The overall analyzation of Level Design-

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How levels are designed-

The overall concept of designing a level.-

Primarily before a level can be designed, the designers must have an idea of what kind of level they want to be designed. Once the ideas have been conveyed and agreed to be worked on, the next stage would be the setting of a location and theme. This would allow for the designers to focus more solely on a set place, where more focus can be placed on the assets that would make the setting a replica of the location and overall theme. Once this has been chosen, a project purpose has to be analyzed. This is to ensure that all designers know why they would be taking part in the project, and what this level would contribute to.  E.G. The level would be used in the newest most popular game series of the studio. Once this has been done, the “set of features” that the level will include will need to be chosen. These features are chosen/built upon, to differentiate your level/overall game to the competition that is also on the market. This can be such features as “a fully customizable character, a seamless and real-time raid system, and a new sense of destruction.”  These could also be marketing material when the game releases in the future. Features can be a good set of guidelines that the level designers should follow, for them to incorporate all the features into the level. Once these have been chosen and have been able to be incorporated correctly into the genre of the level, then references will need to be taken. This is the research aspect which needs to be collected for reference, as this research will be the starting point when primary sketches and 3d designs are made when the research has been fully collected. This research which needs to be collected, can be such research as environment and location reference which would allow designers to almost replicate or take inspiration from the location that the level may be trying to replicate. Along with the set design and prop reference, which would give the designers the research to make geographically identical/ similar products to the set, and to ensure that realism is present in the level.  Besides that, lighting reference and style/visual references can be taken. This would allow the designers to take inspiration again from the lighting present at the location, and that make appropriate and life-like lighting throughout the level itself and make appropriate lighting for the assets designed from the photo references. These will then start the stage of concept art, based on the research. The concepts will analyze such things as physics and shapes, along with age that would need to be implemented onto the assets, depending on how long the level occurs after the year that the assets have been taken from. E.G. Times Square used for inspiration now, but the level is set in 2120, and so the assets would need to be aged accordingly, so the user still recognizes that the level is Times Square, but it has aged significantly, but that’s not all. Alongside this, the sound team will be starting their work on sounds such as dialogue and sound effects that will be implemented into the level, such as gunfire or even the sound of the playable character walking along with ambient noises. This stage will last as long as to stage 10, where visual development occurs. Once this has been started, then the Story developers begin/project their story to the rest of the level design team, and so will begin to express the story, both explicitly and implicitly. The explicit way of storytelling is told through the level that the player plays in. This can be through the character/characters speaking with each other (dialogue), cinematics, and game level objects/assets. Everything is told/shown directly to the player and so, is the simplest way to convey a story without any confusion. Compared to implicit storytelling, where the surroundings and environment tell the story without directly stating what occurred. (The player must infer based on what they can see around them.) An example of this can be that the player finds a body lying next to the firearm on the floor covered in blood. The player was not told that the person shot himself, but due to no other bodily marks, E.G. bruises, the player can infer that the person committed suicide and that nobody killed the person while struggling. Both of these methods of story-telling must be implemented early in the development stages, as the story writers and the environmental level designers need to work very closely together, so that the level is appropriate to the level genre, and that the story can also be told properly and effectively within the level itself. After this stage. The next step, (step 7) is to analyze and implement the O-O-S. These are the Objectives, Obstacles and Set Pieces. The Objectives primarily focuses on what the player will need to achieve/complete to progress in the playable level, this can gravely vary in difficulty, from a simple task to one that can be more difficult and time-consuming. Alongside this, the Obstacles that the player must face are those that can either take the form of a puzzle, exploration, battles ETC. The focus of the Obstacles is to add an additional layer of challenges to the level which in turn adds challenge and elongates the level’s overall playtime. Finally, the thought and implementation of Set Pieces, otherwise known as Scripted Events, are the pieces that enable the player to feel immersed within the game level/world, as this can influence the player’s choice within the level, and they can see what their actions have to lead to. This allows the player to feel a sense of belonging within the game’s world/level, and allows them to make informed choices, as later in the level or game, the player could be shown how their actions affected the game world, and what consequences arose from their choices. But besides this, the focal points must also be thought about and implemented with all prior steps in mind. The next step is to use and implement the Focal Points. The reason for the use of focal points are as stated:

Functional purpose – helps the player to orient themselves in the environment. The player will always know where they are in relationship to a focal point.

Visual aesthetic function – visual appeal

Helps to draws the player’s attention to a location. It becomes a point of interest to explore.

