Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Level Design

Nearing the end of the group project has probably help me understand level design a little more than what I had at the beginning of the project. Although the queens building already existed we had to plan which spaces best showed our abilities and what we planned to produce. There are many factors that come into play when designing paths and areas for level design that drift away from the normal considerations of visual and spatial elements, these include but are not limited to dynamic behaviours, navigations, interactivity and playability. Designers must remember that although it important to make everything pretty, it is also important that whilst playing, you have a fundamental design that can help you navigate. It must show what you want the player to see and where you want them to go, without making a room full of corridors.

Visual style is important for level design as it decides what the player focuses on, this is done by visual elements and architecture and by having a strong colour pallet. Genuinely designers make sure that lighting and props draw the attention of the level and define the playable areas in which the character can play through, depicting direction of movement and funnelling points for more intense gameplay. This works in well with spatial elements; designers, such as Valve quite often have a blank block out called a white box. This allows play testing of areas without the visual noise of colour. It means they can focus of interesting arrangement of features and make sure designs that they have actually transfer to a 3d environment that is playable. It also is done very quickly which allows many ideas to be play tested in a very short amount of time.

Dynamic behaviours are important to a levels design as they allow a more natural feeling and approach to gameplay. They include things such as flickering lights, moveable objects and destructible environments and props. They add interesting events and break up repetitive behaviours that are quite easily produced in games. Navigations are plausible routes and paths that the player can get to an object. No matter what sort of game you produce there always has to be a location or end point that the player is trying to reach. When designing gameplay and the environment it is important to make this as understandable as possible. For instance visual clues leading to a doorway, lighting, roads, signs and other stimuli can all lead the player in the direction you want and can keep them moving through weaker areas and towards key areas and events. Navigation is important to the speed of gameplay and how this translates into an enjoyable or probably more relevant, tantalising environment level.

Interactivity are events that remind you that you are playing (hopefully) in an immersive environment that keeps you interested and makes you focused on what you are playing, rather than other distractions. If you played through a level that couldn’t respond to your input it would soon get very repetitive. Currently companies are trying to produce new ways to keep players responsive and focused. This can be done with anything that requires player input to progress or even to produce unrelated actions. Players thrive of finding ways to progress and watching their effort or work unfold before them. Climbing, pushing, pressing, shooting, crawling, swimming, connecting are all verbs and all describe an action. By completing these actions an interactive aspect would happen such as a path becomes useable, a valve turns or something explodes. By using interactive actions and direct interactivity with the player and weapons another stage of realism and playability is added, a world becomes more playable and environment design has been implemented more successfully. 

All of the factors above result in the playability of a level, a designer should take in consideration where the players meet, where actions occur and what is the overall function of the level, whether it is linear or multiplayer and whether there are enough things to improve the longevity of the playability. By making sure each step is taking a level can quickly evolve from initial sketches, to a fully-fledged interactive map that should keep players interested for the maximum amount of time and show off visual art to the best of the levels ability.

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