I’ve been fascinated with architecture for a while now, how buildings affect our interactions and feelings within them. This is partially why I became intrigued with game design, aside from my obsession with games. I like to think of level design as an almost purist version of architecture, although they may disagree with me.
A level is designed purely to guide players experiences, whereas an architect also has to think about pesky things such as physics or livability. If a space in a game is not working quite as it should we can simply add/remove doorways, stairs, walls, even entire buildings. This is most apparent in multiplayer games such as TF2, where maps are constantly refined.
This, however, can be level design’s downfall in comparison to architecture. Buildings have a permanence that game maps can’t really hope to match. A design in a game can only live while it’s being played, hours of work would have gone into designing the world of say, Tabula Rasa, all now in dust. Obviously a building can always be demolished or horrifically renovated, but while they’re standing they have always been and will always be.
A favourite blog of mine is BLDGBLOG, this recent post where the author, Geoff Manaugh, interviews Jim Rossignol, author of another blog I frequent, Rock Paper Shotgun. In it they discuss, among other things, how level designers are lucky enough to design essentially whatever they want, flying castles, spaceships, etc., while real world architects are constrained to design something “reasonable”, giving us post modernist blandscrapers and such. Unfortunately, especially with today’s game budgets exploding, level designers may someday have to be just as cautious, having to pander to critic’s and fellow designer’s wishes somewhat.
Freedom, we have at the moment, so lets make the most of it! I can now get back to designing a space where people meet up to kill thousands of zombies, maybe I’ll move that lift to the other side of the foyer, or add another couple of stories to the building, won’t take too long…
UPDATE: Just bought both these brilliant writers’ books from Amazon, Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG, and Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life