Thursday, 8 December 2011

Level Design

Level Design in video games has a direct effect on the player experience and gameplay as it determines the path the player takes. The level design of a video game is without no doubt a challenging aspect as keeping each area original is a hard task especially if that is a corridor based action game. These type games eg Uncharted give a very linear experience to the player especially from a game play stand point as the player never deviates off the set course and it almost feel like a controlled experience as everything is triggered when it needs to be and the player has to do very little in terms of “finding your way around.” However this linear experience is slightly broken up with puzzles which you must complete to make further progression or cinematic set pieces for dynamic entertainment. Games such as these are highly polished as they often have a set narrative so the art team puts a tremendous focus on the quality of these levels by having interesting designs to try and capture this experience; despite the fact that you are inevitably running through corridor like level.
There are also other games such as Skyrim, Red dead Redemption and games such as these offers a sandbox level design. This essentially means that the player can roam anywhere and there isn’t a strict path to your destination. These games are becoming more and more popular due to the free roaming/ exploration aspect which often offers a more immersive gameplay and more importantly the quality of these games are improving, as they are visually getting as good as corridor based action games. These sandbox games typically offer a very open world with numerous interest points and various challenging areas to keep the experience spontaneous and most of all an extensive quest list which allows/forces the player to explore numerous areas of the game.
The level design in general consists of a concept art which starts from an idea to get the overall feel and mood of the area. It is also important to get ideas and mood board s and possibly even set rules which you might want to break or set specific visual targets, although this usually comes slightly later in the pipeline. Once the concept art is done there’s are usually tighter more refined sketches and rendering to better illustrate the idea and these often follow a specific art direction.  While this is happening or start after it there is usually a block out of the environment being done to give a sense of scale or perhaps work could get started on gameplay. These blockouts could also be used for paint overs to get a sense of the playable space so the art team could revisit areas which could be further developed and integrated. I guess level design is a balancing act and the level is usually managed by working in passes to ensure all areas of the environment are worked on evenly.

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