Help with advice on how to layout a level

Hi UE :slight_smile:
This is my first time posting to the forums but I’ve been lurking here for the past month looking at tutorials and trying to understand all the moving parts to making a game. I don’t feel like I’ve learned or integrated much so I’m just going to start simply with placing static meshes next to each other. Is there any detailed pro tips on how to lay out a full level besides the Alt + Click drag to duplicate a mesh? Do you use snaps to move but remove snaps for scale and rotate?

More questions below after thinking about what to ask:

For example, do I start with floors and stairs first? or maybe walls and where lighting will filter in first? or maybe a large piece in the center and build outward?
How do I make it not look repetitive? I saw in the Sun Temple level a varied wall mesh at .375, .5 and .75. Is that standard practice?

Or maybe I’m over-complicating this and players wont look at all the seams and ceilings?

So far I’ve tried to greybox and static meshing the Sun Temple, the Blueprints Level and I’ll try replicating the Elemental Demo next week. Still no idea how to get lighting to look good but I’ll reserve those questions until I’m more experienced.

Thanks for any words of wisdom.

I am no expert, but I have a few thoughts on the process; and some questions that might help you. Take them with a grain a salt.


• What is the end use of the level?

  • Are you just doing a render inside UE4 or do you intend to use this for game play?

I ask because this will impact your level design. Obviously if you are just doing a render your placement of assets is based on lighting and the camera angles you intend to use. If you intend to let players into the level, then before you go laying out the level you should know how the player intends to travel through the world, are they driving a vehicle, flying; does it involve climbing or ledge grabbing etc…

It seems like you are just starting out so I am not sure if you are going to be testing out any gameplay mechanics. If that is your plan though; keep in mind that it is a good idea to “Block Out” your level before finalizing it, so you can test your gameplay mechanics with the flow of your level layout to see if it works well or not. Fully designing your level around any particular game play mechanic(s) without actually testing them might turn out to be a waste of time. Test first, and then decide your level layout.

As far as the process of building your level goes;

This can vary depending on your workflow. In general though, if it was me I would think of level design in terms of layers. As with any art project, typically you build things in layers. You start off with the basic form and layout of your level, and then you add the detail.

•Laying out the basic form includes building the level to suggest where the playing area is and where the player is intended to go. This should be subtle; hinting at the player.
Next, add the detail.

•Detail can include anything; textures, props, decals, particle systems, audio etc. that bring your level to life. Put in your assets, position and place them as you see fit, and then
add the detail. They call this “set dressing”. Where after you block out your level, you go in and dress it up.

  • You could include lighting in this step as well, but I like to make that a whole step in and of itself because of how much work it can turn out to be. It helps to break your work
    out into steps. It keeps things manageable and organized.

So to recap my thought process; if you were to think of this process in terms of layers, you would consider layer 1, the blocked out level that determines player boundaries directions. Layer 2 would include dressing the level and adding detail to bring it to life.

These are my general thoughts on the level design process and should be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps some more experienced than I can comment.

Thanks for the response. Yeah, my intentions are for VR gameplay later on but UE’s complexity is overwhelming me at the moment. (Only dabbled with Photoshop as a background skill) I’m stuck on what to skill up first, Persona + Physics, Level layout + Foilage + Splines, or Blueprint Interactions. I know Rendering, Particles, Materials and AI will be tough topics after.

Traversing through the VR game will likely be the point and click teleporting mechanic. I’ll probably have to do a deep dive on the game “The Climb” to see if I want to spend time integrating ledge/wall climbing. Hmm, so you are suggesting to plot out the main gameplay mechanic and have that emphasize the play area. I like that. By “Block Out”, do you mean BSP brushes or Blocking Volumes?

Thinking about it further, I want the main “attack” mechanic to be using physics. Like how Professor X or Magneto will summon scattered objects to them that are laid out that they could freely manipulate and attack with. Any ideas on a cool level for that? :slight_smile:

Blocking out the level can include using strictly BSP brushes. This is a fast way to prototype any gameplay before investing any time into the level. If I am not mistaken I think level design is one of the last things that are done in a professional studio.

When you actually start designing your level blocking out can include creating the terrain if there is any, and defining the play area and flow of the level. Or something similar. It is just a general term that refers to creating the overall form of something before adding detail. You could use that term in modeling as well.

My advice to you and anybody else who is starting out, is to just have fun with it. It can be overwhelming initially with so much to learn. If you have fun with the process it makes things less overwhelming. Get fimilar with UE4 documentation as well and continue to utilize the forums. Also nobody says you “have” to create your gameplay mechanics before designing your level. Go ahead and put together a level and create a cool scene, have fun with it. Just keep in mind if you are trying to be time efficient with your projects then maybe it would be best to wait until you flesh out some gameplay. It’s up to you.