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  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. Max Pears, host of Level Design Lobby, discusses the Illusion of Space in games. What is it, and how can this tool be used give players the sense that they are in a real life place? 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
  3. a Chunk

    Level Design Lobby Patreon

    Greetings all, and welcome to our very first official 'Community Feature'. At Next Level Design, we have 4 primary pillars that guide us, with these 4 pillars essentially being 2 pairs of pillars. 'Learn/Grow' would be the first pair of pillars, and then second is 'Share/Connect'. All 'Community Features' will focus on these pillars. Our inaugural Feature offers an opportunity to Connect with one of our most highly recommended resources - Level Design Lobby. We've previously featured content from the Level Design Lobby Podcast and Youtube. Today we want to share with you the final piece of the puzzle - Level Design Lobby Patreon. Level Design Lobby But first, let's back up for a moment, for those that are unfamiliar with Level Design Lobby. Exactly what is the Level Design Lobby? One of our earliest articles (Level Design Lobby - An Interview with Max Pears) provides some background on the Level Design Lobby, and it's founder Max Pears. Max has been working as a level designer in the gaming industry for 6.5 years on a range of titles (check his portfolio out on his site: (http://www.maxpears.com/), and has great passion for learning and teaching about level design. Through Level Design Lobby, he has published well over 100 Level Design YouTube videos over the last 2 years. He has also published numerous articles, several of which have been published here on Next Level Design (including articles on Shape Theory, Introducing Game Mechanics, and the NLD Original series Level Design for Combat). There's a plethora of content out there from Max which demonstrates his base of knowledge, his eagerness to learn, and his talent for teaching. In preparation for this Feature, we've done a wee interview: NLD: What made you want to start the podcast? Max: It feels so long ago since I started the podcast, despite it only being two years. For me, I was writing a lot of articles at the time but I always felt that I had not found my voice in the way that I wrote, as well as the fact each article took time to piece together so my production rate was quite low. Why I mention the production rate is because of the fact that for a long time Game Design yet alone Level Design, had very limited resources being shared, you could see online that people were still getting confused between level design and environment art. One weekend I was on the phone to my best friend talking about these thoughts, he mentioned that there was a mic on sale and I should try podcasting, so I decided to buy it and give it ago, now 100+ failed recordings and hating the sound of my own voice I create the Level Design Lobby. The one thing that makes me happy with the podcast is that back when I was studying Level Design I would have loved this as a resource, so if I can make a student or aspiring level design feel like their work is improving and help them avoid some of the pitfalls that I made them I know that my podcast has done its job. NLD: What is your favorite Episode? Max: Wow, that is a tough one....hhhmmm..it is hard to say, I have been fortunate enough to have guests on the show who I admire as well have those who I look up to as big brothers of the industry on my show is incredible. If I had to pick a favorite episode I would go with .... Episode 52 Level Design Replay-ability Level Design Lobby Patreon For those of you that may not be familiar with Patreon, it's a membership platform that provides tools for creators to run a subscription content service, with ways for them to build relationships and provide exclusive content and experiences to their subscribers, or "patrons". Max was kind enough to answer a question about the Level Design Lobby Patreon as well. NLD: Why did you create a Patreon? Max: As obvious as it is to say it helps to cover the cost, as well as build up the quality with better equipment, provide animations for the youtube, etc it also helps me build up a better relationship with those who listen to the show. They can share their voices not only with me but others in the community, by creating this patreon I am able to build a fantastic community from professionals to students from all over the globe. With this as well, I mentioned that I wish I had this resource back when I was learning, but now thanks to the patreon I can push those resources even further! By tasking the supporters with bi-weekly tasks to awesome Level Design Weekends I can help prepare those who want a better portfolio and help them understand what goes into a good portfolio. Having a space in which others and myself can discuss level design and share amazing resources is my goal with the patreon, and seeing some of the member's graduate from their education to get a job and now helping those who are still in education or building a portfolio is to me what makes my community special. What, you ask, will I get from the Patreon that I won't get from the other content Max has shared? The answer is simple - In addition to getting his best content, you'll get his time and attention, and the opportunity to learn from his experience. Here are some comments from community members that have invested: "Level Design Lobby is a collection of excellent resources and tips to improve your work and yourself, bolstered by an amazing community that goes above and beyond to help everyone succeed." - Snow Lvl 5 Supporter "The challenges have really helped me grow in my level design process. I'm really enjoying being subscribed at the level design weekend tier!" - Ali Lvl 10 Supporter "I have learned a lot from Max! How to reveal a level slowly, putting focus bit by bit. Techniques on how to make the player lookup. I can see there are good challenges and that they are really helpful in becoming a better level designer." - MarcoT Lvl 50 Supporter Patreon Levels There are multiple levels at which you can invest in the Level Design Lobby Patreon. Here's an info-graphic showing some of what's included at each level: And a bit of a closer look at the $5 and $10 levels: Check out the Level Design Lobby Patreon Page for much more detail about what goes along with each level. Level Design Lobby is listed as one of our Recommended Resources for a reason - it offers some of the best level design information available online, and comes from an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated level designer, with a proven track record. This is a great opportunity for you to upgrade your level design skills. Level Design