I have revisited learning level design using the Unreal Editor and I have to say that I am finding this time, time well spent.
Since my evenings are spent at work (yes at work!), relaxing (when I actually get in from work) with my boyfriend, eating dinner or sleeping, I have being using my lunchtimes to practice using the editor.
During the first few lunches I was producing work straight from the tutorial, but unsatisfied with this, I decided to produce something using the small amount of new skills that I had acquired to produce a unique map and help to hammer into my brain the methods of using the basics in Unreal.
I had my own ideas, and decided to start small with an indoor level. Once I finished blocking out the level I realised that it was far greater than I thought and I would have to spend a lot more time on it than I realised. And this would be time I could have used to go through more tutorials and learn additional stuff.
So (in my not so infinite wisdom), I planned out an outdoor equivalent to my previous level simple adding terrain. But once I got into the editor I realised that I wasn't happy with how this was turning out. The outdoor area was far too bare, so I added bits and pieces of architecture wherever I felt was needed. But now I needed to redesign the whole perimeter size, also I was moving further and further away from the original objective of this map. It was giving me a headache.
I frequently read the articles published on the World of Level Design site and a couple of articles had recently been posted detailing the 11 Day Level Design process. I decided to use this as a guide, as I didn't have 11 full days to produce a map within). So I made time to gather some references images, then I sat and drew a few different sketches, gameflow/gameplay routes of the map and pinned down what I wanted to show I could do and, more importantly, what I wanted to achieve with this map.
I found this workflow process extremely helpful because once I had come up with a front and top view of the level and knew what each building would look like, approximations of where they would be and the function of each I was pretty happy with it and jumped into the editor confidently.
I'm in the process of playtesting the flow of this current map with friends and family so that I can incorporate the feedback early into the design so that changes further along into this project will be significantly reduced.
After I have implemented any changes during this stage, I'll carry out another playtest session to ensure that the issues that arose before have been fixed and I'll begin shaping the terrain. WIP images of the map will be uploaded shortly