Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'loops'.



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 9 results

  1. Introduction The number of quality books on Level Design has grown by one with the release of Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series by Max Pears. The book is comprised of 25 subjects organized into 3 different sections (Planning, Blockout, Iteration) over the course of 80 pages. It brings us through concepts such as Metrics, Enemies, Decision Points, Combat Fronts, Verticality, and Local Landmarks. These subjects are presented in bite sized nuggets of insight from Mr. Pears, and supported with fabulously unique graphic depictions. We recently met up with Max to pick his brain about level design, and more specifically about his book on designing for combat. Interview Hey Max. Good to talk to you again. You’ve definitely been one of the most active level design content creators in recent years, putting out numerous articles and videos, along with mentoring others in the community. When and why did you decide to do a level design book? Hey mate, thank you very much for having me and great to be talking with you again. Aha cheers mate, yeah I had not stopped to think about being one of the most active. I guess it’s because more and more people are getting involved in our great Level Design community. It’s a funny one, as honestly I did not think I would write a book. I’m sure some of you who have read my articles on Next Level Design will know I am not the best writer, but I’ve gotten better, haha. My bad writing and jokes aside, it is because people kept asking me to write a book. After the combat article series I wrote and you published here, the demand increased. I thought well let’s give it a go and see what I can do. Another reason I think people were asking was/is because I’m so active. We have many great Design Books, but a lot of them are written by those who are outside of the industry, which does not take away from their value, I just think students and Jr designers want to hear from those who are in the industry. Plus I feel that level design is still not fully understood. So if I can help to reach students or Jr Designers to help them get a clearer picture in a more tangible form, I think a book may be the best way to do it. Yeah, for sure. It's awesome having a full collection of tips and tricks all in one, rather than taking bits and pieces from different places. Speaking of your experience within the industry, that reminds me that there may very well be people reading this that are just getting into level design, and may not be super familiar with you. How long have you been working as a level designer, and can you share some of the projects you've worked on? I have been making games for just about Seven Years now, crazy to think how fast time has flown by. I originally started in mobile games at a studio called FOG (Free Online Games) Media, where I made around 7 games in total, a couple made it to the app charts (Very proud of that). After I left went to Ubisoft Reflections, in which I worked on Tom Clancy's The Division, and the DLC Underground. Once that wrapped up I headed to where I currently am which is CD PROJEKT RED, where I am currently working on Cyberpunk 2077. Sadly right now I can not talk much about CP, but I am sure we will talk again after the game launches. But yeah that is my career so far, I am very happy with the projects I have been able to work on and the other developers I have had the pleasure to work with. Great. Thank you for that. Now let’s talk about this book of yours. Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series is organized into 3 chapters – Planning, Blockout, and Iteration, in that order. I can’t help but point out that this exactly mimics the typical design process order. I assume that was intentional? Do you feel It’s important for level designers to follow a strict process? Should they always (or nearly always) be addressing the subjects covered in the Planning section of the book before moving on to the ‘Blockout’ phase of the process, or should a process be more fluid than that? Also, you’ve worked on games that differ greatly in style, and I’m curious about how process and priorities might change to align with the type of project you’re working on? Glad you noticed mate, yeah I made sure to break it up to make it feel as close to the overall game development process as possible. I think it is important for students to understand how games are made as well as levels, at some parts of your career you might jump into a project at a different stage, so I feel this is a way to help those understand how the overall process looks. Yes, these are the stages everyone should learn, now someone's planning may differ from the next, but the overall experience in terms of big milestone structures are roughly the same. The process of how we design our levels should be roughly the same, but games and plans change throughout development so you might be at a point where an area is already art-ified so you can not block it out with your LD blocks. Yet you can still use the art assets for that area to use as cover instead. There are some adaptations that may be tweaked or less time invested into due to the stage of the project, however, if this book can help up and coming LDs understand how important these stages are to making great levels, then I will be happy as well. I am really glad you pick up on that, as I did think about how to best represent the overall process when coming up with this book, as there are some subtle details and others less subtle in the presentation & structure of this book. I hope other readers notice this as well. Your comment on understanding the importance of the various stages of designing levels brings to mind a semi-related question that I'm really eager to hear your thoughts on. I've noticed that as designers are in the learning stages of understanding level design (and we're basically all always at the learning stage), we tend to focus really heavily on particular concepts as we learn about them, perhaps to an extent that isn't really justified by their actually usefulness. One obvious example in the level design community would be 'leading lines'. Now while this is a cool concept, in the grand scheme of things it's probably not amongst the most important concepts to understand and incorporate. I won't ask you to call out the most over-hyped concepts in level design (but feel free to do so if you really want to, haha), but what are one or two of the concepts covered in your book that you think are undervalued, and really important in the level design process? Aha, yeah leading lines. I won’t lie, I have highlighted these before in my tweets and use them as an example in a few talks I have done. Now is this part of level design over exaggerated? Yes, by a country mile, haha. The element of why to consider is because it is easy to highlight over social media. It’s harder to break down more detailed topics over 280 characters or in a picture. Now that does not mean that we should ignore leading lines, as they are a useful tool, but think of it more as an additional tool. On its own it’s not the best, but when combined with negative space or lighting it really helps. As for a topic of level design that is not spoken about enough, I believe that has to be metrics. When I graduated and started working at Ubisoft, when they started showing me the metrics graph and making sure I stuck to metrics (I was a renegade haha) I was so confused as to how some created them. Why? Because it was not taught to me. Metrics is so crucial for your LD process, we need to be much more aware of how metrics work, how to use it communicate with the player, and when to bend the metrics to craft an emotional response from the player in our spaces. To any up and coming LD, do try to find out more about metrics. Metrics for sure are important and overlooked. I suppose that's part of the