Zen - Level Design

Iuliu-Cosmin Oniscu
4 min readJun 7, 2020


I am often find my self “concerned” by my the amount of work that goes into my process. I find that in spite of all the good things that come out of it, I often get crushed under the mountain of estimations for each feature.

It always feels to me that in the context of large scale productions, planning and careful execution are slower and less rewarding in the early phases, but more rewarding in the long term.

You often work long hours fixated on pre-existing design pipelines that you know (from experience) will work and will produce quality content only to get a brief glimpse of that quality in maybe 2 weeks or more.

I have always striven for find the answer to the problem of "How to identify the core issues in your design, the real reason behind all the tine issues that you actually want to fix.

I think my process aims at doing that and, to some extent, does a good job at that. People might look at the results and says :"wow! that’s amazing! I want to do that!" and then they try and they fail, because they try to emulate the result instead of applying the method.

The Tao Te Ching states:
"Free from desire we realize the mystery, caught in desire we see only the manifestations, but mystery and manifestations arise from the same source, the unformed."

It means that you shouldn’t be mesmerized by the results, cause they will make you want to emulate them. Focus on the method and the result will be amazing. Both the results and the mystery of their creation comes from the same place: “Not thinking about it.”

Ever wondered why you get better ideas when you are not searching for them?

I have always tried to look at the faults in the system as more the surface issues. What could have been done so they could be avoided? Where would one look when trying to fix large structural issues.

Traditional strategic thinking looks at this and says: The best way not to fail, is to avoid it altogether. That doesn't mean you should not even try, it means you need to try and fail in order to know what you don't know, and then you grow and fix all your problems. The power of iteration and play-testing.

The Tao Te Ching says:
"Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!."

I feel like there are two of us.
One is luminous and detached, it generates good ideas, fixes problems and looks at the world objectively, threats everyone with respect, does not judge, does not desire, is always truthful. Always serene he is detached from all things. People look to him for advice. He shares it but does not reinforce it.

The other one is dark and brooding, always contemplating, scheming, thinking, desiring, judging, always spinning towards the outside of the circle, always depressed, always despised, people avoid him, people hate him, he is always attached, always in pain. He tries too hard, fails and learns nothing. His voice you can hear in your head when you are thinking.

I suppose there are a few lessons we can get from this for easy usage:

  • Don’t try so hard. Relax your mind every once in a while
  • Let the design reveal itself to you.
  • Try not to get attached to your work. It will change.
  • Accept change and embrace iteration

The fundamentals of this imply that you should seek out to fail fast and discover the faults in your design. Expose yourself to feedback, analyze it and look for solutions that are targeting the core of the problem rather then the problem itself.



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.