Lobby Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leveldesignlobby Special Offer: We're very happy to announce a Next Level Design/Level Design Lobby Patreon Special Offer! Those that sign up at the $5 level will get the additional reward of a 20 minute 1 on 1 consultation with Max. This offer is available for the next 30 days, so take advantage of it while you can. This consultation is typically only available to those who sign up at the $25 level. It can be used for whatever you feel best suits you, but here are a few examples of what this type of consultation is best suited for: - Reviewing work/CV (Resume) - Answering questions about how to stand out in the games industry - Assigning a task to help create a portfolio piece To activate this reward, join the LDL discord server (You will be automatically invited once joining the Patreon). Once you've joined, message Promo Code NLD20 to user 'Max Pears' in a private message. From there you will arrange a time for the call. And with that we conclude our first Community Feature. We look forward to sharing many more valuable resources and interesting content in the future. Now head over to the Level Design Lobby Patreon, get signed up, and take advantage of this great opportunity to Connect with Max, Share your work, Learn from his experience, and Grow as a result of the interaction. Follow Max/Level Design Lobby 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. 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
  5. Hello all of you fantastic and wonderful people, I am BACK! I just want to say thank you all so much for the support and kind words from part 1 of my article. Great to see that many of you enjoyed it and feel like you have learnt something from it, but we can not linger in the past, instead we must look forward to the second part of what makes good level design for combat. Introduction In the first part, I discussed how important it is for you to understand your metrics, scale, weapon, etc. All this planning helps you to create great levels, now that we have an understanding of these crucial elements, it is on us as LDs to crafts spaces that players can have a great amount of fun and enjoyment with. In this article I will be breaking down the next steps of the process of the 2d design, then looking at a level I created and breaking down what I think made it a good level for combat. Pre-production - Research Now that we have gathered all the useful information to help us we need to move through to the research stage of our level design. This stage can not and should not be skipped, it is crucial to not only making a good level but also a believable level (A quick side tangent, always keep in mind and to quote my friend Stuart Scott we are creating ‘Believable not realistic spaces’ meaning we do have creative freedom within our levels) Now you will be set a location for your level, this could be a castle, maybe a hotel or even a space station. Regardless of what that location may be you will need to make sure that you have an understanding of how these spaces work such as: What rooms do this area normally contain? Where is the toilet? How do people interact with this location before the player arrives? How does it connect to other spaces? What is its architectural style? Where can you find this location? Which country is this location located? And other such questions, in order to answer these then you must first do research. You can do this by googling pictures, then entering google maps to find a real life example, you can start to see how the location looks in real life. Videos are also a great help, or there might even be an example in other games. I strongly recommend of gathering not just images of the location but also floor plans as well. The reason for this is it helps you see the overall picture of a location as well as how some typically look. Not only that but this is a great starting point for your own level, as you can use this as a basis for your level. Even better with this, you can not start to see which rooms in a floor plan can be kept, removed or altered. Maybe there are too many rooms that are dead ends which do not give a good loop for combat, or there are not enough spaces for hidden loot, well now you can tweak these in your floor plan but still keep that location based in reality. From doing your research not only will you have a basic understanding of how the locations flows together but you can grasp the theme of location, how it looks at certain times of days, How it will look if it is abandoned or when it is fully functional. Now the gathering resources is in full motion, you can use many different cool tools to store them, from it either being a folder on your computer or Pinterest or Google Docs as long as you have easy ways to access your files that is the most important thing. It is important because you will need to make sure you have access to them while creating your level to constantly reference. Yet it is not only important for your beautiful LD eyes but it will come in handy in reviews, so that when leads or directors are checking your work they can see why it looks the way it does but also helps them understand how you got to this layout and why, also this will really help your teammates in Enviro Art so they can get a much more vivid vision of how the location should look. As for example you may be asked to build a level set in a church, but this church is built in a Latin community. Yet when I think of a church I visualize a huge Gothic church in the shape of a cross, but that would never fit inside a Latin community. By doing your research you can see how different areas and communities view the same space, making sure you create more authentic and believable spaces. Once you have gathered enough references (50 images minimum in my opinion) you can start to move to the next step. Pre-production - 2d Map One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “Max should I do 2d maps, is that the right way?” now for me the answer is yes. I used to do them and then stopped and just jumped straight into the blockout, but I noticed that my quality of my work decrease as well as it taking longer when staring at that ominous blank screen. There are many reasons I believe 2d sketches to be important, such as: Quicker to start work on blockout Easier to address feedback Allows you to see the flaws quicker Helps you go through multiple iterations before choosing and starting a blockout Now I know some of my other friends and other designers I have met use Google Sketch-Up before creating their blockout as it helps get a better sense of scale. Honestly both are great, the point you should take away from this section is that you need to plan before your blockout. People also feel that when they do a 2d map or a form of planning they feel that they are trapped? I put a ‘?’ because you should not. This is a plan meaning this can and should change, this is your starting point! Meaning that you can and must make changes as you see fit, I even did this in a recent level I made, do not be afraid to change from your plan if it does not feel right. Now with these points added to your pipeline of level creation we are going to do a break down of a combat level I created and break it down. (Before we do this though, do make sure to check out this great article which is fantastic for what to think about when creating your levels and brings forth some additional points on things to consider when making your levels) Case Study - Part 1 Okay, you now know how important pre-production is to your level, we are now going to get to the sexy part, which is the level itself. I created a small combat level for a task, now we will be breaking down the level and showing what I believe helps make this level good for combat. Quick side note, all of those documents in part one were my design rules and metrics and those were what I was referring to when I created my level. This level was not built or set on any particular location, we had a week to create Three combat spaces, so there is no reference images, just more of me creating a space that felt right. With no research I had my restrictions for space of 30x30m as well I could only use five enemies, with cover spacing of 2m and with that I created my 2d map. As you can see, it is not the prettiest of sketches but it gets the job done. It is very important when you do a sketch that you do use grid paper. The reason for this that you can get a sense of scale as well when it comes to putting it in the editor it you can translate the cube on the paper for 1m and use that to block out your level in the editor. When creating the level (and hopefully you can see this) that I wanted essentially split the space into quarters, so that the player could feel a difference in each section, but also feel a sense of progression. Quartering the level allowed me to reveal information to the player slowly, not just throwing them into the middle of a battle ground. It allows the player to focus on the task at hand, before showing more slowly, also by hiding certain information from the player it also plays to their disadvantage making the challenge feel even stronger. Another reason I was splitting up the space is the fact that it can and will reduce Long lines of sight. This way it forces players to move through the space in order to engage in combat, while also making them move to get an understanding of how the space is connected. Part of how I quarter the level is by dividing the space between interior and exterior spaces, most of the right hand side is set in the interior space, while the left hand space is kept in the open space to the exterior. This is handy for combat as players will have a different feel in each of the spaces. Exterior - players will have bigger spaces to engage in combat, having flanking opportunities, as well as having a larger line of sight to deal with and keep an eye on as enemies progress. Interior - players will be kept in a much more narrow space forcing them to focus on the front of combat as they battle with the enemies to move forward. Not only is this designed to have a visual separation but also designed like this to provide a number of ways in which players have to deal with the different encounters as well, making the space feel different too. You have now seen why I have decided to quarter the layout but it would not be much of a plan if I did not think about how the enemies occupy this space. Here is the plan I had for my enemies in the space as well: (The enemies are the Red Diamonds with the giant E, inside them. While the player is the Green Circle, with the P inside it) Before I jump to why I have placed the enemies in this position I want to talk about the players position first. This is sometimes an oversight when designing a level but trust me when I say, how the player first sees the level will inform how they play your level. One of the biggest/basic mistakes I see in beginners work is that the designer places the player facing the wrong direction, so make sure you place the players avatar facing the direction you want them to move towards. Look at how Mario always faces the right as players must move right. With that same context I have it so my player faces forward leading them towards the window and to the turning on the left (we will break down why that is important later) but a big reason why I have placed the player a bit away from enemies is for safety. Players can start my level without feeling pressure right away. Allowing them to find their bearing before entering combat. Switching gears now, we will look at enemy placement, now I have only showed you their starting off placement not their patrol route. We will talk about their route when it comes to the blockout phase. One of the key things I have tried to do here is that I have tried to hide enemies from the players initial view. If you look at both the top right and bottom left, there are two enemies in each section, yet only one is visible in the players initial LoS. The reason behind this is: To surprise the player, this way it keeps the engagement interesting Reward the players who do not go in guns blazing, those who statergise and truly take in the level will be able to not be caught off guard. Conclusion From this article I hope you have understood the importance of research and planning, this is a necessary stage to make great levels, as well as seeing some questions you should as yourself as you start working on your level. Always make sure to build up a library of references because the more you know the more authentic and believable your space will become. Floor plans are a great place to start when it comes to creating your own 2d maps, as you can use them to help ground your level or even the foundation of your own level. 