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  1. Edgemister Gaming (@Edgemister) has started up a new level design YouTube series. The first video in this post is an introduction to the series. The second video dives right into the subject matter. Hope you all enjoy! Follow Edgemister Gaming YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/edgemistergaming/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/edgemister_ 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. An Overview: What is Fun About FPS Multiplayer? Choices Sid Meyer once said that “a game is a series of interesting choices” and nowhere in game design is this more true than Multiplayer Design. In a single player game, the designer has access to design tools to help guide the player, like linear progression, or even just general good crafting of gameplay segments. In a multiplayer game, the player is constantly having to make his own experience using only the tools you provide him to do so. As such, it is important to approach multiplayer map design from this perspective: Provide the player with good tools and he can create a good experience. All this sounds blaringly obvious, of course, but given how many people get this basic tenet wrong it deserves stating. Terrain Options One good way to provide players with interesting choices in a multiplayer FPS map is to give them a variety of terrain options to choose from. (Elements like walls, cover, high ground, and low ground are all examples of these terrain options.) Good players learn what terrain to use depending on the situation – for example, it’s usually just a better idea for a player to have higher ground than his opponent. Not only does it provide him with an excellent angle to fire at them with, it also usually provides partial cover. Now lets say you place the high ground near a wall – now the player has a choice to make: Does he go for the high ground and attempt to get cover, or does he stay in the open to avoid getting hit easily with a splash damage weapon? A good multiplayer designer is always thinking of terrain options and trying to engineer them to provide as many good choices for the player as possible. Multiple Paths In single player games, it is often beneficial to lead the player towards the best gameplay experience your game has to offer. Often, this leads to a linear level design (which is, in most cases, best suited to the experience you want to provide). In multiplayer a linear path is rarely beneficial. A good player is constantly varying his route through a level, sometimes to shake off pursuers or sometimes in order to go after desirable weapons or pickups. Either way, it is always advantageous for the player to have a number of paths to get to and from every major area in a multiplayer map. As a general rule, a good multiplayer design should strive to make sure all major areas have at least three ways in and/or out of them. As with all rules, there are exceptions — and I’ll get into those in future installments. Flow In addition to multiple paths, a good multiplayer level designer is constantly thinking of how he wants the players to move globally through a multiplayer map. This level of understanding, called flow, affects everything from pickup placement in a deathmatch map to node placement in a node-capture map. It is often beneficial for a designer to come up with a rough bubble diagram before attacking the level. Such a diagram will usually just consist of simple shapes (circles, squares, triangles) representing major areas. Once you’ve got a nice area layout, you connect them with arrows showing the different ways in or out of that area. Then you start to think about how you want a player to travel from one area to the next and where the points of interest are on that path. If you’re ever having trouble coming up with a good flow, there are several default shapes that you can always fall back on that work almost every time. The Circle A circle is the simplest kind of flow a level could have. While you would almost never design a level that only flowed in a circle, sometimes you can define your major flow path as a simple circuit through the level. This is often a good springboard that gets you thinking about even better flows. The Figure 8 If you play any competitive multiplayer games (most often FPSs) you will notice that a lot of levels are based off the simple figure 8. Figure 8’s are a very interesting shape for major flow. While they offer all the benefits of a circle, as far as providing interesting flow, they also have the added benefit of an additional major flow path that cuts through half the circumference of the circle. Often, you can get incredibly involved and complex flows out of a few well-placed figure-8s. Interesting Spaces Focal Points Focal points are a particularly important feature of multiplayer maps. Not only do they divide up the players’ interest to many different points on the map, they also provide areas of visual interest. Every well designed map will contain a focal point at the most important point on the map (usually the center) as well as minor focus points in every major area. Examples of focal points include really tall structures, interesting terrain formations, gameplay-required elements (such as nodes), pickups, and anything that adds particular visual interest to an area. Verticality The terrain options section touched on this a little bit, but verticality’s importance in multiplayer design can not be overstated. Verticality increases the amount of player choices in an area, but also increases the “gameplay per square meter” that a map has. A completely flat map that supports 32 players might be 400m x 400m, but you could fit the same number of players into a 200×200 map just by adding one or two levels of verticality to all the major areas on a map. In Resistance, for example, we found that adding verticality to a space in 3 meter increments (specifically 3 and 6 meter height differences up or down) made our spaces much more interesting and allowed them to be a lot denser and generally more fun. Cover It’s important in multiplayer that your players not be able to shoot too far ahead of themselves most of the time. Large open spaces should usually be broken up with a lot of full cover. This also allows players to advance through areas without being vulnerable for too long. The exception to this rule is any area where you want to encourage a risk/reward scenario (for example, with a large open space with lots of cover on the outskirts and a nice powerup in the center the player is encouraged to take a risk and get the powerup with the possibility that someone might shoot at them from the well-covered spots.) We’ll get more into risk/reward scenarios in future installments. *Note: This article is republished in its entirety on Next Level Design with permission from the author. Source: http://www.ongamedesign.net/designing-fps-multiplayer-maps-part-1/ Follow Mike Website: www.ongamedesign.net/ Website: http://www.chaoticstupid.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/MikeDodgerStout 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 5? Read it here: Deterrents Intro So sometimes just having the will is not enough to complete the objective at hand. Sometimes you need new weapons, or sometimes powerups will make winning easier. And now that there is danger at hand that wall to your right looks quite appetizing as cover. As you strive to win the game at hand there are many things around a map that encourage you to detour away from your main objective. These things that encourage us to move around... we call them Incentives. More than the obvious Most people understand a base concept of incentives when they think about weapon placement. If you place a rocket launcher here people are going to want to head to it to pick it up, right? Well a sniper rifle or spartan laser isn’t the only thing that can get you to move. Maybe ahead of you there is a turret acting as a deterrent on the main objective path. You see a bunker slightly ahead so instead of being discouraged by the turret’s threat zone, the cover acts as an incentive to continue moving forward. An incentive isn’t always an item, sometimes it is an area or some other type of advantage. The height advantage is definitely seen by many as an incentive to travel up a ramp. Items are just the obvious incentives. Non-existent incentives Now while incentives are great for moving players around a map, some may not be there forever. Most incentives only exist until they are used up. If the only incentive on a path is the sniper rifle, when it is not there then there is no use in going down that path anymore is there? Sure you have the rocket launcher off on the side but that rocket launcher isn’t always going to be there. Using the previous turret example, if no one is on the turret then that bunker is not much of an incentive any more and you can just continue down the center path. A key skill to master when utilizing incentives is taking the time to realize when incentives are turned on and when they are turned off. After mastering that you can follow that up with learning how to effectively control that trait of an incentive by moving players down a path when you want them to go down there and then stopping them from going down there whenever you want. It is a very handy skill to have and one that is well worth the investment in time. That skill alone can fully control the traffic on the map. Taking account for the advantage Something that designers tend to forget is what effect that particular advantage has on the player. When a player picks up active camouflage, do you take the time to consider that he can now travel for a certain distance without being seen? Do you consider that when a player picks up a feather in Mario that they can now fly through the whole level with no opposition? Do you consider that if they gain the high ground that they have full control of this half of the map? It is one thing to offer an advantage to the player. It is another to account for that advantage and make sure that you don’t give the player too much of what they want. Always keep a good balance - any time you give the player an advantage make sure to compensate. If you don’t find that balance then you will end up pulling away from other incentives on the map and pushing too many players to that one incentive. You ever fight over one piece of cake? It’s not pretty. Read Chapter 7: Combat Congestion and Traffic Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. Hey everyone, it has been too long and I am sorry about that, I meant to finish up this final section of the topic last month but got distracted. Regardless, I am here now to give you my final article of the year, and thank all of you for reading my articles and wishing you all a Merry Christmas & Happy holidays. Now what could be more Jolly and Christmasy than that of how best to defeat your enemies in ranged combat. If you have not read my previous entries in the series I do recommend that you check Part 1 and Part 2 out before continuing with the finale. Recap In previous entries we spoke about how important it is that you understand your metrics for the weapons, cover, avatar and much more. We next discussed the importance of 2d maps and research. With all of that in motion I can now go forward and show you my blockout. To give some context as well, as I mentioned in the previous articles the layout we will be looking at today was from my time on the CGMA Course I took part in earlier this year. This challenge was to create a combat layout of a certain size (30m x 30m). There was no theme, no story, etc, just pure focus on making a great combat layout. We were given a set of LD Kits that we could use as well for these blockouts. Now with this in mind lets see the magic. Level This was the 2d map of the level, a 30x30 map: Here is a top down shot of the blockout: I wanted to share these just because I have seen people talk online about not doing a 2d plan or google sketch up before starting a level as they “do not want to constrain themselves”. I am writing to say that is not true, they are tools to help you plan your level. When you look at the two images you can see that there are differences, as I needed to make some to help the level improve. Just showing you how planning does not restrict you, these planning tools are there to help you, then you can go to adjust accordingly. A 2d map helps you create a footprint of your level, it can not and will not represent how it will feel with the overall camera, mechanics etc. Changes With me mentioning how it is important for you to make changes from your plan to your blockout, let us talk about some of my changes. The biggest one for sure is my mix up with the height. I have raised the back section of the level. In the previous article I mentioned that I wanted to section off my level, and I divided it into quarters like so: With having some combat take place within interiors and other combat areas take place out in exterior areas. Yet when I was running through my level I noticed that although you can feel differences in sections they do not feel so different, so by raising up parts of the level you would feel a difference, a transition. Not only this but it would help divide the space up even more, one half would be raised while the other would be lowered, one half is in an interior space while another would be exterior, again helping the space feel memorable and helping players build a mental map. This was not the only reason I wanted to raise up the space, it was to put players at a disadvantage, to increase the challenge. Something to memorise “It is easier to shoot down, than up” so by dividing the space and having players start on the lower section, it would make them feel as if they were charging into enemy territory. Second biggest change you can see between the map and top down shot was that of the cover placement. That one for sure is always going to change, as you can plan but for sure that is always subject to change, as until you understand how the enemies will move, which archetype of enemy you will use, etc., these are always ideas at best. I did not get functioning enemies in this level working, but I did place down placeholders and routes for the enemies to still help me shape the encounter. From this I was able to help picture the cover and plan the combat fronts for my level. Now these are some of the changes, I do not wish to go into too much detail here as there is still so much to talk about and we are almost 1000 words into this blog. As mentioned previously it is okay to make changes, as iteration is how we as level designers make better levels. We do not accomplish it in the planning stage. We do not ace it in our first blockout. We make it slowly with each iteration. Walkthrough After discussing these changes, let’s break down the level step by step to show you my design choices and why I made them. First up, is the players starting position: As you can see in the blue circle, the player starts in the bottom right corner, in almost a corridor like space. So there are a few things to break down in why I chose this starting position: I did not want the player to start exactly in the corner so later on the level can open up and feel bigger, so by manipulating the space and eating it up I can make it feel larger as the player progresses The starting position is a safe space for the player, allowing them to gather their bearings without feeling threatened. From this position I can slowly feed information to the player, when they turn left they can see another section of the level and a challenge, making sure players do not get overwhelmed with everything going on. I wanted to slowly give information to players. You can see this slowly happen so that players can tackle certain challenges one at a time, and it is also a way to encourage exploration. With the fact that players do not know the whole space, nor can they see it, they will want to go and explore. The space opens up more and more, so the player can start to see more and take in more information. Something to remember is “How we interact with the world, comes from how we see it” If you want players to plan and stick to more of one area, show more of the level, if however you want players to go and explore, then slowly feed them information. 4. Presenting the player with knowledge and options. From this position the first thing players can see are windows, this informs the player that there is an interior space in front of them. This is crucial for a later choice, as it is foreshadowing how the space is divided. (These windows would be blocked by glass as well, hinting to my second point) Next is the opening on the left, by having that negative space as well as the cover there as well it peaks the players curiosity, and with the fact that in the west we read left to right it is the first thing players can possibly help pull players in that direction. As players turn the corner, we move on to their next view: (Before we break this next step down, I just want a huge shout out to a truly amazing Dev Miriam Bellard, Miriam has such a phenomenal mind for design. In her superb talk Environmental Design in Spacial Cinematography Miriam talks about how each view of the level should contain vital info for the player. I really enjoyed that and tried to think of it as I blocked out this level, anyway side note over, do check out Miriam’s talk and follow her on twitter if you have it) In this shot I wanted players to have a decision point, this space allows players to See the Challenge and then allows them to Plan for said Challenge. In this shot we would be able to see one enemy: From here players can decide if they should engage in combat, or move closer. To help pull in the player I have done a few things. Number one is having the enemy have a patrol path, so the enemy won’t be static so the lineup for the perfect shot is there, but only for a limited window. Number two is through cover placement, if we look at the cover it is a stepped position to help players move through the space. By staggering the cover like this it still allows the player to feel safe as they move through. giving them an advantage. Now I do this because this is the first enemy encounter, so I want players to feel safe and still decide as they move through the space. Another choice that will be noticed from earlier is that there are more windows hinting to the player that there is still an interior space to be explored. As the player gets closer they see an option to enter the building. Now this entrance not only works because it is an extra option for the player so that the player can strategize, but also it helps to add loops to the combat. (With combat loops, the aim is to make sure that players or enemies do not run into dead-ends, or out of choices (over simplified explanation)) From this position players can possibly see the other enemy as well, alerting them that they are outnumbered. If players chose to enter the interior space, one of things is that I wanted it to feel different than the exterior space. I did this in two ways. First is with the ceiling, it instantly feels a lot more claustrophobic as well as feels limiting in where to shoot, as now players will only aim on the X & Y axis vs that of when outside where they have more freedom to aim higher. Secondly is through lack of cover, compared to where we were, there was a lot more cover close by, while here there is a lot less. Most of the cover comes from the architecture itself. Once the player has picked their path they can then start to engage the enemies in combat. In order to make sure that space helps players know best how to tackle this encounter is by making sure that the Fronts are clear to the player. (Fronts - mean a clear line of combat, knowing where your cover is and knowing where the enemies line is. We all see those games where we are walking around and suddenly see a lot of crates in an area, we as players know that combat will take place here) EF = Enemy’s Front PF = Player’s Front In this space there are actually two Fronts of combat, in the picture above we will be engaging in combat from this direction to start as we take on our two starting enemies, however there are two enemies up the stairs that the player is not aware of. For pacing, the encounter would go along the line where players would engage with the first two enemies, after one has died then an enemy from uptop the stairs would start attacking the player so the Combat Fronts would change. A reason for doing this, is to keep the encounter engaging and challenging. By moving the fronts, it means players will have to move as well, making it so they do not camp at certain spots. Creating movement in the fronts allows players to see more of the space and master it. Gears of War were great at this, as they would have sections of the level where players had to fight their way up to take down an enemy using a turret, only for the enemy waves to attack the player while the player had the turret, making re-use of the level as well as allowing the player to see the level from a different angle. By also switching the front as well, I am now changing the difficulty of the encounter. During the first Front players and enemies are both on the same level of height, while when it changes the enemy is now higher than the player. In order for players to get on the same height as the enemy, it means that they have to cover more ground and expose themselves before they can get up the stairs. What I have done to help the player, but also another way to help encourage movement within this combat space, is by mixing up the cover height. In these pictures you can see that some cover are 1m Low cover and while high covers are 2m tall. Now we could go into how the different sizes of cover impacts players, but we are already pushing the word limit here, so I will say that by having some High Cover it blocks Line of Sight so players will have to move around in order to line up the shot that they want. By using Low Cover as well, it may not always be the safest option for the player, again forcing them to move. This will also help players strategize as they chose which cover to move to. We could continue you on with the level, as this so far is only just one quarter of the level. However, during the time of writing this it is getting closer to xmas, so I am going to cut things short around here. Also, go enjoy your time as well with the ones that you love. Learning Points Although I have only showed you a section of my level, let us talk about what you should take away from this article and apply to your own combat encounters: Starting Point - When choosing how or where to start the player, think about a safe space in which players can get their bearings first (unless it is an ambush situation) Revealing Information - Depending on the situation will dictate how much you will want to show your player. Just remember that the amount you show will impact how players move, as well to make sure you do not overload your player too much. Provide choices for the player - this can just be as simple as which cover to use, but by providing a choice it helps players feel that they are in control. Provide Combat Loops - It is simple but will help reduce frustration for players, by making sure that they do not end up in dead ends, it helps keep the flow of combat engaging. Establish your Fronts - Make it clear where the fight will take place so players can best prepare themselves Change the Fronts - It is great to have your fronts, but by changing it part way through combat, it encourages movement and allows the player to see and understand more of your space Mix Up Cover Height - Mixing up cover height is great for variety, as well as having players interact with the space differently Height Level Changes - Are a great way to break up line of sight, change up the difficulty as well as a nice way to break up the traversal and process of aiming. You can do it by making your space two floors, but also just by raising an area by 1m. Every game, combat encounter, and level is different so these are not hard rules, more of suggestions. It is about knowing when to apply them as well. I do hope they help you when you create your future levels. Improvements This small encounter space may be something I am proud of considering the time constraints I made it in. Yet that does not mean it is a perfect space, I know that there are some things I need to adjust and change in order to make this a more memorable level. I am going to mention a few of them here, so you can make even better levels than myself. Help make each section more memorable - I spoke about how I tried to divide this level into quarters, which I think I did okay, but I should have experimented with local and global landmarks so players would instantly recognize the sections a little better. I tried with the architecture of the space, however