The Future of Level Design

Do you think that the role of a Level Designer will change much in the future?


The fundamental role of a level designer hasn’t changed in over two decades, and it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Games need levels, people need to make said levels. What has changed and will continue to change are the number of people involved in building levels and the specialist roles they perform. These days we have people who specialise in layouts (whiteboxing), decorating, lighting and scripting (and potentially other things too). I’d expect that diversity to only increase as technical requirements continue to increase.

I have to disagree with your initial statement Ambershee, the removal of Environment Art and Lighting from a Level Designer’s responsibility, over the past 20 years, was a massive change.

Regarding the future, whilst things may be broken down further from an Art perspective, I don’t see the Level Designer changing much - focusing on White Boxing & Scripting. However, as games become more sophisticated and draw on more techniques from other industries, it is important for Level Designers to do all they can to learn about and understand everything about those other disciplines even if they’re not implementing them themselves.

I don’t know - the fundamental role hasn’t changed at all.

In the early and mid 90s, level designers rarely were responsible for working with 3d assets, since environments were often constructed entirely from brushes (see Quake 3 or UT as examples). Dedicated lighters didn’t really exist, but then neither did the need for them since lighting as a technology was still in it’s infancy, with much of the “lighting” just drawn into textures before being applied to surfaces. Teams like the UT team may have had 20 people or less, but they still generally had dedicated artists and dedicated level designers, though there have always been people whose skills crossed both boundaries (I believe Shane Caudle as an example did contribute to both assets and level design in UT).

Lighting is still a pretty common thing for a level designer to do, but you’ll notice I did mention lighting as something that people now sometimes specialise in, but in my experience lighting designers / artists are still quite rare in the industry :wink: