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JimmyShimmy

I'm new to Level Design

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Hello, I am currently working on an FPS and my chosen job is too physically design the levels (their shape/paths and objects that are in them) not the visual style. I have read many articles on what I need to look out for and try to correct as I attempt a level but wonder if anybody could help me out with any tips for the physical build of one. In short-"physically" whats makes a good level? What do I need to look out for-I here simplicity is one of the best things as I can already see how things can get clutered.

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It would help if you could describe the game in more depth than just a FPS
-what type of enviorments, open or dungeon style(I ask beoucse they will have specil game engine requrements)
-it it a run in shooting or stealth and stratagy bases
-any wepon types in mind
-any general game mechanics

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It is a survival horror in an historical town (Zombies/acient soliders and what-not)-I can't mention the engine we our using.

Our unique game mechnics-that will probably be emphasizing on the combat have not been inplemented yet as we are at the very start of development.

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Go for cool areas, and don't get too cliche. The things that make an interesting and memorable level are the unique situations. For example, if you have the same visual style and type of level throughout the whole game, people wil get bored pretty quick. Remember Half-Life? The whole game was interesting. There were unique places, scripted events, and interesting locations and characters scattered around everywhere. Just try to think up tons of cool stuff to do. Stuff that will make people remember the level, and say "Man, that was cool!"

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hard to tell, normall id recomend doing level desighn last since you want to inlude thing like cover, hiding, sniping(attack from beyond enemy activation range), your game will most likly have some limitaions but the trick is to give out as much gameplay as possible with going over your limits.
Ex the idea of being able to perch on a hill to get a good view might seem like a good idea now but then all your sprites and terrain might be messed up and lagggy from that distance

other than that i just guess
1)never put enemys at area transition points, dont even let them go there(unless you have a smooth transisiton system(half-life did this well)
2)provide cover in open areas
3)read the article on fair spawning
4)dont create objects that your collision detection cant accurate cover, EX(bullets going through solid object or having a ring that bullets bounce of even if they went through the center,generally dont have round object with rectangular collison boxes)

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I understand all the importance of keeping people on their toes/wanting more and not frustrated by limitations/repeated scenery but the game is going to have start and stops-it will initialy be three levels so "map wise" (in the physical sence) what makes a good one for a game where the player will be going down roads/routes-not big chuncks of area like OOT on the N64 but more like Metroid Prime-which is actually alaways praised for it's "amazing" level design-both visual and physical.

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There are a number of different approaches that people use... the following is just my own opinion [smile]

The first and most important thing is that you understand the gameplay that will take place within your level. If your game is about close-quarters combat, don't make a huge open level with lots of snipers in. If your game has stealth elements, ensure they can be played out. If the player can stick mines to walls and detonate them remotely, try and give them the opportunity to do that. And so on.

With that in mind - and with some preliminary information about the level itself (like the setting - alien base? ancient temple?) - you can start putting together a list of 'landmarks' in your level. That's both key locations (computer core, throne room, mystic shrine) and 'set pieces' that you could imagine the player defeating in cool and interesting ways (like the sentry gun next to an air vent - find a way to crawl through the air vent and disarm the gun by hand, throw a grenade, or just run from cover to cover and try and make it past?). Sketch some ideas on paper if it helps you.

Then work your way through the list, modelling each of them.

Then try and fill up the spaces inbetween with interesting things. A level that goes from interesting-thing to interesting-thing via dull-and-boring corridor is usually not a good thing. Naturally, it'll be impossible to make *everything* interesting to play through - and constant action can overwhelm the player - but you shouldn't ever have them thinking "man, I wish I could move faster to get past this bit quicker." A prime example of how not to do this is Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. You should be able to find it in the bargain bin; I recommend playing it so you know what to guard against.

Towards the end, something that is always nice is to have a 'functional' level. If your level is meant to be a derelict space-port, think about how it will have worked when it was functioning - where did ships dock? Where did cargo get taken? Where did people wait? There's nothing cooler than playing in a factory level and actually being able to trace along the conveyor belts from beginning to end [smile]

In short:

  • Good environment for the gameplay to be executed in
  • Variation
  • Attention to detail

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The levels are going to be surrounded by Zombies so the player will be able to understand why they are forced to go down the "seemingly choice" multiple paths. I feel there is potential for Zombies to be the enemy-these ones will be slow, In which case I do not want big open area's so they can play there unispiring role of "target practice". Nor do I want to just make the area's cramped/claustrophobic so you have little time to react ala "house of the Dead" "Doom 3" and make you jump (it's kinda cheap)I want to create a setting that is genually going to unnerve the player. Presenation/execution is the key to engage the player so you have got him firmly in the seat of your rollercoaster.

With a town I geuss I have allot to play around with-use of street lights at night time could be vital for the player to watch one of the undead walk under and prepare him/her for combat (sort of force the player/make them learn to be observant but unlike say Doom3 where there is not much space you could try and find well lit area's or area's in the shadow and camp to get the upper hand), You could lead the Zombies into a trap as they follow you (weather it's locking them into a derelict house or thorwing human flesh over the area (as bait) where you have put gasoline) and there could be Zombie outbreaks where they use numbers to break through the perimiter of the level and you have to eliminate a cetian ammount withen a given time otherwise the town will be over run/game over.

I am just trying to bounce some idea's around-if anyone has somthing to suggest that they feel could complement the the setting of a drak/morbib Zombie filled town-let me hear your thoughts.

I appreciate all input.

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Quote:
Original post by JimmyShimmy
In short-"physically" whats makes a good level?


Variety.

Change it up. Give the player a new kind of challenge with every level. That keeps things interesting.

Don't fall into the Halo pit: Copying and pasting the same room over and over again does not make good level design. Halo's single player was too damned tedious.

Also: Remember to avoid the anime fan-fiction pitfall that basically goes: "Bigger is better." Avoid long, linear hallways, meaninglessly large rooms.

Also: Flavor is handy. Try to ask yourself: "If I were designing a fortress or science lab (or wherever the game takes place in), what kind of structures would I need?" Duke Nukem 3D was cool because the levels were made to look like normal cities. Descent's levels did a decent job of representing the clostrophobic mining tunnels wherein the game took place.

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Quote:
Original post by ishpeck
Don't fall into the Halo pit: Copying and pasting the same room over and over again does not make good level design. Halo's single player was too damned tedious.


It certianly did not show any kind of cleverness or imagination but the open area's where put there specifically to allow plenty of space for how you were going to engage the advanced enemy's or hide and re-group when spotted.

There was reason for the physical design of Halo's levels but I concur with your comment about the whole ordeal being tedious-it was good at what it did but that is all it did and for long streches at a time.

While analysing/critiquing a game "visually tedious" is not somthing that is going to hamper the score/experience (whatever method you use to summarise/conclude your opinion of the game in hand), if it implements new ways to play in a comprehensive/large world with few (if any) flaws, but it is certianly somthing that is picked up by many of the public who (often I have heard) refer to the Halo franchise as "boring".

Clearly, constantly stimulating the player with new things to do/being able to do things your own way is very important.

I fully agree with variety-HL2 is a FPS that lets you do just about everything(throughout the whole game) and evokes many different emotions (that are key to other genre's like Surviaval horror/platforming) due to change with what you do and what you are looking at all the time.

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