Game Development Reference
7.2.6 Other Considerations
Player Starting Position
How often have you loaded a game level and had your character looking at
a wall or the ground? Can't remember? Never? There is a reason why. The
first thing players want to do when entering a game environment is to start
the game. If they are facing a strange unexpected direction they will have
little idea where to go next. It might be that they need only to turn around
to see the door they need to go through or the corridor they need to walk
down. But it is just a neater way of introducing the player to your level.
Flow in level design refers to the way in which players move from the
beginning of the level to their goal. It is the level designer's job to make the
environment flow as best he can to challenge players, keep them moving
toward their goal, and keep them engaged. Flow is mostly dictated by the
physical layout of the map as described in Section 7.2.5 .
Although in the end we all know the designer is herding the player down a
certain path, this need not be revealed to the player immediately. Providing
players with numerous paths to take allows them to make decisions in their
game play about the way they traverse the map. This creates an illusion of
freedom where there is none.
Game developers, Valve, and others use a variety of methods to control the
flow through the game. In some areas you will want the player to run, in
others to walk. Breaking the map into narrow areas that make the player feel
confined, thus increasing tension in the game play, creates narrow flow .
Side rooms are another common technique in 3D environments. They give
the map extra areas of interest but are dead ends. The player's reward for
exploring these areas is by way of extra weapons, power-ups, and other
useful items. Side paths without reward don't encourage the player to
explore, and thus the exercise of creating these areas in the map becomes
pointless and just extra work for the artists.
Blocking the exit of a dead end after the player has entered is another way
to create tension and panic. You could use this partway through a map or
at the goal location. It should be obvious that if you do trap a player in part
of the level he is able to get out. Most seasoned players would expect that
if they become trapped it is the end of the level, they have some puzzle to
solve, or very soon they will die or be rescued.
Use the 3D Dimension
Three-dimensional environments have height as well as depth and width.
A map with various height levels allows for the player to get from one
place to another via alternate routes. In addition, if players can see that