Sunday, July 29, 2007

Level Design 101 – Part 1

During my days in the industry and working with people on the outside there has always been the direction on level design. How do we define a level?

As many of you know levels are the core if the level isn’t interesting then the player stops. It’s simple. Many artists over rush levels, bugs like texture stretching and just careless polygons left. This may seem great when you’re ahead of schedule but what it comes down to is what players will get. Texture stretching doesn’t look very professional at all.

Motor storm seems graphically brilliant when speeding around those canyon tracks. Have you actually stopped to see how it’s all done? I found some textures stretched on rocks and cliff sides. Although sometimes this can help. When driving at speeds getting a blur effect is hard so sometimes textures are stretched for the advantage.

So what’s the process of level design?
Obviously any of you out there have done a few scribbles laying out a level. As you may of guessed levels start as a scribble on a piece of scrap paper. It’s true ask many environment/level artists they will tell you first thing is “scribbles”, because this is your creative mind at work. You draw quickly to get it all down but come to a conclusion with a small vision of what you want your level to look like. So you’ve just gone from Mind to Paper. You wouldn’t need to worry about quality this is just a “quick get your ideas down phase”. Below is an example of this Mind to Paper action.

Quick scribble of a Toywarz Level

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So you have your scribbles now what?
Well many people go straight to the level package (Editors/Packages) and begin on the level. This is just because you want to see your level in front of your eyes, but hold you’re horses. Before you even think of going to the editors or packages get a clean layout of your level done. Use a 2d package such as Photoshop, Paint shop or even Flash to get a clean good layout of your level. Below is an example of a clean layout.

Below is a Canyon Track Layout

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Ok great. We have a level laid out. Now a lot and I mean a lot of artists/designers don’t use this technique but I do believe it is great to really get a sense of theme and depth to your level plus it helps the artists see what they need to achieve. Style sheets are a great way to get the levels atmosphere and style to the artist by just using a simple technique of grabbing pictures of the internet and pasting them on an A3 sheet. Below is an example I did for a canyon level.

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To be continued…

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