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How a level can tell a story..
The following prototype concept is the result of abit of cross-pollination with movies! I've essentially taken the formula from script-writing and referenced it to a level structure.
(Level Pacing..)

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The Level-As-Story structure is based on the 4-act movie structure, you'll need to lay out your level as a timeline in order to fit it all together. That means basically taking the typical route through a level and splitting it into four sections.

Act 1 is known as the Normal world, this would be the area leading to the entrance to the level, generally you can construe this as meaning, the players world. There's not many enemies in this act, and the environment should look familiar, in the distance
you could see Act 2, the special world. So the player knows where to head towards. Towards the end of Act 1 an event happens that throws the player into Act 2, you can take this as you will!

Act 2 is known as the Special world, you take this as meaning the bad guys world. The environment here would be totally different to act one, it could be more damaged, darker, weird lighting, whatever. Here you see the introduction of new enemies and some off-mission
objectives that don't relate directly to the main objective, a key/door systems perhaps?. This is the fun&games section of the level, most cool set-pieces go here. Towards the end of Act 2 there's a sub-boss or event that challenges the player and begins Act 3.

Act 3 is still in the special world but is known as the 'bad guys close in' Act. Here the player is back on the main objective, and the main enemies make their appearance, this all leads up to the climatic 'all is lost moment' at the end of Act 3. Towards the
end of Act 3, the player faces a seemingly immpossible situation, and all seems lost, here an event happens that the player is saved but it doesn't look good!

Act 4 is back in the normal world the players back but he's stronger now, this is a short rest period before the battle finale, where the player will put everything he's learned to test. The final Act is where the player encounters a grand test that he must
overcome to reach the end of the level. This would usually be a boss monster but it could be something more interesting like a car chase or whatever. After the climax is another brief period where the loose-ends are tied-up, normally done in a cutscene.

This system is a prototype, so let me know what your results are! It really does create a more cinematic feel to your levels.