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How to Create a Playable Level in 11 Days

Category: Level Design, UDK
July 01, 2010

Main reason most level designers fail to finish a level, is because they lack the knowledge and the exact steps of what to do from start to finish. Few common problems many beginner level designers face are finishing a level, not knowing what to do, which steps to take and it what order. Most people begin, but not all finish.

There are various level design workflows. Following specific steps during the production pretty much guarantee you finishing your designs. One of the workflow processes is working in passes. You would do gameplay pass, geometry pass, texture pass, lighting pass etc.

Another way is to work in sections. Split your level into chunks and workable sections and then work each section to completion. There is a better way. Working in both, passes and sections.

Knowing what to do as you work through your level designs step by step you'll avoid most common pitfalls such as improper planning, working on irrelevant areas, not knowing what to do next and in what order. You will be able to focus on the most important aspects of level design from start to finish and get the level finished.

11-Day Level Design is the idea of creating a full functional and playable map using any game engine. Going through 11-Day Level Design, you can have a full level created and able to play in just a week and a half.

Why 11 Days Level Design?

  • It forces a deadline
  • It makes you work on what is important and most relevant to the task at hand
  • You have to produce something each day, no time can be wasted
  • It is easily modifiable. Simply double the days from 11 days to 22 days, 33 days and so on.

In only 11 days you can have a playable map. I discovered this few years back during holidays. I had 11 days in-between semesters to myself. I wanted to be productive and start something. Most importantly I wanted to finish it. Since I had limited time I had to figure out a way to start a level and finish it only in 11 days. I sat down and planned it all out. I assigned each day a specific focus. I started with no idea what I wanted to do and in 11 days I had a finished map.

I kept up all the progress and shared it with everyone. You might have read How I Created a Map in 11 Days . You can download the free ebook here. After I posted my ebook, I began receiving emails from level designers telling me that they were able to finish a map in just 11 days. Most important, a lot of beginners who were never able to finish something, started to release their finished levels. I knew I stumbled onto something.

In early 2010 I held 11 Day Level Design Challenge. The response was amazing. Many beginner and experienced level designers joined in. Many finished their maps in just 11 days.

Here are few of the entries:

Created by Shepard203:

Created by Oilcake:

Created by Severance:

Take a look at this thread if you want to download pdf files of the progress work from the following three designers.

The best part of 11 Day Level Design is, it is easily scaleable from 11 days to 22 days, 33 days and so on. You'll simply double the days and use the same system but for longer time.

11 Day Level Design is done in 2 various and different ways, but the result is the same. You can work in sections or you can work in passes.

Passes is where you focus on doing workable passes throughout the entire level. Gameplay pass, geometry pass, texture pass, lighting pass etc. You work through the entire environment and focus on doing specific pass throughout.

Sections are where you split up your environment into workable sections. Then focus on one section of the level; get it done to 70-90% then move on to the next.

The current method that I've been working on is a bit of a mix. It doesn't focus on one or the other, but it incorporates the two.

Focus on sections of your level, and then do multiple passes within that section, before moving on to the next.

BASIC BREAKDOWN:

Simply go day by day and focus on a specific aspect of the production. Main focus is to produce something at the end of each day.

Have a focus on what you want to accomplish at the end of 11 days. What do you want to learn and what skillset do you want to gain? Is it to learn the editor? Is it to produce a playble map? Is it to learn terrain? Modeling?

Before starting ask yourself:

What do I want to learn and accomplish after 11 days?

Write it down on paper. It is not enough to say it and think it. Make it physically visible.

Day 1: Planning

Day 2: Blocking in. Focus here is on geometry, flow and layout. Gameplay and functionality of the level. Play testing the map is top priority. Change and update the layout if needed based on the gameplay feedback.

Day 3: Decide on the focal point and different sections of the map. Detail the focal point up to 80-90%. Focal point becomes the visual target that the rest of the environment has to measure up to.

Day 4-6: Working on various sections in the environment and working with geometry, texturing, placing models and terrain.

Day 7: Detail Pass. Making sure that all sections are not over detailed or under detailed. Proceeding with an overall detail pass through out the level.

Day 8: Exterior Lighting

Day 9: Interior Lighting

Day 10: Sound, Particle FX, Optimization

Day 11: Post Process. Configuration and Text files. Screenshots and beta release.

Final: After few days come back to the map and with fresh view on the level change it based on the feedback and overall quality.

As always, keep pushing your level designs to a new level and never give up.

No matter what anyone says.

Create your own level in 11 days. Click here for 11 Day Level Design.

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

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