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Playing with Space and Light

Category: Game Environment Design
October 02, 2009

Playing with Space and Light

Olafur Eliasson creates art from a palette of space, distance, color and light. The following video begins with an experiment in the nature of perception.

Olafur Eliasson's presentation "Playing with Space and Light" focuses on making the individual a part of the environment.

In our case, making the player part of the environment.

Olafur Eliasson: Playing with Space and Light

Olafur Eliasson: Playing with Space and Light

Olafur Eliasson: Playing with Space and Light

It's not about just decorating the world; making it look better, or worse. It is about taking responsibility and showing that the space you are creating has dimensions, time and flow.

Making the space negotiable and tangible. Negotiable means it makes a difference whether you do something or not. It makes a difference if you are in the environment or not.

For example in the game "The Saboteur", player's progression of the story in the game changes the environment from black and white to color.

The Saboteur

It is the idea of the environment not being a digitally created world.

Night and day cycles as well as people, animals and life moving through the spaces where you can be an observer or a direct cause and effect.

Alan Wake

It is always evaluating what does it mean to be in this space? It is the difference between thinking and doing.

It is making the player a part of the environment. Are there any consequences of the player in the environment? Or are they just moving through it?

This makes a difference in making the space accessible.

Splinter Cell Convictions

It is all about the causality and the consequences of being in the created space.

Splinter Cell Convictions

Between thinking and doing is experience. Experience is not about entertainment. Experience is about responsibility. Having an experience is taking part in the world and sharing responsibility.

Alan Wake

How does this apply to Level Design and Game Environments?

How would you introduce that being in a space makes a difference? What consequences does the player have when they do something?

Does it matter if you do something your created world?

How could you create responsibility in the player's actions when they do something in the world?

It could be as simple as pushing a button or opening a door to more complex interactions where the outcome of what you do not only has consequences on you but other players as well.

Begin to think in terms of how you can introduce interactions and responsibility to players actions.

It should make a difference whether a player does something in your level or not. Creating the space that supports direct interaction between the player and the level.

Think of ways you can help measure space and give a sense of scale. For example introducing a waterfall or establishing measure of scale in buildings to vehicles to mountains and skyscrapers in the background.

The Saboteur

He talks about creating an environment that embraces both individuality and collectivity without polarizing them into two separate groups.

So, then, how can we give the player a feeling of personalization as well as a feeling of being part of a whole. The first game that comes to mind is HL2 when you are in the city. You are walking around seeing the citizens, some crazy, some scared, some are even being abused by the "guards". Eventually it starts to push a more personalized view of the city when Gordon is retreating through abandoned attics and along rooftops.

~ Keith Garry

Half Life 2

In a game, at least within the first few moments, the player should understand they can interact with the environment in more ways than pushing buttons and opening doors. Prop_physics should do nicely, falling through unsteady floors; shooting out pillars to cause the ceiling to collapse. Maybe there is a route that leads through water, but that water has piranhas (or worse zombie piranhas) so you must [poison,electrify, etc] the water to move on, BUT you yourself are unable to move through that water while it is [poisoned, electrified etc] and have to defend yourself from soldiers while the water stabilizes. So you can really give depth to your level by creating puzzles this way. Hmm, makes me want to map HL2.

I'm a big fan of alternate realities affecting each other. In Zelda: A Link to the Past the game starts as any Zelda game would. Go to the dungeons, and defeat the bosses. That is, until, you find a mirror that will teleport you to the Dark World which happens to be an almost exact replica of the Light World. You can then jump back and forth between the worlds and get to locations you couldn't before.

Hourence talks about a game that has buildings the player would venture through and then return to them later on only to find that they have been burned down. Some areas remain the same while others have changed.

Max Payne

It is a great way to relate the player to the environment.

I found this on the net a few days ago. Its from Duke Nukem: Forever. You can see where the beginning is and where the end is. The player is able to see the dam at the Bridge Stop, almost at the start of the map. He crosses and sees the damn.

Duke Nukem Forever

I think that helps the player relate the his environment more and also gives him the incentive to keep on going forward, just to get to the end point.

I think trying to make the environments not a linear experience, not so A to B.

Leave comments on the forum thread Playing with Space and Light.

Updated & Revised - Preproduction Blueprint: How to Plan Your Game Environments and Level Designs

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