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Level Design is Game Design
by Martin Nerurkar on 08/28/09 07:30:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

(This article is a repost from my personal blog at www.gamearch.com)   

Level Design is Game Design!
Have I got your attention? Alright, so I admit the two are not perfectly the same but I am convinced that Level Design is nothing but a specialized application of Game Design. And I can prove it! First let’s start by looking at a pretty okay definition of Level Design:

Level Design is the process of designing and implementing the digital spaces of a video game

Sounds simple enough, right? Of course if we were scientific about this we’d have to take a closer look at what digital spaces are. However that’s beyond the scope of this article and will be something I’ll talk about another time. For now let’s look at board games. Why? Because they’re quite similar to video games and because it makes it a lot easier to understand the topic.

Chess BoardNow with board games, you have the rules of the game, which encompass how pieces can move, how a turn plays out and what the victory conditions are.

The other half of that puzzle is the design of the actual board, which could be seen as the level design of the game. It’s evident that when the board is changed, the entire game changes with it.

Imagine a game of chess, where the board is not 8×8 fields but instead 8×12 or maybe something more outlandish like an L shape. This will drastically change how the game is played. The same is true when a level is changed.

Chess Board 3 playersSo if you think about it, the game space is nothing but another set of rules. They’re just visualized as a space to make it easier for us.

Instead of rolling a die and tracking the movement pieces on a board, we could simply use numbers to denote a token’s position. Say if you’re on field “3″ and roll a 5, you wouldn’t move your piece 5 spaces, you’d write down “8″ instead.

And then if there’s “special fields” you’d have a table where you could look up the number and see if there are any special rules for it. It’s obvious that this is a lot more complicated than moving a piece on the board, which is why we use spaces for a lot of our board games.

So if game spaces are just rules why is there a split between game and level design? There is no such thing in board game design, right? Well the answer’s simple: In the early days of game development there was no seperation: there often was just one person making the entire game, designing the rules, the spaces, the graphics and the sounds.

But because the increasing amount of content and complexity required specialization we now have different people doing different parts of the same job.

So with all that said, let’s look at that definition again:

Level Design is the process of designing and implementing the (spatial) rules of a video game

And let’s look at Wikipedia’s definition of Game Design

Game Design is the process of designing the content and rules of a game

Sounds awfully similar, doesn’t it? There’s just a few differences:

  • Level Design only deals with those game rules which are manifested as spaces
  • Level Design is also responsible for the implementation of these rules in the game
  • Level Design only really exists as a discipline in the realm of video games

I rest my case.


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Comments


JeanMi Vatfair
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In the particular case of the chess game, I think the design of the chess board is wholy part of the chess game design. There are better examplse to explain your thoughts.

My point is that level design is sometimes very close to game design, when it comes to designing multiplayer levels. Because you design a system, something a lot more sandbox, instead of a scripted experienec. Of course, many games don't follow this rule : consider the level design task for solo experience on Left4Dead.

Martin Nerurkar
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"I think the design of the chess board is wholy part of the chess game design."

Well but that's my point. The design of the "space" in bord games is part of the "game design". But these spaces are just rules manifested as spaces.



So if space design = game design, why should it be different for video dames?

JeanMi Vatfair
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I get your point now. Yes, space design sometimes is game design.

But level design isn't necesseraly about creating spaces : I'm a designer on a RTS game, and it turns out the experience of the solo campaign is a lot more about the challenges and the rythm we script. We also have to define what the space looks like but I feel it has a lot less impact on the experience than the actual script, which is not a system but a pre-defined experience. And that is not really game design to me, as opposed to multiplayer level design.

Simon Ludgate
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No, they're not similar. You're confusing strategic choice with rules. The shape of the chessboard, even with you reshape the board to include a third player, does NOT change the chess game design. It just changes the strategy you employ to win.



Consider it this way: a level designer changes the strategies a player uses to decide what action to perform, a game designer determines the actions a player can perform. By changing the shape of the chessboard, the level designer changes why and when you move which piece, but the game designer still decides which pieces a player has and which moves each piece has.

Lewis Pulsipher
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Of course you are right, was there ever any doubt that level design is a subset of game design?



"Level Design only really exists as a discipline in the realm of video games"



Say what? "Level design" more or less originated as adventure module design for tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. And still exists in the non-electronic forms insofar as people still write new adventure modules for RPGs. There are people paid full time to write these things.



Actually, "level design" goes back to making (usually historical) scenarios for boardgames. But we didn't call it level design, of course. "Level design" is a very misleading name, I prefer stage design or episode design or adventure design.



Shoot, the term "level" in this context originated, most likely, as a reference to the "dungeon levels" in D&D.

Glenn Storm
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Of course, I respect your work and I admire your enthusiasm for challenging the definitions we use, but I would have been much more comfortable with this thesis if you had said, "Game Design includes Level Design", instead. Aside from the fact that drawing comparisons, rather than contrasts, serves more to confuse the terms than to clarify, I have to challenge the points you raise at the end:



"Level Design is the process of designing and implementing the (spatial) rules of a video game" - This definition omits the aesthetic efforts of level design and probably more importantly, the creative ways in which Level Designers work *within* the rules the Game Designer has set. Also, defining the elements that Level Design works with as rules implies that those 'spacial rules' are of equal weight as those of the rules of the game itself, as opposed to a subset of the rules of the game. "Players can't walk through this wall", is a subset of the rules of the game and not at all of equal weight to, "Players may scale walls freely".



(I'll leave a challenge to that definition of Game Design for another time. There's a lot I feel is incomplete there and it's just not pertinent to this specific discussion.)



"Level Design only deals with those game rules which are manifested as spaces" - I know a couple professional and amateur Level Designers who will fight you tooth and nail on that one. The ideas that a level design can create an experience using dramatic narrative devices or puzzles are two examples to make that point clearer.



"Level Design is also responsible for the implementation of these rules in the game" - Again, I see the role of the Level Designer as working with a subset of the duties of implementation, as compared to the full set the Game Designer works with. There are rules to a game that do not require a space, decoration, story or puzzle to be implemented. "You have three lives. Here is your gun. The enemy AI will try to defeat your tactics.", are three examples. I don't necessarily disagree here, but again, I'm looking for clarity if we're talking about definitions.



"Level Design only really exists as a discipline in the realm of video games" - I know more than a few authors of D&D campaigns who would take up their +3 Sword Of Recognition against you on that one. "Level Design" is used in common parlance in our specific industry, but in the realm of Game as a higher domain, Level Design has its analogies in other forms of the game industry and we'd be remiss to ignore those efforts.



Again, I appreciate the challenge against the definitions we use, to further the discussion, strengthen the positions and find new, more accurate ways to describe what we do and how we do it. So, it is in that spirit that I humbly disagree with this premise, in favor of a more reasoned view.

Luis Guimaraes
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Level Design IS Game Design, but not only Game Design, the same way Game Design is not only Level Design. There's a lot of technical differences but the core is the core. What messes games up is the confusion of technical part and design. Also, the disciplines fanboys and trends fanboys make a lot of mess too.

Eric Carr
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I prefer to think of Level Design as the application of the Game Systems. It's granular in a sense. The top level design is the rules and concepts of the game whereas the levels are designed to implement those concepts in the best ways possible. So when I'm building levels I focus on trying the leverage the mechanics of the game to create fun in 30 second increments.

So I guess what I'm saying is I disagree with you. Building Levels is not Game Design. Instead it's the application of said design.

Martin Nerurkar
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Discussion! Excellent... (makes Mr. Burns hand gesture)



Thanks everyone for the comments. I'll try to reply to all important points but I want to begin by saying that the article was meant to be a bit controversial on purpose. But let's get to it.



@JeanMi

I know what you're talking about. Having done the level design and scripting for Anno: Create a New World (aka Dawn of Discovery) I certainly agree. However even in those games the level designer designs the space of the game. This might determine how much resources there are, how much space to build, where there's cover... That still has an impact on the players' experience, even if it maybe be less so than the scripting. While I could go in detail about the relation of scripting and game design now I think it's clear that even in that kind of games, the level design does create spatial rules.



@Simon

I don't think I'm confusing something. Imagine Chess, except that the pawns can only move diagonally and attack straight ahead. The resulting game will have different strategies than regular Chess. The same is true for a different board. What I mean to say with this is that the combination of the board/space/... (level) and the actions/resources /... (game) is what defines the game in itself. Which is evident by the fact that the strategies employed change.still decides which pieces a player has and which moves each piece has.



@Lewis

RPG Module Design? That is a good point. I guess I wasn't thinking of that because RPGs sit in an odd place. They're games but only in some aspects. Also consider the space designed in a module. This space will be experienced differently by each group based on their GMs way of describing it. Even if there's a canned text, it's going to be different, right?



@Glenn

Wow. Lots of good points.



As I mentioned above, I wanted to be controversial on purpose. I absolutely agree with your statement that "Game Design includes Level Design". However not entirely. In fact I do believe it's more like these two disciplines have significant overlap (the creation of rules, whether spatial or not) and it's just that area that this post deals with.



However both jobs have more to them than just rules. For example a Level Designer also often has to deal with making a level "beautiful". And Game Designers often find themselves writing various texts.



"The ideas that a level design can create an experience using dramatic narrative devices or puzzles are two examples to make that point clearer."

What I wanted to say with that sentence was that Level Design only creates "spatial rules", not other rules. Level Design does more than just that though. But a said before, I purposely reduced level design to the creation of spatial rules. And even with that reduced view, note that often puzzles are spatial in nature. I have to agree though that scripting/narration are certainly part of Level Design



@Luis

Agreed.



@Eric

I again agree with the fact that levels need to "leverage" the mechanics (well put!) for the best experience. Still I do think that by creating a "game space" you automatically engage in the creation of "spatial rules" for your game.



Actually I think that's the core of my statement. That's what I wanted to say:



By creating a game space you automatically create rules. These are manifested spatially and play a significant role in shaping the players' experience.

Martin Nerurkar
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which is where the overlap with game design is.

Simon Ludgate
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Martin, you say: "Imagine Chess, except that the pawns can only move diagonally and attack straight ahead. The resulting game will have different strategies than regular Chess. The same is true for a different board."



Ahh, but in this case, I could not sit down in front of the game and play it. It would not be Chess. I would pick up the pawn and make it step forward and you would say "No! You can't do that!" and I would say "Of course I can, isn't this Chess?" and you would say "No, this is a new Chess variant, with a different game design."



On the other hand, with the 3 player board, three Chess players would had never played 3-player Chess could sit down and play the game, without any problems. It would be an interesting challenge, to be sure, but it would still be the same game, played a different way. When someone asked us what we were doing, we could say "We're playing 3-player Chess!" and they would know what was going on, because they know how to play Chess.



I don't disagree that BOTH level design and game design compels players to take up different strategies in play, but that doesn't mean they're the same thing. I do not believe that "anything that changes game strategy is game design."



Martin, you say: "What I mean to say with this is that the combination of the board/space/... (level) and the actions/resources /... (game) is what defines the game in itself."



I disagree. It is not the game in itself that is defined by the combination of level and game, but the experience of the game being played that is defined by the combination of level and game. The game in itself is defined by the game alone.



I think this is, by and large, a confusion caused by the fact that the vast majority of "levels" have game design elements to them. For example, if a level designer makes a level for Counterstrike that has both a bomb and hostages, a game design change has happened. But in this case, the person is acting BOTH as a level designer AND as a game designer, altering both level design and game design at the same time. But he is not altering game design BY altering level design.



I suppose I could sum my opinion up in this way:

Level Design and Game Design are exclusive categories

Level Designer and Game Designer are not exclusive categories

Glenn Storm
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+1 respect, Martin. Provocative stances are welcome to me and if you had started the article by explicitly saying, "This idea is meant to provoke discussion.", and, "This is what I would tell anyone studying Level Design.", ... well to be honest, I might not have responded at all because that would have framed it just right. My challenges all came from the point of view of a Game Designer and a broad overview of design in games, but from the point of view of the Level Designer, this article is quite eye-opening. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that because in my amateur mapping, I *always* look for the opportunities to work within the rules of the game to alter (if not enhance) the gameplay experience through level design. So I should have recognized what you were getting at. Anyway, cheers!

Martin Nerurkar
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@Simon.

I guess we just have a different view of things there. I guess we can agree to disagree?



@Glenn.

I propably should have been clearer on my intentions with the article.

Martin Nerurkar
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@Simon,

also to adress your argument that being able to sit down and play Chess with a changed board is possible whereas doing so with chagned Pawn behavior is not.



