Level design patterns

Persons interested in video game design, space and place issues and design patterms, you should have a look at what Simon Larsen wrote about level design patterns. The author aims at providing a "unified theory" about formal design tools for creating levels for multiplayer first-person shooters (FPS). To do so he relied on the now very classical work of Christopher Alexander et al. in the field of architecture in the book "A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series)". This approach has already been addressed by others (see for instance "Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series)" (Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides) or"Patterns in Game Design (Game Development Series) (Game Development Series)" (Staffan Bjork, Jussi Holopainen)). However, Larsen's contribution is to go beyond what had been done and propose ideas for level design in FPS. The icons below exemplify the following design patterns (same order):

  1. Multiple paths: Each path must be supplemented by one or more paths in order to overcome bottlenecks.
  2. Local fights: Break up the level in smaller areas that are more or less closed of the rest of the level.
  3. Collision points: The paths of opposing players must cross at some point to create tension in the level.
  4. Reference points: Always provide reference points in your level to help navigation.
  5. Defense areas: Aide the players or team defending objects by making the architectural layout of the level work to their advantage.
  6. Risk Incentive: Access to wanted objects in a level must be connected with some element of risk

Why do I blog this? Because I am interested in space/place issues related to games (computer games and pervasive gaming). Although I am absolutely not a level designer, I found interesting to see how this set of guidelines could trigger some thoughts about players' behavior in the spatial environment. I rather see them as probes or open questions to create challenges in FPS. Besides, it's full of good examples nicely described. Besides, it's not that commesensical as one could though, many games have problems dues to bad level design. Moreover, his next work will address more complex patterns. However, I may have a different point of view concerning this assertion: he wants to ensure designers "that the players can seamlessly navigate through your game world". As a matter of fact , game design is sometimes a matter of creating problems/seams/obstacles in the level design to create challenges. Don Norman has a point about this issue in "The Design of Everyday Things"

Finally, would this hold in urban gaming? Would this hold in environments that could not be re-designed (urban gaming)? And of course this leads to the question addressed by Simon Schleicher (I'll post more about his work soon) who tries to investigate whether architecture be created by a game and its rules.