Defining visuals

This post begins the level design discussion by defining perspectives, focus points, and point of views. These are my own personal definitions and are in no way concrete. This information will be important in future articles.

[This was originally posted on my personal blog]

So last article I covered a comparison between real life and virtual life when it comes to level design as a sort of segue for the articles to come. Don't stop reading now folks. Just because we aren't strictly covering games doesn't mean that this information isn't important for everyone to know. Level design just means I get to use more pictures ;). Now on to the meat of the article...



Before I continue, let me point out that the terms I use are in no way official. I sort of use what sounds right, so if someone tells you that there is a different word for what I'm describing then feel free to take their word for it. Today I'm just defining them for everyone so we are on the same page. Also these terms don't have to be explicitly used for level design. I'll be covering their importance later this week.

Now a perspective as I define it when it comes to level design could compare to a standstill moment in time of what a player sees. As a comparison a perspective is a screenshot of what the players sees at a given moment in time. When you spawn on a map in Halo what you see is one perspective. When you look anywhere every frame of what you see is a perspective. When you move in any direction the perspective continues to change. Pretty simple, eh?



THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Remember this people. Learning to analyze perspectives will get you far. Why? Because it is what your player is seeing. Every little detail. You have to be able to break it up into frames and be able to analyze them in groups as well as individually. Studying the change between perspectives can provide a lot of information and allow you to adjust everything to get the exact feel that you want. I'll cover this more in future articles.


Focus Points

Alright now a perspective is typically created from a central point of focus. In many games the focus point is your character. This does not stop a focus point from being an object you are looking at or a particular direction. You can also have multiple focus points that a perspective can be based off of. Say a lock on system exists in said game, for example Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The perspective is based on the player's character as well as his/her target.



Focus points will be important to keep in mind for a couple of things later, we won't be getting into that for a bit. If I'm going to give you one piece of the equation I'm going to want to give you all pieces. And before I forget, a good example of a starting focus point would be a spawn point on a map where a player begins their play. Who knows... that may be useful later ;). Moving on...


Point of View (POV)

I needed focus point to be defined for this particular section. A point of view is exactly that; the point at which you are viewing the focus points. A first person point of view would be viewing from on or above the given focus point. Third person POV would be how another person (or camera) would see the focus point. Now, these can be as specific as you would like; over the shoulder, top down, side view (for side scrollers), etc.

What I would like to point out is that what matters is that you understand the POV that will be utilized by the player. A lot of designers are building the game in a different point of view than the player, and sometimes they forget that. For first person shooters like Halo and Farcry with a level editor, the designer typically builds in third person when you consider the fact that the player is the focus point. Some designers forget that those playing the map are seeing different perspectives than the designer. It is important to always experience the player's point of view and make design decisions based on the perspectives of the player not the designer.


Wrap up

Alright so that's a lot of information, I apologize. Hopefully it isn't too much to consume. If you feel that you need to re-read the article then don't hesitate to. This is important information that you will need to know for future posts. We will start by covering various tricks around perspectives and then move on to discussing things like creating focus points. From there we will get back into general game design talk with the importance of understanding POV and the pros/cons of all the different types. Hasta manana folks.

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