall, unsure of where they are once they walk through. Silent vertical lifts can be created with one-way shield doors. The decision to use this style of lift instead of a regular gravity lift usually is a matter of personal preference, but there may be times where the presence or absence of a sound cue will have a clear impact upon flow. Tactical jumps (also called tac jumps, trick jumps, or jump ups) are another common type of movement option incorporated into maps. They are often quick but exposed routes to a higher elevation which offer a tactical advantage to a player. Tactical jumps can greatly benefit flow if used properly, but shouldn't be overused. They sometimes require players to stop moving horizontally in order to gain a vertical advantage, which can result in erratic movement. Therefore, tactical jumps should generally be a secondary means of movement to an area to throw off unsuspecting players, not the sole or primary means of movement to an area. The best method of movement is walking. Pathways that are designed for walking are frequently referred to as 'hard routes'. The main paths on a map should almost always be hard routes. Hard routes are optimal because they give players total control over their character. They result in smoother, steadier movement than the other options, while also producing more interesting battles. A battle where one player is traveling on foot and another player is traveling on a lift, for example, become repetitive since the movement of the player on the lift is very predictable. If the 4 types of movement were prioritized according to how frequently they should be used, the vast majority of a map's movement options should consist of hard routes, with the occasional tactical jump being implemented to add some depth to movement. Lifts should be used more sparsely, and teleporters should be the least used movement method. Connections Connectivity is another factor that determines how well a map flows. Both the number of connections and the way in which those connections are implemented should be taken into consideration. Too many connections (or routes) can create hectic, unpredictable gameplay, while too few can result in stalemates and slow gameplay. While having 3 routes into and out of each "area" of a map is a good standard to follow, there are certainly times where having more or less than 3 routes is the right decision. To decide how many connections should be in any given area, it's necessary to first know what purpose that area serves. Is it a flanking route? A flanking route through the middle of a map will often consist of numerous movement options, while one on the exterior of a map may offer a very limited number of options. Is it home to an objective? The ideal number of routes will vary greatly depending upon which type of objective it is, and where it is located on the map. For example, a 'neutral flag' location should generally be more accessible than a traditional CTF flag location. Is it a power position? Power positions can derive their power from a variety of attributes. The number of routes to an area is a significant factor in determining whether or not it works as a power position - too many ways to access a power position lessens its strength, while too few can result in it being overpowered. Power Positions and Power Weapons Power positions can have an enormous impact on how players move around the map. Clear power positions can offer a great incentive for players to move. However, a position that is too powerful becomes detrimental to flow, turning matches into a linear game of attacking and defending one position while the rest of the map lies nearly unused. The right balance encourages players to gravitate towards power positions, but also makes them challenging to maintain control of. A good example of a balanced power position is top mid on Wizard/Warlock. It offers the best lines of sight on the map and has a fair amount of cover. It's also difficult to stay alive there for very long. Power weapons are another element to be aware of. They are one of the biggest influences on player movement on any map. Placing them in the right positions and having them respawn at reasonable intervals can do wonders for map flow. The next article will cover the subject of power weapons more thoroughly. Until then, go with the flow. 😛 Part 5 - Weapons The subject of weapons is a broad one indeed. This article is going to focus primarily on power weapons and powerups, covering weapon spawning methods, respawn rates, and weapon positioning. Weapon Spawning Methods The three methods of spawning weapons are ordnance, drop spawn, and traditional placement. Traditional weapon placement entails simply dropping weapons onto a map. The main advantage of placing them this way is the ability to control the amount of ammo. A possible disadvantage is that it makes the respawn time of a weapon more difficult to predict. While traditional placement allows a forger to set the respawn rate for weapons down to the second, those weapons will respawn according to when they were picked up rather than at a static rate. If the respawn rate on a traditionally placed weapon is set to 2 minutes, it will respawn 2 minutes after it was previously picked up. This can be more confusing than having a weapon spawn every 2 minutes on the spot, and can potentially create a cascading advantage for the team that initially obtains the weapon. However, it could be argued that this rewards awareness and communication more than Ordnance or Drop Spawns do. Drop Spawning is the third weapon spawning method. To setup a drop spawned weapon, hold it in mid air and set the physics to 'fixed'. After releasing hold of the weapon, highlight it by placing the selector over it (don't