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About Me

Found 10 results

  1. My level design Case Study 04: Recreating «Shoot House» map from call of duty: Modern warfare Tool used: - Blocking out: Rhino v6 - Walk-through and playtest: Unreal 4.25 (Note: some probs are taken from «POLYGON- BattleRoyalePack» asset) More images: artstation.com/artwork/VgJYPR Reference: https://blog.activision.com/call-of-duty/2019-11/Modern-Warfare-Tactical-Map-Intel-Shoot-House
  2. Small 2v2 map called «Alsaleh Factory» (My fourth try! for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design) Modes: TDM, Skirmish (Note: Some 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») CS:GO Workshop link: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2153733778 See more images here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/J9lX0a
  3. Small 3v3 map called «Double House» (My third try for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design) Modes: TDM, Skirmish (Note: Some 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») UPDATE: Playtest video added. See more images here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/q9ANRP
  4. My second try for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design Small 2v2 map called «Ammo Storage 2» Mode: Skirmish (Note: All 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») See more images here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/ZGgy8N
  5. Here's my first try for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design Small duel [1v1] map called «Ammo Storage» Mode: Skirmish (Note: All 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») See more images here: http://artstation.com/artwork/q9Lz8N
  6. My level design Case Study 03: Recreating «KING» map From COD:MW "King is a multiplayer map featured in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that is exclusive to the Gunfight mode." (Source images are taken from callofduty.fandom.com) 2D Drawing, 3D Modeling and Rendering: Rhino v6 (Note: probs are taken from «POLYGON- Battle Royale Pack») See more images here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/YaNGPq Any feedback would be appreciated.
  7. My level design Case Study 02: Recreating DOCKS map From COD:MW "Docks is a multiplayer map featured in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 that is exclusive to the Gunfight mode." (Source images are taken from callofduty.fandom.com) See more images here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/N5Anmq 2D Drawing, 3D Modeling and Rendering: Rhino v6 (Note: probs are taken from «POLYGON- Battle Royale Pack»)
  8. Chapter 1: Hear me out Going as far back as the Halo trilogy, and especially in more modern games like Destiny, the aptly named Modern Warfare, and even Apex Legends, it has been commonplace to refer to all facets of the 'shooting' in one of these games as its gunplay. Which, in and of itself, is fine - vague and generalized word use is very helpful, and allows us to get complicated ideas across quickly when we’re trying to touch on larger points. For that reason, I don’t go around grilling people who don’t use perfectly accurate verbiage at every turn. However, more often than not, when I hear someone specifically refer to gunplay, I don’t think they mean what they think they mean. Perfect examples came out of the recent COD Modern Warfare. We all know that game has problems, and we’re not here to discuss them… but in reference to the game, you'll constantly hear “Yeah that game is really campy and the maps have too many windows and doors, and it’s really too bad, because the gunplay is just "so good". This same idea is communicated in and around plenty of other games, and is regular speech for an FPS player. Inevitably, the first thing that shoots into my head is, what do you mean 'good'? Yes, I completely agree that it feels good to shoot in Modern warfare. The hitmarker sounds, the weapons sounds, the animations, the screams of my dying enemy, even the smoke coming from the barrel of my gun contributes to that effect. The score that pops up after a kill, the guitar riff that plays when I level up. There are endless layers of feedback that all make me feel ecstatic, but at the end of the day, that’s just how I feel, not how the gunplay in Modern Warfare functions. And this is important, because how gunplay functions does contribute to how a game feels, but not in the sense we’ve already described. First of all, mechanics, in the long term, can create a meaningful fulfillment and feelings of personal growth as we understand and even master them. Then, these skills become practical, climaxing when we put this to use effectively, which is immediately satisfying. This whole paradigm is NOT as simple as "short term vs. long term satisfaction". Some of that instant gratification does come from mechanics, some comes from sensory stimuli, and the two can be distinguished. The former version of instant gratification, mechanical fulfillment, is one reason why watching great players is so fun. You get to feel some of that sweet second-hand dopamine as you watch them succeed in ways you only wish you could, even if you haven't seen the meaningful journey of practice that went into being able to play like that. While feeling is the word I’ve chosen to use within the context of this effect, as well as the former effect, when I describe them, they are obviously very different. One is pleasurable, and the other is meaningful, that is, earned, and therefore pleasurable. When you refer to a game in the way I described earlier, where our imaginary person attempts to diagnose the pros and cons of Modern Warfare, it seems like what is unknowingly being referred to is mechanical function. Just reflect on that quote from our imaginary MW player. First, he talks about the gameplay, the camping, then he talks about the maps, how they have too many variables, and finally gunplay. Context points to a conversation about mechanical function, but upon further questioning, most I've interacted with are almost always thinking about how the gun looks and 'feels', and not as a result of difficulty or cultivated skill, but as a result of punchy hitmarker sounds and realistic blood splatters. To explain it once more, and perhaps in a simpler way, imagine any shooter, but the gun models were replaced with inanimate bananas, and there were no weapon sounds or effects. Would it 'feel' good to shoot? In one sense, no, because there isn’t any convincing feedback. In another sense, the functional sense, it would feel no different than it does now, because weapon models, animations, and sounds are all just sensory stimuli. The game would play exactly the same way. Same kill times, same recoil patterns, same flinch, same mechanics to master. A game that all too often receives this treatment is Destiny, but it’s understandable. It