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Blog: Applying level flow in games like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us

The next weblog submit, except differently famous, was once written by way of a member of Gamasutra’s neighborhood.
The ideas and critiques expressed are the ones of the author and now not Gamasutra or its mum or dad corporate.


For the previous few months I’ve been researching a number of other video games. All through that point I’ve been researching video games like “Uncharted four” and “The Final of Us” (made by way of Naughty Canine).

With this newsletter I need to proportion my wisdom with my fellow friends, within the hope of empowering and motivating them to be informed extra about point design. This shall be a crash route at the other components of point waft, that point designers can use to make knowledgeable choices about their point design.


1 – Advent: What’s point waft

My definition of point waft:

“When the participant is aware of what to do, the place to head. 

However now not at all times know the way to succeed in/get against that objective.”

(key phrase: Spatial Consciousness)

This can be a state the place the participant has a pleasing enjoy, traversing throughout the point. It is going hand in hand with recreation waft.

This definition is fairly obscure and that’s as a result of point waft is a wide matter. For simplicity I will be able to break up up “point waft” into 4 (four) smaller items. In high-level phrases, those are one of the most components we point designers use to lead the participant(s)..

“I wish to learn about geometry and composition? However It’s not that i am an artist?!”

Sure, I’m additionally now not an artist however I do consider that the whole lot is come what may intertwined with point design. Mastering small bits about those topics will assist you to make extra knowledgeable design choices.


  • Take into consideration collision, bodily interactive gadgets, form design.


  • A) Focal issues. Funneling the participant with use of Geometry/Belongings.
  • B) Distinction (certain & destructive area): Between, House, Lights or Colour.

Scripted Occasions

  • Partners, Enemies (AI), Transferring/Patrolling round.
  • Different occasions that makes the participant transfer: reminiscent of an explosion or a fallen tree trunk.


  • Textual content/Indicators (direct)
  • Belongings positioned in a selected order, like pickups scattered around the map or barrels in a nook (oblique)

Geometry, Composition and Scripted Occasions can also be blended to create Storytelling components. With the ability to grasp those sections will assist you to information/transfer the participant to the place ever you need them to head.


Listed here are some examples of waft components that may be used to lead the participant throughout the point.

2.1 – Examples: The usage of strains

Traces, Arrows Form Silhouettes, Pathways…

Traces have two issues, a start and an endpoint. A line offers route. This can be a 2D object that strikes in a route. We will see strains as arrows and arrows have enough money route.

On this instance, more than one gadgets within the scene will trace against this point of interest, the mega construction.

  • Nathan Drake issues on the landmark. (now not on this image, however in recreation he does)
  • The pathway beneath them, leads against the landmark.
  • The form of the mountains.
  • The form of the homes (particularly the roofs)
  • The distinction between the mountains and the woodland.

As you’ll see strains are tough gear to suggest route. They lend a hand to lead the avid gamers eye from A to B and visa versa. 


2.2 – Examples: Landmark Visibility

Landmark definition:

An object or characteristic of a panorama or the city this is simply noticed and known from a distance, particularly one that permits the participant to determine their location at the map.

Landmarks can be utilized to decide somebody’s location, roughly from the landmark. Due to this fact this is a strategy to make stronger waft within the point. An outstanding point fashion designer would paintings at the side of the surroundings artists, to ensure that every space is recognizable. They will have to paintings in combination to decide the road of sight and the visible language of the world.

On this instance, Joel will be capable of see the bridge from more than one angles. This permits the extent fashion designer to create a degree that does not cross right into a linear/directly route. As strolling directly against the target is dull and no a laugh.

The excessive structures at the facet additionally is helping to border the bridge, funneling the participant against the target. The one indication the participant wishes to grasp is how a ways away they’re from the bridge. If they’re drawing near nearer to the bridge, they may be able to think that they’re going against the proper route.


2.three – Examples: The usage of Colour

The usage of Colour as Affordance:

Colour can be utilized to suggest the participant, sure object is in a position to have enough money one thing. It may be used to distinction the scene, moving the focus.

