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Taking the 'less is more' approach to level design
Taking the 'less is more' approach to level design
August 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    10 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, GDC Europe



Eufloria's Rudolf Kremers believes that "less is more" is the perfect approach for indie developers on a budget when it comes to level design, and his GDC Europe talk today described the various ways this approach can be achieved.

Procedural generation in particular, as seen in such indie titles as Spelunky, Minecraft and Kremers' own Eufloria, can help free up development time for other areas of your game, and is "a great way to create enormous amounts of content" in a short space of time, he argued.

The 250,000-selling Eufloria, for example, only uses nine very simple textures throughout the entire game, with visuals procedurally generated from these simple patterns.

User-generated content is another area in which developers can look to build up a huge library of levels with little input themselves. The provided level design and scripting tools that come with Eufloria have seen players making not only their own levels for the game, but also entirely different experiences from the main game, such as art applications and side-scrolling shooters.

"Empower your fans and they will reward you 1,000 times over," noted Kremers. "Players can create more content than you can ever imagine -- or compete with!"

Kremers also urged designers to consider the concept of negative space when creating game worlds -- the idea of focusing on the area around the main focus, and using what is not there to help define what is there. Utilizing negative space means using less resources and less design time.

Titles such as Limbo, Journey and Nightsky are great examples of games that have used the concept of negative space to the fullest degree, said Kremers.

Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe and Gamescom. For more coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)


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Comments


Samuel Batista
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I wish there was more to this, sounds like a fascinating and very useful talk for aspiring developers like myself.

Freek Hoekstra
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procedural content is going to be the best way not only for indie game developers but also for AAA next gen, we can;t hire more people so we must create more content more efficiently.

no-one likes placing 10.000 streetlights next to the road, so create a procedure to do all the boring and bland work and let the artists do what they 1 enjoy, 2 do best, namely creative work.

I think procedural is going to be the way forward for all development, we saw this move in film, now it's time for games to catch up.

Jesse Crafts-Finch
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Procedural generation is good when its part of the design. Minecraft wouldn't be possible without it, but Spelunkey is a bad example - I have no doubt that making the level generation work just right took way longer than if he just hand coded each level. It's replay-ability would have decreased, but it would have been faster and cheaper. Procedural generation can take a lot of work to get right, so instead of giving it a thumbs up across the board, I'd rather say: If your game design calls for it, use procedural generation. Otherwise, try and keep the number of art assets you need to a minimum

Arturo Nereu
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Im amazed by games that takes the procedural generation way. The challenge of creating a level generator rather than a level and making it work is incredible.

Taking Jetpack Joyride as an example: is really fun to play, no two sessions are the same and the thing is that nobody designed the level you are playing per se, the game itself is generating it according to how you are playing.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Procedurally generated content works in some games, and is terrible in others-open world games could all benefit from it, as it would allow the size and scale of the games to really increase. I'm still waiting for an open world game set in a city where I can enter any building-setup a few basic tilesets and layout options, and it wouldn't be hard to do.

It will only work on a smaller scale in certain types of games though-Mario-esque platformers usually live and die on how well their levels are crafted, and AAA shooters are far too static in nature to really make use of it in a big way.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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(just remembered this as I hit post)

Left 4 Dead 2 is a good example of a game I felt suffered from procedurally generated content-the portions that had it felt unfocused and awful.

Duong Nguyen
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As the game gets more complex the procedural algorithm also becomes more complex. Sure a simple art game based upon growing curves and leaves u can use procedural algorithms to good effect, try doing that for an open world western with NPC and physics and storylines.. It's not that simple. There is a balance smaller / simpler games can defiantly benefit from procedural algorithms.

Zsombor Berki
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Could someone take some time to explain this negative space idea? I can't seem to properly grasp what it's all about.

Duong Nguyen
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He's saying instead of creating the actual thing something like a horse, you create the things around it, leaving the horse out, which in turns create a compelling cognitive vacuum which the user can fill in.

In the simplest terms u can make an outline of a horse and the viewer can see that it's a horse, even though there is no horse just a space where the horse should be. Apply that to gameplay, create elements to reward the player but have no explicit scoring model, the user will fill in the scoring model for themselves.. or something like that.

ken wong
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Negative space is a concept commonly used in art/graphic design. Given the examples cited, I believe he's probably talking about spaces between what we conventionally call gameplay - for example: a pause in the music; a space between action where the character has nothing to do but walk from A to B; or perhaps space where you can just pick fruit or ride your horse or splash some water particles. None of these is really 'gameplay', but they add to the experience of playing the game, and in many ways accentuate the actual gameplay.


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