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  1. Always be creating...New content! It is easy to stop or pause after finishing a project and not move on to something else. If the last project was too stressful or demanding, then try something with less detail or scope, start experimenting with new brushwork building methods or different gameplay setups. Stop the dust from settling and dive right back into your next masterpiece! There are many ways to keep momentum going between projects. Experiment with new themes or texture styles, try to build some architecture at an odd angle like at 30, 45 or 60 degrees or find some concept art you like and recreate it to scale! Set yourself deadlines It's easy to get distracted adding details and being absorbed with tangent ideas when you should be focusing on the end goal, finishing and releasing your map! Setting yourself goals will focus your time on what is really needed and make you think twice about adding stuff that is not really necessary for the final outcome. A series of short deadlines are especially good if you are working with a limited time frame project because you can see progress much quicker and be more motivated to finish. Deadlines help to break a map down into smaller steps and more manageable tasks which can create a much better focused and rewarding map making experience. Never stop iterating I was once asked to create three different versions of the same encounter and at the time I could not understand why. It is impossible to know if your first version is going to be the best iteration if there is nothing for comparison. What may seem like a waste of time with duplication of work can be a useful validation of what design you have finally picked. Always consider the iteration process if what you are creating is nothing special or remarkable. Some might say the downside to the iteration process is that you can create more work than is required, but that does not mean the process is worthless. Don't be afraid to iterate because of the extra work involved, just save the different versions as prefabs. A real world example of iteration is city architecture, which often changes as people adapt places to suit their current needs. Expansions, extensions, extra routes and different styles of details can all work towards creating a better visual tapestry. Be inspired by others Hardly anyone can be creative in isolation without being influenced by something else around them. There are countless images, films and books that swim around our subconscious allowing us to come up with fresh ideas. If you are suffering from a creative block or not sure what to do next then search for concept art, go to the library or buy a coffee in a bookshop and browse some architecture books. The Internet has a vast collection of concept images, architectural photos and plenty of other types of artwork (sculptures, videos etc.) that can be used as sources of inspiration. Even if you take a concept image literally and create something similar, it will still be your interpretation and be a useful exercise for building new content with the editor. Try to avoid symmetry It is so tempting to create symmetry in architecture or gameplay setups because we see mirrored structures around us all the time and think it is the right thing to do. You can easily find a church or modern day building with identical sides and matching facade features. Symmetry is something you should be aware of at all times and actively trying to break. Try to use 90 degree rotation steps instead of mirroring functions when copying and pasting architecture (especially floor layouts) Move various facade elements vertically up or down to create an imbalance. Look for obvious vertical or horizontal lines and move elements around to break the pattern. Change the size of matching (size of flames) objects and change the style of identical pairs by removing/adding (boarding up windows with wood) something. *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.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
  2. We here at Next Level Design love being able to learn from other disciplines and interfaces, and apply them to game design and level design. We hope you'll find something within this article that you can use in your own designs. If you do, please share by commenting below. Happy learning! *Note: The following is a portion of an article which was shared on canva.com. It capture some of the main points, but there are detailed examples provided within the source article which are not included here. Please follow the link at the end for the full article. As consumers of design, we’ve all likely experienced this scenario at some point. But as designers, we want to make sure we’re not creating design layouts that might cause viewers to hurry to hit that back button in their browser or trash a flyer in frustration. So what’s the key to a design that’s well organized and easy to navigate? Starting with the foundation of a strong composition and good flow will get your project on the right track. Composition: A Definition for Designers Composition refers to the way all the elements of your design are arranged to create a cohesive whole. It considers actual elements you might add to a design, like typography, photos, or graphics — but it also takes into account “invisible” elements that contribute to the overall visual effect of a layout, like white or blank space, alignment and margins, or any framework you might use to arrange your design (such as a grid, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds). A careful composition should visually lead viewers through the design in a way that makes sense and happens naturally without a lot of thought on the part of the viewer (otherwise known as “flow”). This act of composing, of being thoughtful and intentional about how you piece together a layout, is a skill that applies to many different types of visual arts, from painting to photography. The nice thing is that once you learn the basics of strong composition, you’ll find that they’re useful for all sorts of creative endeavors. Now let’s look at some of the tools and techniques traditionally used to create effective, visually engaging compositions. Visual Weight & Balance: Create a Clear Hierarchy A good composition isn’t just a neatly arranged collection of shapes, colors, and text. Every design has a purpose and communicates a message to its viewers, and a well-planned composition helps prioritize the design’s most important information and reinforce its message in a way that makes sense. This process of arranging information by its importance is often referred to as establishing a hierarchy. No hierarchy (or an inadequate one) makes for a confusing design that has no visual flow, and we don’t want that. Let’s look at two key elements of a clear hierarchy, focal points and balanced organization: Choose a Focal Point A focal point pulls people into your design and gives them a place to start looking at your composition. If viewers only had a couple seconds to glance at your design and take away one impression or piece of information, what would that be? That important element should be your main focal point, and to ensure it’s what people see first, you’ll want to find a way to emphasize that piece and make it the most visible part of the layout. Keep reading to see this concept at work in actual design projects. (Via Dribbble. Design by Mara Dawn Dockery.) How to do that? Through giving your focal point visual weight. When a design element has visual weight, it’s what stands out the most at first glance. It’s visually “heavy” because it makes its presence felt in the layout — you can immediately tell that it’s important, and it attracts your attention through something about its appearance, often by contrasting with the rest of the design. There are a lot of techniques to choose from to give your focal point visual