grab it) and press the X button to bring up the options menu. Change the physics back to 'Normal'. This will result in a weapon that spawns in the elevated position and then immediately drops until it hits a solid surface. When the weapon comes to rest, the game will register it as having been picked up. Drop Spawning has been commonly used for power weapons over the last few Halo titles. It offers the ammo count control of traditional placement and the respawn time consistency of Ordnance drops. Drop spawned weapons despawn very quickly in Halo 4 (as quick as 12 seconds in some cases), meaning that there is a decent chance that nobody will actually obtain a drop spawned weapon before it despawns. Power Weapon Respawn Rates How fast should a power weapon spawn? This is a difficult question to answer, and there are widely varying opinions on the subject. Many factors must be taken into consideration such as map size and player count, the total number of power weapons on the map, and the relative power of the weapons. Rather than discuss every possible scenario, let's go over some good general guidelines. The main purpose of placing power weapons on a map is to instigate confrontation between teams. Staggering power weapon spawn times increases the number of confrontations between teams. More frequent confrontations results in exciting, fast paced gameplay. In order to maximize the number of potential confrontations between teams, it's generally better to avoid having two power weapons spawn at the same time. There are exceptions, of course. One example of where spawning two power weapons at the same time makes sense would be the Sniper Rifles on The Pit. In instances where each team has an identical power weapon spawning on their side of a symmetrical map, the spawn times on those weapons should be the same. However, using The Pit for another example, it would probably not be good to have the Rockets and the Overshield consistently spawning at the same time because each team could obtain one of them without even needing to engage the opposing team. The goal is to create confrontations for both of those weapons. The way to do so is to stagger their spawn times. The majority of the time, neutrally spawning power weapons should spawn at different times, while symmetrically placed power weapons should spawn at the same time. As a general guideline, the more powerful a weapon is, the longer it should take to respawn. Rockets are usually the most powerful weapon, and easiest weapon to use on a map. They also normally take the longest to respawn. Respawn rates for power weapons can range anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Generally speaking, if a weapon has to respawn at a slower rate than 3 minutes to work on a map, then the weapon is just too powerful for that map. A couple of final notes on respawn times... Initial Ordnance drops take 4 seconds to drop, so Initial Ordnance respawn times should always be set 4 seconds faster than the desired spawn time. For example, if the weapon should spawn every 2 minutes (120 seconds), set the respawn time to 116 seconds. Drop spawned weapons also have a couple of seconds delay built into them. Traditionally, drop spawned weapons have been set to about 2 seconds less than the desired time (set to 118 seconds for a 2 minute respawn rate), but the exact time varies depending upon how it takes for the weapon to come to rest after spawning, and may require some experimentation. Power Weapon Placement Now that the methods and timing of spawning weapons onto the map have been covered, let's discuss weapon placement. Power weapons should very, very rarely be placed in power positions. A power weapon should only be placed in a power position that is also VERY vulnerable. The reason for this is that in addition to creating confrontations between teams, the other main purpose of power weapons is to encourage movement. Placing a power weapon in a desirable location significantly reduces the likelihood that a player or team will ever move from that location. It's very likely to result in gameplay that is either standoffish or too lopsided in one teams favor. Power weapons should be positioned according to their power. If the Rocket Launcher is the most powerful weapon on the map (which it almost always is), it should usually be placed in the most vulnerable of your potential power weapon positions. On the other end of the spectrum is a powerup like Speed Boost, which would probably be placed in a more advantageous position than Rockets. One final thing that was previously mentioned in the article on spawning, but bears repeating here. The initial spawns should always be balanced as fairly as possible by giving each team an equal opportunity of obtaining power weapons at the beginning of a game. On symmetrical maps this means placing power weapons exactly the same distance from each teams initial spawn location. Power weapon placement on asymmetrical maps is not so simple, but should also be as balanced as possible. Part 6 - Aesthetics We all know a beautiful map when we see one. Building a beautiful map can prove quite challenging. A couple of the main obstacles along the way are dynamic lighting and piece restrictions. There's really not much that can be done about the piece restrictions except staying flexible and being sure pieces are used wisely. To avoid breaking the dynamic lighting, get familiar with this guide: A Guide to Dynamic Lighting by WARHOLIC Visual Theme When a player first sets foot on a map, there are essentially 3 potential reactions that they could have to the maps appearance. They could notice how spectacular it looks, how bad it looks, or they could be indifferent to its appearance. One of the goals of a map maker is to