reason why it's the very first subject covered in your book. Moving on to a different subject, one of the first things that jumped out at me as I was reading through the book is the graphics in the example depictions. I personally really like the style you went with. It's very unique. There must be a story behind how this graphic style came to be? Yeah exactly mate, hopefully when people read and see it as point 1, they will take notice and prepare as best they can to understand more on metrics. I am glad you liked the graphics, I think it is for sure one of the coolest elements we nailed down for the book. Haha yeah, there was a lot of thought which went behind it. What you might notice with the grey grid and ui in the top right hand corner, is that we wanted it to look like it was taking place inside a game editor. Really ground it to the fact that you as a reader can feel that what you see on the pages can be instantly transferred into say Unity, UE4 Or whatever editor you are using. Which is why the text is window shaped boxes. It is making it not only give information you can apply but feel like it is already applied for you. The process of the pictures was super cool as I would actually block the Out layout, to then give to my artist J. She would then translate it to the beautiful images you see on the pages. She also brought those characters to life, as we wanted to make it super clear what everything was as well as throw in our sense of humor. As learning can always be fun. But I think one of the biggest inspiration for the art style was my Twitter (not in an egotistical way). I found that a lot of people would like to see my early blockouts or 2d layouts for my layout. With that in mind I wanted it to feel like that. I am really glad you liked it, as I feel anyone who reads this book will be delighted with not only the information written but also with the presentation. It's been really nice talking to you again Max, and getting some insight into your book, Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series. Can you share some logistics with us? When and where will the book be available for purchase? What can we expect the price to be? And also, one final question... I can't help but notice that the books subtitle says "A Level Design Series". This would seem to suggest that it's part of a series of level design books. Do you have plans for a follow up book/s? Always a pleasure talk with you buddy, thank you so much again for us sitting down giving me a chance to be on your site. Yes, so the book releases 21/07/2020 so not long, of us doing our interview. Very excited and nervous haha, I hope everyone who purchases it will enjoy it. In terms of picking it up, you can buy either a physical or ebook copy of the book, which can be found here: Ebook £15 ($18.84 USD) - https://bit.ly/2WvrTUR Physical Book £25 ($31.38 USD) - https://bit.ly/3fBQ2k9 The book will be available on other stores like Amazon, but the best way to support me is to buy it from the links in the article (Gumroad and Lulu bookstore) as most of the money goes to me so I can reinvest into.....your second part of the question. Yes I intend to aim for three right now, the next one will be about Traversal/Exploration and I will start work on this around November and try to release it around Q1 of 2021. I want to make ‘Let’s Design:’ the best possible series I can so aspiring LDs can be better prepared for when they arrive into the industry as well as help those who are already on their great design path. It is an exciting time, I hope those who do pick up ‘Let’s Design: Combat’ truly enjoy it and find it helpful. Resources Looking for more content from Max? Here are links to all of his articles shared on Next Level Design: - Level Design for Combat Part 1 - Level Design for Combat Part 2 - Level Design for Combat Part 3 - Shape Theory in Level Design - The Illusion of Space - Do Your Research: Where’s the Toilet - Game Design: Introducing Mechanics Follow Max/Level Design Lobby Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears 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
  2. I know I’m late to the Hollow Knight party myself, but if anyone out there still hasn’t played this magical arthropod adventure, do yourself a $14.99 favor and fall into Hallownest — you won’t regret it. And you do fall into it literally and otherwise; over 40 or so hours, as I descended down Hollow Knight’s subterranean realm of rain-soaked cities, cavernous sewers, and verdant gardens, so did my mind sink into perfecting its laser-precise combat system, deciphering its blink-and-miss story moments, and unraveling its interconnected worlds. The premise of Hollow Knight is simple and light on exposition. You’re a small skull-faced wraith armed with a nail and charged with exploring the decaying, sparsely inhabited kingdom of Hallownest where something has clearly gone wrong. And Team Cherry certainly kept the theme of exploration as a guidepost while designing the game. Here’s Ari Gibson, co-director of Team Cherry in an interview with PC Gamer: "A lot of these decisions we’re making, a lot of the scale and the rooms we build, all of it’s built around this sense of discovery. Exploration and discovery." In this article, I’ll be looking at how Hollow Knight crafts a navigation system that stays true to these themes of exploration and discovery by making players earn their progress in areas that are taken for granted in other games. /// Map-rotransactions Plentiful navigational aids are the norm in video games today, almost to a point where they’re counterproductive. It’s a tough tightrope to walk — provide too many map markers, waypoints, and HUDs and risk spoon-feeding players to the point of boredom, or provide too few aids and risk players banging their heads against dead-ends and cul-de-sacs in frustration. Hollow Knight breaks this navigational dilemma into individual components and essentially lets each player walk their own customized tightrope. Hollow Knight’s main navigational aids are a map, a compass to orientate the player, and pins/markers to highlight areas of interest in the map such as benches (which are checkpoints), stagways and tram stations (which are fast travel points), shops to buy and sell items, and so on. Prima facie, this sounds like a lot of navigational help, but they’re a final state that players have to work towards (if they so choose). When the game begins, you have no map, no compass or markers, nothing. Just you and your raggedy nail plummet down into The Forgotten Crossroads, the first big area of Hallownest, and start exploring. After some puttering about, you run into Cornifer, a cheerful cartographer that offers to sell you a map of the area. Find Cornifer in each area to access that area’s (incomplete) map. He mentions that a map alone will mean little and that his wife Iselda has a store in the village above ground that will help you make more sense of your surroundings. Find Iselda in Dirtmouth to fill in your map. It’s in this shop where you can buy a compass that tells you where you are on the map, a quill to fill in parts of the map you explore, and markers for areas of interest that can be placed on the map (either automatically or by the players). Menu of markers and pins that can be purchased for your map. Hollow Knight does a few things right here: It lets players choose the level of navigational support they want. If someone isn’t very skilled at mental models and spatial awareness, they can purchase every marker possible and have their map be a guiding light. If players are more confident of finding their way around (or if they just like the feeling of unforeseen dangers lurking around every corner), then they can choose not to purchase an area’s map from Conifer and go in blind. Even activating many navigational aids doesn’t make the game too easy to explore. The game does this by providing an incomplete ‘fog-of-war’ map from Cornifer every time — it’s up to players to