weight, including but not limited to: Size Shape Color Texture Position Let’s walk through some examples: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Make It Big Attract Attention with Unusual Shapes Choose Stand-Out Colors Add Texture for Visual Interest Position for Maximum Visual Impact Balance and Organize the Rest of the Design After a focal point gives viewers an entrance into your design, then it needs to be organized in such a way that they can navigate the rest of the layout easily. This is where the hierarchy really comes into play to give viewers a clear pathway to travel through the composition. Should their eyes move down the page? Across? From one section to another? How the rest of the design flows from the focal point will be key to a successful composition. You can guide viewers through your layout with some of the techniques we’ve already discussed, but most designs will benefit from an overall structure or organizing principle. Instead of just randomly throwing elements into your design and hoping it turn outs ok, being thoughtful and intentional about building your composition will always create a more usable and visually appealing experience for your audience. Let’s look at some common techniques: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Use a Grid Try the “Rule of Thirds” Consider Symmetry Leave Some White Space Leading Lines: Create Movement to Lead the Eye Leading lines are literal or implied lines that lead viewers’ eyes where you want them to go — usually to the focal point of your design, but sometimes just from one section or element of the layout to another. Leading lines can take a number of different forms, including: Diagonal Lines Diagonal lines create movement or imply direction across the design, often from top to bottom and left to right, like with reading. Another common technique is to use two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions to direct users’ focus to a single point. If you’ve ever taken an art class during your school days, a common exercise is to draw a road or pathway extending into the distance: two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions, starting out wide but narrowing until they meet at a spot on the horizon known as the “vanishing point.” This is diagonal leading lines in action, and one of the most basic ways to create depth and perspective in a composition. The following website design uses this concept to organize its product image gallery. Notice how the diagonal lines created by the yellow shape in the background (along with selective blurring) create a sense of depth in the design. Via Dribbble. Design by Cosmin Capitanu Z Shapes & S Curves: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Repeating Lines and Patterns Repetition can act as a leading line, guiding your gaze in a certain direction. It may take the form of repeating lines, shapes, or other elements arranged in a directional way. Repetition can also be a great way to reinforce a visual theme and add a sense of rhythm to your design. Even in-text elements that repeat, like bullet points or numbered lists, can help organize a design and give it a sense of flow. The following magazine layout repeats a visual theme of diagonal lines and triangular shapes in two ways: on individual pages or spreads (to guide readers through the content) and throughout the issue (to create consistency and a sense of rhythm through the whole publication). *Note: Click on the Image for a larger version Via Behance. Design by Bartosz Kwiecień. The Human Gaze: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Over to You Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Read the full article here: https://www.canva.com/learn/flow-and-rhythm/ Follow Janie Twitter: https://twitter.com/janiecreates Website: https://janiekliever.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. "In many video games, the player has control of the camera. However, the developer can control what's on screen through use of the environment to direct the player's movements and attention. Miriam Bellard has been referring to this as spatial cinematography. Miriam's talk explores spatial cinematography in theory and practice using examples from GTA V Online DLC (pre-production to final art). A truly cinematic experience can be developed by adapting film concepts such as shots, editing and 2D screen design as well as understanding how the player interacts with and perceives the game environment. Miriam discusses the effect of the 3D environment on the cinematic experience, including through movement, player attention, and spatial design." Follow Miriam Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiriamBellard Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/miriam-bellard-a4339a127 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. 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
  5. Lighting: The theory behind lighting out your levels. How to create an interesting setup and what to watch out for. IntroductionLighting is one of the most important and influential elements in environments. It has the power to make or break the visuals, theme and atmosphere.Lighting is often forgotten or underestimated. Designers often add it quickly and without much love. While in the past that was partially excusable by the weak hardware and game engines, these excuses just won't hold up anymore. Lighting is just as important as geometry. Without lighting there is no environment but just a group of 3 dimensional objects. Lighting has the capacity to bring life to a group of objects and take them to the next level of quality. Its purpose goes further than just giving the players the ability to see where they are going.It creates atmosphere. It makes places look scary/cozy or warm/cold. It augments the three dimensional feel of objects and it creates composition and balance to lead the player's eyes around. Yet considering all of that there is a very large group of games and levels out there which use nothing more than white ambient lighting everywhere.The SourceThe most basic rule of lighting is that it always needs a lightsource. Even more important, and this is the second rule; the light should appear to be cast by a source. It is impossible to have lighting in an area with no source, like in this bad example. Info P083: UT2004 level DM Rankin – Personal work – Owned by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example While there is plenty of lighting in this corridor it's impossible to tell where the light is coming from. This completely breaks the illusion and looks fake.Also to be avoided is lighting that is out of balance with the size of the source. For example, a small light source that somehow manages to illuminate an entire room or corridor, like in this bad example. Info P084: UT level CTF Ortican – Personal work – Owned by myself and textures by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example Keep things in proportion!Light sources can be anything: small or large lamps hanging on walls or from ceilings, the moon or the sun, crystals, lasers and other type of high tech beams, fire, mirrors, magical effects, water surfaces that bounce back light, lava or radioactive slime and so on. Everything is possible as long as there is a noticeable source.The same goes for the brightness of the source itself. If the lighting is very bright the source itself should not be dim. It should be just as bright and, if possible, have effects like a glow to enhance the brightness. Info P085: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example The left example is bad because the lamp appears to be disabled even while the environment does seem to receive lighting of it. The brightness of the light source and the brightness of the lighting in an area must be balanced and appear equal.Related to this is the next important aspect. Show the player where exactly the light is coming