You may own a perfect restaurant which offers the best food in town. If you do not have good design, no one is going to visit your restaurant. Providing the whole experience is essential in that business. Tasty food and good design should be perfect together. To apply this example to video games, imagine that character, story, and the gameplay is food. And the restaurant is the game level design. Video games are like restaurants. You need to create the whole product having each part perfect. Therefore, the plan is an essential part while creating a video game. Without ideal design, you will not be able to attract gamers. 

Some books, movies, and games are better than others. The main reason lies heavily on the concept of the suspension of disbelief. The idea is about making the audience to believe something non-fictional or outside of ordinary. If you want people to keep engaged, you need to make them feel the world you have created. In other words, you need to create the Inception movie impact. Characters in that movie could not differentiate whether they are in a dream or reality. Having poor game development level design could pull your gamers out of the fiction and can decrease the gaming experience. 

Another critical point in gaming experience is about the level of complexion. If you offer dull and manageable standards, it will decrease the fun. On the other hand, creating a frustrating level will destroy the user experience. To avoid these cases, you need to control the pacing of the scale. But how will you manage that? First of all, creating different challenges for players will do the job. It means that you should control the difficulty of levels. For example, adding several numbers of enemies is one of the ways. If you have a game that contains puzzles, you can increase the complexity level. 

Understanding your limitations

The first step in the new game level design is to realize your limits. You could have different kinds of constraints while designing your game. A visible limit could be the platform. For what platform are you creating the game? Each platform requires a different level of game design. Are you considering the level length while designing your game? It is another crucial point you need to think about. Because mobile gamers spend shorter time per level than console gamers, based on it, you could design shorter level length for portable players. 

At the same time, you need to think about your target audience. Does your audience place any constraints on you? What is the age group of your target audience? What are their interests? Are you creating a mobile game for science lovers or fantasy lovers? These are essential questions that you should ask. Because your audience will affect the game development level design and tone of the game, if you plan to target a younger age group, then your game level design should contain bright colors.

On the other hand, adult gamers might like grin shading. Therefore, before starting your game level design, you should have a clear image of your target customers. And during the design phase, bring your players into focus.

Level Design Tools

game level design

In that stage, you need to decide what should happen in the level from a story. And how can we use design to achieve that? It could be introducing a new kind of weapon or a new enemy. Maybe you could add new character power or ability. These are all examples of game level design tools. You can use them effectively to challenge the players and keep them engaged. Next, consider the character itself. How fast should it be? How will it jump? What about the enemies of the main character? Did you think about what they will look like? These are all design choices that create your game. Think carefully about them beforehand. 

Building phase

Once you know all the details of what your game will look like, you can switch to the next level. Until now, you should have the overall vision of the game. Keep that vision in your mind while jumping to the next step. Now think about the environment. Where will the game happen? In the caves? Or in the jungle? Or maybe in the old town? You could use the paper to draw your idea. It will be cheaper and faster to reflect your image. We could advice one helpful technique for you. It is about dividing the level into different sections. It will look like an outline of the game. Just describe the game levels with numbers to see the progression. You can draw arrows to describe the character movement between sections of a degree. After completing the articles, you can add more details. 

You could imagine the step mentioned above as a first draft. Take this rough draft and add more to it. You can illustrate the size of all objects in the sections. If you add more details in this stage, it will be easier for you later with the editing tools. In the end, test the level. You need to check it like you did not design it. Try to think like your audience. You will see whether it needs some work or not. Make changes until you believe that it is excellent. 

What makes a good game level design?

Creating a level is not just about building an environment and designing a layout. A good game development level design should increase the gaming experience. You should develop a level that has a character, story and has a purpose in the game. And at the same time, game level design should be fun to play for gamers. While designing the level, you need to follow several steps. The first step is understanding constraints. We will introduce several characteristic limitations you could face while creating a game level. The second step is about brainstorming and structure. In that step, you will decide what goes into the game level. 

Next, we will introduce you to Bubble Diagrams. These Diagrams are a visual method that will help you to decide what to put into each part of your level. Then comes the next step, which is about Rough Maps. In that step, you will create each Bubble from a Bubble Diagram. It will help you to decide what goes into each part of the level. As the last step, you will work on the final finishing spaces. 

More about constraints

Each game level design starts with understanding constraints. We could say that it is the hardest part of the process as you will decide what will be in the level. As a designer, you will have a massive role in that step. But if you are on the game development team, you will not decide on everything. While working on a large group, probably each constraint will come from different members. You will have different kinds of obstacles, including franchise constraints, legal constraints, business constraints, audience constraints, and so forth. Most of the time, these constraints will come from different people in the team. If you are not a member of any group, you will need to make all decisions about the restrictions. Therefore, you need to understand those constraints very well. 

