GAME LEVEL DESIGN
ON GAME LEVEL DESIGN
28 FEB 2024 – 22 APR 2024
MONDAYS & WEDNESDAYS
6 PM PST / 9 PM EST
Learn directly from the level designer behind the legendary World of Warcraft, Diablo IV, Ratchet & Clank, Elders Scrolls Online, Blood Omen 2, and Whiplash, Paul Cazarez. He’ll take his 22+ years of experience to reveal the hidden techniques within level design.
THIS COURSE IS FOR YOU, IF...
YOU ARE A JUNIOR/MIDDLE GAME DESIGNER OR A GAME ARTIST
For new or entry-level junior game designers out there: Prototype with precision in Unreal Engine to become a performance optimization pro. Perfect your teamwork, asset management, and performance-tracking abilities to boost your career to the next level.
YOU ARE A GAME INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL
Change your focus to level design seamlessly. Navigate Unreal Engine's capabilities, create emotionally resonant experiences, and hone your collaborative skills to excel in this dynamic field.
YOU ARE A CAREER SWITCHER WITH EXPERIENCE IN UNREAL/UNITY
Embark on an entirely new journey to master level layout, 3D space, multiplayer design, and so much more. Experience the fusion of creativity and technicality & pave the way to a rewarding career in the gaming industry.
Learn the cheat codes to go from noob to pro in level design.
Turn your passion into a profession. As a game level designer, you'll be an essential asset to studios of the booming $321 billion industry, engaging players and guiding them toward their goals.
Our course is almost like a multiplayer role-playing game itself.
Interact with other “players” – collaborate with peers and expert instructor LIVE online through Discord and Miro. All while gaining hands-on experience and the skills needed to get a job in level design.
CAZAREZ LINKEDIN PROFILE
- Dungeon Designer and Game Designer, ex-Blizzard Entertainment
- Over 20 years of experience in crafting immersive games
- Contributed to iconic titles like World of Warcraft and Diablo 4 in Blizzard
- Led level design for Gala Games' groundbreaking Mirandus Project
- Shaped the fantasy worlds of Elder Scrolls Online & Ratchet and Clank
- Instructor Introduction
- Course Objectives & Flow
- Q & A
Let’s talk about level design! Unpack the relationships between level designers, engineers, directors, character artists, and other collaborators. Then dive into the different styles of LD to explore your career opportunities.
- Level design 101
- The game development process
- Role & responsibilities
Take a bird’s-eye view of your games by analyzing the macrostructure, engagement, and level flow. As you plunge into core principles, you’ll practice giving and receiving feedback to make needed adjustments.
- Adventure vs. combat
- Conscious vs. unconscious design
- Iterative design & feedback
Assignment #1: Level Principles
Write a short brief on several of the core principles presented.
Delve deep into the world of game level design from foundational principles to advanced techniques. Learn how to craft visually appealing and functional game levels, taking into consideration the game engine, player perspective, and aesthetics. Apply feedback to refine your design skills, making them even more robust for future projects.
- Introduction to game level layout
- Implementing gameplay elements
- Visual aesthetics in level design
- Workshop 1: Level Design Critique
Assignment #2: Level Feedback and Analysis
Learn to give clear and concise feedback and understand how to analyze portions of a level to improve or change.
It’s time to sketch! Discover tools and techniques, and explore ways to effectively communicate game mechanics and player pathways. Gain insights into player access in different game contexts and use real-world references for quick design inspiration.
- Sketching tools & techniques
- Game mechanics & player pathways
- Level access
- Real-world references
- Demo: From Concept to Sketch
Assignment #3: Level Sketch
Sketch out a paper map level for a game.
Explore the vital transition from sketching to prototyping in level design. Understand the importance of flexibility in the creative process and learn techniques for rapid prototyping. Keep ideas simple, gather feedback, and iterate to create polished-level prototypes.
- Sketching → prototyping
- Prototyping techniques
- Gather & implement feedback
- Demo: Sketch to Prototype in Unreal Engine
Assignment #4: Level Prototype in Unreal Engine
Utilizing the paper map as a reference, prototype the level in 3D to see the level in blockout form.
Enter the world of environmental storytelling. Learn to create powerful visual storytelling elements, from the initial shot to intricate details, and utilize color, light, and shapes to convey compelling narratives. Also, add to the story’s depth by crafting environmental assets.
- Environmental storytelling: techniques & tools
- Visual cues as narrative elements
- Designing environmental assets
- Environmental clues & player guidance
- Workshop 2: Storytelling through Level Design
Assignment #5: Environmental Clues
Add environmental clues to the level prototype to bring storytelling moments to the environment.
