GDC | Level Design Workshop

Level Design Workshop

GDC 2018 Content. GDC 2019 coming soon.

The Level Design Workshop returns for the eighth consecutive year bringing together another all-new docket of talks spanning a variety of topics that will interest working and aspiring level designers across the game industry.

Historically, LD Workshop presentations run the gamut from sharing specific techniques, to in-depth analysis of shipped games, to introspective explorations of "big" concepts that affect level designers/teams, as well as providing guides to process and workflow.

For 2018, Clint Hocking and Joel Burgess have curated a diverse mix of established and emerging voices from all corners of the level design world to present an entertaining and enlightening agenda of talks for attendees.

Level Design Workshop takes place on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

View all Level Design Workshop sessions

Featured Sessions

All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, or GDC Summits Pass required.

Level Design Workshop: The Holy Grail of Multiplayer Level Design: Maps for Casual and Competitive Play
Andrew Yoder (Hi-Rez Studios)
In this session, Andrew Yoder will cover the discrepancy between multiplayer maps for casual and competitive play and define "holy grail" maps as those that work for both audiences, giving examples from the history of multiplayer FPS level design. He will describe several design processes he and his team used at Hi-Rez since beta closed to create the levels for 'Paladins', a team-based FPS. He will focus on their experiments with player feedback on greybox maps in a public test queue as an attempt at external, data-driven iteration. His presentation will also detail some of the unexpected results from specific maps in the test queue, and Andrew will compare the results of this process to Hi-Rez's previous process based on internal feedback and iteration. He will go on to describe the effect of this process change on the team, and the unexpected consequences of putting level designers in the position of data analysts. To conclude, he will connect these observations back to his quest for the "holy grail" of multiplayer level design and caution others on their own quests.
Level Design Workshop: Designing for Non-Linear Story Discovery in 'Tacoma'
Steve Gaynor (Fullbright)
Nina Freeman (Fullbright)
Telling story through level design is crucial to many games, and when environmental storytelling is central to the experience, the shape of the level describes the shape of the story. But what happens when each major story segment is shaped in a completely non-linear way, while remaining tied directly to the environment? How can you design levels that both tell a story, and allow the player to explore that story in an organic, self-directed way? Designers Steve Gaynor and Nina Freeman from Fullbright share lessons learned during the development of their latest game, 'Tacoma', Fullbright's follow-up to the genre-defining 'Gone Home', and how you can apply these techniques to your own process.
Level Design Workshop: Procedural Regeneration: Matching the World to the Player
Heather Robertson (Heather Flowers)
In this talk, Heather will introduce the concept of procedural regeneration, that is, the concept of dynamically altering the world space of a game to fit the play style of its player. This can be done for multiple reasons, from gameplay balancing to horror, with the results influencing player experience in subtle yet powerful ways. This talk will largely focus on the lessons learned from 'Secret Spaces', a game which, on the micro level, is about gardening and exploration, but on a macro level is about the relationship formed between a player and the living building they inhabit, and how the building's feelings about the player changes how the player is allowed to interact with the world. Additionally, this talk will touch upon future potential uses for procedural regeneration.
Level Design Workshop: Invisible Intuition: Player Guidance from Blockmesh to Final Level Design
David Shaver (Naughty Dog)
Waypoints, HUD markers, buddy callouts, cutscenes, forced camera moves, and more. These navigation aids are ubiquitous in games and used to guide players to their goals, but can it be done without them? How do you design a level to flow naturally so that players go where you planned and notice what you want them to notice? This talk presents the audience with practical techniques to guide players naturally through 3D environments without relying on external systems. With the invisible hand of the designer guiding the way, players will know where to go intuitively without even thinking about it. Most of the presented techniques are applied in the blockmesh layout, while others occur via environment art, lighting, FX, audio, and scripting. It is important for designers to apply these techniques as early as possible in the blockmesh phase to ensure proper playtest feedback and layout changes are working as intended. As such, this presentation not only highlights good examples from existing shipped games, but also showcases the techniques using custom examples to show the improvements from initial blockmesh to final blockmesh design. Attendees will see the before and after of how these techniques improve a level layout's ability to guide the player intuitively.

Level Design Workshop Organizers

Clint Hocking
Clint Hocking entered the game industry working for Ubisoft Montreal in July of 2001, when he began his career as a Level Designer, Game Designer and Scriptwriter on the original 'Splinter Cell'. Along with writer JT Petty, Clint was honored for his writing work on the title with the first-ever Game Developer's Choice Award for Excellence in Scriptwriting. Clint continued as Lead Level Designer, Scriptwriter, and Creative Director on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory', the highest rated Splinter Cell to date with an aggregate review score of 94%. Clint then worked as Creative Director on the innovative and acclaimed 'Far Cry 2'. In 2010, Clint left Ubisoft and moved to San Francisco where he worked as a Creative Director at LucasArts. From 2012 to the end of 2013, Clint worked as a designer at Valve. From 2014 until mid-2015 he worked for Amazon Game Studios in Seattle. He currently works at Ubisoft again, this time in Toronto. Before games Clint worked in the web industry and experimented with independent filmmaking while earning an M.F.A in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. He maintains a blog at
Joel Burgess
Ubisoft Toronto
Joel Burgess is a World Director at Ubisoft Toronto. He is a 13–year veteran of the game industry, specializing in open world and level design. He was previously employed at Bethesda Game Studios, where he co-founded the level design group that helped create 'Fallout 4', 'Skyrim', 'Fallout 3', 'Oblivion'. He previously worked for Terminal Reality in Dallas, Texas, where he contributed to 'Bloodrayne 2' and 'Aeon Flux'. Joel helps organize and present the Level Designer's Workshop at both GDC San Francisco and GDC China in Shanghai. He holds a B.A. in Digital Media from the University of Central Florida.

GDC Tutorials offer a full day of in-depth information and cover a range of game development disciplines on Monday and Tuesday, March 19-20, 2018. View all GDC Tutorials on Session Scheduler.


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