I am trying to establish some scale standards for a level. I have been following this guide: http://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categories/ue4/ue4-guide-to-scale-dimensions.php

enter image description here

So far I have walls at 3m high, doors at 2.1m by 1.1m, with the character standing at 1.82m by 0.6m. I am now trying to work out a "good" staircase size. I have tried the above guide's suggestion of 0.15m high by 0.3m deep for each step. To reach 3m however would require 20 steps with these dimensions, which means a single staircase would be 6m long! Visually this looks quite silly in my opinion. If I compare this to real life using the following calculator: http://www.calculator.net/stair-calculator.html, using realistic step heights and depths the same staircase can be achieved at less than 4m length. This seems more realistic to me.

My main concern is not simply the visual appearance of the staircase, but how much space it will take up in a given building. If in each smaller building the staircase is taking up the majority of the floor space, this won't leave much for the more important elements. At the same time, I am concerned that if I make the staircase too steep it will have a negative effect on the gameplay and navigation. I understand that each level is different, however is there a good rule of thumb for getting started with this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A small suggestion: when used indoors, you can use a wall and/or a railing to keep players constrained onto the staira. You can then make the stairs far less wide than usual. And honestly, video game stairs are always much less steep than real stairs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peethor
    Oct 24, 2015 at 11:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possibly a silly question, but have you tried using realistic values from the calculator and found that they don't look right or create programming errors? Or is it more that it's outside of the standards you found in this level design document? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2015 at 13:52

3 Answers 3


Architecture in FPS games differs from real life in a number of ways, including:

  • Much wider interior spaces
  • More straight sections, less turns
  • Less vertical movement

All of this to accommodate the typical FPS avatar, which usually runs around (even indoors) and has a very limited field of view, especially vertically. Realism in general helps immersion, but when it is in conflict with gameplay, you need to make a choice. My opinion is to let the architecture serve the gameplay.

While there doesn't seem to be any published guidelines for staircase design in games, the guide you linked seems ok, of having a 30 degree staircase (where step depth-to-height is 2:1). Shallower stairs means players don't have to look up/down as much, and there's less danger of running off the top and taking a fall if the stairs are too steep.

30 degrees works in reality too, although it's towards the shallower end. Consider this reference image from California's Code of Regulations:

enter image description here


According to this, ideal stairs have an angle between 30 and 37 degrees, although it could be as shallow as 18 and as steep as 50. Any steeper and you enter ladder territory, any shallower and a ramp is preferable.

One difference between games and real life is flights. In real life, flights should be limited in size (e.g. Building Code of Australia limits flights to 2-18 risers), otherwise there's a safety risk. Usually a single flight isn't enough to span two stories, so stairs usually have landings or winders between flights.

enter image description here

Apple Store staircase with two landings

This can also save space if the stairs turns back on itself, as in a stairwell. However, in an FPS you want to avoid turns in stairs. The player is already handicapped in a narrow, sloping space; adding turns only makes them more vulnerable.

To summarise, stairs in an FPS should be wider, shallower and straighter than real life.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fantastic answer with a lot of helpful insight. Thanks a lot! \$\endgroup\$
    – FrontEnd
    Nov 24, 2016 at 3:04

If you want a smaller footprint use a spiral staircase or a ladder

  • \$\begingroup\$ A ladder is definitely a good idea though probably not realistic for non-industrial buildings. A spiral staircase would be quite a bit harder to navigate through. \$\endgroup\$
    – FrontEnd
    Oct 25, 2015 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ How about a elevator then? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 25, 2015 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ An elevator can work, but in some cases for stylistic reasons stairs will need to be used. I am trying to work out whether there are some established conventions for step height and step depth so that I can determine how long (total run) the stairs in my level will be per storey. As per my question; the only conventions I have found so far are a step height of 0.15m and step depth of 0.3m for UE4, and a step height of 0.2m and step depth of 0.4m for Counter Strike Global Offensive. These however seem to be making the stairs quite long so I am wondering if these two conventions are accurate. \$\endgroup\$
    – FrontEnd
    Oct 25, 2015 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't attempt to answer the question. The asker specifically asked what dimensions make a good staircase. How does this, at all, answer this? \$\endgroup\$
    – user64742
    Oct 14, 2016 at 17:17

This is a specific case of a common problem that you often want your character to be able to step up onto ledges or steps that are taller than the rounded bottom of the capsule would normally allow. I haven't used Unreal enough to know if there's a simpler solution to the problem, but the approach I've used in previous games is to modify the character controller. This may require more code than you'd like, but the basic algorithm is:

1) Am I hitting a blocking surface normal? 2) If so, perform an additional shape cast of the character's capsule starting some max-step-height above the current position and extending forward from there 3) if the cast shows enough space to pop up and move forward and still be supported, move to that location. Otherwise, you have encountered blocking geometry and can stop

An alternative, even simpler approach is to use a ramp for the physics geometry and stairs for the render geometry. As long as your IK operates on the render geo, it should look fine for walking but will allow a wider range of staircase angles.

Hope that helps a little.

  • \$\begingroup\$ For future reference, you should not post "--edit--" fragments to your answer. Simply update the additional information into your existing answer. We are not a forum, so including things such as "--edit--" are considered poor-quality. We still keep record of each revision, so there is no need to deliberately distinguish between which elements were added at the start, or later. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Oct 14, 2016 at 23:53

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