GSPC Whitebox Commentary: Far Cry 5

September 25, 2018

For the first "whitebox commentary" (short discussions with minimal editing), Rob discusses the game and level design of Far Cry 5.

  • Character Persistance being a common trait in AAA games
  • Chaos versus planning in open world encounters
  • World simulation in games

GSPC Episode #35: Rob and Kip talk Halo’s Hang Em’ High

September 19, 2018

A CRT monitor, an original Xbox, the trunk of your car... and fun. Everyone loves the original Halo, but most people remember the map "Hang Em' High" specifically. Why is this map so beloved? Rob and Kip dig deep to figure it out!

Episode Notes:

-In Hang Em' High, gameplay was king. Had to keep at a high framerate, no fluff.

-Environment artists like Kip love to take gameplay focused spaces and create visually compelling elements with it.

-Creativity being about multiple people coming up with ideas together.

-Why Hang em' High is a map we still talk about so many years after the game was released?

-Rob talks about how the game design is fully exploited in the level design of Halo: Combat Evolved.


-"Level Design always has to take the ingredients of the game design and enhance them." -Rob


-Rob and Kip's amazing firefight during our play session and what the says about the map.


-"It [Hang em' High] takes into account every ounce of the multiplayer game design [of Halo CE] and has something to say about it." - Rob


"You use the design work as the palette for the visuals and to apply applicable shapes; ascribe visuals that lend themselves well to the environment you are trying to make." - Kip Carbone


"You can create shapes that work well for the space you need to make that's fun for the gameplay." - Kip Carbone


"I try to be true to the game design. I rely on the game designer, their vision. I'm accentuating that." -Kip Carbone


"You can make the most amazing Mise-en-scène... but you're gonna run past them at a million miles per hour, versus the monolithic structures in a Halo map. You gotta have those." -Rob


-Capture the flag as a great level design exercise.


-What is a whitebox?


-Exile from Halo 4 being a great example of the design process at work.

GSPC Episode #34: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Part 2: Rob and Kip discuss Nova Braga Airport

September 1, 2018

In part 2 of Grid Snaps' series on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Rob and Kip take us on a design deep dive of the Nova Braga Airport playspace. What makes this a great place to sneak, shoot, and fulton extract soldiers? Rob and Kip also explore many great level design and environment art processes and techniques, in one of the most info-packed episodes to date!

Topics Discussed:

1. How real life events are used for the game and level design, re: Africa at the time of The Phantom Pain.
2. Contrasting the "trench" technique in older games (used to obscure long draw distances in outdoor environments), versus topography in a modern open world game.
3. Negative and positive space in level design.
4. Using the fences as a clever way to limit entrances to the airport.
5. The difficulty curve of the game: hard at first, but not so hard as to make one stop playing.
6. Adaptive difficulty in the game.
7. Theorizing about what the whiteboxing phase of this design was like.
8. How Rob and Kip, working together, might have approached desigining this environment.
9. Whiteboxing techniques from various companies and studios.
10. Making sure you aren't fooled by simplicity in a whitebox.
11. How Nova Braga airport has a lot of great design, despite it being a relatively simple in architecture.
12. In level design, things often start complex, but get "baked down" to simpler forms because they work better.
13. How players can easily "mentally map" the area.
14. Giving level designers proper recognition for their work, which the Phantom Pain does with its credits for each mission.

Here's the hilarious "real life Metal Gear" video Rob and Kip referenced.

GSPC Episode #33: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Part 1: Chat with Chris Millar of

August 2, 2018

NOTICE: The version of this podcast released around midnight 8/2 has an audio error (music from the last podcast that was left in). If you downloaded this episode before 11:00 pm Thursday August 2, please re-download it to get the corrected version, thank you!


We loved the Phantom Pain so much, we wanted to do a two part episode on it! In this episode, Rob talked to Chris Millar of, who listeners may remember from the ECM podcast. Millar has put an enormous amount of time into the Phantom Pain, and has a lot to say about it from a player's perspective. Topics include:

  • Favorite story moments
  • Strategies from an expert FOB player
  • Stories about getting into the game

In addition, there is plenty of awesome music from the OST in the breaks!

Check out some of Millar's incredible MGSV gameplay here:

Zero Kills, Zero Alerts in Ground Zeroes

Deja Vu Mission (with Cyborg Ninja!)

Daytime FOB Invastion No Alert (Wow, this is awesome!)