is so unreasonably satisfying to shoot a hand cannon in that game, that it’s hard to separate how destiny’s gunplay feels and how it works. Which again, how it works does contribute to the feel, just in a different sense. And I’m going to use destiny as an example of why it’s so important to separate in your mind these two facets of shooting as a designer. If we are to look at destiny, on paper, without the seductive visuals of the dreaming city or my homegirl ada-1, you might be surprised of what we actually find. Many times Destiny has been compared to Halo, but when you really look at it, you will see that Destiny, in reality, will reveal itself. The first thing to look at would be your players movement and strafe within Destiny. Yes, there are plenty of advanced movement options, but the lack of mid-air accuracy successfully grounds players for most gunfights, so as far as gunplay is concerned, these are separated. So then, next, we can look at the players strafe. How good is it? Well, it’s not that great. Even with a max mobility build, it’s not very effective. The insanely high bullet magnetism within Destiny can’t help, but I digress. Most combat is grounded, and the strafe is of little effect. Next, we can look at weapons. Almost all weapons are hitscan, and what is projectile usually (99 times out of 100) tracks your target. For the sake of making a point, humor me, how about the maps? Well, with Destiny 2 especially, we see nothing but Treyarch-like 3 lanes, and flat ones at that. This is starting to sound familiar... The last facet to consider would be any system baked into the mechanics, like descope in Halo. Well, Destiny doesn’t have descoping, but it does have hefty flinch, or aim punch as some call it, where enemy bullets cause your aim to jump about and render your gun inaccurate.. Not only is a strong flinch present, but most weapons are also inaccurate when fired from the hip... Okay, so considering all of this, why does it feel like Halo? Well, as far as I can tell, it’s almost exclusively because of the time to kill. This is where Destiny is closest to Halo, with an average TTK of around 1 second. And so, even though we may feel there is a connection to Halo, and there is, when we parse through the mechanics one by one, Destiny isn't "just like Halo". In reality, it's a lot more like a Call of Duty game. I trust you see what I mean, reader. You're a smart guy. You know that there’s usually more than meets the brain when it comes to this stuff, and I'm sure you'll agree it to be extremely important to look under the hood before we make claims about how good or bad a mechanic is. You probably already know this, but this thought process can be applied to anything, in order to separate the superficial from the real, and not just with gunplay. Chapter 2: Shoot me And, while we’re here, I’ll expand on what I personally find to qualify as ‘good’ functional gunplay. Right off the bat, the suffix of gunplay, play, assumes the presence of, well, play. In other words, some sort of give and take. Some sort of interaction. Going back to Modern Warfare, the games functional gunplay consists of very little give and take. You essentially put the crosshair on your opponent, and click. Attachments combined with the mounting mechanic will often completely nullify recoil, and most COD players already know instinctively to aim at center mass to prevent flinch from knocking them off target, because flinch will severely punish you for aiming at the head by making you miss entirely, which means you never really should go for headshots unless someone isn’t looking at you. All of this, by extension, is less opportunity for 'play' within your shooting mechanics by discouraging the player from aiming at the crit spot. Now, with the games near instant kill times in mind, and the distinct lack of any strafe, again, the game is essentially point, click, and move on. Yes, technically, there is some gun play, some give and take, as you still have to do the aiming, with a little bit of recoil to account for. To that I would say, if the only requirement for good gunplay, functionally speaking, is the generalized presence of aiming, then every shooter ever made would qualify as having ‘good’ gunplay. No, this can’t be the bar we set, I think we can do better. The first way we can do better is with projectile based weapons. Projectiles, while harder to use, are just as accurate as hitscan. The obvious difference being that one must aim ahead and utilize his spatial awareness to account for bullet travel time in order to land shots. Many have said that projectiles are "messy", and that hitscan is the cleaner choice, but projectiles, assuming no other factors are involved, are perfectly accurate. There’s no loss of control as to where your bullets land, they’re just harder to land. Instead of aiming here, you aim 'there', in accordance to your projectile speed and how fast the target is moving and in what direction. This introduces a layer of play, not only within yourself as you master spatial awareness, but when considering projectiles on the slower end of the spectrum, like rockets in Quake, this starts to introduce a layer of play with your opponent, as he can preemptively move away from, and sometimes even react to, the projectiles as they travel, which you then have to adjust for in the future. This becomes an adjustment which your opponent can predict, and then play around, and the cycle of 'mind-play' repeats. Not only are projectiles an incredible source of depth in our games, but they also solve what we could call the 'problem of ranges'. Look, every game is made with target ranges in mind, which is why we often see damage fall-off implemented into games like overwatch and Destiny. This is needlessly frustrating, as it’s next to impossible to predict just how much damage my shots will do. And the question does need to be asked, if I’m landing my shots, why are my bullets arbitrarily doing half damage, and when I take a few steps forward, now full damage? What if I only took one step forward? Or half a step? With this system you inevitably run into these thresholds, which can’t really ever be predicted. You have a vague idea of how close you need to be with a hand cannon in Destiny, but It’s not like there’s a ranger meter in my UI telling me how far my enemy is from me, and so even after hundreds of hours of practice, it’s still impossible to always grasp exactly how much damage I can do. I can’t ever really know. Now THIS is what I call messy. On the other hand, projectile weaponry doesn’t require damage fall-off to keep fights within certain ranges, as the travel time of a projectile inherently makes shooting at players who are further away, harder. Once implemented, the developers need only tune how fast the projectiles will travel, until his or her idea of the perfect median encounter range is found, while still allowing for an excellent player to deal full damage if he can land those difficult shots at range. Seriously, God has handed us the perfect design solution via physics, so why are we so apprehensive to utilize it? Moving on, I believe that we can also do better with the player strafe and movement in our shooters. It’s hard to determine how fast is fast enough for base movement speeds, or strafe acceleration. Do not assume that more is always better. In fact, some games will sport such extreme abilities that the rest of the game starts to fall apart. For example, I can spend a year meticulously designing a Titanfall map, just to have someone grapple across it in one go and completely nullify the level design. Now that's frustrating. I think there's a balance to be struck here. Simply put, I just want to be able to avoid damage. My goal is to always allow the player to live and succeed, even with 1 health point. If play is an interaction, I want to be able to interact with my opponent as he shoots at me. Standing in place and seeing who wins as determined by the whims of flinch should not qualify as gunplay (looking at you, PUBG). The way I see it, my own gunplay is only half of the 'play'. The other half is how I am interacting with my opponent with my strafe, and larger scales of strafe like general movement, geometry manipulation, and advanced movement options. This is about as far as I can go within the context of this topic, because I would have to start introducing specific mechanics from specific games into the discussion to take it any further, and I don’t want to go that far. You get it. Next up, we can do much better with the likes of recoil, spread, and bloom. Randomness doesn't work, because any random penalty is incredibly frustrating, as I know it wasn’t merited by the other player and wasn’t a result of an honest mistake on my part. There’s nothing I could do about it. On the other hand, any random benefit is devoid of meaning, as I know I didn’t earn it, and therefore have nothing to be proud of, and nothing to learn from the win. With that in mind, predictability is key when talking about these things. Recoil, you're up. Some games, especially some PC games, are very heavy handed with the recoil. I’m not the biggest fan of recoil, but I would totally respect it, and do totally respect it, if and only if recoil patterns are predictable. Pulling your thumbstick or mouse down at a rate proportionate to your weapon rise, all while tracking your enemy, certainly is a skill. The problem arises (pun intended) when games, often for the sake of realism, introduce random recoil patterns, and especially horizontal recoil. Even the ‘random’ vertical recoil patterns in games aren’t truly random. That is, they have a general direction. A predictable unpredictability. Horizontal recoil, however, is not the same. Unless there exists a weapon with horizontal recoil that tends to only one side of the weapon (which doesn't exist), horizontal bouncing is entirely uncontrollable. It changes directions radically. Even if you knew when the recoil would bounce left or right, we just don’t have the reaction speed as humans to cancel this out on the fly, which means I don’t have control. To put it as simply as I can, that’s why everyone hates the Flatline and Spitfire in Apex Legends. Spread… oh man. Spread is a tricky one. First of all, it should go without saying at this point that random spread is never good. Hitting your shots is not a rewarding experience when you know it’s random, and missing is just annoying, because it's not up to you. So, what then entails a perfectly predictable spread? Honestly, the shotguns in Apex Legends and Gears of war are the only examples I can think of at the moment, and I don’t think there’s a better way of going about it without changing how the weapons themselves fundamentally work. Fixed pellet placement. Hipfire spread on non-shotgun weapons, on the other hand, is a different beast, especially when sustained auto/semiautomatic fire is in question. We all know how annoying it can be to die to someone with a spray weapon in an FPS, hip firing his way to victory. This is true for almost any game, Key word being almost. Think on Call of Duty, where your killcam reminds you of the clueless player that just bested you, as he hipfires and hits all headshots, likely on accident, leaving you saying “ah come on, he just hip fired me!” Let's create our own weapon to use as an example, in the image of all militaristic shooters. We'll call it the… D… the D-78... the D-789 Reaper or something. Nice and boring, just the way developers like it. Now, of course this weapon, while aimed in, is pinpoint accurate. While hipfired, however, the spread becomes a cone. While this cone is no longer pinpoint accurate, all of the bullets will land within the cone, which means, if the cone is about the same size as the enemies hitbox, that all of the bullets within the cone will land. It’s like your bullets become 50 times their normal size, while being just as effective. I know that's not always true, it varies, but bear with me. Now, imagine shooting at someone with this cone vs. aimed down sights. Rather than aiming in, wouldn’t it be easier to hip fire, and always have at least part of the cone on target? Yes, and paired with random spread, this means the chance for perfect accuracy with much less effort required. It’s easier to always be partially on target while using a flashlight instead of a laser pointer, which means you almost always have a chance to hit. In this scenario, hip firing is easier, and potentially just as effective as pinpoint accuracy while aiming in, which is why we get frustrated. It’s inherently easier, partially random, and depending on the game, is almost just as rewarding as aiming. After all, the saying is risk vs. reward, not... less risk, similar reward. The solution to this one of two extremes. Either you can make hip fire on the R-765 Dynasty, or whatever it's called, unusably inaccurate, or make it perfectly accurate. Let's think. Making hip fire spread worse will make it less rewarding, and therefore not as frustrating as often… but at the same time, will crank up the random factor, and make it all the more annoying when someone does get lucky with the hipfire. Not good. The alternative, perfectly accurate hipfire, may just completely solve the issue at hand. No randomness, and hipfire is no longer inherently easier. Hmm… think back, we don’t say “ah, he just hipfired me!” in Halo, do we? In fact, noscopes with certain weapons are considered harder and more impressive! If you then want to incentivize aiming in while keeping hipfire predictable, you could even add something like increased recoil to hipfire. Not random recoil, but increased recoil. We're killing it! Design is easy! Finally, while I hate to say it (that's a lie) we could just do away with bloom. With the recent launch of Halo Reach on PC, this is just in time. With bloom, your shots become increasingly inaccurate if you shoot quickly, which encourages you to pace your shots, and rewards the patient. Or at least, this is what it proposes to do. In reality, it forces you to pace your shots, lest your bullets become forfeit to random spread, while it often rewards the goofball who just spams his trigger and gets lucky. Once again, the problem lies in the unpredictability. The defenders of this mechanic always say “well I like bloom, because you have to pace your shots” and while patience may be worth rewarding generally speaking, it’s not a reward if it’s forced on you. And more than this, the random spread that comes along with this fake patience is just not worth it. Again, I like it when I’m watching a Quake duel, and patience wins out over the other players aggressive play now and again. That can be cool. Bloom, however, especially in reach, is a terrible implementation of that idea. All right! That's all I have to say about Gunplay today. Keep in mind, the scope of most of these arguments will inevitably be limited to what we see in shooter orthodoxy. To many of these questions and proposals, I would personally just get creative, and make entirely new weapon archetypes and entirely new games and systems. But, within the trends that define almost every modern shooter, these were my thoughts. Thanks for reading! Follow Westin Twitter: https://twitter.com/_Xandrith Website: https://westinkoessel.wixsite.com/portfolio Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  9. // INTRO The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Open Beta closed two weeks ago, which has given me a healthy chunk of time to digest my experience with it. What follows is an in-depth review of the various elements the open beta had on display. For reference, I was playing on the XBOX ONE S, and played enough to reach the Level 30 cap, max out available attachments on all the starter weapons, and try my hand at a number of the unlockable weapons. // MENUS - UI - GUNSMITH The first thing I noticed upon opening the game was the graphical fidelity - I'd say the game is on par with the last Battlefront game, in both visual and audio fidelity. The animations are smooth, naturalistic, and very convincing - as are the environments, utilizing unique color palettes and lighting angles to give each map a distinct feel and sense of place. The weapon and POV models are also impressive, as are the particle effects and dynamic lighting elements that bounce off them. The weapons, in particular, are quite detailed, with small scratches, grooves, patches of wear, exposed metal, and top-notch shading. This level of graphical polish is particularly important in the Realism and Night modes, given how these modes are meant to be so immersive. The menus were relatively easy to navigate, if a little jarring in their transition from the main menu to the various different diorama screens for character outfits and weapon modifications. However, there were a couple annoyances: one, I would often get booted out of the gunsmith menu by a change of "screen" during the intermission lobby. I either had to quit a lobby to create a class, or sit at the beginning of a match for 15 seconds, frantically editing my attachments and perks and risk getting booted or killed. That, and the option to edit a class or weapon is not mapped to the A/X button, and instead has to be selected with the left thumbstick. Little frustrations like this build up over time. The other was the inclusion of a looped, fully-rendered player character at center screen, endlessly stalking invisible enemies, through the misty grey infinity (ward). I admire the visual callbacks to Modern Warfare 2's menu screen, but this was really distracting and occasionally off-putting - I can only handle so many muzzle sweeps and so much anxious crouch-walking. // GAMEPLAY - CORE I should have considered the menu's stalking man as a kind of foreshadowing; this posture and body language came to define the winningest strategy for any player moving in any kind of sustained forward direction. Most people who play CoD do so because they just want a fun game to play, and don’t have 8 hours a day to devote to perfecting their playstyle or map strategy. They just want to have a quick bit of fun at the end of the day, sit back with a beer and joke around with their friends online. This kind of player - the main market for Call of Duty games - will be turned off by the absurd amount of angles he will have to cover, and the domination of the maps other, more dedicated or experienced players will be able to enforce - especially when it’s so easy to just super sprint your way around the map, and get killed by someone camping behind a piece of deployable cover. Either that, or he will only play a small fraction of the map, as will other players of his caliber and attention span. Add to this soft skill-based matchmaking, and most players will end up playing the same 15% of a massive level, reinforced by the inclusion of Tactical (Super) Sprint and weapon mounting to cover. My experience with the Objective gametypes, especially Domination and Headquarters, confirmed this. In Domination, only one of the three objectives were ever contested, and the only times the spawn-area objectives were played were when spawns flipped. This is typical for public matchmaking, especially in Call of Duty. But it was incredibly frustrating, because the games boiled down to a mad dash towards the action, which stays in one or two areas near the center of the map, often interrupted by a player who has managed to post up somewhere with an LMG or Sniper and who can easily cover one of the two main routes from the spawns to that objective, benefiting greatly from the faster TTK and the incredibly sluggish transition from sprint to Aim Down Sight (ADS), as well as the increased rendering distance. The game is incredibly complex - sightlines overlap to an absurd degree. Stepping into a courtyard, for example, exposes you to upwards of 10 different locations at a time. Meanwhile, taking a side route through a building can be just as dangerous, as you must contend with the possibility of CQC engagements or running into a claymore. This is made all the more daunting because many buildings have doors that must be breached in order to enter, and the lighting contrast makes it very difficult to see players crouching or lying prone with an SMG or Shotgun. The map Hackney, Yard, for example, has a number of buildings that can be explored, in which there are upwards of 5 places a player could be hiding - and vice versa, if you are hiding in these buildings, there are upwards of 5 places a player could challenge you from. Some buildings are also partially destroyed, which opens them up to multiple lines of sight - there are windows, doors, cave-ins, cutaways, scaffolding, and other tears in the structures which can open up a player to numerous angles of attack, most of which cannot be countered because of the fast Time To Kill (TTK). // REALISM / NIGHT MODES In Realism mode, the heavy lighting contrast forces you to face into the sun for an advantage in most cases, and the dark areas can easily be controlled by players jumping around corners or posting up on portable cover. Plus, spawns are easily broken because they’re proximity-based, which means your team can be daisy-chained at one spawn location, especially because it's hard to determine where your team is (or the other team), unless they are onscreen, helpfully overlaid with an immersion-breaking nameplate that IS NOT EVEN CENTERED OVER THE PLAYER MODEL. There is nothing more frustrating than firing under a bright red nameplate in a black void, only to watch your tracers fly past your killer's head in the killcam. As a direct result of the confusion and hyperrealism, I’ve spawned into the line of fire a few times on the Cave map. This should never happen, especially considering how large that map is - but because the lack of onscreen prompts is anathema to the average CoD player, my team was scattered all over the map, and therefore not concentrated in any one area, which breaks the spawns, apparently. Not pictured are the 4 or 5 times I was spawned in the same location (southernmost Allegiance spawn zone) with half of the enemy team within my visibility. In Night mode, the game plays with tunnel-vision, artificially reducing the sightline saturation through the use of ingenious lighting tricks, replacing it with a totally desaturated night vision landscape of pale greens and deep blacks. This is accomplished in such convincing detail by the rendering of Infrared light in-engine, so that your night vision goggles are actually picking up the "real" IR signatures bouncing around the map. This actually makes the pathing easier to digest; your visible options are significantly reduced, as the eye is not drawn by natural light towards the next potential target. Instead, there are pockets of light near burning vehicles, in doorways, and near some light posts, which highlight a few places where a player may come through. The lack of a HUD helps emphasize motion past these light sources, but the low lighting and monochromatic display makes it hard to chase players who don’t run directly past your immediate vicinity. This spreads the concentration of action way out, which slows gameplay down significantly, unless you happen upon a firefight that’s already started. Unfortunately, however, this just makes it all that much easier to run past someone and not notice them - or get picked off by someone posted up in a makeshift crow's nest. // GUNFIGHT The complexity of the Core maps is offset by the small, simple layouts offered for the new 2v2 Gunfight mode. Unfortunately, this mode suffers from the same problems as the 6v6 and 10v10 games, only in a much more concentrated form. The way this played in practice was like a very frantic and constricted form of BLOPS 4's Blackout. Depending on your connection and your dedication to this form of combat, your experience will differ. Mine was not overly positive, as I was often left to play alone after my teammate quit 2 rounds in, or sacrificed to the CoD gods by the spotty hit detection. I eventually learned how easy it was to use one strategy to dominate play on one particular map. But, because the maps are various forms of symmetrical environments, feature asymmetrically symmetrical weapon spawns, and the matchmaking process cannot guarantee communication between you and your teammate, these strategies relied entirely on my faith in RNGesus and my willingness to gamble away another 30 seconds of my life. Keep in mind, the version I got to try of this did not offer players a starting weapon. This was infinitely more frustrating than anything I've ever played. Weapons were set at spawn points, equipment pickups were randomly cycled, and the 'hold X' prompt did not function consistently unless I slowed down to walking speed near a pickup. Consider, then, that most of these pickups were placed either in highly contested, staged areas (except for the pistols), or in very enclosed areas. It felt a little bit like playing a sped up version of dodgeball, where a round is decided by the first player to grab a ball from the midfield line. Only in this game, some balls are clearly better than others, and if you want them you have to put yourself in an almost indefensible position. The small scale of these maps, the fast TTK, and the high mix value of footsteps makes moving fast a problem, but also the only way to win. Each map differs slightly, but generally speaking, Sitting still and mounting your weapons is a recipe for death, as is stalking the enemy. Unfortunately, moving fast also makes the pickup prompt even less responsive, to the point where I had to backtrack to pick something up, taking twice as long to pick the damn things up. Last I checked, players don't hold X to reload, so why not reduce the amount of hold time necessary to pick up weapons? I would often pick up a starter pistol, only to be picked off by a player who had already super sprinted to my flank, grabbing a shotgun or M4 along the side route, uncontested by my teammate, who had already died running straight at the middle of the map without a weapon. If I was not picked off, a comeback was extremely difficult, because you can't shoot at two enemies at once in CoD, and if you do get lucky and catch them doubled up, chances are they'll do enough combined damage to you before you can down either of them, especially if they've already picked up the weapons you'd need to do that kind of damage. As a result, the gametype is hindered by not only the inherent imbalance of semi-variable, asymmetrical weapon pickups, but also by the fast TTK and extreme movement delta necessary for consistent accuracy. Rounds that last less than 30 seconds are more frantic than fun, and rounds that last more than a minute are excruciatingly stressful. Both kinds of matches also suffered from the long wait time between rounds, the jittery nature of the 3rd person death cam, and the extremely repetitive round-winning killcams. And yet, it's possible to win a round of this game simply by taking advantage of the lighting, and manic repositioning of the other team, as evidenced by the time I idled for a good 20 seconds, only to see the enemy jump onto my screen, not notice me, allow me enough time to run up to him, without a weapon, and punch him to death, again, without knowing I was there. Imagine an F1 race where every lap alternated between Green and Caution, and where there are no hard and fast rules on the displacement or aerodynamics. For only 10 laps. Get the picture? // GROUND WAR This was beyond a mess. No structure whatsoever. Avoid, unless you want to play a less fun, less polished, less understandable version of Battlefield. // SANDBOX DESIGN Every individual encounter lasts less than a second, and you never know when someone will super sprint around a corner with an MP7, or pick you off from a window you can't see without a 60-inch 4K TV and the in-game brightness turned up far beyond what's healthy. In a game that encourages such slow movement, but which has a staggering amount of variability in it's movement speeds, this is beyond frustrating. It does not help MW’s case that the vast majority of, if not all, the weapons are hitscan laser beams. Leading the target is not necessary, which eliminates the kind of skill that would make faster TTKs manageable and a bit more rewarding. Some of my best plays were made while moving slow and methodically, which is incredibly counter-intuitive in a game under the CoD banner. I think this mixed signal comes from the decision to go back to something more 'boots on the ground'. The community of CoD players out there had been clamoring for less complex movement, less cheap jumping and dropshotting, and less bouncing around the map. Unfortunately, somewhere the signals must have gotten scrambled. Sprinting is pre-loaded with risk vs reward design, as is the Hipfire/ADS split. I do not suggest changing the formula for the Core gameplay options, it is far past the point where that's feasible before release. But if the idea is to offer a structured, competitive arena experience where players must weigh the risk of changing location with the reward of a potential score, players ought to spawn with a set loadout, weapons should not be randomized, and players should be bound to small ammo counts and given a severely restricted sandbox. Here are some solutions I suggest, for Gunfight: Pistol starts, smoke and decoy grenades, Semi-Auto ARs placed on periphery paths, and foregripped, sightless SMGs placed in the map center, with and Molotov Cocktails enforced as the available pickups. This way, precision is encouraged, and area denial becomes a more passive strategy, allowing players to actually move through the map and fight on their feet. I would also remove the immediate elimination, offering teams up to 3 lives between them per round, and a squad-spawn mechanic that would spawn a player behind, or very near their teammate, in cover. This would encourage longer-term game strategy, and would keep players invested in the match - which would also allow for actual plays to be made, and lessen the frustration of losing a match. I'd even up the TTK, which would make the gunfights - eh? - a little bit more complex than just two people running straight at each other like runaway trains. Oh, and random spread on semi-auto weapons should be heavily reduced at walking speed. You could even include hipfire while sprinting, if you want that increased spread, to give players an option to actually defend themselves while moving, but one that is realistically effective, and not deceptively ineffective. Frankly, this would be a good addition to the base sandbox, considering the realism IW is going for. // GUNPLAY It's Call of Duty, so the main character is your chosen weapon. As I've mentioned, the weapon models were quite detailed. The staggering number of available attachments are all rendered to the same level of polish as the base weapons, and each provide a unique status effect on them. Red Dot sights, for example, allow for greater pinpoint accuracy and spatial awareness, whereas holographic sights offer a vignette sight picture, with a general idea of where your bullets will land - angled foregrips provide a little bit of aiming stability, and lightweight stocks/barrels visibly affect your movement speed, across all movement types. Laser pointers are particularly useful, as they paint your target with an angry red glow from the hip. Very useful on the MP5, so that will probably get nerfed. As to the animations, these are really quite impressive, from a 'digital GoPro' perspective. Shotguns pack a massive punch, blasting backward with a flash of light, the Desert Eagle bounces around in your hands as you wrestle it back to the target, and even the movement of the character is reflected, with every change of direction accompanied by a somewhat elastic arm movement, no doubt intended to convey the weight of the weapon in your hands. Even sniper scopes refract and bend light in a realistic way, with the lenses blurring and distorting according to where the crosshairs are located. Unfortunately, this level of realism is oftentimes distracting, or even detrimental to the gunplay - the sniper lens effect, the shotguns' incredible kick, and the various pistols' inability to sit still in your hands all can make it very hard to keep your weapon on target. Add to this the notoriously bad random spread on hip-fired weapons, and the inconsistent hit detection (especially on: pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, and marksman rifles) and you've a recipe for even more little frustrations. I suppose this is to be expected in CoD, but that is not meant as an excuse - rather, it ought to be considered a glaring condemnation of the developers' - and publisher's - lack of care for gameplay integrity. // LEVEL DESIGN The environments are as spectacularly rendered, and the way they are designed conveys a true sense of place. This does not prevent the environments from being readable, as the artists have done a pretty good job of making sure areas you can access are clearly defined when approaching them. Another cool detail is the way in which some maps offer players some platforming opportunities, and the way these alternate paths overlap with each other. Hackney Yard was the most notable example of this, with shipping containers placed just so in the central courtyard, and a dual-tiered workshop roof accessible to players who wanted a vertical advantage. These shipping containers double as cover for players on the ground floor, which lessens the advantage of such vertical positions, and makes players decide whether they will chase along the adjacent roof, or try something riskier, hopping from container to container. That said, there are a few places where this is not so well done - one was a sheetmetal awning on Azhir Cave, between the catwalk bridge and the middle cave entrance, a position that would have offered an interesting sightline into he cave, towards the Coalition spawn. Normally I would welcome this change from the tired 3-lane approach CoD has been using for the last seven (7) years, a formula that BLOPS4 deviated from a little bit - notably with Morocco, Icebreaker, Militia, Jungle, and Firing Range, two of which were lifted from the first Black Ops. I say that these maps deviate because they offer players more meaningful movement choices around the environment. Rather than just pushing straight up one lane to flip the spawns, you might have a choice of high or low ground. Rooms were sparse, but did not offer opportunities for corner camping. Sightlines were direct, but limited in their scope, power positions were accessible from one or two angles of attack, and grenades were effective area denial tools. Pathing branched off at predictable, well-paced intervals, but there were flanking paths with subtle changes in geometry and elevation, allowing players to be more thoughtful about their aggression, and more capable of fighting back if they were caught off guard. Modern Warfare attempts this with its levels as well, offering maps that deviate in subtle ways from the 3-lane formula. Interiors were alternatively open and closed, environments are more vertically inclined, overlapping, and there are multiple ways to approach a firefight or hot zone - this gave many of the environments an organic, flowing feel to the progression through a level, making stops at clearly-defined minor arenas along the way. And with the simplified weapons and movement abilities, this makes a lot of sense. This added a layer of thought and strategic movement I really appreciated at times, but which I could not get engaged in long-term because of the need to speed up and slow down so much. Even then, the maps do not deviate all that much from the 3-lane formula - instead of offering a suite of branching, but not necessarily intersecting paths with a smaller, more manageable number of sightlines to consider, the spaces between 'arenas' are saturated with sightlines, overlapping paths, hard, blind corners, equally-dispersed cover, and 'risk/reward' verticality. Vertical positions tend to have NO cover, unless they are window positions. Windows are strengthened further by the fact they are always in shade, and do not make a player's presence readable at all. Even the ones that are open and lit, like on Hackney Yard or Azhir Cave, are incredibly difficult to see, because the lighting engine favors the brighter areas, in the name of photorealism. If a player is not playing extremely stealthily, peeking around corners, momentarily mounting their weapons on cover, checking their six, and sliding into the next piece of conveniently placed cover along a particular path, they will be pinged from somewhere totally unpredictable, and generally invisible until the killcam reveals the position. This is very frustrating on levels with so many overlapping lines of sight, and so many blind, tight corners. There is one notable exception, where a vertical position does have some cover created by the integrated geometry/pathing, almost as if the level designer was unintentionally quoting a Halo map of old. Unfortunately, that position is nearly impossible to break because of the ability to go prone, the incredibly fast TTK, and the fact that it can control the entire central courtyard of the map by the mere suggestion that someone might be up there. The above image is meant to highlight the 11 (count them, there may be more that I didn't include!) places the blue player choosing the middle path on Hackney Yard can expect to be shot at from off a respawn. The non-rectangular zones are spots a player can reasonably expect to either be mantled, or come super sprinting around without warning. There is also a closed door on the left side of the image, which can be used as a deterrent, or a dynamic piece of cover for players controlling that hallway. To players without a minimap, this area is a deathtrap. To players with a minimap, this area is a no-go zone. Maybe that's another layer of realism that was intended? I can't say for sure. To that point, the replacement of the mini-map with the overhead compass wouldn’t have been an issue if the levels weren’t so ridiculously segmented and easy to control because of small spawn zones, relative to the rest of the map. I also don’t understand the claim that they aren’t 3-lane maps, they very clearly are, just with too many lines of sight to consider - or lines of sight you can’t consider, because of the contrast and deep shadows. Here is a perfect example, taken from my own gameplay: I was breaching the HQ by the Coalition spawn on Gun Runner. I began to take hits from my left-front, which I assumed to have come from beyond the barrels you can see - in an attempt to set up for the next encounter, and protect myself from further fire, I hid behind those barrels as I had not seen any bullets fly through them. But because of the lighting, again, I could not see that there was already someone there, who turned out to be the guy who had shot at me just prior. Totally invisible from 3rd person, but in is killcam, his hands are weapon were easily visible against the room. Another fun example is the exposed studding in the upstairs hallway in Hackney Yard's green building. I should be able to bounce a cooked grenade off a wall down a staircase without it hitting a minuscule piece of geometry and bouncing back to kill me. Just as I should be able to open a door while cooking a grenade, without the "OPEN DOOR" prompt cancelling itself out, unprompted, while I still have the damn thing in my hand. Either that, or DON'T ALLOW PLAYERS COOKING A GRENADE TO OPEN DOORS. Once again, the emphasis on realism gets in the way. // IN TOTO Encourage and condition for the spectacle of speed, make every moment a life or death struggle for control, but also set up the sandbox so that only the careful, slow players are able to achieve anything, and you'll get yourself a Hypertension Simulator. Fundamentally, the issue with this game is that it is designed - intentionally, I think - so that every single decision you make is life or death. This is passable in social matches where there is so little at stake. But in ranked matchmaking lobbies and small scale encounters, which are the bread and butter of the old CoDs, the ball has been dropped. This the most frustrating CoD experience I’ve yet to have, and the campiest one, at that. Individual empowerment is meaningless if the power comes at the cost of its advantage. It's as if *any* kind of aggression was tossed out with the bathwater. I will say, that if players are joined up in appropriate groups, this game’s current build could play really well, especially for eSports viewership considerations, with a free-floating spectator camera. A pro gaming audience, and the average bar audience with ESPN would eat it up, especially from a franchise that already has a pro circuit set up, with pro teams who get first looks, alpha testing access, who have a close relationship with developers, and a pre-existing fanbase. Plus, there’s something really appealing about the extremely cinematic look, with an epic, crisp, widescreen quality I last saw in Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. The recent story trailer clearly attempts to emphasize this cinematic quality, and I expect the final product to blur the lines between game and film even further, at least in the campaign mode. But, whereas those are classic golden-age Hollywood films, with engaging plots, unique, goal-driven characters, incredible sets and cinematography, and thematic integration in the very specific visuals a director chooses for the audience, this is an interactive and dynamic piece of entertainment, built on the choices people make during the course of a match, and ultimately only as interesting as the gameplay on display; the spectacle of a film can only carry a bad plot so far. I think I understand the thought behind the choices - Infinity Ward is trying to capture lightning in a bottle by attempting to replicate, on a much tighter scale and with far greater visual fidelity, the success of both a Battle Royale and the classic Search and Destroy, where players' limited lives add a layer of tension and skin in the game. The human response to such a sustained state of tension and a spike of adrenaline is certainly the stuff of spectacle, especially in the world of real sports. But if every moment is unpredictable, life-or-death, without time for the adrenaline to actually kick in, the only thing you get in the long term is apathy. And for a franchise built on a yearly release model, this is only going to engender further loss of confidence in the brand. Infinity Ward has few weeks before the full release of the game, so there’s still time to consider the feedback they receive from the general public, and implement a few changes they find most in line with their overall vision for the product, and what they've already built. Considering the recent news about SpecOps Survival being a PS4 exclusive, I hope that they consider this, and other voices that took the time to carefully digest their experience with the beta build; if they don’t make the game as tight as they possibly can, they will only add one more nail in the coffin of a once great franchise. If I can offer one final bit of advice to the devs at Infinity Ward, and anyone from Activision's QA and executive departments: always check your premises. If you don't there's no telling what kind of jumbles you'll get yourself into, especially with something as complex and fine-tuned as an online PvP shooter, or even as simple as a pencil sharpener. So, we’ll see what happens, come October 25th - there's a skeleton of a good game in there somewhere, but like a fat person in denial, those bones can't hold them up much longer. ❤️ icyhot Who the hell am I, anyway? BA Philosophy / BA French Intellectual History Forgehub Map Posts: https://www.forgehub.com/members/icyhotspartin.86552/#resources Twitter (don't post, ever): https://twitter.com/icyhotspartin1 Further Philosophy and Design reading here at NLD! Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  10. In this 2013 article, we hear from some of the designers behind Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 4. In it, they talk about the developmental process levels go through.One of the earliest steps is to get something down on paper: With this basic spec decided, it's time to begin designing. At the outset, paper is weapon of choice. "To me the layout is the most important aspect of a map, so I might quickly sketch out some patterns and paths on paper to start to figure out how I want the map to play," says Smith. Echoing Smith's sentiment that the layout of the two-dimensional plan is all-important, Clopper explains that the paper design is a crucial reference point when designing the detail in 3D. "It allows us to think back to what the essence of the map is. Sometimes in the 3D realm you can go down a rabbit hole riffing on some of the smaller encounter spaces." From there, they put some additional thought into the maps flow, spawning, and weapon placement, but the primary focus is on getting the level to a playable state: The flow of play and players on a map will not become evident until testing, which begins as soon as a basic 3D model is roughed or "blocked" out, and continues as the design iterates. "I try to get a level playable as soon as possible. Multiplayer layouts need hours and hours of playtime to make adjustments to make sure the map plays well," he adds. "So there is no time to waste theorizing about how it will play; you just need to get on with it." Both teams agree that one of the primary things they look for initially in playtests is engagement distances: "Early on I am looking for the distances at which people meet: where they stop to shoot at other players and if they can even find each other," says Smith. Similarly, Halo 4's designers keep a watchful eye on distance. "We definitely have standards for the size than something can be and the time it takes from one corner of a map to the other, or one objective sight to the other," says Pearson. "It's to make sure we're tuning the experience to keep the time-to-death down, or making sure that your time-to-engagement is enough to give you a breather between dying, but not so long that you're hunting through the map and not finding people." Again, game mechanics have a direct bearing. In Halo 3, sprinting was impossible. In Halo: Reach, sprinting was a selectable armor ability. In Halo 4, everyone's at it, and the maps have grown to compensate. From there, the focus shifts to metrics that are more specific to each game: Call of Duty's multiplayer modes dial up the tension as players try to stay alive to protect their "killstreaks," chains of consecutive kills that see players rewarded with powerful ordnance that can ultimately swing the outcome of a match. "Early on in development I look to see if these locations are being used," says Smith. "If so, is it too strong a position? Can the other team clear the enemy out of the location? Is it too easy to take and no one survives there for very long? You can control the flow of the map this way." Clopper echoes the importance of balancing strongholds. "Skyline has this fantastic center structure, but also out to the wings are these two bases that can also offer a very similar kind of thing. What you'll see is fights moving from the center, flowing around the space, then coming back to the center." "What we're trying to do is sort of facilitate flow between these strongpoints and counter-strongpoints," he adds. "We want to make sure there are multiple areas and multiple strategies to facilitate flow around the map. We don't want people arriving at one strongpoint, camping out there, and then winning the game just sitting in one spot." This is but a taste of the 3 page article. Visit the source to read it in its entirety: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/195069/deathmatch_map_design_the_.php
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