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What is your level design philosophy?

How do you approch level design as a designer? Do you plan your level in advance or do you just jump right in with just a general idea of what you want to make and then just start messing around until the level is done?

What is your level design philosophy?

And have you made levels for other games? And if so can you give any examples so that we can see what your style of level design is?

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Preferred Genre: Sci-Fi…

My approach is mostly organic / inspirational and largely unproven… But if I try to work left-brained and plan-it-all-out or work from a spec, it usually comes out flat or something forgettable… Or worse, its too close to another work I know and admire too much! If so, I lose interest and stop working on it. But once in a while something sticks, and then the level turns into a whole project. When that happens the end result is usually a universe away from where it started. That’s the exciting part! Its how it was for Film / Music projects before, so its not a complete surprise…

All I know is, I can’t work with blocked out levels of grey. That’s torture. For me, gameplay potential comes out of having an interesting level that has ‘something’, not the other way around. There’s lots of serendipitous discoveries too. This material won’t work with that mesh… Oh wait, that’s interesting, must push forward with that, see if anything comes of it. I keep factory levels with lot of variations of ships and spaceports and weapons as a bible as the project progresses.

You have a lot of liberty working in Sci-Fi. You can break or tear up the rule book about scale and composition and lighting in a way that doesn’t often work in other genres. That’s what makes it fun imo… If a ship / hall / doorway is oversized for the main character in a contemporary game it will often look wrong. But if you have a backstory to sell it in Sci-Fi, then maybe it’ll work. Overall, I hate losing time on small details that most won’t care about, when the gameplay ‘is urgently calling’…

I have a database of legacy COD2 / COD4 Community maps too, and sometimes I refer to that to brainstorm ideas. Its handy, because you get to see what a simplified world looks like, which is easier than looking at real-world photos sometimes, as you can just focus on the essential parts - not the noise etc.

There was once a COD2 Community map set in a Valley. Its been the most influential map I’ve drawn from, as it had everything. It was huge, but it had a single large focal point. There were many paths of discovery and exploration and combat as well. It had vistas, choke points, and gunfire at height along an elevated rail track / bridge.

You just don’t see that anymore, even in later versions of COD. You can tell the talent left the building long ago. COD maps are often boring / repetitive / lack inspiration, even if the gameplay and weapon options / attachments are far superior. This map didn’t bore, and unbelievably it was all a Community effort - Wow!

mines just get it done, by hook or crook.

not the best I know

Im trying to design my levels around gameplay, and abilities. It isn’t easy. When you try to add in the art theme that you want with gameplay abilities it gets complicated. A lot of overthinking. I think the games that have a lot of gameplay abilities tied into the environment are really awesome. Uncharted, Tomb Raider, and Hitman really do this well in 3rd person. Bloodborne, and DS had the gates, doors, and ladders so you had to step through certain areas in order to get to others. Looping world type of maps. I think the looping maps are probably the easiest. Like Destiny. They’re basically all a big circle of some sort. For PVP I think I would look at the maps from Original Doom, Unreal tournament 99 + ut3, and Quake. The Doom, UT and Quake teams put a lot of time, and effort into designing maps. Then battlefield series, but those are large. I like the idea of pve maps being used for pvp.

Depends on primarily the physics of the game logic for character(s) movement and game objectives. You can break that out into what the player(s) see (it could be a horror game at night) but that overlaps genre.

If the game has very high speed and lots of verticality in movement, then the process of raw geometric level design is vastly different than if the game was realistic speed and zero superhuman abilities. This holds true no matter if the game is 2D, 2.5D or 3D. 1st, 3rd, isometric, again; no difference.

Once the physics and player projection are ‘fixed’, then the geometry can begin - attempting level design before this is a known quantity, is a waste of time.

Level designers build from the players’ perspective, and *project *the world by building *outwards *from each players starting point and ‘explore’ the level as they build.

The best analogy I can think of is this: Think of a house you lived in years ago. Now, close your eyes and go through the front door, in through the house and go to the kitchen, opening doors as you go, avoiding coat stands, bikes in hallways, the frayed patch of carpet you might trip on; and get to the kitchen. Open the door to the fridge and get a soda out. Take a sip.

That’s what you are doing when you design levels, you are exploring the world you are building in your mind.

Hey guys, I’ve plugged this before but Max has covered a lot of the basics in his blogs and podcasts. He was formerly at Ubisoft and is now at CDProjekt, so you can know he’s learnt a thing or two on the job!

Hope this helps!

This image just about sums it up.

Make the space look inhabitable/lived-in. Add multiple levels/heights to most of the scene. Add age (tearing down of buildings, rebuilding new ones). The roads should never be straight and there should probably be a watersource near by if people live near it. etc, etc.

Interesting stuff. I will be sure to check some of it out!