On this instance, all reachable & climbable ledges have those “gentle yellowish” colour casted on them. Informing the participant that the ones have enough money to be grabbed/climbed. This can be a artful strategy to point out one thing to the participant, with out it breaking the immersion. By way of mixing in with the cliffs, the use of the similar “earthly” tones.

  • You’ll additionally use colour to invoke an emotion from the participant.

Vivid sun shades of pink and yellow would possibly point out threat , whilst a blue colour allow them to consider water, the sky, calmness or peace.


2.four – Examples: Repetition, just right or dangerous?

Repetition is lovely as people can see patterns. Nature is increase out of patterns and we adore it.

However whilst you repeat it too steadily, it turns into dull. You’ll examine it to being attentive to the similar tune for 100x instances. In the beginning chances are you’ll just like the tune, even if after again and again being attentive to it, chances are you’ll come to hate it.

This downside could also be true in point/surroundings design. Don’t let the participant(s) traverse thru spaces that every one glance the similar. What’s the level of exploring if the whole lot appears to be like the similar?

You’ll stay it glance coherent, however make sure to have just a little of variation. As discussed within the earlier level: Colour is a pleasing strategy to get a divorce the monotone really feel of a scene and to draw the avid gamers consideration.


three.1 – Examples: Motion in a Static International

In a static scene, motion will catch the avid gamers eyes. When characters or gadgets transfer from one place to some other place, they devise a line. (See instance 2.1) As I discussed in the past, a line signifies route. We will use a dynamic component to lead the participant throughout the point, growing waft.

Video by way of: Dops Gaming

Have you learnt the best way?

On this instance, Nathan breaks out of jail with two of his comrades. On this motion packed scene, your objective is to flee the jail. The participant can enjoy this scene as aggravating and rushed. You don’t seem to be ready for this. You do not even know the format of the jail and now it’s important to make a wreck for it!

All through this second, the participant does not need to continuously consider the place they wish to cross and accidently get misplaced. That is the place the 2 facet characters take it over and information you throughout the scene.


three.2 – Examples: Motion, Following the Crowd

I do not know the place to head, bet I practice everybody else.

That is some other instance of motion getting used. Very similar to the former instance, the participant is faced with a excessive in depth enjoy. The place “once more” the objective is to flee from the mess you are in.

Video by way of: theRadBrad (fragment: 10:30 – 13:30)

In all of the chaos you do not know the place to head, so that you practice the group. The place ever they cross, you are going to practice. Your handiest objective is to get out and stay Sarah secure.

The gang is moved by way of “reputedly” uncontrollable occasions within the scene. An exploding automobile would force the group to the other way, against protection.


three.three – Examples: Motion, Refined environmental hints

It does not need to be sophisticated. The former two examples calls for the builders to create AI with a conduct machine. Even supposing that may be truly cool, it is usually sophisticated.

Video by way of: IFreeMz (fragment: 42:18 – 42:30)

A delicate tumble weed rolling in a definite route or on this instance; a swan flying away into the space. It tells you to stay transferring in “that” route.


four.1 – Examples: Go with the flow thru Storytelling components

The very best noticeable storytelling components are: 

  • Textual content, indicators
  • Decals
  • Meshes positioned in a planned order

You’ll make patterns or create distinction to focus on an object.

Because of how the tank is angled 45 levels, it naturally guides the participant against the left facet. The tank is used as a bodily barrier/impediment to lead the participant to the left.

Indicators will inform you the place to head. The left billboard reads: “Scientific Evacuation, Use Tunnel” whilst the suitable billboard reads “Salt Lake Town, Army Zone Forward”. For the reason that the theme of the sport is ready survival, the participant needs to keep away from threat.

Any other instance is to make use of breadcrumbs to lend a hand your participant throughout the point. It may be a strategy to point out the participant that they’re at the proper trail.


five.1 – Why the whole lot I discussed about composition is incorrect (roughly…)

Smartly, 3-d ranges are created in…3-d.

Cool 2D -> 3-d side road artwork from gifted artist: Julian Beever

It’s more uncomplicated to make a 2D image glance great from one view. However in video games the place the participant can freely roam round and discover, they in most cases have more than one perspectives on an object.

You and the surroundings artists could make the whole lot glance great, however you most likely do not need always of the arena to make it highest.

