"Pacing" is an oft-discussed tenet of level design, but it's deceptively complex. How does pacing affect a player's experience of a level? In a new Gamasutra feature
, veteran designer Mark Davies looks at games from Call Of Duty 4
through Dead Space
to try to pin down what sets apart a well-paced level from a poorly-paced one.
Early on, one of the key elements Davies identifies as part of pacing is movement impetus -- in other words, what motivates the player to continually proceed. One way is through threat, he explains:
Generally the level of threat felt by the player is determined by whether the threat is being caused by an external force -- an enemy, an encroaching hazard, etc, or whether is a danger that will result from the player's own mistake. Threats from external forces tend to have a much higher level of pace than those that will result from a player's mistake, as they have time to gather their thoughts and create a plan when they have control.
Proximity of a threat also has a huge influence on the feel of the threat. An enemy at a distance is not nearly as threatening as one very close by. This is something that stealth based games can really use to their advantage (and is something that can also build a great sense of tension).
Adding a time limit to a task automatically increases the level of actual danger, as the control the player has over the game world has been reduced -- there are now limits placed upon them which can induce a level of panic.
In the full feature, Davies employs principles of music
to illustrate essential principles of pacing, and uses an analysis of Call of Duty 4
as a case study (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).