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One Level Design Mistake I Learned to Avoid From Playing "Mirror's Edge"

Category: Level Design
February 05, 2019

I really enjoyed playing "Mirror's Edge".

But, the game has a level design problem despite having "runner's vision".

"Runner's vision" is a gameplay mechanic in "Mirror's Edge" where certain objects become highlighted in red that guide you where you need to go. This includes red doors, railings, ledges, pipes, valves, boxes, ropes and buttons:

But even with "runner's vision", I was lost.

It didn't take long to find where to go next, but each time I got stuck, the flow of the level was disrupted. "Mirror's Edge" is a fast paced parkour game and having to stop mid-run to look around destroys the level's pacing and flow.

And it could be fixed with one simple level design principle.

So what is this ONE level design mistake I learned to avoid in my work?

Mirror's Edge Mistake: Placing Where the Player Needs to Go Next, Outside Their View

Keeping the player's movement forward through your level naturally and effortlessly is very important.

With a high-pace, high-speed running, jumping and climbing game like "Mirror's Edge", keeping the player's momentum and flow without abruptly stopping them is essential.

Especially for a game that doesn't have a radar or onscreen indicator where to go. So the level design guidance must be on point.

To me, "Mirror's Edge" is a racing game, but on your feet.

When I am running fast but have to stop and look where I should go next - flow and momentum is disrupted. This is fine for some games but not for "Mirror's Edge".

For most of "Mirror's Edge" there is a natural and effortless flow from one building to another, from one red object to the next.  But when this movement is interrupted, it's noticeable. It is like hitting a brick wall at high-speed.

Let me give you examples and then I will tell you how to fix it.

Video Tutorial

Mistake Example #1: Flight Chapter - Office Chase

First example of this mistake is in the Flight chapter. Right after you meet Flow's sister you are confronted by guards and now being chased through the offices:

Most of the chase sequence flows naturally, but when I came to this section, I missed where I was to go:

I went straight and jumped up on this ledge:

The path to take was off to the right, outside my view, here:

After multiple failed attempts, I realized there was an open door on the left that I could have taken or I could have busted through the window glass:

But this was not clear, especially in the heat of the chase. I took the path of natural flow by going straight then up the wall to the left and it led me to a dead end.

Simple solution would have been to place where the player has to go within view as soon as they turn the corner. Somwhere right here:

Mistake Example #2: Flight Chapter - Helicopter Rooftop Chase

In the same level, as I make my way outside and now being chased by the helicopter. Most of the running, jumping, sliding and climbing here is effortless. I feel unstoppable running at exhilarating speed.

Until I reached this section:

Jumping across I tried the door only to realize the way to go was right behind me, outside my view:

Mistake Example #3: Heat Chapter - Helicopter Chase

In the Heat chapter, I am being chased by the helicopter.

There is a small section where I make my way across the red beam and climb up the construction supports:

I run forward, the same way I climbed up. Helicopter appears in front of me and shoots a hole through the tarp:

I run pass it, turning right, going down, only to find out it is not the way to go:

Again, your path to take was right behind me. Outside my view.

But you wouldn't know this because the level design instructed you to look in one direction, and then continue with the path of least resistance, guiding you forward to the right and in the wrong direction.

Mistake Example #4: Eden Mall Chase

Last example is at Eden Mall.

After I am shot at and pressured to take the elevator, I run to reach the upper level.

As I run up these stairs, the natural flow is to keep going:

But I am stopped by a dead end:

Once again, the path I needed to take was right behind me:

How I Would Fix This

I wouldn't mind so much if examples above were during the parts of the level when I am not being chased. Where making split-second decisions isn't vital but they are and they kill the momentum.

I want to blaze through these chase sequences, replaying them over and over again just to feel the exhilarating speeds without stopping. I want to see how fast I can go through them and how cool I can make them look. Just like in the first level of Mario 1.1, where you press forward and see how fast you can get to the end and pull down that flag.

These issues are easily fixable.

Don't hide it.

Don't place it behind them and outside player's view. So when the player enters into this area, they will know where to go - even if it is not a direct, straight path.

This may require reworking your geometry so the player sees where they need to go.

It doesn't always have to be displayed in center of the screen or maintained in front of the player but it should be naturally within the player's view, especially when they enter into a new area. This is done in many parts of the game already.

Key Takeaway: As the player enters into a new area, new part of the level or into a new room - give an indication where they should head to. Construct the layout and level's architecture to make that clear. Especially for parts of your level where high rate of speed, movement and quick reflexes are required, such as any chase sequences (vehicle or on foot).

The Best Example

Watch the video below for the best chase sequence example of natural, effortless flow from one section to the next. I intuitively knew where to go, where to turn and where to jump.

Read Next

I have 6 instant tips will help you to create better level design flow, guaranteed. Such as a very advanced and subtle effortless flow tip #4/6, "Direction of the Opened Door, Guides the Player Where to Go". Be careful with how you use them. You don't want everyone else look bad. See these 6 instant level design tips now...

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