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  1. So how do we handle cover placement? What’s the thought process that we should apply? How combat spaces are composed You can’t have cover without thinking about what it’s good for, and depending on what game your are making it can stand for a lot: In a stealth game it serves as a path tracer. So the player can actually maneuver around the NPC’s placed in the map. Stealth Game — Cover Placement Illustration The way cover is placed in this example is based on a few simple principles: Player will move from cover to cover to avoid NPC detection This implies that exposure to NPC line of sight acts like a window of opportunity moment. The player waits for the NPC to look away before moving to the other cover spot. Based on the turning patterns of the AI you can break down parameters that can affect how hard this scenario ca be. Examples of parameters: Traveling Distance and NPC Look Duration Window of Opportunity Chart — Traveling Distance vs NPC Look Duration This could lead towards interesting combination that juggle with the distance between covers and the NPC looking/turning direction. Of course other parameters could be applied as well. In cover shooters it serves as a way for the player to avoiding the enemy, survey the battlefield and move from cover to cover to circumvent crossfires. Cover Shooter — Cover shooter simplified In this kind of situation we can apply the same chart as before but we need to replace Look Duration with Shooting duration. Window of Opportunity Chart — Traveling Distance vs Shooting Duration Some hybrids use a blend of Stealth and Combat cover to facilitate both play-styles. Games like GTA, WatchDogs, Mafia 3 blend stealth and combat spaces into one unified space that serves both purposes. However since these games area also open world games, for the sake of immersion have to also reflect the world where they exist. This means they have to justified from a narrative standpoint. In order to do that in a way that doesn’t raise any eyebrows, one method of actually placing cover in a realistic space is to actually consider the concept of: Implied Spaces An implied space is a subdivision of space that is implied by it being delimited by other bits of geometry or functions. Example of Implied Space This concept from architecture and can be used to solve cover placement in level design. For example: Implied Space integration — Example By creating a niche inside a space we can actually imply the idea of an auxiliary space that can serve both as cover placement and decorum, all without sacrificing the leading lines needed to establish direction within a layout section. Direct application withing an actual layout Here are some other examples for a more combat oriented space: Halo Reach — Level Exploration Example Realistic Layout — Example Another example of implied space are shadow/shade spaces. These kinds of spaces exist simply because they are shaded and provide a different type of visual cover for the player. Example of shadow space For this sort of cover placement there is a need for us to have some sort of control over the sources of light inside the environment. *Note: This article is shared in full on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://medium.com/@iuliu.cosmin.oniscu/how-to-handle-cover-placement-d10580faac66 Follow Iuliu Twitter: https://twitter.com/notimetoulose Blog: https://medium.com/@iuliu.cosmin.oniscu Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  2. We here at Next Level Design love being able to learn from other disciplines and interfaces, and apply them to game design and level design. We hope you'll find something within this article that you can use in your own designs. If you do, please share by commenting below. Happy learning! *Note: The following is a portion of an article which was shared on canva.com. It capture some of the main points, but there are detailed examples provided within the source article which are not included here. Please follow the link at the end for the full article. As consumers of design, we’ve all likely experienced this scenario at some point. But as designers, we want to make sure we’re not creating design layouts that might cause viewers to hurry to hit that back button in their browser or trash a flyer in frustration. So what’s the key to a design that’s well organized and easy to navigate? Starting with the foundation of a strong composition and good flow will get your project on the right track. Composition: A Definition for Designers Composition refers to the way all the elements of your design are arranged to create a cohesive whole. It considers actual elements you might add to a design, like typography, photos, or graphics — but it also takes into account “invisible” elements that contribute to the overall visual effect of a layout, like white or blank space, alignment and margins, or any framework you might use to arrange your design (such as a grid, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds). A careful composition should visually lead viewers through the design in a way that makes sense and happens naturally without a lot of thought on the part of the viewer (otherwise known as “flow”). This act of composing, of being thoughtful and intentional about how you piece together a layout, is a skill that applies to many different types of visual arts, from painting to photography. The nice thing is that once you learn the basics of strong composition, you’ll