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  1. 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
  2. "Environment artists and level designers are faced with a difficult job of creating whole worlds from nothing. Many developers have found thoughtful methods for addressing this task through experience and personal research, but what if someone else could do that early research for us? Enter, Interior Design. Last year I presented how some simple Interior Design Theory applies to games. This time we will deep dive into more complex Interior Design techniques and practices and examining how to apply the principles of Order, Enrichment, and Expression to master space and place." Follow Dan Twitter: https://twitter.com/danjohncox Website: https://danjohncox.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
  3. Hey everyone, it has been too long and I am sorry about that, I meant to finish up this final section of the topic last month but got distracted. Regardless, I am here now to give you my final article of the year, and thank all of you for reading my articles and wishing you all a Merry Christmas & Happy holidays. Now what could be more Jolly and Christmasy than that of how best to defeat your enemies in ranged combat. If you have not read my previous entries in the series I do recommend that you check Part 1 and Part 2 out before continuing with the finale. Recap In previous entries we spoke about how important it is that you understand your metrics for the weapons, cover, avatar and much more. We next discussed the importance of 2d maps and research. With all of that in motion I can now go forward and show you my blockout. To give some context as well, as I mentioned in the previous articles the layout we will be looking at today was from my time on the CGMA Course I took part in earlier this year. This challenge was to create a combat layout of a certain size (30m x 30m). There was no theme, no story, etc, just pure focus on making a great combat layout. We were given a set of LD Kits that we could use as well for these blockouts. Now with this in mind lets see the magic. Level This was the 2d map of the level, a 30x30 map: Here is a top down shot of the blockout: I wanted to share these just because I have seen people talk online about not doing a 2d plan or google sketch up before starting a level as they “do not want to constrain themselves”. I am writing to say that is not true, they are tools to help you plan your level. When you look at the two images you can see that there are differences, as I needed to make some to help the level improve. Just showing you how planning does not restrict you, these planning tools are there to help you, then you can go to adjust accordingly. A 2d map helps you create a footprint of your level, it can not and will not represent how it will feel with the overall camera, mechanics etc. Changes With me mentioning how it is important for you to make changes from your plan to your blockout, let us talk about some of my changes. The biggest one for sure is my mix up with the height. I have raised the back section of the level. In the previous article I mentioned that I wanted to section off my level, and I divided it into quarters like so: With having some combat take place within interiors and other combat areas take place out in exterior areas. Yet when I was running through my level I noticed that although you can feel differences in sections they do not feel so different, so by raising up parts of the level you would feel a difference, a transition. Not only this but it would help divide the space up even more, one half would be raised while the other would be lowered, one half is in an interior space while another would be exterior, again helping the space feel memorable and helping players build a mental map. This was not the only reason I wanted to raise up the space, it was to put players at a disadvantage, to increase the challenge. Something to memorise “It is easier to shoot down, than up” so by dividing the space and having players start on the lower section, it would make them feel as if they were charging into enemy territory. Second biggest change you can see between the map and top down shot was that of the cover placement. That one for sure is always going to change, as you can plan but for sure that is always subject to change, as until you understand how the enemies will move, which archetype of enemy you will use, etc., these are always ideas at best. I did not get functioning enemies in this level working, but I did place down placeholders and routes for the enemies to still help me shape the encounter. From this I was able to help picture the cover and plan the combat fronts for my level. Now these are some of the changes, I do not wish to go into too much detail here as there is still so much to talk about and we are almost 1000 words into this blog. As mentioned previously it is okay to make changes, as iteration is how we as level designers make better levels. We do not accomplish it in the planning stage. We do not ace it in our first blockout. We make it slowly with each iteration. Walkthrough After discussing these changes, let’s break down the level step by step to show you my design choices and why I made them. First up, is the players starting position: As you can see in the blue circle, the player starts in the bottom right corner, in almost a corridor like space. So there are a few things to break down in why I chose this starting position: I did not want the player to start exactly in the corner so later on the level can open up and feel bigger, so by manipulating the space and eating it up I can make it feel larger as the player progresses The starting position is a safe space for the player, allowing them to gather their bearings without feeling threatened. From this position I can slowly feed information to the player, when they turn left they can see another section of the level and a challenge, making sure players do not get overwhelmed with everything going on. I wanted to slowly give information to players. You can see this slowly happen so that players can tackle certain challenges one at a time, and it is also a way to encourage exploration. With the fact that players do not know the whole space, nor can they see it, they will want to go and explore. The space opens up more and more, so the player can start to see more and take in more information. Something to remember is “How we interact with the world, comes from how we see it” If you want players to plan and stick to more of one area, show more of the level, if however you want players to go and explore, then slowly feed them information. 4. Presenting the player with knowledge and options. From this position the first thing players can see are windows, this informs the player that there is an interior space in front of them. This is crucial for a later choice, as it is foreshadowing how the space is divided. (These windows would be blocked by glass as well, hinting to my second point) Next is the opening on the left, by having that negative space as well as the cover there as well it peaks the players curiosity, and with the fact that in the west we read left to right it is the first thing players can possibly help pull players in that direction. As players turn the corner, we move on to their next view: (Before we break this next step down, I just want a huge shout out to a truly amazing Dev Miriam Bellard, Miriam has such a phenomenal mind for design. In her superb talk Environmental Design in Spacial Cinematography Miriam talks about how each view of the level should contain vital info for the player. I really enjoyed that and tried to think of it as I blocked out this level, anyway side note over, do check out Miriam’s talk and follow her on twitter if you have it) In this shot I wanted players to have a decision point, this space allows players to See the Challenge and then allows them to Plan for said Challenge. In this shot we would be able to see one enemy: From here players can decide if they should engage in combat, or move closer. To help pull in the player I have done a few things. Number one is having the enemy have a patrol path, so the enemy won’t be static so the lineup for the perfect shot is there, but only for a limited window. Number two is through cover placement, if we look at the cover it is a stepped position to help players move through the space. By staggering the cover like this it still allows the player to feel safe as they move through. giving them an advantage. Now I do this because this is the first enemy encounter, so I want players to feel safe and still decide as they move through the space. Another choice that will be noticed from earlier is that there are more windows hinting to the player that there is still an interior space to be explored. As the player gets closer they see an option to enter the building. Now this entrance not only works because it is an extra option for the player so that the player can strategize, but also it helps to add loops to the combat. (With combat loops, the aim is to make sure that players or enemies do not run into dead-ends, or out of choices (over simplified explanation)) From this position players can possibly see the other enemy as well, alerting them that they are outnumbered. If players chose to enter the interior space, one of things is that I wanted it to feel different than the exterior space. I did this in two ways. First is with the ceiling, it instantly feels a lot more claustrophobic as well as feels limiting in where to shoot, as now players will only aim on the X & Y axis vs that of when outside where they have more freedom to aim higher. Secondly is through lack of cover, compared to where we were, there was a lot more cover close by, while here there is a lot less. Most of the cover comes from the architecture itself. Once the player has picked their path they can then start to engage the enemies in combat. In order to make sure that space helps players know best how to tackle this encounter is by making sure that the Fronts are clear to the player. (Fronts - mean a clear line of combat, knowing where your cover is and knowing where the enemies line is. We all see those games where we are walking around and suddenly see a lot of crates in an area, we as players know that combat will take place here) EF = Enemy’s Front PF = Player’s Front In this space there are actually two Fronts of combat, in the picture above we will be engaging in combat from this direction to start as we take on our two starting enemies, however there are two enemies up the stairs that the player is not aware of. For pacing, the encounter would go along the line where players would engage with the first two enemies, after one has died then an enemy from uptop the stairs would start attacking the player so the Combat Fronts would change. A reason for doing this, is to keep the encounter engaging and challenging. By moving the fronts, it means players will have to move as well, making it so they do not camp at certain spots. Creating movement in the fronts allows players to see more of the space and master it. Gears of War were great at this, as they would have sections of the level where players had to fight their way up to take down an enemy using a turret, only for the enemy waves to attack the player while the player had the turret, making re-use of the level as well as allowing the player to see the level from a different angle. By also switching the front as well, I am now changing the difficulty of the encounter. During the first Front players and enemies are both on the same level of height, while when it changes the enemy is now higher than the player. In order for players to get on the same height as the enemy, it means that they have to cover more ground and expose themselves before they can get up the stairs. What I have done to help the player, but also another way to help encourage movement within this combat space, is by mixing up the cover height. In these pictures you can see that some cover are 1m Low cover and while high covers are 2m tall. Now we could go into how the different sizes of cover impacts players, but we are already pushing the word limit here, so I will say that by having some High Cover it blocks Line of Sight so players will have to move around in order to line up the shot that they want. By using Low Cover as well, it may not always be the safest option for the player, again forcing them to move. This will also help players strategize as they chose which cover to move to. We could continue you on with the level, as this so far is only just one quarter of the level. However, during the time of writing this it is getting closer to xmas, so I am going to cut things short around here. Also, go enjoy your time as well with the ones that you love. Learning Points Although I have only showed you a section of my level, let us talk about what you should take away from this article and apply to your own combat encounters: Starting Point - When choosing how or where to start the player, think about a safe space in which players can get their bearings first (unless it is an ambush situation) Revealing Information - Depending on the situation will dictate how much you will want to show your player. Just remember that the amount you show will impact how players