Level Design Primer

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Level Design Primer

  1. 1. Game Environment and Level Design<br />Breathing life into virtual worlds.<br />
  2. 2. Game Environment and Level Design<br />A game is a structured, organized manner of playing. It involves the presentation of a goal to work towards between people who are playing the game, where enjoyment is derived from the execution of the game.<br />A video game is a kind of game that is played over electronic systems, often through personal computers or special-purpose computer consoles.<br />
  3. 3. Game Environment and Level Design<br />A game environment, in a video game,is defined as the physical realm in which a game can be played. It is fed through the user’s audio-visual senses.<br />A level, often called a map, is a distinct unit that divides the environment of a game into various sectors, a single area in which an objective or requirement must be met for the player to progress to another level. <br />
  4. 4. Screenshot : a level from Bulletstorm, by developers <br />People Can Fly and Epic Games.<br />
  5. 5. Level Design<br />Level design is the ‘art and science’ of creating a game level.<br />It is an essential component of game development or games in general.<br />At most, everyone can build a game level, as long as they have knowledge of the game they are building it for. (Even a game that could be their own.)<br />Level design follows no rules. Good level design follows many.<br />
  6. 6. Screenshot: A level from Crysis, by Crytek GmbH.<br />
  7. 7. Level Design<br />A level constitutes 85% of what you see in the physical existence of any game.<br />Components like the user interface (UI) are always kept at only 5% of the screen time, with the other 10% likely being everything else.<br />If that’s the case, why not make it look nice, play nice, and be made memorable to the player? <br />It is likely to be the only thing the player remembers from your game thereafter.<br />
  8. 8. Level Design<br />An example of a level: cs_deathmatch from Counter Strike<br />An example of a level: de_dust_2 from, again, Counter Strike<br />
  9. 9. Level Design<br />Differentiate between the two examples...<br />cs_deathmatch plays well, it offers fast and visceral action... Only because it puts players looking right each other’s faces at the start of the game forcing rivalries to start immediately.<br />Ask yourself: Does it look good? Do the visuals make sense? What context does the level impress to the user? Imagine that level is a REAL LIFE location. Would the level make sense?<br />
  10. 10. Level Design<br />Compare against...<br />de_dust_2 is a popular level that possesses a layout to urge players to adopt to tactics and strategies on where to go and what to do, not just to start shooting at the sight of each other.<br />Ask yourself the same questions from the previous about this level. Does the level make sense?<br />
  11. 11. Level Design<br />The verdict and conclusion? It’s difficult to tell. Level design is also an art, so judgement is always subjective... but ask yourself - what do the provided examples say about itself?<br />de_dust_2, from the looks of it, must be a back-alley of sorts in an important Middle Eastern city where an incidence of international significance is about to take place.<br />cs_deathmatch, ...it’s impossible to describe what it is. It’s just a yard with a bunch of boxes, barrels, and random walls. Maybe it’s someone’s backyard? Or a playground? Or some sort of training arena?<br />
  12. 12. Level Design<br />A level has context. It doesn’t exist just to give a game some ‘padding’. It exists to tell the player how the game looks, how the game plays, and what sort of myth can be derived from its existence – the ideas and emotions of the creator conveyed through them.<br />
  13. 13. A character from a game needs and uses words to tell a story. Only the character’s actions and expressions can further add color and credence to dialog.<br />Oh no! The city was destroyed!<br />The game environment... doesn’t need words to tell that story. No amount of words can describe a scene better than the environment itself.<br />Oh no, the city SERIOUSLY IS destroyed!<br />
  14. 14. Roles of Level Design<br />Back then in the older times of gaming (around the 90’s, the ‘golden age of classical gaming’), level design was relatively unimportant. It was done by programmers or generally only one person, the author of a level.<br />
  15. 15. Screenshot: Concept art painting from Epic Games of a level in Unreal Tournament 3.<br />
  16. 16. Roles of Level Design<br />Due to the advent of newer gaming technology, game environments also had to adopt.<br />Levels today look more realistic, more detailed, and more dynamic but at what cost?<br />
  17. 17. Screenshot: A singleplayer level from Half Life 2 by the developer Valve.<br />
  18. 18. Roles of Level Design<br />Level designer, in the strictest sense, is someone who builds levels.<br />Today, level design is typically composed of at least three roles – there are often more.<br />A level producer who thinks of how a level should generally look, feel and play - and puts it all together from start to finish.<br />A level artist who makes the level audio/visuals from making the giant building in the distance to a chirping cricket the player may not even notice.<br />A level scripter who handles gameplay, dynamism, and interaction components of a level such as cutscenes of massive explosions or birds flying out of a corner on cue.<br />
  19. 19. Step 1: It is born with an idea.<br />Step 2: It walks from conception.<br />“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Level design in action.<br />Step 4: It jumps with life.<br />Step 3: It runs through creation.<br />
  20. 20. Tools of Level Design<br />Level design is a drag nowadays – there are too many things to be concerned with for only one man to do it.<br />To make things easier, tools are created by the developers for themselves to quicken the pace of level design processes.<br />Tools exist to give ease to content creation without concerning oneself with engine and native programming or the difficulties of scripting hundreds lines of code for something that the user experiences in only five seconds.<br />Tools allow more time to be spent on creating the game, then finding a way to create a game.<br />
  21. 21. Some tools make it as easy as pressing one button to make something.<br />StarEdit, the classical map editing tool for Blizzard’s Starcraft. It doesn’t need a tutorial to learn and use and only takes an hour on average to get the hang of.<br />A level can be built in thirty minutes.<br />Other tools... don’t make it any easier.<br />Valve Hammer, part of the Source SDK, for building Source Engine maps. (e.g. for games like CS, Half Life, Left 4 Dead) It requires days if not weeks of training and tutoring to even halfway understand.<br />A level takes weeks – if not months to build.<br />
  22. 22. Tools of Level Design<br />Level design is often taken for granted because many claim it’s easy to do and not as important.<br />Indeed, it is easy to do... <br />...but difficult to master as even professional developers are unsure whether people will like the game levels (or even the game itself given the screen time a level has) they have built.<br />Indeed, it is not as important...<br />...until someone tells you your game looks boring, and will probably be forgotten by the player after five minutes of play.<br />
  23. 23. Demonstration Time!<br />Let’s a build a simple level.<br />Background screenshot:<br />A level from Mass Effect, by developer Bioware Corporation.<br />

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