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Welcome to Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business!
The relationship of design and level design
It’s a two-way street!
Only other game example; Pacman
Who are SD?
Enter the Brink
Direction and vision, communicated well
4 PillarsTeam and Objective based gameplayMingleplayerSMARTPlayer Customization and Persistent Leveling
Team and Objective based gameplay
Team and Objective based gameplay
-Different per level, but not within a map, as timers must function in a balanced manner for MP and SP/Coop for each faction- Updateable via title update, so we can tweak as we see fit post-release; show netvar.def, and the power of this for iteration and title updates
Simple HUD interactions are the easiest to change, as there is less complexity… Design and Production bloat
-I was a complete bastard when it came to using mocap data and cinematics within the gameplay spaces, as it had been such a tricky thing on KZ2. If gameplay is the most important thing, then expensive story assets must be ‘quarantined’ if playable space is to remain changeable, which is very dangerous in an MP gamespace- No dialog lines for characters in midtros, only after
Original E£ demo, was never planned to work this way
Redoing a whole level after being forced into using a sniper rifle rather than only a pistol…
-Command Posts offer a place to refill ammo, change class and/or weapons, and also give a buff to your entire team… refilling ammo at a CP doesn’t give you as much as a teammate can, which encourages teamwork, and a benefit of general proximity to teammates- Initially 3 types; Health, Energy/Supplies, and Damage. Levels were set up to accommodate 2-3 per area, but it was very difficult to properly balance primary, secondary and Command Posts with so many. We removed Damage, as Engineers can buff damage already, and established Health as the more important of the two CPs… if only one was to be present, it’d be a Health CP. This allowed the LDs to place Health CPs in strategic locations to the primary objectives, and then the Supply CPs axially opposite to help create a flow.
Command Posts create more non-linear gameplay for set objectives
- We had Battlefield-style capturable spawns as well because the LDs thought it offered an interesting dynamic, but this ended up expanding the levels more than intended, and went against our goal of intimate combat environments
Rubber-bandingSpawn timers: 20 sec default, max 30 min 10, changeable via script
Bot difficulty changeable via script, dynamically
I did live experiments, unbeknownst to the level designers!
AI priority scripting:Creates a MP crescendo rhythm in the SP game
GamasutraGameplay Fundamentals Revisited: Harnessed Pacing & IntensityMike Lopez
SMART cat r smart
Aubrey having garden fun during pre-production
Aubrey having Brink fun
AAS areas (Area Awareness System)
Differentreachabilities/moves are denoted by the different colour arrows
A consistent visual language had to be created within the environment
- Heights were scaled back after LDs thought escape was too viable an option to run, and we didn’t want to increase lethality due to the importance of our ability and melee systems, plus teamplay- LDs had a tough time dealing with the fact that it changed… we’d wanted to lock the metrics early, but were forced to make a change after things just seemed to radically different from other FPS’s… as a primary design goal with Brink was to make the game more accessible overall. The automatic nature of the system helped us iterate quickly enough for the changes to not be catastrophic.
Reducing heights also meant that unnaturally high bounding walls were not as necessary, avoiding the dreaded invisible collision…
Invisible collision was only okay on map boundaries, as it truly works against the premise of SMART
Bots tended to take the absolutely quickest path, so relied on SMART far more than a normal human, which lead to new player confusion. We eventually increased the perceived cost of using SMART paths to bots, but this sometimes required geometry adjustments in levels as well
“Intel missions” were a type of side objective that were designed to help out balance out games where one team was getting dominated; if certain criteria was met an item would spawn in the level which would essentially give a boost to the dominated team if successfully delivered to a Command Post. These locations were placed by the level designers, and were great for exposing players to locations accessible by SMART that would be inaccessible in most other shooters. Unfortunately, they proved to be a major unbalancing factor in the maps, and due to how radically different the levels could be the implementation ended up being very inconsistent. They had to go!
Player Customization and Persistent Leveling
Abilities effect the level design, not the other customization
- Ability locations are placed by the LDs regardless of whether they’re used, as the bots will match the players’ level- Challenges are much more affected by this, as they are score based, star versions are harder, but we don’t do a great job of communicating that it’s easier to complete high star challenges at higher levels
Entities placed for highest level gameplay, and the AI code automatically scales back if lower
Players have a tendency to balance out when adversarial as they naturally adapt, but challenges are never adversarial, only SP/Coop
Established early that the story was secondary to the gameplay- Interesting settings came first, and the narrative was then woven around said locations- Some juggling had to be done to maintain attacking and defending balance as levels were added or cut- Previously mentioned cutscenes never get very specific in regards to level objectives, as we knew things might have to change unexpectedly
GDC2011 - Level Design: The Design Conduit
LEVEL DESIGN IN A DAY<br />Best Practices from the Best in the Business<br />