2d maps don’t need to be art, as long as it is understandable and makes sense then that is the most important thing. Plan the position of your player and your enemies as that will help you get an even better understanding of how the level will actually flow with your objectives. I was planning for us to start looking over the blockout of the level but honestly I think it has turned out better that we have focused solely on the planning phase of development. Because now you can understand how important it is, as well as see my thought process when creating this level. Next will be the concluding part of this mini-series on making a combat level. I did not want to explain all of my design choices in this post as you will see in the next part that some of changed, but also I believe it will be better to see them within the level I have built. Please Support Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you have found it useful. If you do want to hear more about my thoughts on level design, then please checkout my podcast: iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K Read Part 3 Here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. Hello Everyone! It has been a long, long time since I have written an article but what can I say Inspiration hit me! Before I begin, I want to say the way that inspiration struck all came across by taking part in an online course I recently just finished on CGMA which was ten weeks long. Thank you very much to Em Schatz for putting the course together and to Patrick Haslow for being a great tutor and taking the time to review my work. Introduction: Now I have worked on a range of titles as a Game Dev and Level designer, but as my career has switched over to AAA for the last five years I have noticed a common thread with the projects. That thread is Combat. What you make of combat within games and especially in AAA games is up to you and heck, I hope we get to talk about it in detail in the future but, none of us can deny how popular action is, in all mediums. With the projects that I have been working on, a lot of combat spaces have been designed by myself and by my teammates. So I have seen a lot of AI blood shed, as well as seen some good and bad examples of levels for combat. While working on this course one of the weeks we are asked to design a combat space (Ranged combat with guns). I completed the level and it is not the perfect example of a combat space, but it is one that I am extremely proud of. After this it got me thinking, “What makes a good combat level?” The question yet still haunting me, I decided to try to find out more. Sadly, there is not as many resources as I had thought would be available (If you know some great ones please do send them over to me). This is a great article though so please do read this, it was another inspiration for this article. Past Thoughts: I even went back to think about how I was taught at my University, and how bad my levels then were for combat. For what plays such a massive role in the gaming industry we were not taught anything about this topic: How to design levels for the purpose of Combat. Now with my xp of working in the industry for a while, making different spaces for combat, I finally feel that I can help. Hopefully, someone who reads this will find this useful, and it will also build a topic of discussion for many more and far better designers than me to help us understand Level Design for Combat. (see how I worked the title, into the article? Pretty impressive.) Keep in mind that I will only be talking about Combat involving guns, designing for close quarter combat, or turn based combat will not be mentioned here. (Here is a great article on DMC’s combat design) This article will only be focused on the level design involvement of combat as well, not breaking down anything to with weapon or mechanic design. With that out of the way I am going to be breaking down how to create a level built for gun combat step by step. Let Us Design It! Metrics: One of the first steps to designing a good combat space is first by understanding your Metrics. The subject of metricts I do not feel is mentioned enough when creating a level and how vital it is. Metrics determines the spaces of your levels, how high the cover should be, how wide corridors are, and much more. As for who decides the metrics for your game, that is a task for the level design team. It comes with experimenting in a ‘Gym’ it is tough to decide as you must decide by what feels right. I personally have only been involved with it once in my career and it is a tough thing to figure out. Create spaces for you and your teammates to test (This here is a ruler where I would time the players movement speed and jumping length) (having a range of boxes I used this to test jumping heights, single and double) You get the point that I am making. Once you have these gyms set up, have others test them out to see which they agree feels the best. These numbers and sizes will change depending on the view of your game, TPP, FP, Isometric, etc. Once you have the metrics, make sure that you are constantly checking them. (Side note, make sure that the document is easy to read and people understand it from first glance) Here is an example of what I put together when creating my combat level: From what you can see, the documents are very easy to read and you roughly get a sense of scale when looking at them. (Again these are not perfect documents, as it would be good to have tables listing the numbers on the documents as well so designers can have one place to look quickly without scrolling down several pages to get to the info they need) With these figures you have a great starting point, make sure that you are constantly referring to these documents. This is super important as not only does it allow you to make sure the architecture of your world is to scale. It allows you as a level designer to start understanding how verticality on two floors can play into combat, how to signal to players which rooms are safe while others they must be on their toes. Final point on this is now how you can combine the believability and theme of your architecture with the great feel of your gameplay. “A rule of thumb when creating metrics (Again all depends on your game, in the world of game/level design there are no hard rules only suggestions and what suits your game the best) is to make sure that your differences between a main door vs a side door, a main corridor vs a side corridor. Is that the main is double the size of your side, the reason for this is it is visually different. Increasing your main door size by just 1m is not visually distinct enough, so try to do it by doubling as visually it makes an impact on the players’’ Now you may be thinking that our time working with sexy metrics is over, but oh no no no there is still some fun to be had here sweet child. We have set up the rules for our architeture but now we need to set up rules for the combat spaces themselves. Because we were smart enough to set up the metrics for the architecture before it makes things a little easier for us. With the combat spaces, the elements you want to focus on are: Correct Cover Height & Width Cover Spacing (Buffer Zone) Cover rules on Architecture Weapon Range Enemy Archetypes Cover Height & Width: This is an easy one, for this we are focusing on what dimensions the player can use for cover, from low to high cover. Making sure that it is clear and readable to the player what is cover and what is not. Cover Spacing: Now this one is extremely important and should be one you follow very closely. This here is the distance between covers, we use this to make sure that cover is not just randomly scattered all over the place. That it is clear for