The use of Focal Points allows the player to mostly orient themselves within the map/level, and so gives them an extra sense of exploration that needs to be completed. Whilst also giving them a perspective of the level, whether it be in a town or a field, and gives the player a sense of distance when travelling from one place to the next and allows the player to recollect previous maps/levels by implementing a landmark that differentiates from place to place that they may go. But it does not have to be large or outstanding, something as simple as a single ray of light in a dark room, or even a crashed car within a field, gives the player a sense of direction, based on leaving the car as they walk away, or perhaps looking at the object closer, as it could further the story in the level itself as the landmark could house an interactable object. Yet a designer’s task is still unfinished, the next process would be to create a Top-Down layout, which implements all the previous steps. This layout is a bird’s-eye view of the level that will be created/early concept of the level that will be enhanced later. This can give designers a guide on where to place assets, along with judging the overall size of the level, and can also perhaps start to judge the overall play-time of the level, and so any adjustments to elongate or shorten the playtime can be justified and be made here. Finally, the proper level design and infrastructure can be designed and made. The Visual Development can start to occur with the utmost efficiency, as the designers have all the pieces for the “puzzle” and all that they need to do now is to build it to their standards. Implementing all that they have analyzed and read about, ensuring that the level, not just only looks outstanding, but the story flows and all assets and sounds function properly, which will soon lead to a fully playable level. But again, a designer’s work is far from over, they must submit a list/report that entails such items as Asset Lists, Production List and Project Management. {For less of an eyesore please console in the more visual representation seen below.}

Timeline-

Stage 1- Overall idea is thought of and eventually chosen to be developed as the groundwork for the level. (this can be where the level is set, (location) or even the initial thought of the story.)

Stage 2- The more in-depth decision of the setting and theme. This would have been influenced by stage 1.

Stage 3- The project purpose, whether it would be for a new game company’s NO.1 game, or simply as additional DLC to a pre-existing game, would change how much time and money would need to be spent on the design and build of the level.

Stage 4- These are the features that will be implemented into the level, that set it apart from others in the competition. This could be pre-existing features that are more refined in this level, or even a new set of features that are the first of its kind being implemented into the newly designed level.

Stage 5- This is the collection of references and the conduction of thorough research. This allows the assets to be designed according to the research conducted, and so offers the basic planning of assets and the environment of the level itself to occur.

Stage 6- How the environment tells its story to the player, this can be in the form of how the level looks at the relevant time of the player being there, or how it changed from before the layer making an entrance to it. As stated above, this is the introduction of the explicit and implicit story-telling that the environment and level convey to the player.

Stage 7- This part is the setting and implementation of O, O and S. (objectives, obstacles, and set pieces) this allows the designers to begin to understand the purpose of the level and also allows the designers to introduce obstacles and puzzles that the player may have to complete in order to proceed playing in the level. This allows the designers to analyze the overall playtime that will be needed to complete the level, and from here, they can shorten or elongate it accordingly.

Stage 8- This is the introduction of focal points. This is usually in the form of landmarks and allows the player to reorient themselves in the level and so ensures that the player will be less likely to become lost, even if the level layout may be complicated.

Stage 9- This is the part where the “Top Down layout” is drawn. This gives an overhead view of the entire map and shows such things as boundaries, player paths, alternate routes, spatial relationships, flow, pacing, cover, player starts, AI position, important locations, and focal points.

Stage 10- This is the stage where visual development becomes the focus. Usually, the art style will be determined here, but in a larger game’s studio, this would have been chosen earlier in development. Concept art will arise here more and allows changes to made with the characters and even more minor details in the level if need be.

Stage 11- This is the final step of level design and occurs after each level is made. The developers must create a list of everything in their levels, including assets, production list, and project management. These are titles for more in-depth lists of models, textures, materials, audio, particle effects and any ongoing bugs/errors that need to be fixed and what work will need to be done shortly.

How I’ll Apply this to my level- For both my final project at the end of year 1 and also my Final major project for the end of year 2, I will be following each of these 11 steps that I have explained. Although it may not be in the same degree of detail that a fully-fledged game studio can accomplish, I shall look at pre-made applications of development, and I shall try to replicate their degree of detail, which may take longer to accomplish. Although along with this I shall include reference images for each stage and attach them to the blog site, under Final project, which will be launching very soon.

https://worldofleveldesign.com/categories/level_design_tutorials/how-to-plan-level-designs-game-environments-workflow.php

{All pictures and information gathered above are from one source. A website called “worldofleveldesign.com”. The link is shown above.}

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