I should have looked at more propage ideas as well. Less Cover - Now that is not a sweeping statement for the overall level, just in certain sections I should have reduced the amount of cover, that way it would encourage more long range combat forcing the players to hold their ground in certain sections. Tweaked metric guideline - For this space it may not seem like a huge deal but my cover buffer was 2m, I think I should have pushed it for 3m to have more space and not have certain areas feel as tight as they did in the level. Have actual enemies - Now these red boxes helped me for sure, but nothing is better than having actual AI inside your level, as that would give me far better feedback for my level. For sure there is more than this, but these are the bigger issues at hand when I go through this level. As I said before, we do not get everything right the first time we do it. Our levels get better with each iteration. With that said, if you have enjoyed this article and level, then maybe you want to see another level I did this year, which has objectives, a theme and a location to show you how I applied these rules to a new space. Check it out here: Please Support If you want more Level Design tips then please follow me on twitter. If you want more quality LD content and want to imagine how my silky voice sounds, then please come check out my podcast. iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  5. The following is portion of a massive guide on designing levels for CS:GO, written by Exodus. They represent the current edition of the guide, as of October 30th, 2019. The full contents of the guide are shown in the index directly below. This article consists of portions that should be applicable to many different games and editors. Please follow the link at the end of this article to read through the original guide. Index 1. Prologue 2. Layout 2.1 Meeting points/Battlefronts 2.2 Chokepoints 2.3 Staging Areas 2.4 Bombsite entrances 2.5 Post plant areas 2.6 Simplicity > Complexity 2.7 Unused Space / Areas without serving a purpose 2.8 Negative space 2.9 Support various playstyles 2.10 Allow advanced tactics and teamwork 2.11 Wingman specific chapter 3. Routing 3.1 Avoid obstructions 4. Flow (Chapter written by @oliver_irl) 4.1 Natural guidance 4.2 Decision-making 4.3 Loops 5. Navigation/Intuition 5.1 Landmarks 5.2 Roof detailing/Alignment hints 5.3 Detailing 5.4 Consistency 5.5 Visual indicators for plant zones 6. Timings 6.1 General 6.2 Battlefront timing 6.3 Avoid wasted time 6.4 Rotation time 6.5 “Around the world” 6.6 Measuring timings 7. Risk and Reward 7.1 General 7.2 Risk and Reward via route design 7.3 Risk and Reward via sound design 8. Sightlines 8.1 Long sightlines 8.2 Tight angles 8.3 Pixel angles 8.4 Vertical sightlines at ramps 9. Verticality 10. Auditive Design 10.1 Spatial awareness 10.2 Environmental Audio 10.3 Sounds of interactable Objects / Triggered sounds / Positional hints 10.4 Allow sneaky plays 11. Cover 11.1 Avoid Head peeks 11.2 Natural Cover 11.3 Overpowered Cover 12. Models/Props 12.1 Model shape and model collisions 13. Scale/Dimensions 14. Grid 15. Visibility 15.1 General 15.2 Environmental Lighting 15.2.1 Colouring 16. Spawns 17. Buy zones 18. Clipping 19. Basic Optimization 20. Presenting your map 21. Playtesting 22. Dealing with feedback 23. Further guides and tutorials 1. Prologue Playing multiplayer games on well-designed levels is usually a great experience while playing on flawed maps often leads to frustration. If you’re designing levels, you obviously want people to enjoy the levels you create. However, if you’re new to the scene, it’s hard to start out without prior experience of what’s good and bad. This guide aims to assist you in your design choices by providing ‘good measures’ in moments of uncertainty during map creation. This guide isn’t meant to be a fixed ruleset, rather it’s supposed to be a piece of reference material to lead you in the right direction. Since I joined the mapping community back in 2014, I’ve witnessed a lot of unique and interesting maps – good ones, bad ones and most of them in between. Almost every level can become a good one, if enough time and the right changes are put into it. Iteration is the key for a good layout. Hopefully this paper will assist you in making the correct decisions and adjustments to your current and future projects. It’s designed to help you succeed in mapping and as a paper of facts and tips to revisit later. While this guide is aimed at the classic defuse game mode in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive it can still be beneficial for other game modes and games with a similar style. 3. Routing 3.1 Avoid Obstructions Players in Counter-Strike are always focusing on positioning, crosshair placement and tactics. This implies, that basic movement around the level mostly works on an intuitive level without actually looking where players are going. To allow players concentrate on the greater things, movement should be hindered as little as possible. Main travel routes must be free of obstacles and collisions as smooth as possible. Keep floors in these areas smoothly even and move detailing to the sides to keep paths clean. 4. Flow (Chapter written by @oliver_irl) The kind of flow important in CS:GO level design is about flow of movement and action. 4.1 Natural guidance Examples of flow of movement is when the player is lead forward and not backwards. You want to move towards the opponent and the objective so the level shouldn't be designed in a labyrinth kind of way, but instead one area should flow naturally into the next. You want the player to feel like they are in control and give them the opportunity to make decisions on the go, so the overall goal should be to make the flow of movement smooth so that the player can always be in motion. Examples of flow of action is what options the player has in the event of an encounter. In CS:GO you have to think about the map holistically [/as a whole]. Everything is interconnected, so every area can be an isolated "war zone". If the level has enough cover and options to use utility, then that contributes to good flow. 4.2 Decision-making Flow is about decision-making. Do you let your players play the way they want? Do you feel in control when you enter a bomb-site? You don't really notice when levels have good flow in them. Bad flow can be recognized once certain parts of the map feel uncomfortable for the player and the map doesn’t allow the player to make decisions. You can see that the movement is disrupted in the second example and the player is moving backwards for a moment. Guiding players naturally in the environment contributes to good flow, and players don't have to stop and think about where to go. In addition to that it keeps the movement going forward. 4.3 Loops Loops are especially important for CS:GO, since you can use them to get better positioning on your opponent. They are so elegant they work when you want to take a bombsite as a terrorist, or hold the site as a terrorist. Players use them to fall back if you lose an engagement, and loops give players more than one option at any given time. 5. Navigation/Intuition 5.1 Landmarks Subconsciously, players take in the rough look and shape of their surroundings to find their way through an environment more intuitively. Therefore, many maps rely on landmarks. Landmarks are unique, mostly large, structures which are visible from large portions of a map. Having a large focal point like this available makes it easy for players on a new map to get the grasp of a layout quicker than without such a landmark. A great side effect of landmarks is the possibility to align grenade throws by putting their crosshair somewhere on the structure. A prime example for landmarks is the TV tower on Overpass. 5.2 Roof detailing/Alignment hints Learning how to use utility grenades on many maps can be quite a time intensive task. In order to make the learning process as accessible as possible, make use of detailing above the playable area in a way, that objects help aligning grenade throws. One example how to it, is the placement of antennas on rooftops. 5.3 Detailing Contrast and detailed areas attract players. Use this knowledge to guide players through a level as much as possible. Highlight and detail accessible doors, corridors and other points of interest. Tint usable doors in a certain colour while leaving inaccessible doors in shades of grey or rather muted colours. Keep the detailing and contrast in non-accessible areas at a low level to avoid disorientated players. 5.4 Consistency Players should never be confused by all kinds of aspects in level design. Intuitive navigation through gameplay space requires consistency in design decisions. An example for this is the colour coding of interactable elements such as doors. If you decided that an openable door is tinted in a vibrant colour such as red, all openable doors should be tinted with the same colour. Highlighted accessible door on the community map Thrill 5.5 Visual indicators for plant zones Intuition can be further improved by placing visual indicators on bombsites which show where the C4 can be planted. This indication can be achieved by placing decal sprays around the bomb target trigger or - more elegant – incorporate the indicator into the visual design of the bombsite architecture. Do: Highlighted plant zone on the community map Breach Highlighted plant zone on the community map Iris Don't: Missing plant zone indicators on Mirage 8. Sightlines Lots of fights in Counter-Strike take place around corners, therefore you, the mapper, must pay some special attention to the various angles in the level. 8.1 Long sightlines It’s recommended to avoid super long sightlines, where it’s only possible to make frags with a sniper rifle. The Dust 2 spawn to spawn sightline is ignoring this, but it is working fine there, because early round picks shouldn’t happen with every type of assault rifle. You must own a rifle dedicated for long range battles. The Terrorists also have an option to avoid this sightline and enter the mid through a more central path. The remaining sightline is so long, that you can achieve frags with an assault rifle as well. Since CTs aren’t supposed to get active mid control early in the round, they don’t need the possibility to frag enemies from spawn to spawn with an assault rifle. That being said, I personally do not recommend to create such a spawn-to-spawn sightline. 8.2 Tight angles When blocking out a map, it often happens that tight angles are created by accident and enable long and overpowered sightlines. Luckily they are easy to fix by moving the causing corners a bit. 8.3 Pixel angles Like tight angles, pixel angles are a result of slightly misplaced corners. These types of angles are questionable for multiple reasons including optimization, unintuitive gameplay and unfair advantages. An example for such an angle is in the sightline from the B balcony on Mirage all the way through apartments: 8.4 Vertical sightlines at ramps When creating ramps or elevation changes, it is important to think about the line of sight between players. If the player on the upper part of a ramp is standing behind cover, he might be able to see the player on the lower part, without being seen by the opponent - if it’s done wrong. To show this off more clearly, I found these examples on Dust (1) and Cobblestone. When a Terrorist on Dust is coming straight through the underpass area, the Counter-Terrorist on the upper area is able to see the enemy’s feet without being seen himself. On Cobblestone on the other hand, the underpass area is created in a way that the attacking players are side-peeking towards the upper area of the big ramp. This way both parties have the same chances in a firefight without massively unfair advantages. Don’t: Do: 11. Cover 11.1 Avoid Head peeks When a player is barely able to look over cover, it is called a head peek. If an opponent is encountering a player behind such cover, barely half of the player’s head will be visible to the opponent. As a result, the encounter between these players leads to a frustrating and unfair firefight. Creating head peek cover is one of the most common mistakes mappers do. The reason for this is simple. The default grid size in Hammer is 64 units and the height for head peek cover is 64 units as well. Gameplay, sightlines and firefights around these are very strange and not enjoyable at all. It’s recommended to use below-head cover (~56 units) and above-head cover (~72 units) like on Dust2 A site instead. But not only those classic cubic boxes are enabling them, misplaced ramps and stairs often create head peeks, too. Try keeping them to a minimum. 11.2 Natural Cover Most Counter-Strike maps utilize crates and boxes to create cover. Unfortunately, some of them rely too much on it, which feels unrealistic and repetitive pretty fast. Whenever it seems possible to integrate cover into the architecture of a map, do it. This does not mean using boxes as cover is a bad thing. It just should be balanced out, so the map is looking like a believable space.   11.3 Overpowered Cover When adding cover to a map, it’s important to not overdo things. Some level designers mistakenly create too many powerful spots without playtesting beforehand to see if there’s even the need to do so. A possibility to limit the strength of a hiding spot is to be not covered towards all possible angles. A good example for this is the Dust 2 A site. Most of the common positions offer cover for 2 of the 3 bombsite entrances. This way the defender has enough cover to work with, but not enough cover to always feel safe. A lot of maps prove that some more powerful cover is working as well though. If you really want to add some powerful cover to your map, there are still possibilities to handicap it. These areas could be crafted like a death trap, without an easy way to leave them - shall they be contested with an incendiary grenade for example. This disadvantage will even out the fact, that players hiding there can’t be seen from any of the entrances into the corresponding area. A fitting example for this is the “ninja” corner on Mirage A site. 19. Basic Optimization In the very early stages of prototyping, optimization is not really an important thing. Until the very basic shape of a layout is created, it’s ok to work with no proper skybox, because changes are way faster and easier to apply. This can quickly be achieved by using the cordon tool. However, as soon as the basic brushwork is completed, it’s good to start caring about it. Set small and non LOS (=line of sight) blocking brushes as func_detail and start creating a proper skybox. Another rather simple optimizing technique is to disable collisions on props further outside the playable area. Doing these things will not only improve performance but also reduce the compiling times of a map significantly. A well optimized map can run well on a low-end system while poorly optimized maps often have trouble on medium to high-end systems. A detailed guide on optimization is linked down below since this is not the main goal of this guide. 22. Dealing with feedback Mapping newcomers often crave for feedback, but don’t really know how to deal with it. What you secretly expect, are people saying that your layout is awesome and could be the next Dust 2. Unfortunately, this will most likely never happen. Sometimes feedback will be harsh, but you shouldn’t let yourself be discouraged by that. If people are harsh with their feedback, there must be some reason for it and only shows the urgency of changes and that things can’t stay as they are. Counter-Strike is a competitive game and therefore people might become emotional very quickly. If you ask these people to explain their feedback a bit more detailed, most of them will respond nicely and help you fix the flaws a layout may have. Don’t respond that you feel mistreated. It’s in the nature of CS that players get annoyed by poor design decisions. You, the mapper, must learn to deal with feedback like this. “Feedback” à la “Valve, add this pls” is pretty much useless. Sure, it’s nice to read, but this is no useful feedback at all. Personally, I’d rather see someone complaining that the map’s balance is “crap”, than just telling me “good map”. Level design is very iterative and therefore every mapper should be happy when people showcase the flaws a layout may have. Accept feedback and consider changes. Don’t be ignorant with a mindset, that your layout is already perfect. If all you want to see are compliments, don’t ask for feedback. The above being said obviously only applies, if you actually did receive feedback. This is one of the reasons I created this guide. Aspiring mappers should have some guidelines to work with, while missing feedback from other players. 23. Further guides and tutorials CS:GO 6 Principles of Choke Point Level Design (World of Level Design): GDC Talk about CS:GO level design by Volcano and FMPONE: Follow this link to read the full guide: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1110438811 Follow Exodus Twitter: https://twitter.com/El_Exodus 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. Level design is something you almost always have to go through when making a game, but it’s one of the most overlooked segments of game production, especially on small/indie production teams. Here I’ll try to give some advice on how to make a good level design, by using examples from my own experience. I’ll mostly use recurring games as references (Bad Company 2 and Mirror’s Edge), because they are games I played a lot and feel comfortable mentioning, and because they have fairly different gameplays.WHERE TO START ? Mirror’s Edge The first step before making any “real” level design, is to put everything in perspective before going blindly in any direction. Define what actions are allowed (and what aren’t) by the game design of your specific game, then what intentions or constraints you want on your level. Focus on what makes your game unique. What can the player(s) do in the game? What elements of my game can harm, kill or put the player(s) close to the losing conditions? Is there a theme, or a particular focus I want to put in this level/area of a level? What mechanic stands out in my game? USE GUIDELINES TO TEST & CREATE YOUR LEVEL When making MAZE’s safe zone, we put some clear guidelines down: “We want the safe zone to be square-shaped, with one door on each side of this square, and it should not take more than 30 seconds to run from one side to the other. The safezone is also a “vegetation backup” so it should contain… vegetation.” From these precise directions, we made a huge, square shaped forest, with all the liberty to put any type of vegetation, terrain modifications, little landmarks… Editor view of the safe zone (the train wreckage at the left can be used for scale) Before asking a playtester, or just other people to give you feedback on your level, you must be able to clear your own mistakes and correct your level accordingly. To do so, define key points to help you create your level. It can also help you when testing the level on your own. Having precise constraints allows you to take more liberty to design around them. In my opinion, it’s better to have some rock-hard, definite constraints than no constraints at all, especially when making a game aimed at someone other than just yourself. It gives you directions, and you can be as free as you want on every other part of your level when creating it. DESIGN LEVELS SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR GAMEThe more you design your level while keeping in mind your game design, the better it will be. An example of this can be seen clearly on Source games. When playing Counter Strike, try to play 2Fort (a Team Fortress 2 map) on a community server. You can also find any classic CS map on a custom TF2 server. If the map has not been altered, you’ll see that most of the depth of each map loses its value. It’s not as fun playing de_dust2 on TF2 as it is on CS. This is because dust2 was (brilliantly) designed with Counter Strike’s gameplay in mind, which is very different from Team Fortress 2’s. 2Fort — Team Fortress 2 Try to do the same for your levels: If your environments are imported in other games, they should not be as equally rewarding to experience than in their original game. If your level seems really classic, well, you fucked up. No harm done, but my advice at this point would be to delete completely the faulty level, erase its dullness from existence and start again, from scratch.USE REFERENCES FOR YOUR FUTURE LEVEL The most obvious references when designing a level are the visual ones. Find architectural drawings or photos who capture well what you want to implement in your environment. If you have some references & concept art used in your art direction, be sure to include them. Your artist(s) will be happy to see their work was not only used to be put on the studio walls to look cool. A reference for a level I’m working on(Photo by Asia Chmielewska) Here’s an easy trick that often pays off when I’m looking for references: If you find an image that you want to use as a reference, try to find the author of the picture. The artist’s style, eye, whatever you want to call it, will not be in the one picture you randomly found on Pinterest. Use it to your advantage. This is what I did with the photo above, and looked at other photos from Asia Chmielewska (check her out if you like architectural/urban photos she makes awesome photos). The main problem I had when making a paper level design (I’ll talk about it in literally one paragraph), is that slopes are cool, but they need to lead somewhere. So I found other references I can use to create what’s at the summit of the slope, and it will probably be super coherent because it was in the same photo collection. Neat.DESIGNING ON PAPER Once you have all this preparation part down, you can start actually designing the level… on paper. It’s way faster to iterate on paper than recreate your level digitally.  