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Monthly Level Design/Environment Art Focus

Category: Level Design, Game Environment Design, Productivity/Time Management
March 22, 2010

What if you could focus on one area in your level design process and develop that skill for an entire month? What would it be? What would you learn and work on? What would you focus each month on? What would your entire year look like?

Level Design Environment Focus or LDEF is the idea of focusing on one specific skill of your level design or environment design process. One skill that you want to learn, improve on or develop for upcoming month.

The idea behind this is simple.

Each month you focus on one single aspect of level design process. One aspect of 3d environment design. Specific area you want to learn or an area you want to push yourself to a new level. For the entire month you read, watch videos and create your own projects with a single focus on improving or learning that one aspect of the process.

This means that you could choose to spend entire month on improving and/or learning gameplay + flow, 3d modeling, texturing, learning Hammer Source, UDK, lighting, optimization techniques etc.

Instead of working on many projects at once or just creating work with no focus. LDEF is choosing one specific area, one single element of level design process. Then, spending an entire month of learning and implementing the techniques of what you are learning into projects.

Doing a monthly focus for the entire year can yield huge improvements in your work. That is 12 specific skill sets you could improve and focus on.

Developing a monthly focus is something that I have been using for last few months. It has brought me great results. Better and deeper understanding into areas of level design and 3d environment design that I often neglected or "didn't have time" to spend on. Instead of bouncing from project to project and limiting my own resources I decided to focus on improving one single specific aspect of my design work.

KEY TIPS:

Make a list of all the things that you would want and/or need to improve on. One skill. General terms for right now. Such as architecture/structure, lighting interiors, modeling organic objects, story telling, texturing, L4D2 mapping, UDK and so on.

Pick one area per month. This means you will have to do a lot of cutting. Don't pick multiple monthly focuses. At this point you could write out monthly focuses for the entire year.

4 ways to help you pick an area to focus on for the upcoming month?

1. Pick an area that would drastically improve your environment design and level design. The biggest return on your time invested.

2. Pick an area that you get excited about it the most. Passion is an important motivator.

3. Pick an area where you are the weakest in and would need/want to improve in.

4. Pick an area where you are the strongest in and push your strength to a whole new level.

Now you make your focus very specific. The more specific you can describe what area of your artwork you will focus on the better. Answer this question; What would you want to have done after one month?

For example: Gameplay and flow focusing on single-player campaigns in L4D; modeling urban environments in Maya; learning the basics of a 3ds max and to be able to model my apartment.

Create 1-2 projects. Or create multiple exercises. Important thing here is to begin implementing your new knowledge as soon as possible. Start creating a new environment or a new map with a specific focus on getting better or learning specific element of the process. Start watching videos, reading tutorials and asking on the forums. You want to have something to show at the end of the month.

You can still work on creating a full playable map, but your time should be spend the most on working on the element of the process that you chose for this month.
During this learning and improving process, focus on really understanding the in-depth elements of the process. Focus on getting to the advanced skill level. Fail, fail often and try new things. "Break the editor".

LDEF is a very simple idea with a lot of power behind it. You will begin to improve at amazingly fast pace then ever before.

Environment Artists/Level Designers Monthly Ideas:

Interior or Exterior Lighting
Daytime/Nighttime lighting
Architecture
Scripting
Specific style of architecture (Art Deco, Neoclassical etc.)
Gameplay, Layout and Flow
Unreal Developer Kit
Hammer Source Editor
Game Specific Level Design (L4D1-2, CSS, Unreal3, TF2 etc)
3ds Max, Maya or other 3d app
Modeling Hard Surface Objects
Modeling Organic Objects
Urban Environments
Rural Environments
Texturing
Rendering
Uving
Style based (cartoon, fantasy, hyper-realism)
Portfolio
Drawing
Painting/Concept Art
Contest
Props
Architectural elements
Low-Poly modeling
High-Poly modeling
Low-Poly to High-Poly and Normal Maps
Image Reference Re-Creation
11-Day Mapping
Speed Modeling/Texturing
Speed Mapping

After going through the short exercise, share what your Level Design Environment Focus will be for the upcoming month on WoLD forums.

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

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