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  • Level Design: Tips and Tricks

    [12.20.18]
    - Tom Pugh
  • In this blog post I'm going to elaborate on a selection of tips and tricks that I've tweeted over the last few months from my account @TomPugh1112

    These tips are methods that Level Designers use to move players, encourage progression and create areas of immersive gameplay. The tips I'm going to share are general bits of advice that work in different ways for different games.

    As a Level Designer these tips should be interpreted in a way that is relevant to your level designs. Every game is different so every game requires a different approach.

    This selection of tips are in no way "rules" of level design. As far as I'm concerned there are no rules, only guidelines that help create the best experiences possible. Every designer has their own approach to creating levels and solving problems so please take these tips and tricks as just that, and not some gospel of level design.

    Each one of these "tips" could easily have a whole blog dedicated to it, and in the future I may write some. But for now I've tried to give as much detail in as few words as possible.

    Tip 1: Have clear and consistent affordances

    An affordance is a rule that is created through your games level design. For example in "Tomb Raider" the player learns that if they see a piece of wood or a old cart which is angled in the air, they know that they are able to use it as a launch pad to make longer jumps.


    ​​A simple real life example of an affordance is a door handle. A pull bar or a push pad on a door informs you what action you should take to open the door.

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    It is very important to have clear and consistent affordances (rules) in your levels. You need to build a trust contract with the player so that they clearly understand what they can and can't do in the game. You should avoid breaking this contract. If you do you'll cause confusion and frustration for the player. How annoying is it in real life when a door says push but really means pull?

    There are times when your game may require you to break this contract with the player. In a survival horror game breaking affordances is a good way to create stress and put the player under pressure. Even this can be risky and may ultimately irritate some players.

    Tip 2: Use Leading Lines

    Leading lines are a technique that helps to guide the player's eye towards a specific location, item or event.

    Use leading lines to subtly move players in the right direction without the need for additional prompts or breadcrumbing. Leading lines can range from pipes on the ceiling, hedge rows or different textures on the floors and walls. Leading lines can draw the players eye to an important gameplay moment. These should be used in combination with lighting and other techniques.


    ​​For example you might have a new enemy you want to reveal to the player. Pipes along the roof and walls could be used to make sure players are looking in the right direction, while the area where the new enemy appears is nicely lit. These techniques in combination should control where the player looks.


    ​​Tip 3: Make use of the Architecture to shape the play space

    You should always be looking at real life spaces and how their architecture can translate to level design. Architects have been doing the same thing as level designers for hundreds of years so it makes sense to examine and gain an understanding of architectural elements.

    Architectural elements should be used to shape your level designs. Structural components are tools for organising and shaping a space. Think about what your architecture can do before filling a level with crates as obstacles.


    ​​For example, rather than placing crates in an open area why not position pillars that can still be used as cover but create a more believable space. By looking at real life spaces you can find ways of creating more believable levels with intuitive architectural elements.


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