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GDC 2015 - Level Design Histories and Futures

Game academic Robert Yang discussed the history and future of level design as a discipline at GDC 2015 as a part of the Level Design in a Day summit. He analyzed level design in a critical sense, connecting it to a bigger context, and answering the question of what level design might look like in the future.


He believes you can look at level design from four different perspectives:

  • As a material -- as data.
  • As industrial process.
  • As architectural space.
  • As community politics.

He provided an overview of the history of level design editors, explaining that they have become much more useful given the creator's focus on establishing more efficient workflows for designers. In doing so, however, we have also establishing a culture of hyper-specialization, which is readily apparent in AAA level design positions.

He explained that often times a formalist approach is employed by AAA level designers, who work to create levels that resemble human-scale spaces in reality. That said, he believes this is an incredibly limited view of level design's potential, and that in the future, more postmodern takes on level design -- that acknowledge the process and the idea more than the content of the space -- will become more prevalent. That said, he doesn't believe AAA will ever fully embrace level design approaches and processes that aren't at least somehow formalist.

Yang also offered three possible level design futures:

  • Industrial
    • Hypermodern and mainstream with a fixed grammar to drive human labor.
  • Cyborg
    • Machine-collaboration tool assisted human-procedural hybrid.
  • Local
    • Postmodern process-oriented social practice, heavily conceptual.

The slides associated with the above futures are below:




Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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