create an immersive experience, and the appearance of a map is the main factor in determining whether or not they are successful. Before a forger can create a map that is truly immersive, though, they must first learn how to avoid making a map that looks bad. Every forger knows that a bad looking map detracts from a players experience. However, most lack the understanding of how to create a map that doesn't look bad. Without that understanding, the zeal for creating a spectacular looking map can result in a map that looks spectacularly bad. The main thing that results in a bad looking map is inconsistent and/or sloppy piece usage. Overlooking something as rudimentary as orienting objects the same direction and making sure they line up correctly can prove distracting for players. While consistency in orienting and lining up objects is the first step towards beauty, the next step is consistent piece usage throughout an entire map. Using the same pieces for similar structures throughout a map will greatly enhance its appearance. Using one piece for the floors, and another piece (or handful of pieces) for the walls will result in a clean looking map. There are, however, occasions when it can be beneficial to give different areas of a map different appearances as a way to help players quickly recognize where they are. One side of a map could be inside a rock cave, while the other side extends out from the cliff side and is open aired. As another example, each level of a multilevel map could have it's own look. Even then, it's wise to make sure that any type of structure that appears more than once on the map (windows/doors/ramps) should have a consistent look in all locations. This consistency results in a cohesive looking map with a clear visual theme. Creating an Immersive Experience The next step towards visual mastery is to create a truly immersive play-space. This is accomplished through the creation of a realistic setting. That can mean recreating an actual locale like the pyramids in Egypt, or designing something unique based upon a theme such as an abandoned town or a space station. Individual creativity can really help set a map apart from others. Impact and Ravine offer the best contrast between light and dark pieces. Erosion has a rusty, grungy look. Forge Island has an abundance of rocks, trees, and water. A modded canvas can enable even further immersion. An important element in a 'real' feeling map is structures that look realistic. If there is a long bridge, it should have pillars supporting it from underneath. If a balcony is implemented, it should have railings around the edge. Floors and walls should look real whenever the edges of them are visible. The best way to accomplish that is to use pieces that are at least the thickness of a 'short' block. 'Thin' block pieces, or other relatively thin pieces should be avoided whenever possible in those instances.Utilizing Aesthetics to Improve Flow and Communication Aesthetics can be used for more than just making a map look good. They can be implemented to highlight weapon locations, or be utilized to make callouts more intuitive. The Implementation of weapon holders can be an excellent way to highlight power weapon locations. While weapon holders are essentially only aesthetic touches, they can also positively impact map flow by making the power weapons easily identifiable. Forgers generally address the issue of callouts by color coding sections of a map to differentiate them and to make in-game communication easier. This is perfectly acceptable. It's more than acceptable; it's a good rule of thumb to follow. However, using aesthetics to allow players to differentiate areas of the map from each other can work just as well, or even better. Using a visual theme that incorporates a different look for each area of the map can make color coding completely unnecessary. Even a map that's completely symmetrical with matching pieces used on both sides of the map can use aesthetics to assist with orientation and communication, perhaps by building one side of the map next to a towering cliff. When playing on a map for the first time, if a player makes a callout referring to the 'cliff base', it will immediately be obvious which part of the map is being referred to, while it may take a moment longer to ascertain the location with a callout like 'red base'. Don't forget that there are more than just structure pieces at a forgers disposal. For a few examples, a Dominion Base Terminal can be a great weapon holder, Extraction Cylinders are an excellent way to add color to a map, Dominion Base Shields are perfect for color coding Teleporters, and Base Stripes make good railings. Use all the tools available. Think outside the box. See if an object can be used in a way nobody has ever used it before. Strive to strike a balance of creativity and consistent piece usage, while also making structures look realistic. Part 7 - The Total Package When the phrase 'The Total Package' is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously...Lex Luger. This article isn't going to be about Lex Luger, though (sorry, wrastlin' fans). This is the final article in the Forge Fundamentals series, and it's all about pulling everything together to make a forge map that kicks almost as much ass as the aforementioned grappler...almost. PDCA There is a 4 step business management method called PDCA that’s designed to refine processes/products. It’s a method that can be applied to the forging process with spectacular results. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. We will go over how this tool can be utilized for the development and refinement of a map, by going through each step of the process one by one. Plan – Establish the goals and basic layout of the map. Do – Make the map. Check – Study the results. Look for differences between what is desired and what is actually happening. Act – Implement fixes for any problems that are found during the ‘check’ stage.Plan Thinking through a map in a decent amount of detail before building it can significantly improve the final product. The fact that each aspect is so inextricably interwoven with the others makes some degree of preplanning all the more important. Prior to beginning building, it’s essential to decide the map's desired size player count, and its intended game types. From there, a forger can come up with a basic layout by utilizing some of the tools mentioned in the article on preplanning. Once the basic layout is decided upon, starting spawn locations and power weapon locations can start to enter the thought process. It’s also wise to think about how different sections of the map will connect to each other, and how those connections will impact the maps overall flow. Another thing to consider is the aesthetic theme – is it possible to create recognizable landmarks within that theme that will help players orient themselves and communicate with each other? During the planning stage, a forger should create their map on a smaller scale. This generally means producing the map either on paper or on a modeling program. Doing so can bring to light problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and resulted in hours of wasted time. Do This is the construction phase. The limitations inherent in forge can make this a challenging part of the process. Most of the skill required to efficiently forge a map only comes through experience, as the result of trial and error. It’s important to remain flexible while building. While preplanning is a vital tool that should be utilized, it's the beginning of the design process, not the end. Even maps made my professionals rarely end up exactly the same as the original design. The best policy is to plan well, then adjust where necessary. Don’t wait until the building is complete before making adjustments – Make them immediately. Check When the initial building phase is done, it's time for testing. Here at Halo Evolved, there are testing lobbies which anyone can join to get their map tested, as long as they are willing to return the favor. Getting involved will prove very beneficial, because thorough testing is one of the main ingredients that set great maps apart from decent maps. Though playing on a map is obviously an essential step, the main purpose of the ‘check’ stage is to pinpoint problems. To this end, analyzing gameplay in theater mode is an extremely valuable tool for a forger. Information that went unnoticed while playing on a map can become quite obvious when re-watching a game in theater. When in theater mode, it’s vital that attention is given to the performance of the map rather than the performance of the individuals playing on the map. One of the main things that’s smart to investigate is spawning. Watching every respawn for every player in a match can highlight a problem with one or two particular spawn points, which could then be adjusted accordingly or removed. Spawning can also be watched in a broader way. From overhead, it may become apparent that players are respawning in one particular area of the map too frequently. Perhaps reducing the number of respawn points in that area, or surrounding it with an anti-spawn zone could solve that problem. Another point of focus is power weapons. Following each power weapon from when it’s picked up until it’s out of ammo can provide valuable information on both the positioning of the weapon, and the amount of ammo it spawns with. One of the most difficult things for a forger to learn is how to discern whether or not something is actually a problem. Discernment generally comes with experience. If somebody complains about being spawn killed, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a spawning problem on the map - perhaps they were playing with too many people on the map, or the teams were uneven. The fact that somebody complained about something doesn't automatically mean it needs to be fixed. However, all feedback should be taken seriously. Most good forgers have the ability to build great maps because they welcome and encourage critical feedback. The best attitude to have when analyzing gameplay and feedback is one of non-attachment. If a forger has already decided that their map is perfect, it's very likely that they will overlook critical gameplay problems. Act Acting means applying changes to fix any problems that are uncovered. That may mean changing the location of a power weapon, breaking up a line of sight, or adjusting respawn points. It could also mean completely re-designing a portion of a map. Whatever problems are found in the ‘check’ stage of the process should be addressed one by one, beginning with the larger problems first. If you have some bad spawn points in a section, but that same section also requires a major re-design, then it wouldn’t make any sense to adjust the spawn points first. Once a potential fix for a problem has been implemented, go back to the ‘check’ stage to determine whether or not the fix has worked. If the problem still isn’t fixed, then it’s back to the drawing board. If the problem is fixed adequately, move on to the next problem and repeat the same process - this is the way to a kick-ass forge map. Conclusion Alas, We have arrived at the end of this series. We've only scratched the surface of what’s available and ready to be learned, so if you're hungry for more be sure to check out the other great guides posted on the site. Follow a Chunk Twitter: https://twitter.com/fh_aChunk Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jtjub/