Today I attended Level Design in a Day which had a star cast including Neil Alphonso (Splash Damage), Matthias Worch (LucasArts), Coray Seifert Arkadium), Jim Brown (Epic Games), Joel Burgess (Bethesda Softworks), Forrest Dowling (Irrational Games) and Ed Byrne (Zipper Interactive). Each speaker had the floor for about 50 minutes a piece, with many of of the other speakers chiming in at various points.
Ed Byrne was up first, talking mostly about how Level Designers in general are frequently used as scapegoats when projects go wrong. He broke down the problems that this creates throughout the entire team, and why even people that don't catch the blame still end up feeling the negative effects of this practice. Byrne also stated that frequently the 'fun' factor of the game is deemed the sole responsibility of the level designers – partially due to other’s ignorance of what level designers actually do.
- Player plans to overcome the goals and obstacles set before them
He used a few examples of this done well in games like Far Cry, and Half Life 2, in that the player is consistently put onto a high bluff or hill, where they can survey the battlefield and the challenges that lie ahead.
- Combat begins
- The player is given multiple tactical options
This is fairly obviously the stage at which the player attempts to execute his plan from the previous step. Given the situation, the players will now close on their enemy and engage, firing the first shot in most cases.
- Troop reinforcements
- Ammo is needed to finish off the enemies
- Movement is forced, or cover is broken
Typically this is where the developer throws a monkey wrench into the player’s plan. Sometimes more troops will appear after defeating the first wave, usually with a different set of profiles and behaviors – or perhaps the player will run out of ammo and will need to gather more to finish dispatching enemies. Forrest showed a video of Battlefield 2 Bad Company in which the player is fighting against several enemies from behind a wall, only to have a Jeep come bowling through his cover, forcing the player to move or die. These sorts of techniques create duress, with increases adrenaline levels and creates a memorable experience.
- Picking up ammo, reloading
- Scavenging corpses and containers
Joel Burgess from Bethesda talked about open world level design, mostly related to his work on Fallout 3. Burgess described how Bethesda attempts to cater to "unpredictable gamers" of whom are usually the people that will try to climb over invisible walls, go left when the story tells them to go right, and will go under the bridges developers put in place instead of going over them.
GDC 2011 - Six Indie Principles to Live ByPrevious Post
GDC Day 2: Sony Press Event