Game Audio Level Design

We are very proud to announce that Designing Music NOW Managing Editor, Chanel Summers, has contributed a chapter to an upcoming book.  The book, primarily about level design in games, is called “Level Design: Processes and Experiences” and is being published by CRC Press and edited by Christopher W. Totten.

Chanel, a pioneer in game audio as Microsoft’s first Audio Technical Evangelist for Microsoft and a member of the original Xbox team, is co-founder of audio design group Syndicate 17 and a leader in audio for VR and mixed reality projects. She is also a world-traveling speaker and long-time game audio educator, as well as a lecturer and director of the Experimental Audio Design Lab in USC’s Interactive Media & Games Division.

Book Summary

In this book, veteran game developers, academics, journalists, and others provide their processes and experiences with level design. Each provides a unique perspective representing multiple steps of the process for interacting with and creating game levels – experiencing levels, designing levels, constructing levels, and testing levels. These diverse perspectives offer readers a window into the thought processes that result in memorable open game worlds, chilling horror environments, computer-generated levels, evocative soundscapes, and many other types of gamespaces. This collection invites readers into the minds of professional designers as they work and provides evergreen topics on level design and game criticism to inspire both new and veteran designers.

Editor Christopher Totten

I caught up with Christopher, and this is what he has to say about his inspiration and experience with writing the book:

After the publication of my previous book, An Architectural Approach to Level Design (, a colleague suggested that I next write a book “inside the head” of a level designer as they do their work, describing the process of level design from start to finish.

While I was excited at the idea, I also thought that as one designer with his own process, I would be hard-pressed to speak for an entire industry of designers and studios with different processes for design. Instead, I approached this as a book that could provide readers with a diverse set of methods through chapters contributed by multiple authors. The point, in many ways, is to provide a cross-section of perspectives on game worlds from the industry, which is organized into sections on playing levels, designing levels, constructing levels, and testing levels.

Chanel’s contribution in particular, part of the section on designing, outlines how sound is used as a tool to tell stories and provide emotional context for players. I know that as a designer mainly skilled in the visual arts, sound is something that I would love to know more about, so working with Chanel has been very educational. Her chapter and others in the book from authors specializing in areas like procedural generation, large scale world-building, virtual reality, and others are written in a way that is informative and approachable for newcomers to those areas or level designers who have not thought about designing levels from those perspectives before.

The Galleys Arrived!

Here are the galley’s Chanel received this past week:


And Chanel has this to say about her own experience writing the above chapter:
Any member of a game’s creative team must appreciate how audio can serve as a key component in the design of a level, environment, or narrative. In my chapter, “Making the Most of Audio in Characterization, Narrative Structure, and Level Design,” I wanted to explore the use of audio design techniques as a key element of overall game design. To do that, I tried to demonstrate such fundamental techniques as: how to craft deeper emotional resonance in a game through the use of narrative maps and graphical visualization tools, how to inform the game design process though the use of narrative maps, how to affect the pace of a game level through the effective use of audio, how to create iterative sonic storyboards, how to plan for foreshadowing, playing with player expectations, and the creative use of subjective character perception. It is my belief that in following a character’s emotional journey and a game’s story structure, audio can do as much as any other single production element, if not even more, to create mood and intensity, control the pacing of the game, and introduce subtle and powerful dynamics.

Available for Pre-Order

9781498745055The book is available for pre-order now, and is scheduled for release later this year.  You can read more about it and even pre order it from this link.


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