Medal of Honor developer shows how the level design sausage is made

Video game enthusiasts rarely get to see games in anything but their finished, shipped state — or something very close to it. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but video games don’t pop out of the console fully rendered and ready to go; there are a lot of unseen steps to development that players simply don’t see.

On Twitter Saturday, Respawn Entertainment senior game designer Alexa Kim pulled back the curtain on a part of development she had a hand in for the recently released virtual reality game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Specifically, Kim called out the prototyping stage of level design, which is intended to lay out a particular level’s “function,” she said. The tweet has since gone viral, with players amazed at differences between the prototypes — called block outs — and the finished product.

In the thread, Kim said she was responsible for laying out the block out prototypes, and then to add gameplay. From there, adjustments are made: “In my case, this was a shooting game so it was about player movement vs AI movement, sightlines, cover, etc.,” Kim said on Twitter. “This level is playable at this state, but not polished for the eyes.”

Once the level works with regard to gameplay, art is added. The art on Kim’s levels, she said, is from development studio Virtuos Games, which has been involved in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Dark Souls: Remastered, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. It handles anything from game development to art production, according to its website. Kim said she “polished the gameplay” throughout a collaborative back-and-forth between the artists and her team.

Kim followed up her Twitter thread with a YouTube video published Sunday, with developer commentary over Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s “Back on the ground” level. (You can watch it embedded above.) She walks through the level with the player, describing the process behind decisions made during development. For those looking for more information, Kim’s got another video on YouTube, in which she talks about another Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond level called “Welcome to Norway.”

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