Facebook Twitter YouTube Frictional Games | Forum | Newsletter | Dev Blog | Dev Wiki | Support | Gametee


Post Reply 
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Level Design Basics
Author Message
Spelos Away
Banned

Posts: 231
Joined: Sep 2014
Post: #1
Information Level Design Basics

Content:
  • Introduction to Level Design
  • Balancing your level
    • The Three key things
      • Layout of the map
      • Logic
      • Details
  • Optimization

  • Introduction to Level Design
    Bleszinski, Cliff (2000) - The Art and Science of Level Design Wrote:Level design is both a technical and artistic process.

    The Level Design itself is a large process that in many cases involves tens or even hundreds of people if not more. It has many parts and to go through all of it would take me a whole book. That's why I'm going to focus on the basic principals that might hopefully help you with your own maps in Amnesia.

    In each section, I'm going to explain what do I mean by them and establish some interesting things that you might want to keep in mind, this will be followed by a "Spoiled" dropdown containing examples with pictures.

    So what are we doing here?
    Designing a level is not only about placing objects into a map. I would say it is as logical of a task as scripting, the only difference is that Amnesia won't tell you that your level design lacks readability or that your puzzle doesn't make sense.

    A good level design should guide the player through a level, helping him solve puzzles in a way that makes him feel that it was his idea in the first place. Your job as a level designer is to put everything together. All the 3D modelling, the scripting, the music composing should be brought together by a level designer.

    Thinking that the player will not jump into the so obviously deadly pit is not a good practice, since the Player could behave in any way. Just thinking about what player might try or might do requires a load of creativity and problem solving skills. You can think of it as a game of Lemmings. A 1999 DOS game where you're in charge of guiding small Lemming creatures through a level. If you don't push them into the right direction, they will surely jump from the nearest cliff or on the nearest spikes.

    So let's get into it...
  • Balancing your level
    As I said earlier, it is important for a level to be balanced and I find issue with many of the current maps and mods, where the author spend much more time on one thing and left the other almost untouched. Having and amazing scripts that provide great content is almost worthless if the level design doesn't hint that there are these functions and player won't even find it.

    I divided the level design into these three parts. This division isn't something that you would need to remember. It is more to help you understand what you might want to pay attention to.
    • The Three Key Things
      • Layout of the map
      The whole map creation process starts with the story of course, but that's a whole different task, so let's assume you already know what should be in the level and where it's located.

      Now is the time to pay attention to using the basic assets to create the shape of your level. Here is where many map creators make their first mistakes and those are the ones that are very difficult to fix later on.


      The shape of the level should convey the emotion you want. If your story revolves around someone going deep into a dungeon, you can convey progress by using stairs that go down for places of progress and stairs going up for some optional locations. If a player then sees locked jail-door and stairs going down behind it, it is a sign that he/she needs to get there to progress.

      If you want to make a player feel uneasy or trapped, you can make the corridors tighter and hard to get through...

      Of course it is best for you to look at some examples of basic level structures. Great source of inspiration would be Half-Life 2 and its progress. Half-Life utilizes Player's abilities in its full potential. Though it is true that in Half-Life, the player wields a crowbar with which he breaks creates and barriers with a single button. Amnesia is a little bit more abstract in this sense. The Player is required to go into an inventory (first button), double click the crowbar (two more buttons) and finally click on the obstacle. That is a total of 4 click for a thing that takes one click in Half-Life, not to mention a "physics puzzle" where you actually move the crowbar, that might arise. In Half-Life, because it's such a common task, you are required to break things and use your items fairly often, in the situations that doesn't really require it, but make the progress interesting. It works, because it's simple and doesn't require that much attention. On the other side having to crowbar door every 5 minutes in Amnesia would get annoying, because it's a task consisting of more steps.

      But I don't want to delve into actions just yet, although it is a part of Designing a Level. Making sure that the Player knows he has an item is important and while I wouldn't put something to break with your crowbar every 5 minutes, I would throw it in a few times before he's required to use it on some serious puzzle.


      Spoiler below!

      Now for the examples. The thing about basic Level Shapes is that you shouldn't really pay attention to details and that's what a lot of people do wrong, if you spend hours creating one perfect little room and you can't actually connect it to anything, your work is pointless.

      The goal is to capture the feel and the layout of the map. Go ahead, play the map through, time how long does it take, can anything be shorter? Can you make some hallways longer? How far can you see from every point of your map? (that will come in handy while optimizing), do you want player to stay in a particular room? how are you going to achieve this? What should be highlighted? Is there enough space for the content you're planning? Can something get smaller? Isn't it too linear? Are you using vertical space enough? Ask as many questions as you can, this is the stage were you should make the most of changes. Don't hold onto that staircase just because it looks good, make it feel good.


      [Image: 0A8vxsL.png]
      Plain and simple, nothing excessive and it plays nice.

      • Logic
      While it's obvious that your map should be logically correct so the player's immersion isn't broken, it also concerns all the scripting and puzzle. Logic isn't only "boxes should fall down because of gravity" and "naked guys don't fly", it's also the inner workings of the level. The thing your level accounts for. If there is a super hidden place in your level that you didn't see for the length of your development, and you put something of interest there, if someone finds it, the place will look more believable. (if the thing you put there makes sense from the story stand point)...

