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  • The Importance Of Definitions In Game Design

    - Louis McTague

  • This exercise has provided us with a lot of information about our level already! Our first area should focus on exploration, with only one enemy perhaps used as a breadcrumb to signify the player is approaching a combat area. Our first combat area has five enemies in it, so it should be smaller than the later combat area which has nine. Our second exploration area needs extra pickups for the player to use to resupply before the last combat area. Additionally, our second combat area must fit between two narrative moments.

    This practice can elaborate more within specific area definitions. Here's an example of breaking down Combat Areas further:

    Short-Range Combat Area: 50% or more enemies in this area use short-range weaponry. Short range weapon pickups are found in this area for players to pick up and use. Sight lines should be mostly short (no longer than 15 meters), with several medium (no longer than 40 meters) and no more than one long range sight line (longer than 40 meters) possible.

    Long-Range Combat Area: 50% or more enemies in this area must use long-range weaponry. Long range weapon pickups are found in this area for the player to acquire during combat. Sight lines should be mostly long, with several medium and short sight lines. The amount of cover should be sparse enough to discourage players from moving up on enemy positions.

    This above chart now tells us what kind of combat to expect in our combat areas. This is supremely useful for level designers as the first iteration of their level will already be much closer to what is needed for the game! This also makes critiquing the level easier, as the goals of each section of level are clearly defined. (This doesn't feel long-range enough for a long-range combat encounter.)

    Breaking down one's levels in this way allows for the theme of the level to become obvious. For example, our level has 4 minutes of exploration, 2 of narrative, and 3 of combat. Considering that this is supposed to be an action game, this level has very little of it. This means that this level works best when placed before or after another level that has an abundance of combat. Additionally, this system makes the gameplay theme of a level more obvious. Do we want to have a long-range level? Better ensure most combat areas contain long range combat. This makes it easier for designers to both plan out and theme their levels around these criteria.

    I personally used this system when designing the levels for the 1st Person Puzzle game ReflectorBy controlling the frequency of narrative exploration areas, versus bounce puzzles, moving platform puzzles, and puzzles that use both, I was able to construct levels that are difficult enough to avoid boredom, but not so difficult that it drives players to quit.

    Lastly, this system isn't exclusive to level design. Defining terms can assist with mechanics design, enemy design, weapons design, and more. On my project Sanguine Soul, we defined our combat loop to assist in the design of abilities and enemies. Figuring out what ‘fast-paced combat' meant for our game not only made designing easier but made all aspects of the game more cohesive with each other.

    I hope you found this blog post interesting or helpful. If you have any comments, please tweet me @LouisMcTague or send me an email at [email protected]! I also have a website of my game projects found here:


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