How to handle cover placement.

Iuliu-Cosmin Oniscu
4 min readJan 26, 2020

So how do we handle cover placement? What’s the thought process that we should apply.

How combat spaces are composed

You can’t have cover without thinking about what it’s good for, and depending on what game your are making it can stand for a lot:

In stealth game it serves as a path tracer. So the player can actually maneuver around the NPC’s placed in the map.

Stealth Game — Cover Placement Illustration

The way cover is placed in this example is based on a few simple principles:

  • Player will move from cover to cover to avoid NPC detection
  • This implies that exposure to NPC line of sight acts like a window of opportunity moment.
  • The player waits for the NPC to look away before moving to the other cover spot.
  • Based on the turning patterns of the AI you can break down parameters that can affect how hard this scenario ca be.

Examples of parameters: Traveling Distance and NPC Look Duration

Window of Opportunity Chart — Traveling Distance vs NPC Look Duration

This could lead towards interesting combination that juggle with the distance between covers and the NPC looking/turning direction.

Of course other parameters could be applied as well.

In cover shooters it serves as a way for the player to avoiding the enemy, survey the battlefield and move from cover to cover to circumvent crossfires.

Cover Shooter — Cover shooter simplified

In this kinds of situation we can apply the same chart as before but we need to replace Look Duration with Shooting duration.

SWindow of Opportunity Chart — Traveling Distance vs Shooting Duration

Some hybrids use a blend of Stealth and Combat cover to facilitate both play-styles.

Games like GTA, WatchDogs, Mafia 3 blend stealth and combat spaces into one unified space that serves both purposes.

However since these games area also open world games, for the sake of immersion have to also reflect the world where they exist.

This means they have to justified from a narrative standpoint.

In order to do that in a way that doesn’t raise any eyebrows, one method of actually placing cover in a realistic space is to actually consider the concept of:

Implied Spaces

An implied space is a subdivision of space that is implied by it being delimited by other bits of geometry or functions.

Example of Implied Space

This concept from architecture and can be used to solve cover placement in level design.

For example:

Implied Space integration — Example

By creating a niche inside a space we can actually imply the idea of an auxiliary space that can serve both as cover placement and decorum, all without sacrificing the leading lines needed to establish direction within a layout section.

Direct application withing an actual layout

Here are some other examples for a more combat oriented space:

Halo Reach — Level Exploration Example
Realistic Layout — Example

Another example of implied space are shadow/shade spaces.

These kinds of spaces exist simply because they are shaded and provide a different type of visual cover for the player.

Example of shadow space.

For this sort of cover placement there is a need for us to have some sort of control over the sources of light inside the environment.



Iuliu-Cosmin Oniscu

As a level designer I am not a creator, I am a facilitator. Senior Open World Designer. #Leveldesign #Open World #Design @notimetoulose.