World Building to Invoke an Untold Story

Here I’ll talk about the Importance of level design and world building in order to make the player feel like they are somewhere else and to make them also feel like staying in the world to explore it more and gain further meaning about why they are there.

For Joust! It was about creating a medieval world where instantly the player knew that’s what they were being dropped into when they began playing. As Joust! Is a very short prototype for the time being, I don’t have the time or resources in order to create an intricate story about why the player is where they are. Once getting dropped into the game, they see they have a lance and a shield and an opponent running toward them. Instinctively, the players should understand the situation they are in.


A Gamasutra article by Don Carson, an experienced Games Designer, had the following to write on level design techniques:

One of the trade secrets behind the design of entertaining themed environments is that the story element is infused into the physical space a guest walks or rides through. In many respects, it is the physical space that does much of the work of conveying the story the designers are trying to tell. Color, lighting and even the texture of a place can fill an audience with excitement or dread.


Much of this is done by manipulating an audience’s expectations, which they have based on their own experiences of the physical world. Armed only with their own knowledge of the world, and those visions collected from movies and books, the audience is ripe to be dropped into your adventure. The trick is to play on those memories and expectations to heighten the thrill of venturing into your created universe  – Don Carson, March 1, 2000.

I have made bold the parts that stand out here as the core ways I found I can bring an untold story into the game. For example, Story element is infused into the physical space is fairly self-explanatory. This is essentially the effect any designer would try to achieve, even if they had an extensive backstory to go from.


Color, lighting and even the texture of a place can fill an audience with excitement or dread. This was probably the part I focused on the most from the very beginning of the design planning for Joust!. I wanted this game to be a dark and somewhat make the player feel surprised and shocked when they hit the player. To set this up I had to design the environment to feel cold and unfriendly. I introduced a dark and cloudy sky-box, low environment lighting, and multiple fog and rain effects to achieve the chilling feel. Then, when it comes to the combat, the explosion of the lance upon the opponent is there to shock the player as broken bits of lance flies everywhere. An added effect to make this part better would be to include a particle effect for blood spray when the player or the opponent ends up getting hit in the neck as this is not only good feedback that you killed your opponent but also in VR, this effect will be right in your face. Getting hit in the neck is a rare occurrence so doing this effect would add to the shock value when it does happen to occur, unfortunately we did not have enough time to implement this into the build for the exhibition.

“based on their own experiences of the physical world.”, “visions collected from movies and books” & “The trick is to play on those memories and expectations” This was also brought in as an original part of my designing. For those parts of Carson’s explanation, I touched on this idea in my project pitch way back before I had actually done any documentation or planning yet. I mentioned I wanted they player to experience a similar theme to the jousting scene in season 1 of Game of Thrones:

This scene creates a feeling of shock and cringe for the watcher by the looks of horror on the faces of those in the audience as well as the uncomfortable silence that comes after it. All great methods of invoking reaction and feeling that can be transitioned into the game and used in a similar manner.

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