players to understand a cover route through the combat, but also that AI can make it’s way towards the player too. There could be other technical reasons too, but this is a very important to follow these rules. Cover Rules on Architecture: As you have seen above we have metrics for say our doors and windows, but in order for us to not just have these set up for traversal we need to think about how to best use them for combat. Making sure that there is always cover on a door so players do not walk into a room and get blasted in the face. How players can use windows as a sniping spot, etc. Weapon Range: In most games that involve guns, there is a whole array of weaponry with some games like Boarderlands having over a Billion Guns! With that in mind it is important to build spaces to help encourage certain styles of play. Thinking about sniper nests or areas for players to flank and use short range weapons like a shotgun to attack the enemy from behind. Before we do all this though we need to understand how far these weapons can shoot, what is the best distance to use said weapons. Enemy Archetypes: In your games there will more than likely be different enemies within your game. Again like the weapon range we as level designers need to make sure that we build spaces that allow these enemies to have the best space to shine, show off their skillset but provide players cool and unique ways to win. By understanding these enemy types, we as LDs can build unique challenges which force players to strategize, who they should take out first or even work together as a team to coordinate an attack. How Players Avatar Holds the Gun: This topic here was not mentioned on the list above as it is not the biggest thing to consider but it is a detail worth knowing. What am I referring to when talking about how the avatar holds the gun? I am referring to will the avatar be right handed or left handed. Small detail but a detail nonetheless as then you must make sure that there is cover with an opening for the weapon. If the avatar holds it more to the right, then on door frames make sure there is cover to the left, and visa versa. (A lot of game though now allow the player to switch the shoulders of which they aim from) Now you can see the amount of planning that goes into creating a good combat space before we even have opened the editor. These steps are vital in creating a great combat space for your game. (Please note these design pages which I have put together are to show you an example of what to plan, when you are putting your design doc together you can do way better, these are just to show you what I mean, use these as a learning point and make fare better documentation team!) Conclusion: This article has become an extremely long article already and there is still more to cover. So this is where I will end part 1, but we will move on to the next step following this, such as paper design and the actual Blockout. We will be breaking down the blockout I mentioned at the beginning of the article, breaking it down. Please Support: If you have enjoyed this then please be sure to check out my podcast (Level Design Lobby): iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K If you want to reach out to me, to give me some suggestions on good combat spaces or to see my bite size level design tips then please check me out on Twitter Read Part 2 here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  7. Hey everyone, Hope you are well, playing and making the games you love. I started writing this just after Christmas so I hope you all got something nice. I got a few new games, Persona 5, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Mario Odyssey. All great games, they all have things in common but the one thing we are going to focus on, is the fact that in each game you as a player are given new mechanics. As players progress they will unlock a new mechanic which means players will have to learn this. What I am about to say about in this post is mostly known, yet I see this stand out in a lot of students and devs early in their careers, I know I made these mistakes when I just started. So if I can help someone learn quicker, then this post has done its job. Every developer when creating their game, has a list of mechanics that they will be introducing within their game and how it will play with their levels or combined with previous mechanics. Which is great because these twists and turns of mechanics open up the games, and one of the best things that make games amazing. A lot of planning goes into these mechanics, but sadly I do not see as much planning or thought go into to how these mechanics are introduced. I am going to break this blog up into a few categories: Common Mistakes How to improve Examples to learn from Common Mistakes For us to move forward, we first have to see what the problem is, some of us reading this may not see an issue with what I am saying or someone reading this may not of been involved with introducing a mechanic in a game. Which is great because because that means that you will hopefully gain something extra from this article. Now let’s get into some of those common mistakes my friend. 1) Multiple Mechanics introduced is one of the most common things I see young devs do, they are excited to get all the mechanics to the player as fast as possible. This normally comes from the fact that they believe the game will only reach its best form when players receive everything. When I was making my mobile game Chest Quest I also made this mistake which lead to player frustration not enjoyment in play testing. Luckily a friend gave feedback and was able to help me out. 2) Instant death, This is also a common thing, players receive a new mechanic but what they have to use this (for example new weapon) on an enemy which can only beaten by this. Yet players are not just fighting soley that enemy but a number of other as well, resulting in their death. It is not just by fighting enemies but if the player fails it means that it is Game Over which is not very fun for players. They will be as if they are being punished for something they have just received. 3) Learning in fire, what I mean by this is that players get a mechanic in the middle of for a example a battlefield, so they have no chance to explore the mechanic or able to go at their own pace leading to frustration. 