When it comes to games, I often find that architecture can yield the best inspirations – especially when it comes from sources like the BLDGBLOG.
In this case, it's all about trapdoors. Funny things, trapdoors. Even funnier that they are not in much use when it comes to games.
Most levels are, when analysed thoroughly, mostly 2D: they might go up and down and wind around themselves a bit – but in the end, they're just long strips. Trapdoors undermine this simple structure, by opening up unexpected shortcuts. Yes, this might confuse the players … but couldn't this be fun, too?
I have not yet played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I do hope that this game uses trapdoors (and other unexpected shortcuts) more often.
A Spatial History of Trapdoors, as BLDGBLOG proposes, would be a good start to explore those devices:
Someone should write a short history of the trapdoor as spatial plot device in Broadway plays, literary fiction, Hollywood thrillers, and even dreams, CIA plots, Dungeons & Dragons modules, and more. How does the trapdoor, as an unexpected space of strategic perforation and architectural connection, serve both to move a plot forward and to give spatial form to characterization?
Robert Yang kindly asked me to translate the article about my level design considerations for my bachelor's thesis game. I'm slightly afraid that he is going to be disappointed, since this is not so much a theoretical approach to architecture and level design in general, but rather my thoughts and motivations for creating the specific level architecture for my own game.
When starting to design the level, I considered the following points to be the main guiding lines:
With the game being a serious game and a bachelor's project, I have neither the time (now) nor the money (in the future, when, hopefully, I'll be able to finish and publish the game) to create a large, open world.
Conveniently, evil already has a visual language. Put another way: I have seen the face of evil, and it is a caricature of gothic construction. There's barely a necromancer in existence whose dark citadel doesn't in some way reflect real-world Romanian landmarks, such as Hunyad or Bran Castle. The visual theme of these games is so heavily dependent on previously pillaged artistic ideas from Dungeons & Dragons and Tolkien that evil ambiance is delivered by shorthand. (Of course, World of Warcraft's Lich King gets a Stone UFO to fly around in – but it's still the same old prefab pseudo-Medieval schtick inside). Where the enemy is extra-terrestrial, HR Giger's influence is probably going to be felt instead.
This is beyond great.
I'm currently weeping of jealousy. I want my games to look like this.