All this talk about game writers and narrative designers has sidestepped the obvious. Often those writing the game are not the ones designing the game. Now game designer is a pretty broad term, so this post is for you, level designer! Ever felt like a writer was telling you how to design your game? Ever wondered how to work with a writer when you never had to before? We understand, and you’re not alone.
Ideally, each level of a game tells a story in and of itself. However, your most important role is to make the game fun for the player, so you may be focusing more on the player’s story, rather than the game story or dialog. If you’re working closely with writers, it’s a simple task to educate them about your priorities in designing a level, even if they already know. Most likely they’ll get on board and give you lots of ideas stemming from the game story. Most writers will know you’re making the final decision on the level.
On one project I was working on, a level designer and a writer got together to hash out a level. The writer had strong ideas about what the level would look like, but the level designer suggested another flow to the level. The level designer assured the writer that he would like it if he was open to trying it out. Once the level was laid out, sure enough, the writer saw the wisdom of the new level flow, and became its champion.
Next we’ll be exploring the content designer’s relationship with the writer, and next week we’ll tackle systems design. But first, as a level designer, have you ever had to arm wrestle with a writer over content? What issues did you face?