Where to start?
What a common
statement. Even after three decades of game development we still seem
to have the same problem -- how to begin or end something, how to come
up with a believable start and a waterproof finish.
For some reason, level designers all struggle with that same problem.
We'd like it to be easy and trouble-free, we'd like to be able to make
miracles and not really show the amount of work required to get there.
Fortunately, not everything is bad at it first seems - there are several
shortcuts, if you will, to make the level design track not only swifter,
but also more efficient and more consistent. With so many different visions,
opinions, approaches and work-methods, consistency is beginning to play
the most important role in modern level design.
only are you normally not the one who gets to decide what the level is
all about, but also not the one who gets to change the stuff that comes
to the level; script writers, game designers, project leads -- the whole
bunch who say what to put where and when and sometimes even, regrettably,
So what to do when you are given a bunch of paper that is the design layout
for your next challenge (some might say your work for the following 10-odd
weeks), furthermore how to make sure the errand you're about to put yourself
in doesn't, in the end, differ too much from your previous work, or the
work of others?
A dank storage room
where Mona was kept only moment before. A dead mobster is hanging from
chains in the roof, he has a note pinned on his chest.
NOTE: A threat to Punchinello.
storage rooms. Nothing Valkyr, or Cold Iron related though. Just furniture,
(a part from a design document of Max Payne)
As we all
know, starting something new is mostly about decisions: what to leave
out and what to include, what to make something look/feel/sound (even
taste) like and perhaps most importantly, how to restrict things -- what
is to be the physical size, the file size, the time 'size' you have available
and what is realistic.
With Max Payne we set up certain basic rules: minimum room heights,
door sizes, minimum room sizes (e.g. corridor width), minimum spaces between
pieces of furniture and other objects etc. These things were decided on,
not to make the job harder, but to have consistency in scale and, in the
end, make the job easier!
So how does this all work in practice? Let's take a look at the design
document above and how I started working from there.
start your engines!
wait a minute. I don't think you need to get the engine running to get
an idea on what a level could look like; the shortest approach is to take
a pen and a piece of paper, draw out a rough sketch of general shapes
and scale: in this case the grid lines are present to give a sense of
size and to help out to divide the space evenly.
Once you have a drawing, it's easier to figure out where to startwith
As you can
see, the difference between the sketch and the 3D model is clear. Also
worth mentioning is the fact it took about ten minutes to draw the sketch,
but several hours to model the geometry in in the 3D model. But as this
is just to show the basic idea behind the process and not the whole thing
in detail, I'll leave everything complex out for now -- that's where I'll
be heading to later on.
enthusiastic, I have a picture of the final version of the level and a
screenshot of the same cellar from Max Payne.