move, as well to make sure you do not overload your player too much. Provide choices for the player - this can just be as simple as which cover to use, but by providing a choice it helps players feel that they are in control. Provide Combat Loops - It is simple but will help reduce frustration for players, by making sure that they do not end up in dead ends, it helps keep the flow of combat engaging. Establish your Fronts - Make it clear where the fight will take place so players can best prepare themselves Change the Fronts - It is great to have your fronts, but by changing it part way through combat, it encourages movement and allows the player to see and understand more of your space Mix Up Cover Height - Mixing up cover height is great for variety, as well as having players interact with the space differently Height Level Changes - Are a great way to break up line of sight, change up the difficulty as well as a nice way to break up the traversal and process of aiming. You can do it by making your space two floors, but also just by raising an area by 1m. Every game, combat encounter, and level is different so these are not hard rules, more of suggestions. It is about knowing when to apply them as well. I do hope they help you when you create your future levels. Improvements This small encounter space may be something I am proud of considering the time constraints I made it in. Yet that does not mean it is a perfect space, I know that there are some things I need to adjust and change in order to make this a more memorable level. I am going to mention a few of them here, so you can make even better levels than myself. Help make each section more memorable - I spoke about how I tried to divide this level into quarters, which I think I did okay, but I should have experimented with local and global landmarks so players would instantly recognize the sections a little better. I tried with the architecture of the space, however I should have looked at more propage ideas as well. Less Cover - Now that is not a sweeping statement for the overall level, just in certain sections I should have reduced the amount of cover, that way it would encourage more long range combat forcing the players to hold their ground in certain sections. Tweaked metric guideline - For this space it may not seem like a huge deal but my cover buffer was 2m, I think I should have pushed it for 3m to have more space and not have certain areas feel as tight as they did in the level. Have actual enemies - Now these red boxes helped me for sure, but nothing is better than having actual AI inside your level, as that would give me far better feedback for my level. For sure there is more than this, but these are the bigger issues at hand when I go through this level. As I said before, we do not get everything right the first time we do it. Our levels get better with each iteration. With that said, if you have enjoyed this article and level, then maybe you want to see another level I did this year, which has objectives, a theme and a location to show you how I applied these rules to a new space. Check it out here: Please Support If you want more Level Design tips then please follow me on twitter. If you want more quality LD content and want to imagine how my silky voice sounds, then please come check out my podcast. iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. Preface Architecture theory is a considerably broad subject, an amalgamation of numerous artistic and psychological sensibilities. However, regardless of architectural movement or era, one idea has proved itself a philosophical mainstay. In the words of architect Louis Khan; “architecture is the thoughtful making of space”. For centuries, architects have been concerned with how physical forms shape and manipulate the spatial void they are placed within, exploring how this influences the ways in which human beings interact with space. Even though digital game levels are intangible, players interface with these spaces in a fashion to how their own bodies would interact with the world around them. Hence, level design can be approached through an architectural lens to enrich the player’s experience of digital spaces. In this assignment, I shall explore how level designers have utilized architecture theory in their craft. Throughout, I will introduce and explain several spatial principles and present a curated range of game spaces that employ them. This will display the ways in which level designers have utilized, subverted or otherwise re-purposed architectural theory to enrich player experience, but may also show how genre affects these decisions. Emotionally-guided Planning of Space A ‘parti pris’¸ often shortened to ‘parti’, is a planning technique that some architects use early in their design process to identify their project’s layout and spatial qualities. Usually a sketch of the site’s overhead layout, the parti can be informed by external ideas which often transcend the physicality of architectural form. Through this approach, an architectural piece can become a physical manifestation of the philosophical concept it was founded upon. Meaning ‘spirit of place’, the Roman concept of genius loci has been adapted by architects to describe when a place is recognized for a remarkable or memorable quality. For some level designers, the genius loci may exist through an intended gameplay experience that is shaped by their game genre. In horror game Dead Space 2, hostile enemies were omitted from the chapter ‘Déjà Vu on the Ishimura’ which subverted player expectation and placed it among the most memorable moments of the game’s campaign. The genius loci here can be considered as being the elevation of dramatic tension throughout the level’s spatial atmosphere. Place and Space Figure-ground Theory Generally, it can be assumed that both architects and level designers must possess a fundamental understanding of how shapes and spaces are visually organised. A way for this to be achieved is application of gestalt theory; the psychological study of human perception. Level designer Christopher W. Totten refers to level design as “an art of contrasts”, in which the gestalt component of figure-ground theory can be applied. Figure-ground theory states that all components within a person’s visual field can be separated into two contrasting elements: ‘figures’ and ‘ground’. For Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts”. Through the lens of architectural design, this idea is present; form and space must be considered equally to be distinguishable and understood. Architect Francis D. K. Ching defines the relationship between figure and ground as “a unity of opposites”, alluding to both elements having equal significance to a visual composition. There are two ways in which the placement of figures will determine how the surrounding ground is visually processed: Positive space is created when figures are arranged to imply shape within them. The ground itself can be perceived as a figure. Negative space occurs when Figures are placed distantly from one another, making the ground appear shapeless and uncontained. Ching reinforces how the base principles behind figure-ground theory remain significant when applied to Architecture, claiming that “architectural form occurs at the juncture between mass and space”. This perspective echoes throughout the application of spatial theory in both architecture and level design. Here, mass and space are the tangible equivalents to figure and ground. There must be always be a perceivable contrast between form and space to retain visual clarity. The contrast between figure and ground has numerous was of being achieved, including colour, value, and texture. N++, as a two-dimensional platformer, does not adhere to many architectural sensibilities. Despite this, the game’s minimalistic level design highlights the symbiotic dichotomy between mass and space. The figures and ground are easily identifiable from each other due to their heavily contrasting colours and values (see Figure 1). Fig. 1: N++ 2016. 'Parkour Park Prototype' level. [screenshot by the author]. Here, the white masses shown are physical structures, and the navy-coloured void is the space in which players navigate through. The placement of obstacles and enemies within the playable space help to prevent the player from alternating their perspective of the game’s figures and ground, a problem that occurs when both elements of a visual composition have roughly equal presence. Some levels in N++ are prone to this problem, where their masses and spaces dominating equal space and disrupting the distinction between figure and ground. This is exacerbated when the level’s masses appear to be extensions of the surrounding game border (see Figure 2). Highlighting the shortcomings of a minimalistic colour palette, scenarios like these have potential to confuse the player, as the game environment consequently becomes more difficult to read. However, these abstract visual compositions could be considered a positive or otherwise intriguing quality, contributing to the level’s genius loci. Fig. 2: N++ 2016. 'Learning Process' level. [screenshot by the author]. Landmarks Urban designer Kevin Lynch proposed that urban city environments are comprised of five key elements. One of these elements, landmarks, can be considered a significant level design tool to enrich a game’s environment. At an urban scale, landmarks are typically physical structures like towers, distinctive buildings, or statues, that serve as spatial anchors or reference points for pedestrians. Furthermore, landmarks have potential to contribute to a space’s genius loci. Lynch believed that the “principal factor” for an object to be considered a landmark was its visual contrast to a background, which could be achieved through application of figure-ground theory. The Eiffel Tower is perhaps one of the most renowned examples of a landmark utilizing figure-ground effectively. Here, the sky itself is the ground in which the figure is placed upon (see Figure 3). This grants Paris a landmark of immense scale that can be observed and referenced several kilometres from its origin. Fig. 3: Gustave Eiffel 1889. The Eiffel Tower. Landmarks as World-enriching Figures Naturally, Level Designers can use skyboxes in outdoor environments to similar effect. The skybox can also be made visually distinguishable from the game’s horizon, resulting in a significant amount of negative space to be used as the ground for landmark figures. In World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, players are immediately greeted by a monolithic structure upon their arrival to the fictional city of Dazar’alor (see Figure 4). This structure is a gilded, Mesoamerican-influenced pyramid that houses the upper echelons of the native society and their seat of power. Visually, the pyramid contrasts its background to a similar magnitude of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Fig. 4: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. 2018. Pyramid landmark in Dazar'alor. [screenshot by the author]. The placement of Dazar’alor’s pyramid echoes architectural conventions of spatial elevation. Ching identifies how the physical elevation of a structure is often a culturally informed decision, venerating the site’s religious or social importance to the area it has risen above. The pyramid itself is among the tallest locations on the entire continent of Zandalar, indicating its significance to the city’s cultural identity. Home to the Zandalari Trolls, the races’ occupation of the structure symbolises their dominance and mastery over the land. This notion continues through the bold, triangular shape of the pyramid, which mimics the surrounding mountains. Similarly, the Citadel in Half Life 2 carries a similar theme of dominance over the surrounding landscape, but in such a way that it appears overwhelmingly oppressive. The Citadel’s futuristic, muted features and monstrous size have a discordant but contrasting presence among the dated, brick-and-mortar apartment blocks of City 17. The tower evokes a sense of dread or unease, which is fitting, as Totten explains how the game establishes very early that the Citadel is the location of the game’s primary antagonist. Using Landmarks as Diegetic Pathfinding Devices Additionally, level designers can place landmarks throughout game levels as physical goals or locations that the player must reach. The impact of using waypoints in this manner can be augmented by an architectural technique that Frederick describes as “denial and reward”. Generally, the intention behind this is to make arrival to a landmark or destination feel more satisfying. In the context of level design, denial and reward is used during the player’s passage to a landmark. Landmarks become temporarily obscured from view, only to be revealed later from a new distance or perspective. Revealing the landmark from increasingly closer distances can indicate the passage of time to player in a natural and unobtrusive way, compelling the player to proceed. Journey utilizes this technique well. The game’s primary objective is to reach the mountain, a distant landmark that is introduced almost immediately after the game begins. The mountain often leaves the player’s field of view as they complete puzzles and traverse the abandoned landscape, but will occasionally