To have a successful production, a roadmap is needed to guide the team through key stages of level creation. While each stage has an owner, people can always contribute or make suggestions. It’s the owner’s responsibility to complete that stage, though.
Each level is given a chunk of time from Pre-Alpha to Gold Master. Earlier levels might need more than the allotted time; later levels might need less. Consecutive work days are not required. It might be best to wait until key features or reusable art is finished before continuing. Remember, this timeframe assumes people are familiar with the tech, story, and gameplay, no major technical issues exist, and some reusable assets already are available.
Not every department is participating at each stage every moment. Having several levels in production at the same time allows for a staggered schedule. Departments can now have a steady stream of work, without waiting for different departments to finish their stage.
This is a guidance document to help direct process. This process will be modified to reflect observations. This is not an “if-then” process – remember several tasks happen in parallel.
Waiting to check progress until the last day provides no time for changes. All that effort has been wasted if the requirements were misunderstood. To prevent this, a review is initiated half-way through the scheduled time. Task owners should strive to get at least 50% of the requirements in place for this review. If the review is successful, there might be no need for a second one.
Before meeting, participants should review the level to be familiar with the changes (up to a day before the meeting). Producers or owners should send out reminders. Using these checkpoint reviews should reduce the need for day-long meetings. Reviews last up to an hour. Anyone can join. Feedback lasts up to a day after the meeting, providing people time to reflect and give constructive criticism without hasty reactions.
Positions listed below might not match your specific company’s titles. Adapt as needed.
Lead – from each department: Art, Audio, Design, Animation.
Layout (or Builder) – builds the physical level. Serves as the “Lead” for the level, maintaining the Level Doc.
Scripter – adds events and encounters to the level.
Writer – story plot and script dialogue.
Animator – creates unique animation for level events.
FX Artist – creates and adds special FX events.
Lighting Artist – provides direction and finalizes level lighting.
Environment Artist – creates unique and repeatable art for the level.
Story drives the level! It creates a reason for the level, providing answers why the player is there. A story doesn’t have to be a classical narrative – it can be “written” with dynamic gameplay. It’s also important to understand where an event takes place. The setting and history of a location affects the story. With dynamic gameplay, the setting needs to support the player’s current abilities and choices to create a satisfying experience.
Include 1-3 Story Events in each level (or load). Remind the player he’s involved in an exciting adventure. Create other supporting events to reflect, reinforce, and expand these progression moments.
Each task and review for each stage is detailed on the following pages (enlarge to read if needed).
Remember, level creation is a staggered once in full-production. When a layout is finished and passed to Art and Scripters, a new layout is started for a new level.