CliffyB and Levelord on the Fine Art of Level Design
In the first of our series of double interviews, we compare the
responses of two men who need no introduction. But we recognize
that some of our readers may have been living in caves, so for those
of you just stepping into the light, Cliff Bleszinski is a hoary
old game industry veteran in his mid-twenties better known as "CliffyB".
His game credits include the Jazz Jackrabbit games (see photo below
as CliffyB gets into method acting to "think like a jackrabbit")
and Unreal and Unreal Tournament. Levelord (whose carries around
a driver's license with the name "Richard Gray" under
his picture) is an industry veteran whose credits go back to Duke
Nukem 3D and the original Blood. More recently, he has worked at
Ritual Entertainment on their Scourge of Armagon Quake II expansion
and SiN. He also helped Rogue Entertainment in the later stages
of American McGee's Alice.
Isn't level design an underappreciated art? How many casual
gamers can really appreciate the difference between a well designed
level and a poorly designed level so long as there are things to
CliffyB: There are 2 key things that the casual gamer
can easily spot, even if he/she doesn't realize it. One, is
this a neat looking game/environment? Two, am I having a good
time? These are two basic things that are inherently tied
to good level design. And you're damned right level design
is an underappreciated art. When you're playing an otherwise
good game and you can't find your way around and you're frustrated
it's because of bad level design, this can be a real deal-breaker
for a gamer. I've quit many games in frustration over bad
Levelord: Actually, I believe the opposite! We seem
to get most of the credit related to games, at least within
the online community. I often get praise for work that is
really the artist's or programmer's merit. You'll never catch
me admitting that, of course, but they are the unsung heros
of the industry. We level designers just slap stuff together
What is the most common mistake new level designers make when
they're first starting out?
CliffyB: I'd say "not aligning their textures," but
that would be too easy. You know what the biggest mistake
I see level designers make? They don't "pull" the player through
the level. At any given point in the game the player should
know what he's doing, where he's going, and why he's there.
A well designed level should have a hook in the mouth of the
player and the designer should be reeling the gamer in towards
the next scene. Having to stumble around aimlessly and backtrack
is not fun.
Levelord: Framerate! ...without a doubt!
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