Today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we decided to try our hand at being level designers using the Doom SnapMap tool. Turns out it’s actually pretty hard! To get some help on learning about good levels, we brought on a trio of talented level designers - Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz, Robin-Yann Storm, and Harrison Pink, to give us some key advice that would help us improve our little Doom level.
And of course, while we were working on building the next BioShock (kidding), we quizzed them about their careers in level design, what inspires them in their work and how they solve the creative problems they’ve encountered at their jobs. You can watch our whole conversation in the video above, but if you’re working on something RIGHT NOW and need advice, here’s a few hot tips you can use right away.
If a level isn’t working, rip it apart and start over
Pink, who recently wrapped up his work as a game designer at Hangar 13, told us that one of his biggest lessons for making good levels was that it’s way easier to start a level over if it wasn’t working, than to try and tweak and fix it. It’s a time-saving measure that he says, as long as it happens early enough, can improve your design and help your whole team.
Airports are a great study in level design
Beinke-Schwartz, Storm, and Pink all had different inspirations to share from outside the game design world, but Storm pointed out that level designers can learn a lot while they’re on a flight to PAX or E3. Since airports are one of the few places where lots of people need to be in the right place at the right time, there’s a lot of environmental lessons to be learned from the lighting, decor, and shape of hallways and rooms that can impact your next game.
Downtime is valuable for flow
While doing research to make levels in BioShock Infinite, Beinke-Schwartz told us she played a lot of different games to get a better sense of how single-player story driven games flow, and she was surprised at how much time players actually spent out of combat, despite how combat-driven these games were. So even if your game is built on the back of an intricate combat system, don’t discount the value of letting the player breathe between encounters.
If these tips were helpful for you, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary.