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Level Design for Games

A 10-week course in which students will learn to approach 3D game level environments with a design perspective

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Design a game level to immerse your audience in

In this course you will learn to approach 3D game level environments from a design perspective. The lectures will explore theory of games, shape composition, architecture, and player psychology. You will design and iterate on level setups from the initial planning phases to playable prototypes in Unity. The course will focus on crafting immersion and modeling shapes that intrigue, surprise, and inspire players. We'll explore how to design for game mechanics and narrative, creating level progressions that support character development and player experience.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recorded
Duration:   10 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Maya (or equivalent), Unity
Skills level:   Intermediate to Advanced
Prerequisites:   Strong working knowledge of Maya is required; knowledge of Unity is recommended but not required

Level Design for Games WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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What is a "level"? What do level designers do? We'll look at the history of environments in games and their purpose in the overall structure of a game's design. And we'll briefly take a look at the structure of the course. Finally, we'll setup Unity and familiarize ourselves with the pipeline of creating environment mesh and bringing it into the game.
We're going back to basics of architecture this week and exploring components of geometric shape. We'll talk positive and negative space, rules of perception, and how shape influences player behavior and experience.
Let's get organized! We'll learn about the structure of cities and buildings, how players mentally map and utilize space, and how you can create environments that communicate their purpose to the player.
It's time to start planning an environment. We'll talk about how designers study and research, gather reference, and create prototypes leading up to the creation of their levels. Learn to look at reference and pick out what evokes a sense of place and atmosphere. Creating immersion means getting your head in the world of the game.
A level is a story. We'll learn about formal narrative structure and performative techniques. We'll create beat diagrams, pacing, and examine how levels flow from space to space in support of narrative and character development.
How do you create spaces that are interesting to explore? We'll look at path flow, valving, risk, rewards, creating mystery, player motivation and investment.
Many games feature some form of combat. We'll dive into cover-based shooter mechanics as a case study for how environmental shape interacts directly with player mechanics.
This week we'll take a look at what considerations go into creating multiplayer deathmatch style arena maps.
What is a puzzle? We'll analyze one of the hardest types of level setups, and how different games approach puzzle and problem-solving spaces.
A design isn't done until it ships. It's a humbling experience putting your game in the hands of new players. We'll look at the cycle of iteration and working with other departments to carry your design to gold. Also some final thoughts.

Real heroes don't wear capes they teach

Lectures by Emilia Schatz

Emilia Schatz is a lead game designer at Naughty Dog and has been making games professionally for more than 15 years. She was recognized by Fast Company Magazine as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2017. In the seven years she’s been at Naughty Dog, she worked on Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, and is currently helping to lead design on The Last of Us, Part II. Em is known especially for her puzzle designs and environmental level layout. The first public gameplay reveals for both Uncharted 3 and 4


July 21st!

winter TERM Registration

May 14, 2019 - Jul 23, 2019




July 21st!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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