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Secrets of the Sages: Level Design

July 23, 1999 Article Start Page 1 of 9 Next


The worldwide PC gaming community hasn't been the same since id Software's Wolfenstein 3D was unleashed in the spring of 1992. More than a quarter million people scrambled to download this racy, 700KB shareware game from their local bulletin board system (BBS), and thus, the first-person perspective 3D "shooter" was born.

The next seven years yielded many memorable shooters--Doom, Dark Forces, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Jedi Knight, GoldenEye 007, Unreal, Sin, and Half-Life--and in so doing, it launched a specialized and necessary art form, known as level design. Loosely speaking, level design pertains to creating the architecture of maps in the game, plus dealing with object placement, mission or goal of the map, and often mini-missions within the level as well.

So what makes for a well-laid-out and challenging level to complete? What are some of the more common mistakes found in amateur level design? Is there a science to it? You bet. This chapter features the world's top level designers and their invaluable opinions on what makes or breaks level architecture in 3D shooters. Keep in mind that many of these pointers can also apply to other 3D games, such as third-person perspective action/adventure hybrids (e.g. Tomb Raider).

The classic Wolfenstein 3D almost single-handedly diffused side-scrolling "platform" games on the PC. But with this new perspective came new obstacles...(Used with permission by id Software)

Article Start Page 1 of 9 Next

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