Here is a fairly old scan from a rough sketched drawing from my moleskin notebook. I have a few that are dotted about at home and in the studio to capture ideas for parts of environments, platforms, objects and characters that I am pulling together for interactive apps and games.
Being a simple sketch, I spruced it up a bit with some digital paint. I made some simple custom pencil and paint brushes in PhotoShop to retain the hand-made traditional art look.
Here is a demo screen capture video I made of the hand-drawn demo game level drawing from above. It’s got a rusty acoustic guitar riff I played over the top just to add a bit of atmosphere to the demo footage.
Here is a complete commission for the level design of a platform game. I have produced a detailed reference for 3D modelling and texturing in 3DSMax for use in the Unity-developed game.
A grid-check is done prior to the final rendering. This is done with a transparent map of the platforms in the level over a grid. This helps to check the structure and map of the platforms, and helps to prevent in-game mechanics and the overall level design from breaking the gameplay. On a basic level this could be something like: Player gets stuck in a ditch and doesn’t have a high enough jump to get out.
On a lean budget and tight time constraints, a bare minimum for user research should be to play-test the draft level design. Player/user feedback is then closely analysed to help improve the level design through iterations until the team are satisfied that it works well and is fun to play. Following this, the level is given the green-light for final artwork to be created.
Pseudo 3D Level Design
This is a pseudo 3D platform game level, which has a 2D-platformer feel, but a 3D parallax environment. Think game genres similar in camera-orientation to Shadow Complex, Ori and the Blind Forest, or the Rad Rodgers Kickstarter project.
The creative work and overall level design here is for a prototype. The storyboard and script are in constant development by the main game development team I am working with. This script also doubles up as a game design document which includes a specific set of game mechanics, some of which help the player to control the main character.
Release on iOS and Android
The puzzle-adventure will be released on both iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Android tablets in future. The head office for the production team of this game (and others) is in Hong Kong.
Below I have stitched a composite scan together in PhotoShop. The fully-rendered pencil drawing is drawn in pencil across three A3 sheets of smooth Canson Cartridge paper. The paper weight is approximately 200gsm.
The level includes, amongst other things: magnetic lava rocks, wooden ladders, gnarly trees, and some nice grassy platforms.
First of all I came up with a really rough concept level design on a scrap of paper. Some tweaks were needed, but this concept contains the basic ideas for puzzle mechanics within the level design.
After I was satisfied with the level design, I planned it out a little more accurately on an A4 piece of squared paper. Graph paper has too many squares. In fact it is worth getting hold of squared paper that is as feint as possible, so that there is more contrast with your drawn design.
This step helps to ensure that the player character can make certain jumps up to platforms, and across gaps. You don’t want to player to find it either impossible or nearly impossible to access certain areas, unless that is intentionally part of the level design.
The draft level was adjusted in places on squared paper, then tested in the game engine, playing with the character to ensure that the various areas were the right height and widths etc. This squared paper version was then photocopied for use as a template when drawing the final level.
The final level was drawn using tracing paper, masked to a photocopy of the squared level drawing, so that there was an accurate guide for where the platforms, walls and ceilings should be placed.
The drawing was done starting at the top-right of the image, across and downwards, to minimise smudging. The rough details were placed with 2B pencil, and then filled in with extra detail over the course of the drawing.