4) No clear direction or feedback, it is important with mechanic design that there is clear signposting and feedback so players know when and where to use their mechanic and the impact it has had on the gaming world. An example is a weak wall that can be blown up by a certain bomb or super punch to break through. This wall has a lighter colour to the other walls with giant cracks running through them. 5) Text or non-engaging tutorials, we all have seen these where you get a novel instructing you how to play the game. This can be extremely bad because players not only are taken out of the experience but will sometimes skip these just to play the game, meaning they miss the data you wanted them to learn. On the other side we have tutorial which are truly just boring, typical ones where it teaches players to look up and down, like no one has played a game before. These again break immersion and just can feel like a time waster for players. There are some of the most common mistakes I see when it comes to introducing mechanics. Now let’s move on to the next section of the blog to talk about how we can improve these common mistakes. How to Improve 1. Multiple Mechanics, this is an easy one as you have already said to yourself ‘Just introduce one mechanic at a time’ and it is that simple. If you are worried that one mechanic won’t be good enough to keep player entertained then it is most likely not worth keeping in my opinion. Give the player time to learn this mechanic, increase the difficulty or find new ways to use that same mechanic, this way players can learn and get the most out of one mechanic. 2. Instant Death is a powerful tool which can be used and depending on a case by case bases could be used to express a certain emotion with a new mechanic. Yet it should be avoided when teaching players, they are wanting to learn and grow with something you have given them. Look into to other ways which less punishing, maybe you make punish players by taking up their time. If they fall it means they have to go back to where they started, this may be annoying for players but it is less punishing and allows them to spend more time learning this new mechanic without feeling frustrated. 3. Learning in fire is what I mean when there is so much going on where players cannot focus on this new mechanic because there is a chance they could die or fail to lead to a game over. When giving players a new mechanic, there needs to be a safe space in which players can take their time to learn this mechanic, without feeling threatened. Then you can increase that risk and difficulty. 4. No clear direction or feedback, this really is helping players understanding what is related to this mechanics through signposting and then once it has been used how do players know this and the impact it has on the level. 5. Text or Non-engaging tutorials, now this is a hard one to give a simple answer or solution to solve all unlike the previous four. What I would say to all designers is make sure I do not have to press ‘next button’ more than once when reading a tutorial because player wants to PLAY and having this much text will only lead to frustration. Next for boring tutorials is more time spent on this tutorial. Trust players skill level as players are smart so have faith in their ability. My final point on how to improve these is to have LOADS of PLAYTESTS, honestly, you will find out more and more about your game from having people play. I have been too small gatherings where indie titles are shown and as people play their game they just walk away from their game. That is not good, you should be begging players for their feedback, as this will only improve the game and stop you from making those Common Mistakes, I mentioned earlier. Examples to Learn From Now that we have touched on some of the mistakes and some tips on how to improve those mistakes, let’s take a look at the master's and learn from them. First is one of the flagship characters in video games, none other than Mario himself. In many of his titles, the designers do a great job of not only teaching player but progressing a mechanic to its highest form. They often give a big space for players to experiment with no chance of getting hurt with that experimenting when first receiving that mechanic. For a more in-depth look at this checkout Game Makers ToolKit. Another group of devs who are always the best to learn from is Valve. They are known for making great games and my goodness the lessons you can still learn from the half-life series is mind-blowing. Half-life does do things very different, in terms of not pausing the game to teach you but using either the layout in the environments or carrying out playful tasks which do not break the immersion form the game. When players have first introduced the Crab-Head enemies their route is blocked by all these buzzsaw blades and players only a gravity gun, then on the right the first Crab-Head appears, players have no choice but to pick up these saws and shoot them at the Crab-head killing it. I also think there is a Crab-Head chopped in half on the left side of the room if I remember correctly too. But these are a new enemy type and it does not just pause the game and do a lengthy novel on how to kill one. It gives you no other option than to use what the designers have put in front of you. That is just one instance that Half-life does well if you re-play this series you will see so many great examples. The final game which I am going to call upon may come out as a surprise but it is the God of War series. They have multiple weapons and enemy types within each installment of the series, which they take extreme care of when introducing these. Not only is it about how they introduce these new mechanics, but some phenomenal pacing in their tutorials which builds up to some truly epic boss battles. Another good point to learn particularly from God of War 2, is how it introduces the player to the Blade of Olympus, showing you the power you have in your hands. Being able to feel like a god. Then suddenly you lose it, which is fantastic because it now sets the bar of which players need to achieve yet again. They use it not only to teach players how to use their weapons but also to tie in with the emotion of the character because Kratos has been stripped of his power and we as the player feel this by losing an incredible weapon. Conclusion There we are my fellow devs, some tips to help you out when introducing or tutorialising your mechanics within your game. I hope you have all found it useful and if you have some good tutorials then please let me know as we are all here to learn. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MaxPears/20180307/315172/Game_Design_Introducing_Mechanics.php Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  8. Hey Everyone,Thank you for coming here to check out my article, I do appreciate it and I do hope that you come away from here feeling as if you have gained something. My intention for this article are two things:1. Help you see how you can apply Shape Theory to you levels moving forward.2. Encourage you after you have read this article to check out my video for you to gain even more Shape Theory Knowledge.Now you know my diabolical intentions for you and your mind let us waste no time and dive headfirst into the topic!Shape Theory has been around us for a long, long time, it is used in everyday life all around us. So much so that you might not have even realised consciously. This theory is not something solely restricted to game development, it is used in so many ways. (I am writing this article a week after Valentine days, still…no cards but I am going off topic) We can see how marketing use it to help sell you and your partner on such an event as Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering how?What is the logo image for this yearly event? It is, of course, the heart ….Not exactly what you are thinking about on this day, but this picture above is that of what a real heart looks like. Think about how marketing has changed this image to what a valentines heart looks like.Why would they do this?Simple! It is because of the fact this shape is far more inviting to us as people, the real truth does not scream romance, but by doing this it makes us get happy and more excited. So let us break this down.1. Overall this shape is very round and circular meaning it comes across cuddly, which means this shape is inviting to us.2. When a shape is more round we as humans perceive it as less of a threat and see it as more inviting.3. If you were to rotate this image by 90 degree, the point at the bottom would make this image look like an arrowhead, which then makes us think of Cupid and how we as people want to be hit by the arrow to find love.4. Valentine's heart is only one shape compared to a real heart which communicates how we want unison with our partner, when two become one.5. (This is more colour theory) It being a bright shade of red, remind us of roses and currently red is the most liked colour today.A real heart does not provide that symbolism so I hope this short break down gives you a glimpse into how changing a shape can have a big impact on how we as humans perceive an object. One last example would be the fantastic character design of Maleficent.Notice how she and her crow are made up of both pointy and sharp shapes. Making her scary, uninviting and not a trust worthy character. We can all feel this as soon as we the viewer see her for the first time. It is quite the opposite effect compare to that of the heart.All of this is conveyed to us the viewer on how we feel within an instant just by us reading/seeing these shapes. You have now just had a quick crash course in some basic shape theory, there is much more to know to understand how it works (Watch the video down below) but you can understand how it works.While this is very exciting it is not exactly level design, so let us break down how shape theory is used within level design.Shapes can encourage us to explore/move within our levels/open worlds in many different ways, take for example Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This may have less active OW compared to most in terms of side missions or bustling NPCs to converse with, however, everyone talks about how much time they have spent exploring Hyrule.You may be wondering well how did they encourage players to spend all this time within their ow if their ow did not have 100s of collectibles, side missions or world activates? Nintendo Devs actually revealed this in one of their presentationsIt was by using triangles! I know you may be thinking triangles? But this is such an interesting idea. The two arrows are showing how players reacted when faced with this option, players would either head to the top of the triangle to get a better view of their surroundings or would travel around it. What is even better with this is it the perfect way to tease information to the player as you can hide a landmark or cool area behind a triangle but still show enough to peek the interest of the player. Even if we just take the picture from above, we can see tons of triangles.In contrast to this we can take a game such as The Division, which is set in New York.The shape theory of this is far more square/rectangular because of two reasons:1. New York is like that as everything is based on a grid so city map and tall buildings create that square feeling2. It is a cover-based shooter, the cover needs to be readable for playersWith the fact that New York is a grid-based city combined with tall buildings, it gives a corridor like feeling to certain streets within the division. Rectangles communicate with our human brains differently.They like corridors push or pulls us through space making us want to progress through, but also if surrounded by enemies (which is often the case in the game) you can feel trapped with a sense of being weak and outnumbered which fits perfectly with the narrative of the game. We as players will also move differently.As you can see the diagram is different as players will most likely go around the square shape and the zigzag is that of the fire exits used on sides of buildings in New York, showing that getting to the top is not as a straight forward journey compared to that of the triangle.Let me show you how many squares can be seen in the above picture as we did with Zelda.You can now see that these simple shapes can really have a big impact on us as players as well as how we perceive and move throughout worlds within video games. This here though is just a taste of shape theory in Level Design, there is way more than just this.I wanted to give you a taste of this, to show you how important this topic is, but as I stated in my mission for this article. Now that you got a taste why not watch my presentation within level design to see what other amazing ways you can use it in order to improve you levels. *Note: This article has been posted in full on Next Level Design with permission from the author Follow MaxWebsite: http://www.maxpears.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/maxpearsLevel Design LobbyYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9QSpotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/03OTDRAPsAiocSLCTEiXBnEmail: leveldesignlobby@gmail.com Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying either a game that they are making or one that they are playing! I have been thinking about what to write about, what deep design philosophies can I share with my fellow devs? So many wise thoughts and the one I landed on is “Where is the Toilet?” Now you may be thinking “What the F*** does this have to with Level Design” and I am glad you asked, even though I did not like your sass there. When I ask this question I am asking about the research you have done before building this level and also where is the toilet in your level. (The ‘where is the toilet part’ may not apply to all games or levels) In case you hadn't guessed this post is going to be about Level Designers needing to do more research before starting work on their levels. I know this sounds like an obvious part of level design but I see a lot of young level designers go in and making the level instantly without much thought. I too was guilty of this when I was younger as well. Now when creating anything, the blank screen can be the most intimidating thing ever! We have all been there staring at the screen thinking, “where to begin?” well the answer should always and I mean always…….. No back chat here sonny Jim. Research! So what research am I referring to for level design then? First think of the theme of your level, such as Victorian, utility, native, and also the location of your level as well. A house out in the mountains of Alaska will be designed different to a house in London’s city centre. Gather as many reference pictures as possible for your research. One of my leads (Daniel Molnar, great guy and very intelligent level designer) said to me, “Only when you have 100 pictures, do you start to understand the space” And true to his word he would not let me touch the editor until I had enough pictures, an understanding of the space and how it worked. Thanks to Dan I made a great sewer level and now know the stages of the sewage processing system. So ever since that I ALWAYS try to make sure I make time to do my research, sadly I do not always get as long as I want but I do make sure I have enough pictures to help me create a picture in my head. Now that you understand the location of your level and the theme you want to start looking into the architecture of these buildings and areas. As level designers, we should be looking at architecture regularly. (A cool article on what it was like for architects to work on video games: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php). Look around the room you are sat in now, and see how many indents, angled corners and other shapes there are which make your room Not a box. Once you start to research these things you will start to pick this stuff up. One thing which is noticeable with inexperienced LDs work is all the rooms are boxes. Architecture is where we see a lot of real level design work every day. How their structures of these buildings affects how we move through them, the layout of rooms, what rooms they have in these buildings, space certain rooms may need and how the flow from one room to another works. One of my favourite things to research is floor plans of buildings. Each of these layouts will be different depending on the theme and will obtain different items as well due to the theme. These will not only help influence your design but also help your artist (or artistic side depending on how you are working) understand how to decorate your level and may possibly help you guys come up with interesting methods to signpost. Another reason is you never know what you might see, which could inspire your design and provide you with something even more incredible. Now for example look at this power plant, which in my opinion is super cool, this top catwalk is interesting as instead of the bridges connected maybe the player has to rotate them from the ground floor to get them to join. With all these layers and sections, it looks like a great area for traversal. Being able to go up, around and under this area is amazing. When it comes to white boxing your level you will be able to show these images to your artist and they will be able to understand what you mean by those giant boxes. “Pictures speak a thousand words”. If you were to put a twist on this power plant and to make it feel like a maze, then now you want to start researching what? Mazes! 10 gold stars (Sounded way more patronizing than I meant it to be). So now we can see that there dead ends but also viewpoints to allow players to find their bearings. When designing this level we can add vantage points for players to scan the area for clues, maybe even have loot/collectibles in certain dead ends to reduce player frustration and reward exploration. Summary on why research/reference is important: - Give you a better understanding of what is believable in this theme. - Provide an idea for your artist on what you want. - Inspire your design choices Where is the toilet? Now onto the second part of the blog (I swear readers are going to get sick of that question) of where is the toilet? Dan had now let me work in the editor it now came time for his reviews on my work, and what was the question he asked me for each of my levels! Yeah you know what it is, now we working together on Tom Clancy’s The Division – Underground which in case you do not know is a procedurally generated dungeon expansion in which players travel through the underground areas of New York, from the subway system to the sewers to clear out the threat brewing underneath the civilians feet. Overall the review was going well, the flow was good, it had good landmarks for players to orientate themselves in case they were lost. But Dan felt some of these areas were not believable because there were no toilets. Because the Division is based on reality I had skipped one thought process when doing my research and that was “How would these spaces of been used before chaos struck?” Boom mind blown, I had created these thrilling and high octane areas but not grounded them in reality or the law of my game’s world. Dan then showed me one of the Senior LDs work who was working on a subway level and what did he have….toilets. His space felt not only good to play through but also was grounded by reality. (Some playthroughs of the expansion HERE) These critics’ could have been avoided had I done my research on these areas I was making and thought about how they are originally used and not just how I would use them for good combat or traversal. If you go back and look at those pictures of the floor plans I have in this blog. You will see how all of them have bathrooms laid out on them. The floor plans are mainly residential or commercial buildings so they will. When making your level, (again will not apply to every game or level) think about how was this spaced use before the player reached it and more than likely how did the people inhabiting this space use it? Because if they are bipedal human-like creatures I think we all know that they will need to use the bathroom at some point or another. Next time you are in a realistic gaming setting, try and find the bathroom, as it will most likely be there. Hope this helps guys and “Where is the bathroom?” is a question I keep asking myself when creating my levels as well as researching the buildings, themes, environments etc, for my game. I hope it makes you think about carrying out your research before starting work on your level. Which trust me will make your level much better and more believable. *This article is posted on Next Level Design with the author's permission Source: https://www.gamesfounder.com/articles/do-your-research-wheres-the-toilet-level-design/ Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp