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Level Design Workshop: Invisible Intuition: Blockmesh and Lighting Tips to Guide Players and Set the Mood


David Shaver (Game Designer, Naughty Dog, Inc.)

Robert Yang (Assistant Arts Professor, NYU Game Center)

Location: Room 20, North Hall

Date: Tuesday, March 20

Time: 11:20am - 12:20pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Summits - Get your pass now!

Topic: Design

Format: Tutorial

Tutorials: Level Design Workshop

Vault Recording: Video

Waypoints, HUD markers, buddy callouts, cutscenes, forced camera moves and more: these navigation aids are ubiquitous in games to guide players to their goals. But can it be done without them? In this talk, two experts on blockmeshing and lighting present practical techniques that establish mood and naturally guide players through 3D environments.

In the first part of the session, David Shaver shares techniques that developers like Respawn and Naughty Dog use to establish natural level flow via blockmesh design, environment art, FX, audio and scripting. Using examples from shipped games as well as custom material created specifically for this talk, David shows early blockmeshing techniques that guarantee proper playtest feedback and verify layout changes work as intended. Attendees will then see many more "before and after" examples of how the best practices presented here improve a level layout’s ability to guide the player intuitively.

In part two of this session Robert Yang delves into one of the most important yet often overlooked means of understanding levels: light. Lighting is one of the most crucial design tools for setting mood and readability in a game world, but level designers and environment artists often lack the language and theory to collaborate effectively on lighting design. Robert will illuminate what light does for games and show how developers can use it to facilitate specific experience goals for games. Robert's talk begins with a brief cultural history of lighting before moving on to an overview of lighting design theory as well as various case studies.


From the first part of this session, attendees will walk away with a better understanding of how to guide players not with navigation aids, but with proven, and often invisible, level design techniques. They will be armed with these practical techniques to improve the flow of their level designs after seeing the them in action, both via finished games and custom blockmesh examples.

After part two, attendees will learn about various lighting techniques and case studies intended to help them light their own game worlds, as well as specific language and theoretical frameworks for thinking about/communicating their design goals.

Intended Audience

This session is intended for beginner and intermediate level designers. Professional lightning/environment artists may not necessarily learn new information, but they may learn how to better communicate with level designers.