An Architectural Approach to Level Design: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

An Architectural Approach to Level Design

1st Edition

By Christopher W. Totten

A K Peters/CRC Press

469 pages | 4 Color Illus. | 305 B/W Illus.

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Explore Level Design through the Lens of Architectural and Spatial Experience Theory

Written by a game developer and professor trained in architecture, An Architectural Approach to Level Design is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. It explores the principles of level design through the context and history of architecture, providing information useful to both academics and game development professionals.

Understand Spatial Design Principles for Game Levels in 2D, 3D, and Multiplayer Applications

The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. The author connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory.

Create Meaningful User Experiences in Your Games

Bringing together topics in game design and architecture, this book helps designers create better spaces for their games. Software independent, the book discusses tools and techniques that designers can use in crafting their interactive worlds.


"The book appears to have been written with a great care and I was pleased to see a fresh description and illustration in the contents of the chapters, which drew my attention to read through in detail. I found the presentation clear and lucid and it also summarised some new points that are not found in related books on this subject."

—Sekhar Muddu, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Table of Contents

A Brief History of Architecture and Level Design

Breaking the Rules of Level Design

An Experiential History of Architecture

The History of Gamespaces

Ways of Seeing for Level Design

Tools and Techniques for Level Design

Level Design Goals for Creating Game Experiences

Non-Digital Level Design Tools

Digital Level Design Tools

Level Design Workflows

Engine-Specific Methodologies

Basic Gamespaces

Architectural Spatial Arrangements

Historic Gamespace Structures

Spatial Size Types

Molecule Level Spaces

Form Follows Gameplay with Proximity Diagrams

Hub Spaces

Sandbox Gamespaces

Considerations of Camera

Enemies as Alternative Architecture

Teaching in Levels through Visual Communication

Teaching Theories for Game Levels

Symbols and Visual Design in Games

Architectural Forms and Types

Teaching Gameplay through Advertising Methods

Controlling Information in Memory Palaces

Introducing Emotional Level Design through Survival Instincts

Survival Instincts and Player Avatars

Prospect and Refuge Spatial Design

Shade, Shadow, and Survival

Loving and Hating Height


Enticing Players with Reward Spaces

The Purpose of Rewards

The Types of Rewards in Gamespaces

Making Rewards Exciting through Denial

Goals and Reward Schedules

Storytelling in Gamespace

Expressive Design

Mechanics vs. Motif

Narrative Spaces

Environment Art Storytelling

Materiality and the Hero’s Journey

Pacing and Narrative Rewards

Possibility Spaces and Worldbuilding

Understanding Immersion and Player Individuality

Architectural Phenomenology and Play

Emergent Spaces

Miniature Garden Aesthetic

Japanese Garden Design and Worldbuilding

Offering Experiential Choice

Degenerative Design

Influencing Social Interaction with Level Design

Emergence and Social Interaction

Learning from Urban Emergence

The Importance of Spawn Points and Quest Hubs

Houses, Homes, and Hometowns in Games

Enhancing Level Design with Music and Sounds

The Role of Rhythm in Games and Buildings

Complementing Level Design with Ambient Sound

Enhancing Gameplay Experiences with Sound Design

Real-World Adaptive Level Design

When Magic Circles Collide

Adaptive Game Reuse Goals

Analysis for Adaptive Core Mechanics

A Summary and Endnotes appear at the end of each chapter.

About the Author

Christopher Totten is an assistant professor of game design at George Mason University with a master’s degree in architecture from the Catholic University of America. He recently founded an indie game studio, Pie for Breakfast Studios, and has previously worked on several indie mobile and serious game projects as an artist, art director, animator, level designer, and producer. He has written articles for Gamasutra, VideoGameWriters, and GameCareerGuide as well as the book Game Character Creation with Blender and Unity. He is a steering committee member for the IGDA Washington, D.C. chapter and has been featured at GDC China, East Coast Game Conference, DiGRA, and other industry events.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Computer Graphics
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games