find that they’re useful for all sorts of creative endeavors. Now let’s look at some of the tools and techniques traditionally used to create effective, visually engaging compositions. Visual Weight & Balance: Create a Clear Hierarchy A good composition isn’t just a neatly arranged collection of shapes, colors, and text. Every design has a purpose and communicates a message to its viewers, and a well-planned composition helps prioritize the design’s most important information and reinforce its message in a way that makes sense. This process of arranging information by its importance is often referred to as establishing a hierarchy. No hierarchy (or an inadequate one) makes for a confusing design that has no visual flow, and we don’t want that. Let’s look at two key elements of a clear hierarchy, focal points and balanced organization: Choose a Focal Point A focal point pulls people into your design and gives them a place to start looking at your composition. If viewers only had a couple seconds to glance at your design and take away one impression or piece of information, what would that be? That important element should be your main focal point, and to ensure it’s what people see first, you’ll want to find a way to emphasize that piece and make it the most visible part of the layout. Keep reading to see this concept at work in actual design projects. (Via Dribbble. Design by Mara Dawn Dockery.) How to do that? Through giving your focal point visual weight. When a design element has visual weight, it’s what stands out the most at first glance. It’s visually “heavy” because it makes its presence felt in the layout — you can immediately tell that it’s important, and it attracts your attention through something about its appearance, often by contrasting with the rest of the design. There are a lot of techniques to choose from to give your focal point visual weight, including but not limited to: Size Shape Color Texture Position Let’s walk through some examples: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Make It Big Attract Attention with Unusual Shapes Choose Stand-Out Colors Add Texture for Visual Interest Position for Maximum Visual Impact Balance and Organize the Rest of the Design After a focal point gives viewers an entrance into your design, then it needs to be organized in such a way that they can navigate the rest of the layout easily. This is where the hierarchy really comes into play to give viewers a clear pathway to travel through the composition. Should their eyes move down the page? Across? From one section to another? How the rest of the design flows from the focal point will be key to a successful composition. You can guide viewers through your layout with some of the techniques we’ve already discussed, but most designs will benefit from an overall structure or organizing principle. Instead of just randomly throwing elements into your design and hoping it turn outs ok, being thoughtful and intentional about building your composition will always create a more usable and visually appealing experience for your audience. Let’s look at some common techniques: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Use a Grid Try the “Rule of Thirds” Consider Symmetry Leave Some White Space Leading Lines: Create Movement to Lead the Eye Leading lines are literal or implied lines that lead viewers’ eyes where you want them to go — usually to the focal point of your design, but sometimes just from one section or element of the layout to another. Leading lines can take a number of different forms, including: Diagonal Lines Diagonal lines create movement or imply direction across the design, often from top to bottom and left to right, like with reading. Another common technique is to use two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions to direct users’ focus to a single point. If you’ve ever taken an art class during your school days, a common exercise is to draw a road or pathway extending into the distance: two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions, starting out wide but narrowing until they meet at a spot on the horizon known as the “vanishing point.” This is diagonal leading lines in action, and one of the most basic ways to create depth and perspective in a composition. The following website design uses this concept to organize its product image gallery. Notice how the diagonal lines created by the yellow shape in the background (along with selective blurring) create a sense of depth in the design. Via Dribbble. Design by Cosmin Capitanu Z Shapes & S Curves: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Repeating Lines and Patterns Repetition can act as a leading line, guiding your gaze in a certain direction. It may take the form of repeating lines, shapes, or other elements arranged in a directional way. Repetition can also be a great way to reinforce a visual theme and add a sense of rhythm to your design. Even in-text elements that repeat, like bullet points or numbered lists, can help organize a design and give it a sense of flow. The following magazine layout repeats a visual theme of diagonal lines and triangular shapes in two ways: on individual pages or spreads (to guide readers through the content) and throughout the issue (to create consistency and a sense of rhythm through the whole publication). *Note: Click on the Image for a larger version Via Behance. Design by Bartosz Kwiecień. The Human Gaze: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Over to You Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Read the full article here: https://www.canva.com/learn/flow-and-rhythm/ Follow Janie Twitter: https://twitter.com/janiecreates Website: https://janiekliever.