One of the most critical decisions in level design is choosing between a symmetrical or an asymmetrical layout. For the most part in DD2, we’re using asymmetrical layouts.
Why We’re Using Asymmetry
For games like Dungeon Defenders II that primarily use arena-based layouts and combat, symmetry has a few positive effects:
The player quickly and easily understands the layout — The human brain grasps symmetry with remarkable speed and accuracy.
Artificial spaces are easier to understand through symmetrical layouts — Such as the symmetry found in theatres.
But there are some distinct drawbacks to symmetrical layouts as well:
Symmetry is quickly assimilated by the brain — Because of this, it is less interesting than asymmetry. It is often less memorable, as well.
Symmetrical spaces imply symmetrical use of a space — In DD1 terms, you would expect both sides of a symmetrical layout to have the same enemies and pacing because the brain already understands the space as a mirrored environment.
Symmetrical spaces are less interesting to look at and build.
Working Around the Confines of Asymmetry
This decision means the maps are a little harder to learn. It’s worth noting, however, that while many of the maps are not physically symmetrical, they are conceptually symmetrical. The Greystone Plaza map, for example, contains two isolated lanes on the west and east sides of the map. These lanes don’t crossover, and both sides of the map contain an optional lane that becomes active once a sub-objective is destroyed. In many respects, the gameplay of the Greystone Plaza map possess a symmetry even though the map is geometrically asymmetrical.
Playing in a closed arena tends to be more fun when the 3D space is interesting to move through and navigate. Ideally, a space is fun on its own–before any gameplay has been added in, which is something I touched on in my previous blog about player paths. Part of the joy of a map is learning the space, the other part of the joy is knowing that space. When gameplay is layered atop a well-built space, it’s enriched because the space is already fun. By creating interesting, asymmetrical maps, we hope to create a space where gameplay can truly flourish.
What did you think of the map design in DD1? Which maps were easiest for you to read, at a glance? Leave a comment below and you could win a spot on the Defense Council!