Case Study: Research – London Underground


In this article I am going to do something a bit different; I am going to show you a sample of the sort of research that you should do when researching a level design idea. This will show the basic process I follow when i am planning a level. I will start with the idea, expand it and research the topic. Once I have some general research, I will begin researching some of the key details of the environment I am creating.

The Idea:

Taking inspiration from the disused station of the London underground, I am going to create a level based upon York road station, a London underground station from 1906 until 1932.

The player has found themselves stuck in the remains of the old station and must find a way out of the level, by exploring the station and eventually progressing to the next open station on the line; Caledonian Road. The level will be set at soon after closure and be in the estimated state and look the stations where in at the time.

York Road Basic Information:

The following information was found from the following reference: Jim E Connor, 2001. London’s Disused Underground Stations. Edition. Capital Transport Publishing

York Road Station circa 2010

York Road Station as it appears now.

  • Opened 15th of December 1906 by Great northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway between Kings cross and Caledonian Stations.
  • A Street Level Building on the corner of York Road (now York Way) and Bingfield Street; Clad in ruby-red tiling, with raised lettering signs.
  • Booking hall was connected to the platforms by emergency stairs and a single 23ft lift shaft containing two electric lifts supplied by Otis Elevator Company, with a rise of 89.49ft. The Lifts descend directly to the platform level.
  • Westbound Platform length of 351.9 foot, with the east bound was 350ft exactly. Both platforms are constructed from concrete with a width of 10ft.
  • The Parallel tunnels had a diameter of 21ft 2.5 ins and where tiled white with patterns of red.
  • Ventilation by a fan.
  • The street level building occupied by ‘The Victor Printing company’ after closure until 1989.
  • Street level building featured arched windows, ornate metal light fixtures, metal shutters and striped tiles
  • Platforms featured tiled walls, wiring, standard underground signage, painted ‘York Road’ and a signal box at the Finsbury Park end.
York Road Station plan

The plans for York road station

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1.2: Ideas


Coming up with a good idea for your map can be very difficult; Especially when you are trying to be a bit original and not make the same sort of maps that everybody else is making.

In this article I am going to cover some of the ways to get inspiration for level designs and how to develop your idea’s fully.


Inspiration can be hard to find sometimes, it would be easy to fall into the trap of just making another level like your last one, set on the same idea. But to many similar levels will end up becoming very boring, very quickly. Variation is the spice of life, and that stands true of video games.

In reality, Inspiration can be found anywhere. If you take a walk, you will probably pass many possible inspirations for a really fun and original level design, and you won’t even notice. A great technique I have found is to take a camera out on a walk around a town or city; Even without taking pictures, just look through the viewfinder and keep an eye out for any interesting details, architecture or even colours. This can be enough to create some interesting designs.

Inspiration can come from Anywhere

Inspiration Can come from anywhere, even places you visit on a daily basis.

Another great source we have available to us now is the internet. There is a wealth of inspiring images on the internet which you can use to find an idea you like. Check out architecture photos, travel blogs, Flickr, Youtube and much more. just look out for any detail or places that grabs your attention.

You can also take a look at current video games and try to figure out where they are getting their inspiration from. Portal 1, for example, had a very clean and efficient style about it. Set inside clean and sterile environments makes sense for ‘Science test chambers’. but the really inspiring part comes when you escape and are exploring behind the scenes. It had this dirty, industrial feeling.

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