I don't think you can prove or disprove the existence of a rule based on how easily it is learned. In fact I think that's the big benefit of spatial rules - they are easily grasped. For example there's the often used example of Tic Tac Toe. Here if you'd describe the game to someone, you'd HAVE to describe the game space, that is the 3x3 "board". Otherwise they couldn't play. And the fact that it's a spatial system makes it really easy, even for kids, to grasp.



However there's the often cited example of simply explaining Tic Tac Toe differently, using numbers instead of a space. Instead of forming a row, players have to reach a certain "sum". I'm sure you can google to get some info on that version. Anyway, here the "rules" are the same but it's much more difficult to understand and to play compared to the spatial version.



Regardless I still believe that game space is a spatial manifestation of game rules.

Enrique Dryere
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This is an excellent article. I found this quote: "So if you think about it, the game space is nothing but another set of rules. They’re just visualized as a space to make it easier for us," particularly insightful.



I completely agree. It's a matter of perspective, but I think its more valuable and flexible to think of level design as a source of localized rule modification than it is to consider it merely a possibility for the implementation of existing rules -- when the design pipeline allows for such a view, of course.



My only addition to this refreshing conversation on design is to point out that the modality by which a player interacts with both their environment and its rules is also a crucial aspect of design that is commonly neglected -- or at least is given insufficient emphasis. It is a difficult facet of game play to single out, because it is more than simply the control scheme, but not quite the rules that it governs. Yet it should have a huge impact on level design. In essence, it is the interaction between a player's control and the rules of the game. Perhaps these examples will make my point clearer.



- The fact that a character can climb a wall is a rule.

- The existence of the wall is a rule presented through level design.

- The fact that climbing the wall involves a series of movements and button presses on the controller is an aspect of the control scheme.

- Whether or not the actual act of climbing these walls is fun is part of the modality and flexibility of this elusive portion of design.

- If climbing is fun, the game should likely contain more walls.



A great example of how oversight of this particular aspect of design can hurt a game can be found in the new release, Shadow Complex.

- Rule: The player moves in 2D but enemies can be in 3D.

- Level Design: Enemies are in 3D.

- Rule: The player can fire in 3D, but only when a 3D target exists; otherwise the player will fire in 2D.

- Modality: It is sometimes difficult to aim in 3D, as the game must make the decision on whether or not you "want" to fire in 3D. Often times you will find yourself being shot at by an enemy on the edge of the screen in 3D and be unable to return fire.



So although it is a bit off topic to the conversation, I thought I'd mention modality as I believe that the constraints (rules) that level design imposes can greatly enhance or mask its strengths and weaknesses.



Thanks for the great article.

Louis Varilias
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"Alright, so I admit the two are not perfectly the same but I am convinced that Level Design is nothing but a specialized application of Game Design."



Do some people really think that level design can be treated as a separate entity from a game? It is quite intuitive that the space in which you play a game defines how the game is to be played. Rules are constraints defined by spatial limitation ("levels" in the context of games) and action limitation (mechanics in the context of games). Mechanics design and level design are fundamental pieces of game design. This definition of rule is applicable to all rules (legal, societal, etc). I don't want to retype what has been said already, so look at Enrique's post to see why I think this to be true.



All level designers are game designers. Not all game designers are level designers.

All level design is an aspect of game design. Game design without level design does not exist.

The ArcSlinger
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"All level designers are game designers." - Except in sports titles.



"Game design without level design does not exist." ::Tosses all his card game designs out the window::

Samuel Fiunte Matarredona
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horrible! horrible gamasutra! there are too many articles and blog posts and features with too many words with too many discussions and too many replies replies! I have not time to read all of them! or even to begin to think to reply with my shitty english :)



too bad this one has to go to the bookmarks.... :(

Louis Varilias
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"All level designers are game designers." - Except in sports titles."

How is level designing for a sports game not part of game designing? If you don't design a sports field, how would the game exist? Now your point might be the level designer of said game did not invent the play field, but the designer of the field is still a game designer.



""Game design without level design does not exist." ::Tosses all his card game designs out the window:: "

Card games don't have a spatial limitation, albeit an informal one?

John Bachynski
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Level design is game design, however game designers do not necessarily create the levels you see in game; that is the work of 'environment artists'. I think that the term level design is becoming replaced with environment artist to emphasize the asethetic component and skills that not all game designers have. A game designer can do a sketch or mockup of the level but the artist must create a visually appealing environment. Then the game designer, does some level design, by placing various game objects (enemies, powerups etc.) within the environment. We also should not forget the work of the concept artists that help us visualize what the level / environment is going to look like.

