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  1. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 28? Read it here: Perspective Direction Intro Ever wonder what makes a spot easy to control compared to other areas of a map? It isn’t always just the amount of pathways that lead to it. There are many factors that can determine whether an area is easy to control or hard to control, but one of the main factors is the degree of focus that the area requires for control. What is degree of focus? Well let’s find out. Sphere of attention The degree of focus refers to the amount of area that a player must focus on visually in order to fully lock down an area. A completely open flat field requires 360 degrees of focus laterally and vertically... a full sphere of attention. In order for a player to fully control that type of area they have to divide their attention everywhere and stay vigilant at all times. Now on the opposite side of a coin, imagine a room with one entry way into it that can be watched without moving one’s perspective. The doorway serves as the only area of focus. The given area hence has a very minimal degree of focus required to lock down that area. An area with a high degree of focus is typically not desirable, while an area with minimal degree of focus is typically very advantageous as it allows a player to divide his attention less. Path Manipulator Degree of focus is a very important thing to pay attention to for popular areas and main pathways. A low degree of focus can actually serve as a very strong incentive for many players acting as powerful as a sniper rifle or rocket launcher, as it gives them the ability to focus all of their attention with very little perspective variance. Increasing the degree of focus of an area can lessen an area’s incentive weighting and too much can actually become a strong deterrent. A large open area in the center of a map is a very popular technique to stop players from taking the quickest route as it has an extremely high degree of focus and is very hard to be in for any given amount of time. These areas are also popular places to situate powerful incentives like the rocket launcher as the high degree of focus lowers the incentive weighting of the rockets serving as a counterbalance to its power. And areas like a room with minimal entrances are great incentives to encourage players to move as they offer a sense of security. Degree of focus can serve as a powerful path manipulation tool if used correctly. More than just multiple paths Just having multiple paths to an area does not guarantee that the area will have a higher degree of focus. Degree of focus is based on how many perspective directions are required to lock down the area. If all three paths in a room can be watched from one perspective then the room is just as easy to lock down as a room with only one entrance. Requiring more perspective variance to control an area will also help decrease an area’s incentive weighting. Keep in mind that degree of focus includes the third dimension. Aerial combat is becoming very popular as a game mechanic. Placing a roof above an area can help reduce the degree of vertical focus while still keeping the high degree of lateral focus to help create the experience that you are looking for. Degree of focus can make or break a map and it can also be the focus of a map’s essence. Players love having tons of control over situations. As a designer, you control how much power they get. Read Chapter 30: Application Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  2. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 20? Read it here: Safe Spawning Intro There’s a word that is always thrown around when talking about great maps. What is that word you say? My friend... that word is“balance”. Is your map “balanced”? How do you go about answering that? How do you weigh your map? Well typically you measure the map by comparing all of the advantages throughout it to ensure there is a balance of advantages no matter where you are. What do we call advantages again? OH YEAH! Incentives... Weighing the un-weighable So here’s a quick overview of incentives. Incentives are areas, objects, course of actions, etc. that help you achieve your current goal easier. These incentives can be a height advantage, a good defensive position, a rocket launcher, a shortcut, a batch of grenades, etc. There are so many types of incentives and they are all completely incomparable to each other side by side. So how do we weigh them? We make up a weight for each based on the experience that we want to create. As a designer it is your job to set a weight or priority for all of the incentives in your map to meet your map’s essence. Did you plan to setup a huge long range combat focus for your map? The sniper probably has a higher priority/weight than the rocket launcher on that map. Does your second map essence focus on vehicle usage? Well now a rocket launcher is probably much heavier than that sniper. Think about how important each incentive is to your players based on the experience you are trying to create and the objectives you are setting for your audience. A balancing act So now you know how to find the weight of all of those advantages. It is time to start spinning plates on sticks. Imagine a massive overview of your map, something like a heatmap. Now imagine as many incentives across your map as you can. Create a radius of effect based on your map’s essence for each one. Mentally tally up the weight of each millimeter of your map and imagine darkening up the heavier areas. The heavier incentives and a lot of incentives will cause darker areas. Always keep in mind each incentive’s individual weight as well to help you move things around. Imagine having a pistol and assault rifle in one corner of a map and a sniper and a rocket on the other corner. Which corner do you think is heavier? Typically, it’s obvious. Now what if it was a pistol/rocket vs. an assault rifle/sniper? It depends on the map’s essence. Spreading the love So now you’ve got your “heatmap” of advantage. What do you do with it? Well typically you want to spread out the incentives to have the weighting be “balanced” around the map. Why? Because players are drawn to incentives like lions are drawn to meat. Do you have an armory on your map? It is probably a good place to chill