Game-design lessons from Disneyland — UPDATED

Update: Here's Rogers's' slides from the talk

Today at the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco, I saw an outstanding talk on the lessons for level design to be had in the design of Disneyland. It was presented by Scott Rogers, Creative Manager at THQ in Los Angeles, who taught himself level design for Pac Man World by thinking about the experiences he'd had on many visits to Disneyland. The talk was full of lively insights and fun facts about both Disneyland and game-lore, and Rogers was a great presenter. I took copious (for me) notes and photos of most of the slides and I've just put them online (Rogers says he'll put the slides up in better form shortly, I'll link to them when he does).

* Walt invented lots of "moving people around" tricks that are useful in level design e.g. weenies (landmarks that draw guests towards certain locations)

   * Good navigational points for open worlds like GTA

   * Provides "picture spots" to stop and think, "Wow this is cool" — Athens coming into sight in God of War

* How Weenies Work

    * First weenie is the castle — you walk down linear Main St, and as you reach the hub, more weenies open up, the fronts of the lands, prompting the player/guest to choose where to go

    * As you go further, more weenies open up, the rivers, treehouse, Matterhorn, Space Mtn — peeking over the horizon, giving a tantalizing glimpse

* Enhancing Weenies:

    * Draw players towards goals geographically and visually

    * Change altitude to enhance drama/scale

    * Make player backtrack/change direction to give more information

    * Switchbacks can do this

    * See ratchet and clank games

Notes from the talk

Slides from the talk

Scott Rogers' homepage