fill it in. Any markers that are bought from the shop also only identify areas of the map where players have already been. So you won’t know bench locations in a new area in advance. Buying the bench pin automatically updates the map with bench locations (that you’ve already been to). Hollow Knight turns basic navigational questions (questions that are usually imperative for game design to answer accurately) such as… Where am I? Where am I? Where do I go from here? …into player-driven choices that require effort and sacrifice. It’s a game about exploration and discovery, after all. Exploration as a gameplay loop Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania, although Team Cherry wouldn’t necessarily apply that label. This roughly means: It has large interconnected areas filled with obstacles and power-ups. The player is able to access new areas by gaining these power-ups and getting stronger in the process. There’s a fair amount of ‘backtracking’ (going through the same areas twice) and getting lost. A simplified version of Hollow Knight’s main gameplay loop is shown below. Once players enter a new area, there’s usually a stiff test to overcome (either a boss battle or a platforming gauntlet) and a new player ability lies at the end of that test. Having gained the new ability, players can now access new areas by using that ability. For example, you enter the Forgotten Crossroads… …to ultimately fight the False Knight (a boss battle). After defeating the False Knight, you gain a new spell-casting ability… …and use this ability to defeat a hitherto invincible enemy… …that was blocking entry into the next area, Greenpath. While loops like this drive the overall narrative, Hollow Knight also has shorter, exploration-focused gameplay loops within each area to help instill a sense of progress as players move towards the end goal of that area. Hollow Knight’s shorter, exploration-focused gameplay loop. When you first enter an area, you don’t have a map for it because you haven’t met Cornifer the map-maker yet. So you explore away, relying on mental models as you succumb to the wonders of the next room and the room after that. All on your own. Hollow Knight never gives you anything for free, but that doesn’t mean finding Cornifer is a completely hit-or-miss exercise. The game provides signifiers of Cornifer’s presence in the form of a paper trail and the sound of him humming a merry tune to guide you along. There you are! Once you have your admittedly rudimentary map, you continue to explore, but this time with a completionist’s itch to turn the rough pencil-strokes of your current map into the high-definition exhibit of penmapship that it’ll undoubtedly become. Turn this… …into this. Apart from the signifiers to Cornifer’s location mentioned earlier, Hollow Knight makes another design choice that, in my opinion, is meant to encourage exploration and map-filling as a gameplay loop. Once you have an area’s map (and your quill), new areas explored will automatically be filled in whenever you save the game or die. This is a game that’s notoriously tough and follows some Dark Souls tenets like taking away all your Geo (currency) whenever you die and forcing you to go back to the location of your death to get it back. But while it takes away some progress as a punishment for dying, it lets you keep your map progress. It’s a stick-and-carrot balance that feels like the game’s telling you, “Yes, this is tough, but now you know what’s around the corner. Try again.” I don’t know what’s real anymore I strongly think that how “real” a game feels doesn’t depend on its graphical fidelity or accurate imitations of real life at all. A game feels “real” when it makes you believe in its setting (however conventionally unrealistic that setting may be) with in-world consistency and a sense of personality. It’s tough to put this exercise into some standardized ten-step process, but executing correct UI choices will usually make the cut. Hollow Knight combines two design considerations, one atmosphere-focused and the other gameplay-focused… Hallownest, a once-vibrant kingdom now swimming in its own detritus, would have had road signs to help travelers find their way. Players will need some guidance when they’re exploring new areas of the map. …by including in-game signs for benches, tram stations, stagways, and more. For example, once you’re in the Royal Waterways, the winding sewers beneath Hallownest’s main city, you soon see a picture of a bench scrawled with chalk on the wall. Time for some well-earned rest. Or if you’re mulling around in the Forgotten Crossroads, you see a sign with a bug and some tracks, leading you to a Stag Station that opens up fast travel to other areas of Hallownest. This sign… …leads to this. These signs are a good example of diegetic UI, which refers to UI elements that are part of the game world and can be seen by both you (the player) and the player-character. It’s not the right UI choice for every game, but usually hits the mark when it simultaneously helps players and builds a sense of consistency and depth in the game world. How Firewatch’s UI enhances immersion Hollow Knight is filled with bits of diegetic UI and signifiers. Almost every bench and fast travel point is earmarked with signs. A swordsmith you can visit near the City of Tears is signified with a sign and a series of failed swords strewn along your path. And your map itself is diegetic, since you physically acquire it within the game and update it with markers and tags that are also real within the game. The game doesn’t pause when you view this map , which is a small but important touch that makes Hallownest feel real. This article is not meant as design truism. Maybe the design choices mentioned above won’t work for your game, and maybe they didn’t work in Hollow Knight for you. But for me, exploring a game’s world has rarely been so organic yet authored, tough yet fair, and mystical yet real. For more stuff on game design, you can visit my Medium profile to read my other articles or follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading! *Note: This article is republished in full on Next Level Design with permission from the author. Source: https://medium.com/@abhishekiyer_25378/how-the-uncharted-games-implement-player-navigation-8a6d12733de0 Follow Abhishek Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nickspinkboots Medium: https://medium.com/@abhishekiyer_25378 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. 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
  4. 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
  5. I’ve been constantly updating and tweaking this “bible” for years. Some of it is informed from previous games I worked on, talks, articles but mostly just experience building levels. I’m constantly learning about the world of level design, and what is detailed below may one day be outdated, irrelevant or otherwise but, for now, consider this a small compendium of terminology we use day-to-day in level design and game development. Themes Themes help define a level and give it an identity within the context of the game. A level should be comprised of a dominant theme which drives its development but may contain several sub-themes within the environment to help define key locations or events. Dominant Themes The dominant theme is the key element driving the player’s emotional investment in the level. It helps inform all elements of a level from environment and atmosphere to game mechanics and audio. A great theme can be described in a single sentence e.g. “Oh that level with the exploding planet!”, “The level with the Scorpion boss fight!” etc. In Uncharted 2, “Mission 16 – Where Am I?” is often referred to as “The village level”. In this case, the unique experience is that you spend a lot of time stuck in a Tibetan village, slowly walking around interacting with civilians. In an action game like Uncharted 2, this really stuck out and became a memorable experience. Some