if your map’s essence is about killing. However its weighting goes down if the goal is to capture the flag and the armory is out of the way. All situations are different and it is your job to create the situation that you want. Maybe an armory is fine for your map as long as you weigh the rest of your map to balance it out. An armory is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Learning to balance the advantages of your map is a delicate and essential skill. It will help you control the traffic of your map and ensure that every part of your map is worth traveling through. That is what path manipulation is really all about,right? Read Chapter 22: Rule of Thirds Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 18? Read it here: Patience Intro When playing a map if you see a set of explosives you tend not to worry too much about them until you are in their proximity. If you see a player with a shotgun you tend not to be too worried until he gets up close and personal. If you see someone on a turret from sniper distance they tend to not bug you due to the turret’s spread of fire. All deterrents have a set area where they are most effective and where they aren’t very scary. I call these areas around a deterrent a Threat Zone. Threat weighting Understanding the threat zone of a deterrent is important to placing them effectively throughout your map and controlling their effectiveness. A threat zone is more than just an area that a deterrent affects. Imagine the zone being cover by a very opaque color where it is most effective and the zone getting more transparent in areas where it is most ineffective. For example a shotgun has a very opaque center at point blank range, but as you observe the zone farther out it gets more and more transparent until it is completely ineffective. Sniper type weapons tend to have an opposite style for their threat zones. Typically the closer you are to the origin of a sniper the more difficult it is for the sniper to kill you. So in this scenario the area around the sniper would be very transparent but as you get farther the zone would get more opaque up to its max range and the get more transparent to represent the more difficult longer shots. Static vs dynamic Static zones are typically the easiest to manipulate and control. They typically don’t move from where you place them. Good examples of these static zones are explosives, turrets, poisonous areas, etc. The real difficulty is learning to control dynamic threat zones. All players are threat zones as long as they hold the ability to disturb you in your pursuit of a goal. The problem with players is that they are technically uncontrollable and unpredictable. The best way to control a player is to use path manipulation and path maps in order to best observe how they will move. Keep in mind where you place weapons or anything that may change the player’s threat zone. If you place a sniper rifle on the top of the base it is a good chance that a player up there will pickup the sniper rifle and have their current threat zone be weighted more towards long range. If a shotgun is in a hallway it is probably safe to assume that any player that is down there may have the shotgun and has a very heavily close range weighted threat zone. Assumption of threat zone Players will make decisions based on assumed threat zones. If players see a person in the shotgun tunnel there is a certain distance away from that area that they feel safe traversing by assumption. The reverse is true if a player sees someone around or near the sniper spawn. He assumes that the player has the sniper and is more cautious at long range but more aggressive at close range. Use this knowledge to help adjust certain areas of your map. If you know a certain area is vulnerable to the sniper’s threat zone that originates where the sniper spawns then add things accordingly. Understanding what sort of threat zones a player may have in certain areas will help you make decisions on how and where you want to push players on the map. Read Chapter 20: Safe Spawning Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  4. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 12? Read it here: Path Maps Intro I want you to think about all of the maps that have very important areas in them that players use to orient themselves and their teammates. Ever heard of people calling out the shotgun room? How about when players say that he is in the sniper tower? In order for player’s to enjoy the optimal experience on your map it is probably best for them to be able to understand where these areas might be, correct? Even more so it is probably best if players knew about every single area that exists on the map in order to allow them to make the best decisions possible, right? You tell me... Defining the obvious Hmmm so what is area introduction? I don’t know... maybe it is introducing areas to a player. But it is more than just that. It is showing players everything there is to a map. It is showing your players the options that they have when choosing where to go from where they are. Area introduction is a form of Path Manipulation that is used when a player is new to a map to show them major sections that are available to them. But why is area introduction so important? If a player explores enough won’t he/she find every place on the map eventually? Well sure, but it is more than just that. If I give you a dictionary eventually you will memorize every single word and definition in it if you read it enough right? No? Well why not? Tying things together Remember when we talked about how a player’s first impression of a map is extremely important? Remember when we said that Knowledge is Power and in order for a player to give a proper analysis of a map he needs to be introduced to the most important parts of the map? By mixing these two concepts we see the importance of teaching players the map as fast as we possibly can because we do not know how long a player’s first impression will last. You only have the player’s attention for a short period of time until you win over their trust. Once you win their trust then you have their attention for a long while. The key is proving to them that it’s a good map to play on. And in order to do that they have to know the important parts about the map in order to judge it well or their judgment will