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  1. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 21? Read it here: Incentive Weighting Intro Have you ever taken a picture of yourself or family and friends centered in the picture? Have you noticed that the picture just doesn’t feel right and doesn’t feel pleasing? Have you ever placed an object directly in front of someone for it just to go unnoticed? That’s because a person’s focus is typically not on the center of their current perspective. Learning to place objects at a player’s focus point is key to ensuring that they notice what you are trying to show them. Rule of thumb Remember when we talked about how perspectives are like pictures or photographs? Well applying common techniques used in art and photography can be used to truly help enhance a player’s experience on your map. Photography is all about object placement, depth, scene composition, as well as various other techniques. I’m not an expert so don’t judge me when I talk about their techniques. However I do know that one common rule of thumb that photographers use is known as the “rule of thirds”. The rule of thirds states that if you divide a picture,photograph, screenshot, or whatever into thirds both vertically and horizontally, the perspectives main points of focus lie at the intersections. Not the center So taking the basic definition of the rule of thirds we can take any good screenshot and divide it with two lines going vertically in thirds and two lines going horizontally in thirds and find the main focus points of the screenshot. What you end up getting is a little square in the center with its corners being used as focus points. This is why you see many pictures and self portraits with the subject slightly to the right or left and not directly in the center of the picture. If a painting is being drawn with the sun as a main focus it is normally placed at one of the top two corners of that center square. This rule is one of the simplest rules of photography and will help assist you in your quest towards becoming a great map designer. Application So now you’ve got the gist of the rule of thirds so let’s take some time to re-tie it back in with level design. You should be very well versed in the definition of a perspective. Let’s run through a scenario to help you get a bit more acquainted to working with the rule of thirds. Imagine setting up a spawn perspective for your map. You want a player to first spawn and pickup the sniper rifle that is in front of them. First of all you want to place the spawn facing towards the general direction of the sniper rifle. Second, you want to set the sniper rifle a good distance away from a player in order to follow the smooth spawning concept. Now keep in mind the spawning default eye level of the player. Tweak the spawn perspective so that the sniper rifle is placed near one of the four points of interest. Apply whatever eye catching techniques you would like and viola you have encouraged your player to take the role of the sniper. Well done. This technique doesn’t just have to be used on spawns. It can be used for when a player first walks through a doorway. Take the time to imagine the general direction that the player is facing and setup your objects based on the rule of thirds in order to maximize their attention. Make your map fun to play by making what they need to have fun easier to find. Don’t you hide that good ol’ rifle. Read Chapter 23: Static 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
  2. 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
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 9? Read it here: Perspective Variance Intro Over the various past lessons you have been introduced to how powerful observing perspectives can really be. However there are billions of possible perspectives that exist on a map. Learning to observe key perspectives is important to saving yourself sometimes. One type of perspective that is common across all maps and extremely useful to observe is the Perspective that exists for each spawn point on the map. The first of many The spawn perspective is typically the first full controllable perspective of the map that the player receives. Note that I say controllable perspective meaning that the player is able to fully move his perspective at his will from this point forward. Other perspectives may be seen first, but I will cover those in later lessons. Being the first controllable perspective all eye catching techniques are extremely important to study. From this first perspective player begin to decide exactly how they move around the map. It is important to take the time to study each and every one carefully. Spawn perspectives are the only truly guaranteed perspectives that you can observe exactly as the player will see it since there has been no previous eye catching, incentive,deterrent, or other influence upon the perspective. Observe them heavily As a designer you should be aware of everything that the player can see from each spawn point of your map. Know what incentives exist, what paths are available, what deterrents may exist, etc. Take the time to analyze the eye catching that exists in the perspective to get a good idea of where the player may be heading. Keep in mind that there are many factors that will influence all future perspectives. The spawn perspective is the start of a long chain of perspectives that only ends when a player dies, and then restarts from there until the game ends. Every perspective in the chain is influenced by the spawn perspective so setting up the spawn perspective properly will lead to huge control over the player when dealing with 'Path Manipulation'. You control your players Whenever you place any spawn point the first thing you need to do is stand on it, find some way to force spawn on it, or just find some way to view the spawn’s perspective. Take the time to observe what is in the scene. Spawn perspectives are very powerful tools for applying the 'Knowledge is Power' concept and teaching players important parts of the map. Take note of what weapons the player can see. Take note of what paths the player can choose from. Take notes of any possible threats that may exist in the perspective. A good general rule to go by is to give the player at least one path as the focus of the spawn perspective. Give the player direction and guide him from where he spawns. If a player