An Architectural Approach to Level Design by Cristopher Totten
A perfect level design book for those who seek to understand the architectural side of it, like dungeon designers and architectural concept artists and 3d-modellers. The book is easy to read, yet thorough, and combines theory and practice in a very elegant and straightforward way, with lots of helpful figures and illustrations. The author is something as rare as an academic game designer, and combined with the focused perspective of the book it makes for a very enjoyable and, uhm, focused read. You can read an excerpt from it at Gamasutra here.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
It’s not you, it’s the sink. This is a book that might make your mind wanting to implode everytime you experience bad design, which might be surprisingly often, so be careful about reading it. The book covers universal design principles that can be used for both everyday items, gadgets and games. It also covers the psychology of the people that is on the suffering end of bad design, whether that be confusing controls for refrigerators, intricate mappings of stove controls, or even touch screen paradoxes. If more game designers, level designers and public transport designers read this book, the world would be a better place.
The Art of Game Design, A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell
With it’s “100 lenses”, which are clusters of questions on 100 important game elements like fun, flow, story, themes etc, this book works for both game design and level design. It won’t show you in a straightforward practical way how to create a game or a level, but it plunges through 400 pages from both game theory and psychology, architecture, music, film, mathematics, theme park design and more. It helps bring all the puzzles together, and it will make you think more critcially and self reliant about all the important elements that a game or a level consists of, and how to balance these.
Level Up! by Scott Rogers
This is a book on game design, but for level designers I highly recommend chapter 9 from this book, “Everything I Learned about Level Design, I Learned from Level 9”, which might be partly true on my behalf. Either way it’s 40 very good pages to read as an introduction to Level Design. It’s style is more practical and entertaining than Schells more theoretical book, and does cover some good concepts like alley and island level design, fingers, pacing, Disneyland weenies and beat charts.
Articles and Texts
Beginning Level Design part 1 by Tim Ryan
Beginning Level Design, part 2 by Tim Ryan
Ten Principles of Good Level Design by Dan Taylor
Secrets of the Sages by Marc Saltzman
Composition in Level Design by Mateusz Piaskiewicz
Skyrim’s modular approach to Level Design by Joel Burgess
Anatomy of a Combat Zone by Josh Bridge
An Architect’s Perspective on Level Design Pre Producion by Michael Stuart Licht
Excerpts from An Architectural Approach to Level Design by Cristopher Totten
Designing Better Levels Through Human Survival Instincts by Cristopher Totten
The Metrics of Space: Molecule Design by Luke McMillan and Nassib Azar
Why I falied for years at Level Design and Game Environments at WorldOfLevelDesign.com
Good Games, Bad Design – Episode 1: What’s at Stake by Eric-Jon RÃ¶ssel Tairne at GameCareerGuide.Com.