What is “Level Design”?

Level designers are what you could call “the sharp end of the content delivery spear”. Bringing together all the assets of graphics artists and programmers and combining them to create a cohesive exprerience.

Level design, Environment Design or game mapping is a discipline of game development involving creation of video game levels—locales, stages, or missions. This is commonly done using a level editor, a game development software designed for building levels; however, some games feature built-in level editing tools. Level design is both an artistic and technical process.

As a level designer your job consists of designing levels on paper or whatnot, then later in a game engine bring that idea to life. There are many game engines out there, and many studios even have their own custom in-house engine, but the most popular publicly available ones are:

ue4Unreal Engine: Newest iteration being UE4, this engine specializes in 3D games with high graphical fidelity. The Unreal franchise hosts a long list of games and a large community. Standard language is Blueprint (visual scripting) and C++.

Difficulty curve:  Average

Cost: Free + 5% of profit

 


 

Unity_LogoUnity: Unreal’s biggest contender, Unity is very flexible and used for both 3D and 2D, and hosts a large and friendly developer community. Standard language is C#

Difficulty curve:  Hard

Cost: Free or Pro 1500$ / 75$ monthly.

 


 

ce3Cryengine: Much like Unreal this one focuses on heavy 3D games. Famous engine from crysis series.

Difficulty curve:  Hard

Cost: 9.99$ Monthly subscribtion


 

icon-gamemakerstudioGamemaker: For a complete beginner this will most likely be your best bet. A popular 2D engine that is easy to wrap your head around. Standard language is GML.

Difficulty curve:  Easy

Cost: Studio = Free – Proffesional = 99.99$ – Master Collection = 799.99$

 


 

As a level designer, you will often find yourself having to script events aswell, and to that end it would be useful to learn a language. There are many types of scripting languages, for example, UE4 is using blueprint and C++. Then there’s Unity using C# and Gamemaker GML. Whatever you choose is up to you, but most share the the same logic so transitioning isn’t too hard once you get the hang of one of them.

 

Here is a list of resources useful for any kind of level designer:

–General goodies–

http://www.pixelprospector.com

http://www.worldofleveldesign.com/

–Engine specific–

https://www.unrealengine.com/

https://unity3d.com/

http://www.crytek.com/cryengine

http://www.yoyogames.com/studio

–Art resources–

http://opengameart.org/

What is “Game Art”?

A game artist is an artist who creates art for one or more types of games. Game artists are responsible for all of the aspects of game development that call for visual art. In modern video games, game artists create 2D art, such as, concept art, sprites, textures and environment backdrops; and 3D art, such as, models, animations and level layout.

There are many types of game graphics, and many ways to display them. The most popular ones today though is sprite-based 2D, 2.5D, and mesh-based 3D graphics. All three types benefit heavily from an artistic background, albeit constructing for 3D is much more technical, and rely less on traditional drawing skills. (but no employer would look negatively on such background)


2D sprite based graphics:

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2D sprite-based graphics are the simplest – a sprite is simply a sheet at which you draw something on, and then place on a layered grid (higher numbered layers are displayed in front of the others) such as above, wherein the background would be layer 0, cliffs and foliage layer 1, and lastly humanoids and player character layer 2. This is to prevent the sprites from overlapping and creating a conflict over which sprite to display. It also helps to fake a 3d perspective.

2D images can be made in any drawing application. Common programs are Photoshop, Gimp and Krita.

 


2.5D sprite based graphics:

Age-OF-Empires-II-HD-Edition

2.5D is a sprite-based style that tries to fake a 3D environment. This can be seen in for example Age of Empires 2, which in that case is called an isometric artstyle.

Just like the 2D artstyle, the sprite sheets are placed on a layered grid, and in this case the layer is often shifting for movable characters, to make it seem as if the – for example – player character is moving in 3d space. In 2.5D games the layer can be decided for each sheet depending on their y-coordinate. More often than not the sprite with the lowest y-coordinate will be displayed above the competing sprite. This makes it seem as if one sprite is in front of the other one in 3d space.

2.5D is drawn the same way any 2D image would have been (only difference is the type of rules used when drawing). Common programs are Photoshop, Gimp and Krita.


3D mesh-based graphics:

books

The big bad wolf of game graphics has to be 3D though. A big majority of AAA titles opt for this technique, and it is by far the most technical.

Meshes are usually created in programs such as 3DS Max, Maya or Blender, then unwrapped and textured, then imported into a game engine and given a collision box. After all that it is ready to be used by a level designer.

 

 

 

-Credit goes out to Jeremy Gooch, “Tiny Speck” and “Ensemble Studios” for images used in this post