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Level Design For Games 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-play dept.
Aeonite writes "As a content writer I was not heavily involved in the level design process at my last game industry job, but Phil Co's Level design For Games: Creating Compelling Game Experiences accompanied me to work every day. Not only is it a good introduction to the world of level design, but it also provides an excellent overview of the entire game design process." Read below for the rest of Michael's thoughts on this book.
Level Design For Games: Creating Compelling Game Experiences
author Phil Co
pages 352
publisher New Riders
rating 10
reviewer Michael Fiegel
ISBN 0321375971
summary An excellent introduction to the art of game level design
In the past I've been rather verbose when reviewing books about game design, as I wished to provide evidence that justified the often less than stellar score I gave the book in question. I'm pleased that I don't have to do that with this book, which as far as I can tell is a nearly flawless introduction to level design. As such, this review will be more of a recap, so as to help you decide if the book's content is right for you.

Chapter 1, "How Do You Make a Game?," discusses the game development process from Pre-Production through Gold Master by way of showing how level design fits into the overall scheme of things. Also discussed are design documents, basic level geometry, and the difference between alpha and beta, and A, B, C and D bugs (A being "fix this now" and D being "nice to have, maybe later").

Chapter 2, "Defining the Game," focuses on the various types of games on the market and the differences between them, from first-person shooters to platformers, action RPGs to MMORPGs. Also discussed in some depth are themes (fantasy, sci-fi), ESRB ratings and audience age, and system limitations.

Chapter 3, "Enemies and Obstacles: Choosing Your Challenges," is where the book really begins to get into the nitty-gritty of the level design process. This third chapter covers the placement of enemies ("mobs") and objects within the level, the types of levels (hubs, boss levels, etc.), skill trees and the application of skills to obstacles within each level.

With an idea of what needs to go where, Chapter 4, "Brainstorming Your Level Ideas," delves into the creation of concept sketches and reference images, the creation of a level's storyline, the drafting of a level description and the design of the puzzles and scripted sequences within the level (which incorporate the mobs and objects discussed previously).

Chapter 5, "Designing With a Diagram," is where all those ideas and brainstorming begin to take concrete shape. A primary concern here is the scope and order of levels within the game, particularly in terms of a player's progress through each level. Once you know where your level fits into the overall schema, the author tells you to lay it out in diagram format by creating a grid; this is not unlike a Dungeon Master carving out 10' by 10' dungeon corridors on graph paper for a D&D game. You know who you are.

Chapter 6, "The Template," introduces the reader to UnrealEd, a level editor for which a demo is provided in the back of the book. The author walks through the basics of using UnrealEd, from the basic creation of a room and the placement of an NPC within it to slightly more advanced topics such as vertex editing and static meshes. It's a fairly technical chapter, but is laid out clearly with numbered instructions and plenty of screenshots to guide the reader along.

Chapter 7, "Improving Your Level," jumps ahead in time a bit, assuming that you've already mastered the basics from Chapter 6 and have created a level template that can now be play-tested. It focuses mostly on that play-testing process and how to adjust and balance one's level based on feedback in order to make it fun and functional.

The next chapter, "Taking It to 11," is more concerned with polish and quality. Topics include architectural style, the addition of details like trim and borders, the appropriate use of textures and props, and the like. The second third of the chapter takes the reader back into UnrealEd to practice some of these skills, including the creation of new shapes and a radial building technique to create curved hallways an rounded rooms. Finally, the chapter discusses the addition of other game elements, including scripted sequences, ambient sounds and music, and other special effects such as fog.

The final chapter, "Ship It!," revisits the concept of Alpha, Beta and Gold Master in more depth, discussing optimization, the creation of zones (with an UnrealEd tutorial to help the reader along), game balance, and bug testing. It closes off with some discussion of helpful skills and practices one might pick up, including how to file a good bug, why you should archive data, and how to take good screenshots.

On the subject of screenshots, it is worth noting here that the book contains one such shot from Flagship Studio's Hellgate: London, a game which I am downloading from the EA store as I write this review, and which is scheduled for official release on Halloween, 2007. In my experience, many books on game design tend to incorporate screenshots and examples from older games, and it's rare to find a book that includes a screenshot from a game that is not only current, but as of the book's publication was yet unreleased. Indeed, most of the examples in the book are of games released in the past several years (Psychonauts, Half-Life 2, Doom 3), and this gives the book added relevance, appeal and longevity.