resurface, appearing closer to the player. The physical qualities of the mountain are layered; new details are made apparent to the player as they get closer to the summit. These details include changes in weather, as well as the addition of small ruins and structures that would have been impossible to see from a greater distance. Further Exploration of Positive and Negative Spaces Positive Spaces in Urban Environments In urban environments, architectural figures are often placed in such a way that shapes the within them, implying spaces without using form. These positive spaces act as “dwelling” zones where people are typically found to socialise. The Nolli Map demonstrates the use of these spaces throughout the entire city of Rome, Italy (see Figure 5). Fig. 5: Nolli 1748. Segment of the 'Nolli Map'. Major cities in World of Warcraft, social environments using the same considerations of positive space. Like many urban environments, the positive spaces in the city of Stormwind are shaped by the placement of architectural figures. Overhead, the city is shown to have its districts separated by rooftop colour. This is the primary way in which each district’s visual identity can be distinguished. Characteristics like these, although simple, reflect urban planner Kevin Lynch’s criteria used to define ‘districts’ in urban cities, another one of his five urban city elements. Additionally, Stormwind’s layout uses canals to further separate these spaces, resulting in the transition between the city’s district a being very apparent to players navigating through the city. In Stormwind City, the Trade District is typically where social interactions between players’ game avatars are concentrated. By observing a figure-ground plan of the area, (see Figure 6), these hotspots are shown to be within the district’s positive spaces. Fig. 6: Tancock 2018. Stormwind Trade District Figure-ground Diagram. The high number of players in this zone can be attributed to the clustering of character services that are otherwise sparsely located in the game world, namely the Bank and Auction House. Like many dwelling spaces in urban architecture, the high player activity can be taken for the Trade District’s landmark. This mirrors the findings of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, that designer Claire Hosking references in her exploration of positive spaces. The positive spaces in the Trade District can be considered a ‘social canvas’, where the high concentration of players has increased potential interaction. These spaces can be utilized by level designers to create memorable social gathering places. Negative Spaces in Multiplayer Shooters Like positive space, negative space in urban design is defined by the spatial relationship between architectural figures. Here, negative space occurs when the arrangement of figures does not imply space, making the ground appear uncontained and shapeless. The use of negative space can be further considered from a three-dimensional perspective. Like landmarks, playable spaces can be visually identified by contrasting the negative space surrounding them. The rampant popularity of the Unreal Tournament map Facing Worlds (see Figure 7) is often attributed to its use of negative space. For arena shooters, the use of negative space allows players to distinguish other players, both hostile and friendly, from great distances. Additionally, negative space aids in the identification of power weapons and game mode objectives. Fig. 7: Unreal Tournament 1999. ‘Facing Worlds' multiplayer map. Level designer Jim Brown compares the use of negative space of Facing Worlds to the lack thereof in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map Favela. Here, the environment’s negative space is more difficult to distinguish from the playable space, leading to confusion and frustration from players. Despite this, Brown admits that the map’s environmental design was faithful to its architectural source material; the favelas of Brazil. The primary threat in competitive shooters comes from the presence of hostile players. Therefore, level designers must emphasize negative spaces to make all players identifiable from the game environment. This approach should reduce external factors, outside of the individual skill of the player, that reduces the frustration from failure. In this context, the ‘failure’ comes from being killed by an enemy player. In Modern Warfare 2, the single-player mission ‘Takedown’ is also set within a Brazilian favela, utilizing the same level design language and lack of visual clarity as its multiplayer equivalent. Level designer Dan Taylor uses this level to justify that “confusion is cool” but admits that these situations should be carefully and sparingly implemented. It can be argued that using negative space to a similar extent of Facing Worlds would have detracted from the level’s experiential qualities. Repurposing Architectural Conventions for Level Design Although many spatial considerations of level design are analogous to their architectural roots, the ways in which people and players experience these spaces are inherently different. Totten manipulates architect Le-Corbusier’s philosophy towards modern architecture, as he states how Level design is often constructed around challenges or situations that must be overcome by the player; “the game level should be the machine for living, dying, and creating tension by exploiting everything in between”. Some principles of architecture must be subverted or otherwise manipulated to achieve said intended experience. Spatial Considerations of Multiplayer Map Design First introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops, the multiplayer map Nuketown has been embraced by game modding communities and has since appeared in later Call of Duty titles. Nuketown’s popularity, like many other renowned competitive multiplayer maps, could be partially attributed to its use of synergy between positive and negative spaces. The spatial organisation of Nuketown (see Figure-8) is based on a suburban living space. Positive and negative spaces are combined in order to separate to allow for both dwelling and movement spaces. Similar layouts can be found on various College and University campuses. Fig. 8: Tancock 2018. Nuketown Figure-ground Diagram. Although multiplayer maps like Nuketown follow the same spatial arrangement of real suburban spaces, the purpose of these spaces is manipulated to better serve the shooter genre. The outdoor positive spaces of Nuketown are located on either side of the level’s layout and contain the initial player spawn points. These areas are safe from enemy fire unless encroached upon. To encounter members of the opposing team, players must make the conscious decision to venture from the safety afforded by these spaces into the central space, where lines of sight are opened. The map uses vehicles as figures to define this negative space. In level design, the aspects of prospect and refuge spaces can be considered. These spaces share some of the architectural considerations of positive and negative space, where Nuketown’s central area can be considered a prospect space, as the space is an open area that exposes the player to potential threats. The large suburban houses that dominate each team’s side of the map are, alternatively, refuge spaces by way of their positive space being used break enemy sightlines and protect the player from gunfire. The dichotomy between prospect and refuge spaces in multiplayer level design should inform a player’s spatial experience by exploiting their survival instincts; players within prospect spaces are likely to subconsciously seek the shelter and protection of a refuge space. From here, the player may once again venture into the prospect space to engage enemies. Additionally, players can use the houses’ balconies to gain a vertical advantage to the centrally-contested prospect space, although this requires sacrificing the safety granted by the houses’ refuge spaces. As a final consideration of Nuketown’s level design, the level’s layout is comparably small to other maps found in the genre. Naturally, this means that the transition between positive and negative spaces are more frequent, raising the frequency in which players will encounter each other. The genius loci of this level could be attributed as a high-paced, thrilling multiplayer experience. Conclusion Architecture has long been concerned with spatial theory. Over time, this philosophy has guided and established design principles that remain considered even today by contemporary architects. From my research of architecture theory, it is apparent that the medium’s spatial lessons have been embraced by level designers. Where contemporary architects are guided by the virtues of human comfort and efficiency, level designers can craft virtual social environments by adhering to similar rules. Alternatively, level designers can use the implications of game genres to repurpose architectural theory entirely, allowing players to be subjected to numerous emotional experiences. From overwhelming dramatic tension, to the empowerment from claiming a tactical advantage over a contested space, level designers have been shown to achieve genius loci that are unique to digital games. Exploiting the relationship between positive and negative space can foster a competitive atmosphere in what would otherwise be a safe and social space. Video games provide virtual experiences that are meant to be interacted with, where levels act as the stage on which those experiences are presented. *Note: This article is re-published in full, with permission from the author. References can be found at the source, linked below. Source: https://charlietancock.com/third-year-written-assignment Follow Charlie Twitter: https://twitter.com/tancoque Portfolio: https://charlietancock.com/portfolio 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. This article is a portion of the thesis titled "What Level Design Elements Determine Flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom" by David Eliasson. The 'Results' and 'Analysis' portions for Doom have been left out of this posting, along with several other sections. Please follow the link at the end to read the full thesis. We hope that you'll find something of value in this piece, and would love to hear what you've learned from it in the comments below. Happy reading! Abstract This thesis presents a comparative study between Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016) to determine how these fast-paced games facilitate flow in their gameplay. The second chapter looks at formal definitions of flow and level design to establish a vocabulary for following chapters. Through formal analysis the level designs of both games are then examined to establish what elements in them guide players and keep the flow in gameplay. The thesis also examines how the initial gameplay design principles, which are rooted in the older shooter genre, have impacted the level design. The author uses screenshots from both games, interviews with the design teams and published literature on game design for the study. It was found that the architectural design of a level in hero-based gameplay (Overwatch (2016)) could control the pacing by changing the elements that enable certain types of movement such as climbing or creating setups that favor one team over the other. On an individual player level, flow is kept with intentional placement of light and bright colors to guide the player. While Doom (2016) uses different abilities and movement sets for its hero, the tools of guiding the player proved to be very similar but with heavier focus on environmental markings and lights. In both cases the look of these guiding tools was adapted to fit into the game world without breaking the player’s immersion. Introduction Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? “Heroes” and “Doom-guy” are references to different player avatars from the two games this study is based on. “Heroes” comes from the online fps multiplayer game Overwatch (2016) where players control one of several heroes, all with their unique abilities and means to traverse and interact with the environment. “Doom-guy” is the space-marine protagonist of the Doom (2016) single player campaign. The first part of this thesis’s title “What level design elements determine flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom.” addresses two theoretical parts of level design; principles and flow. To establish what principles exist in a field which is heavily dependent on which genre it is and as its own individual game. What principles determine which elements should exist and their placement so they enhance flow and do not disrupt it. In turn provides immersion by catering to players’ suspension of disbelief. The second part of the thesis consists of a practical examination of the two games to pinpoint these elements within their levels to determine if they create and continue to enable flow. The purpose of this thesis is to examine what level design principles exist to curate flow and then to compare two games with different mechanics and player abilities to examine how those principles are applied in each game to support the intended experience. Background These two games were chosen since they were both nominated for the same awards during 2016’s Game Awards. They were nominated for: Game of the Year, which Overwatch (2016) won. Best Studio/Game Direction, which Overwatch (2016) won Best Action Game, which Doom (2016) won Both games are also grounded in the old-school fast-paced FPS shooter genre. Jeff Kaplan game designer on Overwatch addresses this in the GameSpot video interview (GameSpot 2016) The Story of Overwatch: Return of the 90s Shooter (which refers to Doom (1996), Quake 2 (1997), Team Fortress Classic (1999) & Team Fortress 2 (2007)) and how these games have influenced the Overwatch (2016) development. In the interview Kaplan talks about how they want to bring back fast-paced gameplay with free-flowing movement abilities. In his opinion, this has been lost over the past decade as the design philosophy in the fps genre at large has moved closer toward mimicking reality. The goal of Overwatch (2016) was to bring back intuitive gameplay where players compete to get to alternative vantage points and use unique abilities to maneuver as well as neutralize enemies. With focus on the player’s ability to control how they traverse through a level. Kaplan continues to explain their level designs guiding goals and how they work to facilitate this. These are: Heroes First - Levels are meant to support the heroes’ differences and so they are built to create different opportunities for each hero’s movement abilities and skills. Maps should feel intuitive enough to navigate that they do not draw away attention from the heroes. Diversity of Experience - Levels should be playgrounds for different playstyles and skill levels, with built-in vantage points to climb and chokepoints for close combat. Environments should be diverse enough for all hero types to shine. Clarity of Space - Players should be able to smoothly navigate levels even if it is their first time playing them. They should have enough affordances to clearly direct them and distinguish between travel areas and locked areas. Every playthrough, players should find new, alternative ways to maneuver through the level. The environment should be visually clean, with clear points of interest. Immersive World Fantasy - Each level should be a fantasy-rich and inspiring version of real-world locations to further immerse the player in being the hero. Environments should also provide a clear view of distant areas to make the levels feel as a part of a larger, surrounding world. Doom (2016) is heavily influenced by its predecessor from 1996 in terms of level layout and how they make speed into a key element for more intuitive gameplay. In an interview (Graft 2017) Marty Stratton game director on Doom (2016) talks about this and how the team aimed to recapture the original game’s essence of fast-paced, agile combat. Creating a fundamental core design principle of gameplay resulting in a constant push-forward combat tactic. Stratton defines this as combat chess, consisting of: Speed of movement. Players’ ability to in an agile way move around in the environment. Individuality of demons. Prioritize enemies based on their unique traits and how they work in unison, variation of demons presents different challenges. Distinctiveness of the weapons. Like distinctive enemies determine which weapon best deals with facing various kinds of demons as well how they feel to interact with. Overall power of the player. Players’ health, weapon damage, reload speed and how well they are equipped overall to face various kinds of demons and obstacles. “Make me think, make me move”. This concept refers to a style of gameplay where, due to the player’s fast movement speed, challenges must be solved as they move through the environment. So, all information needed to solve those challenges must be clearly visible and easy to understand as the player maneuvers the environment. In the same interview Stratton also states: “The right size arena, with just the right amount of space, actually made the players feel even faster, … Your top-end speed is good but you’re more agile than you are fast. If you’re in the right space, it can just feel perfect. We spent a lot of time during development finding exactly what the rightsized spaces are for Doom to make you feel quick and agile, but still under control.” Here both Stratton’s and Kaplan’s design principles match, both are looking back into what now could be called classics. Striving for gameplay where a player’s control over their avatar determines how good they are at the game, as long the game provide enough feedback and has mechanics that are in tune with the levels they traverse. To summarize, there are similarities in both design philosophies, showing that they strive for: Core gameplay centered around player avatars and their abilities. An immersive world with plenty of affordances for varied playstyles Simple but stylized environments which clearly show that the avatar belongs in them as well clearly showing how to traverse them. So, what have these games done to facilitate these design goals and how does these it affect the flow within the games. What elements do their levels contain and what principles have they used to guide their players? Previous Work This section explains the fundamentals and guiding principles of level design to provide a vocabulary for the methodology. What is a Level? Game development terminology describes the term “level” as multifaceted. Scott Rogers writes in Level Design: Processes and Practices (2017:102) that a game level can be the environment the player is currently traveling/performing actions within. As well as a numeric sense of how far they have progressed within the game or as a representation of an avatar’s power. In his book, Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Games Second Edition (2014:225) he defines four different variations for this term, Rogers states that this is due to a limited professional vocabulary within the industry. These are: Level: Environment/location where gameplay occurs. Level: Physical (in-game) space based upon specific gameplay experience. Level: Unit of counting player’s overall game progression. Level: Term for marking character progression and improvement. The first two definitions are aimed toward environmental aspects where the first encompasses the larger play space and the second definition refers to the smaller sections within the space. For example, the desert in Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainment 2012) represents a large level that the player can travel through and at various places there exists explorable caves. The caves are parts of the desert level but each cave is their own level and would be broken down to more levels if the caves would contain various locations. Anna Anthropy (Anthropy, 2014:40) explains this divide further by defining and breaking down levels as scenes which in themselves are built by various scenes, “A scene is a more atomic, fundamental unit of gameplay than a level, or a world, or a region in a game world.” To continue the previous example from Diablo 3 the various rooms within the cave are independent scenes connected by traversal scenes. A traversal scene would be a bridge presenting a challenge the player must clear to proceed, Anthropy means that if any form of progression occurs it is a scene of its own. For the scope of this thesis levels are defined as Rogers described them as a main level containing certain sublevels instead of the in-depth definition which Anthropy talks about. Instead Anthropy’s definition of scenes, especially traversal scenes is being used to examine how levels facilitate flow. What is Level Design? Ernest W. Adams in his book Fundamentals of Game Design, explains it as “The level designer creates not only the space in which the game takes place—its furnishing and backgrounds—but also the player’s moment-by-moment experience of the game and much of its emotional context.” He also notes that level design is “…the process of constructing the experience that will be offered directly to the player using components provided by the game designer.” Christopher W. Totten in his book Level Design: Processes and Experiences makes the distinction between level design is neither art nor game design even though it is dependent on both, just as they are dependent on it. Level design is not about the creation of assets or definition of game mechanics but a middle point of both as the level should work to facilitate core mechanics and thus shape its landscape accordingly. To make use of assets so they enhance, rather than hinder flow in the game. Ernest W. Adams argues as well that it is the level designer who puts it all into practice as they design the challenges and set the mood in the levels. Huaxin Wei and Chaoguang Wang also state that level design is its own position, apart from that of game designers and environmental artists. It is the role of the level designer to guide players through the game and so they must work in close tandem with programmers and artists as “In the actual design process, it is important to communicate with artists and programmers to get their attention on the functionality of a game level, which is realized in both the operational and the presentational structures.” They write how the levels are more than their design and visuals, they embody the player’s possibilities to navigate through and interact with the level. Jess Schell states in his book Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses: “All a level designer does is arrange the architecture, props, and challenges in a game in ways that are fun and interesting — that is, making sure there is the right level of challenge, the right amount of reward, the right amount of meaningful choice, and all the other things that make a good game. Level design is just game design exercised in detail — and it isn’t easy, for the devil is in the details. Level design is different for every game, because every game is different.” This thesis will view the position and work of a level designer as one who builds the player experience based on a design goal with the tools made available from programmers and artists alike. What is Flow? One of the challenges with level design is to determine how the dramatic curve is shaped throughout the level so as to produce a balance between action sequences and rest areas. A generalized term for this is called “flow”. The vision for each level is for players to flow seamlessly through them without breaking the game’s immersion. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow from a general perspective of everyday life and the different obstacles people face, although these are applicable on games as well. Csikszentmihalyi suggests three conditions which must be met to produce flow. Firstly, when the activity shows “…a clear set of goals”. These goals are intended to provide a purpose to the intended activity and keep channeling the player’s attention for the duration of the game and so keep them immersed. Secondly, flow is “…a balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills.” If the challenge is greater than the players’ current skillset it risks becoming frustrating as the odds for them to overcome the challenge diminish. If the player’s skillset is greater than the challenges it risks becoming dull, the balance between these two should allow the players to face and complete challenges equal to their skill. Third and final is “…clear and immediate feedback.” Players should not doubt where they are going given what their goal is and so levels should always inform the player how they progress. These three conditions of clear directional goals, clear understanding of skill versus challenge and constant feedback will be the lens this thesis examines the games through. What is the Goal of a Level Designer? Ernest W. Adams lists certain principles regarding level design and explains briefly what is essential about them. These principles are: “The space in which the game takes place.” It’s the game designer job to create the games features but it is the level designer who determines when, where and how those are presented. “The initial conditions of the level.” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose. “The set challenges the player will face within the level.” What challenges the level produces, either environmental obstacles or enemies as well as in what sequence they appear. “The termination conditions of the level.” What must the player accomplish in order to complete the level and in what ways can they fail? “The interplay between the gameplay and the game’s story, if any.” If the level has a narrative its design must present it accordingly to the player. “The aesthetic and mood of the level.” How the player experiences the intended aesthetics is up to the level designer. They are given a tone and then decide at what pace it is revealed. “Atmosphere.” This connects with the aesthetics of the level although in a larger sense as it encompasses lightning, colors, visual effects as well audio to produce the intended experience. “Pacing and progress.” This ties into what conditions and challenges exist in the level, as it determines how frequently the players are challenged and when they have a moment to rest. “Tutorial levels.” They are separate from the main game levels and are a safe-zone where the player can learn new abilities and where new challenges are presented in a set order. Out of these principles, this study looks foremost at the architectural space within the level and how it is designed to form paths and how the atmospheric effects provide visual guiding tools. It also looks at environments from two aspects. What challenges the layout presents based on the limitations of character movement and how players overcome these challenges. Also, how environmental markings are placed to direct players. Purpose The purpose of this thesis is to gain an understanding of which elements and principles determine flow. Then see how these are used to guide players in fast paced games such as Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016). This will be accomplished by firstly conducting a comparative study of these two games to analyze their flow based upon knowledge of what guides a level designer and which goals they strive towards. This study emphasizes the importance of designing a seamless flow throughout the level, allowing players to become immersed in the way they travel and interact with levels through gameplay. Secondly by conducting a formal analysis of the levels from these games to determine how their architectural layout is designed. How do these environmental elements work with how players traverse throughout the level? The focus is on gaining an understanding of how these game levels are executed to constantly guide the players forward with minimal risk of breaking immersion. The underlying question is: What in these environments subconsciously guides the player during play? Analysis Procedure Elements of flow are for example architecture layout, environmental objects/markings and various visual effects. Examples of these might be how a building is designed to open/close a line of sight or how objects and environmental markings form directional arrows. How lights and sounds draw players’ attention. These are the most commonly used ways to guide players but it is sometimes difficult to make them feel integrated within the level. Both games are analyzed in three steps. These are: During gameplay distinguish the following elements: Architecture: How buildings and paths provide moment-by-moment information as players traverse. How they are shaped based upon the avatar’s mobility and do these affect the line of sight. Objects: How objects such as crates, ladders, ledges etc. either become hindrances and blocks paths or provide alternative traversal routes. Markings: How environmental markings such as signs, scrapes, blood etc. form directional arrows. Visuals: How visual effects such as wind, light and sounds are meant to draw the player’s attention to them and guide them further along. Do these elements fit into the three flow categories? Clear directional goals: Are players always aware of where they need to be going by following these elements. Skill vs Obstacle: Are players able to overcome obstacles while moving or do they have to stop. Clear Feedback: Do they provide clear visual feedback before and while players interact with them or as they pass them. Do these elements and flow categories support their initial design principles? Avatar based gameplay. World created for various playstyles. Clean world for quick reading. This approach is looking at how the landscape and objects in the environment allow the players to either traverse the level or stop them. Does the background continuously telegraph where players should go next and is it all in coherence with the game’s overall aesthetic and design? A different approach to this study would have been to conduct interviews with the design team behind both games about their process and the principles they have followed. This would have given concrete data on their work, how they chose their elements and most importantly why they chose these. However, this would not have been possible given the scope of this thesis. Results Overwatch Overwatch is a multiplayer online fps game developed and released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016. Each player controls one of a variety of heroes in a competitive six versus six-person teams. The goal of each match is to capture an objective through one of several game modes, and in doing so defeat the enemy team (Blizzard 2016a). At launch the game featured a roster of twenty-one unique heroes and twelve maps based on real world locations. The game is set 60 years into the future and Jeff Kaplan talks about their vision during development. The aim for these levels was to create an imaginary reflection of what our current world could come to be in a society with heroes. Rather than a realistic translation of what exists today, they strived to build a better future for the world. Show something more than war torn cities and grim gray environments, something we could strive towards and hope for. Kaplan goes on to talk about how each area should be a place their players would want to visit. Levels should be a place where they would want to spend a long time, they should allure players to explore them and try to traverse them in as many ways as possible. Avatar Mobility For this thesis Overwatch’s hero roster is divided into three categories based on their mobility, high, medium and low. High mobility heroes can climb walls or have an ability which allows them to reach high vantage points, alternatively use this ability to find other routes to the objective. Hanzo (see Figure 1) is one of the heroes with high mobility. He is a ranged attack hero with the ability to, for a short duration climb walls, both in a vertical and horizontal direction. Hanzo can also leap off in any direction can while climbing. Figure 1: Overwatch character Hanzo climbing the wall towards the right. His direction is shown by the dust cloud left behind him. Hanzo’s climbing ability depends on his distance from the wall. For Hanzo to climb walls they must be relatively clean from any sort of bumps or extensions, and to climb over edges they can not extend too far out from the wall. During the climb players are facing the wall, removing any possibility to respond should an enemy player appear which makes Hanzo an easy target for the duration of the climb. This risk of being ambushed has the potential of a high reward, should players reach a high vantage point from which they can utilize their long-ranged attacks. Medium mobility heroes have abilities that allow them to either temporarily fly or teleport, which can be used to gain an advantage during fights or avoid areas by passing over them. Pharah (see Figure 2) is one of the heroes with medium mobility. She is a ranged attack hero equipped with a jetpack that allows her to leap into the air to either to levitate for a short duration or fly short distances. In addition to her jetpack she has an ability that allows her to burst short distances. When this ability is used midair, Pharah can reach higher areas, alternatively cover more distance in a shorter amount of time. Figure 2: Overwatch character Pharah levitating midair while activating her ultimate ability. While Pharah is airborne she has limited movement speed, making her slower in the air than she is on foot. With no option for cover she risks becoming an easy target since players must look in the direction they are flying. She also requires open outdoor areas to fully utilize her flight potential which restricts her indoors. It also allows her to reach high vantage points with the tradeoff of being more easily spotted by enemy players. Low mobility heroes are restricted to the ground and have no abilities for either exploring alternative routes or reaching advantage points. Reinhardt (see Figure 3) is one of the heroes with low mobility. He is a melee range attack hero with the ability to charge towards enemy players in a straight line and pin them against obstacles. Figure 3: Overwatch Character Reinhardt using his charge ability. Being restricted to the ground has no actual disadvantages since each level offers various rooms and other passages which offer protection from any attacks from above. At key points in each level, heroes with high mobility are forced to descend to proceed further or clear an objective. Although that is not to say that medium and high mobility heroes cannot use the ground to the same extent as low mobility heroes. Rather they are suited for an agile playstyle which uses the environment to their advantage if they can traverse freely and be used to their full potential. To support the different kinds of mobility as well as to increase the attraction for players to explore and seek alternative routes, Blizzard has removed drawbacks such as fall damage. Players falling from great heights take no damage upon landing, as long as they fall inside the level’s perimeter. This makes exploration risk free, so players do not need to hurt their avatar should they fall down into a group of enemy players. Instead they should be given the element of surprise and rewarded for their interest in exploring the levels in detail. The strength of a hero’s abilities is therefore dependent on the player’s expertise. This feeds into players having to become more observant of their surroundings since enemy players could potentially come from various directions, creating an active gameplay. Level Layout The level layout in Overwatch maps changes throughout the game to give advantage to different teams, attackers/defenders and different mobility heroes. Early in maps advantage is often given to high and medium mobility heroes through open spaces with alternative route options. This can be seen in both the Hanamura (see Figure 4) and Kings Row (see Figure 5) map. In both maps their first objective of two is displayed, these are capture points where one team is defending and one is attacking. In Hanamura attackers come through the gates on the right side and despite those being the main point of entry there are four different openings surrounding the door. There is open sky for flying heroes to enter and navigate and on the right of the gates there is an entrance into the little house providing cover for low mobility heroes. This open space and short distance between covers favor low and medium mobility heroes since most walls have larger extensions and most roofs are leaning downward making it difficult to climb and find a vantage point. Figure 4: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. The first objective is located inside the house to the avatars left. Figure 5: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The first objective is located behind the trees and car to the avatar’s right. For King’s Row attackers come in from the left and just like in Hanamura there is plenty of open sky and the statue in the middle offers a two-way split. Just like Hanamura, this location provides an open space with some cover options for low mobility heroes. This location is favorable for low and high mobility heroes due to it containing more objects which block teleportation and force flying heroes to expose themselves. This puts medium mobility heroes at a disadvantage. The walls of the buildings are cleaner than in Hanamura so they support climbing to vantage points, most noticeably the opening on the second floor in the upper right corner. The statue and the house behind it contain doors which offer cover suitable for quick ground movement. There are some covers present in both locations for the defending team heroes to take cover in but due to the capture points being exposed, the odds of being overrun are great. In Hanamura the first point is located within the house to the left. Inside is an open space with bare walls and multiple entering points. In Kings Row defenders are pushed to the walls of the building behind the trees and car, leaving them out in the open if they wish to hold it. There are options to cover it from afar but this leaves the point open to be captured if there are no defenders on site. These points are located a short distance from the attacking teams spawn points which are placed beyond the walls in both maps, whereas defenders must traverse the entire map to reach it. Because of these facts attackers have the advantage on capturing it early on. This advantage disappears when the attacking team reaches the second objective point. Hanamura’s (see Figure 6) second point is indoors, now openly exposed in the middle of the room. The layout of the room and the lack of cover forces the heroes to move close to the center, leaving them exposed to defenders on either side. There are three entrances leading straight to the middle and two more on each side of the capture points, all converging toward the middle. To the avatar’s left, there are stairs visibly connected to a plateau which goes along sides and ends where the avatar is standing. The porch has pillars, like those directly opposite of the avatar, surrounding it and granting protection to defending players. Now the attacking team must traverse the entire map whereas the defending team’s spawn point is in an adjacent room behind the avatar. Because of this, the defending team has the advantage on protecting the objective. Figure 6: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. Second objective point is the open area in the middle of the room, lit by sunshine coming in from the roof. It is the same in King’s Row (see Figure 7) where there is a narrow, crooked path