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What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:23 am
by J T
You often hear people say that a game has good level design or poor level design, but that's rather vague. I wonder what some of you guys think makes for good level design?

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:48 am
by MrPopo
I'd say good level design consists of a few things. First of all, your path should make sense. If I'm panning my view around to figure out where to go next you're doing something wrong (note, exceptions are given when they intentionally want you to search for a hidden path, but said path should still be obvious in hindsight). I also feel a good level uses interesting and varied setpieces. Aesthetics are an aspect that should be considered in a visual medium. And finally, a well designed level can use obstacles to make fighting enemies more difficult, but it should not increase the difficulty to the point that a player starts cursing the placement of objects in the level.

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:21 pm
by slowslow325
Also, you don't die because you didn't know a pit was somewhere.

For instance, on one of the later stages of Sonic Rush, I kept dying on a laser beam (which was acting like a pit) that I had no idea was there. Nothing told me, or hinted to me, and there was no way I could see it before hand. The Sonic series has to be more careful about this because of the speed you can go at.

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:59 pm
by Gnashvar
IMO good level design means...

1. It looks like you're moving somewhere. Not a maze.

2. Jumps and pits are based on skill not perfect memory learned timing every time.

3. Backgrounds and scenery change.

4. Enemies are well located or change tactics to be challenging but avoid cheap deaths.

5. Those levels you would actually play until that part to see it again.

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:17 pm
by samsonlonghair
When I think of good level design, I always think back to the Green Hill Zone. The naturally rolling hills epitomize level design to me.

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Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:12 pm
by Gamerforlife
1. I like environmental interaction, something a lot of games ignore. It's one reason why games like Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and The Lord of the Ring:Return of the King are more fun to me than God of war, which just sticks to conventional ways of killing enemies
2. Players should always know where to go next or what to do next
3. You should NEVER be hit by something from offscreen
4. Camera should always show players what they need to see in a stage. I'm sick of manually adjusting a.k.a. BABYSITTING stupid cameras
5. I want every stage to have a different look. I'm so sick of boring looking games where everything always looks the same. I also want to see things happening in the background to create the illusion of a living, breathing world
6. Every stage should introduce a new challenge or enemy and gradually up the difficulty
7. Sound is important. Music should dynamically change to reflect what is happening in game. Sound effects should warn players of impending danger or incoming attacks.
8. No goddamn stupid mini-games, quick time event bullshit or stupid button mashing. I'm so sick of modern games telling me to mash a button on my controller for some stupid shit like opening a door in Wet or removing a grate from the wall in Batman:Arkham Asylum. I hate stupid, gimmicky crap like that. We're not children
10. Don't forget to reward players. Every stage should end with a cool cutscene, a new weapon, new ability, anything. Just give players incentive to keep playing your game
11. Repetition is the mark of lazy design. Find a way to change things up regularly
12. Boss fights! The old end of stage boss fight mode of design is boring. I want mid level or surprise boss encounters. I loved that in The Red Star
13. Regular checkpoints - God the number of games that don't do this is ridiculous. And make checkpoints or save points blend into the environment you lazy,uncreative designers, like Ico did
14. Please hide load screens. The are very obnoxious. If I'm transitioning to another part of the level I shouldn't have to see a now loading screen. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Castlevania:Symphony of the Night were very good about this. I don't know why people bitched about elevators in Mas Effect, which served the same purpose
15. I would love to see more games where the environment is constantly changing as you go through a stage. You walk out of a building and it blows up. Awesome!
16. With very few exceptions, escort missions and swimming levels suck. Put them in your game and I will shoot you

I could go on and on, but I've already made enough points

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:36 pm
by HellHammer
I recently played through Super Mario World again after a few years. On the second level of the game, I realized that every aspect of that level is there to teach you something, without simply giving you written text explaining it.
It forces you to learn through playing how to control the game's mechanics, how to score combo points, how to deal with specific enemies, how to use Yoshi, how tree fruit is used, etc etc.

It was a very cool realization for me and has recently re-shaped how I feel about level design.

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:18 am
by Dakinggamer87
Gamerforlife wrote:1. I like environmental interaction, something a lot of games ignore. It's one reason why games like Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and The Lord of the Ring:Return of the King are more fun to me than God of war, which just sticks to conventional ways of killing enemies
2. Players should always know where to go next or what to do next
3. You should NEVER be hit by something from offscreen
4. Camera should always show players what they need to see in a stage. I'm sick of manually adjusting a.k.a. BABYSITTING stupid cameras
5. I want every stage to have a different look. I'm so sick of boring looking games where everything always looks the same. I also want to see things happening in the background to create the illusion of a living, breathing world
6. Every stage should introduce a new challenge or enemy and gradually up the difficulty
7. Sound is important. Music should dynamically change to reflect what is happening in game. Sound effects should warn players of impending danger or incoming attacks.
8. No goddamn stupid mini-games, quick time event bullshit or stupid button mashing. I'm so sick of modern games telling me to mash a button on my controller for some stupid shit like opening a door in Wet or removing a grate from the wall in Batman:Arkham Asylum. I hate stupid, gimmicky crap like that. We're not children
10. Don't forget to reward players. Every stage should end with a cool cutscene, a new weapon, new ability, anything. Just give players incentive to keep playing your game
11. Repetition is the mark of lazy design. Find a way to change things up regularly
12. Boss fights! The old end of stage boss fight mode of design is boring. I want mid level or surprise boss encounters. I loved that in The Red Star
13. Regular checkpoints - God the number of games that don't do this is ridiculous. And make checkpoints or save points blend into the environment you lazy,uncreative designers, like Ico did
14. Please hide load screens. The are very obnoxious. If I'm transitioning to another part of the level I shouldn't have to see a now loading screen. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Castlevania:Symphony of the Night were very good about this. I don't know why people bitched about elevators in Mas Effect, which served the same purpose
15. I would love to see more games where the environment is constantly changing as you go through a stage. You walk out of a building and it blows up. Awesome!
16. With very few exceptions, escort missions and swimming levels suck. Put them in your game and I will shoot you

I could go on and on, but I've already made enough points


All very good points well said!! :D

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:28 am
by alienjesus
HellHammer wrote:I recently played through Super Mario World again after a few years. On the second level of the game, I realized that every aspect of that level is there to teach you something, without simply giving you written text explaining it.
It forces you to learn through playing how to control the game's mechanics, how to score combo points, how to deal with specific enemies, how to use Yoshi, how tree fruit is used, etc etc.

It was a very cool realization for me and has recently re-shaped how I feel about level design.


Most modern game designers could do with learning how to do this. It means I don't have to sit through a ridiculous tutorial everytime I play, and also allows me to feel more accomplished about figuring things out on my own. My biggest gripe with tutorials is the ridiculous amount that beging with "move the analogue stick to move forwards". I've never met anyone, not even a non-gamer, not even a 3 year old playing his first video game, who didnt know this, or wouldnt have figured it out in about 3 seconds. ¬_¬

Re: What constitutes good level design?

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:16 pm
by jeffro11
This is a no brainer. Quake 3.