Vertical Spaces in Level Design

Rob Hale’s discussion of a Damnation making-of video raises a very interesting point. The top down diagram that most levels emerge from does not lend itself particularly well to creating rich vertical spaces. It’s possible to create verticality after the fact, but rarely is it significantly navigable. I’ve personally wrestled with this when designing tabletop RPG maps, which are not only designed top-down but played the same way with a erasable grid mat and miniatures. Adding height variance to a space almost always makes it more interesting for the players, but it’s often difficult to make the vertical space navigable, especially if it’s done post-hoc.

Tightening the loop between concept art and level design, instead of the de rigeur practice of only using concept art to inform the environment artists, could help address this issue. Like Rob, I hope Damnation is able to pull this off. He also advocates designers improving their technical skills, a sentiment I heartily agree with.