examples of results derived from level themes might be: I want the player to feel like a hero! I want the player to feel anxious and tense. I want the player to feel terrified! I want the player to feel clever. Sub-Themes While dominant themes are used to define entire levels, sub-themes are used to define areas and events within the individual levels themselves. In multiplayer levels, sub-themes are used to define key areas of the level and create spacial-awareness for players. E.g. “I’m in the refinery”, “The enemy is in the lightning nebula”. By defining each space uniquely, players can derive a better understanding of the level more quickly. While sub-themes can be reused across levels, a poor dominant theme is exemplified by levels that can share the same description e.g. “The space level”. In a space-sim like Star Citizen for example, this is not a good use of theming. It’s perfectly acceptable for ten levels to all be set in space, but they must each have another unique theme that separates them from one another. Pacing Narrative driven games all exhibit some sense of pacing. The goal for teams developing narrative games is to ensure that that pacing “graph” is understood and utilised to effectively hold the players attention, accentuate moods and deliver engaging experiences. A basic example of pacing might be: an exciting, action packed sequence such as a vehicle chase being followed by some downtime, such as a puzzle or exploration sequence, before ramping up into a combat sequence. The two “high tempo” moments (chase and combat) are emphasised thanks to the “low tempo” break in between them. In single player levels, themes are used to help craft the sense of pacing. If your chapter ends with a massive, exciting boss fight, you might want to start the chapter slowly. Tight, narrow corridors and claustrophobic environments would help deliver that slow experience, and would really contrast against the exciting battle at the end, emphasising the action. Signposting Levels should be set up to allow the player to quickly orient themselves within the environment. This can be achieved through signposting, which involves setting up structures around the level that act as landmarks for the player. In multiplayer levels signposting is crucial, as players will want to learn layouts as quickly as possible so they can focus fully on fighting other players without worrying about getting lost or confused. It also improves communication between players when they have points of reference to describe to one another. In single player levels, the player’s next goal or destination should be signposted to help guide the player. It should be visible enough to reduce frustration but shouldn’t remove the sense of exploration and challenge. If the player is challenged with uncovering the route, then the steps to achieve this can be signposted through lighting, audio or clever game mechanics. “Show Don’t Tell”: This concept should apply to any challenge placed before the player, including exploration. The player should always be aware of their current objective and have an understanding of what they need to achieve, but the steps involved in achieving it are theirs to discover. We help the player to solve these challenges through aids such as signposting. By placing unique structures at key locations around a level we can introduce a basic concept of “signposting”. “Weenies” are distant landmarks that indicate the direction and composition of a goal. The term was coined by engineers working on Walt Disney World, and was used to refer to buildings that stand above all the others and draw the eye of visitors, enticing them to new areas of the park. “Denial spaces” are an architectural concept where the distant goal or “weenie” is lost to the player or obscured. These make reaching the goal more rewarding and the route there more interesting. “Hero Props” are the key structures within a level and can often also be “Weenies”. These usually involve the most work to get right from both art and design. A “Hero Prop” is typically budgeted higher than other structures in a level. Examples include the Mammoth vehicle in Halo 4’s “Reclaimer” mission or the dam generator in Crysis 3’s “Dam” level. Other points of interest in a level can even be developed solely through unique use of lighting and audio. Use these to draw the player’s attention by combining them with scene composition to indicate waypoints and goals. Changing the lighting and atmosphere of a familiar area can also make it distinct and unique within a level, which helps asset reuse and budgets. Level Boundaries Level boundaries are split into two types: Hard Boundaries and Soft Boundaries. Hard Boundaries Hard Boundaries are physical walls or obstructions that prevent the player from leaving the level. They are easier to understand from a player’s perspective but they add to a levels sense of confinement and restrictiveness. Soft Boundaries Soft Boundaries are traditionally found in open levels such as in space-sims or multiplayer levels in games such “Battlefield”. When the player steps over an invisible boundary they are presented with a message informing them to return to the playable area. Vistas Vistas are observation points in a level that give the player a sprawling view of an interesting landscape. These landscapes can be inside or outside the playable area Inside Playable Area A vista that looks out across a playable area may help the player see gameplay opportunities, story events or objectives. These are empowering moments for players and allow them the opportunity to obtain foresight of new encounters and develop tactical strategies ahead of time. They can also be considered “vantage” points. Playable area vistas should also show the player multiple route options through a space while also hiding areas you want the player to uncover and explore. Vistas within the gameplay space can also be used to compose moments of narrative storytelling for the player to observe without having to force the player camera out of the player’s control. Outside Playable Area Vistas that look out to non-playable space are usually intended to create a spectacular moment or “wow” moment within a level. These can be utilised to enhance moments of “downtime” within a level. A vista that looks out to non-playable areas can also give levels a sense of scale and openness while keeping the actual playable area quite restricted. Visual Language We can enhance the players understanding of an environment by developing a clear visual language that is consistent across our levels. This will assist players in understanding such things as; what areas of a level they can access? What objects can they interact with? etc. Readability Readable environments are ideally devoid of clutter and have reduced visual noise. That is not to say they are not complex or interesting, but they should present gameplay opportunities and routes clearly without frustrating the player. Consistency Consistent environment rules such as attributing a specific light colour for “usable” equipment (blue LED’s or illuminated monitor screens) and colour coding environmental mechanics (red barrels = explosive barrels or yellow = climbable ledges in Uncharted) can give the player familiar elements to help them more quickly understand any new environments. Telegraphing Some environmental features will have components that may cover even larger areas of the level. These can be used to guide the player toward an object or event. Examples include wires leading to a generator, literal signs that warn of dangers such as mines or narrative elements that foreshadow a specific environment. Games such as The Last of Us have good usage of foreshadowing in environments. Usually you are given a hint of what’s in store later in the level by finding survivor notes or environmental storytelling early on. Wow Moments/Set Pieces Wow moments/set pieces are a kind of in game cinematic. They are any take-away moments of spectacle that happen in a level and should literally leave the player thinking (or shouting!) “wow!”