Aside from the more technical language involved with the UnrealEd tutorials, the book's clear language and friendly tone makes it quite accessible, even for those not of a technical persuasion. While I can't speak to how much the book would help a more experienced LD, it definitely seems appropriate for a beginner who's eager to learn the craft, or anyone interested in the game industry as a whole. I highly recommend it.

You can purchase Level Design For Games: Creating Compelling Game Experiences from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Level Design For Games

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  • Level Design Primer (Score:5, Informative)

    by TrevorB (57780) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:32PM (#21588781) Homepage
    For those of you who don't want to pick up nasty bookseses, pick up a copy of the Orange Box, and play through Half Life 2. Particularly pay attention to the developers commentary in HL2 Episodes One and Two, Portal, and Team Fortress. You'll have a much better appreciation for what level design is and what it means, and (IMHO) Valve is the king of it.

    No I am not a Valve Employee.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:42PM (#21588917) Homepage
      Also, try playing some really crappy games, so you can find out what doesn't work. It's almost as important to understand bad design as it is to understand good design.
      • Also, try playing some really crappy games, so you can find out what doesn't work.

        Got any suggestions?
      • I remember pretty much every old game by Raven had outright awful level design. Every level is like a maze and it just winds up being an extremely aggravating experience. I always thought Hexen II was an awesome game. The level design was complete shit though.
    • by p0tat03 (985078) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:44PM (#21588947)

      For multiplayer level designers, I'd take a very long look at Call of Duty 4. Where Valve is the king of maps in general, Infinity Ward has a ridiculous way about making use of height, rooftops, and general stacking of levels while maintaining impeccable multiplayer balance and flow.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        For multiplayer level designers, I'd take a very long look at Call of Duty 4.

        IMO, the CoD games are also worth taking a look at for single-player level design. they have their drawbacks--overly scripted and railed progression, nonsensical objective-linked enemy spawns, etc--but some of the moments that appear in these games are just brilliant. take the ghillies in the wind level in CoD4: it's a heavily scripted sniper mission, but it captures a sense of tension and realism that makes you believe that if you deviate in one detail, your character would indeed be dead. scripted and

        • That level of CoD4 felt a bit forced to me because of the conversation from your partner. On the one hand it's trying to give you the feel of being an elite sniper on a high-risk mission deep in hostile territory - the kind of mission only the best of the best would be sent on. On the other hand, the team leader is talking to you like it's your character's first ever covert operation. I found that a bit jarring.

          • That level of CoD4 felt a bit forced to me because of the conversation from your partner

            you're absolutely right. hell, the fact that they're talking at all stretches realism a bit too far for my tastes. i'm not saying the level is perfect, just that elements of it are extraordinarily well done. i think playing that level with the captain's tutorial voice-overs muted would be amazing--the hand signals are actually almost enough to explain what needs to be done at crucial moments, just as they would need to be in the field.

    • Half-Life 2 (etc.) has some awesome levels. Lately I've been playing Psychonauts and the level design in that game is amazing. Basically the concept of the game is that you're jumping into different people's brains and experiencing and fixing things that are going wrong. The game starts out with a linear go here to here brain but then starts introducing some amazing designs.

      Some of my favorite levels that I've played so far are:
      A giant war board game! The game places you in a room with two people playin
      • by Thrymm (662097)
        I agree, Psychonauts level design is amazing and very well planned out for the storyline at the time you are in them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vimh42 (981236)
      No I am not a Valve Employee.

      But it appears Phil Co is or was at some point. http://www.valvesoftware.com/people.html [valvesoftware.com]

      So perhaps the book is worth a look.
    • Valve does have good levels, but all their maps are rat tunnels - there is only one path to take and only one way to solve a puzzle. That was fine in the first game, because you're in a damaged underground base so it makes sense that your movement options are limited. Not so much in the HL2 as you spend most of the game above ground in cities or traveling in the country.

      That's why I think Deus Ex is the better example. On most of the maps you not only have multiple paths you can take, but there are multi
    • by Esc7 (996317)
      I came in here to say the exact same thing. I picked up the Orange Box a little while ago and I'm playing through Half Life 2 for the first time in my life. Never before have I played a game with such a rich linear level design, that simultaneously feels "real" but also subtly guides you along. The areas nearly never get boring, and are all memorable. The commentary tracks, especially in Portal, are invaluable if you want to design a good game. There they tell you, step by step, how to introduce comple
    • but not the king. You should really have a look at this [hlcomic.com] and this [hlcomic.com].

      • by EvanED (569694)
        They learned their lesson with the flashlight though... starting with EP2, sprint and flashlight power are decoupled.

        This [hlcomic.com] is one of my favorites from that strip that gives commentary on what you can and can't do within the HL universe.
    • A third-party HL2 mod/level that demonstrated impeccable level design was Minerva. People may wax lyrical about the feel and flow of the gameplay, but the physical layout for this was astounding.

      Every nook and cranny of the layout was used superbly. When you see the actual map for the level(s), you realise just how small it is and think "No way - I spent a fantastic hour in that room..."

      Just sayin'.

    • besides your FPS games some of the most amazing level design in my opinion cames from games like: psychonauts (esp. the crazy milkman level and the black velvet world), sonic adventure and sonic adventure 2\sonic rivals among others. they have a very "non-standard" approach to level design where the player is challenged by the physics and dimensions of the level vs. something that just looks nice (although the look nice as well).
  • I played the demo of the game and found it to be about as fun as whack-a-mole. I guess to me it just felt like they were trying to go for a Diablo like feel, but doing very poorly at it. For example if you took the melee fighter, there was only a couple of swing animations and it was tough to hit enemies properly as it was tough to determine the range to the opponent. If you took the gun fighter, it just felt like a cheap old FPS since the enemies had zero intelligence (much like you'd find in a Diablo l
    • In addition, they didn't let you play with several hyped features, particularly weapons modding. That royally annoyed me.

      I found that Mass Effect has delivered on what Hellgate attempted to sell, sans multiplayer support and dynamically generated levels. (Weapons modding, tons of story lines, a similar seeming combat system (albeit almost wholly ranged combat), with downloadable content on the way.

    • The game's not bad.

      The demo deserves to go in the "Dumb Ass Demo Choices" hall of fame, though. It's the game developer equivalent of purposely choosing clothes that make you look fat.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A recent Slashdot post suggested that the age of levels in video games was coming to an end, that now game environments are much more open-ended. Does the book discuss how this might affect designs?
    • IMHO, there is no 'End of Levels' coming anytime soon. The open-ended design does not end levels, it just makes the transition more seemless. Even in 'sandbox games' such as Grand Theft Auto, Bully, and Morrowind, there is still definite breaks in the story, which can clearly be defined as levels. While it may not say, 'LEVEL 1: CLEARED" or something of that sort, it still has tougher enemies, more of them, and allows the player to reach new areas not previously available to them.

      The day that there ar
      • by Urza9814 (883915)
        What about RPGs? I mean, take a look at games like Baldur's Gate. There are no real levels. I mean, there are certain things you must do to unlock certain areas of the map, but you can attempt those at any time. Or not. And if you took that basic style, but removed that limitation, you would have a game without levels. You could try to attack the 'boss' at any time, but you would be very unlikely to succeed without doing the lower level quests first. But at the same time, there are no required quests. If yo
      • by grumbel (592662)
        Look at EF2000 for a game without levels. It is a flightsim that simulates a complete war from start to finished. You still have missions that you have to fly which one could call levels, but the war simulation never stops and the missions aren't prescripted, all the tiny units are simulated all the time and missions simply emerge out of where the front lines currently are or you can even design them yourself. So there really isn't much of a real start and finish of a level, the difference is only if you si
  • by Speare (84249) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:45PM (#21588963) Homepage Journal

    All too often, I have seen games where the level design consisted of the following cliche decisions. Level 1 should be garden-themed, level 3 should let you swim (if you're ever allowed to swim), level 4 should be slippery ice, level 6 should be raging lava which kill you if you touch it, and level 8 should be a screwed-up-gravity level that lets you walk on the ceilings or reorient yourself in space.

    What's funny is that these same gameplay decisions are leaking into the storylines of modern adventure movies. For example, the plucky racing scene in Cars, or Star Wars I. Or the sidescroller robot factories in Minority Report and Star Wars II. Or the "jumping on floating bits across lava" scene in... uh, Star Wars III. The transitions in Lord of the Rings from "ice" to "fire" to "water" to "forest" areas actually seem to make sense, but only because they take place over 36 hours of video, or 1600 pages of text. Cramming it into a single game or movie with almost no transition just makes it seem ridiculous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JoshJ (1009085)
      Not as bad as the "Mandatory Video Game Minecart Ride". (See: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3)
      • by SQLGuru (980662)
        That Indiana Jones game did it first (Temple of Doom)

        Layne
        • by JoshJ (1009085)
          I have no idea which game was first. In THPS 3 if you did a grind down a series of mine-cart tracks, you got a gap (bonus points + combo multiplier) called "Mandatory Video Game Mine Cart Ride". They were poking fun at the cliche.
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      Or the "jumping on floating bits across lava" scene in... uh, Star Wars III.

      That Anakin Skywalker was disfigured in a battle on a lava planet goes all the way back to Lucas' novelization of the first Star Wars film in the 1970s. I do agree that the cinematic realization was inspired by video games, though. Reminds me of this Onion article [theonion.com].

      • by Cygfrydd (957180)

        Or the "jumping on floating bits across lava" scene in... uh, Star Wars III.

        That Anakin Skywalker was disfigured in a battle on a lava planet goes all the way back to Lucas' novelization of the first Star Wars film in the 1970s. I do agree that the cinematic realization was inspired by video games, though. Reminds me of this Onion article.

        ... by Lucas, you mean Alan Dean Foster [alandeanfoster.com], of course.

    • by Threni (635302)
      > The transitions in Lord of the Rings from "ice" to "fire" to "water" to "forest" areas actually seem to make sense, but only because they take
      > place over 36 hours of video, or 1600 pages of text. Cramming it into a single game or movie with almost no transition just makes it seem
      > ridiculous.

      No, it makes it fun. When I play games I want fun now. Watching lord of the rings is ok if you've got 3 or 10 hours to watch `explore a bit..fight a bit...explore a bit...mystical crap about fairies...figh
    • The movie scenes you're referring to were likely added so that they make sense when they appear in the video game, for people too young (or ignorant) to realize what a video game about the movie "Cars" would probably look like. Anytime you see a "video game-y" scene in a newer movie, you can be sure that 1) there will be a video game based on the movie, and 2) it will feature gameplay similar to the in-movie game trailer you've just been forced to watch. /rant
    • by tieTYT (989034)
      The transitions in Lord of the Rings from "ice" to "fire" to "water" to "forest" areas actually seem to make sense, but only because they take place over 36 hours of video

      Is that the Director's Director cut version where each film has 9 hours of extra content?

    • by CCFreak2K (930973)

      All too often, I have seen games where the level design consisted of the following cliche decisions. Level 1 should be garden-themed, level 3 should let you swim (if you're ever allowed to swim), level 4 should be slippery ice, level 6 should be raging lava which kill you if you touch it, and level 8 should be a screwed-up-gravity level that lets you walk on the ceilings or reorient yourself in space.

      That sounds a lot like this game [wikipedia.org].

    • by SirSlud (67381)
      What you have describe is "game design". You design a game, and it has X gameplay mechnics by the time you have access to them all.

      Level design is a separate discipline entirely. It's about taking the game design, and crafting progression within those limitations.

      These cliches you're talking about are more along the lines of game design cliches, which forces the land of level design to introduce gameplay elements at a rate which feels challenging, but not overwhelming, impossibly, or narratively nonsensical
    • by Mr Z (6791)
      And here I thought you were talking about Sonic the Hedgehog games at first.
    • *> The transitions in Lord of the Rings from "ice" to "fire" to "water" to "forest" areas I know, that bloody Tolkien copying the themes in video games. It's the pong rip-off that winds me up the most.
  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:49PM (#21589009)
    TFC in my opinion has some of the best levels when it comes to design and purpose. There is a delicate balance between providing enough points of attack for the offense while providing enough cover for the defense, all while keeping the level small enough to allow users to quickly and easily get back into battle.
    • Yea those levels are nice but it would have been nice for Valve to release a few more. The game is quite repetitive with the same few maps over and over and over again. I've played maybe 2 decent user created maps but most of those are pretty weak so far.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Floritard (1058660)
        See he's talking about Classic, not the recently released TF2, which means he's probably talking about the dozens of user-created maps.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    On a side note, one thing I would be interested in seeing would be a level design which would allow more randomness to multiplayer games.

    Take counter-strike as an example. Next, look at the Italy map. I haven't played in a while so that is why this is a reference to an older map. In the Italy map, if you are a counter terrorist, you can go down the alley to the left, through the apartment straight ahead, or through the market to the right. Those are the only choices you have and all the paths are always
    • You need to try out this Orange Box thing, all the cool kids are talking about. Specifically listen to the developer commentary and play a few games on Hydro.
      • by Senzei (791599)
        Hydro or Dustbowl. The balance on Hydro is all over the map, some sections are awesome, some are (in my opinion) the worst (barring 2fort, which is just lame) out of everything on TF2. Dustbowl is a little more consistent. Either way the TF2 maps are worth studying, almost all do a good job of having multiple useful paths to important points in the game, and reward those who put in the time to learn the map well without allowing them complete domination because of it.
    • by Mordicain (926207)
      Problem with this is you can only really do it on a map change. Otherwise you'd get people loading 4 times the regular amount stored on the map. On lower end computers it would hurt and you'd have to design the game with less bells and whistles.
  • by GreatRedShark (880833) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @04:44PM (#21589619)
    So this is level design for games... what about level design for non-game situations?
    I can imagine using game level design for architecture:

    Architect: "So I think we should have lots of cardboard boxes in this hallway"
    Sr. Architect: "Why?"
    Architect: "For better sniping spots during the shootouts!! And all good levels have cardboard boxes and crates!!!"
    Sr. Architect: "WTF are you talking about?"
    Architect: "And there should be a flamethrower canister in the Men's room"
    Sr. Architect: "You're fired."

    hehe... actually, I remeber hearing ages ago that Oni levels were built with architecture tools, not standard level design tools.
    • Something similar happened for Halo.

      Level Designer: "Let's see, after going through this hall, they'll probably be beat up pretty good, gonna need some health."
      Writer of companion novel: "Hm, okay, I can work in a dead-marine-carrying-health-packs-in-that-room into chapter 3..."
      • by typidemon (729497)
        Having to loot the remains of a fallen soldier is a plausible storyline mechanic. At least compared to "there's some neatly stacked ammo in some random corner".
    • by vimh42 (981236)
      "I remeber hearing ages ago that Oni levels were built with architecture tools, not standard level design tools. I read that too. It's too bad the game was a disappointment. Combat and such was cool but I recall being very bummed when I finally played the game.
    • hehe... actually, I remeber hearing ages ago that Oni levels were built with architecture tools, not standard level design tools.
      I remember the tools used to create Doom 2 levels looked more like AutoCad tools more than anything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770)
      Hehe, you should visit one of the places I worked. The customer areas were extremely formal - forget wearing anything but a suit and tie and they were effectively sealed off from the rest of the building. Likewise there were "polished" areas for external workers. We however worked there so long we were in the back end - and it was "anything goes". Several hallways actually did actually have all sorts of junk and cardboard boxes and shit in them, wear anything you'd want and a cluttered desk policy. It was a
  • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @05:28PM (#21590177) Journal
    Pfft. Everyone knows that the quality of a game's levels depend entirely on how long you have to go before you see a crate [oldmanmurray.com].
    • Thank you, very funny. On a more serious note, how much emphasis is placed on levels for multiplayer vs levels for plain old single player? Very very different things going on in those two worlds.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @06:03PM (#21590591)
    Perhaps I'm just being pedantic, but I'm really tired of the concept of 'levels' in games. I don't want to see loading screens telling me "loading new level..." I'm tired of rocket launchers that don't break wooden doors (or even glass doors. yes, I've seen this) because that would ruin a design's carefully crafted puzzle. I don't want to hear on the back of the box "Twenty Action-packed Levels of Pure Mayhem". Isn't it time the game industry retires this term? I'm fed up with buildings designed like mazes because the game designer simply wants the players to run through a maze. This is what I think of when I hear about 'level design'. I'm sick of levels.

    Why do I care about the term 'level' at all? Honestly, I think it encourages game designers, environmental artists (a better name than level designers) and even publishers to think too linearly, and to be intellectually lazy. Publisher: how many levels will this game have? Game designers: 30 levels. Publisher: Fantastic, that's 10 more levels than our competition has. Gamer: yawn...

    So what do I want instead? Give me environments! Give me worlds! I want freedom to explore, to find out of the way nooks and crannys, and more than one way of getting from point A to B. I want to solve problems using logic, not by playing "guess what the game designer wanted me to do or go next"? Game designers: Create a living, breathing, interesting world, and then let your players enjoy their time here. Stop shoving the player along a conveyor belt.

    Obviously, it's not fair to pin this on the term 'levels'. But it just seems like a term that emphasizes aspects of games I'd love to see the industry move beyond.

    • by gauauu (649169)
      Strangely enough, I enjoy the opposite. I want games to quit pretending like they have real worlds in them. The closer they get to looking like a real world, the more annoying it is when you don't understand what you are "supposed to do." I feel like I'm trapped in a fake world.

      Older style games where things were much more confined annoyed me less -- they were overtly trapping you, and I didn't get frustrated.

      For example, in a 2d side-scroller, it doesn't bother me that I can't break out the windows in t
    • People like easily recognizable numbers to indicate status. Remove "levels" and how will people get the instant gratification of knowing they're superior without actually having to prove anything? It's like when car manufacturers went from names to alphanumerics. It was hard to tell who was better, the guy driving the New Yorker, Royal, Saratoga or Imperial. But now, obviously, my 500 must beat your measly 300.
    • If you remove levels, chapters, parts, sections, and basically any other separator from games, you will also lose all story. How long can you do basically nothing in Grand Theft Auto until you start to get bored and wonder what else is to the world? I mean, if you don't want levels, you will basically just have a game where you run around doing a whole lot of nothing. And when that comes around, game designers will cease having to create 'living, breathing' worlds, and simply create a couple of blocks, f
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ford Prefect (8777)

      So what do I want instead? Give me environments! Give me worlds! I want freedom to explore, to find out of the way nooks and crannys, and more than one way of getting from point A to B. I want to solve problems using logic, not by playing "guess what the game designer wanted me to do or go next"? Game designers: Create a living, breathing, interesting world, and then let your players enjoy their time here. Stop shoving the player along a conveyor belt.

      I wouldn't describe myself as a level designer, rather j

      • Just wanted to say that I really loved your first 2 episodes. Hadn't known the 3rd was out, but I plan on downloading it tonight. When I see you describe your design process, it really makes sense that they were designed that way. It seems to boil down to either, "Create a setting and storyline, then fill in puzzles and enemies as fit," vs. "Think of some cool enemies, then design a story around them and figure out where the story should take place." I have a feeling I'll be keeping that in mind when I'
    • by Mr Z (6791)

      You won't like my latest game then. [spacepatrol.info] Fortunately, there are enough people who do.

  • While some of the content does seem largely design-based and awesome, the inclusion of UnrealED chapters to think about 3D alone seems limiting for the HUGE range that "level design" could cover.

    Is there anything that offers up more of the design discussions, without any of the specific (or at least just a lot more varied) implementations.

    I'm thinking MUDs, Space Games (no physical obstacles, many degrees of freedom), and D&D levels. Anything out there that could apply to such a range?

  • In the "good 'ol days" of Quake I was fairly involved in the multiplayer side of leveldesign (Aerowalk) and what strikes me is that there's different kinds of leveldesign these days. You have the "casual"-gaming target audience and you have the "e-sport" audience, and designing for the them is completely different.

    For the casual gamer, immersion, not getting stuck, being apropriately difficult etc etc is key. For E-sport (or hardcore gamers) leveldesign needs to be challenging, have a learning curve be

    • I designed several Warcraft 3 maps for the hardcore audience incl. Traps & Towers TD. I did mostly Tower Defense type maps, but I did work on a couple of RPG's. What I found is that play-testing the maps takes humongous gobs of time, but was pretty much the only way to significantly balance the levels out. It is important to get feedback from other players, listen to their complaints, but you need to remember that they Want it to be challenging. It follows that the game will have a higher replay valu
    • Excellent post. I find myself closer to the e-sports crowd on my favorite games, and I take map making very very seriously for multiplayer player against player like in Warcraft 3 or Starcraft or Unreal Tournament (including the newest). Lately I've picked up Team Fortress 2 and it is another instant classic. One thing that's bothering me, while I'm on the subject, is the way that some games apparently don't cater enough to the general crowd to get a huge following. The ones I named do a pretty good job of
  • While tailored to interactive fiction, the "book" The Craft of the Adventure is a good read for many people wanting to design levels even in modern games. Especially section 3, Bill of players rights, I think is valuable even today.

    The Craft of the Adventure can be found on the IF-archive [ifarchive.org]. While there, another good read is the authorship-guide.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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