On April 16, 2012, graduating Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at UC Santa Cruz, Ken Hullett came into KZSC and onto Gamers on Game to talk about his research in game design.
Ken spoke in length about his dissertation, The Science of Level Design: Design Patterns and Player Behavior in FPS Levels. Ken’s research is in the Center for Games and Playable Media Department and in the Augmented Design Lab with Jim Whitehead as his advisor.
We started the conversation with defining what level design which is level designers create gameplay through geometry, AI scripting, and item placement. Designers draw from their experience, design lore, and rules of thumb rather than a formal understanding of how the construction of a level creates gameplay for a player. To improve this understanding, Ken and his research group have taken a first by identifying design patterns in game levels, primarily in single player first-person shooters (FPS) and studying the cause-effect relationships between these level design elements and gameplay. To test these relationships, they are gathering data from a series of user tests. Analysis of this data will improve our understanding and provide level designers with scientifically verified tools for creating gameplay.
We explored Ken’s other research interests concerning Design in Games: Level Design, Design Patterns in Games, Game Data Analysis, Player Modeling, and Procedural Content Generation.
Ken is a part of the first cohort to graduate from the Department of Computer Science (CS) with Ph.D. degrees. This program is considered one of the top ten graduate schools in video game design.
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Here’s the video of our interview: