The rules that govern single player level design are becoming more and more well known. They help make sure that the gamer’s experience is controlled in terms of difficulty, rhythm, renewal etc. But multiplayer level design does not follow the same constraints as those of single player level design. I will start by describing the specific constraints of multiplayer level design.
The first technical constraint is the infamous bandwidth bottleneck. A game machine may be high-powered and capable of processing a huge amount of information, but if the “pipe” that links it to other machines is too narrow, little information can be exchanged and the game is therefore slowed down or impoverished.
What are the main points of a multiplayer game that eats up bandwidth? First there is character movement and animations. In most multiplayer FPS games, character animation is very limited. What characters do most often is run, jump or crouch. But in games such as the multiplayer version of Splinter Cell, the wealth of animations is at the heart of the game.
Characters can grab each other, perform acrobatics, hit each other etc. This wealth of animations is very demanding in terms of bandwidth. I am convinced that such a high quality of animations will become more and more present in future multiplayer games, not only because they provide more realism, but also because they enlarge gameplay possibilities, as it may be noticed when playing Splinter Cell in versus mode.
Other large bandwidth consumers are special effects, such as the explosions with their particle display, and the dynamic events in the levels. The latter are map animations, such as the movement of a crane or of an elevator or the destruction of a wall. If it is possible to interact with such events (by throwing a grenade into an elevator or by positioning a character on a moving object), the exact position of these moving parts of the map must be followed image by image. Once again, I am convinced that maps of future multiplayer games will contain more and more special effects and map animations.