“Talking to the Player – How Cultural Currents Shape and Level Design”
April 24, 2013 · Print This Article
I have posted a full recording of my 2013 GDC game design lecture. It’s called “Talking to the Player – How Cultural Currents Shape and Level Design” and examines in detail how video games are the perfect expression of our current cultural values. It also gives some hands-on advice on everyday problems faced by level and narrative designers.
GDC 2012: Player Stories and Designer Stories
March 11, 2012 · Print This Article
Description: Whose story does a game tell? That of the player, the game character, or the designer? This lecture provides a comprehensive review of how games create narrative by structuring designer and player stories through level design.
Download the annotated .PDF slides (10mb).
IGDA SF Pecha Kucha Download
April 9, 2011 · Print This Article
I presented a short, 7 minute session at the IGDA SF’s “Pecha Kucha Night”, talking about level design, how it fits into game design, and when we’re doing it wrong. It’s 22 slides, which you can download right here. (2MB)
GDC 2011: The Identity Bubble – A Design Approach to Character and Story Creation
March 5, 2011 · Print This Article
Description: Who is the actor in a game? Is it the person holding the controller in the real world, or the player-character who moves through the game-world? The answer is Both, and the game designer must work carefully to keep the interests of these two consciousnesses aligned. This session presents a design approach for reconciling developer-defined and player-derived character identities. Games often feature strong pre-authored characters and story arcs, while trying to give the player the feeling of uninhibited agency. The practical techniques presented here show how to design stories that dont simply provide a context for the players actions, but instead create impulses and motivations within the player that are in alignment with those of the avatar. Player and avatar float along in unison inside an identity bubble, working towards a common goal.
Takeaway: Attendees understand how games establish a high level of character identification, and they acquire techniques that can be used to achieve similar results. Writers (and developers working with external writers) gain insight into the design and identity concepts that should guide the development of character, story and mission objectives in games.
Intended Audience: Game designers, writers and developers working with external writers.
Download the annotated .PDF slides (3mb).
GDC 2010: Level Design Tutorial
March 17, 2010 · Print This Article
I cleaned up the slides from the lecture I gave during the GDC 2010 Level Design tutorial. This was an introductory look at the world of level design – what he does and how he does it. The material is entry level, but a good overview of the disciplines. You will find some overlap with the environmental definition that Harvey and I used in our “What Happened Here?” session.
(201) Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business
In this intense day-long tutorial, attendees will gain deep insights from some of the most experienced level designers in the industry. The tutorial will cover every aspect of the level design process, from basic navigation and object manipulation tips and tricks to best practices for encounter design and level flow. As the development discipline responsible for crafting the vastly important moment-to-moment player experience, a deep understanding of core level design principles becomes essential for level designers, game designers and design managers alike. Likewise, an intimate familiarity with the level creation process can be a massive advantage to producers, testers or artists. This year’s session will focus on the Unreal Engine, while subsequent years will focus on Source, Quake, and other popular engines.
Level designers, mission designers, game designers and scripters will gain deep insights into the best practices and proven processes used by our industry’s leading teams. Additionally, writers, level artists and quality assurance professionals will come away from this talk better prepared to collaborate and contribute to the level creation process. All attendees should have a solid understanding of the level design process, as well as a basic familiarity with the tools of the trade. Experience with the Unreal Editor will also be beneficial this year, but is not required to fully participate in the tutorial.
Newcomers to the world of level design will gain a solid foundation in the art and science of level design while experienced level designers will come away from the talk with a bevy of tips, tricks, and best practices in use by some of the best level designers in the industry. Experienced producers, artists and testers will gain an intimate understanding of the level design process, and will be better equipped to manage and collaborate with this essential part of the game development process.
Coray Seifert, Game Designer, THQ – Kaos Studios
Matthias Worch, Senior Level Designer, Visceral Games
Neil Alphonso, Lead Level Designer, Splash Damage
Richard Carlson, Level Designer/game designer/musician/sfx dood, Digital Eel
Ed Byrne, Creative Director, Zipper Interactive
Forrest Dowling, Lead Multiplayer Level Designer, THQ – Kaos Studios
Joel Burgess, Lead Level Designer, Bethesda Softworks
Jim Brown, Lead Level Designer, Epic Games
Download the slides for this session below.
