Step 1 – Establishing Direction
Before anything can get started it’s important to figure out what you are trying to make and what you are trying to solve. This can look like creating design pillars that allow for direction in the solution or creating clear success criteria so we can tell when the problem is solved.
Step 2 – Researching
The goal of this phase is to get up to speed on the existing knowledge and best practices that exist. Because in many cases a problem has already been solved by someone else so it can be easier to find their solution than create your own. Often times this solution can also exist in another domain (eg. psychology, business, sports) so I use that to my advantage. I do this through looking at existing games, reviewing research articles, books, interviews with creators and many other avenues.
Step 3 – Brainstorming
During this phase the aim is to generate as many ideas as possible through combining elements of the research and pre-existing knowledge to see what could be possible.
Step 4 – Conversing
Start narrowing down on these ideas and select a couple of good ones and iterate on these ideas. These ideas are chosen based off the earlier established direction.
Step 5 – Prototyping
After coming up with an idea is finding a way to create it either virtually or physically in a small way that can be tested. This way we can see from an early stage if the idea has potential and should be invested into further.
Step 6 – Iterating
You want to keep testing and tweaking until the prototype has reached it’s success criteria. After that you figure out what the next problem is you need to solve and you begin a new cycle.
Determine the goal of the level and what you are trying to accomplish, what kind of feeling do you want to create in terms of gameplay and aesthetics. This is done through creating success criteria of explicit feelings that the player should experience or behaviours the player should exhibit.
Look at already existing locations and figure out what elements I want use for the level so I can create a mood board for the level.
Create a level design toolbox which consists of the mechanics that need to be included in the level and possible restrictions. This creates a clearer idea of what elements need to be added.
Create different level flows to get a feel for how the player is going to move through the level to map out possible choices. This is done so an initial satisfying route can be established which gives more foundation for the next steps.
Pick one of the level flows and create a rough block out to get a general feel for scale and flow. Then try to divide the block out up in distinct areas and try to fill them up with interesting elements.
After an initial block out is established test the level to see if the sense of flow is achieved and fix any glaring issues that cause the player to feel disjointed or that doesn’t clearly accomplish the success criteria.
Invite other players to test the level to see if they are able to reach the success criteria and make changes based on the received feedback.
Keep iterating on the level till the success criteria are reached.