Some of the primary features involved include:
- Arranging large scale features, the topography, buildings and so on.
- Putting in the start and finishing points.
- Assigning assets/regions that are interactive and that trigger changes in the level.
In combination with my research with Environment Desisgn a while back, It seems that what makes a good level are some of the following factors and decisions.
-What's it for?: Genre pendent, levels shall require/deserve certain assests to fit the bill. They should be familiar to us all. FPS deathmatch arena levels require a variety of routes to tactical positions at different heights. For racing games, obstacles, shortcuts and overlaps are factors that need to be included, also depending on the game itself, powerups and their distribution across the track.
-No attachments: Not to get attached to things, if it doesn't work out, cut it out and leave it out or replace it with something more ideal.
- Make it unique but keep it within the realm of probability: Most people don't like buying/playing the same game twice, unfortunatly there are games out there that fall under the same ganre and are basicly the same levels under a different name and assets. If level designers follow this same ideal then not only does it ruin the game but it makes it appear to buyers as if there is no imaginative spark involves in the process.
-I wanna leave RL for a bit (several hours): We gamers play games to excape reality, having invested in the games we buy we expect them to live up to our expectations. Of course the degreeof how far we want to immerse ourselves into the game depends on numerous factors, genre/setting etc. Even simple actions and interactions can be a flaw that grinds the escapism to a halt, if for example we want
-Less is more sometimes: Running with the initial ideas and block sketches is always the best starting point, making a play test with primative shapes can help you envision the level at an early stage.
This unknown area of the Animus resembles such a primative state, still fun though.
One thing that level designers are able to include if they wish are show stoppers, which I have experienced first hand in my gaming time. An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object; a riddle or puzzle that just cannot be solvewd to advance further, a boss who hits hard and has multiple phases. Situations like this I have faced on Normal or Easy setting and wiped or given up are numerous to mention!
Looking back on my games with a level/s worth mentioning, I can only think back to my earliest of games, on the over-blurred Playstation. Aside from Star Wars, my other two games were Disney A Bugs Life and Hercules, the latter being so basic in terms of level, yet the gameplay was a delight. It was like your classic arcade game in a way, power ups, health, ledges and jumping. Simplicity like this can keep you occupied for a while.