. Some “wow moments” can be completely player generated (see Battlefield MP), however most often these will be scripted sequences developed for a particular level. They are infrequent in order to preserve their impact as well as the fact that they are usually expensive to create. Gates Within the context of level design, gates are methods by which a designer controls the linear progression through what would seem to the player to be non-linear worlds. Hard Gates Hard Gates are used to halt the player from progressing any further until they complete an objective or similar criteria. A classic example of a gate in a level is the “keycard” which is required to open a sealed door. Soft Gates Soft Gates are similar in principal to standard Gates, except they can be completed at any time and only serve to slow the player down. A Soft Gate will slow the players progress down through a map, but the criteria to bypass it is not particularly challenging. Examples of soft gating might be a corridor blocked by steam escaping from a pipe, with a valve nearby to turn it off. The gate has succeeded in preventing the player from charging ahead but the means by which they bypass the gate are simple, if not time consuming. Objectives and Rewards Objectives Objectives should be immediately obvious to a player in terms of what they must accomplish. Trial and error should be kept to a minimum. If a player has a solution that makes sense to them, the game should accommodate it. How to accomplish an objective is for the player to discover, however hints and signposting of objectives will be crucial to resolve frustration. Rewards Players should be rewarded frequently with items, story snippets, currency or even a new vista to observe. This is crucial feedback to keep the player feeling invested in a level. Compulsion Loops A compulsion loop is a process whereby the player is rewarded for completing a task and wishes to repeat the action for a similar reward. Repeating the action several times accumulates several rewards, which can be used to accomplish an even tougher task. Each “compulsion loop” can feed another in this way, generating minute-to-minute and hour-to-hour goals. E.g. I want to collect 10 relics in Far Cry 3 tonight (short task requiring exploration) OR I want to unlock 2 new signature weapons (longer task requiring 100 relics). Players can set the scope of their goal for differing play sessions this way. Levels should accommodate immediate goals for players as well as long term goals. Level Design Practice Arena The term “arena” refers to a specific area within a level where the player will encounter some kind of challenge, event or obstacle. Arenas are non-linear spaces, meaning they offer players multiple options in combat and opportunities to explore the environment. They can also include sandbox elements that allow players to formulate unique, tactical opportunities and multiple ways to complete objectives. Arenas can be quite large but have well-defined perimeter borders. Players should always have a decent sense of the scope of the arena upon entering it, even if some parts are obscured from sight. Arenas are generally pro-active gameplay spaces. The player will have an opportunity to choose when to enter combat and can dictate the pacing and flow more than a reactive space. Fronts A “front” is generally a location in a level where an individual or group of faction members establish a foothold. Usually this is in direct defense of the players primary goal, but it is advisable to change up the fronts of battle (or battlefronts!) during a combat sequence to keep the encounter fresh and keep the player moving. Directed Sequence A “Directed Sequence” is a linear space that usually includes a moment of scripted gameplay that the player must engage in. These can include set pieces, forced combat encounters, cinematics or on-rails sections. Directed Sequences are reactive and can be used to control the pacing and flow of key moments in the campaign more tightly than arenas. Exotic Gameplay Exotic Gameplay describes any sequence of gameplay that is not part of the core mechanics set. These might be sections developed exclusively for a single level or section of a level. Exotic Gameplay can provide an immersive, cinematic setpiece to the player within a controlled environment that does not hamper or imbalance existing core gameplay mechanics. Non-Linear Design Illusion of Non-Linearity Sometimes even splitting a single corridor in two can give a space the illusion of non-linearity. Simple decisions such as this keep the player engaged with the level and exploring new options. Verticality Arenas are not restricted to a single plane and vertical routes can be used to gain strategic advantages in combat. These routes are empowering and keep the play space interesting and dynamic, but can also introduce imbalance to an encounter quickly. If a level features a vertical route, AI should be able to reach any area the player can reach. Even slight variations in terrain height can keep a level interesting. Any pathways leading to higher sections must be readable however, as multi-tier levels can quickly become noisy. Vantage Points Vantage Points are elevated locations in an arena that give players key, tactical advantages by providing an overview of the area. Example of vantage point in Far Cry 3 Overview – The player can get a good initial idea of the arena, its scope and its contents. Observe – The player can see any AI in the scene doing something. (Patrolling, talking, working). They can also see their objective. (The next doorway, the switch, the kill target, the kill targets room etc). Also observable are sandbox elements the player can harness within the arena. Plan – The player can formulate a plan of action based on the intel they gathered from a vantage point. Execute – The player leaves the vantage point to execute their plan. Execution does not always go according to plan, however, and so the arena is designed for dynamic play styles instead of a strict execution method. Reward – The player is rewarded. Rewards can take the form of equipment and currency OR story information, a cool cutscene or wow moment! Linear Design When is it ok to be linear? There are occasions where linear design is preferred for gameplay, pacing or technical reasons. Directed Sequences See above. Exotic Gameplay See above. Valves Valves are corridors that connect two areas of a level. They can be used to stream one area out and the next one in. Backgating Backgating is the process of disallowing a player to return to the area they just left. g. forcing the player to fall down a steep drop. Closing and locking a door behind them etc. Exposition A linear section of a level is useful for delivering key story information that is pertinent to the player. Composition Linear sections can ensure the player is facing a certain direction if the designer wants to frame an event or vista for the player to observe. Experiential When it enriches the gameplay experience designers may want to include a linear path through an area. g. shimmying across a ledge, walking through a crowd, crawling through a tunnel. Cover Cover for FPS battles is generally split into two categories: Hard Cover and Soft Cover. Hard Cover Hard Cover is any solid object in the gameplay area that the player can use to block incoming fire and break line of sight. It offers complete protection from projectiles. Examples include concrete barriers, walls and pillars. Soft Cover Soft Cover is any object that obscures the player’s profile and can be used to hide from enemies or distort their perception of the player. This cover does not protect the player from projectiles however. Examples include cloth, vegetation, wood and glass. When a player enters a combat scenario they must be able to immediately identify the cover available to them in the area. Consistency in