My point here is that you should find a "way" allowing you to design your level quickly, so you can iterate swiftly and easily change layouts, details etc. Most people would use paper, but if you prefer using Photoshop, Paint or woodworking, go for what is best for you. From this point on, I’ll drop different points and things I use to design levels, without any ranking. Once you are designing your level, iterating over and over again, you can use or focus on these points to help you enhance your design: VERTICALITY The intro cinematic of The Shard, Mirror’s Edge’s last level. The Shard is the tallest building in Mirror’s Edge’s city, and also the last level of the game. The introduction cinematic of the level gives you the feeling that you are against your biggest challenge, like if the building itself is the final boss. How? By making you enter from the parking underneath the overwhelmingly tall building. You haven’t even started playing this level, but you already know the stakes are high. One of the simplest elements that often separates a good level design from a bad one is verticality. Verticality creates, vantage points, Landmarks, Occlusion and Focal Points (see the other points below). Vantage points are really important to give exposition to your players. They are probably best used when creating a multiplayer map, as they can be fully utilized by players, whereas AIs usually aren’t advanced enough in games to use vantage points at their fullest. It still is important in single player games to give exposition to your players, give them a better view of what challenges will come next. It’s also a really easy way to give your player a powerful feeling. Anyone standing on top of something will tell you: you’re better here than if you were standing at ground level. Anatomically accurate representation of Verticality In MAZE, we use verticality to convey the aggressiveness and strength of the maze itself: The walls stand tall, trapping the players. The maze walls would look inoffensive if they were just too high for the player to vault over. In Mirror’s Edge, verticality is also used as an “enemy”: You have the cool, powerful feeling I described before when you are on top of a building, but you also know that if you slip, you’ll die. In short: Verticality is easy to use because it’s a natural feeling. Utilize it and don’t overthink too much.LANDMARKS Screenshots from the 3rd and 7th level, located at different places in Mirror’s Edge’s city The Shard (the big rectangular building) and the “multiple white tips” building are visible throughout the game and help players locate themselves inside the city. Valparaiso’s lighthouse (Bad Company 2) Most of Bad Company 2’s maps have a singular building, or setting, to help player differentiate the maps and also give them more personality. For example, Valparaiso’s landmark is its lighthouse. It’s probable that most players refer to Valparaiso as “the lighthouse map”. Landmarks are unique and memorable locations in your level. They help players locate themselves, in the level but also inside the whole game, and will make your area/level stand out.FOCAL POINTS The clear focal points (and landmarks) of Heavy Metal are the wind turbines. Heavy Metal is the biggest map in Bad Company 2. Heavy tanks fight each other while infantry tries to escape the firefight and go from one flag to another through areas with little to no cover, all while being careful about the choppers hovering over them. Wind turbines are scattered all along the area. Apart of being a memorable landmark, they are a really practical focal point: by looking at them, players watch the sky, and thus are reminded to be careful about the choppers in the area, as well as the many snipers who are waiting on top of the mountains on the edges of the map (and sometimes on the wind turbines). A simple focal point can change a lot on how people will experience a level. Put focal points wherever you want to guide the player’s eyes. From that point, you just have to choose how to make your focal point stand out. Going to extremes is the easiest way to go: Big, bright, colored.COVER/OCCLUSION Panama Canal — Bad Company 2 The Bad Company series offered a new way of designing cover, with a fully destructible environment. As you’re playing, walls explode, leaving players more and more vulnerable. Shootmania grids In Shootmania, you’ll often find grids in levels. You can’t shoot through them but can watch your opponents movements and give the info to your team. These grids offer cover, but no occlusion. Cover is about providing… cover (yay!) to the player(s), but can also be used to hide informations from them. It’s called occlusion. Cover and occlusion naturally happen whenever you put some solid object on your map, like a wall. You can’t shoot or see through them. You can create cover/occlusion with verticality (like the canal in the Bad Company 2 screenshot above), but also less tangible ones with lights, shadows, sounds, etc. Just think about providing interesting situations to your players. The more cover and less occlusion they’ll have, the safer they’ll feel. A simple situation involving cover in Mirror’s Edge: Players must take cover to the right to avoid being shot by the cops in the main hallway WORLD COHERENCE This industrial area seems functional. (Mirror’s Edge) Buildings in Bad Company 2 lack coherence. You can’t imagine that someone was living here. Make sure your environment is coherent with the game’s reality. To hem your level in the game world, it should always stay coherent: If your enemies are supposed to exist (as in “living THE LIFE”) inside a level, make sure the hallways are wide enough for them to use, that they have toilets and stuff like that. In the photo above, you can see that Bad Company 2 lacks coherence in its building interiors. It was probably done on purpose to offer better situations in mutliplayer. You sometimes have to sacrifice coherence to offer a better experience, but try to avoid finding yourself in these position. DESIGN COHERENCE Red is used to suggest a way to go to the player. The cop is in red too, so you know you’ll have to deal with him at some point. (Mirror’s Edge) In Mirror’s Edge, the red color is associated with Faith, the character embodied by the player, contrary to usual game codes with red being the color of negative stuff (enemies, traps…). Some areas are highlighted in red too guide the player in case he doubts what he should do. You’ll never see red used for something not related to Faith/the player. If the player is used to shooting red barrels every time he sees them because it has always given him some kind of reward, DO NOT create a new situation in the same level / area of the game where he might kill himself if he shoots a red barrel. It is important to be aware of the “codes” you put down on your game. Players are used to playing this way. Their behavior in games are heavily influenced by other games they previously played before trying yours. They will then confront these global video game codes to the first situations of your game, to try and figure what codes are applying to your game. You must be aware of the messages you convey, especially in your first levels, as they will be the bases the player relies on while experiencing the rest of the game. Think of your player as a child, with your game being his upbringing. If you send mixed messages to your kid early on, he’ll be really confused later. Be clear about your messages. Have great kids. One way to fix our red barrel problem, could be to change the color of the new barrel, so the player is aware that he should approach the situation a bit differently.CHOICES “Arland”: The first part Mirror’s Edge’s first level There are at least 4 possible routes to go over the electric fence: 1. Use the easy, suggested route and use a springboard (the red pipe) 2. Jump over on the right from the little chimney-thing 3. Wallrun then walljump from the wall on the left 4. Go to the middle roof on the left and jump over the fence from there These 4 choices are presented to the player in a smooth, binary way: you first have to choose whether you want to go to the right (1. and 2.), or to the left (3. and 4.). Then another binary choice is presented. It adds a lot of value to the level, while still leading to the same place. The player doesn’t feel trapped, or lost, when seeing this situation. Games are mostly about making choices, and Risk/Reward situations. Be sure to offer your players multiple approaches to the same situation. It adds replayability, and gives the player a better sense of freedom. Putting minor choices such as the one in Arland is also an easy way to prevent boredom for the players. Side note: Arland is at a point in the level where the player can take the time to choose his approach. On a chase scene later in the level the player shouldn’t, and doesn’t want to stop running: a unique & clear route is presented. ASSET LIST/ PRODUCTION LIST The same building is used all over the same area. And it’s not really a problem: people just want to shoot at each other. At some point you’ll have to start listing what props, sounds, effects and whatever other thingies you want to use on your level. That way, you can ask the qualified people if they can make these assets for you, or not. In this case, you’ll have to think about optimization, and modularity. Your assets should fit well with other assets, in order to have as many combinations as possible among them. FLOW Flow is a very important part of game and level design. I recommend that you check Jenova Chen’s thesis on flow. I can’t explain it better than him. Flow is mostly about making a level challenging enough for the player , without it feeling too hard to overcome. It is also about making sure the player doesn’t experience any snag: You have to make sure your player doesn’t get stuck on corners, or fails to interact with something etc. RHYTHM Rhythm is something I really like to focus on. It’s very close to the Flow and the Game Design itself. And just like Flow, it’s kinda hard to explain, as it’s really about feeling it. One way to feel it for me is to think about the inputs the Player will most likely do. Mirror’s Edge is very good for this. Most of the game revolves around muscle memory, and being in rhythm when doing runs over and over. Putting rhythm in your game will help players get into the Flow. CHOKE POINTS Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base — Bad Company 2 To arm the two objectives from Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base, infantry has to go through a narrow road, heavily defended by the opposite team. They can also try to attack by sea or land, but time has shown that the victory for this base is almost always determined inside the yellow zone on the image above. Whoever controls it wins the round. Choke points are the areas of your level where your opponents will most likely meet, and a big part of the fight will go there, with restrained movement. Counter Strike maps are all designed with choke points in mind. I would suggest you study these maps if you want to learn more about it. MULTIPLE I wrote “MULTIPLE”, all caps and everything, on my draft. It must have seemed very crucial at the time. So it’s staying here until I find what important piece of knowledge MULTIPLE refers to.CONTRAST — OUTSIDE INSPIRATION Mirror’s Edge Contrast is something vital in black & white photography. In order to have a more pleasing photo, and add depth, you have to think about alternating between dark and white zones. It’s a really precise thing, but a good segway to talk about using other medium’s rules. If you know rules used in photography, painting, cinema, or something else (gardening or sports for example), put them to use when designing your level! Of course every medium has its own rules and it’s better to design with them, but some of these rules may overlap, and it probably won’t have been done before.COLOR THEORY, COLOR HARMONY Same game, different areas, different moods, different colors. (Mirror’s Edge) The same level (Isla Innocentes) can relay a drastically different mood when changing atmospheric colors (Bad Company 2) Colors convey different emotions, and can be used to transcribe a specific mood you want to emphasize on your level. Having the same palette used in similar areas of your world is a good thing to do. You don’t need to use extremely different colors by level like in Mirror’s Edge, nuances always are a good option, and better than just throwing random colors around.BALANCE Balance is more important in multiplayer games than in solo ones. It’s about providing a fair encounter for all the players. The easiest way to balance your level is to use symmetry. But it’s been used over and over since the beginning of level design, so now we’re kinda forced to get more creative, and it’s for the best. If you give an advantage at one area of the map, using verticality or cover for example, be sure the other side also has the same kind of area somewhere else. N.B.: Most Counter Strike maps are not balanced (and mostly CT-sided), but the halftime alternation in the game design provides some sort of balance to the whole game. Seeing the big picture is important. Visual balance is also important in levels. Just like composition in other visual arts, most of the time you want to present balanced images to your player, and sometimes surprise him with a very harsh composition. Here again, symmetry is always the easy and sure way, but getting more creative to find balance is way more interesting for you and your players. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE Side note: During this scene, walls are left naked to encourage the player to use powerful wallrun kicks instead of pick a gun and shoot his way out. Mirror’s Edge run & gun gameplay is shitty: it lacks feedback, slows you down and is overall very limited and boring. It’s like the designer didn’t want you to use guns. And it’s the case. They made a design decision, and it payed off. The game distanced himself from other FPSs, by emphasizing the lightweight running and hand-to-hand combat. Your level and your game don’t need to be the best at every possible thing you can find in games.MENTAL MAPPING Arica Harbor — Bad Company 2 Arica Harbor is one of the most played map in Bad Company 2. There are many reasons to that, and one of them is the depth and various situations it offers, while staying simple. Players can locate themselves really easily. They have a mini-map, the A,B,Cflags appear at all times on the screen. Flags are aligned along the main road. There are different heights in the map (to add verticality), but it is painless to remember: It goes down like a stair, from the mountain to the sea. You should always be careful about your players mentally mapping your layouts, especially when making a game aimed at a large audience. The easier it is for a player to remember where he went, how the level is arranged, the better his experience will be. To facilitate mental mapping you can provide unique props or details to help differentiate between two almost identical hallways, put floor numbers in stairs, vantage points, landmarks, focal points etc. Keeping the same logic throughout a level also helps a lot. If your game involves backtracking, mental mapping goes from important to REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. No-one wants to get lost in a game, trying to find an exit. Make sure you are helping the players as much as possible to avoid frustration.CUT THE NOISE As fun and tempting as it can be for a level designer, you shouldn’t add too much to your environment. Having dull and empty areas is not a good thing, but over-saturating it with props everywhere will just make it worse. Details in your map must not come in the way of playability. DO WHAT YOU ARE “Leper Squint” At the end of the day, you should still feel that the level you designed comes from you. These points are important, but it’s the only one you should always respect. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make your level/game feel different, or look like a particular style, it will never feel unique unless you invest a part of yourself in what you create. . . . . . Alright, that was my advice on level design. I’m a piece of shit, so some of these points might seem wrong to other gamedevs, or wrongly named etc. But hey, feel free to call me out on it, or write your own advice piece. I like talking about LD in general so whether you have a different opinion, or are a beginner seeking advice, drop me a DM, a comment, a mail, shout my name really loud… be original, I’m not going to list all your options. Although they’re here. - Niels . . . . . *This article has been posted in its entirety with permission from the author Original Source: medium.com/ironequal/practical-guide-on-first-person-level-design-e187e45c744c Follow Niels: Website: fuckgamedev.itch.io/ Twitter: twitter.com/fuckgamedev
  7. 'Map Design Theory' comes from the heyday of Halo 3's Forge Mode. This one holds a special place in my heart because it's one of the first articles that got me thinking seriously about level design. It covers all of the essentials of level design, and use examples to support the discussion points. This article was written exclusively with Halo 3 in mind, but is most definitely applicable to Level Design in other FPS games as well. Understanding map design can be a daunting task for anyone, but with a little perseverance and open mind it should be relatively easy to grasp. To start, design is all about having the right sets of mentalities and understanding, and three over-arching categories drive successful map design; Gameplay Knowledge, Vision, and Creativity. These three elements need to come together in unison for a map to work well on various levels. If you focus too heavily upon creativity and vision, the map may end up more aesthetically pleasing than it would have, but won’t necessarily play well. If you know gameplay and have a vision for map design, your map may come out a little dull even though it might be fun. I had a third point, but it left me, and now I have to pay alimony every month. Balance between the three separates the novice from the exceptional. There are no simple tricks to suddenly finding the balance; as with everything, it requires practice and mental familiarity.Knowledge:"Knowledge is power"Sir Francis Bacon said thatHe didn't work out.Knowledge boils down to understanding the various mechanics in Halo 3 in both general terms and specific ways such as; anti-camping concepts, getting a feel for the spawn system to encourage routes and flow, recognizing and preventing choke points (sometimes even effectively implementing them) and much more. However, the point isn't to be rehash previous ideas, rather to know WHY things are and WHY they are subsequently successful or not in their attempts. There's really no limit to what you can learn about map design. It’s just about taking the time to understand how each each aspect works in principle and how to use it effectively. Vision:Psychic map builder?That makes it sound difficult.Just think your map through.In a few words, vision can be described as being able to mentally visualize the next step like some sort of psychic map-builder. This can be difficult for people as not everyone is able to imagine in 3D, and the good news is, this isn’t always necessary for proper map design. Basic questions you should ask: What will the player movement be like? How do you want it to look and what are the major points of interest? Is it going to be mostly flat (too easy a joke) What of elevation changes? Will there be rooms, and if so how will you prevent camping? These are all things that you should think about while designing a map. Knowing what devices to envision results from a solid understanding of gameplay and design fundamentals. Essentially, the key to it all is trying to imagine how your idea will actually play out as a map within Halo 3, translating the physical form of the map you're imagining in to an actual gameplay environment, and determining whether or not it will work effectively. Creativity:Creativity, like any other expressive medium, is an important part of any effective map design. It determines uniqueness, flow, supported playstyles, weapon use, and key areas, if any. These should be minimally addressed in your design before you even start building.Thousands of downloadsfor a pallet conveyorCreative. 'Nuff said.It’s difficult to describe how to be creative or what spurs a design. Sometimes it’s a quick flash of inspiration; other times it’s a focal point that it is built off of. It varies on its creator, and from an ironically objective standpoint, it's luck. What complicates it even more is it can be often difficult to tie everything together, so having a clear vision of what you want to create before focusing on specifics is very important. A Haiku:Forge guides are fun, butdisclaimers are important.Please, please don't sue us.First, a few disclaimers before we start: the focus of this Forging 201 will not be to show you some new Forge tips or a solid set of information, in fact probably nothing will be particularly new. Everything that we'll be saying here you should think critically about; in other words, map design mentality.Second, while we'll try to leave things vague and open for you to think about, we'll be making our own assumptions and assertions throughout the piece. It's a guide, not a law, if you can give good reason for anything, supportive, contradictory or unrelated to the topics presented, and it helps your design, it's perfectly fine. Our assumptions are not necessarily fact, just keep that in mind.Map design is a puzzle; everything fits together to form one final product. All of the following topics are important interrelated factors in defining the resulting gameplay. Much as map design is being broken down in to various aspects and considerations for the purposes of this article, the real point of map design is understanding them not only in distinct terms, but most importantly how they interact to form the greater whole of a successful map.In no way is this discussion close to complete, nor can it ever really be. Map design is a constant learning and innovative process. There's no limit to what you can learn and do with it. As a whole, this guide has been a collaboration between Insane54 and MickRaider.Knowledge Player movement, often known as "flow" (and what it will henceforth be referred to as) is the base for map design. Player movement is how the players progress through your map in relation to the various objects in it, or in simpler terms, how players prefer to move about the map. There's no good or bad flow. Your map starts with a vision and the flow is the result. Different people have different ways of approaching obstacles in the environment, but as the map creator you can streamline (or expand) routes to better suit certain approaches. Flow is invariably affected by the map itself, so the design process should bring about the following questions: What's the ideal amount of players? How big is the map? What playstyles do you want to encourage? What weapons do you want players to use, and how often? i.e. weapon balance In Halo, players do not traverse the map on a cover-to-cover basis like Gears of War, nor do they move between random structures; open-area combat is a significant, if not defining, aspect of Halo 3's gameplay mechanic. Therefore, your map design should never be based off of cover or structures themselves, rather any cover provided should be a part of the larger scheme of things. In essence, the cover defines player flow (or choice of route) as opposed to giving them set paths to follow in order to remain behind cover. This will be expanded upon later.In general, every area on the map should be accessible by at least 2 paths. The more paths you put into an area, the more it will turn into a transitory area (as opposed to a camp spot). For example, players will more often traverse through Guardian's sniper area via the middle level than on the bottom, simply because it has four paths instead of two. Simple enough. That being said, you don't necessarily want to put many different paths for the sake of having them, just understand which areas call for it, and address them to prevent camping. After all, Halo is about movement, not "tactical waiting" as Sarge would say. Furthermore, your paths should have purpose as opposed to just diversifying routes, that is, they should affect gameplay in some way. Example: Guardian. A person is shooting from sniper spawn. Regardless of position, there are various ways to take him out, such as tactical BR shots or providing a distraction while teammates sneak from behind, among other avenues of attack. The point is, the map affords plenty of options, and each has a different level and type of risk associated with it, a balance of advantage and disadvantage. To summarize map flow (and subsequent player movement options) for a given situation should not only be suited to this situation, but also balanced with one another so that situations don't arise where one route is overplayed and the other, underused. Lines of Sight: What you can see at any given point, or rather, the damage you can inflict within your field of vision. In quantitative terms, it is your entire 360 degree viewing angle, adjusted by obstructions in your view (walls, barriers, etc).This can be accomplished due to a variety of weapon and grenades. However, the concept of 'good LoS' is somewhat misguided and inefficient in practical terms. In fact, lines of sight aren't particularly important in the first place. A player doesn't look directly at one point the entire game. Games are dynamic and have more to do with field of vision than lines of sight. Let's do away with the lines of sight idea (again, we'll continue to use the name for simplicity), and think about a very similar but much more important definition:Field of Vision is the angle at which the user can see enemy players. In normal circumstances, this angle is approximately 90 degrees. Unaffected "Field of Vision" Field of vision is, of course, different depending on the situation you're in, such as being in a tunnel with a shotgun or atop an open ledge with a sniper-rifle. Thus, determining what players will be able to see, and where, will have a significant effect on the routes they will use. In general, if the player can see the enemy at long range, a direct run is inadvisable by common sense. This changes at close range, especially with the use of the shotguns or assault rifles, as bullet spray is lessened. With this in mind, as a map builder, you can guide gameplay to preference in your map. On that note, you still want to include enough routes for escape, flanking, and other maneuvers.Height is important to lines of sight. People on towers have the advantage of cover from people below, and can use that to their advantage. Balancing power points with path and line of sight options is important and can be accomplished through clever grenade bounces and alternative paths.Players are dynamic and adjust to the situations they are in, and though you can't control their specific responses, you can set the stimulus that provokes those responses. In other words, you can't control the bee and its honey, but you can determine what flowers it has access to.Here are some of the generic comments you'll often see by forger and other players; "Cool structures", "needs more cover", "too open". A well designed map is not comprised of any of the above, or rather trying to understand map design in these simple terms is essentially flawed and misses the point of how larger design works in Halo 3. Structures, cover, and open areas are a part of map design, sure, but they are nowhere near the major focus of a map, they're