Why we need feminism


On my way home yesterday, I decided to stop at a Starbucks to grab a quick drink. Sitting outside on the sidewalk was a man who started catcalling at me as I walked by. He shouted things like:

"Oh, here comes my boo!"

"Come over here girl, give me a smile!"

Growing up, my parents had taught me…

icariandaedalus: Is there anything important to remember when designing maps? I'm having a lot of trouble with making aesthetically pleasing maps.


There are always a lot of things you should remember when designing maps. There’s a huge wealth of information out there when it comes to level design. Here are a few that immediately spring to mind:


#1. Lighting is super important

Humans like light and dislike the dark. They will naturally go toward areas that are lit. If you ever want to attract players’ attention and send them somewhere, light the areas you want them to go, and darken the areas you don’t. You can use appropriate lighting as a tool to draw players through your level.


#2. Lighting is Super Important II

Notice the difference in how this statue looks when lit via hard or soft lights. Hard (direct) lighting will make the statue seem more hard, more harsh, and very different than the softer, diffused lighting on the right. These have an effect on the viewer, just like the existence of the light. You can use the sort of lighting to set the mood for the player, rather than cause some kind of dissonance - if they are mentally expecting something hard because of the lighting, they’ll get subconsciously confused if it’s a tender romantic scene. Likewise, if there’s soft, gentle lighting and the protagonist is murdering people in cold blood, it sends a very weird subliminal message to players. Make sure your areas are lit consistently with the sort of content that you expect to happen there.


#3. Use appropriate angles when designing space.

Humans and technology tend to enjoy things at right angles. Nature tends to prefer curvature. Use these to your advantage when you’re designing an area to look natural or to look civilized. Players will mentally pick this up on a subconscious level. Make use of it. A path through a forest carved by humans should be more or less straight, but a deer trail would be more curved.


#4. Give the player visible landmarks at all times

The worst feeling a player can have is getting lost. You want them to be able to see a landmark from anywhere on the map to help them reorient. The primary goal is to provide them the ability to figure out where they are, and where they want to go. Optimally, you want these above the horizon line in a 3D map so they can just look up to see where they are heading. In a 2D map, you want to place little visual indicators to assist navigation.

#5. Build up to the payoff

Remember, your level is a work in progress in how the player perceives it. You need to build tension, and you do this through ambient storytelling. If you’ve got something big that the player is looking forward to seeing, drop hints about it over the course of the level before you deliver it. Start with more subtle ones, and work your way upward. Try to tell a story through just the little things you see in the level - the placement of props and objects, the way they are lit, and so on and so forth. Build some anticipation, and your big payoff will feel even bigger.

#6. Don’t shy away from giving the players what they want to see

If your level is a dragon’s lair, the player will expect to see a dragon. Make sure that you give them that payoff at some point - if your game has built up the mythos for the dragon to be an enormous, legendary creature, you have to deliver. Not getting to see the dragon will be tremendously disappointing.

#7. Visibly artificial barriers to entry suck

Players hate it when they are arbitrarily gated from something. It’s when this happens that the tracks begin to show and the sense of immersion is broken. As a level designer, one of the most important skills you must have is the ability to hide these arbitrary lines in a plausible way. The game has to have a critical path through the level, but it’s up to you to create a plausible reason for those invisible walls to exist. 

I wouldn’t even begin to presume that I’ve covered the various elements of level design in any depth, but these are several aspects of level design that have helped me over the course of my career. There are plenty of other things I haven’t written about that are also important. The best advice I can give you is to keep working on it, solicit feedback, and try to figure out how to improve your existing designs. You don’t need to fix everything at once, but start looking for things you can recognize and fix those.

Also, when you’re processing feedback, it’s often just as important to note what people don’t talk about as what they do. Certain game elements, like the anticipatory buildup or the cameras or the UI tend to not get mentioned by players because they’re primarily subconscious. When they are mentioned, they tend to be negative (“That monster came out of nowhere!”). Your goal with level design should usually be that the player should always have an idea of what will be happening just through the visual cues from playing the game, and should never feel completely blindsided by something. I hope this helps.

Further Reading:

Best Advice For Writers


These are very best pieces of advice ever given to me by other writers.

1. Writing is the easiest part. It’s the author shit that’s hard. (Ian Rankin)

2. Never, ever diet on tour. (Kate Atkinson)

3. Don’t believe anything film people say until you’re at the première,…