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Game World Creation with Inception

Category: Game Environment Art, Level Design
July 29, 2010

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As a game environment artist and level designer "You have a chance to build cathedrals, entire cities that never existed, things that couldn't exist in the real world."

Inception is origin: an event that is a beginning; a first part or stage of subsequent events.

Inception is level designers dream. Throughout the film words such as architect, creating levels, worlds, creating boundaries (closed loops) for believable worlds and designing layouts are discussed in Inception.

After watching Inception couple of times, I found many similarities between creating worlds in a game and creating worlds in dreams.

Second time I went to see it I set down with a small notepad I always carry with me for ideas. I wrote down a few things that I believe could help a level designer. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

There are no spoilers in this article.

Many things in Inception directly relate to level design and creating game worlds. Here is what I learned in Inception about creating worlds.

  • As a level designer you have a chance to build worlds, to design levels. You create a world out of an idea, a single thought you have in your mind. Simple idea becomes something tangible for someone else to experience. Player has a chance to explore your creation. Something that started as a simple idea in your mind can become a game world. Do not ignore a simple idea of a world you want to create.
  • Continuously create. Never stop creating. Always design and build something new.
  • Design with story in mind. Make sure the player has an objective you want them to fulfill. Make it clear, make it interesting.
  • The world you create is about visuals and emotion. The feeling you want the player to experience, reinforced by the visuals.
  • Never create from memory. Always use reference to create worlds. Use your memory to communicate the feelings of spaces and environments you've been to, but when designing use reference to make the world believable.

  • Become interested in Architecture. Study it and learn it. It will make your game worlds more real.
  • Create closed loops. Put boundaries on where the player can go and where they can't. You must hide boundaries in a clever and appropriate ways that stay consistent with the game environment and its theme. Closed loops should hide the edge of the world and create a believable environment.
  • Treat your game world creation as a real world. Think of how the people live there before the player is there. Design game space for the "people" who live in that game world, then adapt it for the player.
  • Creating believable worlds requires playing with the players' perception of what is the playable area and what are the outer boundaries. You have to bridge that gap, so it appears to be one in the same.
  • Dream big, create big. Create worlds you want to explore, push through your own comfort zone and design new exciting game worlds.

I Need an Architect Clip:

Inception Trailer:


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About World of Level Design

My name is Alex Galuzin. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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