Level Design Challenge: 2 Days, 2 Levels

Last week, my Level Design class was assigned to build two levels, which should be connected somehow, whether it be through story or anything else. I’ve decided to make this assignment into a challenge, limiting myself to build two levels in only two days, as a test to see how much I can accomplish in a limited time frame, something that I should learn to expect in the industry.

This post will detail the process I used to create my two levels in two days, including sketches, screenshots, and videos.


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Update!

It’s been a while since I last posted, so here’s a quick update on what’s going on. This semester so far has been really hectic, and I had a lot of work piled on me for the past few weeks. To add to the stress, my laptop died! I had about three posts prepared to continue the “Step-by-Step” series on one of the levels I was building, but unfortunately, I lost all of that information, including write-ups and screen-shots.

But I am back! This is just a quick update to let anyone reading know what’s happening. Check back soon for more posts, including a new level design challenge and more!

Tips & Tricks: Finding Inspiration for Levels

I just got my first electronic level assignment for this semester, and I’m pretty excited. I’m using UDK and have about a week to complete the assignment. It’s a fairly simple level without many requirements, and the main goal is to practice designing a level with a critical path. So for this particular level, I will be going through the steps in which I design and build the level. This post is focused primarily on finding inspiration to design a level. Check back for more posts on the next steps during the rest of the week!


Design can be a tricky process; after all, we are only human and are not constantly flowing with great ideas. Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, we need a little help from the outside world. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so don’t be afraid to get out there and find it. Or if you don’t feel like hitting the streets, stay inside and grab a laptop. The internet is full of inspiration, and there are even web sites devoted to help you find it. Now I am personally on a sort of creative block at the moment, so inspiration is definitely something I am looking for, especially since designing a level is different than other forms of art or entertainment and thus requires a bit more work to capture that elusive muse.


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My Horror Game: The Setting

For the past four months or so, I’ve been on a sort of creative block for my horror game. I knew I wanted to make a horror game, but that was about it. Back in April, I started evaluating typical horror story settings, and although I originally decided to go with a dark apartment for my horror game’s setting, I have now thought of a much better idea. Horror stories, especially games, always take place in a dark location, usually secluded from the rest of the world with very few people or means of escape, but why? Real life horror stories don’t always take place in the middle of nowhere, but rather in familiar places, where we would least expect it. Since I am a horror fiction writer, I fully understand the idea of isolating the reader or audience and drawing on some their greatest fears, which include the dark, being alone, death, etc., but I think it’s time for something new.


So after careful consideration, I have decided that my upcoming horror game will not take place in the middle of nowhere, but in a resort hotel in a tropical getaway. The game will take place in the hotel and its surrounding area, including parts of the city, the beach, etc. This will require further research in order to completely form an image of the environment, but I have a vague idea of what I want. I have yet to decide on a time period, and at this point, I’m thinking something very modern. Despite the time period, the location of the tropical getaway will not be a real destination, but rather a culmination of all those tropical places we dream of going to on rainy days in the city. After all, I wouldn’t want to scare people away from the Bahamas or anything.

Now, a tropical getaway is most certainly not somewhere you would go and expect to be scared out of your pants, and that’s exactly why I chose it as my setting. In my personal experience, some of the most frightening things have happened to me in places that I would not expect it, such as my bathroom, bedroom, and backyard. A vacation resort is a place where we usually go to escape reality, which is the reason for the characters’ stay, but in this case, I plan on having a little mystery and, of course, a lot of terrifying events. The story is very vague at this time, but the setting is becoming clear in my mind. Check back in the next week or so for some concept art and research photos/inspiration!

7 Steps to Designing a Game

I am currently working on designing a horror game, and, seeing as how my dream is to make the next generation of horror games, I decided to take the design process extremely seriously before beginning work on a prototype of any sort. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on storytelling, design, mechanics, flow, character development, etc., and decided to break down the design process into 7 essential steps.


Pralie’s 7 Steps to Designing a Game

Step 1: Create the Setting
Step 2: Create the Characters
Step 3: Create the Problem
Step 4: Create the Solution
Step 5: Create the Gameplay Mechanics
Step 6: Create the Story Arc
Step 7: Put It All Together


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Prehysteria

Prehysteria was designed as a final project for a “Game Concept Design” class I took my first semester at UAT. It was written as a 35-page game doc.


WHAT I LEARNED

Prehysteria was the first full-length game doc I wrote.  It took a lot of work considering I’ve never written a game doc before, but I managed to get 35 pages and I’m really proud of it. Obviously, it’s nothing I really plan to make into an actual game, but it was a fun project that combined two of my interests: dinosaurs and video games. I wanted to do something new with this game, and I think I achieved that with the idea of playing an RPG with characters that are not human-like in appearance. This same new concept, however, could be the major flaw of the game; since the characters are not human-like, it could make it difficult for players to connect with their characters, rendering them uninterested. The game also combines several different genres into an RPG, which I think could be done effectively in other RPG’s to produce a more unique and intriguing experience.
Overall, Prehysteria was a stepping stone for future projects, and has given me some good insight on incorporating other genres’ elements into a different genre.


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Mission: Design an Arcade Game

My first semester at UAT, I took a class entitled “The Evolution of Electronic Games,” which was essentially a history class on video games. While most of the classwork involved reading and quizzes to test our knowledge of the text book, we did have one project which caught my interest. The assignment was to design an arcade game that would be probable during the Golden Age of Arcades. Below is my concept, along with some art of what the game may have looked like.


WHAT I LEARNED

This was really the first game that I actually wrote any kind of valid documentation for, so that was interesting for me. The original template the professor provided was a lot shorter than my finished product, as I did a lot of research on how game docs were written to make a clearer description of what I wanted for the game. I had a lot of fun writing up this concept because, well, I’m an arcade junkie; I can’t get enough of those old school games. I found myself researching the hardware for arcades of the time, and although the designs of arcades then were typically extremely simple, I wanted to make things a bit more complicated, while still keeping that “old school” feel.
Overall, I feel that this concept was a success. I accomplished the goal I set out to, and managed to make the design my own. I really loved this idea, and I may revisit it when I learn Adobe Flash in the future.


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Welcome!

Welcome to my experimental blog detailing the process of my game and level design. I will be posting a lot of sketches and ideas, and this will mostly be a place for my random thoughts for possible future projects. As I work on different levels or games, I’ll post various details, videos, and images regarding them. Feel free to comment and critique anything I post!


ABOUT ME

My name is Pralie Dutzel, and I am currently attending the University of Advancing Technology with a major in Game Design and a focus on level design. I enjoy all kinds of video games, so my designs are typically widespread in genre. I do my own concept art for any characters, enemies, weapons, locations, and levels that I design, as well as document most of my work. I’m still fairly new to all of this, but I love learning new things, so I hope that this blog will show my progression through my college career.