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  1. In 2010 I started at Crystal Dynamics to work on the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. Within my first two weeks, I was entered into a “Thunderdome” exercise in which I had two days to revamp a traversal level, competing against a senior level designer who had worked on Assassin’s Creed 2. A winner would be chosen after the time expired and that level used in the game.Prior, I had never designed a level for a game using more than a simple jump mechanic where the player could only land on their feet. You can probably guess that I lost, but what started was my education into the intricacies of laying
  2. Hallways are a necessary evil in video games and more specifically level design. Not only are they a natural part of architecture but hallways may be necessary for technical, pacing and narrative reasons. Hallways are a great place for streaming to occur and they are a natural place to slow down the pacing of the level and let the player take a breather. However lame hallways might sound to gamers, if done correctly, they can go from being a bland part of your level to one of the highlights. All level designers have been faced with the problem of dealing with a boring hallway se
  3. In the third installment of his Action Adventure Level Design series, Lara Croft creator Toby Gard examines how the design process should incorporate discussions of pacing, structure, and mood -- and how leads can hone their feedback to the team to make it all work. Part 1 described how to create a Level Flow Plan to hand off to the level team. Part 2 described a variety of tools to help turn those Level Flows into detailed, immersive and interesting levels plans. By the end of the process described in the last article -- building through fiction -- you will most likely have a mixture of pa
  4. This is the second part of a three part series of articles dealing with level design in action adventure games. Part 1 described Level Flow Diagrams, that act as the core of the level brief provided to a team by the Leads. Part 2 describes a process of expanding that brief into a detailed level plan. This stage of the process is most often carried out by a cross-discipline team of designers, artists and coders, who will expand the level brief into a detailed level plan, but this process can equally be the next step that an individual designer takes when designing a level solo. A Note on Co
  5. In this article, Toby Gard introduces the fundamentals behind the design of story-driven levels. While consideration of the gameplay is axiomatic to any successful level design, the inclusion of story elements - characters, objects, pacing, emotional tone, and narrative theme, to name a few - adds a whole new dimension to the process, specifically in the form of cross-team collaboration. Artists, composers, writers, coders, designers all have a hand in the design process, a little bit like the making of a film. Of course, anyone who has worked collaboratively knows that this type of situat
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