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Level Design Lesson 11: Smooth Spawning

Today's lesson is all about smoothing out the player's spawn. This is crucial to ensure a first impression and to ensure the player has a smooth experience with no hiccups in their gameplay.

[This was originally posted on my personal blog www.reachingperfection.com]

[Forge Lessons is a level design series that I have written for the halo forge (the simplistic in-game level editor) communities. While it is tailored towards Halo multiplayer map design I feel that it covers general level design very well. I would love everyone's opinions on how these lessons can translate into other games and genres like the Call of Duty series, the Unreal Series, RTS games, platformer games, etc.]

Understanding spawns consists of more than just observing the Spawn Perspective. After a bit of working with spawns I learned that as a player I never enjoyed spawning and walking into a wall. Have you ever experienced this problem?

Have you ever spawned walked past a weapon right next to you and realize it a couple of steps later and have to stop, step backwards, and pick up a weapon? Have you ever spawned and tried to figure out where you were on the map and then suddenly drop a whole story and have to re-adjust and figure out where you are again? All of this is slightly frustrating to gameplay and is easily remedied.

A bumpy start

So all those situations have one thing in common… they start you off with a hiccup in your game plan. Have you ever thought that the extra second you took stepping back to pick up that battle rifle could be the difference between life and death? Imagine that you are ready to go, you spawn and you see an opponent passing by you so you head slightly to the right to cut him off and… OH WAIT!!! Was that a DMR that I passed? Hold on… let me move back and get that real quick. Alright now… where did my opponent go?

In that split second that I took to get my DMR I completely lost my goal and have to re-adjust myself and figure out what I’m going to do next adding to the spawn process. Don’t make things more difficult for your player. That’s today’s lesson.

Time to adjust

When a player spawns he must take a few seconds to adjust to his surroundings and learn where he has spawned in relation to things that are familiar to him on the map. While a player does this it is best not to disturb his train of thought or change anything in those first few seconds until he is ready to start making decisions.

Any change you introduce to the situation in those few seconds could just exponentially increase what he has to think about causing frustration to the sub-conscious. Let’s translate that into perspective variance terms. A player’s perspective should change the least in the first few seconds of a player’s spawn in order to avoid disrupting the initial spawn thought process. While that may seem easy to adjust to, it is slightly twisted when we factor in one thing. Humans are impatient.

Smooth trails

When a player spawns they are more likely than not be holding down forward on the thumbstick because humans are impatient and expect to reach their destination as fast as possible. So now that we realize that players will be moving forward when they spawn we have to do our best as level designers to not disrupt their initial spawn thought process. This is where minimal perspective variance is important.

Do whatever it takes to keep the player’s perspectives similar in those first few seconds of spawning. What this essentially boils down to is not letting them drop off of cliffs, not forcing them to turn as soon as they spawn, and making sure they don’t bump into any corners or anything that could cause their perspectives to change too much. Don’t introduce decisions or any changes until the player has completely oriented himself and recovered from “summoning sickness”. This may be a minor technique but it is quite powerful.

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