Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
Gameplay Fundamentals Revisited, Part 2: Building a Pacing Structure
View All     RSS
July 25, 2021
arrowPress Releases
July 25, 2021
Games Press
View All     RSS







If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 

Gameplay Fundamentals Revisited, Part 2: Building a Pacing Structure


November 26, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5
 

Conclusion

Ultimately, the value of building an up-front structure to the game campaign will always produce a more satisfactory result in significantly less time, with less work thrown away. Once a game team has completed a game using such a structure and realized the quality outcome, there will be zero desire to return to the on-the-fly archaic methods of the past.

With such a structure in place, the quality of the experience will increase significantly. Yet there will still be an ample creative space in which the level designers and/or world builders can operate.

This refutes a common fear among the uninitiated who are resistant to such a process change. The structure imposes high level events and timing only and leaves the bulk of the details up to the level designers and/or mission scripters in both the design and implementation stages.

It is also imperative that all the level designers, world builders, and/or mission scripters who are responsible for building gameplay be a part of the creative team that lays out the Intensity & Pacing Plan. They can then become completely familiar and invested in the process and feel a vested interest in its success.

Ideally, these individuals should not be assigned responsibility and ownership over specific missions/levels until after that Plan has been completed. This will give everyone ample opportunity to contribute to the Big Picture of how all the levels/missions best fit together to satisfy the player. It will also limit any early resistance to on-paper changes (the fastest and lowest cost changes that can be made with respect to level/mission layout).

Once this structural overview of all the levels is laid out (in other words, the Intensity & Pacing Plan is in place) the team can logically move on to actual level design. They can start to work out the remaining medium-and low-level details of the level. This portion is often best achieved with small implementation teams that are entirely focused on the details of the execution.

With the key story, mission, and environmental events in place ,a level designer/world builder/scripter can start to flesh out the rest of the level to fill in the areas between the key gameplay action and story plot events.

They can utilize reusable generic action portions (e.g. varying groups of enemies or hazards) and/or by varying the level layout using the theme park design and urban planning rules alluded to above (in other words, those laid out in Brian Upton's excellent GDC 2007 lecture on Narrative Landscapes).

After the structured Intensity & Pacing Plan is in place and before actual level production begins, there is still ample room for further pre-production planning for the level designers and/or world builders.

Thoughout of the scope of this article, the best proven level pre-production process I have come across is that described by Michael Stuart Licht in his article, An Architect's Perspective on Level Design Pre-Production, so I would suggest adopting many of the elements he proposes (especially those on spatial layout) and integrating them with the staggered events that we have already planned out.

As an industry we can only hope to deliver the knock-out intensity and incredible satisfaction of one of the best seasons of Lost, Prison Break or 24 -- once design teams and leaders have fully embraced well-structured level design and production processes in the same way Hollywood has for years.

The pre-planning of a carefully structured Intensity & Pacing Plan for all the environments/levels (both as individuals and as a whole) and a follow-through of that process with the creation of a gameplay-focused progression plan will always produce a much more engaging result.

Because processes ensure that the pacing, intensity, and challenge progressively increase throughout the campaign, the results are sure to be video game gold. There should be higher quality, higher schedule predictability, less risk, and faster level production. In the end, these benefits will also translate into significantly greater efficiency, through less brutal throwaway of expensive and man-power intensive level production content.

So why does building an up-front Intensity & Pacing Plan make level production faster, cheaper and more predictable? Because it is always exponentially cheaper to iterate level/mission planning on paper than in the tools and editors. In addition, by going through the process of building this plan, you have created a target that you can aim for, like a beacon in the distance that vastly narrows and hones the creative focus of the team.

With a target to aim for, you are more likely to end up with an extremely satisfying experience, which otherwise only rarely happens after many rounds of time-intensive and expensive rework in the on-the-fly level design methods of the past.

If the creative team and leads build and embrace these structured planning, review and iteration design processes, the magic is sure to come. The end results will speak for themselves in terms of reviews, fan appeal, and sales.

It is time for teams to stop resisting level process evolution and adopt the more efficient and higher-quality pacing methods of Hollywood. It is up to our creative leaders and team leads whether they want to improve their likelihood for quality and success.

But also, it is up to all the members of the team to encourage and support such moves -- to facilitate these successful structured creative processes and to allow them to flourish in an industry where they have been strangely absent for too long.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Related Jobs

Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank, California, United States
[07.23.21]

Character TD
Bytro Labs GmbH
Bytro Labs GmbH — Hamburg, Germany
[07.23.21]

Lead Game Designer (f/m/x)
Bytro Labs GmbH
Bytro Labs GmbH — Hamburg, Germany
[07.23.21]

Senior UI Artist (f/m/x)
Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank, California, United States
[07.22.21]

Senior Designer





Loading Comments

loader image