VERC: NPC and Item Placement Theory Last edited 3 years ago2019-04-19 13:16:58 UTC


Non-Player Character (NPC) and item placement has a direct correlation with the amount of immersion a map conveys. Let's assume you've designed a beautiful hospital and, for some indiscernable reason, you've placed a rocket launcher in the middle of a hallway. Even though it will still look like a hospital, it won't feel like a hospital anymore, and the player's level of immersion will be reduced significantly. If you replace that rocket launcher with a friendly doctor, it seems more real (because doctors are regularly found in hospitals) and thus the player's level of immersion will be increased.

NPC and item placement also has an effect on gameflow; if the player is given a choice between a hallway with a few strong enemies and another full of weak enemies, he has to decide which poses a bigger threat. Similarly, the player might prefer a room with some enemies and ammunition to one that has neither.

NPCs and items aren't the only factor in either of these situations, of course, but they're a large enough factor to merit some tips on how to properly place them.

NPCs (Allies and Enemies)

Items (Weapons, Ammunition, Health, and Armor)

Note: If you're just starting with level design, it may be wise to start by making multiplayer maps so you don't have to worry about NPCs; later, once you're more comfortable with the entities, you can always make the shift towards singleplayer mapping.


Placing NPCs and items throughout a map to create cohesion in gameplay and atmosphere is one of the more subtle practices of level design, but one that can make all the difference in the world. A well placed weapon or health kit can change the entire pace and flow of a map, directing action and allowing for player strategies that will add depth and make your level more fun. Hopefully these tips can help you in creating more balanced and enjoyable creations.
This article was originally published on the Valve Editing Resource Collective (VERC).
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