Level Design: Building Game Worlds
Game developing
/ 4 min read

Level Design: Building Game Worlds

How level designer Roman Prokhorov recreates the Roman Empire map by map.

November 5, 2021

Base Geography

For Gladiators: Survival in Rome, we adopted the technique of procedural 3D tiling as the first step of map creation. That means our 3D environment artist creates building blocks according to different topographical needs, with cliffs, corners, roads, meadows in different height levels and their connecting differentials like slopes and bends.

These basic blocks are then assembled automatically in our tile editor according to presets and parameters so we would have geographical points of interest which will lead to the map type such as a forest location, a cave or a village site.

Seeding of greenery

After arranging the base topography, we’re adding  nature: green elements like trees, bushes, grass, or flowers. Those take some time to play with, and decide how to decorate the map both aesthetically and logically.  For example, for villages the expected vegetation is usually light green grass, some bushes and cultivated plants such as olive trees, while for forests there’d be more pine trees and hemps. This will breathe more color and life to early versions of the map, helping to get into the mood for a scenery. But there’s also game design implications: Some vegetation items are designed for beauty, but some function as resource acquisition, for players to harvest – trees to get some wood, or mushrooms as source of food – all while having the visual support and guidance for player pathing in the quest design.

Natural boundaries

Rocks and cliffs help to shape the map while adding some extra variety and volume. We, as one of the first survival games on mobile, can make different height levels of the ground like hills or coastlines. Again, rock placement in a thoughtful way helps naturally guide players through the game world without quests telling them to go from Point A to Point B. And finally, rocks are functional storage for mining resources such as marble and gold too.


Detailing is the most exciting part of a map design process. Working with architecture, story-driven locations, and environmental storytelling is always lots of fun. You get to experiment with all the beautiful but also interactable props the 3D artists have created to use in the game. Players of Gladiators: Survival in Rome get to race around with carts, chisel statues, grow carrots, of course fight wildlings and legionnaires, may explore caves and mines, go fish, build a city, rescue friends from slavery, and much more.

Lighting And Shaders

As the last step of one map iteration, we’re adding some atmospheric lighting effects, particles and shaders, to give our

maps additional depth and polish. These effects cause players to feel the game being much more realistic. Different locations require a different mood: You will see players experiencing the warm, golden sun rays in the tutorial to enhance our world welcoming a new adventurer, but also the menacing, cold blue light in dangerous caves only disrupted by safety-promising warm fire glows of torches in the darkness.

At Colossi Games, we believe strongly in an iterative process, so in between steps, we playtest internally a lot to check if the map design supports the objectives for narrative game and economics design, and then release the map to players in our Soft Launch (Early Access) to get see how players interact with the world from a data point of view. That means, we go back to the drawing board multiple times to evaluate pacing, interaction and engagement, which has resulted in our tutorial location having seen almost 10 different versions. Try yourself!

Gladiators: Survival in Rome is in Early Access on Google Play for Canada, Austria, Ukraine, Cyprus, Singapore and the Philippines:

Roman Prokhorov
Our Level Designer

Yulia Ermolaeva
Our 3D Environment Artist