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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  3. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on a selection of tips and tricks that I’ve tweeted over the last few months from my account @TomPugh1112 These tips are methods that Level Designers use to move players, encourage progression and create areas of immersive gameplay. The tips I’m going to share are general bits of advice that work in different ways for different games. As a Level Designer these tips should be interpreted in a way that is relevant to your level designs. Every game is different so every game requires a different approach. This selection of tips are in no way “rules” of level design. As far as I’m concerned there are no rules, only guidelines that help create the best experiences possible. Every designer has their own approach to creating levels and solving problems so please take these tips and tricks as just that, and not some gospel of level design. Each one of these “tips” could easily have a whole blog dedicated to it, and in the future I may write some. But for now I’ve tried to give as much detail in as few words as possible. Tip 1: Have clear and consistent Affordances An affordance is a rule that is created through your games level design. For example in “Tomb Raider” the player learns that if they see a piece of wood or a old cart which is angled in the air, they know that they are able to use it as a launch pad to make longer jumps. A simple real life example of an affordance is a door handle. A pull bar or a push pad on a door informs you what action you should take to open the door. It is very important to have clear and consistent affordances (rules) in your levels. You need to build a trust contract with the player so that they clearly understand what they can and can’t do in the game. You should avoid breaking this contract. If you do you’ll cause confusion and frustration for the player. How annoying is it in real life when a door says push but really means pull? There are times when your game may require you to break this contract with the player. In a survival horror game breaking affordances is a good way to create stress and put the player under pressure. Even this can be risky and may ultimately irritate some players. Tip 2: Use Leading Lines Leading lines are a technique that helps to guide the player’s eye towards a specific location, item or event. Use leading lines to subtly move players in the right direction without the need for additional prompts or breadcrumbing. Leading lines can range from pipes on the ceiling, hedge rows or different textures on the floors and walls. Leading lines can draw the players eye to an important gameplay moment. These should be used in combination with lighting and other techniques. For example you might have a new enemy you want to reveal to the player. Pipes along the roof and walls could be used to make sure players are looking in the right direction, while the area where the new enemy appears is nicely lit. These techniques in combination should control where the player looks. Tip 3: Make use of the Architecture to shape the play space You should always be looking at real life spaces and how their architecture can translate to level design. Architects have been doing the same thing as level designers for hundreds of years so it makes sense to examine and gain an understanding of architectural elements. Architectural elements should be used to shape your level designs. Structural components are tools for organising and shaping a space. Think about what your architecture can do before filling a level with crates as obstacles. For example, rather than placing crates in an open area why not position pillars that can still be used as cover but create a more believable space. By looking at real life spaces you can find ways of creating more believable levels with intuitive architectural elements. Tip 4: Learn to Teach Mechanics One of the jobs of level design is to introduce, pace and teach the player new mechanics when they become available. This is something designers new to the field often get wrong (and sometimes more experienced designers too). You’re very knowledgeable of your game mechanics which means that it’s very easy to make a difficult challenge. Making an introductory challenge is often where mechanic teaching falls down. You can use pacing techniques to plan mechanic introductions and the difficulty of skill gates. Get the pacing right and you shouldn’t have too much trouble with players understanding and trusting mechanics. The rough sketch below gives an additional idea of how this works. An improvement to the sketch would be to make sure that when the player picks up their new weapon they have some targets to shoot at in the area, such as some tin cans for example. This gives them an opportunity to learn the shooting mechanics without have to be concerned about enemies. Tip 5: Use Denial and Reward Denial and reward is an architectural technique that is primarily used to enrich a person’s passage through a built environment. Architects do this by giving people a view of their target and then momentarily screening it from view. This same technique can be used for progression in level