cover through metrics will play a huge role in being able to identify what will protect the player and what won’t. Cover should ideally sit around half-height or full-height. Players become frustrated when attempting to take cover behind an object that still leaves part of their profile exposed to incoming fire, especially if it results in death! If something looks like it should offer cover, then it should be the correct height. Spaces should have interesting cover layouts that include a mix of this full and half-height cover. Cover should be used to block long lines of sight in a level and promote “flow”. Soft cover can also be used to this effect, but players will sometimes expect to move through soft cover (if it’s tall grass, a bush or a breakable wooden crate) instead of around it. This can open up more risky/stealthy routes for players to utilise. Cover should never be scattered around a level at repetitious, consistent intervals. Not only does this create too much visual noise and chaos, it also hinders pathfinding for AI and causes a lot of snagging for players, restricting flow. Cover should instead be “clustered” into interesting groups and placed strategically. The space between cover is as important as the cover itself. Players should be forced to make risk/reward decisions about moving between cover locations. A dash between two cover objects can be an exciting choice as opposed to a monotonous chore. The cover should promote tactical, risk/reward movements across the battlefield and should not just be laid out in a column down the level. The term “rope swinging” is sometimes used to describe how the player moves between cover. Cover layouts should introduce opportunities for flanking tactics. No single cover object should be so overpowered that all attackers must attack it from the same direction. Players should require battlefield awareness to stay alive, as AI should be able to flank cover from multiple directions. Cover layouts should give players a chance to fall back or retreat when overextended. Players are still susceptible to death if they make poor choices, but a little leeway in the form of retreat routes helps keep the pace and flow of combat fluid. This also adds to the sandbox feeling of an arena, as challenges change over time and are never static. In an arena, cover layouts should promote non-linearity within a confined space. If the player only has a limited amount of cover to use, the space will feel very restrictive regardless of how large the environment might be. By planning multiple routes and vantage points through a space, these areas feel less linear and much more open. Cover should be used to guide players around the level, much like a multiplayer level, and promote traversal and exploration. However, in this way cover layouts can also be used to create a specific narrative experience, so knowing how to utilise the mechanics of your game to create these moments is important. Sandbox Gameplay Player Agency In level design, a sandbox space is one which provides players with a greater extent of player agency. The player should have many tools available to them to make meaningful choices with regards to combat and objectives. There should rarely be one, singlular, scripted method to completing an objective and instead the player should utilise emergent game rules to accomplish objectives however they want. Delivering this level of player agency requires a holistic design where game mechanics never have a singular bespoke purpose, and instead can be used in as many ways as the player can imagine. The properties of a mechanic should be modelled to interact with as many other mechanics as the player expects. E.g. A blow torch can be contextually restricted to only open sealed doors OR it can be used to open any sealed doors AND burn paper AND burn wood AND damage enemies etc Readable, Consistent Mechanics By creating consistent rules within levels, players will learn the language of the game through repeated interactions with each mechanic. By modelling realistic properties within each asset/mechanic, players can utilise them however they want and expect each asset/mechanic to react accordingly (affordance). Players entering a new space will recognize familiar mechanics, allowing them to make more informed tactical decisions and formulate unique strategies. Players will be able to personalize their play styles, which is why it is crucial to develop features that work within a holistic environment. Any elements in a play space that are too bespoke will deny players the ability to personalize their experience. Levels should try to accommodate a high first-try success rate for player actions. This doesn’t mean the game should be easy! The challenge for players is formulating a tactic or solution, but executing the tactic once they’ve figured it out should not be frustrating. For example, if the player needs to drag a crate from one end of a level to another, the crate should fit down the corridor without having to snag over objects or frustratingly snag on walls. This could lead the player to believe the solution they thought they had figured out isn’t actually the correct one. Interior Spaces Flanking Any combat spaces should enable the player AND AI to flank one another. Interiors are a great way to accomplish this. Interiors should ideally have more than two entry points to keep players on their toes and watching their corners. Crossfire Crossfire keeps action interesting. Plan for areas where players and AI can establish “fronts” or bunkers. Height variation and verticality can be used to keep these spaces diverse. Cover Interiors are one of the most obvious areas of cover for players. Take advantage of this by rewarding players for exploring interiors with ammo or new routes inside. AI should always be able to flank, ambush or flush a player out of an interior. This will keep the action flowing around the level and keep combat feeling diverse as well as emergent. Exploration Interiors can hold rewards inside them that benefit players who explore each environment. New sandbox toys could be hidden inside or telegraphed with exterior geometry, enticing players to venture in. Break Up Linear Spaces Interiors are a great way to break up an environment. Ensure players who enter an interior space have two or more ways to exit it. Source: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/my-level-design-guidelines/ Follow Michael Website: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/ Twitter: twitter.com/MotleyGrue Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. What is it that makes a game good? Sam Spryison believes that in the case of Resident Evil, the level design (or perhaps more specifically the environmental design) is the primary differentiating factor between the best versions of the game, and the rest. Using the Resident Evil 2 Remake as his case in point, he highlights the importance of evolving a genre over time, while maintaining its core elements. So how exactly environmental design improve a game? It can set the tone for things to come. One of the ways the Resident Evil 2 Remake keeps players invested is by infusing the setting with a variety of secrets. When combining this with a distinct lack of resources, unearthing these secrets can create a great sense of accomplishment. The final key noted by Sam Spyrison in this article is the constant circling back into previously traversed areas, with new tools in hand. Read the full article at this link: https://www.hardcoregamer.com/2019/01/25/resident-evils-best-games-are-defined-by-their-level-design/323370/#disqus_threadFollow SamTwitter: https://twitter.com/sammerblammer?lang=en
  7. Learn how players come up with actions when they are playing your game so that you can design around this. People use a loop structure when they devise the actions that they want to complete in almost any situation. This loops structure is the way the use the information they already have in their head to devise an idea about how to interact with the surroundings. Follow Game Design by Gigity McDYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBDJsz_SgRaV96Xd9gqEemgTwitter: https://twitter.com/GigityMcD
