Monday, April 23, 2012

Level design

Level Design

A good level design is a crucial element for a good game. Level design in its basics is the area you shall play in, explore, and interact with. You need several key elements for a good level; good concepts for it, so the level is interesting for the player’s eyes; intractability, so the player can physically interact or change the level; and enough space for the bad guys.

In the early years, levels were plain and simple, mostly built up from lots of corridors and several rooms, all of which were simply repeated hundreds of times. But that’s a thing of the past now, and with advanced engines which people can freely use, the demand for an interesting level design is high. People do complain when a new game is released, and it is nothing more than a plain box, with no open spaces or anything to really interest the player. Although there is the fact that most of the players don’t even know how the level was constructed and simply use other games as a reference point. Comparison is the favorite thing for every person with low imagination and understanding.

A lot of the times every level has its own coloring theme, sound, and feel. Even if it’s a vast open area, different elements have a different feel to them. Let’s take the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as an example. It was an open world game and it was quite interesting, and at the same time scary to go through old abandoned villages, especially for me because I can relate to lots of those building.

The level must be interactive as well. It can get quite boring if all you have to do is run through the levels without doing anything to it; opening a door, destroying a building, or anything at all. Lately people tried to do exactly that. Take for example the newer Red Faction games. The amount of stuff you can destroy there is insane. The new Battlefield games as well where cover can be built and destroyed quite easily.

The feel of a level is the most important thing for me. For example, while talking of a game with friends, everybody will have their different part, or level of the game which they enjoyed. Let’s take Half-Life 2. Shooting Combine amongst the streets of my home country was fun as hell, but when I got to Ravenholm, it was a totally different story. I hated that level because it scared the crap out of me. The lighting, the sound, the colors, the enemies - everything was there to make you feel unsafe and scared.

We came across the challenge of making a level in this year’s group project. The idea was to make a level based on the Queen’s building and give it a nice horror feel to it. In the beginning, it was quite challenging to lay out some rooms, mainly corridors, and later on realizing when you have too many it just gets too damn boring. For the final level design we did is quite interesting, and at moments you feel that you can put that in a modern game and it would look awesome.

Overall, level design is the world around the player, so it’s of most importance to make it as interesting as possible. Imagine in real life that everything was the same everywhere, and repeated thousands of times. It would look boring, and surreal. Well, you do see it here with the streets filled with the same house over and over…. It just gets confusing and annoying

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