design to enhance a players sense of progression. Give players a view of their objective, send them on a route where they can no longer see it, and then emerge them closer to the objective with a new angle of visibility. This image shows how you might start a level using denial and reward. The player can see the objective clearly, they can see the path is blocked and are given an alternative route to take towards the objective. In the following image the player will have a new angle of visibility and the objective being closer will reward them with a real sense of progression. The Last Of Us uses denial and reward in the Pittsburgh chapter. The player is given a glimpse of the yellow bridge (their objective location) and then loses sight of it for a while until it comes back into view. This chapter shows how denial and reward can be used to make a journey much more interesting. Tip 6: Give players a good starting point How players arrive in an area will influence their first move. Start players facing the right direction and be sure their start position gives them visual cues and options on how to proceed. The image above from Uncharted 4 demonstrates how you can craft the players starting position by giving them a clear view of the path ahead, leading lines and framing from the surrounding environment give a clear view of the objective location and the player can see openings and other options. This example uses multiple techniques but it is key to understand how all of these methods combine with the start location to give players a clear understanding of what they have to do. Sometimes this tip can be twisted, but in a cool way. For example the players path or exit could be positioned behind or above them. As long as the player has clear messaging of this it can encourage map exploration and discovery which can create a very rewarding experience. Games like Uncharted have instances of this. This can become a problem when you can’t control the players start position. In linear games it is easy to determine where the player is when a level starts and making sure they have clear cues can be done. But in an open world it’s much harder to be sure of where the players is. One way this can be done is to create areas of linearity within an open world. A recent example of this is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Guerrilla have done a great job of funneling players towards mission areas and creating linear experiences during story missions. In some cases this has been done by creating two or three different entrances to a location. Horizon: Zero Dawn is an excellent study on open worlds for more on this I recommend watching the GDC talk Level Design Workshop: Balancing Action and RPG in Horizon Zero Dawn Quests where Blake Rebouche goes into more detail on their process. Tip 7: Set up some boundaries Boundaries are a way of showing players when they are transitioning between areas. There are two types of boundary - soft boundaries and solid boundaries. Solid boundaries can be used to mark an area of surprise or enemy activity. You don’t want players to know what’s inside and you want them to clearly understand they are changing location. Soft boundaries should be used to entice the player into an area. You want the player to be able to see what’s inside and this should draw them into the area. Tip 8: Bread-crumbing If you’re struggling to get players to go where you want you could try using breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbing can come in many different forms including; a different texture on the floor, gold coins that put the player back on track and collectibles dotted along a path. In the above example you can see the gems in Spyro are placed in this area so as to draw the player to a higher location I find this and the example below to be two subtle ways of breadcrumbing the player without breaking immersion. Tip 9: Lighting You can use lighting to draw attention to exits, points of interest and enemy locations and it can be used as an effective way to guide players through a level. Lighting in levels should be used to highlight the following; exits, path guiding, enemy introductions and points of interest. In the images above you can see that exits, paths and enemies are clearly lit and visible to the players. These examples also show how lighting can help set a tone for your levels. Tip 10: Iteration is key The key to a good level is iteration and constant play testing. The sooner you can get a blockout of your level into the hands of someone the better. It’s through this initial play test that you’ll see the problems, find the solutions and make a start on improving your level. Don't be afraid to let people play your levels, after all that is why we make them. Conclusion: Well thanks for reading this two part blog! I hope you found some tips and guidance that will help you with your own level designs. Remember these are guidelines, not rules. I tried to go into as much detail as I could in as few words as I could. So if you want to talk more about a subject covered here, or not covered here then please feel free to leave a comment and start a discussion. Thanks for Reading, Tom Pugh. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/single-post/2018/10/20/Level-Design-Tips-and-Tricks-Part-1 Follow Tom Website: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPugh1112 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
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