more the result of design than an actual part of the design process. If you are ever finding yourself designing a map around random structures or cover, you should be going back to the drawing board and figure out how you are going to tie everything together.We've all encountered plenty of awesome structures out there. Structures are capable of defining a map, such as "Relic". You must be careful to have the map tie together though. Structures can be beneficial to a map design by directing players where you want them on a map. An interesting central structure that also has a tactical advantage can direct attention towards that structure and create interesting hot spots and gameplay opportunities. Let me take this moment to say that the goal for map design is not always to create some perfectly designed map that plays exactly evenly or balanced. Your goal should be to create a fun and unique experience that's balanced enough for both teams to have fun. Most importantly your design should offer different options to the player and allowing each of these to have a variety of possibilities. Therefore, there is plenty of room for structures to be a big part of your map design, but don't let that overshadow the overall design, any structure should instead be thought of in terms of whether or not it compliments the overall design. The most notable problem you'll find in structure-based maps is that they are reliant on players to run around in those structures. There should always be advantages and disadvantages to various flow routes, as explained before. Forcing players to be on some kind of structure to do well should be avoided at all costs. Players on the ground should be able to have fun, and people playing on structures should have some sort of advantage and disadvantage against those players.Cover can be thought of in the same regard. A map should never be defined by it's cover. Though at some point you will likely be giving players a chance to get out of a line of fire. Never, ever randomly place cover in a "middle" areas to make it "less open". When players make a decision, such as to go one route versus another, there should be another driving force. Throwing down a block in the middle that he can hide behind turns that into bland and repetitive game. In a good design the natural cover is often more than adequate. Though chances are at some point you'll need some kind of additional cover. Specific cover objects should be used as a last resort if a natural approach could not be found. Keep in mind that what you build should be what players will use to move around the map. In general, objects should be used to compliment lines of sight and flow. If you find that players are getting cut down in an undesirable crossfire, cover might then be necessary to break up the action. An area you designed should never be "too open". The amount of an open area varies depending on several factors, and quite often an open run might be desirable as opposed to the same area littered with unnecessary structures and cover. If you find that players are not using your routes as you had originally planned, cover can be used to help solve this issue if nothing else will work.Though spawns and objectives are generally placed once your map is already built, it is still good practice to keep them in mind when designing. This foresight can make the difference between a good map or a great map, and if you build a whole map without considering how you want spawning to work, then when you come to placing spawns you may find it hard to implement an effective spawning system.In general, it is important to have, at a minimum, two major areas for each team to spawn at. Applying what we learned before, try and visualize what the players will think once they spawn. How many route options do they have? Do they encompass the necessary possibilities that will allow the player to make proper use of this life? Will they be aware which direction they need to travel without taking the time to analyze their surroundings?While planning spawn points in advance can be difficult; it is important to remember that the way spawn points are placed is vital to how the map will flow. A player should have options straight off of his spawn, thus it is important to make sure that there is at least two paths from every spawn. Also it is important to check each and every spawn. Stand directly over the spawn, exactly copying what it will look like when the player spawns, and then consider exactly what a player could do with the spawn you have given them against various scenarios. Alternatively, you could kill yourself repeatedly. Things to keep in mind when placing spawn points. You should be pointed towards a possible path; you should be able to run straight forwards for 2-3 seconds without turning at all. In addition, put yourself in the shoes of a player who doesn't know the map. What options do you have? The player should never be completely hopeless. In general a spawn point should point towards a point of interest, such as an objective or a power weapon. It is bad form to point a player towards their own base and will often confuse and frustrate a player by doing so. Always give them an objective when they spawn. This can be especially useful in situations where players are not finding your weapons, having a spawn pointed at them will almost guarantee that they will happen upon it. The counter to this is that if a power weapon is over used, don't have spawn points directed at it or too close to it and it's use will decrease. Objective planning is similar. Make sure attacking and defending teams both have at least three options, and that each of these options have varying pros and cons. Often this fits directly into flow, but objectives offer some variations on the normal flow. A flag can be thrown down a higher area into a more open run, or can sneak around. The defense should have options as well. Once a flag is taken or a bomb is armed, what possibilities do they have? Again, make sure they are all different. There should rarely be a case where the defense has very little chances of success of returning or disarming. And of course, neutral objectives should be even for both sides. One last point we'd like to make: in most cases, don't put your objectives in corners! It's amazing how many maps make this mistake, not only does it limit flow possibilities for both teams, it turns the corners into camping areas and renders them highly susceptible to grenades. Some map designs require it, but this a rare occasion and should be avoided unless you've really thought about making this decision.Aesthetics often play a major role in the player's decision on where they choose to go. If we look at typical play styles, a player is generally reluctant to move from a normal hot spot of the map, even if it means getting to a higher point. This tends to only happen if they have a long ranged weapon. There are some important points to think about here also. Players want roam to run around, even if only in a small area. A cramped tower is much less likely to be used than one that is well spaced and flows well with the rest of the map. Never throw a random sniper tower to the side of a map, assuming that people will want to use it because it's a high tower. Expanding on this; a bland, basic area of the map will often be used less than a nice looking one, particularly by new players. The designer can use these visual cues to direct players to places they want. One mistake often made is "mounting" weapons on walls. Though this looks great and can often work wonderfully for more basic items, if the weapon or equipment is poking out sideways it can get in the way, and if the item is pushed to the wall (as it normally is), it can be hard to find if the player does not know the map. Therefore, if you want players to go to your power weapons, make them obvious to find. Exhibit them to the whole map, not just those who are standing right next to it. Consider the Rockets on The Pit, for example. They can't be seen from a large amount of the map's area, but as long as you are on the long hall/needler area you can see when they have respawned without being right next to them.Continuity is an "uninterrupted connection or union", and should not be confused with our earlier discussions on cover and structures or flow. Continuity means players make choices based on the choices available on the map. Good continuity lets players choose routes that will always lead to the destination they had in mind. Whether the destination is to flank an enemy position or a route to the opposing team’s high ground. Every part of the map the player can walk on has a specific purpose and eventually leads to a specific place on the map. A path/tunnel or corridor that appears, in terms of its direction, to lead to a given area of the map, but actually curves around and leads to a different area, can be confusing to players.The Pit is truly one of the greatest Halo maps of all time. There has never been a design that uses so many staple Halo weapons and play styles and combines them so well. You could spend a week looking at every part of it and appreciating it for how great of a map it really is. For this example we'll try and analyze what the designers were thinking and how this great map came about. FlowThe Pit generally plays towards BRs and Snipers, or mid to long range weapons. That doesn't exclude anything else, like the Sword, but close range is obviously not the main gameplay focus. There is enough variety of close, medium, and long range routes to keep the player on their toes. Let's take a look at some closer examples. How many times have you been rushing through the long hallway and just get demolished by grenades? Wouldn’t it make sense for Bungie to have put a block there so that wouldn’t happen? We realize that this aspect is built in to the design. By having the longest and straightest path to the enemy base, this encourages the player to subconsciously try to get there as fast as possible, although they know the risk. This is made fair and fun due to the fact that you’re rewarded by getting there faster than anyone else with the rockets, but with a high risk of dying. This is bluntly called "risk vs. reward." When looking at The Pit there are either 3 or 4 main routes. Each route should have a different advantage and disadvantage, height advantages, weapon spawns, line of sight to popular areas, etc. The hard part is not just balancing these, not to encourage even use, but so that each one has a different and interesting playstyle that all come together for a fun experience. A great example of this is "Runway" on The Pit (where the overshield is); it obviously is not a place that's good for slaying, being it has few lines of sight and field of vision to anything important, however it is an excellent flank, most particularly to the sniper tower. A sniper usually has his field of vision trained on the more traffic-heavy parts of the map on the opposite side. Another interesting point is that routes to an area have an effect on how it’s used. For example, let's examine the shotgun cave or sniper tower from The Pit. It is obvious that these places encourage players to use their respective weapons. These only have two main routes to them thus the foot traffic is naturally low, but increases due to the power weapons effect. If you want players to be moving to other areas of the map, they tend to have more paths such as each sides "Training" on The Pit). Knowing where you want players moving is what player movement is all about. Lines of SightWe can see how The Pit has a wide variety of sight lines. Though the cross map sniper battles from the tower, to the narrow and dangerous sword room. Each of these sight lines allow for a good variety of gameplay and excitement. We can learn a lot about the effect the sniper has on the map by examining one point in particular, the sniper tower. From the sniper tower the player can have a view of essentially their entire side, though the view of the oppositions base is drastically limited. This accomplishes two things, the first being so that the player is not able to dominate the entire map from one spot the entire game, which lends itself to the second, that the player is forced to leave his perch to find the enemy when they become wise and avoid his position. By providing a series of safe routes for the players to use the sniper tower's power is severely limited. This encourages map flow by directing players to certain areas to both prevent and defend against snipers. The sword room also provides an interesting assortment of lines of sight. The first and most obvious is the back hallway where a sword can dominate. This is cleverly countered by a long line of sight from training and green box where players can throw grenades and shoot in at a safe distance. This balance allows the area to be both powerful and vulnerable in a way that makes the gameplay fun. CoverThe Pit is a great example of a map that uses natural cover very effectively and in a way that works well throughout. Only in a few notable places do we see the addition of cover. The first obvious point is training's "Corner." This simple design allows for a safety area from the sniper tower or sword room, but as it has opening it is very easy to detect when a player is there. This makes it so the player must move from the area quickly or risk being spotted and grenaded out. The natural cover of The Pit shows us how important elevation changes are in a map. Simply by lowering the middle parts of The Pit it allows the player an alternate route to move around without being easily detected from other areas on the map. The height of the sniper is countered by the elevated height of the rocket tunnel entrance. This use of high and low areas allows The Pit to play dynamically and uniquely every time. Spawns and ObjectivesThe spawns on The Pit are well laid out to encourage the flow of the map. In general the spawns are weighted such that the players will spawn at the higher portion near green box or the shotgun tunnel. This is by design as this area is intended to be the highest trafficked area. The designers knew that as most battles would take place in this are they want to allow players the quickest routes back upon respawn. In order to prevent spawn trapping the second alternate spawn area is below the sniper tower. This area is less used, though serves important functions to separate the base into two distinct spawn zones. If we analyze the spawns further we'd notice how they always point towards a main route or looking at a power weapon/equipment. Even in some cases spawning directly on the overshield. The objectives on The Pit were obviously something the designers had in mind from the start. Getting the iconic callout, "The Pit," describes the room in which the objective will spawn. If we look closer at this we can see how the objective is located in the center of the room with two main routes in or out. The third route is through the front but requires a teammate to catch the objective or a box to jump out on. This balance makes it a challenge to get the objective both in an out, but not an impossible one. Points of Interest and ContinuityThere are a few main points of interest on this map. The first plays a crucial role in the map design even though it could be argued it was added as an afterthought, "The Green Box." This point on the map plays a very crucial role. It offers a safety zone from the sniper tower while still providing a variety of routes. The player could choose to continue through green tunnel to acquire the Active Camo, continue to the long hallway to get the rockets, or move down the map towards Training to flank the opponents. This point is something that the player is naturally drawn to due to it's color and size. This simple use of aesthetics plays a huge role in how the map ultimately plays. Continuity on The Pit is rather obvious. A friend said it best when he described a map as being "Wheel Chair Accessible". Every point is walkable by more than one route, even though every route is not necessarily connected. If we look again at the "Runway" we can see how this route connects both sniper towers through a safety route, while still having a connection to the middle of the map. If that middle route was not there this route would have been dangerous to the point where it would rarely or never be used. Guardian is a spiritual successor to Lockout of sorts. Being primarily designed around a center "circle" the map itself plays very uniquely to even it's predecessor and is definitely amongst the top ranking halo maps.FlowIf we look at an overview of Guardian we can see how the major player movement is designed to move in a counterclockwise circle. Now this doesn’t mean that it’s the only way people will go, but it’s actually the basis on which the map runs. The uniqueness of Guardian - it's counterclockwise movement, use of low and high routes, and successful mancannons - is what makes it so intriguing and fun to play. From this we can see an emergence of 4 major "bases". The sniper tower, Green platform, Gold room, and blue room. Each of these areas plays a major role in how Guardian flows. In general the play tends to focus heavily around controlling sniper tower or gold lift, but as Guardian has a tendency to support close range combat this is not it's only function. There is plenty of opportunities for flanking due to the assortment of low and high routes. Lines of SightBeing a room-based map the lines of sight on Guardian are broken up well and efficiently. There is a good assortment of long line of sights from the sniper tower and bottom of sniper tower to gold. The number of long lines are contrasted by the increased number of short ones such as green platform, blue room, and gold room. These short sight lines help to encourage the use of short range weaponry, which outnumbers the long/medium range weapons. The shotgun, hammer, and mauler play a critical role in how the map ultimately plays out. However, controlling the sniper rifle is very important as essentially the entire upper portion of the map can be controlled with it. CoverGuardian is another example of a map that relies on it's natural cover without the need for extra cover in most cases. Only in a few points do we see the addition of cover which is cleverly blended into the map itself. The first of which being the cover around the hammer.This cover is useful in a number of ways. The first being that it slightly breaks up the lines of sight between the bottom of sniper tower and the bottom of gold room. The second being that it provides cover in the likely event that a battle takes place between green platform and hammer. This cover is definitely an important element of the map design and without it the map would play very differently in these areas.The second use of cover is the trees on green platform. Again a very important use of cover to break up the sight lines between elbow and green platform. This makes it more difficult for a sniper to control the map from elbow and thus forces him to a higher location, where everyone on the map can easily see him. Without this cover it would be possible for a sniper to control elbow very easily and make a flank extremely difficult. The third use of cover is the glass window that protects blue room from the sniper tower. Without this critical piece of cover the sniper would be able to dominate the entirety of the upper portion of the map. By using this glass window a player could place shots on a sniper in the tower while still having a safety zone to retreat to when the situation turns against them. This window is very vulnerable from the green tree thus has a good balance of power and weakness that forces players to act fast and move on. Spawns and ObjectivesAs Guardian is an asymmetric map, spawning and objective balance is much more difficult. One team should not feel at a disadvantage by spawning at one side versus another. It is also important to have a good spawn spread so that predicting the spawns is difficult. Each of the main area on the map has a balanced assortment of spawns, with the main rooms having a higher weighting than the connecting walkways. This means that players will tend to spawn in one of four critical areas, while still having backup spawns in the event that each of these rooms is compromised. The objectives on Guardian are definitely something to take notice of. If we look at the transition between Lockout and Guardian we can see why they chose to take it in a different direction. In Lockout the flag spawned on the elbow, which made it difficult to move it away from. This played well due to the emphasis on short range combat. In Halo 3, the emphasis is more on medium to long range and if the flag was placed on the elbow then the player would have had an incredibly hard time moving it to a safer location. To help fix this problem they made the elbow the return point and placed the flag underneath blue room. By doing this they accomplished a balanced location that provides the player with a multitude of possibilities. The player could choose to run it towards the lift, which would take them to sniper and a short safe route to the flag. The downside of this being that that they would be very vulnerable while traveling through the man cannon. The second alternative is to take it up the ramp to blue window and run across the middle. Another short route but this requires that the attacking team controls the upper portion of the map. The final possibility is to take it back down towards gold room. This is the "safest" of all the routes as the flag runner is well covered, though the danger being that they will be running into the defense's major spawn areas. Points of Interest and ContinuityThe two main points of interest on Guardian are the sniper tower and gold room. The sniper tower is a very important location as it houses the sniper rifle and a sort of sniper perch. With the right skill set a player could control a large portion of the map from this location. This makes it very important to either control or prevent the other team from controlling this area. The gold lift is also an important point of interest as it provides a good variety of close and medium range combat and houses the active camouflage. The camo plays an important role in balancing the sniper's power so it is important that the player controls one or the other of these power items. It is also easy to defend gold room as they are somewhat protected from the sniper tower and can monitor 2 of the 4 main routes in by listening for the lift sounds. Being a circular flow map, the continuity is easy to identify. As the player could walk in a complete circle around the map it is important to connect routes together to provide enough variety so that they don't. The middle platform is an obvious connection point that connects the four main rooms with the quickest routes. As these routes are vulnerable from the sniper tower another combination of lower routes help to connect the map together without being too vulnerable. This combination of quick and dangerous, and slow and protected is one of the reasons that Guardian plays so well for almost all gametypes. While map design is of course an abstract business, designing of your own maps is even more so. We'll go through the process that the authors go through, and it should be noted that any way works fine if it works for you.Designing your map requires an understanding not just of what we've put above, but of the mentality that it gives you. You should be able to take any given map and break it down to it's core elements, and say what parts are what, why, and how it works. Depending on the person, this will often take anywhere from a day or two to weeks or months to truly understand. Once you've got that under your belt, you're ready to start designing your own maps.The first thing you want to envision is how the players will move through the map, or path planning. This can be done as simply as a 2D sketch with major path lines planned. The idea is that it's vague, but shows where I want my players to be moving around, and shows the basis of map movement. It's quite simple, but without one of these at least in your head, your map can be significantly worse. Your basic paths should be simple and well-thought out, from our example, The Pit has 3 or 4 major paths. All of these offer wildly different possibilities. Alternative paths are wonderful, and you're free to work with those, but for now we're only talking about major flow.Once you've got your flow down, you'll want to think about how people will interact with each other by lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences. Try to envision yourself in this kind of blocky, empty map, and what kind of gameplay you'd like to see yourself playing. Then, just think about how that gameplay can be encouraged by your design. Lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences can help that enormously.Well, we hope you've enjoyed our Forging 201 on the knowledge portion of map design. Remember that the point of this isn't to give you a set of information, but to start you in the right mindset. There's no way to ever know everything in map design; it's a constant learning and thinking process that we're hoping this may possibly spark.If it's clear you've got the drive and enough smarts to think through all the stuff above, that's all you'll need to be great at map design. Source: https://www.forgehub.com/threads/map-design-theory-knowledge.97349/ Follow Insane54 Website: https://halocustoms.com/ Follow Mick Raider Twitter: https://twitter.com/VincentTorre 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  8. Hello Everyone! It has been a long, long time since I have written an article but what can I say Inspiration hit me! Before I begin, I want to say the way that inspiration struck all came across by taking part in an online course I recently just finished on CGMA which was ten weeks long. Thank you very much to Em Schatz for putting the course together and to Patrick Haslow for being a great tutor and taking the time to review my work. Introduction: Now I have worked on a range of titles as a Game Dev and Level designer, but as my career has switched over to AAA for the last five years I have noticed a common thread with the projects. That thread is Combat. What you make of combat within games and especially in AAA games is up to you and heck, I hope we get to talk about it in detail in the future but, none of us can deny how popular action is, in all mediums. With the projects that I have been working on, a lot of combat spaces have been designed by myself and by my teammates. So I have seen a lot of AI blood shed, as well as seen some good and bad examples of levels for combat. While working on this course one of the weeks we are asked to design a combat space (Ranged combat with guns). I completed the level and it is not the perfect example of a combat space, but it is one that I am extremely proud of. After this it got me thinking, “What makes a good combat level?” The question yet still haunting me, I decided to try to find out more. Sadly, there is not as many resources as I had thought would be available (If you know some great ones please do send them over to me). This is a great article though so please do read this, it was another inspiration for this article. Past Thoughts: I even went back to think about how I was taught at my University, and how bad my levels then were for combat. For what plays such a massive role in the gaming industry we were not taught anything about this topic: How to design levels for the purpose of Combat. Now with my xp of working in the industry for a while, making different spaces for combat, I finally feel that I can help. Hopefully, someone who reads this will find this useful, and it will also build a topic of discussion for many more and far better designers than me to help us understand Level Design for Combat. (see how I worked the title, into the article? Pretty impressive.) Keep in mind that I will only be talking about Combat involving guns, designing for close quarter combat, or turn based combat will not be mentioned here. (Here is a great article on DMC’s combat design) This article will only be focused on the level design involvement of combat as well, not breaking down anything to with weapon or mechanic design. With that out of the way I am going to be breaking down how to create a level built for gun combat step by step. Let Us Design It! Metrics: One of the first steps to designing a good combat space is first by understanding your Metrics. The subject of metricts I do not feel is mentioned enough when creating a level and how vital it is. Metrics determines the spaces of your levels, how high the cover should be, how wide corridors are, and much more. As for who decides the metrics for your game, that is a task for the level design team. It comes with experimenting in a ‘Gym’ it is tough to decide as you must decide by what feels right. I personally have only been involved with it once in my career and it is a tough thing to figure out. Create spaces for you and your teammates to test (This here is a ruler where I would time the players movement speed and jumping length) (having a range of boxes I used this to test jumping heights, single and double) You get the point that I am making. Once you have these gyms set up, have others test them out to see which they agree feels the best. These numbers and sizes will change depending on the view of your game, TPP, FP, Isometric, etc. Once you have the metrics, make sure that you are constantly checking them. (Side note, make sure that the document is easy to read and people understand it from first glance) Here is an example of what I put together when creating my combat level: From what you can see, the documents are very easy to read and you roughly get a sense of scale when looking at them. (Again these are not perfect documents, as it would be good to have tables listing the numbers on the documents as well so designers can have one place to look quickly without scrolling down several pages to get to the info they need) With these figures you have a great starting point, make sure that you are constantly referring to these documents. This is super important as not only does it allow you to make sure the architecture of your world is to scale. It allows you as a level designer to start understanding how verticality on two floors can play into combat, how to signal to players which rooms are safe while others they must be on their toes. Final point on this is now how you can combine the believability and theme of your architecture with the great feel of your gameplay. “A rule of thumb when creating metrics (Again all depends on your game, in the world of game/level design there are no hard rules only suggestions and what suits your game the best) is to make sure that your differences between a main door vs a side door, a main corridor vs a side corridor. Is that the main is double the size of your side, the reason for this is it is visually different. Increasing your main door size by just 1m is not visually distinct enough, so try to do it by doubling as visually it makes an impact on the players’’ Now you may be thinking that our time working with sexy metrics is over, but oh no no no there is still some fun to be had here sweet child. We have set up the rules for our architeture but now we need to set up rules for the combat spaces themselves. Because we were smart enough to set up the metrics for the architecture before it makes things a little easier for us. With the combat spaces, the elements you want to focus on are: Correct Cover Height & Width Cover Spacing (Buffer Zone) Cover rules on Architecture Weapon Range Enemy Archetypes Cover Height & Width: This is an easy one, for this we are focusing on what dimensions the player can use for cover, from low to high cover. Making sure that it is clear and readable to the player what is cover and what is not. Cover Spacing: Now this one is extremely important and should be one you follow very closely. This here is the distance between covers, we use this to make sure that cover is not just randomly scattered all over the place. That it is clear for players to understand a cover route through the combat, but also that AI can make it’s way towards the player too. There could be other technical reasons too, but this is a very important to follow these rules. Cover Rules on Architecture: As you have seen above we have metrics for say our doors and windows, but in order for us to not just have these set up for traversal we need to think about how to best use them for combat. Making sure that there is always cover on a door so players do not walk into a room and get blasted in the face. How players can use windows as a sniping spot, etc. Weapon Range: In most games that involve guns, there is a whole array of weaponry with some games like Boarderlands having over a Billion Guns! With that in mind it is important to build spaces to help encourage certain styles of play. Thinking about sniper nests or areas for players to flank and use short range weapons like a shotgun to attack the enemy from behind. Before we do all this though we need to understand how far these weapons can shoot, what is the best distance to use said weapons. Enemy Archetypes: In your games there will more than likely be different enemies within your game. Again like the weapon range we as level designers need to make sure that we build spaces that allow these enemies to have the best space to shine, show off their skillset but provide players cool and unique ways to win. By understanding these enemy types, we as LDs can build unique challenges which force players to strategize, who they should take out first or even work together as a team to coordinate an attack. How Players Avatar Holds the Gun: This topic here was not mentioned on the list above as it is not the biggest thing to consider but it is a detail worth knowing. What am I referring to when talking about how the avatar holds the gun? I am referring to will the avatar be right handed or left handed. Small detail but a detail nonetheless as then you must make sure that there is cover with an opening for the weapon. If the avatar holds it more to the right, then on door frames make sure there is cover to the left, and visa versa. (A lot of game though now allow the player to switch the shoulders of which they aim from) Now you can see the amount of planning that goes into creating a good combat space before we even have opened the editor. These steps are vital in creating a great combat space for your game. (Please note these design pages which I have put together are to show you an example of what to plan, when you are putting your design doc together you can do way better, these are just to show you what I mean, use these as a learning point and make fare better documentation team!) Conclusion: This article has become an extremely long article already and there is still more to cover. So this is where I will end part 1, but we will move on to the next step following this, such as paper design and the actual Blockout. We will be breaking down the blockout I mentioned at the beginning of the article, breaking it down. Please Support: If you have enjoyed this then please be sure to check out my podcast (Level Design Lobby): iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K If you want to reach out to me, to give me some suggestions on good combat spaces or to see my bite size level design tips then please check me out on Twitter Read Part 2 here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. I’ve been constantly updating and tweaking this “bible” for years. Some of it is informed from previous games I worked on, talks, articles but mostly just experience building levels. I’m constantly learning about the world of level design, and what is detailed below may one day be outdated, irrelevant or otherwise but, for now, consider this a small compendium of terminology we use day-to-day in level design and game development. Themes Themes help define a level and give it an identity within the context of the game. A level should be comprised of a dominant theme which drives its development but may contain several sub-themes within the environment to help define key locations or events. Dominant Themes The dominant theme is the key element driving the player’s emotional investment in the level. It helps inform all elements of a level from environment and atmosphere to game mechanics and audio. A great theme can be described in a single sentence e.g. “Oh that level with the exploding planet!”, “The level with the Scorpion boss fight!” etc. In Uncharted 2, “Mission 16 – Where Am I?” is often referred to as “The village level”. In this case, the unique experience is that you spend a lot of time stuck in a Tibetan village, slowly walking around interacting with civilians. In an action game like Uncharted 2, this really stuck out and became a memorable experience. Some examples of results derived from level themes might be: I want the player to feel like a hero! I want the player to feel anxious and tense. I want the player to feel terrified! I want the player to feel clever. Sub-Themes While dominant themes are used to define entire levels, sub-themes are used to define areas and events within the individual levels themselves. In multiplayer levels, sub-themes are used to define key areas of the level and create spacial-awareness for players. E.g. “I’m in the refinery”, “The enemy is in the lightning nebula”. By defining each space uniquely, players can derive a better understanding of the level more quickly. While sub-themes can be reused across levels, a poor dominant theme is exemplified by levels that can share the same description e.g. “The space level”. In a space-sim like Star Citizen for example, this is not a good use of theming. It’s perfectly acceptable for ten levels to all be set in space, but they must each have another unique theme that separates them from one another. Pacing Narrative driven games all exhibit some sense of pacing. The goal for teams developing narrative games is to ensure that that pacing “graph” is understood and utilised to effectively hold the players attention, accentuate moods and deliver engaging experiences. A basic example of pacing might be: an exciting, action packed sequence such as a vehicle chase being followed by some downtime, such as a puzzle or exploration sequence, before ramping up into a combat sequence. The two “high tempo” moments (chase and combat) are emphasised thanks to the “low tempo” break in between them. In single player levels, themes are used to help craft the sense of pacing. If your chapter ends with a massive, exciting boss fight, you might want to start the chapter slowly. Tight, narrow corridors and claustrophobic environments would help deliver that slow experience, and would really contrast against the exciting battle at the end, emphasising the action. Signposting Levels should be set up to allow the player to quickly orient themselves within the environment. This can be achieved through signposting, which involves setting up structures around the level that act as landmarks for the player. In multiplayer levels signposting is crucial, as players will want to learn layouts as quickly as possible so they can focus fully on fighting other players without worrying about getting lost or confused. It also improves communication between players when they have points of reference to describe to one another. In single player levels, the player’s next goal or destination should be signposted to help guide the player. It should be visible enough to reduce frustration but shouldn’t remove the sense of exploration and challenge. If the player is challenged with uncovering the route, then the steps to achieve this can be signposted through lighting, audio or clever game mechanics. “Show Don’t Tell”: This concept should apply to any challenge placed before the player, including exploration. The player should always be aware of their current objective and have an understanding of what they need to achieve, but the steps involved in achieving it are theirs to discover. We help the player to solve these challenges through aids such as signposting. By placing unique structures at key locations around a level we can introduce a basic concept of “signposting”. “Weenies” are distant landmarks that indicate the direction and composition of a goal. The term was coined by engineers working on Walt Disney World, and was used to refer to buildings that stand above all the others and draw the eye of visitors, enticing them to new areas of the park. “Denial spaces” are an architectural concept where the distant goal or “weenie” is lost to the player or obscured. These make reaching the goal more rewarding and the route there more interesting. “Hero Props” are the key structures within a level and can often also be “Weenies”. These usually involve the most work to get right from both art and design. A “Hero Prop” is typically budgeted higher than other structures in a level. Examples include the Mammoth vehicle in Halo 4’s “Reclaimer” mission or the dam generator in Crysis 3’s “Dam” level. Other points of interest in a level can even be developed solely through unique use of lighting and audio. Use these to draw the player’s attention by combining them with scene composition to indicate waypoints and goals. Changing the lighting and atmosphere of a familiar area can also make it distinct and unique within a level, which helps asset reuse and budgets. Level Boundaries Level boundaries are split into two types: Hard Boundaries and Soft Boundaries. Hard Boundaries Hard Boundaries are physical walls or obstructions that prevent the player from leaving the level. They are easier to understand from a player’s perspective but they add to a levels sense of confinement and restrictiveness. Soft Boundaries Soft Boundaries are traditionally found in open levels such as in space-sims or multiplayer levels in games such “Battlefield”. When the player steps over an invisible boundary they are presented with a message informing them to return to the playable area. Vistas Vistas are observation points in a level that give the player a sprawling view of an interesting landscape. These landscapes can be inside or outside the playable area Inside Playable Area A vista that looks out across a playable area may help the player see gameplay opportunities, story events or objectives. These are empowering moments for players and allow them the opportunity to obtain foresight of new encounters and develop tactical strategies ahead of time. They can also be considered “vantage” points. Playable area vistas should also show the player multiple route options through a space while also hiding areas you want the player to uncover and explore. Vistas within the gameplay space can also be used to compose moments of narrative storytelling for the player to observe without having to force the player camera out of the player’s control. Outside Playable Area Vistas that look out to non-playable space are usually intended to create a spectacular moment or “wow” moment within a level. These can be utilised to enhance moments of “downtime” within a level. A vista that looks out to non-playable areas can also give levels a sense of scale and openness while keeping the actual playable area quite restricted. Visual Language We can enhance the players understanding of an environment by developing a clear visual language that is consistent across our levels. This will assist players in understanding such things as; what areas of a level they can access? What objects can they interact with? etc. Readability Readable environments are ideally devoid of clutter and have reduced visual noise. That is not to say they are not complex or interesting, but they should present gameplay opportunities and routes clearly without frustrating the player. Consistency Consistent environment rules such as attributing a specific light colour for “usable” equipment (blue LED’s or illuminated monitor screens) and colour coding environmental mechanics (red barrels = explosive barrels or yellow = climbable ledges in Uncharted) can give the player familiar elements to help them more quickly understand any new environments. Telegraphing Some environmental features will have components that may cover even larger areas of the level. These can be used to guide the player toward an object or event. Examples include wires leading to a generator, literal signs that warn of dangers such as mines or narrative elements that foreshadow a specific environment. Games such as The Last of Us have good usage of foreshadowing in environments. Usually you are given a hint of what’s in store later in the level by finding survivor notes or environmental storytelling early on. Wow Moments/Set Pieces Wow moments/set pieces are a kind of in game cinematic. They are any take-away moments of spectacle that happen in a level and should literally leave the player thinking (or shouting!) “wow!”. Some “wow moments” can be completely player generated (see Battlefield MP), however most often these will be scripted sequences developed for a particular level. They are infrequent in order to preserve their impact as well as the fact that they are usually expensive to create. Gates Within the context of level design, gates are methods by which a designer controls the linear progression through what would seem to the player to be non-linear worlds. Hard Gates Hard Gates are used to halt the player from progressing any further until they complete an objective or similar criteria. A classic example of a gate in a level is the “keycard” which is required to open a sealed door. Soft Gates Soft Gates are similar in principal to standard Gates, except they can be completed at any time and only serve to slow the player down. A Soft Gate will slow the players progress down through a map, but the criteria to bypass it is not particularly challenging. Examples of soft gating might be a corridor blocked by steam escaping from a pipe, with a valve nearby to turn it off. The gate has succeeded in preventing the player from charging ahead but the means by which they bypass the gate are simple, if not time consuming. Objectives and Rewards Objectives Objectives should be immediately obvious to a player in terms of what they must accomplish. Trial and error should be kept to a minimum. If a player has a solution that makes sense to them, the game should accommodate it. How to accomplish an objective is for the player to discover, however hints and signposting of objectives will be crucial to resolve frustration. Rewards Players should be rewarded frequently with items, story snippets, currency or even a new vista to observe. This is crucial feedback to keep the player feeling invested in a level. Compulsion Loops A compulsion loop is a process whereby the player is rewarded for completing a task and wishes to repeat the action for a similar reward. Repeating the action several times accumulates several rewards, which can be used to accomplish an even tougher task. Each “compulsion loop” can feed another in this way, generating minute-to-minute and hour-to-hour goals. E.g. I want to collect 10 relics in Far Cry 3 tonight (short task requiring exploration) OR I want to unlock 2 new signature weapons (longer task requiring 100 relics). Players can set the scope of their goal for differing play sessions this way. Levels should accommodate immediate goals for players as well as long term goals. Level Design Practice Arena The term “arena” refers to a specific area within a level where the player will encounter some kind of challenge, event or obstacle. Arenas are non-linear spaces, meaning they offer players multiple options in combat and opportunities to explore the environment. They can also include sandbox elements that allow players to formulate unique, tactical opportunities and multiple ways to complete objectives. Arenas can be quite large but have well-defined perimeter borders. Players should always have a decent sense of the scope of the arena upon entering it, even if some parts are obscured from sight. Arenas are generally pro-active gameplay spaces. The player will have an opportunity to choose when to enter combat and can dictate the pacing and flow more than a reactive space. Fronts A “front” is generally a location in a level where an individual or group of faction members establish a foothold. Usually this is in direct defense of the players primary goal, but it is advisable to change up the fronts of battle (or battlefronts!) during a combat sequence to keep the encounter fresh and keep the player moving. Directed Sequence A “Directed Sequence” is a linear space that usually includes a moment of scripted gameplay that the player must engage in. These can include set pieces, forced combat encounters, cinematics or on-rails sections. Directed Sequences are reactive and can be used to control the pacing and flow of key moments in the campaign more tightly than arenas. Exotic Gameplay Exotic Gameplay describes any sequence of gameplay that is not part of the core mechanics set. These might be sections developed exclusively for a single level or section of a level. Exotic Gameplay can provide an immersive, cinematic setpiece to the player within a controlled environment that does not hamper or imbalance existing core gameplay mechanics. Non-Linear Design Illusion of Non-Linearity Sometimes even splitting a single corridor in two can give a space the illusion of non-linearity. Simple decisions such as this keep the player engaged with the level and exploring new options. Verticality Arenas are not restricted to a single plane and vertical routes can be used to gain strategic advantages in combat. These routes are empowering and keep the play space