Chapter 23: Level Design


Overview

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My policy always rises from the instinctive part of human beings. For example, did the inventor create the telescope because he wanted to make something that would enable people to see far and beyond? No, I think it was more simple. The inventor must have just had a strong desire to see far away. I start with the hypothesis that people make products because their desire and instincts make them want them. Human desires and instincts lie at the core of game design. There are now new devices coming out, but whatever new form of technology appears, we will always design by what humans instinctively desire.
” Tetsuya Mizuguchi

As computer games have grown in size and scope, the tasks that in the past were performed by one person are now performed by multiple people. This division of labor is necessary for the timely completion of the sophisticated and massive games the publishers demand and the marketplace has come to expect. One of the unique roles created through this division of labor was that of the level designer. Once the core gameplay for a game is established, it is the level designer s job to create the game-world in which that gameplay takes place, to build spaces that are fun for players to play in.

The number of level designers required for a project is directly proportional to the complexity of the levels to be used in that project. For a 3D game with extremely detailed architecture that all must be built by the level designer, it is not unreasonable to have two levels per designer, perhaps only one. Sometimes the game s primary designer also serves as a level designer, sometimes she draws up plans for the levels for the level designers to build, and sometimes she merely oversees the team of level designers working on the project. For a simpler 2D game, it is not out of the question for the game s lead designer to craft all of the game s levels. Even with a very detailed and complex 3D game, it is not out of the question for the lead designer to first build the prototype level to which all subsequent levels are compared.

Level design is where all the different components of a game come together. In some ways creating a level is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; to build the levels, the level designer must make use of the game s engine, art, and core gameplay. Often level design is where a game s problems become most apparent. If the engine is not up to snuff, the levels will start behaving erratically in certain situations, or the frame rate will not be able to support the planned effects. If the art is made to the wrong scale or has rendering problems of any kind, these difficulties come out as the level designer starts placing the art in the world. If the title s gameplay is not able to support a wide enough variety of levels to fill out an entire game, or, even worse , if the gameplay just is not any fun, this problem will become apparent during the level design process. It is the level designer s responsibility to bring these problems to the attention of the team, and to see that the difficulties are resolved properly. Often this can result in the level designer being one of the least liked team members , since she must always be pestering people to fix problems, but if she instead tries to ignore the problems she encounters, the game will be worse as a result. The job of the level designer is one that comes with great responsibility.

With all the different aspects of the game s content to worry about, the level designer s job is certainly not an easy one. Beyond making sure all of the game s components are up to snuff, if the level designer s own work is not of the highest quality, then the game is likely to fail miserably. If the levels do not bring out the best aspects of the engine, the art, and the gameplay, it does not matter how good those component parts may be. Without good levels to pull it all together, the game will fail to live up to its potential.




Game Design Theory and Practice
Game Design: Theory and Practice (2nd Edition) (Wordware Game Developers Library)
ISBN: 1556229127
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 189

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