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In computer game development, a level designer creates the actual digital environment with which a player will interact when playing and places the game’s characters and items within that environment. Different game development companies define the role of a level designer differently. In some instances, they are responsible for all aspects of assembling a specific level of a game, while other times the focus of their work is only a very narrow part of the level, such as lighting or character pathing. A designer usually has to have some programming knowledge and a proficiency in some three-dimensional (3D) modeling programs. The job is very important to the final product, because it incorporates all the elements that have been created by the rest of the game development team.
In some companies, a level designer will create the geometry for a level, including polygons for terrain, walls, ceilings and other structures. Creating a map can be a very detailed process and involves presenting a challenge to a player while not being overly confusing. With certain projects, the level designer might be creating objects in a 3D modeling program while, other times, all of the objects used to create a level are premade by separate artists and illustrators and placed like set props.
Depending on the type and scope of a project, the job of level designer could mean different things. A more limited role of a level designer is to solely handle the objects on a level. The geometry of the level will have already been created by a separate team member known as an environment designer. Level design in this scenario means placing objects, such as game characters or weapons, into strategic positions to present a challenge to the player. It also can involve modifying some parts of the environment, such as locking doors or setting triggers to move objects around the level, to further complicate game play.
A game design company also might ask a level designer to create scripts to control events on the level or the behavior of the enemies and characters. This can require some basic programming knowledge to quickly and effectively script actions. The designer is often chosen to write the scripts for a level because he or she is very familiar with how the map works and can better integrate the movements of objects so they feel more natural.
There are other responsibilities that a level designer might have. These can include testing or recommending statistical balancing for the enemies on a level, creating two-dimensional (2D) textures for new objects used in the environment or adjusting lighting and particles for rendering. Larger game development companies usually create their own design tools for creating levels, which can help to simplify the process, while other times plug-ins for standard 3D modeling software make the design process possible.