1. Olmsted's Design Principles - Part II

      written by noklu
      Hello there! This ‘ere is Part II of my synthesis of Olmsted’s theories. Part 1 can be found here. And yes, Part II has been delayed far longer than I ever intended; life tends to interfere. What can a mere mortal do but sway to Lady Luck’s puppeteering strings? That reminds me, there is a particular string that I want you to sway to. I’m looking for bright folks (i.e. you) to write design articles for ReachingPerfection. If you have an opinion or perspective on design, write an article and send it to me for consideration. There are no guarantees but if you have a good head on your shoulders there will be no problems. Besides, there is no harm in trying. Email me at xnoklu@gmail.com if you are interested or with draft articles.


      Olmsted believed that unnecessary details were distracting and corrupted his “elegance of design.” In his words, design is the “art to conceal art.” Olmsted accomplished this by subordinating individual elements to the overall design to remove awareness of specific details. This allowed people to simply enjoy the beauty of his landscape. In level design, the player should be unaware of details and simply be immersed in the game. Olmsted warned against perceiving details as “things of beauty in and of themselves.” All individual features and elements are subordinate to the entire design and the intended effect. In the ideal design, we do not actively analyse the level, instead, “gradually and silently the charm comes over us; we know not exactly where or how.”

      Practical Beauty

      Olmsted was not primarily concerned with the aesthetics of his landscapes; he maintained a deep interest in the practical and engineering considerations of design. Olmsted believed that "So long as considerations of utility are neglected or overridden by considerations of ornament, there will be no true Art." In other words, Olmsted believes that Art must serve practical purposes instead of being mere ‘eye-candy.’ This is readily applied to Halo: Reach where the design must take into consideration frame-rate performance and the disco effect. Unnecessary aesthetic touches tend to bring down frame-rate and increase the propensity for disco; they detract from true ‘Art’. Aesthetic appeal becomes of a higher order when it is subtly designed into practical structures. Subtle beauty won’t “call for remark but touches us more and has more influence.”

      Orchestration of Use

      Olmsted believed that any area should have a multitude of uses rather than remaining limited to a specific purpose. In design, these uses can range from the ‘static’ use of cover, the enhancements of weapons and the ‘mobile’ uses of pathways or mancannons. These various ‘purposes’ should not conflict with each other (e.g. a mancannon should not face a piece of cover). Olmsted believed that the very pinnacle of this concept was to use a single element or construct for multiple purposes. The use of a single construct to provide long line of sights, pathways to new areas, cover from various angles and weapons is the cleanest and most efficient form of design.


      Bartoge said...

      I'm beginning to like this Olmsted guy. A lot up there is how I tend to forge, but actually reading how someone thinks its the way to do things is encouraging. 

      GodlyPerfection said...

      I agree with Bartoge on this. It is great to see other designers out there that think the way that we do. The first section you wrote about is the definition of cohesion and immersion. I love these articles noklu... keep them up.

      Noklu said...

      It's great to have support from you guys - thanks!

      Here's a heads up on what else I have planned: I intend to write at least one more article of new content before coming back to a couple of topics in depth - Orchestration of Use and Movement in particular.