What is level design?

What is level design, one of the cornerstones of game development? What should you do to become a level designer?
Level Design
What is level design, which is part of game design? What do level designers do?

Level design is the development phase that allows you to create the game’s stages. Unlike background and environment design, the level design incorporates player abilities, game mechanics, obstacles, and discoverable elements that make a positive user experience.

The different levels provide the player with productive and fun places to explore while advancing the story or completing side missions. Every level design element (from its geography and terrain to its obstacles and unique challenges) adds to the overall gameplay experience. The level designer aims to use the available resources efficiently to create a game environment that both supports and enhances the story, character development, and tone.

Level design is sometimes used synonymously with environment design. While in many small game studios the same designer is often responsible for both, these are different terms:

  • Environment design focuses only on the background and landscape composition.
  • Level design combines all elements of the game to shape the player experience: game mechanics, gameplay, obstacles, story, etc.

What does the level designer do?

The level designer generally takes part in designing the game (but only in a piece called ‘level’). They take the features specified by the game designer and process them in detail – actions, events, objects, and environment. They can also design characters and the way they behave.

Level Design example
A sketched level design.

The level designer first sketches the ideas using paper & pencil or 2D drawing software. They imagine the gaming experience by putting themselves in the player’s shoes, planning all the possibilities. They need to think about the logic and flow of events and actions, the conditions that must be met for certain things to happen, and the challenges the player will face.

Tips about level design

Level design has no fixed rules, and the design process varies from studio to studio. Specific steps and responsibilities are determined by the resources you have available. A triple-a (AAA) game studio may have a dedicated team of level designers who must follow a formal process. An indie game developer may be in charge of the entire project, focusing on several aspects at once.

But in any case, your first step is to create a roadmap for what you plan to build.

Create a game design document

Creating a game design document is the first step in the design phase of new game projects. What begins as a one-page game concept evolves with your project, organizing all ideas, assets, and design decisions in one place.

If you don’t have a design document when you start working on the level design, your first step should be to create one. Document everything that matters about your level: objectives, objects, events, a summary of the game, puzzles, secrets, etc.

For more detailed information about the game design document, you can also review the article we wrote in the previous period.

Don’t give up on originality

Even if your game takes place in a fictional world with supernatural elements, make sure it looks natural. This is critical for the player to engage with the game and appreciate other aspects such as level design, gameplay, and story.

Try not to bore the player

A frame from the game Portal 2, which can be considered one of the best examples of level design.

Well-designed levels often lead to rewards due to a series of obstacles. But there is a delicate balance between a satisfyingly challenging puzzle and a frustrating one. Give the player a chance to figure out how to overcome an obstacle without getting bored.

Creating a level design portfolio

As a level designer, it is possible to work in a company or as a freelance on your own, but in both cases, you need to have a resume that will make you stand out and get the job you want. What you need to do in this case is to create a portfolio/portfolio.

You can create a portfolio by uploading your works to your Art Station page.

You can do this by creating a portfolio site for yourself, or art station etc. You can do this using sites. Remember that if you want to have an excellent job in such a big industry, you have to stand out better than others.

Level designer salaries

Nothing can be said for sure; the salary of a level designer can be affected by many variables, from which part of the world you are into the experience level.

Level Designer salary
Average Level Designer salaries, according to PayScale data.

However, when we look at the data provided by PayScale, the average income of level designers living in the USA is around 60 thousand dollars (yearly). Depending on the level of experience, this can go up to 90 thousand dollars.

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