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  • Level Design: Tips and Tricks

    [12.20.18]
    - Tom Pugh

  • Tip 4: Learn to Teach Mechanics

    One of the jobs of level design is to introduce, pace and teach the player new mechanics when they become available.

    This is something designers new to the field often get wrong (and sometimes more experienced designers too). You're very knowledgeable of your game mechanics which means that it's very easy to make a difficult challenge. Making an introductory challenge is often where mechanic teaching falls down.

    You can use pacing techniques to plan mechanic introductions and the difficulty of skill gates. Get the pacing right and you shouldn't have too much trouble with players understanding and trusting mechanics.


    ​​The rough sketch below gives an additional idea of how this works. An improvement to the sketch would be to make sure that when the player picks up their new weapon they have some targets to shoot at in the area, such as some tin cans for example. This gives them an opportunity to learn the shooting mechanics without have to be concerned about enemies.


    Tip 5: Use Denial and Reward

    Denial and reward is an architectural technique that is primarily used to enrich a person's passage through a built environment. Architects do this by giving people a view of their target and then momentarily screening it from view.

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    This same technique can be used for progression in level design to enhance a players sense of progression. Give players a view of their objective, send them on  a route where they can no longer see it, and then emerge them closer to the objective with a new angle of visibility.

    This image shows how you might start a level using denial and reward. The player can see the objective clearly, they can see the path is blocked and are given an alternative route to take towards the objective.​​


    In the following image the player will have a new angle of visibility and the objective being closer will reward them with a real sense of progression.​​


    The Last Of Us uses denial and reward in the Pittsburgh chapter. The player is given a glimpse of the yellow bridge (their objective location) and then loses sight of it for a while until it comes back into view. This chapter shows how denial and reward can be used to make a journey much more interesting.


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