  8. Lately I've been studying the connectivity in classic and modern duel maps and I'd like to share what I've found in this article. I was motivated to study connectivity when I noticed that almost all competitive maps have highly complex junctions between their rooms, especially on the low level. Of course the rooms play well independently, but it's the serpentine way they are woven together that really elevates the gameplay to the next level. The junctions are so intricate that you can almost think of them as additional rooms unto themselves. I think this is what turns a good map into a great one that can be played competitively for years and still not be fully solved by the players. First, if you haven't read my “fundamentals” articles you may want to check them out below because I'll be referencing them from time to time. Fundamentals of Gameplay: Part I & Part IIConnectivity is definitely the most complex topic I have written about yet so I won't be making as many de facto conclusions as my previous articles. What I'm going to do is just observe the connectivity systems using top-down diagrams, classify them into a few groups, explain how the different systems affect flow and map control, and talk a little about which systems I like the best. Of course I'll leave it up to you to make your own conclusions about what you prefer. Ultimately I'd just like to give you and entertaining read that improves your ability to analyze the connectivity in any map whether you are a player or a mapper, and maybe we can have a nice discussion at the end. Also, some of the principles I laid out in my fundamentals articles can only truly be applied to individual rooms, so hopefully this article will make for a more comprehensive model that better describes the big picture of these maps.Analyzing and classifying connectivity systemsConnectivity can be difficult to describe because in a way it exists everywhere, but in order to study connectivity we have to break the maps down into simpler parts. Like my previous articles, I am going to do this using the different levels of the map (low, middle, high), and the level we are going to be focusing on the most is the low one. My main reason for classifying the connectivity systems based on the low level goes back to the height-and-continuity relationship. Basically this states that the low level is the most continuous and the high level is more fragmented. Therefore, the low level will be the driving force that lays the foundation for the connectivity system and the high levels will serve to support it. We are going to see a couple slight exceptions to the height-and-continuity relationship with the maps Furious Heights and Dismemberment. In those maps the continuity is more balanced between the high and low levels, but for consistency I am still going to analyze them the same way. Really it isn't that important which level we choose since the levels of a map are like cousins to one another, we just need to pick one that plays a dominant role and study it.I think of connectivity systems as a collection of branches and loops which form more intricate shapes. A branch is defined as any significant one-directional path and a loop is any path that has a circular flow. I am going to categorize the eight maps in this study into three groups: branched layouts, top-loop layouts, and bottom-loop layouts. Branched layouts have many one-way paths on the low level which usually end in forced transitions to higher levels. (By “forced”, I mean the player has to do a complete 180 to avoid taking them.) Top-loop layouts also have branched lower levels, but have an unusually expansive upper level that connects the majority of the map. Bottom-loop maps have a roughly circular path running through the lower level and have very few branches or forced transitions.A few other odds and ends to mention: Although transition points are colored in yellow in my diagrams, I am going to include the stairs on the low level leading up to the middle level as part of the low-level connectivity system. Basically everything up until the middle level cutoff point will be thought of as the low level. Also, for simplicity I am not going to be doing to much analysis on across-the-map teleporters like in Blood Run, but this would be an interesting thing to study another time. Finally, I have to mention that my model for studying connectivity only holds up for multi-atrium maps. Maps that are primarily made of one large central atrium, e.g. Aerowalk, can't be studied in this way. It's just too hard to distinguish the junctions from the rooms they are connecting. I'll post a diagram of Aerowalk below in case anyone is interested in studying it.Branched layouts: (Blood Run, Toxicity, Lost World, Campgrounds)Blood Run by ztnNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: T-shaped junction Blood Run is a great starting point for this article because it's a very obvious example of a branched connectivity system. If you look at the purple level, it creates a simple T-junction with the three branches of the T leading each leading to an atrium. (Note that this means each room can only have one door on the low level. Any other doors must lead to forced transition points within that same room or to teleporters leading elsewhere.) The T-junction makes for a really interesting connectivity system where players have many chances to cut each other off from passing between rooms. As a result, Blood Run has some of the most dominant positional map control of all the maps in this study.The problem with the T-junction is it doesn't have very much flow. In Joel McDonald's Competitive Level Design Guide, he states, “Generally, a map needs to have a circular flow on the macro level.” That's where the top levels (green and red) come in. The top levels connect the branches and create a perfect figure-8 flow for the whole map. Now you have a map that flows AND gives opportunity for interesting control of areas by allowing players to cut each other off between rooms. Blood Run is a perfect example of a connectivity system where the low level lays the foundation and the high level serves to complete the circular flow of the whole map by tying together the loose ends where the low paths branched out. Of course it's not a totally linear layout either. Some paths still overlap such as the top path above the T-junction and this allows the rooms to have interesting multi-level gameplay.Toxicity by thefuryNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: U shape with two branches Toxicity is another classic branched layout and it has a unique and complex low central junction. I'd describe the top-right portion of the low path as a U-shape and the rest of the low level as two branched paths sticking off of it. (I suppose you could also call it an X-junction.) The branches lead into the MH and RA rooms and both ends of the U shape lead to the high YA room. This kind of isolates the RA and the MH from each other while keeping them both well connected to the high YA room. The low passage also allows players to see straight across the map and this can be exploited by the dominating player for lining up spawn kills. The high paths generally sit on the sides of the low branches rather than being directly joined to them and they turn the overall flow into a triple-ring shape. This is a good point to talk about door placement and introduce a principle that I call the rule of two sides. If you look at the three rooms in this map as simple rectangles, you will notice that each room has its doors stacked on at most two sides of that rectangle. Exceptions to the rule can be found in maps with a large centralized room such as Lost World or Campgrounds. Central atriums tend to have doors on three sides. Otherwise, the