"Ultimate Level Design Guide"

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"Ultimate Level Design Guide"

GodlyPerfection
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This post was updated on .

Ultimate Level Design Guide (subscribe in the right sidebar)


So my life is going to shit right now and I need a break. So I've been saving this really large resource incase something happened. This is a full blown e-book by someone who really enjoys being a level designer/environmental artist. It is written around using an actual level creator like UDK or Hammer. But like most resources, there is actually some really good material in here.

In order to gain access to the resource you must subscribe to the site's newsletter with your email. You will then be emailed the link to two free e-books. The one you should focus on would be the Ultimate Level Design Guide... you can skim the How to make a Level in 11 days if you so choose.


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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

DarkJediMasterX
Damn! This brings back my early college classes I took during my duration for getting my Game Design degree. This resource will have you reading for hours or days depending on how much free time you have, but none the less you will feel very confident in your design and skills after reading this. It does help you a lot :) Great resource yet again.
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

Valiant Outcast
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
We're up to whole books now?
I think I might try to find some time for a good, thorough read-through.
This is probably too much information for one quick skim.
I expect that with all the information we have been getting,  a clear-cut winner for the contest will be rather unlikely.
I am neither the Judge or His jury; only His witness.
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

AtlasisShruggin
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Ok, definitely the longest read yet... I'm not sure how I feel about this being used as a resource actually. There's some good information in the article, but a lot of it pertains more to single player design. It's still a brilliant article and a great read, but it was more difficult to find what we could pull out of this.

One thing he pointed out that I think we take for granted everyday, is how important it is to have other level designers test your maps. We constantly have other forgers around to give feedback and test, and a lot of other level designers don't have those resources.

There were two things in this ebook which jumped out at me that I want to work on personally (and one I may actually take a crack at writing more on.) Believable World Boundaries is not something we see a lot of in forge maps. We see a lot of tall walls, large drops, or just randomly placed soft kills. Many of us don't work on creating a backdrop and admittably it is difficult to do in forge. That isn't to say it's not something we should try to improve upon.

The other point that jumped out at me was Player Interaction within levels. We don't see a lot of this at all anymore. Even the change in the gameplay of spartans being able to carry turrets detracts from this. The turret is no longer part of the environment it's now just a tool to be picked up. I remember shooting the barrel on Lockout to knock the sniper down from it's perch to reach it faster. Look at the explosive barrels on Countdown, where has the interaction gone? I'm now actually concerned that the weapon drop system will detract from this even more. Will the Lockout trick even work anymore?

As forgers and designers we should re-examine how we look at player interactivity. Is a portable shield lazy cover? Or a dynamic part of the environment? Should explosive barrels only be used to balance at locations or bring variety? Or should they also have a hidden purpose like with Lockout? Should that crate that acts as a jump be set to fixed? Maybe players should have the option to move the crate around. I think I'll be going through a lot of the old Halo maps and looking for good examples of these to better understand how to work them into my own maps.
"This dread born of risk is not the opposite of joy, or even of quiet activity and calm enjoyment. It transcends such oppositions and lives in secret communion with the serene and gentle yearnings of creativity."
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

GodlyPerfection
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AtlasisShruggin wrote
Ok, definitely the longest read yet... I'm not sure how I feel about this being used as a resource actually. There's some good information in the article, but a lot of it pertains more to single player design. It's still a brilliant article and a great read, but it was more difficult to find what we could pull out of this.
But you see it covered things that haven't been covered in other resources yet. The more topics you can consider the better, amiright? I will agree that in general this resource is pretty weak when covering topics in-depth, but it hits a large amount of topics which is good. And it looks like you got something out of it still. ;) And I like it mainly for the massive amount of visual material to go with each topic. Sometimes it can be tough to really understand a topic without visual reference. So the abundance of topics, plus the visual aids definitely made it worth picking up.


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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

SmartAlec13
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Darn I didn't see this since it was at the bottom. Hope everything gets better for you Godly.

(Will edit for actual post once I sit down to read it)
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

AtlasisShruggin
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection

GodlyPerfection wrote
But you see it covered things that haven't been covered in other resources yet. The more topics you can consider the better, amiright? I will agree that in general this resource is pretty weak when covering topics in-depth, but it hits a large amount of topics which is good. And it looks like you got something out of it still. ;) And I like it mainly for the massive amount of visual material to go with each topic. Sometimes it can be tough to really understand a topic without visual reference. So the abundance of topics, plus the visual aids definitely made it worth picking up.
Oh it definitely was a good read, there's just a lot of information to sift through to get to the information that can actually be applied to forge. I already pointed out what I thought was good to pull out of the ebook that hadn't been covered yet. There's a lot of information I'm going to use and refer back to in the ebook, but a lot of that is because I want to start pursuing udk and other avenues of design. The reason why I was on the fense as this being used as a resource for a forge competition was the massive amount of data you had to go through to pull out those golden nuggets for forge use.