Stay tuned for part 2, when Rob and Kip talk about the design and art of The Phantom Pain!

GSPC Episode #32: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (again!) with’s Brandon Orselli

July 26, 2018

When Rob puts 200 hours in a game... he's gonna podcast about it, even if there was one already. While the first Xenoblade Chronicles podcast is a deep dive on the game's world design, Rob and Brandon instead talk about the game as a whole. Topics discussed include:

  • The history of developer Monolith Soft
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and Xenoblade Chronicles X
  • The deep battle systems
  • How Monolith Soft uses religious themes in their games

Make sure to visit, a great website that loves to cover games such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2!

You can also follow Nichegamer via twitter @nichegamer, facebook at nichegamer, and niche_gamer on Instagram!

GSPC Episode #31:’s Adam Pratt Discusses His New Book

July 5, 2018

Grid Snaps favorite Adam Pratt returns to promote his newest book, Arcade Heroes: Arcade Gaming Almanac 2018/2019, coming soon! We also discuss the latest developments in the arcade scene, including:

  • How has the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game affected arcade game design? Can we expect more "joystick" (not wheel or plastic gun based) games now?
  • What is going on with the Exa-Arcadia board, and can we see it here in the United States soon (the answer was YES!)?
  • California Extreme, one of the premiere events for arcade game fanatics, coming soon in Santa Clara, California. Both Rob and Adam will be there at this event!
  • Check out Adam's swag at his Teepublic site.
  • Catch up with Adam's first book, The Arcade Experience.
  • Of course follow all the latest arcade news at

GSPC Episode #30: How Set Dressing Supports Game Design

June 23, 2018

Take a look at your favorite video game. Walk around the levels in it, and look at all the small details. Does a bed have a night stand next to it, with a family picture? Maybe a busy office has a water cooler with a trash can full of crumpled disposable cups. Whatever the example, these details are commonly referred to as "set dressing," and Rob and Kip talk about how smart set dressing enhances the player experience.

GSPC Episode #29: Rob and Kip Talk E3 and Death Stranding

June 15, 2018

It's E3 time again, which means Rob and Kip analyze the latest game trailers, trying to glean clues about the future of game and level design.

Who are we kidding. Rob just wants to talk about the latest Death Stranding trailer for an hour :)

Regardless, some time is spent on the other games. Rob and Kip discuss Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part 2, and Insomniac's Spider Man game. Rob thinks most of these are pretty safe bets, in terms of game design and theme, which makes him admire Death Stranding's risk taking all the more.

Kip discusses some interesting color pallete choices in the Death Stranding environments, and why he realy likes the Last of Us series.

GSPC Episode #28: Prey 2 with Lead World Designer Nathan Cheever

May 28, 2018

Gamers who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s remember Prey, the long awaited 3D Realms title that almost became vaporware. Fortunately, Human Head Studios finished the game in 2006, and everyone expected a sequel to the first person shooter classic.

That sequel was supposed to be Prey 2, which promised to break new ground in vertical level design, visuals, and bounty hunter gameplay. Alas, this game never made it into the public's hands. Rob joined the Prey 2 project in early 2011 as a level scripter, working closely with Nathan Cheever who was the Lead World Designer at Human Head Studios at the time. The two share their experiences on the project, discussing its design, systems, and how they keep the legacy of a cancelled project alive. 

Topics covered:

Nathan's early career

Prey 2's origins

Prey 2 influences

Rob's favorite Prey 2 weapon, sort of!

Rob's favorite Prey 2 game system

Nathan's Prey 2 deep dives on Gamasutra:

Locktown Level Design

Bowery Level Design

The Blur Trailer

Alien Noire, the fan site dedicated to Prey 2

Prey 2 Gameplay on Youtube

GSPC Episode #27: A Way Out with Rob and Patrick

May 13, 2018

Most of us were settled in to our easy chairs enjoying a casual evening of video game industry back-patting watching The Game Awards 2017 when we were blindsided by Josef Fares' incredible rant in the middle of the show.

Behind the laughter, however, was incredible passion for game design and game making, and this can be seen in every second of Fares' and Hazelight Studio's "A Way Out," built from the ground up for cooperative play. Rob and Patrick recently played this game and loved it. It reminded them of Disaster Report on the Playstation 2, while innovating in some key areas in regards to ludo-narrative gameplay. They also react to the entirety of Fares' famous rant, which is played here!