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Feature: Controlling Game Structure, Pacing, Mood

In Gamasutra's latest design feature, veteran designer and Lara Croft creator Toby Gard discusses how leads can gather feedback, assemble a comprehensive picture o
In Gamasutra's latest design feature, veteran designer and Lara Croft creator Toby Gard discusses how leads can gather feedback, assemble a comprehensive picture of the game, and message that picture back to the team. Gard writes, "To structure their feedback, the creative leads need to validate all level plans in relation to each other. Because the levels are likely to be pretty complex, it is useful to create a simplified representation of the whole game so that you can assess the pacing and emotional consistency of the experience." His solution -- which he describes in concert with a further exploration of his case study, the fictional beat 'em-up Kung Fu Zombie Killer, which debuted in Gard's last feature -- is to draw up charts which examine the proprtion of gameplay in each level, to help shape the overall game and its mood, and communicate these important facts back to the team. Once assembled, it allows the team to settle on and implement gameplay concepts which grow organically from their own ideas, and keep the game cohesive, well-paced, and emotionally effective. "These mechanics are generally gold, because they were not forced into the game design from a desire to tick boxes based on competitive products, but were discovered organically through an exploration of its unique themes and the thoughtful exploration of its world," he writes on team-driven creativity. Meanwhile, a game's Mood Map, which designates the general emotion you want players to feel as they play the game, "has two purposes. It is used to assess that the level order and content will not interfere with the emotional journey of the player, but more critically, it is a fundamental tool for aligning the whole development team towards creating a holistic experience," writes Gard. The full feature, Action Adventure Level Design: Pacing, Content, and Mood, is live today on Gamasutra.

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