be skewed and you will lose them for a while because they didn’t know about that one thing that could have made their experience better. Giving them the tour So how do you show the player around without doing it yourself? How do you show the player the map while they are in the heat of combat and focused on winning the match? You already have a good amount of tools at your disposal. What does the player see in his first perspective? Is that a pretty blue room that has caught my eye? Oooo... look there’s a shotgun over there I’m going to go check that out. This place looks too open and will leave me too vulnerable so I’m going to go see what’s over here instead. You see what I did there? By mixing spawn perspectives and eye catching you can show off the blue room. With incentives like a shotgun you can show people the shotgun room. Using deterrents and traffic control you can encourage people to take a look around somewhere else. All of these things relate in the greater sense of Path Manipulation. Now that you know how important area introduction is... go use it. Read Chapter 14: Essence Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  5. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 11? Read it here: Smooth Spawning Intro So we know we can move players around using different techniques in path manipulation, but how do we observe that? How do we analyze a player’s movement? How do we visualize a player’s movement? The tool that I tend to use is a little something that I like to call path maps. An intro to path maps A path map is a map of all the possible paths that can be taken on a designated level based on a given position of the player. There are two different types of paths that exist in a path map. Objective paths are the shortest paths possible to the player’s current goal from the player’s current position on the map. Divergent paths are paths towards other possible goals that force players to “diverge” from the main objective path. As players move around the map and make decisions, objective and divergent paths change accordingly. Being able to observe a path map at any given point in time is essential to truly mastering path manipulation. When to use path maps The basic time to observe a path map is typically based on a particular spawn point. This allows the designer to analyze where a player plans on moving as soon as they spawn and allows the designer to adjust that to his/her liking. Another popular use of the path map is from incentives or landmark areas to understand where a player will move after arriving or acquiring what they traveled there to achieve. The current direction of the player is important when drawing a path map from a designated position on the map. Divergent paths are typically based on the player’s current perspective. Divergent paths may also exist behind the player if the player possesses enough knowledge of the map. Keep in mind that there is typically one objective path and many divergent paths. Divergent paths are just simply all the possibilities that the player may choose to take based on certain situations. For example if a player is going for the rocket launcher, and knows that the sniper is around the corner there would be a divergent path to the sniper. It is the designers job to decide what paths are most likely to exist in various situations. From divergent to objective To reiterate, objective paths is the shortest path to the player’s current goal. A player’s goal is ever changing as they traverse around the map and make decisions. When a player spawns his initial goal is to get to his winning objective. Now imagine that while traveling down the objective path a rocket launcher or other incentive catches his eye. He now changes his current goal to achieve the rocket launcher. The new objective path is now the shortest path to the rocket launcher, and the old objective path is now a divergent path. Now imagine that a player has beaten him to the rocket launcher. His goal no longer exists so now his objective path must change. If the player that grabbed the rocket launcher is a teammate then it is more than likely that his old objective path will become the objective again. However if the player is an enemy, then the enemy is a deterrent. The player’s new objective path may now be to the nearest piece of cover. At that point the player may choose to remove the deterrent or seek safe passage and his objective path will change accordingly. Utilizing path maps is a strong tool in observing specific situations when analyzing your path manipulation. Use it well. Read Chapter 13: Area Introduction Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  6. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 8? Read it here: Eye Catching Intro Well I have taught you the concept of drawing attention to important parts of your map by using Eye Catching techniques. And before I teach you these various techniques I must first introduce you to the concept of Perspective Variance. What good are eye catching techniques if a player only sees them for a split second in time? In order to draw attention to something you must give the player the chance and time to notice it. Perspectives over time The concept of a perspective is just a single moment in time. One play through of a map consists of millions of perspectives. While taking the time to study single important perspectives it is important to study them in batches or groups as well. To simplify this concept imagine watching a replay of a game and taking a single screenshot of the player’s perspective every second or half-second. The idea behind perspective variance is observing the changes between perspectives that occur one after the other. The player’s perspective is always changing and this must always be taken into account. Just because you use eye catching in one perspective doesn’t mean that it will catch the player’s attention in that instance in time. Your eye catching techniques must exist in multiple perspectives over time in order to give the player a chance to notice what you have laid out before them. Repetition is key Once again... anything you want your player to notice has to exist from one perspective to another in order to have more effect. A simplified real life example is when you are trying to read subtitles or captions for a movie but they do not