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jefferytitan

What to expect from level designers?

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Hi all,

 

Recently I worked on an indie game with procedurally generated levels. Obviously there are pros and cons. At some point I'd like to be involved with something a bit more designed but I have no experience with level designers, so here's my questions:

  • What does a level designer expect, e.g. tools, guidance?
  • What should you expect from a level designer, e.g. complete levels, unskinned but working levels, diagrams?
  • How does the role overlap with other parts of the creative process?
  • How does a level designer work with the rest of the team, e.g. do they directly ask for art assets, leave it to someone else, etc?

For example could you say something like the below and expect a reasonable result?

  • Here's a bunch of prefabs for my levels
  • Here's the general theme and background
  • Here are the basic mechanics available in my game
  • Here are the types of challenges I want the player to face
  • I want a level with X rooms, Y entrances and Z exits
  • Here are some gameplay moments that I want, e.g. getting chased down a mirrored hallway by a monster

Thanks,

JT

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There are a ton of different ways to approach this, so you get to pick whatever fits your technology and team best.

 

Some level design approaches involve the designer making a "white box" level design, which artists can then paint over (not literally). This lets them start testing functionality early on and the artists can go away and replace the assets.

 

Other approaches involve drawing it up on paper first, getting the artists to build all the assets, and only then assembling it into a workable level. If it's time-consuming to get things into your level editor, this is the way to go, so that you're only putting things in once.

 

Some tools basically allow the level designer to make the geometry themselves - this might be the case if you have heightmaps or a tileset, or even some sort of 3D constructive system.

 

So yes, a level designer obviously requires tools that work with your engine, and the form of those tools dictates the sort of work they can do.

 

Beyond that, it's up to you. All the things you say are reasonable, but that doesn't mean every level designer will have worked with those constraints. You will need to have a system of iteration where you, the designer, and any other stakeholders (e.g. artists) will look at the level, see whether it works, and plan amendments, and repeat that process. You can't expect to hand over a checklist and receive a finished level in return. Similarly they will converse with artists and perhaps request extra or changed assets, or speak to the coders and ask for tool changes or new game functionality.

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Each company has its own way of doing things, but here is how I work with and as a level designer.

 

  • What does a level designer expect, e.g. tools, guidance?

Tools : not so much as he will probably use whatever engine the game is developed with. Except if he create the level in a third party software (like maya/3ds max) but here it is more an environmental artist than a level designer.

Guidance : Depends on the type of guidance. You mean as directive? I'm expecting a level designer to create the level  (as in assemble the assets) from base to end.

  • What should you expect from a level designer, e.g. complete levels, unskinned but working levels, diagrams?

I'd say a level design aim for the final version of the level. (Maybe before the lighing and fx artist) As he has to assemble all the different elements of the game. Art, gameplay elements, narrative, etc...

  • How does the role overlap with other parts of the creative process?

A level designer will probably have a say on : environment (this props does not fit with the rest of the level), gameplay (this gameplay mechanic is not useful enough), some more, and will also have a lot of bug to report.

  • How does a level designer work with the rest of the team, e.g. do they directly ask for art assets, leave it to someone else, etc?

A level designer should already have all the assets he need. His role is not to create assets, but use them the best he can.

 

 

 

For example could you say something like the below and expect a reasonable result?

  • Here's a bunch of prefabs for my levels
  • Here's the general theme and background
  • Here are the basic mechanics available in my game
  • Here are the types of challenges I want the player to face
  • I want a level with X rooms, Y entrances and Z exits
  • Here are some gameplay moments that I want, e.g. getting chased down a mirrored hallway by a monster

 

 

Yes. Or at least this is a good start :)

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When I was a level designer I worked with a very good tools programmer who made my life very easy.

 

He had a practice of sitting down with me once a week and asking about how I used the tools. He would ask things like which ones I used the most and why and the ones seldom used and why. He would even watch me use the tools to make sure they were intuitive enough for me to understand.

 

Not every level designer operates in the same way so I would advocate that you set time aside to talk with your level designers about what their current needs are and then continue to touch base with them to continue to improve their tools.

 

Remember, tools programmers are meant to empower the designers so make sure you know what that means to them.

 

Good luck out there! :)

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For example could you say something like the below and expect a reasonable result?


You could say those things, and then expect to have progress meetings and reviews. Reach agreement with your
level designer as to when you should get together again to look over progress and give mid-course guidance.

[Edit: I should have read the whole thread before replying! :)] Edited by Tom Sloper

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If a level designer has a full set of art assets to work with, many of them are capable of putting together a full level (as far as visuals go).  On the other hand level designers may want to create puzzles or NPC behavior that requires new code or art or sound effects, in which case they should have a resource request form they can fill out.  Some level designers are writers who will want to write dialogue and quest texts and possibly even lore books, and some are not and will need a writer to do any quests and dialogue for the level.

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