This thread is a wip thread, I just thought I'd get it started now while I had some down time. I'll be constantly filling out. I will probably merge this in to a page on my website which will just be a link instead of all the text.
The goal of this thread is to outline a nice way to go about making levels, I've been using this pipeline for a long time in both retail and hobby levels.PlanningDecide which game on idtech to use.Which game modeMake custom content or notWhat you can do to help keep the motivation going
Reference gatheringPlaying other mapsGameplay videosGoogle image searchAsk for ideas
When you have finished the planning and referencing part, it's time to decide on what types of gameplay you want to make. One thing that is fun to do is sketch out little isolated gameplay sections.
Here is an example of sketching out little parts of gameplay and making a little list of gameplay elements you may want in your level http://i.imgur.com/ysU0pM1.jpg
One of the most important things you can do when designing the layout for your map is to not focus on the art AT ALL. What you can do instead is blockout where important landmarks will be placed and if it interlocks with gameplay do a rough first pass on the shape to define it. The idea of the layout is just to get all the gameplay in, enemies, weapons, scripting, etc.
If you do the art while you are making the layout, there is a pretty good chance you will have to constantly redo the art when you change the layout because it wasn't fun to play.
What you basically want to have is have the gameplay/flow 80% complete. A decently fun is what your end result should be, it just won't be visually appetizing.Sketching the layout
Sketching can be anything from 2D pen and paper, to Sketchup/3D Studio Max/Blender etc. What ever makes it easier to get your layout ideas out of your head on to something more visual, use that.
Don't worry about making the sketch perfect, the layout sketch is basically a top down prototype of your level. It should be very simple and easy to understand. Of course as you become more advanced, feel free to get more specific with your layouts.
Here are some layouts I created using a whiteboard I installed in my office:http://i.imgur.com/OLNmWgX.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/Fa0XLAB.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/Jz6NNci.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/UeUZaey.jpg?1Define your layout and organise it
One thing that will help with the structure and flow of your level is if you start identifying what areas are, this will help later on when you start adding in the art. It also helps gamers identify rooms and areas so they don't become lost and confused.Building the layout in the editor
What you want to do is grab your layout you put together and do a first pass, don't worry right now that something seems a little off, don't try and predict what does and doesn't work unless you're an experienced designer, this will set you back a lot if you think something won't work before you try it.
Once your layout has had the first pass blocked out, enemies are in, weapons are etc (don't worry about scripted events right now) play the level a few times. Then make notes on what you feel is fun and what isn't fun and adjust accordingly. If you're not sure you know what is not right with your level, post it on the forums and ask for feedback, people will help get on track.Using your reference
After a few itterations on your layout it's time to be more specific, getting in those scripted events, special shaped or designated rooms. If you're not sure what you wanted exactly, use the references you found to help inspire your creativity.
Release and presentation