Centinela Design Consultancy – Level Art & Design Consulting

My name is Mateusz Piaskiewicz, I’m running LEVEL-DESIGN.org and a consulting and implementation company called Centinela.

centinela design consultancy I’m focusing my consulting work on three core pillars of Level Art & Design:

  • Theory, Practice and Principles
  • Process and Production
  • Team Culture and Skills

Theory, Practice and Principles

I believe that a great level designer should also be a great game designer and should understand how design works. Not only video game design but design in general.

These are some of the selected topics that I find really important in daily art and design work:

  • Engagement – Understanding role of novelty, rewards, curiosity and uncertainty,
  • Playfulness – Recognizing potential problems like busywork, space isolation or unnecessary complexity,
  • Needs, Rewards and Motivation – Recognizing and designing for player behavior patterns, wants and needs, forming personas representing audience needs,
  • Progression – Building and sustaining player engagement over time, including goals schedule, gating and non-linear progression,
    • Using Action Beats and Rational Level Design methods for game progression,
  • Perception – Understanding cognition (“reading the environment and events, creating mental models”) process and potential cognition biases,
  • Information Readability and Flow – Validating narrative logic, designer vs player model, visual language, cues and telegraphing information, spotting dissonances,
  • Mystery, Ambiguity and Uncertainty – Role of hidden information, how it affects player’s brain (what emotions it can evoke) and how it helps the players in making decisions,
  • Game Space Composition – Understanding building blocks of the game space, composition and positive and negative space, using environmental psychology to achieve desired behavior and emotional responses,
  • Learning – Understanding player on-boarding methods, applying traits of a great tutorial,
  • Structure – Setting up clear order and content of game components,
  • Consistency – Adding content that fits the tone and works according to rules,
  • Choice, Tactics and Experience Scenarios – Creating spaces that cater to designed player playstyles, Setting up possibility space, spotting potential decision problems, for example, spots in which players lack a possibility to express themselves, counter play or catch-up,
  • Navigation – Understanding how people find their way and how they map out the space mentally. Creating spaces that work well with player cognitive processes,
  • Narrative – Creating spaces and events with a clear message to share, emotion to evoke and story to tell,
  • Believability – Understanding the difference between realistic, authentic and unbelievable spaces or events. Intentional use of level of abstraction and believability,
  • World Building – Questions to ask yourself when defining world’s history, current state and its denizens,
  • Soul – Removing that “it’s a product, not a game” taste from art and design.

Process and Production

Ideas are great and very important but there’s also execution that can make or break your ideas. These are some of the topics that every designer should know to become a great starter and finisher:

  • Creative Process:
    • Design methods and principles,
    • Creative process methods: brainstorming, filtering design ideas, using “Why?” layers,
    • Understanding the core aspects of game’s success and setting up interdisciplinary, collaborative workflow and terminology,
    • Understanding design methods, including micro and macro design.
    • Best practices for rapid prototyping phase,
  • Concept and Production Processes:
    • Forming vision and direction, defining vision implementation methods,
    • Creating Level Design Bible (“What game are we making?”) – Converting narrative, art vision and game design to level art and design building blocks,
    • Creating Creative Work Guidelines (“How we will make this game?”) – Defining playstyles, ingredients and metrics,
    • Creating Technical Work Guidelines – Defining metrics, folder structure and naming conventions,
    • Production timeline, including setting up milestones, goals, questions to answer, scope and tasks,
    • Understanding goals and concerns of each phase,
    • Communication channels,
    • Bug reporting and red flags channels,
    • Process phases, including per-phase deliverables, crucial phase steps (for example, a Kick-off Meeting) and the importance of switching production mindsets,
    • Content pipeline, including kick-offs and reviews,
  • Work Efficiency Improvements:
    • Preparing performance documents and stable build process improvements,
    • Meeting ground rules,
    • Build methods that allow efficient reuse of work.

Team Culture and Skills

Great games are made by great people. Great people drive great processes. These are the building blocks of a sustainable company:

  • Creating and running a Level Design team, including:
    • Creating dedicated multidisciplinary strike teams,
    • Making a spot in the game development process – planning collaborative work with all involved disciplines,
    • Adjusting team structure and hierarchy to project needs,
    • Creating communication and report channels.
  • Building a workplace with a healthy culture, including:
    • Forming team values (Examples: Accountability, autonomy, trust and respect),
    • “No place for fundamentalism” approach (“Game as a Postcard Approach” problem) in which each team is important and receives equal change and attention,
    • Maintaining work satisfaction and goal focus,
    • Dealing with harassment and toxicity – learning to recognize and address problems,
  • Dealing with inefficiencies, including:
    • Sneak-in changes,
    • Late re-designs,
    • Lack of discipline and not sticking to plans,
  • Giving and receiving feedback, including:
    • Encouraging ambitious ideas and innovative thinking,
    • Allowing for creativity without compromising the vision,
    • Not discouraging and putting a stopping energy to passion,
    • Dealing with push-back,
  • Setting up team responsibilities, advancement and succession plans, including:
    • Answering question “How do I become a senior designer?”,
    • Defining candidate skills required for recruitment,

Services – How I can help?

Quite often I hear that there’s nothing new here or that they already know it all. But they don’t demonstrate it. And they struggle with making great levels without constant changes, stress and crunch.

Let’s meet or have a call and figure out a plan together: what kind of assistance you could use from me or if there’s area in your work where additional pair of eyes and hands can be helpful.

On-Site or Remote Training and Consultations

  • 1 on 1 ideas sounding board and growth coaching,
  • Level art and design and level production consulting,
    • General and topic-focused group workshops,
  • Work assistance,
  • Complete level art and design courses.

On-Site or Remote Reviews and Implementation

  • Concept design work, including design presentations, one-pagers and layout sketches,
  • Preparing template design documents, including metrics sheets and action beats,
  • Unreal Engine level art and design work, including full-time business to business work,
  • Silent reviews, design audits and focused playtesting.

Contact Me

  • What you might need from me?
  • When you have time or when do you need my help?

Let me know: mateusz.piaskiewicz@level-design.org

Follow Centinela Design Consultancy on LinkedIn

More about Mateusz Piaskiewicz

  • Working in level art and design field since 2000, working professionally in the industry since 2007, consulting since 2017,
  • Worked with 8+ Companies in North America and Europe, including:
    • Techland,
    • CD Projekt RED,
    • Flying Wild Hog,
    • Ten Square Games,
    • Treyarch (Activision),
    • Off-World Industries,
  • Shipped 10+ video games, including:
    • Call of Juarez series,
    • Dead Island series,
    • Dying Light,
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,
    • …and many more games that aren’t unannounced yet.
  • Helped build 20+ video games, including:
    • Various platforms: Mobile games, F2P, indie and AAA blockbusters,
    • Various genres: First Person Shooters, Third Person Action-Adventure games,
  • Multiple Game Development Schools and Conferences, including:
    • Digital Dragons 2020 – Design Speaker (Online),
    • Digital Dragons Academy – Design Speaker (Online),
    • Free2Play Academy – Design Lecturer (Akademia Free2Play) (University of Wrocław, Poland),
    • Game Dev School – Level Art and Design Lecturer (Warsaw, Poland),
    • Game Dev Fest on Polygon – Design Lecturer (Warsaw University of Technology, Poland),
    • Warsaw Film School – Level Design Lecturer (Warsaw, Poland)
    • Tk Games – Design Lecturer (Wroclaw University at Technology, Poland),
    • Digital Frontier Game Development Course – Level Design Lecturer (Warsaw, Poland).
  • Many design talks and shows.