Level design! It’s hard! It’s not unlike a lot of the processes and tasks involved in the collaborative, complicated craft of gamemaking. Level design requires hard work, and creative problem-solving. But perhaps above all else you need iteration. 

Iteration is a process of refinement. Once you have a great core, people might refer to this as polish, but I’m talking earlier in the process. Polish is when you’re marinating your meat, iteration is when you’re still adding meat to bones, or even rearranging the bones themselves.

Here’s an initial design for Talent Town’s exterior. From an earlier sketch + level design, we had decided to with a more grid-like city. I dove into Unity’s 2D Tilemap system and brought this together. All concrete sections are where buildings would be situated. Grass sections would have plants, or decorations like fountains or playgrounds.

preliminary level designs

After working on this level design for a while, I sent it around and got feedback on it. Below was the first round of feedback. We discussed cementing the “grid-like” nature of it, and really leaning into that to increase the urban feel. I was also told that my design was too big, which was also correct. It’s hard to keep the exact scale of the player in mind when handling these tools, but that’s also important. Just another benefit to getting more eyes on your work!

preliminary level designs

I agreed with the idea, and liked the design, but worried that very long straightaways like the ones pictured above would lead to a more boring experience for the player. Navigating a space is important, and I don’t want them to just be holding a button in one direction for the duration. It was a slight update, but I took this new sketch and sketched my own.

preliminary level designs

We were going to cut it down significantly horizontally rather than vertically and use that extra vertical space to offset each city block, as if they’re bricks in a wall. This solves the straightaway problem as well as addressing the many issues with the initial design. Since we agreed on this, I further iterated, adding more detail to my sketch before jumping back into Unity.

preliminary level designs

Adding extra detail to the sketch, marking everything with a key, and the addition of the alleyway in the bottom right corner were all little things, closer to that polish we talked about earlier. This iterative process ensured that by the time I got back in engine, we were working on the best possible design.

And this is what that design is beginning to look like! You can tell that this iteration came from the initial design, some of those bones are still there. We’ve rearranged a few of them, and added a whole lot of meat. The only thing left to do is marinate it with midground assets, and a bit of polish. 

Please note: All of these images are low resolution as I’ve literally just taken screenshots from the Unity Editor. Monochrome will look a lot more HD than this, I promise. I hope everyone reading is in good health, and is happy. Peace.

If you liked what I had to say, check out my previous blog post[UNPOSTED] about how banality can increase connection and improve world building. Or follow my twitter, @virtualvolt, where I’ll probably sound a lot less coherent than I do here.

Valiant without villiany / Viciously file victory
Burn towns and villages / Burning, looting and pillaging

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