Alternatively, as a degree fashion designer you’ll plan forward and you’ll want to get probably the most out of the extent, by way of putting in place regulations for your self.

  • Restrict the perspectives the participant may have.
  • Pay element to the extra necessary sides. What do you need the participant to peer?
  • Check out other lighting fixtures setups.

Information the participant throughout the map with use of waft components! Make the possibilities that the participant needs to head off-track not going! Do not position landmarks at spots the place you do not need the participant to visit. Uncharted four ranges really feel very open. However secretly their ranges are linear, with a golden trail.

There’s no level in going off highway, there’s not anything there anyway… oh glance a fab mountain! (highway 66)


five.2 – How Naughty Canine makes positive you continue to see their cool perspectives!

A devoted button!

With a press on a button (L3), they enable the digital camera to momentarily reposition itself, aiming at the focus. The usage of this system, the builders have general keep watch over on what they would like the participant to peer.


6.1 – Demonstration: Go with the flow Long gone Fallacious, methods to acknowledge the designers intentions. The great, the dangerous.

To show on how you’ll used your now new profound wisdom to acknowledge waft components in different video games, I will be able to dissect a degree segment in Uncharted four. (Bankruptcy 2: Infernal Position)

One thing to bear in mind: Nathan does not have a map, he does not use a compass. What a badass.

Video by way of: Moghi performs (fragment: eight.49 – 10:50)

Steps carried out by way of the participant: 

  1. The participant sees a tower and grapple hook his method against it.
  2. He proceeds to climb up the tower with use of the grooves.
  3. Climbs within the tower.
  4. Walks across the plateau.
  5. Falls within the ocean, looking for a pathway.
  6. Re-spawn

Are you able to acknowledge what is going “incorrect” on this small segment? What do you suppose led to the confusion by way of the participant to all at once fall off the map, into the sea? Used to be the participant misinformed, were not there sufficient waft components?

To my statement, they positioned a large number of waft components to lead the participant however as a result of a few poorly positioned belongings. It accidentally outweighed the opposite waft components positioned by way of the designers.

The cues that are supposed to had helped the participant

This wood bar perceived to have enough money to be hooked. It does not, however it does issues against the target.


  • Path & Form Language

A sharp triangular rock. Issues & triangles can also be noticed as arrows, arrows point out route. On this case this rock is telling us to head upwards.


Those grooves have a gentle yellow rim. In instance 2.three, I defined that Uncharted four likes to make use of colour to suggest against the participant, that it offers one thing.


Nathan is aware of one thing you do not know. “Onward and Upward” he says. He hints to stay going up. This can be a vital cue that will get brought about just a little overdue.



With such a lot of waft components, the participant mustn’t needed to be at a loss for words proper?

The cause of the confusion was once most likely as a result of two components.

  • The entrance
  • The wood balcony

After we convert the image to black and white, we can see that the variation by contrast makes your eyes targeted at the doorway and the wood plateau.

The entrance offers to be walked thru, gates are sturdy strategies of guiding the participant. They’ve a robust appeal to them. You need to stroll thru it to peer whats at the different facet. The imbalance between the distinction in form, lighting fixtures and colour made the entrance and wood board come out greater than supposed.


An answer?

A possible method to this downside could be to focus on the grooves just a little extra. With use of decals, colour or by way of in all probability destroying a part of the development. Any roughly further indication that tells the participant that they may be able to climb the tower.

However however, with out making use of my possible answer. You’ll additionally leap of the cliff and the sport would re-spawn you on a place with a pleasing view of the wood bar. It nearly turns out like they supposed you to fight.


Is that this the true explanation why?

It nearly turns out like they supposed you to fight.

Any other concept of mine is that the designers at Naughty Canine deliberate this all alongside and this section was once meant to play out like this, to decelerate the pacing of the participant. Appearing them that you will need to glance across the surroundings to search out clues. There are truly uncountable tactics to lead your avid gamers.

We would possibly by no means know the reality. 😉 

LinkedIn: in/trinhleveldesigner/


Disclaimer: On the time of writing this newsletter, I’m a 4th 12 months point design pupil on the Breda College of Implemented Science (NHTV). I don’t have any association with Naughty Canine. This text is my very own view on their superior point design. Thank you for studying!

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