      If the player thinks that using item A on place A makes sense, the worst thing possible he can see is "You can't use this item that way", or similar message. You should account for as many logical usages as you can. That doesn't mean your extra_english.lang should be filled with messages like "I don't think using key on the location x65 y65 would work"... Just the most important ones.

      A good example would be from my own Mod (Amnesia: Regression), where in the first map you get a ladder. You are supposed to use that ladder to go up and get across a gap. However a logical thing to do would be to try to get down to the gap using the ladder. I added a message not only saying it's not possible, but adding that you need to go up. That however brings another problem. If the player still doesn't understand, he might try to go up through a window so I added another message there. That proves that you don't have to put millions messages, but rather the logical ones.

      There isn't much to say here. Similar to the previous part, it's very important to playtest your level, still without putting any details in, just making sure the level works and timing it correctly. This is the time you could start having some confidential playtesters, ideal would be your friend, or your mother. Someone who could spot mistakes you've missed.

      Think about what's possible to use the item on, or how could a puzzle be alternatively solved. It's a good idea to think of items or objects that could potentially break the puzzle. For example if you're looking for a bucket to fill with water, it's not a good idea to put a bucket entity, since you are looking for a bucket item. The player might question "Why can't I use this one instead?". Make a list of those items and be sure to note them when you do the next part, detail work.

      • Details
      Now is the time you were waiting for. This is the time you put in objects, fog, particles, lights, decals and all this good stuff.

      You should further emphasize the feeling of a level and most importantly, you should make final touches to help player go through your level. This is best explained on an example:

      Spoiler below!

      When the map is plain and simple, it's possible for player to enter a room and look anywhere he wants. This is not really ideal, since you want to take control over player's attention and lead it towards the things that are really important for progression. We do that to minimize the player's wondering and possibilities that we would have to count with. I also minimizes the risk that player will get lost and won't play anymore. Look at this next picture. A door is supposed to be on the left side and player needs to see the door to realize it's locked and to understand what's the short-term goal for this area. Pay attention to the fact that when player enters the room he could go anywhere and would be probably looking at the window on the right, since it's light and light is a nice focal point for a lot of people. How would you solve it, how would you make player look at the door using only props? Try to come up with a solution and then read on...
      [Image: Xbw6YEG.png]

      Solution:
      There are many ways to do this, but if we look at the player's field of view, we can see that if we force player to go a little right, he/she would not be able to see the window first and thus look at the door by default.

      How do we make him/her go to the right? Using some general obstacles that make sense for the location. For this location, it's creates, since it's some kind of storage area. And as we can see from this picture, player sees the door first. We can further emphasize the point by adding light to the area, or making the whole room a little brighter. But if you can do it without changing anything, it's much better, since changing anything that is already there might break something.

      [Image: a1ezfgz.png]

      If you stack these small optimizations, you avoid many pitfalls and it could bring your mod to a whole new level.
  • Optimization
    Though it's at the very end of this post, you could think of it as the most important. If a player gets 10 - 15 fps in your level, he/she's not going to play and anything you do is worthless.

    A lot of people might say
    "But computers are fast these days and I can't do anything in Amnesia that would be heavier than the newest Assassin's creed cape simulation."

    But that's not true. I'm actually going to talk about optimization in more details later in a new post, but I'm just going to point you to frictionalgames wiki, where you can find a whole article about optimization, which include:

    - Adding fog witch culling so things are not drawn in the distance (but be sure you can't see them appear, that's what you did in the basic shape of the map.
    - Less is more, you can have beautiful design with a small amount of props, just experiment.
    - If you can't move it, make it static.
    - If you can't see it, don't put it there.

    But as I said, I'm going to write about optimization later.


Ok guys, I hope you liked this post... I know it's large, but I really like this topic and I encourage you to not listen to me and try your approach and see what works, but don't be so focused on Amnesia, look at some new games, what are they doing? Why are you doing things you do in a new game? How do you know what to do?

It might help you with your own mods.
(This post was last modified: 02-26-2016 08:21 PM by Spelos.)
01-18-2016 02:50 PM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
DanielRand47 Away
Member

Posts: 109
Joined: Mar 2012
Reputation: 3
Post: #2
RE: Level Design Basics

Very useful! I am glad that something like this is available. Seeing as level design is my weakness I found this to be very helpful.
08-17-2016 04:19 AM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Radiance Offline
Senior Member

Posts: 319
Joined: Aug 2015
Reputation: 5
Post: #3
RE: Level Design Basics

What about if you model the whole level in 3d software and then import it in engine?
Would that work?
So no procedural or by-block design.
08-17-2016 08:02 PM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Romulator Offline
G'day mate! :3

Posts: 3,508
Joined: Jan 2013
Reputation: 191
Post: #4
RE: Level Design Basics

(08-17-2016 08:02 PM)brus Wrote:  What about if you model the whole level in 3d software and then import it in engine?
Would that work?
So no procedural or by-block design.

Then you end up with something like this. (Good job Statyk)




Discord: Romulator#4942
[Image: 8f5d099c7b.png]
08-17-2016 08:36 PM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Spelos Away
Banned

Posts: 231
Joined: Sep 2014
Post: #5
RE: Level Design Basics

(08-17-2016 08:02 PM)brus Wrote:  What about if you model the whole level in 3d software and then import it in engine?
Would that work?
So no procedural or by-block design.

The level design would still apply. It would just "move" into the 3D software of your choice and you would have to think of much deeper topics, like color schemes, texture design and architecture.
08-18-2016 06:36 AM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 




User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)