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Architectural Approach to Level Design
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Table of Contents

Foreword
Brian Upton

1. A Brief History of Architecture and Level Design
BREAKING THE RULES OF LEVEL DESIGN
AN EXPERIENTIAL HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE
Elements of Architecture and Level Design
Functional Requirements
Usability
Delight
The Beginnings of Architectural Sight Lines
Architecture as Representation in Ancient Mesopotamia
Architecture as Statement in Ancient Egypt
Spatial and Symbolic Relationships in Greek Architecture
Indian, Southeast Asian, and Asian Representational Architecture
Linear Experiences in Roman Architecture
Medieval Christian and Islamic Symbolic Architecture
The Renaissance Return to Human-Centered Architecture
Ornamental Reformations and Material Revolutions
THE HISTORY OF GAMESPACES
Board Design for Early Games
Physical Gamespaces and Architecture
Digital Gamespaces
WAYS OF SEEING FOR LEVEL DESIGN
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Industry Perspectives
Reflections on Game Landscapes - Dr. Umran Ali

2. Drawing for Level Designers
LEVEL DESIGN GOALS
Adjustment Player Behavior
Transmitting Meaning
Augmentation of Space
NON-DIGITAL LEVEL DESIGN TECHNIQUES
Basic Drawing Techniques
How to Draw a Line
Contours and Line Weights
Drawing with References
Shading
Hierarchical Drawing
Types of Architectural Drawings
Plan
Section
Elevation
Axonometric
Perspective
Sketching and Journal Writing
Designing on Paper
Notation Methods for Level Design
Proximity Diagrams
Concept Diagrams
Game Mapping
Flow Charts
Mark Brown's Boss Key Diagrams
DIGITAL LEVEL DESIGN TOOLS
CAD Programs
Digital Art Programs
Engine Primitives and Placeholder Art
D Modeling Programs
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Industry Perspectives
Tools and Design - Robin-Yann Storm

3. Level Design Workflows
FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
Form Follows Core Mechanics
Level Progression with Scaffolding Mechanisms
LEVEL DESIGN WORKFLOWS
Level Design Parti
"Scenes" and Readability
Non-Digtal Prototypes
Digital Prototypes with Grayboxing
Pacing Your Levels with the Nintendo Power Method
Iterative Design with Playtesting
Modular Level Design
LEVEL DESIGN SCHEDULING
The Toy Box
Building from the Middle
Building in Order
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES

4. Basic Gamespaces
ARCHITECTURAL SPATIAL ARRANGEMENTS
Figure-Ground
Form-Void
Arrivals
Genius Loci
HISTORIC GAMESPACE STRUCTURES
Labyrinth
Maze
Rhizome
SPATIAL SIZE TYPES
Narrow Space
Intimate Space
Prospect Space
MOLECULE LEVEL SPACES
The Basics of Molecule Design
Spatial Types as Molecule Nodes and Edges
HUB SPACES
SANDBOX GAMESPACES
Pathfinding with Architectural Weenies
Organizing the Sandbox: Kevin Lynch's Image of the City
Landmarks
Paths
Nodes
Edges
Districts
WORKING WITH CAMERA VIEWS
D Views
First Person
Third Person
D Views
Side-Scrolling Space
Top-Down Space
Axonometric/Isometric Views
ENEMIES AS ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Industry Perspectives
alt ctrl level design - Jerry Belich


5. Communicating through Environment Art
TEACHING THEORIES FOR GAME LEVELS
Behavior Theory and Operant Conditioning
Montessori Method
Constructivism
SYMBOLS AND VISUAL DESIGN IN GAMES
Implementing Symbols in Games
Teaching with Symbols in Games
Introducing Symbols
Symbols as Guides
Designing and Placing Symbols for Effective Communication
Basic Color Theory
Contrast
Framing
Rule of Thirds
ARCHITECTURAL FORMS AND TYPES
CONTROLLING INFORMATION IN MEMORY PALACES
Certainty
Uncertainty
Risk
Putting it All Together in a Memory Palace
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Interview: Greg Grimsby


6. Building Exciting Levels with Dangerous Architecture
SURVIVAL INSTINCTS AND GAME COMPLEXITY
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
"Bad Spaces": Vulnerability as a Game Mechanic
Vulnerability as a Game Structure
Vulnerability in Individual Game Challenges
PROSPECT AND REFUGE SPATIAL DESIGN
Creating Paths with Refuges, Prospects, and Secondary Refuges
Prospects and Refuges in Architecture
Prospects and Refuges in Video Games
SHADE, SHADOW, AND SURVIVAL
Shade
Shadow
Negative Space
LOVING AND HATING HEIGHT
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
A Common Language for Level Design - Camden Bayer


7. Rewards in Gamespaces
THE PURPOSE OF REWARDS
Incentivizing In-Game Behaviors
Enticing Exploration
Creating a Sense of Curiosity
THE TYPES OF REWARDS IN GAMESPACES
Reward Vaults
Rewarding Vistas
Meditative Space
Narrative Stages
MAKING REWARDS EXCITING THROUGH DENIAL
Zen Views
Frank Lloyd Wright's Hanna House
Religious Structures and Eastern Garden Design
Layered Walls
Oku
GOALS AND REWARD SCHEDULES
Long- and Short-Term Goals
The Rod of Many Parts
Reward Schedules
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES


8. Level -: The Tutorial Level
THE MANY FUNCTIONS OF FIRST LEVELS
Architectural Arrivals
Interactive Arrivals
BUILDING BLOCKS FOR TUTORIAL DESIGN
Spatial Building Blocks
Scenes
Portals and Thresholds
Controlled Approaches
Meeting Spaces
Behavioral Building Blocks
Rewards in Tutorials
Access as a First Level Reward
Montessori Building Blocks
Constructivist Building Blocks
Proximity of Checkpoints
DETERMINING PLAYER NEEDS
PLAYTESTING IN-GAME TEACHING
A Literature Game for those who Have Not Read the Book
Teaching Molecular Immunology in Only Four Levels
Developing Concepts into Challenges in a Math Game
Puzzles as Problems, Levels as Lessons
step tutorial design
TUTORIAL ASSETS AND MEDIA
Effective Visual Elements
Audio Elements
TEACHING GAMEPLAY THROUGH ADVERTISING METHOD
Demonstrative Advertising with Scripted Events and Triggers
Illustrative Advertising through Environmental Narrative
Associative Advertising as Deconstruction
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Case Study: Immune Defense - Melanie Stegman


9. Storytelling in Gamespaces
EXPRESSIVE DESIGN
Narrative Design and Worldbuilding
Narrative Worldbuilding in Games
MECHANICS VS. MOTIF
Narrative as a Generator of Design
Mechanics vs. Story Narrative
Mechanics vs. Gameplay Narrative
NARRATIVE SPACES
Evocative Spaces
Staging Spaces
Embedded Spaces
Resource-Providing Spaces
ENVIRONMENT ART STORYTELLING
Storytelling with Modular Assets
Environment Art and Cinematography
MATERIALITY AND THE HERO'S JOURNEY
PACING AND NARRATIVE REWARDS
The Dramatic Arc as a Pacing Tool
Rewarding Exploration with Embedded Narrative
Rewarding Exploration with Optional Narrative and Easter Eggs
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Psychological Character Development in Halo Levels - Kelli Dunlap, PsyD.

10. Possibility Spaces and Worldbuilding
UNDERSTANDING IMMERSION AND PLAYER INDIVIDUALITY
The Immersive Fallacy
Player Personalities
ARCHITECTURAL PHENOMENOLOGY AND PLAY
EMERGENT SPACES
Emergence
Possibility Spaces
MINIATURE GARDEN AESTHETIC
Overviews
Overviews in Historic Games
Overviews in D
Tours
Possibility Space and Procedural Literacy
JAPANESE GARDEN DESIGN AND WORLDBUILDING
Points of View in Japanese Gardens
Scenic Effects
Sensory Effects
OFFERING EXPERIENTIAL CHOICE
Introducing Choice
Intelligible Choice
Shaping Choice, Risk, and Reward
"Metroidvania": worlds of rewards and possibility
DEGENERATIVE DESIGN
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES

11. Working with Procedurally Generated Levels
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE PCG
PATTERN LANGUAGES
Patterns in Game Design
Working with Patterns in Level Design
BLENDING HANDMADE DESIGN WITH PROCEDURAL GENERATION
Scenes as Patterns
Combining Handmade Design and PCG
Night of the Living Handmade/PCG Case Studies
PCG Alternative Architecture in Left Dead
Mixing Methodologies in Dead Man's Trail
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES
Interview: Chris Pruett

12. Influencing Social Interaction with Level Design
EMERGENCE AND SOCIAL INTERACTION
LEARNING FROM URBAN EMERGENCE
Modernism and Non-Emergent Cities
Jane Jacobs and Mixed-Use Emergent Neighborhoods
Integrating Urban Design into Multiplayer Gamespace
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPAWN POINTS AND QUEST HUBS
Shaping with Spawn Points
Shaping Player Interaction with Quest Hubs
Enticing Exploration with Side Quests
HOUSES, HOMES, AND HOMETOWNS IN GAMES
SUMMARY
CHAPTER
ENDNOTES

13. Sound, Music, and Rhythm in Level Design
THE ROLE OF RHYTHM IN GAMES AND BUILDINGS
Mood and Music
Rhythm and Interactive Sound
Rhythmic Entrainment in Games and Spaces
Varying Structural Rhythms
COMPLEMENTING LEVEL DESIGN WITH AMBIENT SOUND
D Sound
D Sound
ENHANCING GAMEPLAY EXPERIENCES WITH SOUND DESIGN
Sound as Gameplay Feedback
Sound as Reward
Sound as Narrative Indicators
SUMMARY
CHAPTER EXERCISES
ENDNOTES

CONCLUSION

About the Author

Chris Totten is Game Artist in Residence at American University. He has contributed to several independent game productions as an artist, animator, level designer, game designer, and project manager. Totten is also an active writer in the game industry, with articles featured on VideoGameWriters.com, GameCareerGuide, and Gamasutra. He has also published a book entitled Game Character Creation with Blender and Unity. Totten's writings on interdisciplinary approaches to game design have earned him guest speaking appearances at GDC China, Dakota State University's Workshop on Integrated Design in Games, and East Coast Game Conference.

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