I also like the visual material, in fact it's a much quicker read because of it :) Like I said I'm not sure how I feel about it being used as a resource, not criticizing... just unsure haha
"This dread born of risk is not the opposite of joy, or even of quiet activity and calm enjoyment. It transcends such oppositions and lives in secret communion with the serene and gentle yearnings of creativity."
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

Nitro
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Wow whole books is cray cray. But as I really feel inclined to read more, since I really want to make level design my new career path. Thanks GP for the link!
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

SmartAlec13
This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Alright time to get started reading. I will update this post over the next day as I read this (gonna read some now and a bunch tommorrow)

-Right off the bat, "bring a notebook with you and just sketch, all the time". I kinda do this already (at least I did back in highschool when Sandbox came out). Definitely a true thing.
-I feel like the story is usually an after the fact sort of element for me, so I disagree with this one as far as how we can use it.
-Researching an help only if you have a specific idea, remake or spiritual successor in mind. I know I made a map called Gutter, a spiritual successor of Wetwork from CoD4, and so I went and played that to see how the layout worked
-Silhouette is actually a good point. Its basically making sure that your map design is memorable, like Zanzibar having the giant wheel.
-Top Down Layout is probably the main part of my designing process, is deciding how I want the map to look from above. This is where a lot of sketching goes as well.
-Theme is huge. Theme is why good maps look good, because there isn't a bunch of spiky pieces and then some random rounded area.
-Style is basically theme but fleshed out.
-Block out = Sketchup for me, except even then I know the size of things will change. This would obviously be different if it wasn't a modular map creator
-Playtests+Study gameplay goes back to I think the last article we read, about customers and seeing what they want. This is basically the part2 of that.
-Scale is harder for us, since there aren't exactly units per say.
-Cliches is a big one that can be hard to avoid, especially since we don't exactly have much influence on story.
-Previous locations (obviously tlaking more about campaign stuff) can still be used in multiplayer maps. Having one area that is clearly recognizable, and then being able to see that area after dying or traveling around that map helps you orient and understand it. I hate it when I go to look at or test a map and all of it is just hallways and rooms that look pretty much the same.
-World Boundaries. Pisses me off when you play some outdoor map and they don't clearly show that "step too far and killzoned." At least use like poles lined up, creating some sort of guideline of where not to go.
-Guide with light, mentioned in at least half of these Forge Resources.
-Foliage. I love it when people use trees on maps. Too bad there aren't any (as far as I can tell) in H4
-Z Axis. I LOVE verticle maps. Construct was one of my favourite maps in Halo3 because if you were on the run you could just dip down into the bottom floor and zoooooom youd be back up. Same with Sword Base.
-Landmarks/FocalPoints/Weenies is again already mentioned a lot
-Cover. One thing I have to say is don't overdo it. Obvious cover is boring cover.
-More about light, contrast, etc.

So I kinda skimmed through the stuff that we have already had drilled into our heads from all the other sources, but it was a good read. I like how he talked a lot about making sure to actually plan out maps, not just design but also its story, its theme, its style. And to avoid cliche's and unclear world boundaries.




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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

Dr D04K
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Lots of topics, and LOTS of photographic examples.  Most forge relevant things have already been covered in greater detail in earlier posts, but as usual its good to have those reinforced.  Most of the new stuff that would be relevant involves inspiration.  A lot of the stuff I already do, though its good to know I'm not going crazy when I think "how would this space play in Halo" literally EVERYWHERE I go.  Your surroundings are the best source of inspiration.  I like the idea of using music as inspiration as well, incidentally the working titles of my challenge entry are taken from some of my favorite pieces of music I listen to when I'm trying to get some creative juices flowing.
Gamer tag: "Dr D04K" (thats a zero and a four)
RP Portfolio
Maps:
Wishbone Alley
Dosado
Infinity Garden
Epicurean
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

Gnappy As5A5sin
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
So many things on this site are amazing it's stupid. I made great use of the reverse engineering article lately, in picking through other maps that I enjoy/respect. Applying it to forge is a great deal less technical, however, simply because you don't have to pick through menus upon menus to do it. It's more of a what you see is what you get scenario that really assists in the time it takes to do that. aside from checking unknown pieces used for textures, most of what you'll run across is pretty transparent.
On Skype Wolfpack Dragon wrote
"i came on the radio so I had to mention it"
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

thealm0ndkiller
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
What I found most useful was the light-related topics, seeing as we'll be dealing with light in Halo 4. Contrasting and lighted areas have much more potential as incentives, especially so in maps with themes. For instance, an infection map in a subway could include little potlights that highlight weapons or other significant items in-game. To the converse, relatively dark areas could become deterrents..

On a side note, damn, that took a long time to read.
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

Spiteful Crow
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
That's a huge read, so I'm just going to chime in on one thing that stood out to me, or I could write a whole ebook in response :P

Making a believable world is really darn tough for us Forgers.  We're already sort of given the edges of a map, so if we don't want to use the ENTIRE map we have to start cutting things up and making our own walls and things.  Oh, if we only had a simple terrain editor ;)

That said, we can still do a lot to make it visually obvious where the map "ends" and I don't just mean huge jutting walls.  All of our resources -- lighting, objects of interest, weapons, etc. serve to naturally draw players where we want them to go.  Naturally players will try to "break" the map by finding the boundaries and secrets, but by designing the rest of the map smartly and making simple, clear rules about the borders of the play area they'll be focused on playing the map the right way because the right way is fun!
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Re: Resource #17 [10/23, 10/24, & 10/25]

P1 Mario
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
It seems like everyone else jumped on the Ultimate one, so I decided to peruse the "11-day" ebook instead.  Although many of us are past the first bit of planning stage, I found something that is incredibly helpful for starting a project.  It's found on pages 12-15 of the pdf, and it's essentially just a map planning guide.  The purpose of the guide is to help you take your formless ideas and make them concrete, to really nail down the feeling you want to create into specifics.  So even if you've finished the planning stages of your map, I'd suggest grabbing that sheet for future projects if you don't already do something similar.

The other standout that struck me is the idea generation and reference materials he found.  He just used a copy of "Smithsonian Earth" to find a stand-out image to build a level around.  (He chose a lighthouse.) Once he found that image, reference materials were easy to find, and some of the photos were just striking.  It's really convinced me to attempt using reference photos in Forge to enhance the feel of my map.
~Ask not why I get to be Player 1.