Level Design Tips for a lifetime, in a day

I watched the GDC talk ‘Level Design in a Day’, this week. The talk was conducted by two of the developers from Fullbright, Kate Craig and Steve Gaynor, and centered around their experiences with creating Gone Home. They covered some really interesting parts of the level design process, such as room size, player projection, subtlety and a concept called ‘player RAM’. In Gone Home they used tighter rooms to make the spaces feel more intimate. They wanted to make the player feel like a part of the family, getting you to notice the strange items that give a family home its character. They also spoke about subtlety within their levels. They were not certain that the subtlety was too discreet, but having it there gave the game much more depth for people to discover. I believe that if there is time to implement this depth into a level, then it should be done. This is because even if the player cannot find everything, they can know that there are things they didn’t find. I think of it like painting, if you were to cut a circle out of a painting, you can believe that there was a whole painting, but if you just painted the circle it would not elude to a full painting. The spoke about player projection and how they let people believe that the world was real when in reality it was very empty. They gave an example of how they did this with the main character(Sam)’s bedroom.

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The room came across as an angsty teenage girls room, with magazine cutouts of celebrities and posters taped to the walls. But if you were to step back and actually look at the room, it is severely lacking compared to real angsty teenage girls rooms. But it works because it let people see the pieces, then complete the rest within their own mind. Placing their own self in the room, relating with the character more. This is called player projection. Player projection is used all throughout successful media, they commonly have a main character that is very much a skeleton, letting people put themselves in the shoes of the character. Lastly they spoke about a concept they referred to as player RAM. This concept considers the players ability to remember the world they’ve passed through. It states that the player can remember the room they are in, the room before the room they are in, and kinda the room before the previous room. So, when considering this, you can construct spaces that seem to travel in a logical fashion, while not obeying any laws of physics at all.

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They used it in Gone home by having rooms chained in a logical order, but not really being logically spaced within the world, having rooms and hallways that made the walls thicker than any house would ever have.

These methods for level design are very intriguing  and I would love to be able to implement them in my future.

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