spawns and the only thing he sees is a wall, what is he going to do? He has an equal chance to turn right or left where he will proceed to choose his path. You want to remove as much unpredictability as possible in order to have stronger control over the player. Remember that you have control over the player’s experience. If you want him to go right towards rockets then turn his perspective so that the path to rockets is in plain sight. If you want him to go left for the sniper then turn that perspective left. You have full control. Read Chapter 11: Smooth 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 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. This article is the second of a two-part series that covers theories behind level design and suggests a set of design rules. The intention is to aid gamers who want to design levels for pleasure or pursue a career in level design. Read Part 1 of this series here: Level design is the data entry and layout portion of the computer game development cycle. A level is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a mission, stage, map or other venue of interaction that the player in. As a level designer, you are the presenter of all the labors of the programmers and artists and chiefly responsible for what most believe to be the most important part of a game, the game play. This article will give you insight into developing good levels for any type of game, whether they are military missions for your horde of tanks, aerial encounters for a flight simulator, a dungeon for a role-playing game, a board for a puzzle game, or a map for a world conquest god-sim. In last week’s article, I discussed the theories behind good level design. This article formulates a set of rules for level design and offers some parting advice to aspiring professionals. 20 Rules to Design By 1. Maintain the vision The "vision" is the core idea of the game design. It’s what the producer and lead designer express when selling the game and what they impart in the so-called "concept document." It’s also what they expect you, the level designer, to understand when building your level. It’s very important that this vision is communicated to you very clearly. If the producer and lead designer have not expressed to you what they want, then you need to coax it out of them. It will save you a lot of time and grief in the end. When designing your level, you must maintain the game designers’ vision. If you deviate from it you risk rejection. While designers cannot always describe specifically how to accomplish their vision, you must try to figure out ways to truly express the vision they are looking for. If you cannot maintain and express the vision, then either the vision is imprecise or unpractical, the design tools and palette are insufficient to the task, or your skills are not up to it. In any case, you need to address those problems if you hope to construct a successful level in a timely manner. 2. Learn the design palette Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 3. Have fun while you work – it will show Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 4. A level will only ever be as good as you imagine it A great sculptor doesn’t begin chiseling a block of stone until he envisions in his mind what the completed sculpture will look like. The same is true with level design: there’s no point in beginning to design your map if you can’t truly see what you’re working towards. You might have a vague idea about what you are trying to make, but to start designing away without a clear vision can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort. Bosses aren’t really keen on wasted productivity, so try to get your level nearly right the first time, so you don’t have to toss it all out and start afresh. This isn’t to say that you should leave some time to experiment, but the core idea of the game play for your level should stand on its own. It’s also best to choose a core idea that leaves a lot of room for a variety of game play. When you implement the level, establish the core idea with broad strokes, and just make it work. With that done, decide if the idea has merit and whether you want to go further with the level. If so, fill in the fine details and experiment with subtle game play details. Often it’s the subtler elements and details that make the difference between a good level and a great one. 5. If there’s no difference, what’s the point? Having multiple routes to the same goal is a good way of giving players choices and a sense of freedom while still ensuring they end up at the same point. Yet, if each choice exposes the players to the same types of enemies, the same rewards, and the same risks and costs, then players will only get frustrated and bored when they discover that there is essentially no difference. When presenting choices to the players, there should always be some non-aesthetic difference in game play. The difference might be the introduction of different challenges, a sneakier route, traps, hidden power-ups, higher elevation for better map revelation, or just better tactical position. It’s important not to present the same choices to players multiple times. Otherwise, what’s the point in offering them a choice at all? 6. Cater to different playing styles and abilities Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 7. Reward player imagination and efforts Players like to experiment and explore. The more solutions, secrets, alternate paths, and so on, that you provide in your level, the more satisfied players will be. It’s a great feeling when, as a player, you come up with a not-so-obvious solution that succeeds. Remember that players almost always go off the main route hoping to find shortcuts, hidden caches of goodies, or other unexpected items. When designing a level, try to think about what players may want to try, and give that to them. When they say, "What if…?" your level should respond with, "Yes, you can." Nothing is worse than designing what appears to the player to be a challenge, alternate solution, route or secret place that offers no reward. Players try to interact with everything, and when the interaction is pointless, frustration results. Interactive game play objects (e.g., moveable crates or exploding canisters) which serve no purpose tend to frustrate players. Players may try for minutes, or even hours, to figure out what they are suppose to do with these objects. Don’t let players down in this regard. For example, in a Quake or Unreal level, imagine if a player saw some rafters just at the edge of his jump range from a narrow ledge and said to himself, "Ah, a challenge. I wonder what’s up there." If those rafters served no purpose in the game, the player might spend an hour trying to jump out onto the first rafter, only to repeatedly fail in his efforts. The player might quit and feel let down, or even worse, this might pique his curiosity even more, and his resolve to get out there might harden. If he ultimately made it and realized that there was nothing up there, he’d get annoyed both at himself for wasting time playing the damn level, and at the level designer. So, when designing and testing your levels, look out for these "black holes of interaction" and get rid of them. Or, better yet, give them purpose by rewarding players who expend the effort to figure them out. 8. Pay attention to level pacing Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 9. Reveal assets carefully Keeping the player interested in the game requires careful asset revelation. Assets are the game’s eye candy, such as terrain objects, enemy and friendly units, upgrades, puzzles, and so on. All but the simplest games try to reveal these assets gradually to players, so as not to overload them on the first level, and to keep them interested in going on to the next level. The lead designer will usually have guidelines for what new assets your level will introduce. Try to make these new assets a centerpiece to your level, somehow associated with the core game play. Their introduction should be dramatic or significant, and ought to portray the uniqueness of the asset. For example, if you are introducing a new power-up that makes the player invisible, then make that invisibility a pivotal part of the solution to the level. If you are introducing a new enemy that flies, set up an encounter where this creature alone attacks the player in an environment that demonstrates the benefit of flying. If you are introducing a scattergun, make the gun available somewhere in the middle of the encounter with the flying enemy, so the player can see the dramatic difference in the effectiveness between his rifle and the scattergun against flyers. The position of assets within the level is extremely important. Positioning power-ups, booty, and other loot – commonly called "gimmes" – establishes goals for players to move towards. Gimmes are often the reward for the challenges you put between them and the player. Careful spacing of enemy encounters and game play objects, such as turrets, bridges, fuel drums, and so on, keeps the player interested in exploring and completing the entire level. A lull in the introduction of assets can encourage the player to turn the game off. A good example of careful asset revelation within a level is shown in Heroes of Might and Magic II. At every turn, your heroes reveal a little more terrain and more assets to investigate, acquire or conquer. This revelation is what some call an "event horizon," because it triggers and inspires players. New assets that appear on the event horizon keep players interested. Heroes of Might and Magic II Unfortunately, an example of bad asset revelation can be seen in the same game. Heroes of Might and Magic II sacrificed its diversity of assets to make an individual level interesting, but in so doing, nothing new was left to be revealed in subsequent levels. With nothing new to reveal in later levels, the designers merely tinkered with the quantity and alliances of enemy players. This scenario raises a very good question: Is it okay for a level designer to ignore the other levels in a game and use any and all of the assets he wants in order to make his level better? The answer is no. If the natural progression of asset revelation from level to level gets broken by one particular level, then the other levels seem weak in contrast. It also forces other designers on the project to redo their levels, and that causes havoc and wastes time. The next thing you know, that one level has set a precedent that the lead designer did not intend. Having just finished a game project on which this happened, I can vouch for how much a level that breaks the asset revelation can screw everything up. 10. Challenge the player Your job as level designer is to challenge the player. A level isn’t truly satisfying unless victory is at times uncertain. So you have to present challenges to players that really test their mettle and make them uncertain of their victory. When doing so, you have to cater to different player abilities (see rule #6) and to increasingly skilled and equipped players. Where your level is positioned in the game timeline or "level progression" should indicate how difficult it needs to be. In the first few levels, players learn how to play the game, so these levels should be a little forgiving. Levels at the end should be the most difficult to coincide with the increased skill and player resources. There will be times when you find that your level, although it plays really well, doesn’t quite fit into the progression. It may make the levels before it or after it seem too easy or too hard. There are a number of solutions to this problem. You can scale up or down the difficulty in your level without grossly changing the game play or the fun factor. You can ask to reposition your level in the game. This isn’t always an option if you have a tight story line, however. You can make your level a sort of "change-of-pace" level. Change-of-pace levels are usually easier than the previous level but subject the player to an unusual limitation, so they remain difficult in the fact that the player is using untested skills. An example is the "Tanya" mission in Command & Conquer: Red Alert, where you no longer control a large number of tanks and troops, but instead one super "Rambo" soldier. In some games, levels are grouped together into modules, like missions within an operation, floors in a dungeon, or regions on a planet. While the subsequent modules should generally increase in difficulty, the last level within a module may be more difficult than the first level in the next module. This is because there’s a natural pause and release of tension that players experience when they’ve achieved very important objectives in the last level of a module. Players are not ready to jump right into the intensity again and often appreciate an easier mission to catch their breath. 