stay on screen long enough for you to read. What’s the point of those subtitles or captions if you never get their full meaning? The same case is true here. If that light in the corner is only visible by the player for a split second then it will most likely never catch his eye. Remember that the player is always alert and always moving and looking around and constantly changing his perspective. All of the things around him are fighting for his attention and he is observing everything that he notices. Humans always overlook things when they have a goal like capturing the flag ahead of them. How are you going to show them that the rocket launcher in the corner is going to help them if it just barely passes them by as they turn the corner? Tying it to movement So while eye catching is an extremely important aspect when thinking about perspective variance, it is not the only factor. Path Manipulation is also very important in that moving a player around changes the player’s perspective. Consider how perspectives vary from each other when a player is traveling in a straight line. Things that are close will eventually disappear from the perspective while things farther away stay for longer. What about when a player is rounding a corner? The things that are on the side of the perspective that the player is turning away from will disappear sooner than those on the side that the player is turning towards. The sharper the turn is the faster objects disappear from a player’s perspective. Meaning sharp turns result in a massive amount of variance between perspectives. Is this good or bad? Well that is up to you as a designer. Read Chapter 10: Spawn Perspectives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  7. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 7? Read it here: Combat Congestion and Traffic Intro So I have introduced you to perspectives, which in short are screenshots of the player’s view; everything that a player sees, all of his options, any incentives in his view, or anything else of interest all in one screenshot that can be observed as a picture. Now I’m going to teach you how to move that perspective so that you can control exactly what your players see. The funny thing about humans is that we are curious and we love shiny things or anything that points out of a given scene. Using this knowledge to our advantage is something that I like to call Eye Catching. The basics Eye catching is a pretty self explanatory term. It is using various techniques to “catch” the human eye. This technique is used in millions of pieces of artwork, so why not utilize it in a perspective if a perspective can be seen as a picture? The human eye can be drawn by a ton of different things; like light differences, color contrast, size, distance, shapes, etc. It is your job as the designer to decide which type of attention grabber you want to use on your map. Pick something that fits with what you are doing anyways. Making a dark map for some sort of zombie gameplay? Then use lit objects to attract attention. Maybe your map is quite purple from the covenant theme you’ve created. Well yellow stands out quite well in a purple background, and is sure to grab your player’s attention. The results In a picture when you grab the viewer’s attention they move their eyes towards the designated “eye catcher”. When in a game players do the same thing; moving their eyes towards the “eye catcher”. However in a game moving a player’s eyes causes a change of perspective and makes a new picture for us to use and analyze. Learning to transition between new perspectives is a powerful skill allowing you to fine tune not only the player’s movement, but also exactly where your player is looking and when. Remember that if a player is in the middle of traversing a map, typically changing the direction their eyes are looking will tend to make them gravitate towards that area. So not only do you get to control the direction the player is facing, but you also control where they decide to move. Not bad for applying art theory to a video game, eh? Applying the technique So now you’ve got this basic understanding of changing the player’s perspective, but how should one use it for level design? How about using eye catching techniques to attract players towards incentives? Or maybe you can use eye catching to warn players of a deterrent ahead. How about just introducing a new area of the map? Eye catching is part of the major concept that is Path Manipulation. Controlling your player allows you to tweak what they feel, what they see, the decisions that they can make, and overall the true experience that they have while playing your map. This is a technique that can be used everywhere in your map and knowing when to use eye catching and when not to is a delicate decision. You know those papers that say “Turn the page to see how to keep a blonde busy”? The same concept is applied in this situation, eventually the player will catch on. Meaning that eventually you have to vary your techniques and use eye catching only up to certain point. Pick your uses carefully and use this powerful technique wisely. Read Chapter 9: (to be updated) Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  8. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 6? Read it here: Incentives Intro Have you ever taken the time to wonder why most maps are designed to have multiple paths? Most people just blindly build their maps to have multiple paths because it has become a simple standard base rule that everyone follows. I feel that it is important to completely understand why standard practices exist in the industry. Take the time to imagine a Halo map with only one path between two flag points. Everyone just ends up clashing over and over again in the center right? This is a phenomenon that I like to call Combat Congestion. What’s wrong with it? So what’s wrong with everyone running into each other and just shooting to try to kill someone? Nothing if that is what you want. It creates simplistic gameplay because it removes the skill of out-smarting your opponent based on path selection and cutting him off. Not only that, but there is no order to 8 people running at each other at once. It is hard for players to choose their target so it ends up being chance that you only get shot by one person or the whole other team at once. Dying