from. The area near a source should look the brightest. A logical thought. Info P086: UT level CTF Raid – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example The first example is bad, the second one is good. The first one is bad because the entire area has an equal brightness which is strange. It doesn't feel as if the lighting is really coming from the lamp. The lighting should be considerably brighter near the source than ten meters further away in a corner. It should fade out as it travels further and further away from the source. It should show variation and that's not only more realistic but it also helps the lighting composition. Show a direct influence from one element on the other!ColorsThe most complex rule of lighting is that colored lighting is a must and absolute requirement in almost every situation. Colors can make or break a composition; they shape the atmosphere and emotions associated with an area and they simply make environments more interesting and lively to look at.Most light sources in the world cast lighting that, in one way or another, have color. Therefore it is not very realistic to place white lighting in the environment. For example, a lamp might cast yellow light because it is surrounded by yellow glass. Or perhaps it is an old lamp and the glass is beginning to change color due to the wet environment it is in. Or perhaps the light is shining on a yellow wall thus causing the light rays to bounce off and carry the yellow color to another surface which results in the seemingly yellow lighting.That bouncing is the radiosity effect and as up to now there still aren’t any games which can offer correct and complex radiosity lighting.Therefore, until there is such technology available, one must color the lights oneself instead of relying on how the atmosphere or materials might enhance the lighting. They won't because of the limited technology. If color isn't added, the result will be very bland and fake.Another aspect of lighting is the light temperature. There is a theory that says light is energy and the stronger the light the more energy it has and thus the warmer it is. The temperature influences the strength. Info P091a: lighting temperatures – Owned by myself 1600K is sunset and sunrise and 1800K is a candle. 2800K is a regular light, 5000K is midday sun and so on. Thus the chance that the light in the game environment would cast pure white lighting is rather small.Also notice that red is actually colder than blue. Arc welding or lightning are blue because they are much hotter and stronger compared to a pretty weak, regular, orange fire.A warm blue and a cold red contradict what you will read in a few pages about the warmth of a color. Remember that blue is only warmer than red in a scientific perspective. Emotionally, on the other hand, red probably feels warmer than blue. Common color associations are at the base of that feeling. When something is hot it will glow red while cold things like water and ice are blue. They influence our perspective toward colors. These are very powerful clichés.Another reason to use colors is the composition. In fact one color is not enough most of the time; at least two colors are needed or else creating contrast will be impossible. If only one lighting color is used, that very important color contrast is lost and the result would again be very bland. Info P091: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example Change is also necessary in order to form a composition and one color can not offer the necessary changes. The colors used need to be balanced. They need to strike the right balance between providing enough contrast yet still complement each other. Harmony is the word to remember well when dealing with lighting.Before being able to work with lighting colors one must understand how colors work. There is a huge difference between the regular colors used to create textures and the colors used to light an area with. Lighting is made of RGB, which stands for Red, Green and Blue. CRT monitors and TV's use this system as well.On the other hand paintings, pencils, prints and so on are CMY. They operate on three totally different primary base colors: Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Or, in very simplified terms, blue, red, and yellow; the primary colors - which are often learned about when one is very young.The real difference between the two systems lies in how they create colors; or how they mix. CMY colors will end up as a brown black mess when mixed together. Think about what happened to all the colors when someone mixed all the paint together back in grade school.RGB on the other hand will end up as white when mixed. Shine multiple colored lights at one spot and they will end up creating a white spot.The important difference for us is that certain color combinations which work great in a painting will never work out in lighting! And the other way around. It is impossible to use a color combination that works in CMY for lighting because of two reasons.First off, any color viewed is a mix of the three primary colors. RGB mixes differently so the colors it creates simply will look different than those created by CMY. This is especially a problem when one color accidentally mixes with another in spots, something that is bound to happen when working with lighting. Mixing blue and red in CMY might look nice in paint but when red and blue are used in lighting they will create purple spots. Certain variations and mixes of colors are not the same in both types.Secondly, lighting RGB (notice the word lighting in front of it as what's about to be explained is only true for lighting) simply doesn't have all the colors CMY has. Converting color combinations is therefore not always possible. RGB does not have dark yellow, dark red and so on. It can't create dark colors because lighting cannot be dark - it is always light. It can however be more or less saturated or intense but not dark. Black light doesn't exist. And thus neither does gray or brown light exist.One could say that lighting uses simpler colors and has more limitations. There are fewer colors and less subtle changes to use because of the lack of dark colors. Lighting is constrained to a relatively small set of colors that can be used.What makes this even more difficult is that half of those available colors almost never work out well in most themes and subtle changes in hue or saturation are barely noticeable. Colors like purple or pink are almost impossible to use in most themes and styles because they simply do not fit in nor look natural. Using them will most likely result in some weird and unrealistic disco style rather than anything else. The palette of colors to use is very small and mainly consists of yellow, orange, blue, cyan, red and a tiny bit of green.Never use painter logic and rely on mixing brighter lights with darker lights to create changes in your environment. Dark colors do not exist! One can only see a difference when a light's color or saturation radically changes so subtle changes won't be noticeable. Here's why: Light is always a gradient. It always creates a lighter area and a darker area. Lighting simply starts somewhere and then fades out as it travels further away from its source. If one attempts to create contrast by using darker and brighter lights of the same color then the result wouldn't show a contrast at all but would look weird because some lights would appear too weak to be possible.Now that the theory of color has been explained, it is time to apply this knowledge to light application in a level. The idea behind colors is to allow them to add to the theme and atmosphere and to let them create a composition to aid the eyes and to keep things interesting.Colors continued: composition and choicesColors offer various types of contrasts and feelings. It is essential to understand them and use them correctly in order to create interesting and fitting