interesting and dynamic, but can also introduce imbalance to an encounter quickly. If a level features a vertical route, AI should be able to reach any area the player can reach. Even slight variations in terrain height can keep a level interesting. Any pathways leading to higher sections must be readable however, as multi-tier levels can quickly become noisy. Vantage Points Vantage Points are elevated locations in an arena that give players key, tactical advantages by providing an overview of the area. Example of vantage point in Far Cry 3 Overview – The player can get a good initial idea of the arena, its scope and its contents. Observe – The player can see any AI in the scene doing something. (Patrolling, talking, working). They can also see their objective. (The next doorway, the switch, the kill target, the kill targets room etc). Also observable are sandbox elements the player can harness within the arena. Plan – The player can formulate a plan of action based on the intel they gathered from a vantage point. Execute – The player leaves the vantage point to execute their plan. Execution does not always go according to plan, however, and so the arena is designed for dynamic play styles instead of a strict execution method. Reward – The player is rewarded. Rewards can take the form of equipment and currency OR story information, a cool cutscene or wow moment! Linear Design When is it ok to be linear? There are occasions where linear design is preferred for gameplay, pacing or technical reasons. Directed Sequences See above. Exotic Gameplay See above. Valves Valves are corridors that connect two areas of a level. They can be used to stream one area out and the next one in. Backgating Backgating is the process of disallowing a player to return to the area they just left. g. forcing the player to fall down a steep drop. Closing and locking a door behind them etc. Exposition A linear section of a level is useful for delivering key story information that is pertinent to the player. Composition Linear sections can ensure the player is facing a certain direction if the designer wants to frame an event or vista for the player to observe. Experiential When it enriches the gameplay experience designers may want to include a linear path through an area. g. shimmying across a ledge, walking through a crowd, crawling through a tunnel. Cover Cover for FPS battles is generally split into two categories: Hard Cover and Soft Cover. Hard Cover Hard Cover is any solid object in the gameplay area that the player can use to block incoming fire and break line of sight. It offers complete protection from projectiles. Examples include concrete barriers, walls and pillars. Soft Cover Soft Cover is any object that obscures the player’s profile and can be used to hide from enemies or distort their perception of the player. This cover does not protect the player from projectiles however. Examples include cloth, vegetation, wood and glass. When a player enters a combat scenario they must be able to immediately identify the cover available to them in the area. Consistency in cover through metrics will play a huge role in being able to identify what will protect the player and what won’t. Cover should ideally sit around half-height or full-height. Players become frustrated when attempting to take cover behind an object that still leaves part of their profile exposed to incoming fire, especially if it results in death! If something looks like it should offer cover, then it should be the correct height. Spaces should have interesting cover layouts that include a mix of this full and half-height cover. Cover should be used to block long lines of sight in a level and promote “flow”. Soft cover can also be used to this effect, but players will sometimes expect to move through soft cover (if it’s tall grass, a bush or a breakable wooden crate) instead of around it. This can open up more risky/stealthy routes for players to utilise. Cover should never be scattered around a level at repetitious, consistent intervals. Not only does this create too much visual noise and chaos, it also hinders pathfinding for AI and causes a lot of snagging for players, restricting flow. Cover should instead be “clustered” into interesting groups and placed strategically. The space between cover is as important as the cover itself. Players should be forced to make risk/reward decisions about moving between cover locations. A dash between two cover objects can be an exciting choice as opposed to a monotonous chore. The cover should promote tactical, risk/reward movements across the battlefield and should not just be laid out in a column down the level. The term “rope swinging” is sometimes used to describe how the player moves between cover. Cover layouts should introduce opportunities for flanking tactics. No single cover object should be so overpowered that all attackers must attack it from the same direction. Players should require battlefield awareness to stay alive, as AI should be able to flank cover from multiple directions. Cover layouts should give players a chance to fall back or retreat when overextended. Players are still susceptible to death if they make poor choices, but a little leeway in the form of retreat routes helps keep the pace and flow of combat fluid. This also adds to the sandbox feeling of an arena, as challenges change over time and are never static. In an arena, cover layouts should promote non-linearity within a confined space. If the player only has a limited amount of cover to use, the space will feel very restrictive regardless of how large the environment might be. By planning multiple routes and vantage points through a space, these areas feel less linear and much more open. Cover should be used to guide players around the level, much like a multiplayer level, and promote traversal and exploration. However, in this way cover layouts can also be used to create a specific narrative experience, so knowing how to utilise the mechanics of your game to create these moments is important. Sandbox Gameplay Player Agency In level design, a sandbox space is one which provides players with a greater extent of player agency. The player should have many tools available to them to make meaningful choices with regards to combat and objectives. There should rarely be one, singlular, scripted method to completing an objective and instead the player should utilise emergent game rules to accomplish objectives however they want. Delivering this level of player agency requires a holistic design where game mechanics never have a singular bespoke purpose, and instead can be used in as many ways as the player can imagine. The properties of a mechanic should be modelled to interact with as many other mechanics as the player expects. E.g. A blow torch can be contextually restricted to only open sealed doors OR it can be used to open any sealed doors AND burn paper AND burn wood AND damage enemies etc Readable, Consistent Mechanics By creating consistent rules within levels, players will learn the language of the game through repeated interactions with each mechanic. By modelling realistic properties within each asset/mechanic, players can utilise them however they want and expect each asset/mechanic to react accordingly (affordance). Players entering a new space will recognize familiar mechanics, allowing them to make more informed tactical decisions and formulate unique strategies. Players will be able to personalize their play styles, which is why it is crucial to develop features that work within a holistic environment. Any elements in a play space that are too bespoke will deny players the ability to personalize their experience. Levels should try to accommodate a high first-try success rate for player actions. This doesn’t mean the game should be easy! The challenge for players is formulating a tactic or solution, but executing the tactic once they’ve figured it out should not be frustrating. For example, if the player needs to drag a crate from one end of a level to another, the crate should fit down the corridor without having to snag over objects or frustratingly snag on walls. This could lead the player to believe the solution they thought they had figured out isn’t actually the correct one. Interior Spaces Flanking Any combat spaces should enable the player AND AI to flank one another. Interiors are a great way to accomplish this. Interiors should ideally have more than two entry points to keep players on their toes and watching their corners. Crossfire Crossfire keeps action interesting. Plan for areas where players and AI can establish “fronts” or bunkers. Height variation and verticality can be used to keep these spaces diverse. Cover Interiors are one of the most obvious areas of cover for players. Take advantage of this by rewarding players for exploring interiors with ammo or new routes inside. AI should always be able to flank, ambush or flush a player out of an interior. This will keep the action flowing around the level and keep combat feeling diverse as well as emergent. Exploration Interiors can hold rewards inside them that benefit players who explore each environment. New sandbox toys could be hidden inside or telegraphed with exterior geometry, enticing players to venture in. Break Up Linear Spaces Interiors are a great way to break up an environment. Ensure players who enter an interior space have two or more ways to exit it. Source: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/my-level-design-guidelines/ Follow Michael Website: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/ Twitter: twitter.com/MotleyGrue 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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. Elevation Modulation One of the most important things to remember when making a map. You always need variation in the Z axis. If you ever find yourself with a long, straight walkway or corridor, consider changing it to ramps up and down. If you can cut down the line of sight so that people aren't fighting from miles away, it's probably a good thing. Also think about platforms that are "looking out" at each other. If there's a line of sight between them, you'll probably want to put them at different Z heights. You want to make sure that your level is played in 3 dimensions, not 2. Make sure that your elements have some wrap-around. Wrap-around is when a path interacts with itself by ramping up or down, then circling back over itself. A great example is on Damnation. If you're at sniper by pipes, you can go up pink tunnel, circle upwards, and end up peering out on top of the pipe.Also, one of the best things you can add to a map to increase skilled game-play is a ramp that is exposed on its lengthwise side. Shooting somebody whose strafe takes them both left-right AND up-down is much more difficult. An excellent example is standing in front of a base on Onslaught looking at somebody who is moving up towards top A or B. You've probably noticed how difficult that battle is, and it's not just because of the elevation.As a final note, you should think about elevation in several ways. Firstly, you can use it to give one area a height advantage if you wish. As a corollary, you can use ramps to give one pathway an advantage by making them particularly hard to shoot at on one axis. Secondly, you can use elevation to break up lines of sight that are too long, or boring. Finally, you can use it as a general technique to make geometry more interesting by having wrap-around.Walkway Continuity One less recognized piece of making maps is consistency. In every map you will have tunnels, walkways, or paths that take you here and there. It is important that you keep these walkways smooth and uninterrupted. Nothing ruins the look, feel and flow of a map more than failing to do this. There are a number of don'ts here.Don't make people jump. Let me re-iterate. Don't make people jump! It's bad map design. The only time you can break this rule is if you have a power-weapon or position that you want to make extremely dangerous. Examples are Chill Out's Rocket spawn and Wizard's top center. Outside of this type of conscious decision, the map should smoothly move up and down to where it needs to go. It will help you in the long run if you are forced to fit ramps between various areas, because it will likewise force you to keep good distance between your map elements. Don't lie dumpsters next to every box-height platform. A dumpster jump-up is by definition a piece of un-continuous walkway. If you want to let people up to a place, make a ramped walkway to it. People should be jumping from continuous element to continuous element in a perhaps unforeseen connection.Keep the walking space the same. Remember, we're talking about walkways, not rooms. In a room, it's fine to condense the movable area as you move to the edges by adding doorways that channel people through. But if you have a walkway, which by definition connects you to different parts of the map, its width should stay constant. Don't randomly widen it and then contract it without good reason, because you create hiding spots and bad aesthetics. A strong width for a walkway is, conveniently, the width of a box. For a more treacherous walkspace, bridges are fine. Try not to modulate straight between these two widths, because the result looks sloppy. Let them each be their own surface that is continuous until it meets a larger area. A good example is on Mecro. Notice how the Rocket S Curve is bridge length, but garage (under window panels) has a box length walkway. To resolve, there is a much wider lookout hole that is wider than both.Tight Corners Tight turns and corners are a no-no. The most you should be doing is 90 degrees at a time, and if you are turning 90 degrees, it's preferable to do it with a bit of space around you and not in a tight corridor. One of the most frustrating areas in the game is from Snipe 1 of Guardian up to Snipe ramp. How many times has some infuriating melee battle occurred there? In general, soft turns should be used to keep people out of short range, the same way elevation is used to break long range. Lockdown and Midship do this well. We've already talked a bit about this before, by saying you shouldn't widen corridors without good reason. We'll talk about it much more in a second.Chunky and Technical The hardest concept to understand, the easiest to identify if you're experienced. Beyond all other pointers, if you can grasp this idea then it will guide your element design the best. The best existing forge that exemplifies this is Xyience (Reflux). The best Bungie map that exemplifies this (indeed, the best Bungie map period) is Damnation. K, here we go.When making a map and its elements, you want to keep the geometry either chunky or technical. What the hell does that mean? Let's break it down. We've said we want to avoid tight corners, and we want to keep walkways consistent. We've said we want good elevation modulation. We also want to keep things simple. Adding too many paths interacting makes it too confusing to play, and skill gets lost in confusion even for great players. When we say we want to make a map's geometry chunky, we refer to the ratios of its walkway widths and heights, the lines of sight, and the walkway continuity and elevation all at the same time. Essentially, we don't want random crap littered through the map.Make maps, not clutter. There is no such thing as "adding cover" in the way that most people think about it. You can add cover in the sense that you can cut off lines of sight by walling something off, or making a window or railing. But adding cover to an open area should not be done. Your level is your cover. That's why we say that things should be chunky. Geometry should be substantial and looming. Its wrap-around should encompass your view and define your movement. It is not just some stuff in your way.When your chunky map structure is made, with large pieces creating soft angles, elevation changes, and comfortable flat areas where you can catch your breath and look around, your next step is quite different but very subtle. The other half of making the map is the wispy technical pieces. This does NOT mean sticking signs in the ground, or blocking half of a walkway with a door. We already know the latter is wrong because it interrupts walkway continuity. When you're doing this, think about Damnation's central area which has narrow girders that connect the chunky top walkway and above shotgun areas. The wispy part of your map is what we're calling technical.The technical pieces of your map should very rarely be open on one end. Almost always, they should connect a ceiling and a floor, or two adjacent platforms. Technical elements are so-called because they require highly technical play to use them correctly. The map cannot be totally covered or made from these elements, because as we said above, the player needs a breather. The general map structure should be simple but elegant. The pieces should strongly define where you can see and where you can't, and define where you must go to see certain parts of the map. Technical pieces are things like thin columns and narrow walkways. You can use them in high-risk or high-traffic areas to break things up and separate the men from the boys. A great situation for a BR fight is to be fighting around a pillar that is just barely wider than a player. This is why Warlock was a good 1v1 map - it had lots of technical fights because of all of the narrow columns. Think also (you guessed it) of Damnation. By angling yourself you can use the column as cover when the enemy fires, then open the FOV for your firing. Great players can put even good players to shame in this environment, and you get some amazing 1 on 1 battles this way. If the wispy elements are horizontal instead of vertical, they can act as a difficult walking surface. It should not be a common path that always needs to be used, but rather a place that if you could maneuver well, you could cause some damage. Think big window on Chill Out - easy to fall off, dangerous to be on, not necessary for flow, but delicately powerful when used correctly. A more current example is the columns used on Xyience, along with the two walls right above the OS spawn. A common area of battle using thin geometry. If you've ever played Zanno's Greenhouse, the courtyard makes great use of columns to make OS battles interesting.Source: https://www.forgehub.com/threads/nastys-tips-on-good-map-design.45539/
  11. IntroductionThe following is a recap of an article from David Ballard that was posted on 80 Level. Follow the link at the end of this post for the full article. In this article, David walks us through his multiplayer level design process. David explains that he had originally build for co-op play. Representation of the PlayerIn order to be able to understand the players will feel and interact inside a play space, it's critical to put yourself in digital shoes. From there, you must understand and support the overall conceptual goals and approach of the game you're designing for. Blocking Out the General SpaceAt the Blockout stage, David worked on things like geometrical focal points, movement options, and scaling. He started off with a drawing, and made adjustments as needed as he transitioned it into a 3D world. Making AdjustmentsAs is always the case in a collaborative environment, it's critical to be flexible, and able to develop creative alternatives quickly. Adding Assets to the LevelIt's time to get fancy. After plenty of playtesting and iterating, David's next step was to begin adding assets. ConclusionFinally, the level is complete. David looks back at the rewards and lessons that came of it. Source: https://80.lv/articles/the-last-of-us-multiplayer-level-design-process/Follow DavidSite: http://www.davidgballard.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/DBalArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/dbal
  12. Next Level Design has been given permission from the author to host this entire book in PDF format. Download the attached PDF at the bottom of this article for the entire book, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70zStill not sure? Read through this section on lighting that was recently posted on Next Level Design: In addition, we've included another small section of the book right here: pg. 25 INTRODUCTION Due to games’ ever-increasing complexity and the expanding nature of levels in general, it can certainly be said that levels are not easy to design. Levels, as said before, are combinations of dozens of different aspects, the conglomeration of which render them complex by nature. This combination of complex systems itself requires good design from the start in order to avoid an inconsistent and downright messy result. Because the different aspects are so interdependent, it’s very important not to lose sight of a level’s ‘big picture’. This chapter highlights some of the issues that can pop up when designing a level, as well as some more minor aspects to keep in mind. The overall design is the foundation for a level. Without a clear, strong design, there is no solid base on which to build the level. THE CREATION OF A NEW WORLDThe most important part of a successful level is its beginning. The way a level starts will determine a great deal about how the rest of the level will evolve and how quickly. In these days of growing complexity, efficiency and speed are valued highly. Getting off to a bad start or using bad work methods can cost time which is usually at a premium to begin with. Part of starting a good design is foreseeing potential problems before anything is created. By doing this early in the process, a good level designer can quickly and easily modify the design to better fit the available time, workload, difficulty, technical limits, or all of the above.How one begins a new level is different for every person. One designer may write everything down in a design document while another, like me, just plans it out in their head. The method used also depends upon if one is working in a team environment. Working with a team means that the level’s design must be communicated throughout the team which usually means some sort of written, drawn, or quickly modeled design that can be passed around and/or presented. How it’s done isn’t important as long as several key aspects are kept in mind and the end product is of a sufficient quality. If the technology used cannot create lush jungles, for example, then this must be recognized before starting.A design should progress only when exactly what is wanted and how to accomplish it is known. Exact information is the key to this. Again using the jungle example, one must know what the jungle will look like, the colors it uses, the overall style, how the player will move through it, if the engine can render thick vegetation, what kind of physics will be involved, and too many more to list here.To assist in this task, I have developed a type of checklist that is at the base of everything I design. The list compares several key values against each other to see if they are possible and if they should be modified. It also helps define the values better. The list checks to see if the rules of, for example, lighting and composition are contrary to each other and if the goal is possible and what direction to take. This extensive chapter will mostly be about the latter.A level is complex and it takes increasingly more time and effort to successfully complete one; thus failure is not an option. All the areas that could potentially cause a problem should be identified before starting any work. Once the design process starts it should go smoothly; design dilemmas should not occur or, if they do, should be easily overcome with few modifications to the overall plan. Getting stuck can be very demoralizing and time consuming. pg. 26THE CHECKLISTA level always begins with a goal, a theme, or both. The goal may be that the game requires a medieval castle, or that it’s missing an ominous environment, or that the level is to be the central hub of the game.After identifying the basic idea, certain key information needs to be pinned down before starting the level. This ‘key information’ will be referred to as ‘the keys’. The keys communicate important properties about the level. They are the key words the level is built around and provide more information on the level’s requirements.The following are questions to determine the key information for the level-to-be: • (1-Time) How much time is there available? Is there a deadline? • (2-Tech) What tools and game engine will be used? • (3-Limitations) What limitations are there? Is there a shortage of art assets or staff/personal skill limit? Can anything be made or are some aspects beyond the scope of the project because of their complexity? • (4-Requirements) What kind of requirements are there? Are there any specific elements, for example, special buildings or areas that have to be in the level? When compared to the rest of the game what visual style or theme must the level adhere to? • (5-Purpose) What is the overall purpose? For example, is it a multiplayer practice level or a singleplayer boss arena? • (6-Gameplay) What should the gameplay be like? How should it be played? Should there be enough room for a large boss encounter? Or does it need to be large enough to contain a large number of enemies attacking the player? Perhaps it’s a vehicle level? Or it is a stealth level? And so on. • (7-Theme) What theme and/or style will the level have? Will it be a castle or a jungle? Will the style be cartoonish or realistic?This is all essential information for a level. The order of the list is not as important as the answers. Once the essential elements of the level have been identified it can be run through a checklist to see if it holds up. Will it work? Look right? Play right?The keys provide the information while the checklist determines if it is possible or not. The checklist combines two or more keys in order to determine if they fit together or not. If the desired theme is a jungle, but the engine can’t handle rendering dense vegetation, then these are two keys that do not fit together and the design will need to be adjusted accordingly. This is the type of information the keys provide: essential information that design decisions can be based on before actually starting work on a level. Thinking ahead is the key to success.The checklist itself is a system for asking questions and making comparisons. The questions are different each time, but the comparisons remain the same. Verify that the individual elements compliment each other.Here's the entire Table of Contents: Download the attached PDF below, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70z *The Hows and Whys of Level Design is hosted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: http://www.hourences.com/Portfolio: http://www.hourences.com/portfolio/Twitter: https://twitter.com/HourencesYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Hourences/feed The Hows and Whys of Level Design.pdf
