Tuesday, 7 December 2010

I choose left, which looks more interesting than right but take me the same way anyway...

Level design is a very interesting concept in itself, one in which does perk my attention. It is a job which requires much artistic understanding, similar to the writings of my previous blog, yet at the same time it requires a technical understanding along with an understanding of what the characters can and cannot do. It is a job that I would probably be moderately interested in and be willing to widen my range of skills to do this should my current career path turn out to not be for me. The level designer must consider how to guide the player intelligently through a technique called, “flow control”. Much like channelling water through a pipe line with valves to control which way the water goes when. In modern 3D environments for games, besides free roam R.P.G.s like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fall Out franchises, games these days create the illusion that the player has the ability to go where they want but in the end, whichever side route or passage they chose, their goal is the same at the end of each area which will channel the player towards the main plot’s direction.

After doing only a small amount of research into the position so far, it is painfully clear how much time goes into just the planning of each level. Particularly with modern online games. Games like Call of Duty or Halo need to be interesting and fun to play in, but at the same time they need to be in terms of vantage points, weapons and load outs, shelter from fire and have a range of close and ranged combat options i.e.: indoors/outdoors to keep things interesting. Quite often games do do symmetrical maps which is very O.K in my opinion, but just o.k. In terms of the campaign, the designer needs to consider what would happen when to trigger a certain part of a level to be accessed, what N.P.C.s are visible from where, and when they would interact with you. However, This applies mostly to modern F.P.S games. The Type of game will result in varying types of level design. For example, a platformgame R.P.G level designer would have to consider obstacles, mental challenges, where enemies are placed and the difficulty of each areaA game which is a brilliant example of how this is done is Rayman for the PS1. A game which has brilliantly well designed levels which challenge the player constantly, yet is balanced enough for the player to have fun with. Yet not one person I have ever spoken to has completed it. Strange how it’s so hard yet so loved. Once again, not that I mean to use this as another good example again, it is such an amazing game, but Abe’s Oddysee/Exodus use visual stimulations in the background to hint where secrets are in the foreground for the player to find.

Fortunately, I haven’t come across a terribly, omg I want to kill the designer, over my past 15 gaming years, but I have come across some which are just god damn lazy, and It’s easy to see how this can affect how much the player enjoys the game. Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom for the 360. Oh dear. Recycled levels in a game doesn’t bother me too much when they play well and interestingly each time you go back through them. However, KUF:COD was composed of about three or four different lay outs, each lay out was just topped with a different texture and one or two different assets to make it either a jungle, desert, snow or volcanic mountain, AND the levels were recycled. This just about made for the most BORING game I ever wasted my money on. Literally the only reason I didn’t take it back after an hour or so of playing was because it made my 360 game stack equal the size of my original xbox game stack at the time. Looking back I really had my priorities wrong.

In any case, when done well, level design can produce a well enjoyed and memorable experience of a game which is always good for a game companies reputation. The original Fable had no marketing and spread souly by word of mouth and now look how big it is. Equally, poor level design can leave a player frustrated, angry and leave a player wanting to forget their experience as quickly as possible.

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