Gamespace and architecture: \"golf holes in playgrounds\"

Alex Wiltshire's take on gamespaces in ICON is very interesting. Here are some excerpts (I put some emphasis on parts I found relevant):

The aim of every gamespace is to provide for and enhance gameplay with engaging and believable environments. The design must take into account how players will use, interact with and move through the space, and how they will approach and depart from it. A successful design will subtly control the player's behaviour and evoke emotion, using an array of devices, such as architecture, lighting and camera work.It will also suspend the player's disbelief by providing a consistent set of physical and behavioural rules that govern the way the game environment and its inhabitants act. (...) Technology is a vital factor in creating believable environments, as it defines the level of possible detail in a gamespace. (...) More processing power also enables more visual effects.(...) But processing power is still profoundly limited. (...) Technology is by no means the only influence in the creation of a gamespace. Designers consider two other sets of choices when creating game environments: how to make a space that provides good gameplay, and how to present the gamespace aesthetically in order to create atmosphere and a sense of place. (...) esigners consider where the start point, or tee, in a level is. They must think about all the things that the player can see from that point, decide on the view distance and which hazards to show and which to hide. The goal of the level should either be shown or hinted at, with the mechanics - or, to continue the analogy, the golf clubs - to achieve the goal made clear. (...) A basic way of creating a sense of movement is with types of walls: long, linear walls encourage movement along them; tall, thin walls suggest movement up them; concave structures invite players inside; and convex structures encourage them to move around the building. Rhythm can be achieved with the repetition of certain structures, such as bulkheads along the length of a corridor on a space ship, which move or nudge the player forward with confidence and security. Tension can then be introduced with a sudden break in the pattern, like a collapsed strut in the corridor, that makes the pattern unpredictable. The designer can thus direct the player's mood and movement. A problem with creating richly detailed environments in games is a resulting loss of legibility, which leads to players not noticing elements that are meant to prompt specific behaviour, such as a certain action that must be performed or the direction for progression. (...) Viktor Antonov. "Our art department uses basic design principles close to those of photography, such as contrast, silhouette, grouping elements together in larger masses, the use of perspective to draw attention and define a focal point and the use of colour to suggest depth and to play with moods. Sometimes we want to overwhelm the player's senses with a large amount of visual noise, and at other times offer a moment of rest with a low-contrast area." (...) he lack of such a narrative in multiplayer first-person shooter games, like Quake 3 Arena (1999) and Unreal Tournament (1999), means that the principles of design behind these gamespaces are entirely different. Levels are designed to enable as much player-to-player interaction as possible. Each space in a level features multiple entry points so players can snipe, assault and escape, with the only limit to freedom being their skill. Important beneficial items are placed in certain areas to intensify action, and the most successful multiplayer levels are very simple in form, such as the classic Facing Worlds level for Unreal Tournament, which features two towers connected by two bridges that cross in the middle. The objective for the two teams is to capture their opponent's flag and return it to their own tower. Such simplicity means that the level is quickly understood by players, allowing them to formulate strategies easily. (...) Once planned, gamespaces must be given meaning and significance for the player - a sense of place and atmosphere - with a set of aesthetic choices. (...) When building an environment, our production team tries to create a sense of place with real history and depth.

Why do I blog this? I always have been interested by level design. It's closely related to my research topic (how people use spatial information to collaborate on something). And video-games provides very smart environment that engage player in various activities. There are strong connection with architecture and urban planning. It seems that some architects are now observing video games, trying to understand what could be useful for their purposes. For that matter, Steffen Walz's project is very relevant. It's about using game design method to enrich architecture methods.