1. Defining visuals

      written by Ray Benefield
      So last article I covered a comparison between real life and virtual life when it comes to level design as a sort of segue for the articles to come. Don't stop reading now folks. Just because we aren't strictly covering games doesn't mean that this information isn't important for everyone to know. Level design just means I get to use more pictures ;). Now on to the meat of the article...


      Before I continue, let me point out that the terms I use are in no way official. I sort of use what sounds right, so if someone tells you that there is a different word for what I'm describing then feel free to take their word for it. Today I'm just defining them for everyone so we are on the same page. Also these terms don't have to be explicitly used for level design. I'll be covering their importance later this week.

      Now a perspective as I define it when it comes to level design could compare to a standstill moment in time of what a player sees. As a comparison a perspective is a screenshot of what the players sees at a given moment in time. When you spawn on a map in Halo what you see is one perspective. When you look anywhere every frame of what you see is a perspective. When you move in any direction the perspective continues to change. Pretty simple, eh?

      THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Remember this people. Learning to analyze perspectives will get you far. Why? Because it is what your player is seeing. Every little detail. You have to be able to break it up into frames and be able to analyze them in groups as well as individually. Studying the change between perspectives can provide a lot of information and allow you to adjust everything to get the exact feel that you want. I'll cover this more in future articles.

      Focus Points

      Alright now a perspective is typically created from a central point of focus. In many games the focus point is your character. This does not stop a focus point from being an object you are looking at or a particular direction. You can also have multiple focus points that a perspective can be based off of. Say a lock on system exists in said game, for example Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The perspective is based on the player's character as well as his/her target.

      Focus points will be important to keep in mind for a couple of things later, we won't be getting into that for a bit. If I'm going to give you one piece of the equation I'm going to want to give you all pieces. And before I forget, a good example of a starting focus point would be a spawn point on a map where a player begins their play. Who knows... that may be useful later ;). Moving on...

      Point of View (POV)

      I needed focus point to be defined for this particular section. A point of view is exactly that; the point at which you are viewing the focus points. A first person point of view would be viewing from on or above the given focus point. Third person POV would be how another person (or camera) would see the focus point. Now, these can be as specific as you would like; over the shoulder, top down, side view (for side scrollers), etc.

      What I would like to point out is that what matters is that you understand the POV that will be utilized by the player. A lot of designers are building the game in a different point of view than the player, and sometimes they forget that. For first person shooters like Halo and Farcry with a level editor, the designer typically builds in third person when you consider the fact that the player is the focus point. Some designers forget that those playing the map are seeing different perspectives than the designer. It is important to always experience the player's point of view and make design decisions based on the perspectives of the player not the designer.

      Wrap up

      Alright so that's a lot of information, I apologize. Hopefully it isn't too much to consume. If you feel that you need to re-read the article then don't hesitate to. This is important information that you will need to know for future posts. We will start by covering various tricks around perspectives and then move on to discussing things like creating focus points. From there we will get back into general game design talk with the importance of understanding POV and the pros/cons of all the different types. Hasta manana folks.


      Prod said...

      I think i understood this post. I got the gist of it. Regardless nice post, and i look forward to seeing what you will say in further posts along these lines because it's a subject I've never put any thought into.

      Bartoge said...

      So would your gun in Halo be a focus point, since that is the part of your character you see. I'm kind of confused about that part.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Not necessarily Bart. Your gun is always attached to your character. Your character is the actual focus point. Think about it this way, say you were in theater mode... when you go into third person as you watch your character it is focused around the player not the gun... the gun just happens to be there when you are in first person.

      Don't worry too much about the focus point right now... I will get into that in more detail in the future. Just understand the base connection between the 3 terms.

      Prod said...

      What's with the break in updates?

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Sorry work is taking over my life... I will catch up this weekend. Promise Prod. ;) It's not easy seperating from the military... paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Also getting ready to move as well. I've only got about 65 days left... WOOT!!!