I understand that coming up with game-agnostic exercises wouldn't exactly be easy though.
My hope is that game agnostic lessons can be taken from game specific excercises. I'm certainly intending to frame them with that view in mind.
I think it would almost be more productive to put together level editors specific to challenges you want to give, rather than work from existing games.
Yeah, this is certainly something I'm considering. One of the best things about that approach is our level design interface could remain largely the same, and only the challenges change. Whilst I do have a good base (flash with in-engine editing) for it it'll probably take a bit of time to get it slick enough for general use. I don't want to delay making a start when there already lots of games around that are easy to make levels for.
My main problem with using existing games is that their editors will necessarily be tied to the game's atmosphere and aesthetic, which dilutes from the experience of pure level design.
I consider supporting a game's atmosphere and aesthetic to be one of the fundamental elements of "pure level design". So, whilst I don't want all exercises to include that sort of challenge I certainly want some of them do.
I think it would also be useful to define what you see as "level design." Is it the arrangement of things in a game level from a purely mechanical point of view, or is the creation of art central to that process? I know that for me the two are inseparable, and I there are bound to be variables beyond even that to consider.
Yes, you're right it would be good if I provided a definition that we'll work around here. I'll try and come up with something vigorous. For the moment though I'll just say that I see level design here as taken to be the arrangement of already created game elements. I want to leave graphics, mechanic design, and programming at the door. They are all of course deeply related to level design, and good level design involves some elements of each of those disciplines. I feel they're discussed enough though, and we need to cut our scope off somewhere.
Regardless, I'm interested in this.
Oh, and should there be any interest in creating editors for this workshop, I can lend my Flash skills to help.
I don't have a lot of time to commit (I'm even having to sit out of the AGBIC contest, which I'm gutted about), so if these exercises are like 10 hours things every week where participation is MANDATORY then I won't be so keen on that. However, this sounds like it could become something really awesome, and if I'm able to dip in and out, submit stuff which I did on paper and scanned, or in a paint program or some really easy level editor, then I'm totally up for being involved.
All contribution is hugely welcome, I'm not going to be a slave driver about it. I also hope that the exercises will be substantially shorter than that (otherwise I'll never get any work done on anything else!)
If I ever get a chance, I might sift through some of my old notes and games I made when I was a teenager (seems like a lifetime ago) and post-mortem some of my own level design choices, so people can see what stuff I came up with which was good, and also stuff I did because I was young and stupid and which nobody else should ever do.
That sounds like a great idea, I wish I had more examples of my early work around, I'd love to spend some time picking through the stuff I made back then more critically.
I'd definitely be interested. I'd love exercises which have to deal with architecture and using space and those kinds of design techniques, as they are more abstract and not limited to specific game mechanics.
Yes, some exercises with that focus would be great. I'm often struck by how much level design is like conventional architecture an odd combination of aesthetics and functionality. Raising this has made me wish I knew more about conventional architecture
Anyway, I'm so very glad that there appears to be interest in this thing.
Now I just need to get it off the ground. I think I'll try and put up a first exercise at some point on Thursday.