lighting for the level.One should almost always use more than one light color in the level. As mentioned before, the key to create an interesting look and composition is to create well balanced contrasts. Too little or too much contrast is bad. Info P092: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself – Modified version to fit the example Neither looks good. The first picture is very repetitive and thus boring because everything has the same lighting color. The second picture has so many different lighting colors that there's no harmony and it looks completely random. This is undesirable.Avoid weak compositions or very harsh ones. When transformed into the flow charts, previously seen in the composition chapter, the above two pictures show clear problems. Info P093a and P093b: Scanlines The line either has very little change or the change is so hard and sudden that the eyes hit several steep walls when they follow the line.The line should show changes that are quite noticeable yet flow enough to not hurt the eyes. Info P094: Scanline It is for this reason that the right combinations and placement of the lighting colors are needed. I personally always use two main light colors such as blue and yellow and then a third color, like orange, to give extra contrast and difference to a few special elements.The third color is to prevent the two main colors from becoming repetitive. Too much of the same combination can also become boring. The third color's purpose is to occasionally break up that combination.I refrain from using four colors because too many colors can make things look random. It should never look like a mess; unity is the goal.Composition-wise, lighting colors should follow the same rules as highlights. Their composition must be evenly spread out so there are no large spots of the same color which could unbalance the visuals in that area! If the entire right side of a room only has blue lights and the left side has blue and yellow lights it might appear unbalanced. This also depends on the composition of other elements such as the architecture and any moving geometry though.Now one may wonder what colors to use and combine. Combining colors in lighting is about more than just finding a random combination that looks cool. There are systems and arguments that help create the right combination. The lighting colors should not only enhance the visuals and the composition but they should also enhance the theme and atmosphere. The choice of what colors to use depends, for a large part, on the theme and desired atmosphere. A scary theme requires cold colors for example.There are different types of color combinations and each one of them offers another type of contrast.First of all there are cold and warm colors. Some colors feel cold, such as blue, while others feel warm, like orange. Cold colors are blue, green and purple. Warm colors are yellow, red and orange. It is logical that combining a warm and a cold color can give nice results.Another type is the strong and easy color combination. Some colors are very aggressive and powerful while others are very easy and relaxed. Strong colors grab a lot of attention even if they are used in small amounts. Red is the best example of this. It is such a powerful color that even a small spot in an environment can be dominating. Info P095: TCOS Carnyx – Personal work – Owned by Spellborn NV – Modified version to fit the example In this picture the one thing that stands out the most is the red light. Red is incredibly aggressive and thus should be used with caution since it can make the player forget everything else in the scene. That might not be the desired effect.Other aggressive colors are orange and then yellow. Easy colors are the colors that invoke comfort and calm. They rest the eyes. Easy colors are blue, green, and purple.The last type of color combination is the light and dark one. Is the color closer to white or closer to black? The simplest way of checking if a color is light or dark is to think what would happen if it was converted to grayscale. Think of what a copy machine would do to it. Red is a dark color. It becomes almost black when converted to grayscale. The same is true for blue and purple. On the other hand green, and especially yellow, are bright colors.Choosing the right color is not just a random choice. The better the choice the better the contrast will be and therefore the better it will look. Two cold colors should not be chosen as the main light colors, for example. One is better off combining different types of colors together like a warm orange with a cold blue.The best combination of colors to use in lighting is yellow with blue and all the variations on it (for example orange-blue and yellow-turquoise).Yellow is a bright, aggressive, and warm color while blue is a dark, easy, and cold color. It is the only combination that manages to use the opposites of all three types, which is also the reason why it is used in so many games. The yellow also is subtle enough to not draw all the attention to itself like red would. And next to all that it is also the most natural combination. More on that later.To complicate things more, there is one element which can make the effects of each of these different types stronger of weaker and that is saturation. White is a special color that feels neither cold nor warm, aggressive or easy. Apart from being a bright color, it is very neutral so lowering the saturation of a color can neutralize the effects a little and that can be useful. In order to achieve a balanced look it's necessary to find the right saturation for the colors. If all the colors are one hundred percent saturated the result would probably be a very harsh look with very strong colors. Info P096: UT level DM Sion – Personal work – Owned by myself and textures by Epic Games – Modified version to fit the example While creating contrast, unity should not be forgotten. In the example above the contrast is way too harsh resulting in an ugly, unbalanced, and unrealistic situation. It is the balance between the two that forms the key to success. I usually pick colors that are only fifty percent saturated but whatever works for the particular situation is good.Slightly desaturating your main colors is, in most cases, the way to go although there are always exceptions. For example, colors like red will turn pink when desaturated. There are also a couple of light sources that always need very saturated light; fire for example.The amount of saturation something has can greatly alter its look or feel. A very white blue feels colder than a very saturated blue. This is important when one is after a cold feel.And that brings us to another very important point: theme. As mentioned before colors are not randomly chosen. 'Because it looks nice' should never be the sole argument about why color X is being used. The color combination should not only fit together but it should also enhance the theme and atmosphere. For example, if the theme is an ice environment, then lots of warm colors, like orange, shouldn't be used. Info P097: Example – Personal work – Owned by Spellborn NV The first example is bad, the second one is good as it feels colder. A cold environment needs cold colors; blue for example.People associate colors with feelings. The whiter the color is the cleaner or colder the area will appear while darkness is experienced as scary or depressing. When I design a new level I always ask myself the question 'What color do people associate with the theme I have in mind?' If I design a lava environment it's very clear I will need a lot of red and orange lighting.After I have my first main color I always try to find the second main color. The second main color has to create a contrast yet look nice in combination with the first color. When my theme involves lots of water or a sea my first main color will be blue and my second color yellow. A dawn environment asks for yellow or perhaps even a deep orange as the first main color and blue as the second main color. Humid environmentsfeel better with some green and so on.As mentioned in other chapters it is about clichés. People need to quickly recognize something and they can do that through clichés.Sunlight is perhaps the best example of how radiosity and contrasting colors work and how the atmosphere affects the color. Unless it is noon, direct sunlight is always slightly colored. Think of what color the sun has in the evening or at dawn. It will appear as orange or yellow most of the times. Indirect sunlight has a color as well. It is usually a blue/slightly purple color. Info P098: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself In these evening beach photos the color of the sun and ambient lighting is readily apparent. The direct sunlight is orange while the ambient light is blue. White lighting is, in almost all situations, unrealistic; just as coloring an entire outdoor area with the same color is. In most situations there should always be two colors around. One for the direct sunlight, which is likely a type of yellow, and one for the indirect sunlight, which is usually a type of blue. Not only is this realistic but it will also look much better.Texturing and lightingTexturing can make or break your lighting. Textures are the base for the lighting. The texturing of the world carries a large responsibility. While I already explained this theory in the texture chapter I would like to give a few common mistakes extra focus.If a texture is too dark it cannot be lit well. The same goes for overly bright or white textures. They will look very bright when lit. Info P099: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself A solution could be to up or downscale the intensity of the lights but that is not the best way to go. In the end the fault lies in the texturing and not in the lighting so it is the texturing that has to be fixed. Fix the cause, not the result.Changing the light intensity will also cause trouble if the level uses a combination of dark and bright textures (a snow level with dark buildings for example). Downscaling the light intensity would make the darker textures appear even darker and if one were to upscale it the bright textures would look way too bright. Therefore the textures used in an environment should be balanced and have roughly the same level of brightness!The same is true for colors in textures. The colors used in textures can influence the look and feel of the lighting and they will. It is essential to foresee which lighting colors to use while texturing the level. If the textures in an area are, for example, very orange and yellow it might end up weird when they are later lit with blue lighting. Info P100: Examples – Personal work – Owned by myself If the design is to light the environment with many blue lights for whatever reason, then, during texturing, it should be ensured that the textures are desaturated enough or have roughly the same color as most of the lighting.The point is that the texture choice can heavily influence the lighting. Textures and materials are the base for lighting, and if the texturing isn't in harmony with the lighting, then one of the two is going to suffer. All elements in a world are connected and influence each other.Article Source: https://www.moddb.com/tutorials/lighting-in-game-environments-the-hows-and-whys*This article is posted in its entirety with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: http://www.hourences.com/Portfolio: http://www.hourences.com/portfolio/Twitter: https://twitter.com/HourencesYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Hourences/feed
  6. "An article describing my opinion that art and emotions are an important factor in level design compared to common design“ Index • Introduction • "Small Tale“ • What is Art/Design ? • When is the time to bring art in design ? • Show your own emotions • Creating emotions for the player • Color-itself-contrast: • Bright-dark-contrast: • Cold-warm-contrast: • Simultaneous contrast: • Quantity contrast: • Quality contrast: • Architecture and composition • Imported art • Mistakes which you could do • Final wordsIntroduction First I have to say that this article is based on my own experiences and opinions. I simply want to define another way to see levels in general. Before I wrote this article I talked with a lot of people - level designers and artists who have never touched a computer mouse, like my last art teacher in school. I was in an advanced art course in school and of course - like every normal art student in school - I hated theory and history of art. In the end I think it helped me to understand my own work at the computer in another, better or more interesting way. Of course there are plenty of intolerant people out there who would never like the thinking of some designer geeks who perceive levels as art, but I don‘t care about it, especially if I think back in history. Like you already noticed, I‘m writing this article in a very personal way simply because art and emotions are in my opinion something very personal and I hope even more people think about it in a similar way after reading this article. Sorry for the article being a bit long, but I take the subject matter serious. But I always try to lighten the text with some humor, pictures, small stories and examples.Small Tale Before I really start, I have to tell you a small tale about my school time, where/why I really started to think about art and level design. Every student in a Bavarian/German secondary school has to do in his 13th year of school a major work on his own. I was able to choose between a project in math and one in arts, and you can bet that the decision was definitely an easy one. Of course I decided to do the work in art. I asked my teacher whether I could do something with the Q3A engine, but of course he had absolutely no clue about computers. After some long discussions and presentations we found something he would accept: "A virtual museum of the 20. century“. He didn't accept my NS:CO maps because in his opinion I don‘t solve any kind of creative problems there and simple design is not suitable for this kind of work - no, the intolerant bastard wasn't able to understand anything. Then I spent more than 3 months working on the problem of how I can translate common 2D art in 3D rooms. Actually, the whole work was pretty boring and very dry, but while I was building the virtual museum levels - with all the knowledge about art theory in my head - I started to think about the possibility of influencing old school art in modern level design. The more I thought about it I was sure that it had already happened. At the end I got 12 out of 15 points on my work. I didn't get more because I had to add hallways to improve the performance, and my teacher simply said: "If you are not able to make a real museum, you did the wrong work or the technology is not ready for such an experiment!“. Then he told me something about 'Render' or 'CAD' , but it looked like he had already forgotten that you should be able to walk through the museum in real time with a normal PC - no, I never liked my teacher. What is Art/Design? Now we have to clear "what is art?