Tension, stress manipulation, pacing, and other techniques can give players joy or cause them to throw their controllers at the TV. It’s time to leverage player psychology to create gameplay mechanics that elicit a range of emotions for each desired level.
- Grasping player psychology
- Creating emotional experiences
- Balancing emotional narrative and gameplay mechanics
- Workshop 3: Balancing Emotion and Mechanics
Assignment #6: Eliciting an Emotion
Design another level for your game, aiming to evoke a specific emotion by sketching out a level that incorporates elements from a different genre or mechanics that diverge from the original level's vision.
There are loads of genres: open world, MMO, action-adventure, platformer, first & third-person, etc. Today you’ll learn how to approach genres in level design and adapt existing ideas to these various genres.
- How genre influences level design
- Adapting to various game genres
- Case studies of successful level design representing a genre
- Workshop 4: Genre Swap
Explore the fundamentals in crafting engaging multiplayer levels. You’ll gain insights into spawn point placement, environmental hazards, balance, cover strategies, engagement distances, and player power-up positioning. With each genre, you’ll explore the relative considerations and player experience.
- Designing multiplayer levels
- Spawn points’ effects on gameplay & balance
- Incorporating environmental hazards & interactive elements
- Balancing in multiplayer level design
- Workshop 5: Designing a Multiplayer Level
Investigate the intricate elements of game design as they intersect with 3D spaces. In this class, we’ll discuss game systems, their synergy with spatial design, and tactics for creating diverse and engaging levels while preventing overemphasis on any one system.
- Definition and examples of game systems
- 3D space vs. game systems
- Strategies for novel and engaging levels
- Recognizing factors to avoid player fatigue
Assignment #7: Vertical Spaces
Create a new level for your game including vertical spaces (multiple floors, platforms, or areas where the player can fall or climb) and opportunities for different levels of gameplay.
Craft levels with dynamic vertical spaces to offer varied gameplay experiences and familiarize yourself with various scripting languages.
- Commonly used scripting languages
- Blueprint visual scripting
- Writing, testing, and debugging simple scripts
- Demo: Blueprint Scripting in Unreal Engine
Uncover the power of events, triggers, and scripting in level design. Students will learn to script game events, design interactive environments, and grasp how scripting influences game performance through case studies.
- Creating scripts to trigger game events
- Forming interactive or destructible environments
- How scripting impacts game performance
- Case studies of event-driven and interactive scripting in Level Design
Connect the dots between levels with logic. Develop a deep understanding of how individual levels fit within the broader game design context, maintaining cohesion across levels, and optimizing player progression and narrative continuity.
- Understanding cohesion in level design
- Designing for player progression
- Narrative continuity across levels
- Workshop 6: Applying Narrative Continuity
Assignment #8: Narrative Continuity
Create a flow of narrative and player progression through a set of three levels.
Optimize game levels for top performance! This includes understanding key performance metrics, employing efficient asset usage, and applying techniques for lean and efficient level design. Your players will thank you later.
- Performance optimization in Unreal Engine
- Key performance metrics
- Using game assets to reduce memory usage
- Tips for efficient level design
Teamwork makes the dream work when we’re on the same page. Gain insights into the dynamics of teamwork in a level design context. Learn to collaborate with project teammates, manage design documentation, provide constructive critiques, and perform as a team.
- Team dynamics in level design
- Sharing and managing design documentation and assets
- Best practices for giving and receiving constructive feedback
- The art of collaboration between level designers & other disciplines
New career level unlocked! It’s time to put your skills to the test and tackle the next boss – your future employer. Paul will walk you through the most common interview questions and you’ll learn how to position yourself as an expert. Take this time to learn how to flaunt your skills and projects.
- Identifying potential career opportunities
- Tips and best practices
- The interview processes & FAQ for level design roles
Assignment #9: Course Project
Showcase and present your levels!
What our students say
"The group activities, they allow us to interact and exchange ideas, plus the way it is structured is challenging and mind twisting as we collaborate in different parts of the ideation."
"Overall I'm impressed with the level of detail and explanation around particular topics and subjects. There's a real depth to each module which for learning allows the information to stay in your brain."
"I really enjoy the format of the course. Lectures with real life examples and an ongoing case study. Also built in 20 minutes at the end of each class for questions is helpful."
"I enjoyed the structure of the class. I like how we learned about a topic and practiced it in the workshops. It’s helped me to apply what I learned!"