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CD Projekt RED has published a community Q&A with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt level designer Miles Tost on the company's official forums, the first of what could potentially be many. In the Q&A, Tost talks a bit about the start of his career, his interest in game design, and his current daily duties. Here's an excerpt:
Could you briefly walk us through a typical day in the office as a level designer?
Uh, typical. Well - typical day nowadays is very different than half a year or even a year ago. It really depends on what state of development we are in. And even then, all sorts of things happen. Just the other day I spent a couple of days helping out Lighting Novigrad City and some villages. Apparently we have this dynamic time of day thing and people would like to see things at night. Go figure. Nowadays it's a lot of bugfixing and even those are getting less and more and more minor. Early on there was a lot of making maps/sketches, preparing design documents for regions in our world. Then we went on and started implementing the first pass of POIs on the level. Then iterations follow. Playtests result in things working well / not so well. Changes need to be made accordingly, you do multiple decoration passes on each location until eventually it reaches final quality. Standards evolve as you "unlock" more and more new awesome tech, better looking assets get made, so you can end up doing multiple final quality passes Then there's things like...maybe a location looks really good but doesn't play quite well for various reasons. Or it looks good but could be more/less interactive, etc etc. All sorts of "passes" really.
Can you name some of the tools you use daily as a level designer?
I use Photoshop pretty frequently. A notepad and a pen and of course - our very own Engine RedEngine3. Also, I use the coffee machine multiple times a day. Spotify is also a big one. It's funny, when working on some locations, certain tracks would be playing on my playlist - and now when I look at these locations, I hear the song(s). Interesting phenomenon as you sort of associate moods, images, songs and even smells with places you made. Had a chat with Peter Gelencser (Senior Level Designer) about it, and apparently I'm not alone with this!
What are some of the tricks you use in order to make sure a player sees and appreciates a certain aspect of the game that you worked on, such as a point of interest?
Okay, I could go on and on about this and how much this fascinates me. Maybe the one that might be surprising to people not familiar with game development is that, at least here at CDPR, we use a lot of traditional image composition techniques, much like painters would use them. For example, you climb up a slope, you are greeted with a nice view. The view would be carefully crafted for this one (sometimes multiple) perspectives. We'd play with shapes and composition to help guide the eye of the player to objects/places we want the player to see and explore or likewise, try to hide certain things that way. Light also plays a big role here, as a bright spot in the distance can easily grab the players attention. It works quite subliminal and if you play your cards right, you guys feel like you all figured this super complex dungeon out on your own, when really... we had you by the strings all along! That is... until you turn around 180° and walk the other way...or is it?