rule holds up quite well. You may have to use your imagination a bit as to where exactly the boundaries of a room are, but directionally speaking in almost all cases you will only enter/exit a room from two of its four sides.At this point I can imagine some Q3 players scratching their heads thinking, “Well, DUH!” Pointing out the doors-on-two-sides rule or saying that the rooms in branched layouts can only have on door on the low level may be overstating the obvious to some, but I think this could help a lot of mappers during the gameplay-planning phase of their maps. Understanding the consequences of door placement allows mappers to be a lot more intentional with their designs. If a mapper starts a layout by designing a room that has entrances in three different directions, he knows that this room is going to have to be centrally placed. If he wants his map to have a branched connectivity system, he knows that he can't have more than one door entering/exiting his rooms on the low level. This could save mappers a lot of headaches during planning and allow them to make intentional rather than random decisions when connecting their rooms together.Lost World by id SoftwareNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: loop with three branches In the case of Lost World I am going to analyze the connectivity system on the green level since the two levels below it are negligible. Lost World is a three-atrium map with the largest of the atriums centralized. The connectivity system is composed of a looped path which connects the central and top room and three branches sticking off of the loop. Each of the branches ends in a forced transition upwards. Interestingly, the YA room with the curved staircase only has two doors and is quite isolated from the rest of the map, so players have to be very wary about getting trapped there. The connectivity on the upper level is similar to the lower level except it doesn't have a complete loop. The complexity of Lost World's connectivity system leads to slower games, but its heavily branched layout provides a lot of interesting opportunities for map control and I think this is a key reason for its longevity in the pro map pools.Campgrounds by id SoftwareNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: loop with two branches People have talked about the flow and connectivity of Campgrounds for years so I won't spend as much time discussing it here. Campgrounds used to be a staple in pro duels and it was my favorite layout for a long time, but in recent years it has been all but abandoned for being too easy to dominate. This is mainly because the map only has three armors and the dominating player can occasionally run all of them, but it's also because the map is so well-connected that the out-of-control player has nowhere to hide. Campgrounds is unique because it's like two connectivity systems built into one map. The low system is a loop with two large branches leading to YA and RA, and the middle system is a large figure-8 with another branch sticking off. If I was going to make a Campgrounds remake, I'd be interested to see how the map played with a more fragmented middle level system. Any of the three middle level paths between the RA and MH rooms could easily be removed and the map would still flow fine. (Don't worry though, I'm not going to make a Campgrounds remake.)Top-loop layouts: (Furious Heights, Dismemberment)Furious Heights by id SoftwareNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: hip junction with two branches Dismemberment by HubsterNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: hip junction with three branches I'm going to talk about both of these maps at the same time because they both employ the same tricks to balance their extensive top routes. I remember these maps were an enigma to me when I first saw them because I didn't think they could possibly be balanced. Why on Earth would the dominating player ever drop down to the low routes of the map when he can get to every room using the top level? Well, from a continuity standpoint, both maps use a lot of stairs, choke points, and forced jumps to balance the upper level. From a connectivity standpoint, both maps have a direct connection between the RA and MH rooms which I call a hip junction. The hip junction makes it extremely fast to run the main items using the low level, which makes the dominating player more inclined to use it. The upper paths are much slower, for example in Furious Heights the high path to the low-YA room actually forces the player to meander out and behind the armor before dropping down to it. One other thing I'd like to point out which is not connectivity related is that Dismemberment has only two levels and Furious Heights barely has a third level between high and low. In maps with only two levels, top loops seem to be less of an issue but they still need to be balanced.Bottom-loop layouts: (Sinister, Cure)Sinister by yellack & akmNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: loop with one branch Cure by cityyNumber of rooms: 3Connectivity system: loop with two (small) branches Sinister and Cure are two popular duel maps that I have identified which have little to no branching in their connectivity systems. (My map Goldleaf is another example.) You can see that the rooms are connected on the lower level by a simple loop. This means that there are two ways to enter/exit any room on the lower level which makes it a little harder for players to cut each other off between rooms. It also means the transition points are not forced because there is a functioning circular flow on the lower level. In other words, the levels on the map function more independently compared to branched layouts where the levels are woven together by the transitions between them.Although maps like Sinister and Cure have proven that bottom-loop systems can work well, this is probably the type of connectivity system I prefer the least. I think branched layouts incorporate the different levels together more naturally and also encourage exploitation of the connectivity system for map control. Loop layouts also just feel less complex in general. That's not to say that I don't enjoy fragging in Sinister and Cure – I do. I also don't think any one formula exists for optimal map making and I'd much rather have variety in the map pools anyway. I'd be really interested to hear what other people enjoy the best!Here are a couple more examples that were added after the fact:Aerowalk by Preacher & Hubster Trespass by Pat HowardNumber of rooms: 3.5 (maybe 4)Connectivity system: Jughandle branch That's all for now. For any players reading this, I hope you now have a slightly better understanding of the connectivity systems in your favorite maps. For mappers, hopefully this gives you more foresight and saves you some headaches about how to connect your rooms together. Rather than thinking about connectivity as simple hallways from point A to point B, I suggest you consider it to be just as important if not more important than the gameplay of each individual room. With this in mind, we can think about connectivity less in terms of the quantity of connections in a map and more in terms of the quality of them.Source: https://www.quake3world.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=51102 Follow Patlvlword: https://lvlworld.com/author/Pat%20HowardTwitter: https://twitter.com/lvlpathoward 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. Using CS:GO and Overwatch as the main foundations upon which to builds his case, Flusher shares his views on what makes a good competitive FPS map in this video: Here are the main points of discussion: Level Design is tied to Game Design Mobility and Perception (or Movement and Lines of Site) Loops Timing Management Skill Opportunities Follow Flusher Flusher on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSFm1rKp0SlfwFRowlFyq9Q/ Flusher on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FlusherTheDude?lang=fr