  13. Curious about what it means to design for the mechanics of a game? You're in the right place, because you're about to get a look into the mindset of the Gears of War level designers. This 'guide' was intended to be a tool for the community to understand how to think when designing maps for the game. Overview: THE “FRONT” THE “VISIBLE FLANK” “FUZZY COVER” LEVEL FLOW AND “LURES” COVER CONSTRUCTION AND PLACEMENT SCALE APPROACH GIMMICKS AND HOOKS VISUAL CLUTTER CONCLUSIONS FINAL THOUGHTS Overview We’re excited about the community interest in making multiplayer maps for Gears of War once the editor becomes available. We thought we’d share what we’ve found works and doesn’t work when designing multiplayer maps for Gears of War. This isn’t a technical “how to use Unreal Ed” doc, but rather a high level design doc specifically for Gears multiplayer maps. We weren’t sure if we were even going to include MP in Gears simply because it is very easy to make a bad Gears map, and it took us a long time to figure out the “rules” that make MP maps worth playing. We don’t want the community to have to “reinvent the wheel”, and hopefully this doc will save both designers and players from a bunch of frustration. Every “rule” below can be (and has been) broken, and indeed doing so will often create something interesting or unique. Just be aware of the basics and decide consciously that you are going outside the lines rather then stumble blindly ahead. I would caution a designer against disregarding more than one or two of these in a given map until they understand the repercussions of the various facets discussed below. The ‘fun factor’ of a Gears map can be a house of cards, so be careful when you bump it! So without further ado, here they are in no particular order: THE “FRONT” The most important gameplay factors in Gears are the narrow field of view and restricted rotation rates. It’s like being inside the Batman suit from the original Tim Burton movie. While technically limiting the player, this is also a major reason why Gears feels intimate, as it allows the enemy on screen to be substantially larger and more visible, and it generates tension and vulnerability. With this in mind, it becomes very important that both teams have a “front” or common direction an enemy is likely to come from. Players need to be able to line up on some cover with your squad and concentrate fire. A random, sprawling arena with no clear directional structures results in enemies coming from any direction, and cover use becomes a burden instead of a benefit because it generally only works in one direction. Since the player is essentially looking through a cardboard tube, they need to know where to look, because scanning the environment is difficult and will blow the pacing of your map. The shapes and positioning of your cover can play a big part in defining a front. Set up obvious defense areas and give them a facing that makes their intended use clear to anyone who sees it. Use walls or impassable areas to funnel players through the regions you've defined as combat areas. A clear example of this is the map “Escalation”, where teams start at the top and bottom of a giant linear staircase. From either spawn position, the player immediately knows which direction the threat will be approaching from. There’s room for lateral movement and flanking along the front, but the general facing is always there. THE “VISIBLE FLANK” The Holy Grail moments we look for in Gears playtest sessions come when a flank intentionally happens, it’s fairly earned, and it’s effective and rewarding to execute. The player’s visibility as discussed above plays a huge role in making this happen, especially the bit about being “fair” and not random. When players die, they need to feel like it was through a decision of their own making, and not the designer’s cheap trick or oversight. Players are just fine with dying if they're learning from their experience, or as a result of smart play by opponents, and not just feeling like a victim. Picture a level made of many tight rooms all connected with random doors. This is a breeding ground for what is absolutely the most frustrating scenario you can give your players. You’re in cover engaged with an enemy, and out of nowhere someone steps out of the doorway behind you and blasts you with the shotgun point blank. You didn’t have a chance to see him coming, you didn’t have a chance to react, and our lethality means that you have little chance of surviving… you were a victim of a random car crash and your decision making had little to do with the outcome. You’ll giggle about this once if you’re the guy with the shotgun, but the guy you shot will most likely never play your map again, or possibly never play Gears again (choosing instead to spend his time ranting about how overpowered the shotgun is). Do us a favor and avoid this, will ya? But, how do you avoid this? If you take nothing else from this document, take this. A player who is paying attention should always have a chance to see an enemy attempting to flank them, and have a chance to react. Instead of using standard walls for most of your level’s structure, consider using low impassable areas, crevices, or at least put many gaps in your walls to allow an observant player a chance to see what’s going on in the next area. Flanking someone should involve more than a split second roadie run or evade to the side, it should be a deliberate action and ideally require a bit of risk or exposure to pull off (picture a high ground flanking area, but with little cover or no good escape route). “Gridlock” is the clearest example of this concept. With the abundance of low cover, lines of sight are running all over the map, allowing a good player to constantly be aware of enemy positions and potential flanks. “Mausoleum” deviated from this substantially, and as a result players can often feel vulnerable from the rear and flanks as unseen enemies scatter through the map. “FUZZY COVER” Players need to feel safe in cover. They need to be able to recognize useful cover at a glance before moving to it, and cover needs to behave predictably because players don’t want to experiment in the middle of a firefight. When cover doesn’t fill these needs, we call it “Fuzzy Cover”. Examples of fuzzy cover are foliage, chain link fences, railing where bullets could pass through the holes, short cover with sloped sides that result in parts of the player being exposed, pillars you can take cover on that are too narrow to actually protect you from fire, small alcoves the player can’t actually fit into, etc. Cover needs to be viable for protection, or scaled down so as to remove it as a safe option from the player’s mind. If you’re hell bent on making a fancy grating or railing, find a way to put something behind it so it is still viable cover for players, but you still have your visuals intact. Fuzzy cover can also come in the form of solid cover that is positioned in a way that someone can easily be sniped out from behind it. For example if it’s likely that an enemy will be firing on a cover piece from a particular angle, arrange the cover as perpendicular to that position as possible, making it as clear as possible which cover is intended to be used in each likely combat situation. “TrainStation” did this well, with most cover coming from simple geometric structures that a player can clearly recognize as potential cover. “Mansion” contains some fuzzy cover on the interior areas, where columns and railings often result in players believing they’re safe, when they’re really not. LEVEL FLOW AND “LURES” The reachable path area, or “flow” of a Gears map is not nearly as large and complex as you might see in a game like Unreal Tournament. But this can make the flow and general layout of a Gears map that much more important. Players should be able to “get” your map within a match, or maybe two. We don’t have the kind of mobility many games have, so don’t expect the player to explore your map thoroughly before they realize how you expect them to play it. Often, a Gears map when viewed from above will be as simple as a figure 8 or an H shape. Plan your flow out in advance, and don’t overcomplicate this step. Gears isn’t about zipping around a circuitous map timing powerup respawns. Most of the real “layout” of a Gears map happens on a smaller combat scale within the branches of your overall flow. Something we do have in common with levels from other shooters though, is the concept of using lures to move the action around the map. Two to four super weapons placed strategically in a map will definitely affect how the map plays, and this can be used to aid long term replayability of a map. A lure could also be a key cover structure, or a powerful flank position, or a scripted object like a button that triggers an event. Also, a good combat arena can often work from several angles. A map such as Gridlock will often see a firefight rotate in orientation, occupying the same space, but with action happening on a different axis. Lastly, look at your map and think about the verticality of it. With our selectively limited methods of moving up or down these height changes, you can use these differences in depth to force a flow around your map without resorting to tall walls. But there are some big ramifications to Z-axis differences on combat. Having high ground on someone will often negate low cover and also increases visibility. Higher ground gives you a combat advantage and you need to build in a tradeoff unless you plan on them being all powerful from their position. Also, you’ll have to adjust cover height and thickness to deviate slightly from the normal standards when trying to fire over a low-cover barrier at an enemy below. “Shallow” used lures and flow to great effect. The sniper rifles on the side bridges and explosive weapons in the central areas keep players moving around the various paths and make that movement meaningful. “Gridlock” is a more open arena feel with less defined traditional flow, but lures are still used heavily to turn the open arena action into something more tactical. “Rooftops” suffered from the lack of central flanking opportunities, and never quite came together because of this. COVER CONSTRUCTION AND PLACEMENT Cover is the meat and potatoes of any Gears map. While variation and experimentation is important, here are a few good general guidelines. In general, low cover is better than tall cover. Picture a wall in the middle of your combat area; you have only the corners to interact with. You can move between the extents of the surface and even manually crouch at the edges, but generally your interactions are limited to the ends of the wall. With walls you’re also greatly limiting player visibility and separating the player from all the action going on over the wall. If you lower the wall you’ve drastically increased the options for the player. They are now aware of things going on over the wall and can be on the lookout for flanks and enemy movement. They can pop up and shoot from anywhere along the wall, giving them far more choices in firing positions. They can stay crouched and feel sneaky as they maneuver for a better shot. And of course they can mantle over the wall. As soon as they start moving along a high wall they are detached and simply traversing the map, but with a low wall they’re still fully involved in the match. Don’t overcomplicate your specific cover pieces. Gears' cover system allows for some pretty creative cover node layouts; take it easy on this stuff. It may seem novel to build a castle wall with alternating high and low cover, but trust me, the amount of control confusion and transition animations this generates quickly becomes obnoxious to players trying to use your fancy wall. Well placed cover should facilitate the “platform game” type movement of cover slipping and swat-turning from cover to cover. Try to move through your map as a test while minimizing your time out of cover and see if you can “jungle swing” through your map. Also try roadie running through it for times when you’ll need to traverse the map quickly, and look for sticky points. Lastly, avoid cover crowding. Cover should never feel like something obtrusive that you're stumbling around. Cover is placed to facilitate ranged combat, but overpopulate an area and you actually have the opposite effect, giving people the ability to close on each other with impunity, devolving the game into shotguns and chainsaw dancing. You need a "no man's land" between cover positions, or the cover itself loses its importance. Those open areas devoid of cover are dramatic dashes just waiting to happen. They give players interesting decisions to make and also increase the importance of mobility and roadie runs. “Depot” has about the right balance of cover and movement. Most clusters of cover have stretches of vulnerability between them, which facilitates ranged combat and clever flanking. “Mausoleum” is an example of a map with crowded cover. Dense tombstone clusters fit the flavor of the map, but movement through key combat areas often feels clunky and restricted. SCALE Bigger is not always better. Before you design a map with 5 separate large combat areas, you need to realize the value of a tighter environment. There are two aspects of scale here: literal size of map, and gameplay space. Literal scale first. We made core gameplay tradeoffs to get the enemies big on your screen (slower movement speed, weapon effectiveness over distance, etc…) to avoid shooting at 4 pixel tall enemies from a half mile away. You should take this into account with your map and keep combat reasonably close. Gears is simply not designed for sniping at enemies on the other side of a desert – it’s fun in some games, but it’s not likely to be fun in Gears regardless of your preferences. Keep the combat distances at ranges close enough that an enemy may be a threat if they decide to charge in, but far enough away that you should be able to stop a charging chainsaw monkey before he could reach you. You should ideally be able to see hit impacts on an enemy clearly from one cover area to another. Then there’s gameplay space. Your players need to be playing in the same map and not branched off doing their own thing. A parking garage might be an example of too much gameplay space. Players may technically be close as they’re engaging each other, but you don’t want to have to search 5 floors for an enemy to shoot, especially when most gametypes have dead players spectating, watching you hunt for the last enemy. Pick a single primary combat region, and if there’s an outlying area of your map that isn’t relevant to what’s going on in that central area, consider deleting it… you’re probably only fragmenting your combat instead of trying to get everyone involved in one common experience. You want all your players to be relevant to each other, you want them close enough to influence the action, and you don’t want players running an extended side mission to get a grenade you cleverly placed 3 blocks away. Almost all of our maps had a central combat area measuring around 4000 unreal units wide. Some maps, such as “RavenDown” used a much tighter scale to give the map a unique feel, but such a deviation will dominate the design of your play area. APPROACH While it might not seem that important to the bulk of the combat in a map, the initial approach to a map from the spawn area has three effects on the map as a whole. Of primary importance is having a line of visibility to areas enemies are likely to enter the map from. Even though this view is far enough away that combat is probably ineffective, it’s incredibly useful to be able to tell “Hey, 3 guys went high, 1 guy’s going for the Boomshot! It’s like seeing the “play” unfold that the enemy team is calling and allows you to adjust your tactics for the round. The initial approach can establish a good deal of the feel of the map and offer potential path choices to the teams. Players will generally take this opportunity to take a few shots at the opposing team if they can see them, and even though it’s not going to kill anyone from so far out, it greatly enhances the feeling of drama as the round opens and everyone is roadie running forward under distant fire. It also serves as a nice breather between rounds. If you were the last one to die in the previous round, you’ll probably appreciate the 3-5 seconds to collect your thoughts and think about what to try next while you’re running into the next fight. Most of our maps start with a lengthy area for roadie running until enemies are encountered. Maps like “Gridlock”, “WarMachine”, and “Depot” have such long view distances that they reward the observant players who can see which direction the enemies scatter to once they leave the spawn areas. GIMMICKS AND HOOKS How will people remember your map? You want people to play it again, so what makes your map stand out from others? You need a hook, a theme, a gimmick, something identifiable to players. This doesn’t have to be a heavy-handed overriding visual element such as a map on the extended hand of a giant monkey statue. Nor does the gimmick have to dominate the gameplay of the map. People aren’t likely to enjoy running around a dense minefield. The layout and gameplay need to stand on their own merit, but the hook gives the map something to cling on to. This could be a central visual landmark such as a series of arches stretching across the map, or perhaps it’s really windy and some debris rolls by periodically amongst the audio cues for wind gusts, or maybe it is a gameplay gimmick such as a ticking bomb in the center of the map. Whatever you’ve done to tie your map into the player’s consciousness, bring that into the name of the map as well. MP-Guordiosa, or MP-Dianima, or MP-Twjfslaek… those don’t mean anything. The may be neat and remind you of your first dog or your favorite D&D character, but to the players who download maps and try to keep them organized in their heads they mean nothing and earn you no love. That map name is prime advertising real estate. Make sure it sells your level, provides useful info, and is simple and memorable. No one ever says “let’s play that Gears map with the big mansion in it… what was that called?” The giant train passing through the “TrainStation” map is a great example of a gimmick that doesn’t dominate the gameplay and yet gives the map a unique and memorable quality. “ClockTower”, while in theory getting its name from the structure in the center of the map, didn’t prove as memorable as it could have been. In retrospect it wasn’t likely players would be looking upward to notice the structure. VISUAL CLUTTER Unreal Tournament 2003 was when we first started to really pay attention to visual clutter issues. We wanted super detailed environments, but we weren’t careful about what we wished for... in no time we realized the difficulty in perceiving enemies or other important gameplay elements against intricate backgrounds. With Gears we started finding a balance, but it's almost entirely up to the judgement and restraint of the level designer to facilitate this. It's very easy to go overboard on mesh details in your world; you have to resist that urge. It's getting to the point where you can place as much meshwork as you want in a map for free; but what you're not suffering from on performance, you're paying for in playability. Here are some general tips. Use clearly different textures to contrast floor surfaces and walls, so a player can see a "floor plan" as they look around. Ideally cover should be textured to contrast as well. Use depth fog to help clarify the level's depth complexity (even an unlit level can be navigated with fog alone). Normal mapped simple flat surfaces still look fantastic. It's OK for a wall to just be a wall sometimes. Every surface doesn't have to be slathered in pipes, rubble, or random visual noise. Use lighting to guide players through your map. When you have an area with a specific exit like a door or arch, move to the far side of the room, squint at the screen and ask yourself if you can tell where the exit is. If the screen is a grey sea of muddy noise, use a contrasting light source in the exit to catch the player's eye. Contrary to that, if something catches your eye that isn't an exit or important feature, tone it back so as not to misdirect the player. When actively editing your map, place dummy character models around the map to use as a scale reference as well as a guide to see how the characters "pop" in your areas, and see how the light is affecting them. Place character-only lights in areas where enemies could use more clarity. Be careful with overly stylized post-processing settings. While they do a fantastic job of tying your scene together and uniting it visually, they can create a real challenge for the player as they try to distinguish friend from foe. Again, avoid placing any ancillary meshwork that might be confused as "fuzzy cover". CONCLUSIONS So there you go. These are the pillars of our cover-based level design to this day. These aren’t meant to limit your creativity -- deviating from these will be what gives your map a unique feel and that should absolutely be encouraged. Just keep these concepts in mind as you experiment, and use these as your “control” group. I think I speak for everyone at Epic when I say we can’t wait to see what you guys can do with the tools once they’re available. You guys are going to have so much fun working with this stuff, we all did. (Big thanks to Mike Capps, Cliff Bleszinski, Jim Brown, Dave Nash, Dave Ewing, and Dave Spalinski for their contributions to this doc, as well as all the content guys who helped us learn these lessons) FINAL THOUGHTS You don't necessarily have to be a great player to make a great map; most of the LDs here will get trashed playing against hardcore guys online at this point. But you should understand what makes the game fun to both new players and experienced players. Anyone designing layouts of maps here enjoy playing the game a great deal regardless of skill level, and the vast majority of people doing artwork in the maps are very fond of the game as well. It's a safe bet that most people making Gears maps are actually trying to make maps that play well, in the hopes that others will download and enjoy it. If you don't like the way Gears plays, you can still use the editor to do all kinds of cool stuff, especially with Kismet as a tool to prototype new game ideas. If you're purely interested in visuals, the editor can be a great sandbox as well, and if you get the hang of it you could easily land a job with a few gorgeous maps at many UE3 licensees who (trust me) are always look for good visual meshers. Source: https://api.unrealengine.com/udk/Three/GearsMultiplayerMapTheory.html
