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Feedback Level Design Artist Block

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Deleted User, Nov 25, 2019.


Is it possible to be a creative and a programmer at the same time?

  1. Sure!

  2. Nope. Good luck!

  1. Deleted User

    Deleted User


    I have created so many simulations and dry interactive projects in Unity, I now find myself having a hard time thinking up something imaginative. I went to college for Art and Multimedia and somehow become a C# programmer with little importance to aesthetics--just functionality.

    Has anyone ever been through this? Is there a magic cure to bring my creativity back when it comes to level design? Or am I doomed, LOL!
  2. neoshaman


    Feb 11, 2011
    Art is iteration anyway, set a goal, iterate until it fit the goal, boom that's creativity, if you don't know what you want, you can find it by knowing what you don't want anyway.
  3. SomeGuy22


    Jun 3, 2011
    What always saves me in these scenarios is having a solid series of steps to perform and a clear understanding of what needs to be done. It requires study in all topics that you may come across and yes it'll take time to practice and get good at everything. But the way that you start is typically by knowing what to do next.

    Don't know what kind of game you should make? Write down ideas whenever they come to you, no matter how worthless they might seem at the time. Keep a list of ideas and keeping adding to it. Think about what kind of games you want to make and narrow your options. When you're confident about an idea, start fleshing it out.

    The first thing I do for any project is fill out a GDD. I write brief descriptions, then I write focus points and pillars of gameplay. Then I do worldbuilding. Your levels should stem from what you want the player to do during the course of the game. If it's a singleplayer story, start with a script of what happens in the plot. If you don't have much of a traditional plot, think about where you want the character to go or what mechanics you want to introduce. Again, if you don't know what your game mechanics are write down ideas and narrow your focus until you're happy. Filling out the GDD is a great way to keep your ideas manageable and understand the limitations.

    Every aspect of design is it's own challenge. You need a main character? There are a series of steps for that: 1. Make concept thumbnails, sketch ideas 2. Do the final concept art and iterate until you're happy 3. Do the 3D modeling/final art 4. Implement into engine etc. Need to write a story for the game/level? Steps: 1. Write ideas of what can potentially happen 2. Narrow ideas 3. Brief description 4. Write the final story - go into detail. It really helps to have references for both art and story to look at. If you're stuck on how the references help you (happens to me a lot) then just literally copy the reference exactly. After going through the steps to replicate it, it should become more clear how the original author/designer made the choices, and you can iterate to make it your own. The list goes on for every aspect of development - level design is no exception.

    Designing levels has been a huge challenge for me too. I have no clue how those AAA games are able to put so much quality design into every moment of a level. I mean, I understand how they technically accomplish it, but the fact that someone thought it up from scratch is incredible. Here's an interesting video to watch that highlights a lot of cool level design techniques that AAA devs use. That channel has a lot of other interesting insights too.

    After realizing there was so much thought put into this stuff, I started designing levels systematically to solve my design block. First I have a description of my story beats and when they happen. This stuff has no bearing on the level art but at least gives a goal to get to. Then I have a brief description of what each level should do. Since I know I have X amount of levels, it's easy to pick when my mechanics should be introduced since I know what they will be. I also am able to pick the general theme of each area because if I have Y theme ideas, I can split them across the X levels and go from there. Then I try to think about what the best presentation of each level would be--what key landmarks should be there. Then I think about length--how long (in minutes) should it be? That will direct how big the map will be in general. Do I have enough key points to the level entertaining? Don't be afraid to cram stuff close together, you can always add padding to increase the level time. Then I make a small sketch of the idea, not even to scale or anything just an idea. I don't worry about art or anything, just a pure path from one thing to the next. Now this is the important step: I block out the scene in Unity using basic shapes. Without worrying about art or even framing, I just fill the space with blocks. I try to replicate the drawing and make sure the scale is right. I haven't tested the method beyond this point since I'm still working on my levels, but at this point I would try the level in-game. I take mental notes of the scale and what works/doesn't work in block form. I add enemies and whatever mechanics to make sure they fit right. I add block obstacles and extra paths to see how it flows. If I don't like anything I'm easily able to change it and iterate because it's only blocks at this stage. Then once I have everything figured out and can play the level from start to finish, I do the art. This will vary widely on theme, but I'd add a Terrain and start filling out major landmarks. I build a library of small assets and use them around to detail the environment. I make sure to tell a story with every corner of the map, use real references if I must and copy the details. I make sure all my assets can be moved individually to a reasonable degree so I can adjust scale and padding if necessary. Then the level is well on it's way to being done. Treat every aspect of development like a series of steps and it becomes more clear how to proceed.