The Level Design Pipeline

Throughout the Development of Wildborn, I have applied everything I know about level design, from player teaching philosophies, to rapid iterative design. I refined my pipeline to a fine edge, allowing me to produce high quality work, at a competitive speed. This is my entire Design pipeline, from start to now.

The Grand Plan.

This stage of the process is what I call the grand plan. A brief and broad idea of how the entire game would flow from start to finish.

I use this process to decide how entire game would flow, even though the levels I wont make, as a means to gauge when to teach the player certain mechanics, when to hit certain narrative beats, and when to challenge the player with certain game-play elements as their skill grows overtime.

This process takes a couple of hours of iterating, before a very basic plan is formed.

Level Focus.

This stage is very similar, just with more detail. I started to think about what mechanics to introduce to the player and when in the level. Ensuring that the player is taught and tested with the mechanic or idea a couple of times throughout each level.

It is essentially a checklist of things that I want the player to experience throughout the level in order. Challenging them at the right times, and making sure everything happens in a sensible order.

Level Blueprints.

The most traditional step of grabbing some pen and paper, and scribbling down many iterations of the level as possible. Thinking up core themes, and playing around with shapes. This helps my quickly visualise and record lots of ideas, as well as start a process of Taking away bad ones or tweaking ideas that looks as though they are fun to experience.

My approach the Wildborn’s level design is very modular. Each area acts as a room that could very easily transition from one to the other, instead of being one large cohesive environment that doesn’t offer me much flexibility, and allows me to give the player a more varied and interesting experience. It also means its very easy for me to take away a section of the level that isn’t fun or doesn’t add to the player’s knowledge of the game.

Blockout.

Using the most simple primitives possible, build a framework for the player to traverse. I try to copy my Blueprints as closely as possible, but make obvious adjustments as time goes on, since this stage often reveals flaws in the original design that need to be tweaked.

This is the most tactile and involved process throughout the entire development stage of the level.

It is frequently tested by myself and others, to see if it achieved the goal of Wildborn’s game play philosophies; to be Simultaneously Fun and Informative. If is isn’t one or both, it gets discarded or adjusted until it is. Knowing full well that if my game isn’t hitting the mark at this stage, no amount of art will fix those problems.

The entire level goes through MANY iterations at this stage.

Intensive Testing.

I built a survey that asks the many play-testers how they rated Wildborn’s features, from 1-5, and then to fill in a short improvement on what would make it a 5 in their eyes if it wasn’t already.

This feedback is still being actively used to improve the levels and features of the game.

Composition Pass.

Starting with basic composition, this is factored in to the game-play of the level. using the composition of the space, camera angles, and lighting, to not only create a dramatic effect. But to guide the player and help them achieve their goal.

Art Pass.

At this stage, the Gameplay of the level should be relatively finished. The art now being used as a tool to aid the player’s visual experience of the level, adding to the foundation level behind by the level design.