About Reaching Perfection
Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design.
- These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.)
- The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games.
Missed Chapter 20?
Read it here: Safe Spawning
There’s a word that is always thrown around when talking about great maps. What is that word you say? My friend... that word is“balance”. Is your map “balanced”? How do you go about answering that? How do you weigh your map? Well typically you measure the map by comparing all of the advantages throughout it to ensure there is a balance of advantages no matter where you are. What do we call advantages again? OH YEAH! Incentives...
Weighing the un-weighable
So here’s a quick overview of incentives. Incentives are areas, objects, course of actions, etc. that help you achieve your current goal easier. These incentives can be a height advantage, a good defensive position, a rocket launcher, a shortcut, a batch of grenades, etc. There are so many types of incentives and they are all completely incomparable to each other side by side. So how do we weigh them? We make up a weight for each based on the experience that we want to create. As a designer it is your job to set a weight or priority for all of the incentives in your map to meet your map’s essence. Did you plan to setup a huge long range combat focus for your map? The sniper probably has a higher priority/weight than the rocket launcher on that map. Does your second map essence focus on vehicle usage? Well now a rocket launcher is probably much heavier than that sniper. Think about how important each incentive is to your players based on the experience you are trying to create and the objectives you are setting for your audience.
A balancing act
So now you know how to find the weight of all of those advantages. It is time to start spinning plates on sticks. Imagine a massive overview of your map, something like a heatmap. Now imagine as many incentives across your map as you can. Create a radius of effect based on your map’s essence for each one. Mentally tally up the weight of each millimeter of your map and imagine darkening up the heavier areas. The heavier incentives and a lot of incentives will cause darker areas. Always keep in mind each incentive’s individual weight as well to help you move things around. Imagine having a pistol and assault rifle in one corner of a map and a sniper and a rocket on the other corner. Which corner do you think is heavier? Typically, it’s obvious. Now what if it was a pistol/rocket vs. an assault rifle/sniper? It depends on the map’s essence.
Spreading the love
So now you’ve got your “heatmap” of advantage. What do you do with it? Well typically you want to spread out the incentives to have the weighting be “balanced” around the map. Why? Because players are drawn to incentives like lions are drawn to meat. Do you have an armory on your map? It is probably a good place to chill if your map’s essence is about killing. However its weighting goes down if the goal is to capture the flag and the armory is out of the way. All situations are different and it is your job to create the situation that you want. Maybe an armory is fine for your map as long as you weigh the rest of your map to balance it out. An armory is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Learning to balance the advantages of your map is a delicate and essential skill. It will help you control the traffic of your map and ensure that every part of your map is worth traveling through. That is what path manipulation is really all about,right?
Read Chapter 22: Rule of Thirds
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