containing multiple smaller rooms leading up to the second objective. This gives defending heroes the possibility to set up hidden defenses. To the left of the avatar there are concealed plateaus, surrounding the objective point. Defending low mobility heroes has the advantage as players are forced into the same space, restricting agile high and medium mobility heroes. Figure 7: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The second objective, an open platform at the end of a crooked path, is located in the bottom left corner. One factor which differs in King’s Row compared to Hanamura is the second objective which is transporting a vehicle (the car seen Figure 6) onto the platform. In order to transport the car, players must be near it. This restricts high and medium mobility heroes on the attacking team but favors high and medium mobility heroes on the defending team since their abilities allow them to outmaneuver the heroes transporting the car and launch surprise attacks from various vantage points. Such vantage points include the roof directly opposing the avatar as well the smaller room on its right. A third example of this level design is the Volskaya Industries map (see Figure 8). As in the previous two maps the map’s first objective point is an open area located outside. A short distance away is the attacking team’s spawn point which is located inside the building past the wall in the right-side corner. The map’s second objective point is located inside, with various smaller rooms and passages surrounding it. What differs between Volskaya Industries and the previous two maps is the fact that this level caters to all mobility categories. High mobility heroes can make use of the smooth walls and various entrance points without risking to much exposure. Medium mobility heroes can use their abilities to reach the same places high mobility heroes as well make us of the open skies, passages and rooms to move around the map. Low mobility heroes are offered the same routes as other heroes since the same openings and possibilities of cover exist on all levels. Closed-in openings at ground-level offer protection from other low mobility heroes as well as offering cover against flying heroes. Open areas on the second floors are accessible to various heroes and while they offer high vantage points, those points leave the heroes exposed due to a lack of cover options. Figure 8: In-game screenshots taken from the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. First objective point (left) and second objective (right). Both points are the square areas in front of the avatar. In these three maps, the game’s designers have catered to all three mobility types as players can choose to traverse these levels in various ways. Their layout provides players with alternative passages and invites them to explore them to reach new vantage points. There is a shifting advantage between the teams where attackers benefit from being aggressive early on while defenders must be tactical. These early parts are also more suited for medium/high mobility heroes. The later parts of the maps tend to favor the defending team and low mobility heroes. The levels facilitate this by having the first stage of the map be an open environment which, as the attacking team advances, narrows down. In coherence with how the distance of each team’s spawn point changes so does the time required for each team’s heroes to respawn and reach the rest of their team. Analysis Overwatch Below follows an examination of Overwatch’s levels to determine how they facilitate flow. Environment By studying the architecture, objects, marking and visuals in Hanamura (see Figure 14) it is determined that this level primarily uses objects as well as lights to guide players. This view is the first players on the attacking team see, with five locations where the environment draws the players’ attention. From left to right, the first circle shows traffic signs where one is an arrow pointed inwards toward the street and the other is a warning sign placed above the arrow in such a way that it lets players notice it first and then the arrow. The second two circles show traffic lights which are natural objects for people to look towards while traveling. Below the middle traffic light is a huge wooden door with an emblem upon it, marking its importance and letting the attacking team players know they are targeting an area of importance. The last two bubbles contain a parked car and a restaurant icon, displaying a humanoid creature. What makes them noticeable are their size and recognizability. They are both facing toward the street, same as the arrow sign and them being relatable objects with a clear front and back end, makes them natural arrows. Figure 14: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. Figure 15: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. King’s Row (see Figure 16) also uses lights to guide its defending players outward and luring the attacking team inward. The first object both teams see as they enter is the large orange lamp hanging from the ceiling. With its bright light and size, it points out a place of importance. The dark orange lights along the floor show the path and like the large lamp signals importance, the floor lights invite players to follow them. The blue lights inside the rooms set a cold, rather saddening tone, making them less inviting to follow. The start zone of the attacking team on King’s Row (see Figure 17) uses light and the architecture to guide the players. The lights within the left circles start at street level and slowly move diagonally upward and inward to the screen center, almost blending in with the roof above. The roof is pointing diagonally downwards into the middle, in the same manner as the bus in front of the avatar and theater sign on the right do. These guide the player’s vision toward the middle and into the large, blue lit tower, hovering behind the bus which seems to hold an open area for players to explore. Figure 16: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. Figure 17: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements Both the attacking and defending teams’ spawnpoints in Volskaya industries (see Figure 18) use lights and buildings to create directional arrows. The lights catch the players’ attention and guide them as the building points downward into the center of the screen where a light blue light indicates that the map continues further in that direction. In these maps, the sides surrounding the critical path are purposefully made dull and important by comparison to funnel players toward certain areas. These elements guide both teams, pulling both the defending and the attacking team inward. Figure 18: In-game screenshot outside attacking (left) and defending (right) teams spawn point on the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements. Flow So, do these level design elements found within these three levels support flow? Clear directional goals? Yes, as players traverse the level, elements within the level keep telegraphing to the players where the next objective lies and which path leads them toward it. The layouts contain plenty of open space in the first half and narrows down around the second objective where the players are guided more strictly Skill vs obstacle? Yes, each hero, regardless of their mobility category are shown available routes and these are visible as players approach them. Players must not stop and search for a way in as the open level design is clearly guiding them. While there is a main road to any objective, there are always various alternative routes if players control a hero with more mobility. Clear feedback? o Yes, every important building, object and sign are created so they can always be spotted and reached if possible. All heroes have passages they can take and if the player knows the limitations of their hero they do not need to wonder if they can reach them, unless they are looking for more original routes. Design Principles Overwatch has an avatar based gameplay where the player’s expertise and control over their hero determine their success in each match. It also has a level design which allows for all three mobility types to traverse in more ways than one. Its visual design makes it easy to tell what can be interacted with and which paths lead where. Based upon this analysis it can be said that Overwatch has successfully achieved their initial design goals. Reflections The purpose of this thesis is to examine level design to determine what within the design enables flow. First off, this is a broad topic addressing the subject of level design which by itself lacks a unified meaning. The meaning of level design changes depending on developers and genre and most have their own level design principles. Even flow has a different meaning and implementation, depending on the genre and intention of the game. However, there are commonly used principles and a vocabulary which helps game developers in different genres to find common ground. Looking at Doom (2016) and Overwatch (2016), despite their similarities the dramatic curve in both games differs a great deal. This is partially due to the size of their maps. Overwatch (2016) has short maps made for bursts of gameplay with certain points focusing on combat. In Doom (2016) levels are longer, contain more content and most areas are a mixture of combat and travel area. Leaving their different artstyle aside and focusing on key elements, they can be broken down into the same objects and elements. Looking at these elements as basic building blocks there are lights and arrows. Regardless of their size and aesthetics, the leaning buildings in Overwatch (2016) and the pools of blood in Doom (2016) fill the same function. Street lights or fires, they are given a meaning once they have aesthetics which are in coherence with the overall environment. Objects found in one game would become immersion-breaking if put into the other. The games use the same building blocks, just re-skinned to suit their own game’s aesthetic. This brings into focus how much of the flow in the games is dependent upon the assets graphical styles as well as their location. Compare the environment outside of both teams spawning points in Volskaya Industries with the first outdoor level the Doom-guy experiences. Both contain environmental elements (houses in Overwatch (2016), mountains in Doom (2016)), that are leaning toward the left. Even replacing their narrative-specific models and textures and replacing them with untextured primitive objects, these elements would still point players in the right direction. The same principles applies to the lights, as the value contrast they provide would still catch the players’ attention. However disguising them in appropriate graphics feeds into the overall immersion of the game, making them fulfill their purpose and enabling flow. Both these games have succeeded in creating aesthetically appropriate elements for each map which serve to subconsciously guide players. Conclusion Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? To conclude, the elements found in these games facilitating flow are simple elements of light and direction. Simple in this case means basic building blocks which have been created, with a specific function in mind for a specific location. Dark areas exist to enhance spots of light and make them more alluring for players. The lights are then placed and given specific colors and intensities to create a specific feeling. Each opening has a specific purpose, either to create a vantage point for the player of lead to an alternative path. In Overwatch (2016) levels are changing as they progress to cater to the various heroes and their different mobilities. All heroes can always find a route best suited for their hero, either by using an alternative path to reach objectives or finding an area where their hero’s abilities offer them an advantage over those of the enemy team. Ability-based gameplay is the key to this game and the levels does nothing but enhances this. Read the full paper here: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1146250/FULLTEXT01.pdf Follow David Website: https://davideliasson.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/eliasson_david?lang=en 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. This article by Deanna Van Buren (who assisted on 'This Witness') makes a compelling case for collaborating with an architect (or learning more about architecture yourself) . What you're about to read below is a recap of the full article, which is linked at the end. The article covers 9 essential areas: Developing architectural narratives Integrating landscape and architecture Building design Deploying materials & textures Scaling, proportion, and style Details Transitions Characters and environment The space in between In this recap, we will be covering 'Developing Architectural Narratives', 'Details', and 'The Space in Between'. The areas not covered here hold a lot of value, so we strongly recommend readying the full article. DESIGNING FOR GRAVITAS: THINGS TO CONSIDER There are 10 basic things that games tend to do that could be avoided with some design knowledge and application. I am going to refer to some games other than The Witness as both successful and less successful because they are popular, diverse, and frankly most of them I really like. It would be nice to see them taken to the next level so that the environments are not distracting and incongruent with the goals they are trying to achieve. Developing Architectural Narratives It is always helpful to remember that landscapes and architecture are based in the temporal, physical, and institutional constraints of the real world. What is the topography of the land? What materials are available to us? What climate are we in? What are the zoning laws? Where is the sun coming from? Therefore, one of our first questions we asked Jonathan’s team (Thekla) was “What direction is north?” They replied, “What difference does that make?” I knew then that we would need to recreate and reframe the real world constraints with which we had been working. In order to design customized environments we would need to develop a narrative and new kinds of constraints that would define it. So how do we create narratives that deliver rich environments? Sometimes in an effort to create a holistic identity or world, video games commit to one style/period, or genre yet this is not how environments exist in reality. Our built environments have history, a story across time. They are layered. In The Witnesswe use this passage of time to create the narrative so the environments are a series of adaptively re-used buildings and landscapes beginning with prehistoric times to the present day and beyond. Each building and landscape is designed in response to the needs of at least one civilization and in some buildings all three civilizations are expressed. For example, at the edge of the island is a concrete factory that sits in a quarry. The environment registers how the Stone Age people (Civilization I) began to quarry stone for tombs through small cuts in the cliff side. Then one can see where the stone was mined at a larger scale for religious structures such as churches and cathedrals in Civilization II. A church is built here both carved and constructed from the stones being quarried around it. As Civilization III developed, even larger stones were mined and used to make concrete, a more contemporary building material. Small stones were also required as aggregate and the church was converted to a factory in order to scale this process and construct other buildings on the island. As a gameplay wayfinding element, the factory exhaust rises up out the old steeple. Inside factory equipment integrated with the religious frieze panels provide the game artists with additional opportunities to tell a deeper lever of narrative. While architectural narratives like these were easy for us to develop, they may not be as easy for gameplay developers. For us the gameplay constraints were more challenging. We were fortunate to have a developer like Jonathan who provided us with what became our primary constraint-game play. The rules of The Witness with regards to gameplay were rigorous and finite in many ways. As architects, we had to learn about what this meant. It is one of the things architects need to understand when working with developers and an aspect that developers can more rigorously apply to environmental design. Integrating landscape and architecture - Follow the link at the end to read this section Building design - Follow the link at the end to read this section Deploying materials & textures - Follow the link at the end to read this section Scaling, proportion, and style - Follow the link at the end to read this section Details Along with understanding scale and proportion comes the proper rendering of details in the architecture. These may be done to avoid abstraction of space if your art style is refined or making them simpler if things are of a looser style. What is most important is being consistent with the level of detail and the scale of these elements. It is something we spent a while on in the witness so that the lighting, stairs, door handles, furniture, or window openings are all developed at the same level of consistent detail and in alignment with our art style. For us, it made doing modern architecture difficult at times and we worked hard to create details that reflected these assemblies in a low poly yet realistic way for the painterly quality we wanted. The Witness: Hub Chapel This scene from Ether One looks great, but making this small change would harmonize the entire space. Mirror's Edge is another game that does a particularly great job of detailing most of its elements. They make strategic use of building systems such as electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems with color to guide gameplay movement and perception. It is visually pleasing due to the lack of noise yet it is rich at the same time just by understanding materials, transitions, details, and assemblies of the built world. Even a game like Relativity that is diverse spatially but simple in its execution has an incredible consistency that makes it wonderful to be in. Another beautiful but quite different game that also makes good use of detail is Relativity. It is diverse spatially, unique in its style and simple and consistent in its palette and details, which I think helps you to feel immersed in this MC Echer-esque world. Detailing contrasting components well is also a great opportunity for good design. For example, the integration of layers of time in The Talos Principle is interesting, and it is these moments that it could have been nice to think about how they would integrate given they are very prominent in the environment. Rather than stick things on the stone, these technological pieces could have been integrated in the tectonic of the old castle wall in a more sophisticated way that would have added some gravitas to the look and feel of the game, supported the narrative and built on the textures that had. Transitions - Follow the link at the end to read this section The Space in Between While the architecture itself is important the relationships between buildings is just as important as the building itself. They are part of an overall scene that you are creating in every moment, and understanding how buildings can create outdoor rooms and a diversity of spatial experiences definitely enhances gameplay. The Talos Principle is an example of a game that has some great spaces that are scaled really well and others that are not so much. In many areas there is a flatness to the experience since there is no strong vertical expression or experience of the architecture that would traditional be found in castles due to their purpose and use as place for protection and surveillance. The open spaces, courtyards or baileys where you are shooting are too large compared to the wall height, and what would have been the interior spaces of the castle. An opportunity would have been to harness the design of castles and the development of the radial form of the medieval city to help with the experience of the game and provide more interest to the experience through spatial variety that reflects the historical narrative of this time. Most buildings prior to the Modernist movement have a hierarchy to them like the church nave or the grand entry. This flattening of the architectural experience in the agency of gameplay goes counter to our experience of this type of architecture and is a missed opportunity. Why not use the logic of these buildings to enhance gameplay? Many games also often have large spaces that have game assets floating in them. An unrealistic building or room density does not provide containment of the events unfolding. Often objects are out of scale to one another or larger than any element might be in reality. For example, the Gone Home entry foyer in plan is massively out of proportion with the height and the scale of any suburban home as viewed from the outside. The assets are floating in the space in ways that feel out of context with the real experience of domestic space pulling us out of the immersive reality. The player is drawn to the objects because they stand out in a bare room but it seems like they would have been more successful by integrating assets into well-scaled environments. They could use the space itself to guide players to these components in a sophisticated way perhaps through light, color, and detail. Gone Home is one of my favorite games to play because it makes use of 3D and 2D representation of this space. It would have been more powerful to create a house or even a compound that had some logical complexity to it and generated a domestic environment that made sense and enhanced the game play experience by drawing on our personal memories of home. CONCLUSION While all these aspects of design are important, the most critical thing that I teach to professionals and students alike is to just wake up and pay attention to the world around you. I hope that these recommendations can help you do that even if you choose not to work with an architect. I would also like to conclude by presenting a bigger vision for this collaboration. I believe that everything we do creatively influences our larger cultural context. As more members of our society begin to play games in well-designed digital environments, we will ultimately improve the visual literacy of our population. In doing so, I believe there is a reverse effect where we will start to expect more from our physical environments rather than ignore them as we often do now. We will start to question the strip mall, the big box stores, suburban landscapes filled with McMansions and the bland colorless panelized architecture we crank out in the United States, at least. Maybe through the immense creativity found in the creation of digital environments we can envision better physical environments that foster imagination, community, sustainability, and well-being. In doing so I also hope that we have moved further down the road of accessing the power of video games to change the world around us for the better. Read the full article here: www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php Follow Deanna Twitter: twitter.com/deannavanburen?lang=en Website: https://echoinggreen.org/fellow/deanna-van-buren/ 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. Great looking models, textures, and ambiances and lighting are very important to making our games look as good as they can. Yet without a solid composition to build upon, the visual structure of our environments will be never as compelling or attractive as they can be. The Challenge: Creating compositions in a real time game environment is different from static images such as a photograph or painting in the sense that the camera or the player’s frame of reference is always moving. The player moves through a 3 dimensional space, which effectively creates a brand new composition with every frame. This is similar to film, but can differ if there is a ‘free camera’, where the player has physical control over what the camera is looking at. If this is the case there are no guarantees that the player will be looking where you want them to, when you want them to. With a free camera the artist needs to persuade the player’s eye (and camera) to the places they want them to look, or go. Due to the complications created by an ever-changing frame of reference and an unpredictable camera, level composition should be looked at as the sum of many smaller compositions instead of one large one. All possible viewing angles and player/camera positions should be considered and then the appropriate compositions built from these starting points. Creating Compositions: Elements and Principles The “elements of design” and the “principles of design” have been called the language of art, or the building blocks used to create art. For the environment artist, they are the modular pieces, tile sets, prop objects, and lights we have to build our levels. 1. The Elements of Design The elements of design provide a tool set to the artist similar to visual Lego pieces with which images can be constructed. There are 7 types of elements... Line shape size space colour texture value Line: Line is anything that is used to define a shape, contour or outline. It communicates length and direction, and can have an emotional impact on the viewer depending on its angle. The 4 different types of lines are horizontal, vertical, oblique, and curved. Here are some examples… Horizontal lines: These imply calm and rest. Vertical lines: communicate power and strength. Oblique lines: suggest movement, action, or change Curved lines (S lines): portray quiet and calm Lines are a very useful for leading the eye of the player to a desired location, or in the direction you want them to travel. Shape: shapes are created through combinations of lines, but can also be made by a change in colour or tone. The following are the different categories of shapes... Geometric – architectural shapes, manufactured or ‘inorganic’ Organic – natural shapes, or those created by curved irregular lines Positive/Negative – the shapes created by the physical objects that occupy space, or lack thereof. Static – stable and immobile shapes Dynamic – shapes that imply movement or activity Size (scale): Size is the relationship between the proportions of shapes, since you don’t know how big anything is until it’s placed in reference of something else. Differences in size will place a visual emphasis or lack of emphasis on a shape. Space: This is the negative space (or negative shape) created through the arrangement of negative shapes. Colour: The subject of colour would be a whole separate paper, or book even, so I’ll define it very briefly. Simply put, every colour is the result of mixing a Hue, a Value, and an Intensity. Colours can be warm or cool. A wide range of contrasts can be created using colour. For a more thorough explanation, refer to Johannes Itten’s “Art of Colour” Texture: Environment artists are well acquainted with textures. As an element of design,' texture' refers to the way a surface looks. Matte, shiny, bumpy, etc. are all textures. Value: The final element is value. This is also sometimes called ‘Form’. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of an object, a shadow, or a colour. Value can be increased or decreased by adding white or black, or increasing/decreasing the intensity of its lighting. The location of light sources and their intensity has a huge influence on a appearance of the scene and on the emotional response of the player. 2. The Principles of Design: The “Principles of design” are the techniques used for the effective arrangement and distribution of elements into a composition. The principles are... Balance Direction Emphasis Proportion Rhythm Economy Unity Just as multiple elements can be combined together, so can multiple principles. Artists are definitely not limited to one principle per image. By understanding and applying these principles to our levels we can be more effective in achieving our visual goals, and communicating our ideas to our audience. Balance: Balance is a result of the fact that the player’s eye will unconsciously use the middle of the screen as a fulcrum, a center point of the left and right side. Balance is achieved by arranging elements so that neither side is visually overpowering or heavier than another. All the elements an artist has to work with have a visual weight associated with them, depending on their colour, value, and size. Dark elements weigh more than light elements, large elements weigh more than small elements, etc. Maintaining visual balance requires consciously distributing an appropriate number of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ elements on either side of this fulcrum, at appropriate distances. There are 2 ways to balance elements on the screen, symmetrically, and asymmetrically. Symmetrical Balance is pleasing to the eye and has an emotional effect of peace, calm, and tranquility. There are 3 different types of symmetrical balance… Translatory, Rotational, and Axial. Translatory Symmetry is where elements at the same height in the Y axis are copied from right to left. Rotational (Radial) Symmetry is the rotation of elements from a common pivot Axial (Mirror) Symmetry is where elements are balanced equally on both sides of the fulcrum Asymmetrical Balance: Asymmetrical balance is achieved by arranging elements of differing size and weight unevenly around the fulcrum so that they balance each other respectively. Another asymmetrical balance is one large dominant element offset by many smaller/lighter elements. Asymmetrical compositions generally have a greater sense of visual tension and have an opposite emotional effect on the player than symmetrical balance. They instil a feeling of excitement, curiosity, or anxiety. Direction: Direction is given by the arrangement, angle, and distribution of elements. The visual flow created by direction is used to lead the player’s eye through a composition, or even more literally, used to physically lead the player where the designer wants them to go. Direction can be used to emphasize depth and the scale of a location or area. the placement of dark and light values are very powerful tools for creating direction. Emphasis: The emphasis in a level is the environmental focal point of a location. This is also known as a ‘center piece’ or a ‘hero object’. Direction can be used to lead a player through an area, but you don’t stop them with emphasis points of interest, the area will not be interesting and they’ll run past all your hard work. Proportion: Proportion in composition refers to the size relationship of elements versus each other, and vs. the world as a whole. Structural proportions (like the distance between a ceiling and floor) are used for a number of things. They can create visual emphasis and importance, and can have an emotional effect on player such as power, intimidation. Proportion also refers to the Golden Mean and the Rule of Thirds. In videogames our dynamic and player-controlled camera’s make it difficult to implement these aspects of proportion into our compositions, but in certain circumstances they can be a used. These proportional ‘rules’ have been studied for hundreds of years, and are very important in composition due to the emotional response it brings from the viewer. The golden mean is 1 : 1.618, or this… The rule of thirds is the division of screen into 3 equal sections vertically and horizontally. When elements are placed at these intersections the composition will be more pleasing to the viewer. Rhythm: Rhythm is the repeating occurrence of visual elements. Rhythm is visually soothing to our eyes and people instinctively will follow a rhythmic pattern. In a composition, Rhythm can be used to create depth in a scene. It can create a sense of movement, or place emphasis on an object. Economy: A level in a videogame is typically filled with movement, VFX, sounds, and maybe a little too frequently someone trying to shoot you. With all of this action (and distraction) a composition needs to read very quickly and clearly. If it is too complex, cluttered, or subtle, it will be missed and lost. This is where ‘economy’ comes in. If you can remove an element within a design and the design still works then you can communicate your composition more efficiently. When creating a composition there is no need to offer more than what is required. Use what you need, optimize where you can. (Just like polygon modeling:) The following are different examples of economy, using symmetry, direction, rhythm, and size, and emphasis. Unity: The last of the principles of design is Unity, also called ‘unity within variety’. Unity is the relationship between all the separate elements of a scene or level. It creates a feeling of ‘wholeness’ to a scene, the sense that everything is tied together visually. One method of achieving unity is through proximity. When placing props for example, small clusters or groups is more aesthetically pleasing to a composition than randomly scattering them about. Repetition also results in unity. This can be the repetition of colour, shape, texture, or other elements. Continuation is a more subtle technique involving controlling the eye movement and intentionally leading it back into a composition. -jeremy price *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JeremyPrice/20110318/7258/Applying_the_Elements_of_Design_and_Principles_of_Design_in_Level_Art.php Follow Jeremy Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjeremyprice Website: http://www.artbyjeremyprice.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/hkxwVml0D
  8. In this 8 page paper, Ken Hullett and Jim Whitehead seek to more clearly define "how levels create gameplay". It's written in a very formal and structured manner, which we will try to keep mostly intact. There will be a LOT of sections and examples that are left completely out of our recap here. The authors have requested that their work not be shared in its entirety without permission. Therefore, it's being posted here in a very brief form as an attempt to share their insight while also respecting their request. We strongly suggest following the link at the end of the article and reading their full paper if this subject is of interest to you. In fact, if you know that you want to read the entire paper, we suggest skipping this article entirely and simply reading the paper in full. It will be worth your time. Consider this article a teaser for those who may not be sure whether they wish to read the full piece.Here's a small part of the introductory statement of the paper: After the Introduction, the authors move on to the subject of Design Patterns: And now we move on to Level Design: Next, we take a look at Pattern Collection: Category 1 - Patterns for Positional Advantage: The above is of Sniper positioning one of many example of Positional Advantage provided in the paper. Other examples cover Galleries and Choke Points. Category 2 - Patterns for Large-Scale Combat: Follow the link at the end of this article to read much more info on the categories above, and these which we've not included here:Category 3 - Patterns for Alternate GameplayCategory 4 - Patterns for Alternate RoutesThe authors then use the Bioshock Level "Medical Pavilion" as a case-study example of the patterns described above. Here's a brief snippet of this section: And then we reach the conclusion, where the authors sum up their findings: Source: https://games.soe.ucsc.edu/sites/default/files/khullett-fdg-camera-ready.pdfJim Whitehead Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheJimWhitehead
  9. The following is from "Level Design Using The Elements of Art and Principles of Design" by Wesley Rockholz This is only a portion of the article. Click on the link above (or at the end) to read the article in its' entirety. Wesley is currently an Associate Software Engineer for Blizzard Entertainment. His portfolio can be seen here. I'll start this post by saying that I'm not an artist, but it's important as a game designer to be well-rounded and understand both the technical and creative side of the development process. Everything I know about level design I learned from the elements of art and principles of design. Everything in level design breaks down to the core techniques of design, and understanding them can shatter a lot of barriers in making your levels more fluid and engaging. The Elements of Art The elements of art contribute to the principles of design. In other words, you use elements of art to execute the principles of design. You use lines to create movement and use color to create contrast. Color Color is relatively self-explanatory, but is also one of the most important and complex art elements. Color refers to the hue, value, and saturation of a mark in a composition. Color theory is a separate but equally important discussion. Just understanding that complimentary colors are good tools for contrast is enough for this surface-level discussion. Observe the color wheel and how the colors compare and interact: Space Space is the allocation of area in a composition for a particular purpose. Space can include the background, middleground and foreground of the composition and can include the distances between around and inside of things in the composition. Space can be positive or negative depending on which areas of the empty canvas are filled with marks. The Principles of Design The principles of design are guidelines for proper visual design that is aesthetically pleasing and effective at communicating the intended message to the viewer. In this section, I'll be providing examples of how the principles of design are effectively used in level design in games. Balance Balance is the state of equilibrium in a design. If a composition is completely balanced, it evokes tranquility and calmness, otherwise it evokes a sense of chaos and confusion. The same term is used in game design for game balance, and the concept is similar for levels and visual design. Symmetry is an easy way to create balance. Most MOBA/ARTS games like DotA and League of Legends use symmetrical game maps to create near-perfect terrain balance between the two competing teams. Teams start in either the upper right or bottom left corners of the map, and if you divide the map in half diagonally from north-west to south-east corners, the map is (nearly) symmetrical, facilitating gameplay balance. While symmetrical balance works in games where both teams share the same competitive objective, asymmetrical maps lend themselves towards game types where one team has a different objective than the other. One of the most popular multiplayer maps in Halo 3, Guardian, is an asymmetrical map: Guardian manipulates line of sight, advantageous weapon placement, and flow and choke points to create a map that is balanced and forces the players to adapt to a different style of play depending on where they are on the map. It takes an enormous amount of level design intuition, and a deep understanding of the other principles of design to create an asymmetrical map that is also balanced. An asymmetrical map that is balanced creates a level that is challenging to understand and strategize and even more difficult to master. Balance can be used to guide the eye as well, and thus guide the player through the level. If the player sees an environment that is symmetrically balanced, the implication is that they should move straight through the level. The balance of the composition portrayed on the screen drives them forward through the level. Source: https://wesrockholz.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/level-design-elements-principles/ Follow Wesley Twitter: twitter.com/wrockholz/ Blog: https://wesrockholz.wordpress.com/ Portfolio: weslo.github.io/#!/