There are general limitations you need to think of while designing your level. These general constraints apply most of the games. The first constraint should be about the duration of the scale. How long should this level take? If this is a low level, it should not be more than 30 minutes. Secondly, you need to decide how much time it will take to design that level. The next step depends on who is going to pay for the game. If there is someone who is paying, you need to consider their requirements as well. Generally, these requirements come from investors, marketing departments, or publishers. 

The game platform also imposes several limitations for the game. If you design video games for mobile users, it should not use much processing power. At the same time, mobile platforms games have duration restrictions. 

Who is your audience?

game level design

The next step will be about your target audience. The target audience will differ based on your game type. If your game is sci-fi and contains violence target audience will be M or 18+. In that case, you will aim gamers over the age of 18. 

If you are in a situation where someone pays for the game level design, then they want this game for a reason. If you could not manage to satisfy your clients, they will not pay you or your game development studio. Providing the best game development service for your clients is the most critical factor here. Therefore, you need to connect with them, ask your questions, as note their limitations as well. Otherwise, they will not hire your development studio again. And it will damage your reputation in the gaming industry. Your questions to the clients could vary based on the project. However, regardless of the type of game, there are several general questions that you should ask. The first one is about the client's limitation on the level of story, plot, and theme. Next, they should have metrics constraints. Therefore, it is advisable to ask about metrics constraints. And last but not least, which requirements does macro design require from that level? 

Metrics are about the game level design requirements you need to take into account while designing the level. It should include movement speed of the character, size of enemies, size of nature, jump heights, and so on. Before the development phase, you should have specific numbers about the metrics of the level. 

Macro design requirements

Before the development phase, you need to provide a short document that includes what goes on every level of the game. It will be your Macro game design. This paper will specify which enemies or puzzles will be at each level, how many enemies should be on each level, what awards character will gain, and so on. As you can see, the Macro document will provide further limitations of your level design. 

If we take the game level design with a player and enemies, there will be four Macro constraints about enemies. First, one will be ranged enemy, which does not move, stand still, and shoots. The second type of enemy will be melee. This enemy will move, run, and shoot the character using weapons. The third type of enemy will be swarmer, which close-range with a single hit point. And the last Macro limitation will be substantial. It is about a large enemy that takes many hits to kill and create lots of damage. 

Brainstorming

Once you are clear on all the restrictions, you can start brainstorming. It contains different ideas coming from various members of the game development team. For example, there could be someone saying you need many interiors, and the game should be an underground base. After you complete the brainstorming part, you can collect all the ideas and narrow them down to areas. To design video game levels, try to focus on different areas within the same level. It will make the process easier because you will break down the work into manageable chunks. Spaces here are the chunks that you have created. For example, you may let the player learn about enemies in isolation. If you want to work with areas quickly, we recommend you to create at least seven ones. During the process, you can add more if you need it. 

For each area, you can add some basic ideas or limitations. For example, in the first area, a helicopter landing pad. It is the start of the level, and there are no enemies. In the second area, there is a computer room. Players observe lots of enemies. In the third area, the player is in the tight corridor, and you will introduce the swarmer and melee enemies. It continues like that until the seventh area. After the completion of this stage of areas, you will work with Bubble Diagrams.   

Bubble Diagrams

bubble diagrams

Before finalizing the level design, it is better to look at the flow of your design. It will prevent you from making mistakes. Also, you will see lots of errors and make changes before moving to the next phase. One of the best ways to understand how areas work is Bubble Diagrams. It is a straightforward map with circles. The circle indicates the fields in your level design and arrows between them show the connection between these areas. From the brainstorming phase, you will get many parts of the level. The main idea of Bubble Diagram is to connect these parts and see how they relate to each other. 

Each designer tries a different approach to Bubble Diagrams, and it is okay. The only requirement in Bubble Diagrams is that it must be consistent and readable. One of the reasons for Bubble Diagram creation is to deliver your ideas. Therefore, keep it in your mind while creating the Diagram. 

Rough Maps

Once you create the Bubble Diagram, you will get each area connected. The next step is to create the first design for each Bubble in the Diagram. You can do it on paper or using an illustrator. Each designer uses different methodologies; therefore, whatever method makes the process easier for you is the best one. In this step, you will need to change several things. So the best practice is not to finalize anything in that step because it will make the job more comfortable when you try to connect areas. Also, do not pay attention to small details. A lot of things will change from the rough map until the design is ready. 

After designing each Bubble in the paper, you can put them together in Adobe Illustrator. But note that you can do this step in writing as well. Try to find a method that is convenient for you. When you finish that step, it will be the rough map of your level design. 

In the last step, you will finalize the design. You will connect all the areas in physical space. All the transitions, distances, heights should be ready in that stage. Different designers apply this step differently. For example, some of them finish the 2D map. But again, the best way is what makes you work faster, and creates the best product. In the end, note that everything we have discussed is all about the game level design phase. Once you start playing with the game, you will find many things you want to improve.