Level Design - Block out

Block out, the sequel to 2D Layout now with 600% more images! In this entry of the blog we dive into the block out process and I talk about the choices I’ve made along the way.

When blocking out the level my first steps were to build the mountainside so I could carve my level sections into it. I took this approach to make sure the level had a very natural feel to it. From here I used simple geometry to plot out all the major areas and detail areas I would use for narrative purposes.

I also chose to colorize all my block-outs to help convey texture and what should be the focal point of each area.

  • Yellow = interaction area

  • Green = player guidance

  • Red = danger

  • Brown = traversal

Top Down view of the forest

When I started blocking out, I immediately realized I needed to communicate to players early on what areas are safe and help frame their expectations going forward. I created a decayed / burned tree mesh with jagged edges to contrast the round softer edges of the healthy trees. In the first section, even though the path is linear, I placed these decayed trees by the enemy to begin our association. That way later on when areas are more complex the player will be cautious when approaching these objects.

In the above screenshot, it is clear the player’s path is past the enemy. I use the decayed trees as a warning to the player to not move forward. There is no cover and the enemy will immediately spot the player. I frame the new object on the left with our green and soft bushes to guide the player's eye towards that direction. The small ruined altar has an opening and solid look to imply its usability. This event will re-grow the foliage which will reinforce these are safe shapes and provide affordance to the player.

As the player emerges from the cave at the beginning of the game. I try to frame the way forward underneath a massive landmark at the top of the mountain. This landmark establishes the player’s goal early on as it contrasts the rest of the level. Once again I use solid looking geometry to provide a sense of usefulness and stability. The opening will be shown to the player as they try to obtain a better glimpse of the landmark. As the player proceeds up the mountain they will see vistas of the landmark, reaffirming their progression.

All and all I’m pleased with the outcome of the block out. There are several areas I would like to embellish on, adding better lighting to improve and better guide the player's eye. Set up simple breadcrumbs in the more complex areas to provide hints to the players. However my next steps are to program the mechanics and test-play what I currently have.

It’s crucial in the test-play phase for me to gauge its fun factor, but even more important for me to poll colleagues and friends for feedback about the level and see what works as intended or doesn’t work. With that said I plan for several more revisions before I begin to detail out the level.