[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.]
So I have introduced you to Perspectives, which in short are screenshots of the player’s view; everything that a player sees, all of his options, any Incentives in his view, or anything else of interest all in one screenshot that can be observed as a picture. Now I’m going to teach you how to move that perspective so that you can control exactly what your players see. The funny thing about humans is that we are curious and we love shiny things or anything that points out of a given scene. Using this knowledge to our advantage is something that I like to call Eye Catching.
Eye catching is a pretty self explanatory term. It is using various techniques to “catch” the human eye. This technique is used in millions of pieces of artwork, so why not utilize it in a perspective if a perspective can be seen as a picture? The human eye can be drawn by a ton of different things; like light differences, color contrast, size, distance, shapes, etc. It is your job as the designer to decide which type of attention grabber you want to use on your map. Pick something that fits with what you are doing anyways. Making a dark map for some sort of zombie gameplay? Then use lit objects to attract attention. Maybe your map is quite purple from the covenant theme you’ve created. Well yellow stands out quite well in a purple background and is sure to grab your player’s attention.
In a picture when you grab the viewer’s attention they move their eyes towards the designated “eye catcher”. When in a game players do the same thing; moving their eyes towards the “eye catcher”. However in a game moving a player’s eyes causes a change of perspective and makes a new picture for us to use and analyze. Learning to transition between new perspectives is a powerful skill allowing you to fine tune not only the player’s movement, but also exactly where your player is looking and when. Remember that if a player is in the middle of traversing a map, typically changing the direction their eyes are looking it they tend to gravitate towards that area. So not only do you get to control the direction the player is facing, but you also control where they decide to move. Not bad for applying art theory to a video game, eh?
Applying the technique
So now you’ve got this basic understanding of changing the player’s perspective, but how should one use it for level design? How about using eye catching techniques to attract players towards incentives? Or maybe you can use eye catching to warn players of a Deterrent ahead. How about just introducing a new area of the map? Eye catching is part of the major concept that is Path Manipulation. Controlling your player allows you to tweak what they feel, what they see, the decisions that they can make, and overall the true experience that they have while playing your map. This is a technique that can be used everywhere in your map and knowing when to use eye catching and when not to is a delicate decision. You know those papers that say “Turn the page to see how to keep a blonde busy”? The same concept is applied in this situation, eventually the player will catch on. Meaning that eventually you have to vary your techniques and use eye catching only up to certain point. Pick your uses carefully and use this powerful technique wisely.