Hi everyone, Brendan here. For this week’s blog entry, I wanted to let our readers decide what I write about! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to answer every question I received, but you can see my responses to some of the questions below!
“What are the basics of level design?” - Tony L.
Level design is a very detailed process. Some designers choose to specialize in this area, and may spend their whole careers doing it! When I’m designing a level, I always ask myself a few questions. What is the player’s goal in this level? How do I want to guide the player to that goal? How do I want the player to feel as they work their way through this level? After they’ve finished it? Some of my favorite games have answered these questions through unexpected means - using light and shadow, gravity, or directional sound in unconventional ways.
“What does your desk look like?” - Linda S.
“I always wonder how much you get to try out your own games, or if you just design stuff day by day and never get to test it yourself.” - Jack S.
At Nix Hydra, every designer, programmer, and artist must test their own work before submitting their changes to the core version of the game. Once they’ve decided it looks good, they add their work to our shared repository. As a team, we spend several hours each week testing the core game and all of our recent changes together! It’s safe to say we get plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy the fruits of our labor. On some nights, I even have dreams about jigsaw puzzles.
“What is the most commonly used software for game design?” - Chris Q.
This is difficult to know for certain, due to the sheer number of developers and game development platforms out there! Some popular examples are Unity, Unreal, CryEngine, and GameMaker:Studio. At Nix Hydra, we use Unity.
“From what I understand, making games involves lots of meetings and discussion. Do you ever have trouble staying focused?” - Rachel S.
It’s true, game design requires a huge amount of collaboration! At Nix Hydra, we try to keep our meetings as short and concise as possible, but we do get a few “big ones” every once in awhile. To stay focused during longer meetings, we’ll pet dogs, assemble jigsaw puzzles, or doodle.
“Are there any hands-on aspects to game design? Do game designers ever create physical assets like sculptures prior to creating digital assets?” - Nathalie W.
There are lots of tools, software, and games out there that combine physical and digital creations. For example, a sculptor might model a terrain out of clay, and then use a 3D scanner to digitize their model and use it in a game. It can also work in the opposite direction, with 3D printing or CAD-assisted tools turning your in-game experiences into physical objects that enhance your interaction. So far at Nix Hydra, our game’s connections to physical assets are a little more abstract. Sometimes we’ll draw out the shape of a level on paper, move index cards around to represent the flow of the game, or use physical objects as reference for an in-game illustration.
“Which Egg type best represents you?” - Susan C.
Left: Me at the start of a project
Right: Me at the end of a project
“How do you figure out pacing”? - Kevin W.
I’ll assume you’re referring to the speed at which the player progresses through the game. (Pacing can also refer to animation timing, or the length of a production cycle for a team). For us, this is a group decision that requires a lot of adjustment. For each game, we want the pacing to feel right for as many players as possible. This depends largely on what kinds of players we think will be playing our game. Usually, we’ll speak with as many relevant people as we can (friends, family, survey-takers, etc) and come up with a preliminary pacing. Then, we’ll try it out ourselves, and ask some of the people we spoke with previously to try it out as well. Eventually, once the game is released, we rely on anonymous data from thousands of players to tune and adjust the pacing. This ongoing process allows us to design pacing that keeps our players engaged without feeling frustrated!
“Do you get to play games all day?” - Eric G.
Hah, no. Other than testing our own games, which we do extensively, we don’t have time to play other games, even if we wanted to. We love playing games, but we do so at home (and after-hours game nights every few weeks!)
That’s all for this time! Have questions about game design you’d like to see answered? Comment below and maybe your questions will be answered next time!