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Designing Levels for Enhanced Player Experience Mental tools for game worlds designers Alessandro Canossa

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Presentation on theme: "Designing Levels for Enhanced Player Experience Mental tools for game worlds designers Alessandro Canossa"— Presentation transcript:

1 Designing Levels for Enhanced Player Experience Mental tools for game worlds designers Alessandro Canossa

2 Dangers of masturbative level design Games where designers have most of the fun Players feel ”on rails”, constricted, claustrophobic Failure of players to buy into game worlds, either trying to escape or submissively tagging along Players are used to a certain degree of freedom, even in linear games.

3 What is level design? “Level designers create experiences by providing spaces for players to act.” And yet... “Talking about level design is like dancing about architecture” (paraphrasing Elvis Costello)

4 Other formal approaches LeBlanc / Hunicke / Zubek Salen / Zimmerman Church Falstein / Barwood Cousins Crawford Koster Sutton-Smith Caillois Karse Huizinga Lindley

5 Objections There is no single type of game or gaming experience that appeals to all people The truth expressed in a formal language would only be valid for a particular audience in relation to a specific conjunction of terms The only people who could use a formal language to talk to each other would be the elite group who had invested sufficient time and money to learn the language Good for ”descriptive” (analysis) purposes, useless as ”prescriptive” (production) tool As artificial (and as useless) as Esperanto

6 Importance of a linguistic approach

7 Practical application In ”Pattern Language” Christopher Alexander defined a language to design forms and spaces according to given parameters. It spawned a whole new method for developing software.

8 What is a language “Language is defined as a vocabulary of elements and a set of rules used to combine them into meaningful propositions.” Susanne Langer, 1951 Dictionary and grammatical rules Syntagmatic and paradigmatic operations Denotative and connotative level

9 Linguistic level design approach “Level designers create experiences by providing spaces for players to act.” Spaces: Architecture, locations, story, sounds, light, textures... (Aesthetics) Actions: Ludo-types, events, game mechanics, possible interactions... (Ludology) Experiences: emot-emes, play-modes, play- personas (Phenomenology)

10 Player, action, space, experience

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18 Linguistic level design analysis

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20 A vintage year - introduction Aesthetic: Background story Spatial layout Ludic: Mission targets and goals Basic rules and tools Phenomenologic: A catalogue of possible experiences, moods, play-modes and play-personas fostered by the game.

21 A vintage year - introduction Aesthetic: Background story Spatial layout

22 A vintage year - introduction Ludic: Mission targets and goals Basic rules and tools

23 Aesthetical analysis Histograms (luminosity, color dominance) Symbolical reading Architectural deconstruction (macro and micro circulation patterns, landmarks) NPCs Sound, music

24 Aesthetical analysis: histograms

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26 Aesthetical analysis: symbology

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32 Aesthetical analysis: architecture Macro circulation patterns: accessing zones

33 Aestethical analysis: architecture OUTDOOR OPEN (A) From outdoor open to outdoor party – ”The Mingler”: A01- main door entrance in front A02- service door (and then left) at the right

34 Aestethical analysis: architecture OUTDOOR OPEN (A) From outdoor open to outdoor loading zone – ”Open Confrontation”: A03- through truck entrance on the left A04- through broken wall on the left (one way only) A05- through crashed truck and hole in the roof at the right (”wow” moment) (one way only) A06- through service door (and then straight over the boxes) at the right (one way only)

35 Aestethical analysis: architecture OUTDOOR OPEN (A) From outdoor open to hangar – ”Rising from the bowels of Earth”: A07- through path at the end of the cliff on the left

36 Aestethical analysis: architecture Micro circulation patterns: moving within a zone

37 Aestethical analysis: architecture Micro circulation patterns: moving within a zone

38 Aestethical analysis: architecture Micro circulation patterns: moving within a zone

39 Aestethical analysis: architecture Landmarks: Outdoor open: perimeter walls Outdoor party: cellar entrance Outdoor loading: mansion Wine cellar: barrels Drug lab: refining tank Hangar: waterplane Hacienda: dark wood, windows filtering light, balcony

40 Ludic analysis Summary of the ways Don Fernando Delgado can be killed

41 Ludic analysis Summary of the ways Manuel Delgado can be killed

42 Experiences: playing modes Navigation attitudes: BRAWN, physical prowess, climbing, making use of force, on-the-move BRAIN, observation skills, finding holes in the surveillance system, patterning behaviours, waiting ROLE PLAYING dressing up like other characters and acting HIDING/SNEAKING keeping the suit, walking in shadows (and closets)

43 Experiences: Emot-emes 14 different theorists consolidated: Acceptance Anger (x7) Anticipation Aversion, Anxiety (x2) Contempt (x2) Courage Dejection Desire (x2), Despair Disgust (x6) Distress (x2) Elation Expectancy Fear (x9) Grief Guilt Happiness (x3) Hate Hope Interest (x3) Joy (x5) Love (x3) Pain Panic Pleasure Rage (x4) Sadness (x5) Shame (x2) Sorrow Subjection, Surprise (x5) Tender-emotion Terror Wonder (x2) Source

44 Experiences: play personas SILENT ASSASSIN The player hasn’t kill anyone other than the targets, and remembered the suit. For maximum cleanliness, all targets should die by "accident“. When using the bomb, it must be remembered that those killed by its blast radius will count as kills, rather than accidents. BUTCHER SNIPER DIRTY HARRY PARTY ANIMAL SHADOW UNABOMBER IN-AND-OUT SAM FISHER AESTHETE

45 Good old Flow and EmSense (tm) application

46 Reversing the approach and weaving playing personas

47 Conclusions Linguistic tools (looking glasses, dictionaries): Aesthetic (space) Ludic (action) Phenomenologic (experience) A priory: Implemented early on these mental tools can be used to proficiently plan, orchestrate and map out player experience in the level. A posteriori: Analysis to compare goals set by the designers with the actual experiences that players are having (bio-feedback)

48 Questions? Alessandro Canossa


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