Level Design. Characters vs Levels. Level Design. Case Study: Matchstick puzzle

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1 Level Design Characters vs Levels Characters and levels are essentially the main user interface of your game. Levels present the challenge or problem to solve, Characters present the tools to solve them. Level Design Game levels are a combination of elements: Art Architecture Ergonomics Programming All elements follow ludology principles to produce a cohesive, fun experience. Case Study: Matchstick puzzle Conveys the main elements of a level: What is the goal of the level, What actions can the player perform, Challenges, and how to overcome them. 1

2 Case Study: Disneyland Read the presentation by Scott Rogers: Everything I Learned About Game Design I Learned From Disneyland Demonstrates more than the three basic elements from the past example, but also how to do them. Here are highlights of some of his key points Walt s Approach WWWD? (What Would Walt Do? Figure out the moral arc of the story (i.e. what is it really about, what do you want the player to do) Plot out the stages of this story/experience. Visualize with drawings, models, simulations Start at the top and work down World Land Attraction Experience Game World Level Experience Attention-grabbers (weenies) Weenies are key landmarks that provide attraction, navigation and motivation. 2

3 How Weenies Work Weenies draw you in, both geographically and visually. Leads people through areas you want them to see and explore. How else can you encourage player movement? Other visual cues Light is powerful for drawing in attention. Not just light sources, but also shading, glowing, and other visual effects (think pickup items). Other visual cues Visual elements of the attraction and/or level can enhance the player s expectations and provide diversions on the way to the main goal. Including sneak peeks of what s to come! Danger! Danger! Adding safe danger to rides and attractions adds a welcome level of excitement. Think Capilano Bridge Study! 3

4 Level Design: Art Used to set tone and mood for the scene. Texture and object samples usually drawn from reallife settings, and incorporated as elements of the level. Artists produce imagery for items, buildings, background and front end (e.g. menu screens) Environments have to have a personality as well, similar to characters. Level Design: Architecture Need to construct layout of level. Many different types of levels, based on degrees of freedom. Rails levels Player can only go forward Garden path levels Path should be intuitive. Visual cues for key goals. Open staged levels E.g. closed-room challenges. Sandbox levels Nearly complete freedom; do what you want, when you want. Level Design: Ergonomics Designers need to analyze fengshuiof levels. Visual indications of the goal of the level, and what the player need to do to accomplish that goal. Natural integration of puzzles and challenges in environment. Special events to draw the player s attention (e.g. cutscenes, narration) to key elements of the level. Moving the camera and allowing the player to change the view. No inconsistencies in the appearance or feel of the level. Special level types: Introduction levels Need to introduce player to the controls of the game, and introduce skills that must be demonstrated before player is allowed to contrinue. Boss battles Enclosed = signifies stopping point, increases tension, (AI issues) Functional = every object/feature is meaningful. Interesting = denotes culmination of level Level Design: Programming Technical aspect of level design involves graphics & scripting. Graphical modeling process Similar to that of character design Art team creates concept art from images described by producer and from real scenes. Differences: Levels will be modified significantly by producers, because of gameplay issues. Technical leads will have a say in this as well. QA people also get to influence the level design. Animation is less of an issue. Time taken to draw (render) the level can be HUGE. 4

5 Level Design: Graphics Levels are rendered in layers. Perspective & occlusion Design different layers of background Closer layers get rendered with more detail. Level Design: Scripting Scripting Instructions for what ways the player s characters can interact with the level... Pick up item Activate a level element (door, switch, etc) Enter a particular section of the level Interact with one of the other characters...and how this will change the state of the game. Change player characteristics (score/status/inventory) Change environment characteristics (music, setting, AIs) Trigger other events (cutscenes, dialogue, save state) Thoughts for Level Design Key characteristics for all levels: Intuitive: the player should know what to do, even without instruction. Interesting: even the most functional level should have an aesthetic quality. Immersive: should provide a consistent user experience. Incentive: the player needs a reason to care. 5

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