to 4 people at once happens a lot faster than just 1 or 2 guys. You end up having no time at all to plan out your attack and if you don’t have any time at all to use skill or strategy then what fun is that? The concept of Traffic The basic concept of traffic is an observance of how players are spread out on your map. If you have too many players traversing one area then maybe you should spread them out a little more. The more players that go through an area the higher chance of combat congestion happening. And as discussed, this is something that we need to avoid as it is no fun to the player. Avoiding the chaos So having one path can cause combat congestion, that’s pretty simple to understand. Well having multiple paths around the map isn’t magically going to solve this problem. You have to use a variety of Path Manipulation techniques in order to get your players to spread out and to reduce the chance of combat congestion happening on your map. A ton of tricks exist for what I call controlling traffic, and you’ve already learned some of them. Incentives can be used to force players to take paths that players normally wouldn’t. Deterrents can be used to discourage players from taking commonly traversed paths. But Incentives and Deterrents can’t just exist on the map. They end up having no effects on a player if the player is unaware of them being on the map. Remember that talk on Knowledge is Power? You have to use techniques like Eye Catching, Area Introduction, Color Contrast, and Screen Real Estate. But in order to understand those techniques and fully apply them you have to be able to think in Perspectives and observe Perspective Variance. So again why do all of these things? Because combat congestion is one of those things that will cause a poor First Impression for your map, and we already learned how bad that can be. It is one of those things that is frustrating to experience because nobody enjoys just running in and dying. They enjoy using their skills. This was your first combination lesson where I tie everything that you’ve learned so far and everything that you will learn together to help you grasp the bigger picture. Hope you enjoyed it. Read Chapter 8: Eye Catching Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  9. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 4? Read it here: Perpectives Intro What makes players move around the map the way that they do? If their goal is straight ahead, what makes them detour to the right? What delays them from having the chance to win the game? There are a couple answers to this question, but there is one answer in particular that is more prominent than the simple placement of a Rocket Launcher or the Sniper Rifle. It exists in a higher quantity than weapons, power ups, armor abilities, and cover combined. Yup... you guessed it based on the title of today’s lesson; Deterrents. The definition By definition a Deterrent is something that discourages something else from proceeding. Several synonyms exist that may help you better understand what a deterrent might be; impediment, hindrance, disincentive, etc. Deterrents are the most prominent tools of Path Manipulation, however they are one of the least bit utilized and researched tools. A deterrent can be many things. If you see your opponent straight ahead, you change your short term goal to account for him by moving to cover, or preparing an ambush, or simply avoiding the confrontation. If you know the location of the sniper on the opposite team you maneuver in order to stay out of line of sight. If several fusion coils are in your direct path, you cautiously work your way around them in fear of the opposition killing you with one shot. Anything that threatens your chance of winning can be considered a deterrent. Limitations of “discouraging” The word discourage is one that suggests that deterrents do not always work, which is true. Maybe the main reason why deterrents are not talked about much is because they are not always a sure fire way to get players to move around the map. Some players are stubborn and seek to fight against the odds. Some players are just too skillful to allow such a hindrance stop them from moving forward. Do not fully rely on deterrents to move players around when you start to fully understand them. However do not completely disregard them as useless either. With the right adjustments and tweaks to the map a turret or other deterrent can be a force to be reckoned with and will become a true path manipulator. Learning to control planted deterrents as well as dynamic deterrents is a skill that cannot be overlooked when trying to perfect one’s level design theories. Learning when and when not to use deterrents or any theory for that matter is what makes perfection so impossible to achieve. However the more you learn the closer you can step towards the unreachable goal of no flaws. Just the beginning There is so much to deterrents that one can analyze. Everything will be covered over time. Deterrents are a big part of controlling a player’s movement around your map and can serve to be quite useful if utilized properly. Studying deterrents will require that you understand that while you have the ability to add deterrents around your map such as fusion coils and turrets, deterrents are created and destroyed constantly throughout the playtime of your map. Dynamic deterrents are a difficult concept to grasp, so learning the basics first are important. Once you do that you will have the power to completely weave the situations that your players encounter. Read Chapter 6: Incentives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  10. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 3? Read it here: Path Manipulation Intro You know what the best part about design is? Observing something from the smallest units possible and understanding what changes to those small units can do. By observing the smallest unit of an idea you can tweak the idea from a smaller setting. You can essentially take a larger problem and break it down into the smallest chunks possible and find the chunk or chunks that are causing the problem. Learning to keep track of all of these small chunks is essential to being adept at any sort of design. So what is one of the most significant and smallest observable chunks that I have discovered so far in level design? That chunk is the same as any media relating to a TV or monitor or any display similar... a single frame of relay to the user. In essence a screenshot in time of what the user is seeing. In this case I call those screenshots, Perspectives... One moment, in time Yes I am saying exactly what you think I’m saying. This topic is about the importance of a screenshot of a player’s current perspective, whether it be in 1st person or in 3rd person (in the case of driving vehicles). Analyzing a screenshot in time can tell you a lot of things and learning to modify that screenshot is essential to controlling your player’s decisions. A perspective will tell you what the player’s current visible options are. A perspective will tell you what the player has their attention on. A perspective is worth a thousand words... Drawing a perspective It is important to note that a perspective requires; a focus point or position, a point of view, and a direction. Point of view in a first person shooter is almost always going to be first person. The main focus point is going to be the player. After those two, the direction (a three dimensional direction) will define the perspective. The focus point is based on the player’s movement around the map utilizing path manipulation to move the focus point around, essentially the player. The direction is based on the player’s current eye focus and where their attention lies. Learning to control the direction of a future perspective is vital to having full control over a player’s decisions, movement, and feelings. Learning to mix the power of manipulating perspectives as well as manipulating the position of the focus point is crucial to any true level designer. Worth a thousand words While analyzing perspectives, analyze them as a picture... as a piece of artwork. We will be utilizing various art theories to analyze perspectives. In the thousand words that perspectives give us you can find the general sense of feeling (fear, excitement, etc), where the main attention lies (and thus where the eye is drawn to), and what is being noticed and how much. Understanding a split second in time makes for a lot of little chunks to analyze. I will teach you the important perspectives to keep an eye on. I will teach you what you need to analyze in the pictures presented to your player. And always keep in mind that the designer’s perspective is in no way the same as the player’s perspective. That is essential to being a good designer. Being able to see what your player sees. If you can’t do that then you are crafting the wrong experience. You are crafting the experience from what you see way up in the sky. Not from what the player sees right in front of them on the bottom floor. Don’t make it fun for you... make it fun for them. Read Chapter 5: Deterrents Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  11. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 2? Read it here: Knowledge is Power Intro What is path manipulation, you say? Well obviously it is the way of manipulating paths. More specifically it is learning how to control a player’s movement throughout your map. While players are free to choose how they travel around a map the designer has the ability to completely influence their decisions through various techniques. Some of the more obvious techniques being weapon placement and objective placement, but there is much more to path manipulation than just that. What does Path Manipulation consist of? What makes players move the way they do? If a player sees a Rocket Launcher are they going to head straight for it? If a player sees a bunch of explosions are they going to go near them? If a player finds an optimal sniper perch are they ever going to move? Path manipulation is a good majority of level design. Everything in level design works together to create a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. Placing spawn points around a map is important to Path Manipulation as they decide which direction and where a player begins their journey around the map. By placing weapons on the map you encourage players to move around the map trying to gain an edge over their opponents. By adjusting lighting and color contrast you can encourage players to look towards and explore various areas of the map. By placing a turret in one spot and fusion coils in another spot you force players to work around their area of effects. Controlling your audience Why is controlling player movement so important to us? One of the main reasons is to show off the various parts of a map that we have put our time and effort into. Why build a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing room if players rarely take the time to traverse it? Another good reason is to “teach” the players about the important parts of your maps like power weapons, landmarks, and objectives. Knowledge is power, right? Designers also use path manipulation to ensure that certain parts of the map don’t get congested with combat. It ensures that players do not end up fighting in a huge chaotic mess and allows them to utilize their skills in more organized encounters. By controlling player movement we craft their experience to our liking. The golden rule The golden rule of path manipulation is to remember that players are most inclined to take the shortest path possible to their current goal until their goal changes. When learning to control player movement this must always be kept in mind. It is your job as a designer to know what persuades players to want to wander from their current goal. By default the player’s long term goal is to win the game and will first do what it takes to win the game, and as time progresses and as players explore the map they will change their short term goal to achieve that long term goal of winning the match. There are various techniques that exist all of which will be covered in extensive detail in future lessons. We build maps to offer players a particular experience. Path manipulation is just one of the many tools at our disposal that we can use to share our dreams. If we want players to circle around a map in a warthog, path manipulation allows us to give players that experience. It is not something to be taken lightly. Read Chapter 4: Perspectives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
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