“ in general. I just show you what I found in an internet dictionary (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/) :Art:n 1: the products of human creativity; works of art collectively; "an art exhibition“; "a fine collection of art“ [syn: {fine art}] 2: the creation of beautiful or significant things; "a good example of modern art“: "I was never any good at art“ [syn: artistic creation, artistic production] 3: a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation; "the art of conversation“; "it‘s quite an art“ [syn: artistry, prowess] 4: photographs or other visual representations in a printed publication; "the publisher was responsible for all the artwork in the book“ [syn: artwork, graphics, {nontextual matter}] If you read this you might think that making a map definitely matches this description, simply because it‘s creative or because it‘s beautiful. Believe me - this would be too simple, especially because it‘s called level design. Now on the other hand we have to take a look on the word "design“ (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/) : Design:n 1: the act of working out the form of something (as by making a sketch or outline or plan); "he contributed to the design of a new instrument“ [syn: designing] 2: an arrangement scheme; "the awkward design of the keyboard made operation difficult“; "it was an excellent design for living“; "a plan for seating guests“ [syn: plan] 3: something intended as a guide for making something else; "a blueprint for a house“; "a pattern for a skirt“ [syn: blueprint, pattern] 4: a decorative or artistic work; "the coach had a design on the doors“ [syn: pattern, figure] 5: an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions; "his intent was to provide a new translation“; "good intentions are not enough“; "it was created with the conscious aim of answering immediate needs“; "he made no secret of his designs“ [syn: purpose, intent, intention, aim] 6: a preliminary sketch indicating the plan for something; "the design of a building“ 7: the creation of something in the mind [syn: invention, innovation, excogitation, conception] v 1: make or work out a plan for; devise; "They contrived to murder their boss“; "design a new sales strategy“; "plan an attack“ [syn: plan, project, contrive] 2: design something for a specific role or purpose or effect; "This room is not designed for work“ 3: create the design for; create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner; "Chanel designed the famous suit“ 4: make a design of; plan out in systematic, often graphic form; "design a better mousetrap“; "plan the new wing of the museum“ [syn: plan] 5: create designs; "Dupont designs for the house of Chanel“ 6: conceive or fashion in the mind; invent; "She designed a good excuse for not attending classes that day“ 7: intend or have as a purpose; "She designed to go far in the world of business“ As you can see, it‘s not really easy to say "level design“ is pure ART or pure DESIGN and that‘s definitely not the intention of this article! In my opinion something is only really creative - and then art, based on the above definition - if it‘s based on emotions, if it creates emotions or is in a way more or less ingenious or original. It doesn't have to be political, force the viewer to think about something, be based on exceptionally great skills, etc. Sometimes when the artist wants to show the viewer an intention of his, he submerges it in the background, and this creates the feelings or emotions that he wants to project into the art product. On the other hand there is e.g. Dadaism: "a nihilistic art movement (especially in painting) that flourished in Europe early in the 20th century; based on irrationality and negation of the accepted laws of beauty“ (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/). One artist just turned around a urinal, put it on a table and then it was real art for a few days. I don‘t expect that anyone really understands this, but in some way it was freaky and ingenious - he was simply the first one. If we want to be serious, common level design is definitely more design than art, but in my following text I try to give you impressions and ideas on how to change this a little bit - otherwise it will become boring or cheap. As a level designer you should always have the wish that your work will become something more interesting, not just a bunch of bits where some kids play slaughterhouse.When is the time to bring art in design? After we clarified the different terms we should think about how we can add more art and emotions to our levels. One important factor is simply to give a specific scope for development. It is absolutely impossible to be creative in any way if someone else designates in detail what you have to do. Another death for art is if you have to do an exact copy from a photo or another game/etc. Of course a mapper has to work with sketches on paper, but that is only the second step in developing a level.The first approach should be always an impression, a picture or movie which influences you, or a freaky gameplay idea. The first part should be completely in your imagination before you note down your thought. On the paper you can place your ideas and integrate them in a well-designed gameplay. My sketches never go in detail - I always create a gameplay then I am painting a raw map with exact proportions. I need it to build the first basic model of the map in the editor. Within these rough blocks I slowly increase the number of details, lighting, textures, sound, etc... but you have to roll back to your first thoughts again and process them in your already designed environment. This progress is exactly the right time to use your creative freedom as mentioned above.Show your own emotions There are two main possibilities in dealing with emotions in art. First we start to project your own feelings down in the map. This sounds more complicated than it is. It is a very subjective and personal way to design and you shouldn't be absolutely disappointed because other players don‘t notice that while you filled the room with furniture and wallpaper your favorite Britney Spears CD has broken. Okay, I think now you know what I mean and now back to the topic. You have to find a way how you can impress your feelings in the current part of the level. The easiest way is to work with colors. Just imagine that you are a small child. In your right hand you have a lot of pencils and in the other hand you have a coloring book version of your map, which is only printed with sharp black lines. Now it should be your job to shade the picture with the colors which are most suitable to show the full facet of your current feelings. Remember to use contrasts and different colors as well, otherwise the player might think you felt damn bored when you built the level. After this small return to your childhood you can open your eyes again and choose the textures which best match your vision. Hey, closing the eyes and thinking back shouldn't be a stupid or cheap drug experience - sometimes it really helps if you think something is wrong with how the level feels or you are missing something specific but you don‘t know what. But of course colors are not everything, and one of my personal favorite methods is lighting. With interesting shadow play you can not only energize a boring looking scene without wasting a lot of polygons but you can simulate your feelings as well. Whether your emotions are confused, depressed, or out of control, it doesn't matter, you can always project them in your levels with a little bit of fantasy. If you are choosing the lighting it shouldn't be important if you are in a bad or good mood, because normally you already represent that with the choice of colors. But it is still important that lighting and textures fit together. I am not sure if architecture or gameplay can be a mirror of your current mood, but if it is possible at all it would only happen in the subconscious. On the other hand this might explain why my levels are always big and complex ;-þ. Ditto for details and sound in my opinion. They have less to do with your current feelings, because they are something which you normally place deliberately. But they play an important role if you want to create emotional feelings for the player. I already did some minor or funny experiments - while building ns_junglecomplex I only heard hardcore music. Of course now I cannot say if I would have built the level in another way or style with e.g. church music. Personally I can only say that the whole level is more rough than previous levels, which were built with blues or jazz. Yes, music can influence your emotions and thus your level to a certain degree. Creating emotions for the player The second method used to deal with emotions in art is to influence the player directly with intentional sentiment. An easy word for this process would be "atmosphere“. This might sound a little bit provoking, because atmosphere should be an essential point for every mapper. I learned that "standard“ level designer talk about atmosphere consists of 90% about "gloomy atmosphere“ and the remaining 10% about "happy“, but that is normally only an excuse for boring shadows. I already talked about colors in the section above, but there your own emotions should show you the right ones. Now we start to talk how to influence players with colors. This is very easy and doesn't need a long explanation. I guess everyone learned in school something about this e.g. red = hot/love, blue = cold/endless, green = relaxing/hope. Other colors transport other meanings, too, like e.g. white = sterile/clean, yellow = danger/warning. But not only the color itself can be a tool for you, don‘t forget e.g. temperature or quality. A whitish red has definitely another expression than a strong red, and a table with a pallid wood textures looks cheap compared with a robust one. I‘ll talk about this in more detail below. In my opinion contrasts are very important! Definitely the most common one is black vs. white. The bright parts always have something safe/friendly as opposed to the black parts which everyone always handles with a little bit of care because they are dangerous/sinister. But although everyone uses it and is proud of his "gloomy atmosphere“, we should try some other contrasts and check the whole common list:Color-itself-contrast: e.g. yellow vs. red, yellow vs. blue, red vs. blue. Working with the three basic colors is the easiest contrast and the most powerfull method to make objects distinguishable from each other (excpet with shaders of course). Personaly I use it rarely, never with intent and I have no real good picture of it.Bright-dark-contrast: This is an optical primary contrast. The easiest way to work with this contrast is with light. Between white and black is the whole optical world, all colors and the complete greyscale. It is one of the main methods to create a 3D effect. I guess every mapper knows that his level looks extremely strange/boring if he forgot to compile the light. Sometimes you can increase this effect to highlight something or you can enliven a scene without wasting a lot of polygons. Cold-warm-contrast: This is very subjective and relative, e.g. a reddish orange vs. a greenish blue. I guess a player would have a strange feeling in an orange meat locker or inside a blue furnace. Another easy contrast. Cold-warm-contrast: If you mix two colors and the result is grey they are complementary. e.g. yellow vs. violet, blue vs. orange, red vs. green. The simultaneous contrast is an optical complementary contrast. If you look at something which is intensely blue and then you close your eyes, you see the opposing color, orange. I really like this uncommon contrast because in my opinion it enlivens and freshens the scene even more than some other contrasts. Quantity contrast: This has less to do with the colors itself but with the balances among them. If a specific color dominates a scene then evey other single color is in contrast with it. e.g. a red ski suit inside a big white avalanche. This is of course another good method to highlight something. Quality contrast: You can get very different results if you mix a color with grey. The color loses its intensity/quality and is now in contrast to its original one. Perhaps it might be an interesting contrast but personally I never really used it with intent. These are the main contrasts of colors which you can create with textures or lightning. But colors aren't the only things in a level which create atmosphere or influence the player. Let‘s talk about the contrast of form. The appearance of a level is normally very blocky because of the grid of your level editor. Creating curves is one way to avoid that problem, and another one is to use map objects (imported models from another 3d model editor e.g. 3D-MAX or Milkshape). Both of them delight/soothe the eyes of the players and can make your level very stylish. On the other hand, sometimes a mapper simply doesn't want an elegant feeling, he want it rough and hard (no I don‘t mean his sexual liking's!). For example you can make a wonderful mansion with a lot of nice looking details, everything smooth and full of curves but as soon as you go down in the cellar, everything becomes coarse. The player would feel the difference at once even if you work without light contrast. Another possibility of highlighting something special is to place a coarse object inside a very curved background. Now you know some different possibilities to enliven your level and to increase the richness of emotions. I can talk for hours about different contrasts e.g. sound, movement, details, etc. but contrast is not everything. Before you try something new you should definitely test some more variations. A single contrast may not be strong enough or has an effect on every player. For example, you have a jungle, night setting with two cottages and you want to place some lights. As soon as you place a single white light you have a bright-dark, quantity contrast in addition to the form contrast of the cottages and the organic plants around them. Now imagine if you would a change in the light to a little bit of red/orange (yes, I said: "a little bit“ !! we don‘t want to create a stupid looking Disney/Chuck-Norris scene) and automatically you have a simultaneous (red - light vs. green - plants) and cold-warm (red - lights vs. dark/blue - sky) contrast. In the eye of the viewer the cottages become now even more friendly, interesting and the surrounding area even more threatening, dangerous. I don‘t want to force you to use contrasts everywhere. Sometimes no or less contrast can create an even better feeling. Especially in realistic outdoor settings you should be more skimpy with your contrasts. Please don‘t start to write down a list of contrasts which you would like to use, while you plan your map! The idea to work with ANY kind of art element should come more or less spontaneously. Simply follow your design sketch and then you should feel that something is missing. You simply have to develop the right feeling/vision.Architecture and composition We talked long enough about contrasts and emotions in our levels, now it is time for some other aspects of art. Now I want to take a look at architecture and composition. Architecture has always been esteemed as art as long as it isn't simply a copy! I am tired of telling other people that they should please use their brain and try to create their own architecture instead of making copies of existing buildings. You should see it as a challenge to be your own architect. Of course it is obvious that in a normal boring part of a city you can‘t start to place extravagant or modern buildings. On the other hand the mansion of a drug lord should not look like a drab building which you would normally use in a harbor setting. In my opinion if you have the chance to be creative you should really take advantage of it! I don‘t know why, but most mansions I see in computer games are in a neo-antique style. Especially some original European styles are very interesting as is modern art architecture. All of them could have amazing gameplay elements and would be something fresh for the player‘s eye. The architecture of your houses should always fit in the current environment. A blocky style definitely doesn't fit into an old district or old city. The blocky style only fits in industrial or harbor settings or if this part of the town is relatively new. Such a blocky town planning always reminds me about America and is normally totally different compared with what you find in older European cities. Town planning only plays a minor role in the history of art but you can find it in baroque parks. In my opinion gameplay and performance should be more important than a well-designed part of a town. Okay, I know that normally every editor uses a 90° degree grid and it is not very easy to work against it. Composition might play an important role for paintings but it is very hard to use it in level design. If you want to work with it you simply need some basic knowledge about theoretical art. As a small memory aid I copied what I found in my favorite/lifesaving internet dictionary for you (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/😞 Composition:n 1: a mixture of ingredients 2: the way in which someone or something is composed [syn: constitution, makeup] 3: the spatial property resulting from the arrangement of parts in relation to each other and to the whole; "harmonious composition is essential in a serious work of art“ [syn: composing] 4: a musical work that has been created; "the composition is written in four movements“ [syn: musical composition, opus, piece, piece of music] 5: musical creation [syn: composing] 6: the act of creating written works; "writing was a form of therapy for him“; "it was a matter of disputed authorship“ [syn: writing, authorship, penning] 7: art and technique of printing with movable type [syn: typography] 8: an essay (especially one written as an assignment); "he got an A on his composition“ [syn: paper, report, theme] 9: something that is created by arranging several things to form a unified whole; "he envied the composition of their faculty“ For level design we should take a look at point number three: "harmonious composition is essential in a serious work of art“. Yes, composition is used to create harmony. Such a harmony is often desired to create a specific feeling. If you have a scene which is strongly dominated by horizontal and vertical lines it would totally destroy the strict, still, organized harmony if you add something organic/angular/aquiline. On the other hand you can strongly influence a chaos/natural arrangement if you place something very blocky within it. It might destroy the harmony but on the other hand it is of course an eye-catcher. Players normally need things which stick out for orientation and navigation. You should simply give it a try. Normally I automatically include composition if I plan a town or develop special architecture. For me it is simply another element for adding harmony or disharmony.Imported art Okay, we have been working the whole time on how to improve your level but why not make it even more simple? Why not simply import art in your level e.g. as a texture or model? Do you really need a lot of skill/thinking to include a model or texture into a level? No, even Garfield the cat can implement this. Of course I am doing this too, but definitely not to improve the art level in my map! In one of my last NS:CO level (ns_beachhouse) I included pictures which were simply holiday images from fans. I asked them to send me some pictures. Imported art can be used to invigorate your level but it has definitely nothing to do with the topic of my current article. We want to improve the quality of level design, not to present your modelling/2D skills or the abilities of other artists. That doesn't mean that artistic models or textures couldn't really help your level! I was just talking about single models and textures which have less to do with the surrounding artistic/atmospheric environment.Mistakes which you could do Art within level design for me is only another interesting aspect. It might be wrong to give art a very important role in your map. Gameplay, performance and quality is definitely still more important than anything else. In my opinion it would be wrong to say this level is bad because e.g. he follows no aspects of art or the designer chose the wrong contrasts. On the other hand it might be incorrect to compare the art you know from museums or school with the art I am talking about here. It is nonsense to say something like: "Hey, Ben ns_junglecomplex has the similar feelings like many pictures from Vincent van Gogh, which I saw in Paris.“ Personally I have no problem with such compliments but they could be a little bit too freaky… Yes, it is true that art can be extremely boring for most young people - I am young, too - but it is wrong to forget everything we know about art, especially if you are doing a creative process like level design! Keep everything simple, otherwise even the more experienced people would never notice some details. It shouldn't be very common in your level. A museum with a hundreds of old pictures in every small room will definitely flash you the first time - the time of flash is different from person to person - but then your eyes/you get sick of it. The same would happen in your level if you have too many different things drawing your attention or you are using the same technique all the time. Try to be diversified and innovative where possible.Final words What a surprise! I was making a small break while I was writing this article and was watching TV. I switched between the channels and there was an interesting documentation about history of computer games and its different influences. There an American professor compared the way the designer of Myth - an old render adventure - worked with textures and light with the work of Rembrandt - a famous Dutch painter of the 17th century. This professor was not the only one who saw parallels between game design and art itself. The reason why I am telling you this is that I have mostly the same point of view and was reinforced by the documentation. Otherwise I am happy that they didn't talk about level design because then I would have to rewrite most parts of the article again ;-). No, I am not one of these freaky art geeks! I just wrote down what I remember from school and what I am still using during the creation of levels. I hate to tell it but it is true that some of the theoretical stuff you learn in school might be helpful in your future. Perhaps you wonder why I wrote this article. Of course I want to bring more new/exacting/fresh elements to level design, and if you are not a level designer perhaps you start to see maps with a new point of view. Perhaps you have some more respect for the people behind your favorite levels and start to think why. But for me creating a level is a very personal process and I wish that even more people felt like that. Every normal level was built out of nothing. The level designer is the only one who brings life into the map and he is the one who gives it a soul. The level is a reflection of the thinking of its creator. He is the person who determines how everything will look. If you would take a look at the map of a designer who is color blind I guess you‘ll see some very funny texture combinations. Perhaps that example is too simple but that is his view. I guess you know what I mean. You have read to the end and you might have learned a lot of general and theoretical knowledge/nonsense. Now it is your turn to think and try to develop your own ideas and styles. The most important thing should be that you start to use your brain. You can be proud of yourself if you create a wonderful looking level but craft skills alone are nothing if there is nothing intellectual behind it. Perhaps you don‘t share this opinion with me, no problem, contentious discussions enliven the community. Thank you for reading, Benjamin Bauer *This article has been published on Next Level Design in its entirety with the authors permissionSource: http://www.benb-design.net/Articles/benb_article01.pdfFollow BenjaminWebsite: http://www.benb-design.net/ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_qb1MnHEV4xaVBpQaigspQ 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