Game Designers In Detail is a three-question interview series between a current NYU Game Center MFA student and a PRACTICE speaker.
Allen Yu: As a map designer, do you usually create a map first, and then get the feedback from players?
Or is it the other way around? Do you design the map based on what the community seems to want?
Shawn & Sal: As a map designer, I create the map first but I make iterations on the map design through feedback and community playtesting throughout the design process. I have a unique perspective when it comes to level design for Counter-Strike since I have also been a professional player of the game for over a decade so a lot of that community input is directly baked into my work.
AY: Steam Workshop is very successful and has a very active community. With the collective intelligence of fans in the community, do you think level designers in game companies are getting less important? And, taking Counter Strike Go for example, what’s the difference between the work of level designers in a AAA company and in a fan community?
S&S: Most companies don’t have anything similar to Steam Workshop quite yet. Even with the Steam Workshop, the level designers at Valve still maintain the overall vision and direction of their game with the levels they choose to include in each map operation. Valve is also actively working on their own map projects as well.
One difference of work between level designers in AAA companies as opposed to a fan community is that the fan community can spend a ton of time on a project on every last detail with no pressure of when the map needs to be released. The fan community can also more easily playtest the map with their audience prior to release and incorporate feedback directly into the final product. There is also a massive amount of fan work being produced each day by so many talented people that there are bound to be some very successful maps.
AY: As the level designers who have created many classic maps, do you try to avoid using the same successful elements you utilized in the previous maps? Or do you think re-using successful elements from previous designs is the right way to create a successful map?
S&S: As level designers who have created many classic maps, we try to utilize successful techniques and elements from previous maps in our new works. However, any new map should bring something new to the table as well so that the maps are sufficiently different from each other. If the maps are too similar to one another, it won’t give players a compelling enough reason to play the new map.