Post by a Chunk on May 23, 2019 16:26:18 GMT
Gaming’s high ground: Why Verticality is Good for Level Design
by Gavin Hollibone
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A recurring comment through the development of video games seems to be that a level ‘Feels too flat’. For years, games with vertical levels simply used staircases, the two-storey design producing positive results. Recent releases however are giving their players some revolutionary movement tools.
Advanced Warfare’s exoskeleton and Far Cry 4’s combination of wing suit and grapple hook allow for mobility in all directions, and the levels they’re implemented in provide great opportunities for said travel.
Verticality provides a fresh change in the flow of how the game works, giving a whole new axis to worry about. Instead of checking your flanks and what’s in front and behind you, you’re looking up to the skies to check for a flying super soldier, or beneath you if you are the flying super soldier.
Extreme verticals allow for a massive shift in environment. Battlefield 3’s Damavand Peak featured a 500-metre drop and with it came a shift in environment. At the top of the drop was a funnel of natural landscape and a light scattering of buildings, some of them even reaching heights of 50 metres themselves. Upon jumping off and parachuting onto the next enemy’s position, the environment becomes entirely industrial.
Such a change of environment gives more tactical opportunities: the top of the peak was a sniper’s dream, whereas the industrial area saw LMGs and RPGs wreak glorious havoc.
In less competitive environments, verticality can create a sense of depth or adventure. In Dark Souls you’re initially travelling downwards, with constant reminders of how deep you are via upward views. It’s most intimidating example is Ash Lake, in which you are surrounded by countless giant trees which go straight up as far as the eye can see; the vertical effect is used to intimidate and frighten. Later in Anor Londo you feel triumphant, having travelled upwards to the highest point of the game from where you can see the world below.
The sharp cliffs being scaled with the grappling hook in Far Cry 4 make the environments appealing to explore. Swinging by your grapple hook on a cliff that’s 300m high with a sharp drop below is thrilling, and the caves have massive drops and climbs, all of which can be explored. Nowhere is out of bounds with the right tools, save for the classic invisible barrier surrounding the mountain.
Verticality is a game element that needs to see the light of day in as many titles as possible. If you want to try travelling up and down instead of forwards and backwards, try games such as Dark Souls, Far Cry 4 and Titanfall.