GDC 2010 LD Tutorial Downloads
Slides (PowerPoint 2007 .pptx, 4.5MB)
GDC 2010: “What Happened Here?” – Environmental Storytelling
March 11, 2010 · Print This Article
What Happened Here? Environmental Storytelling
Speaker: Harvey Smith (Game Director, Arkane Studios), Matthias Worch (Senior Level Designer, Visceral Games)
Date/Time: Thursday, 3pm – 4pm
Track: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Lecture
Experience Level: All
This lecture examines the game environment as a narrative device, with a focus on further involving the player in interpreting (or pulling) information, in opposition to traditional fictional exposition. We provide an analysis of how and why some games in particular create higher levels of immersion and consistency, and we propose ways in which dynamic game systems can be used to expand upon these techniques. The lecture presents the techniques for environmental storytelling, the key to the creation of game spaces with an inherent sense of history; game spaces that invite the player’s mind to piece together implied events and to infer additional layers of depth and meaning. In addition to commonly-used environmental storytelling tools (such as props, scripted events, texturing, lighting and scene composition), we present ideas for using game systems to convey narrative through environmental reaction. Environmental storytelling engages the player as an active participant in narrative; game systems that reflect the player’s agency can do the same. The lecture will analyze existing cases and provide a framework for dynamic environmental storytelling in games.
This session is aimed at creative directors, narrative designers, level designers and level artists who want to take the environmental storytelling of their games to the next level. A good understanding of the subject matter, and game environmental design in general, is a bonus.
Attendees leave with a clear understanding of traditional environmental storytelling techniques, the current state of the art, and ideas on how to expand these concepts to new proportions using systemic environmental storytelling approaches.
Download the slides for this session below. I recommend the notes file, which gives you all slides along with the talking points. You can also download the slides and speaker notes individually.
Unreal 2 Editing Tutorials
September 9, 2008 · Print This Article
My Unreal 2 tutorials had fallen victim to the page redesign. But fear not if you’re still looking for U2 editing help! Hellkeeper has integrated all of my old content into his tutorial page, dug up all of the old documentation, and fixed all outdated links. He’s even translated each tutorial into French, if you feel more comfortable with that. Wanna dig into some oldschool Unreal 2 editing? Go visit the page by clicking on the image below!
GDC 2007: More Than Just A Pretty Map – Creating Next-Generation Materials for LAIR
March 20, 2007 · Print This Article
Speaker: Matthias Worch (Game Designer / Technical Art Director, Factor 5, LLC)
Date/Time: Wednesday (March 7, 2007) 9:00am — 10:00am
Location (room): Room 3007, West Hall
Track: Visual Arts
Format: 60-minute Lecture
Experience Level: All
Session Description: Next-generation materials are more than just an accumulation of color and normal maps. Join us as we take an in-depth look at the techniques that were used to create the highly detailed materials in LAIR. The focus of this session is on the artist. It will present multiple ways to quickly and efficiently create color, normal and height maps for realistic materials. It will also demonstrate different ways of acquiring source data for these maps, for example by scanning real world surfaces. To address the bigger picture, we will look at the material creation process from a technical art director’s perspective. We will review different approaches to a company-wide shader authoring system, and discuss ways to spread authoring knowledge throughout the team.
Idea Takeaway: Attendees will acquire techniques that help them to quickly and efficiently create realistic-looking materials for next-generation games.
Intended Audience: Texture artists and art department managers working on next-generation 3D games.
GDC 2007 Downloads
July 11, 2006 · Print This Article
These files are (hopefully) outdated with the release of Crosswalk, but there had been a lot of people asking for compiled versions of the Maya .xsi plugins every other week, since Softimage could only offer the source code and that code was a bitch to compile and link. Hopefully these two compiled plugins will make your life a bit easier!
Softimage XSI Layout
February 14, 2006 · Print This Article
Download this layout.
You might have to right-click on the link and “Save As”.