Martin Nerurkar
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@Luis,

I think the comment about sports titles is that in these cases, the playing space is already defined. That is the size and dimensions, locations of the goals, the various markers etc. All these things have already been designed and are set in stone. All the "level designer" does in these cases is make it pretty. He does not have the ability to add any new spatial rules to the game. If you look at it in this way, then Richard certainly has a point.



@John,

the birth of "environment artists" is just a further specialization as far as I see it. Just as Level Design has grown out of Game Design, so Environmental Art has been birthed by Level Design. Now I don't want to debate the merits or disadvanatges of such a split but it does emphasize my point. In these cases the "spatial rules" are still the job of the Level Designer while much of the other things that don't overlap with game design are the artist's obligation.

Vincent Ng
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@Simon



The design of a level can define the gameplay and even genre of a game. For example, one of the hallmarks of the survival horror genre is resource management. Another is scripted events used to startle or shock the player. Both resource placement and scripting events fall in the domain of a level designer.





Regarding your comments about how changing the spaces of the chessboard doesn't change how people play or knowing how to play...yes and no. While someone unfamiliar with a survival horror/horror-themed action shooter may be able to sit down and play the game, they don't yet understand the dynamics created by choking back resources. People who don't play survival horror often waste ammo until they realize the tactical nature of the combat which plays into and affects how well they manage resources. Iow, gameplay can be and is affected by both global rules as formalized by the game designer as well as "local rules" manifested as a result of the design of the level. The level design of a platformer will have direct impact on the gameplay and the dynamics that rise from it.



To the degree that the core elements of a game/genre are indirectly or directly related to the responsibilities of a level designer is the degree that the level designer is a game designer.



The article would've been more accurately titled "A Level Designer CAN be considered, but is not necessarily always a Game Designer"

Louis Varilias
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"A Level Designer CAN be considered, but is not necessarily always a Game Designer"

doesn't follow from

"The level design of a platformer will have direct impact on the gameplay and the dynamics that rise from it."



Is a level not part of a game? Do levels not affect precisely what a game IS? Your post suggests this even. In what context can you design a level but not be designing a spatial ruleset (rules for games is game design)? Keep in mind that "making things look pretty" isn't necessarily level design.

Z Z
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Take a game like Little Big Planet, it's all about level design. The level designers are hampered by the game mechanics though. The variation in what can be done is the result of the characters abilities. Since LBP only allows jumping and grabbing things, the levels aren't all that different from one another despite people's best efforts to create something truly innovative. I tried doing a turn based RPG with the LBP levels, but it turned out too ambitious for what the game would allow. Within the constraints of the game the absolute best that can be done is a watered down version of Metroid (i.e. hidden secrets), but without the character upgrading aspect.



If sackboy is given new abilities it allows level design to become that much more interesting. Once they added the metal gear gun expansion it added a lot to what could be done despite the level building tools being the same. The jetpack itself allowed totally different games to be made like pac-man clones. So is level design game design? Yes, but only partially as the bulk of the design still comes from pre-level design phases. The level designer needs knowledge of the "player character" and his abilities to effectively "design" something unique or unintended.



Take a simple sackboy jump mechanic, if sackboy is designed to be able to jump 2 units upward and the level designer doesn't know this he may design jumps to be 3 units high at which point his creation would be useless to the game's design. Since game design is a team thing this back and forth can actually assist in game design. The level designer can create his 3 unit high obstacles, the game designer can say, but sackboy can only jump 2 units, and the level designer can say, well let's add a way to get up 3 unit obstacles. Maybe my example isn't the best, but the point is level designers can assist in game design in a unique way because they'll know what is and is not possible within the constraints of the game design better than anybody.

Martin Nerurkar
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@B N,

Firstly I have to say that I disagree with your assessment of the LBP level design. I think the level design is really good and from what little I played of it there certainly is enough variation and odd little mini-games built. Of course it remains a side-scroller, but that's what the game is, its Identity. Either way, I really enjoyed the levels there.



Also you mention the creation of new game rules. Which is certainly something that a Level Designer can influence and in some cases even actually create through scripting etc. But my article was solely talking about the shaping of the game space - and viewing that space as rules. I'm afraid I'm not able to properly convey what I have in mind here.

