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Video: How game devs can use level design tools expressively

At GDC 2015 game developer Forrest Dowling delivers an intriguing, succinct talk on how level design tools can be used to both express ideas or moods and afford players spaces to express themselves.

Level design in games is about more than creating sound, traversable virtual spaces -- it's about designing spaces that convey emotions and ideas to a player, and in turn afford them room to express themselves in the space.

At least, that was one of the core messages of game developer Forrest Dowling in his GDC 2015 presentation on expression and level design. It was a neat talk because Dowling tackled two main quandaries: how do you as use the tools and techniques of level design to express yourself, and how can you use them to give players space to express themselves in turn?

Dowling broke down those high-level challenges into a series of concrete, actionable use cases -- putting delays on an audio trigger in the level to facilitate comedic timing, for example, or using tiny invisible explosions to make it look as though an imposing NPC has casually knocked garbarge on the floor in front of the player.

It was a fascinating, succinct talk that you can now watch for free on the official GDC YouTube channel!

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its new YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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