11. Make it unique Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 12. If the player didn’t see it, it didn’t happen Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 13. See through the player’s eyes Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 14. Fulfill player expectations Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 15. Balance the difficulty for the median skill level Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 16. Know the players’ bag of tricks Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 17. Learn what players may bring to the fray Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article 18. Be the adversary To a certain extent you have to be sadistic to the players. You should enjoy being the adversary, and think from the AI’s perspective. This will help you make much more realistic opponents that a player can understand. Players naturally put a human face on the AI, and so they expect the AI to behave like a human. When you script the AI to behave in a human fashion, it helps players successfully strategize and often draws them deeper into the game. It also evokes a little fear in players, as they don’t expect a game AI to recognize their weaknesses. As the adversary, you need to provoke fear in players and prey on their weaknesses. It’s what makes the game more challenging, fun and fulfilling. 19. Play test, play test, and play test some more Nothing surpasses play testing when it comes to ensuring quality level design. Although I’ve listed it as the19th rule, play-testing should be an ongoing process. You need to test your levels as you make them. It will save you a lot of time reworking your level if you can identify a significant bug or flaw in your thinking early in the design process. Plus, play testing is often where many level designers come up with some of their best improvements to levels. And don’t forget that only through rigorous play-testing you can spare yourself the embarrassment of your boss or your coworkers finding some really heinous and obvious bugs in your level. Testing your level is part of your job. One of the most rewarding activities in level design is watching other people play your level. Not only do you get an opportunity to see their reactions (both positive and negative), but you can gauge how close they come to the experience you strove for. You can observe their play styles, see how they explore and discover the various tricks, puzzles, traps and rewards. It helps you see how difficult your level is to people who don’t already know the solutions and don’t necessarily have your play skills. You can identify where your level is too boring or difficult, observe solutions to puzzles that you didn’t expect and thereby make them easier, or harder. There’s always a player who will do the unexpected, and when you come across this situation, don’t be afraid to ask them questions like, "Why did you go there?" The player may provide you with a great idea for improving your level. Watching a player test your level is definitely an opportunity you should never pass up. Always remember that play-testers are never wrong, though they may not be able to clearly explain the basis for their opinions or offer good suggestions for improving your level. Take their advice with a grain of salt, because they are not always the target market or the target skill level. Some of your testers may not be big fans of your type of game, or they might have played the game so much that they’re no longer good sources of advice when it comes to the game’s difficulty. You should get input from as many play testers as you can before you change your level, so that you can see if there’s consensus in the feedback. Reacting to only one player’s response, whether positive or negative, can spoil your level for the other players. 20. Take the time to make it better Follow the link at the end to read this portion of the article The Myth of the "Every-Man" Designer The "Every-Man" designer is the person who thinks that he or she knows what every person wants in a game. Being human and of only one mind and heart, this is a very pretentious assumption. You should have the humility to recognize that your tastes differ from others and that you are not always right. Keep your mind open to feedback and fresh ideas, and consult with people who may have more experience than you. If you do not, your games will miss their intended market. Game design is a very hard skill to judge, being intangible, evolving, and not taught in any school. The "Every-Man" designers take advantage of this by putting on airs of great skill to put themselves into positions of power. Unfortunately, our industry is full of such people and they are often in a position to judge and change your work. I hope that by mentioning this here, early in your career, that you will not become one of them, because it can be a very unpleasant realization for you and your company that you don’t know what every player wants. Developing Level Design Instincts Level design instincts are what employers look for when they interview you. To a certain extent, employers assume you have some of these instincts if you have designed any levels at all, for they only come from practice. They are what you take from game to game and project to project, and they’re what make your job so special. It’s these instincts that let you immediately apply design theories and rules on the first pass of designing a level. You’ll know when you have developed good instincts when you can look at someone else’s level, or an early level of your own, and the mistakes will glare at you. All of the rules in this series of articles came from my own instincts which I developed over years of making games, making plenty of mistakes, and having plenty of realizations. You, as a beginning designer, will make plenty of mistakes. However, hopefully you will learn from these experiences and you will stick with it. Hopefully these level design theories and rules will get you a head start on a satisfying hobby or career in level design. Follow the link for the full article: https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131739/beginning_level_design_part_2_.php Follow Tim Twitter: https://twitter.com/firemuse 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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