Vincent Ng
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@Louis



I think you snipped out the key point I made that would make one follow from the other:



"...The level design of a platformer will have direct impact on the gameplay and the dynamics that rise from it.



To the degree that the core elements of a game/genre are indirectly or directly related to the responsibilities of a level designer is the degree that the level designer is a game designer.



The article would've been more accurately titled "A Level Designer CAN be considered, but is not necessarily always a Game Designer"



If the core elements of gameplay are NOT directly or indirectly related to the responsibilities of a level designer then, in that case, a level designer would not necessarily be a game designer. I chose the platformer example to emphasize a genre where the core elements of gameplay are defined by the ability to traverse the virtual space it takes place in. Another might be Shadow Complex or Super Metroid where some of the core gameplay elements are exploration of of the virtual space and powering up by finding power-ups hidden in that virtual space. This is *especially* true here because the ability to access certain parts of the game space is limited by the power-ups found hidden within that game space, so the level design must ensure that getting a major power-up doesn't "break" the map design by making all areas accessible and obviate the need for other power-ups to access the rest of the map. These are cases where a level designer CAN be considered a game designer.



I would argue that, say, CoD is an example where the level designer isn't necessarily a game designer because the core gameplay revolves around tactical combat. The game space supports the gunplay as context within which it takes place, but the space itself isn't really all that related to the core of the gameplay. At the end of the day, yes, its a matter of degree, but there are cases where the core gameplay of a given game is more or less related to the game space and *to that degree*, as I already stated, is the degree that a level designer can be considered a game designer. To me, it's about the core elements of the game. Obviously most games will take place in a virtual space, but that doesn't mean that all of those games have their core gameplay elements tied to the design of that space.

Z Z
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Well let's take LBP as an example again then. How do we shape that game space to change the game rules? I'm not talking about not making it a side-scroller, but as someone that used LBP quite a bit and made a lot of levels I always felt limited by the actual game rules themselves. The way I saw it the game rules were:



1. You play a single character with abilities

a. run

b. jump

c. grab



2. Your character can gain other abilities through level objects

a. flight from a jet pack

b. environment destruction through bomb grabbing and throwing

c. super speed from sloped ice surfaces

d. driving using switches and wheels



3. Objects in the game world have properties

a. buttons/levers can turn things on/off (doors/acceleration/platforms/music/lights)

b. objects can be tagged as keys to open doors

c. anything can be tagged a hazard that kills the player on touch

d. objects can be tagged "AI" as long as they have a brain and some way to move (wheels/legs)

e. you can give AI chase and flee behaviors



No matter what level geometry I created it didn't change the game at all really. What's the difference between this and your chess example? The only thing I can draw is that this uses a single character whereas chess has many characters, which kind of makes me think your example makes more sense as a multiplayer level designer.



The unpredictability and need to accommodate multiple perspectives from multiple entities (players) basically adds new game design possibilities through geometry alone. In a single player example what can and cannot be done is bound entirely to what is possible with that one character. No matter what that character will only be able to run, jump, and grab. Also no matter what that character only has a single perspective on what is going on, the one provided to them by the level designer. In a multiplayer example each person is bound to what their character can do as a single entity, but what can be done overall is bound to everyone can do as a team. Also the perspective of the player isn't as narrow as a single player experience, something can be happening in an entire different area of the map that is of interest to them.



One final look at your chess example shows me this:



1. Adding a third player to the board on the bottom is a game mechanic change, not a spacial change.



So what happens if we only keep the spacial change, but not the game mechanic change (remove white)?

a. Empty space is created



What does this empty space do? That is yet to be seen, but it does change the game much like adding more space to a multiplayer game will change how the map plays out. Maybe entire teams can rush to this spot and hole up in this empty space and create an imbalance in the map?



2. Making chess a single player game makes your reliance on game mechanics a lot higher.



Say the only game mechanics are that the pawn can move in any direction 1 spot and he must get to the back row of where black is now, how does adding that extra space change the way the game is played? It doesn't.



Say we add a wall down the center allowing the pawn to not just move straight to the objective, they now have to go down into that empty space then up to the objective. Their experience hasn't changed, it just took longer. You're going to have to go to the game designer and tell them you need something to change the way the game is played if you want to change the experience of the player. You can add space and walls until the cows come home, but it isn't going to change the way the game is played for a single player.

Martin Nerurkar
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@Blake

I knew using the 3-way chess picture was a bad idea. I totally agree that adding a third "player" is a game design and not a level design change. It's just that the picture was so great I wanted to use it.



Your point 1.a is more like it. You noticed that the changed space changes the way the game is played. The same is true for your LBP example. Obviously making new levels doesn't change the "core mechanics" but it does change the game, simply by virtue of there being new and different spaces to play in.

Luis Guimaraes
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The 3-player choice is of course pure Game Design, but the way you make the table for it to interac and move well is level design somehow.



Level Design can be subdivided in categories, depending on how the person intends the discipline.

But with presence of the word "Design", and the specific "Level", and not just place or map or such, I think it comes clear what "Level" "Design" is about. If you''re not doing Game Design when you planning/making a level, than it's just construction. In a case of a 3D game, it's just Enginering and Decoration, but no Arquiteture.



In level design there is balancing, planning of how to help, recomment, provide or cut-off possible player strategies, player guidance, pace control, and so much more. If you're thinking and Designing that when you're design your MAP, than you're doing Level Design and not just bulding up a random place. So it's also Game Design. I mean, There's no Level Design without Game Design, it's just construction.

Michael Edwards
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"No matter what level geometry I created it didn't change the game at all really. What's the difference between this and your chess example? The only thing I can draw is that this uses a single character whereas chess has many characters, which kind of makes me think your example makes more sense as a multiplayer level designer."

That's what stuck in my head reading the article. In my mind the distinction is on the whole greater for single player(or co-op) levels than competitive levels. Designing a great competitive multiplayer level is about balancing the design so the level is 'fair' to all sides, designing a great single-player (or co-op) level is more about challenging and entertaining the player(s) and like in say a Bioware RPG is far more likely to involve sweeping game design changes, scripting, and a need to keep the overall story consistent (which might be as simple as having a bow added to an NPC who didn't have one in other areas so that he can challenge the player(s) across a chasm the level designer wants to add).



That said, imagine in Team Fortress 2 the Pyro suddenly had his flame thrower range doubled by the game designer, this would have a serious impact on how balanced the competitive levels play and would require changes to the level design.



I'm not sure what I'm trying to say but I'mg glad you brought it up... Recently I didn't comment on Martin Ns "No More Wrong Turns" article because I started thinking about areas you have to 'come back to later' and got lost in an internal loop about whether that was moving too far from level design into game design which was making me think how far does the distinction between game design and level design go.

Timmy GILBERT
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Well mario hacks does well at changing the game with only the lay out! or even graphical element!

- The silouhette hacks left animthing but seen as some sort of shadow, sprite are black. It chnage the game because the way we process the INFORMATION is different, guessing, anticipation becomes more important.



- Theres is hacks with seemingly impossible level, basically the level becames puzzle with timing instead of dexterity travels.



That mean that of course level design is not a game design on the magnitude of the core gamedesign ( especially because the influence on interface is limited, and also the goal and faillure condition which are keys in design are set). But it may the point where two schools can set appart things, one school see space as an integral part of the rules, as it defines, like rules wich "moves" validate a progression towards winning or failling a goal. While the other school define the game design as defining the goal and faillure of a particular game (which are also a subset of rules). There is a gray area between rules as movement, and rules as faillure and winning conditions.



But even game design from game to game are just level design reskinned. Call of duty and gears of war are not fundamentally different design (move aim shoot).

Tadhg Kelly
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I missed this when it came out a couple of weeks ago and just found it now.



To be honest, it sounds more like an argument being made through the semantics of language rather than reality (I.e. because the two disciplines share the word "design" they must be the same). While game design and level design are inter-related at various points it's been my professional experience that the mentality needed to do either job is very different as the demands are different.



Level designers tend to need to have a head for flow. They're making a living thing which moves and breathes and they need to be able to analyse and see what's working within the tools they are using. Game designers tend to need to have a head for rules, objects and classes. They're laying down a development template to explain what tools are going to be needed in the first place and help everyone plan their part.



Some people can do both, and in the early days when games were less complicated they often did. Then again in those days they often programmed their game directly too. So I'm not sure what that proves or disproves other than games were less complex back in the day.

Rumen Rachkov
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If you want to try Three Player Chess Online try it on http://www.ThreeChess.com/


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