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Giving guest talk on Level Design


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Sorry for the delay in posting, I've written what I hope is a useful after action report, sorry that its a bit long. I'll start with how I prepared for the talk


Most of my prep involved reading over level design articles, I spent most evenings going through them and writing down notes. Many I'd read before but I found by writing notes down I was retaining more information than I would have if I read them dozens of times. I tried to cover at least one article each evening, although I usually just kept reading/writing until I went to bed. I printed articles off and sat at an empty desk whilst reading, I got too distracted working at my PC. Aside from articles, I spoke to one of the tutors a fair a bit about what the students would find most useful, what they'd find more interesting ect. That was really handy as he'd had first hand experience with who I'd be talking to. My friends who had also done public speaking before were really helpful, it was great to hear little tips like where to look when speaking to an audience. And of course Mapcore! I'm so glad I posted here and listened to what you guys would expect to hear in a level design talk and suggestions about what areas to cover. It was also a great motivator, I felt like after all the help and support you gave me I owed it to you to do the best I could, it was a strong driving purpose.


When putting together the structure of the talk and contents, I had a rough idea of the stages I would cover. I wanted to talk about things I felt most comfortable explaining, I didn't feel confident discussing aspects of level design I still either don't have a solid understanding of myself or things I didn't feel capable of articulating. The bulk of the contents of the talk would cover the process of developing a level from the initial idea/concept to the final stages of polishing. I wanted to put more emphasis on what its like creating levels as a hobbyist in their spare time as I felt its probably more relevant to the situation they are in. I broke the talk down into sections which were :

  • Picking and developing an idea

  • Gathering reference

  • Creating concepts, drawing layouts

  • Greyboxing

  • Playtesting

  • iteration

  • Detailing passes

  • Lighting (briefly)

  • Optimisation

When writing the contents, I frequently referred to the notes I'd made, and used the most informative ones to help me explain things. For each section I covered why the process was important, how it affects the rest of the development, What the process involves and what my personal approach to it is. I also included some do's and don’t s, what mistakes I've made in my experience and what kind of negative effects they had, for example, skipping steps, rushing into the editor ect. I wrote in bullet point form, I found when practising I had too many bullet points with too little in them, so I condensed them into paragraphs which felt less 'stop, start, stop, start'. To show I picked out screenshots from the development of one of my levels for Fistful of Frags which helped demonstrate the process I wanted to describe.


Prior to the talk I was nervous, but I felt like I had done enough preparation. It was a fairly large group I was talking to which was somewhat intimidating. I started the talk off fairly weakly I think, but after a few minutes I began to relax. Something that helped a huge amount was our producer was in the audience and sat fairly close. We get along really well and he's known to the group I was talking to, It was comforting having brief playful chats with him. I worked my way through the sections, and found I was able to discuss them without sounding too much like I was reading from a script, a difficulty I found was then looking back at my notes and trying to work out what I'd already covered. Several of them asked questions throughout the talk which was nice, it gave me a break from constantly talking. I did totally forget toshowg pictures until half way though, they perked up a bit after that, and doing so provoked a few more questions. I closed with a few thoughts on gaining experience and how to make the most out of the time they have, following that were a few more questions, and then it was over! It lasted about an hour and a half which was longer than I expected it would. I had a few people come up to me after to ask questions, which felt quite nice as it made me feel like I had given some useful information.


In conclusion, I think it was a really positive experience. I learnt so much myself, my hand writing improved and I think my confidence has a bit too, I know I can actually talk about level design now, whereas before I was worried I could never describe things coherently. I couldn't have done it without the help of others, the information you guys gave me and the people I spoke to in person was invaluable, I can't imagine how poorly it would have gone without it. Practising in-front of friends was also very helpful, I found it harder speaking to two people than I did to 40, not sure why that was but it certainly prepared me for it. Also having a cup of tea at hand whilst talking helped me relax!

If I ever do something like it again, I'll make sure I show plenty of pictures (and not forget until halfway through), I'll start preparing sooner and not let it eat up all my spare time, and perhaps push myself to talk about some broader topics which I didn't feel capable of doing.


Articles I found most use from :

Realistic Level Design in Max Payne

Level Design Primer : Starting a New Level (This is a fantastic read)

Common Sense Vs Level Design

Single Player Level Design Workflow by Magnar Jenssen

The Iterative Level Design Process of Bethesda Game Studios

WoLD : Level Design Workflow


Thank you again for all the support and encouragement, if you have any questions please let me know!

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You should have video'd the speech IMO :D


I wish I had now! I would have asked, but I was worried it would go so poorly I'd never want to be reminded of it again!  Next time :)



Even if it had gone poorly, having a video would have helped you critique your presentation style and allow you to improve. Just another way to look at it in the future. :)

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