  14. Using F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2 as a reference point, Steve Gaynor shares his insights into what type of spaces make for good FPS encounters. It bears noting that this article focuses on a single player FPS experience. However, some of it is also most certainly applicable to mulitplayer encounters. Here are what Steve views at the primary elements of a good FPS space: Varied, Clustered Cover Circular navigability Observability 1. Varied, Clustered Cover: Variation in the forms of cover, and the spaces between them is one of the requirements. The idea is to create meaningful points of emphasis instead of an undifferentiated field of scattered, equally-useful cover nodes. 2. Circular navigability Players (and AI) should have the option of moving throughout an area in a circular fashion, rather than being forced to move in one of two directions. Circular arenas should give the player a multiplicity of options while keeping him wary of possible enemy flanking maneuvers, dynamics which are conversely defused by the binary flow of a linear hallway no matter how wide or cover-strewn. 3. Observability As a player initially approaches an area, they should have the ability to understand the space they're moving into, and be able to plan a general way of approaching it. Assessing a space for these high-level principles should lay a strong groundwork which can be further refined-- by line of sight tuning, strategic item placement, lighting readability-- to form the basis for an excellent encounter. Read the full article here, and share your views on it. Which parts do you disagree with? Where do you agree? What would you add to the list?
  15. The Forge Fundamentals articles will systematically review the fundamentals of constructing good maps, beginning at the idea stage, ending at a finalized map, and discussing everything that should be considered in between those two stages. The core concepts that will be discussed are essential aspects of any solid forge map, and should always be fresh in our minds. This series covers the following subjects: • Preplanning • Spawning • Cover • Flow • Weapons • Aesthetics • The Total Package Note: This is a series I wrote and released on Forgehub several years ago. I'm re-posting it here primarily to have it posted online at a site where I have complete control over it. The Forge specific info is mostly outdated, but the commentary on Gameplay in Halo maps is still relevant. Part 1 - Preplanning Let's start at the very beginning of the life of almost every great forge map - preplanning. Preplanning is an incredibly important part of designing a map which is, unfortunately, often overlooked. Preplanned maps tend to require fewer time-consuming changes in forge. Preplanning can help you increase your productivity as a map designer and improve the quality of your finished products. There are two main parts to preplanning great maps - generating ideas and developing an idea. Generating Ideas Ideas can be tough to come by - Sometimes they might come from places you've visited or want to visit, pictures, dreams. They might even appear in your mind without an obvious trigger. So, how can you go about creating an environment in which ideas can begin to bubble to the surface? One logical suggestion is to look at a lot of forge maps (Check out Forgehub Archives HERE). Another is to Look at maps from games other than Halo (Lvlworld, a Quake 3 mapping forum, is an excellent resource). You can always look to developer made Halo maps for inspiration as well. Taking a portion of a map that intrigues you and designing something completely different around it is a good exercise. Looking at buildings or at nature can often spark ideas. Taking a walk outside can help a lot - Something as simple as an interesting facade on a building or the curve of a road may be the beginning of a great map. Of course, there is also the World Wide Web. You can search through images of buildings constructed with different styles of architecture (there are numerous styles out there - check out Wikipedia's list HERE). Maybe even a tattoo or a mandala may lead to a moment of inspiration. Developing an Idea In my experience, there is a very strong correlation between how well developed an idea is prior to building, and the quality of the final product. Any time spent fleshing out an idea will be well worth it in the end. Once an intriguing idea for a map has arisen, a good next step is to figure out what the basic structure of the map will look like in a decent amount of detail. Ideally, the map should be planned with enough detail that a person who sees a sketch or model of it will be able to recognize the map once it's in Forge. It's not necessary to go to the lengths of deciding which forge pieces will be used to construct each portion of the map. Going into specifics such as that can actually hinder the developmental process. There are various ways to create conceptual designs, and the method that will work best may vary largely from person to person. Some people can visualize an entire map in their mind, while others require something physical to look at. If you're one of the former, well...lucky you. If you're one of the latter, then there are a few tools that can be utilized to help bring a map to life without placing a single block. Drawing rough sketches on graph paper is a common practice for many forgers - if you don't have graph paper on hand, you can always use Virtual Graph Paper. Freehand drawing can also work well, especially if you're artistic. However, If you really want to understand the ins and outs of what you're going to build, a 3D modeling program like Google Sketchup is highly recommended (You can download it HERE and mess around - it's free!). There are many guides online to help you learn how to use the program if you're unfamiliar with it (Sketchup's Official YouTube Channel is a great resource - it has a lifetime's worth of videos explaining Sketchup and the process of developing ideas, plus other cool design-related stuff). Of course, there is always the option of taking a basic idea and going right into forge to build it. There are both upsides and downsides of building maps this way - it's much easier to judge things like scaling and lines of sight when you're making a map in forge, but it takes much longer to move a wall or room in forge than it does on a piece of paper or a model. Another major downside of forging ideas straight from your brain is the risk of becoming overly attached to structures and becoming reluctant to make changes due to the time spent building them, even if it's for the better. It's generally not a good idea to jump right into forge and start building unless you can clearly visualize what you're going to make, and are absolutely certain you can do so without becoming attached to what you build. Regardless of which method is used to develop an idea, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind throughout the developmental process. Firstly, know what game types and player count the map will focus on. It's also a great idea to build areas meant for spawning into the geometry of a map. As the map is developing, it's wise to watch out for design flaws like scaling problems (Is the map too big or small to fit the desired player count? If so, should the map or the intended player count be altered?), poor lines of sight (can one area dominate all entrances to another?), too much or not enough cover (can a player get from point A to point B without being exposed to more than five angles on the map, and without awkwardly running around crates). These types of things can become plainly obvious when looking at a sketch or a 3D model. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Use the tools at your disposal to ferret out problems early on in the developmental process. Make thorough assessments as a map progresses, testing out various solutions based on feedback, and being willing to make the necessary adjustments.Making Adjustments This brings us to the final subject for this article, which any serious forger should be serious about - being open to constructive criticism. Viewing your map with an inflexible bias towards its current state, and being resistant to feedback as a result, almost guarantees mediocrity. It’s a good practice to spend more time analyzing what can be improved than admiring what's already good. Approaching forge with the right attitude can make all the difference in the world. A beginner with an open mind and the willingness to listen and learn can quickly attain the knowledge and skill necessary to build a better map than someone who is experienced but resistant to feedback. To make the most of feedback, view designs as flexible pieces of clay rather than solidified bricks. Part 2 - Spawning At first glance, placing spawns seems like a simple endeavor. Just place spawn points around the map, right? If only it were that easy. Sometimes poor spawning alone can mean the demise of a map. The goal of this article is to go over some of the fundamentals of creating an effective spawn system to maximize the potential of a competitive map. Starting Spawns When it comes to placing initial spawns, there are no absolutes . There are, however, some good guidelines that can be followed which have proven to work well. When placing initial spawn points, both teams should be placed on equal ground whenever possible. Spawning one team closer to a power weapon or power position than the other team can end up being the difference in who wins the game. On symmetrical maps, initial spawns should be placed in identical positions on either side of the map. On asymmetrical maps, starting spawn locations should be balanced, inasmuch as it's possible, taking into account things like power weapon placements, power position locations, and any other factors that may provide an advantage. Respawns The best location for a respawn point is in a relatively well protected area - placing them near or directly behind cover is always a good policy. A player should never spawn out in the open without the ability to reach a protected area before dieing. Giving players a fighting chance should be a top priority. The positioning of respawn points is not the only factor to consider - the orientation of spawns (which direction they face) is equally important. A player that spawns facing a wall can find it very disorienting. Anyone who has spawned looking at a wall, turned right and left in an attempt to ascertain their location, and then died before even having a chance to move should understand the importance of orienting respawn points correctly. Aiming spawn points so that players will spawn looking at main pathways or open areas of the map is of the utmost importance. There are many theories about how respawn points should be dispersed throughout a map. Those theories can range from using every respawn point available, to severely limiting the number of respawn points. There are many factors which may go into deciding which strategy is best for a particular map. A small 1v1 map obviously doesn't need over 250 respawn points on it. On the other hand, overly restricting the number of respawn points can result in spawning that is too easily punished. Respawn points should not be restricted to one or two sections of a map. As a general rule, in team games the majority of respawn points will be located in bases since they are generally more protected and allow players to respawn safely. However, an ample number of respawn points should also be placed in other areas of the map. Though this is probably an extreme example, if all of the respawn points on a map were located within bases, it could result in an unbreakable spawn trap. Spawn Zones There is much that could be written about spawn zones. Rather than attempting to go into great detail, this section will focus on covering some of the basics of the subject. On symmetrical game types like CTF (where each team is designated one side of the map) the best way to guarantee that each team will spawn on their side of the map is to put 3 identical spawn zones on each side, assigned to the team that should spawn on that side of the map. For some extra assurance, an Anti Spawn Zone can be placed on each side also, assigned to the team that should NOT spawn on that side of the map. On asymmetrical gametypes like Oddball, King of the Hill, and Extraction, it's often best to have no spawn zones at all. This means that players will not be restricted to spawning in particular portions of the map. Slayer is a unique case - the choice to setup a map with no spawn zones (dynamic spawning) or with sided spawns (static spawning) is often a matter of personal preference. On symmetrical maps, it's always a good idea to test both options and see which works best. Asymmetrical maps should almost always use Dynamic Spawning. There are additional ways to use Spawn zones also. As an example, if one or two respawn points on a map prove to be problematic, the easy solution is to delete them. However, another possible solution is to surround them with either an Anti or Anti-Weak Spawn Zone, which would allow those respawn points to remain on the map, but result in them being utilized less frequently. Part 3 - Cover Cover is an essential element of a good map. Properly implemented cover should allow players to spawn safely and move fluidly, while also contributing to the desired type of gameplay. There are numerous factors to consider when trying to ensure that the cover on a map works well. Lazy Cover vs. Structural Cover There are two main types of cover - lazy cover and structural cover. Lazy cover refers to any piece of cover that isn't a functional part of the structure of a map. Lazy cover generally serves only one purpose - providing cover. A random piece sticking out of the ground in the middle of an otherwise open area is an obvious example of lazy cover. The mohawks on Narrows and the crates on Solace could both be considered lazy cover. While lazy cover can be effective, and is often better than having no cover at all, it is far from ideal because it generally looks unnatural and often impedes natural movement. The second type of cover is 'structural cover'. Anything that is a functional part of the structure of a map and also provides cover qualifies as structural cover. There are many ways of implementing structural cover - angles or indentations in walls, changes in elevation, or doorways and pillars incorporated as part of an architectural theme can all provide cover on a map. Cover Influencing Immersion Forethought is necessary in order to successfully implement structural cover into a map. As a beginning forger, the tendency is to construct the basic layout of a map first, and then add cover afterwards. Maps constructed in this way are often filled with lazy cover, and lacking in structural cover. This can result in a map that looks like a bunch of pieces that were thrown together haphazardly. As a forger gains experience, there is generally a desire to make something more immersive. While making an immersive play space can seem daunting, structural cover can go a long way towards creating a sense of immersion because it makes a map feel and look more real. The ability to implement structural cover into a map is something that generally comes with experience. Whenever possible, structural cover should be built into a map during the preparation period rather than being added at the end of the process. The difference WILL be noticeable. Catering Cover to the Desired Gameplay Style When designing a map, it's helpful to keep in mind the type of gameplay it's intended to foster. If the gameplay will focus on close quarters combat (a lot of melee battles and short range weapons), then it should be designed with a lot of tight spaces and sharp corners. If the focus will be on long range battles, then there should be an abundance of long, open lines of sight. Most competitive maps focus on mid-range battles, since they are the type of battles that best test a players skill while reducing the effect of the built in randomness of weapons as much as possible. When the focus is on mid-range battles, a map should be constructed with that desired range in mind. If during the building process it becomes apparent that there is a line of sight that is too long, then the structure of the map needs to be adjusted to shorten that line of sight. There are many ways to incorporate structural cover to create mid range battles. If, for example, there is a long straight hallway, there a few ways to reduce the line of sight to the desired distance. The hallway can be angled or curved, or an elevation change can be implemented within the hallway. Either of these options will result in a better looking, better playing map than taking the easy way out and simply placing an object in the middle of the hallway to break up the long line of sight. In fact, placing blocks or pillars in the middle of main pathways is something that should always be avoided because they prevent players from being able to strafe freely. Cover should complement movement, not impede it. Part 4 - Flow "This map has really good flow." "The map just doesn't flow very well." These types of comments are frequently heard when discussing the merits of a map. What does 'flow' mean, and what can be done to create the elusive 'good flow'? Flow generally refers to the direction and pace of movement through a map. While there is no secret formula that guarantees a map will flow well, there are some good standards that can be followed. Player movement should be smooth The pace of play should be neither hectic nor stagnant Connections should be intuitive and have a clear purpose Power weapons and power positions should encourage players to constantly be on the move Movement There are 4 basic methods of movement in Halo - walking, jumping, taking a gravity lift, and teleporting. Each of them affects map flow differently. Teleporters can move players long distances in an instant. They can be effectively used to improve movement in areas where it's lacking, but they can also result in teleporter camping and leave players feeling disoriented if implemented improperly. It's generally best if teleporters are set up so that players exit moving the same direction they were going when they entered. The teleporter to top gold on the MLG version of Zealot is a good example of how not to implement a teleporter, as it is unintuitive and disorienting to exit a teleporter facing the opposite direction from which you entered. Also, a teleporter exit should have a clear path leading from it with plenty of room for players to maneuver - people shouldn't be left staring at a wall, unsure of where they are once they walk through. Silent vertical lifts can be created with one-way shield doors. The decision to use this style of lift instead of a regular gravity lift usually is a matter of personal preference, but there may be times where the presence or absence of a sound cue will have a clear impact upon flow. Tactical jumps (also called tac jumps, trick jumps, or jump ups) are another common type of movement option incorporated into maps. They are often quick but exposed routes to a higher elevation which offer a tactical advantage to a player. Tactical jumps can greatly benefit flow if used properly, but shouldn't be overused. They sometimes require players to stop moving horizontally in order to gain a vertical advantage, which can result in erratic movement. Therefore, tactical jumps should generally be a secondary means of movement to an area to throw off unsuspecting players, not the sole or primary means of movement to an area. The best method of movement is walking. Pathways that are designed for walking are frequently referred to as 'hard routes'. The main paths on a map should almost always be hard routes. Hard routes are optimal because they give players total control over their character. They result in smoother, steadier movement than the other options, while also producing more interesting battles. A battle where one player is traveling on foot and another player is traveling on a lift, for example, become repetitive since the movement of the player on the lift is very predictable. If the 4 types of movement were prioritized according to how frequently they should be used, the vast majority of a map's movement options should consist of hard routes, with the occasional tactical jump being implemented to add some depth to movement. Lifts should be used more sparsely, and teleporters should be the least used movement method. Connections Connectivity is another factor that determines how well a map flows. Both the number of connections and the way in which those connections are implemented should be taken into consideration. Too many connections (or routes) can create hectic, unpredictable gameplay, while too few can result in stalemates and slow gameplay. While having 3 routes into and out of each "area" of a map is a good standard to follow, there are certainly times where having more or less than 3 routes is the right decision. To decide how many connections should be in any given area, it's necessary to first know what purpose that area serves. Is it a flanking route? A flanking route through the middle of a map will often consist of numerous movement options, while one on the exterior of a map may offer a very limited number of options. Is it home to an objective? The ideal number of routes will vary greatly depending upon which type of objective it is, and where it is located on the map. For example, a 'neutral flag' location should generally be more accessible than a traditional CTF flag location. Is it a power position? Power positions can derive their power from a variety of attributes. The number of routes to an area is a significant factor in determining whether or not it works as a power position - too many ways to access a power position lessens its strength, while too few can result in it being overpowered. Power Positions and Power Weapons Power positions can have an enormous impact on how players move around the map. Clear power positions can offer a great incentive for players to move. However, a position that is too powerful becomes detrimental to flow, turning matches into a linear game of attacking and defending one position while the rest of the map lies nearly unused. The right balance encourages players to gravitate towards power positions, but also makes them challenging to maintain control of. A good example of a balanced power position is top mid on Wizard/Warlock. It offers the best lines of sight on the map and has a fair amount of cover. It's also difficult to stay alive there for very long. Power weapons are another element to be aware of. They are one of the biggest influences on player movement on any map. Placing them in the right positions and having them respawn at reasonable intervals can do wonders for map flow. The next article will cover the subject of power weapons more thoroughly. Until then, go with the flow. 😛 Part 5 - Weapons The subject of weapons is a broad one indeed. This article is going to focus primarily on power weapons and powerups, covering weapon spawning methods, respawn rates, and weapon positioning. Weapon Spawning Methods The three methods of spawning weapons are ordnance, drop spawn, and traditional placement. Traditional weapon placement entails simply dropping weapons onto a map. The main advantage of placing them this way is the ability to control the amount of ammo. A possible disadvantage is that it makes the respawn time of a weapon more difficult to predict. While traditional placement allows a forger to set the respawn rate for weapons down to the second, those weapons will respawn according to when they were picked up rather than at a static rate. If the respawn rate on a traditionally placed weapon is set to 2 minutes, it will respawn 2 minutes after it was previously picked up. This can be more confusing than having a weapon spawn every 2 minutes on the spot, and can potentially create a cascading advantage for the team that initially obtains the weapon. However, it could be argued that this rewards awareness and communication more than Ordnance or Drop Spawns do. Drop Spawning is the third weapon spawning method. To setup a drop spawned weapon, hold it in mid air and set the physics to 'fixed'. After releasing hold of the weapon, highlight it by placing the selector over it (don't grab it) and press the X button to bring up the options menu. Change the physics back to 'Normal'. This will result in a weapon that spawns in the elevated position and then immediately drops until it hits a solid surface. When the weapon comes to rest, the game will register it as having been picked up. Drop Spawning has been commonly used for power weapons over the last few Halo titles. It offers the ammo count control of traditional placement and the respawn time consistency of Ordnance drops. Drop spawned weapons despawn very quickly in Halo 4 (as quick as 12 seconds in some cases), meaning that there is a decent chance that nobody will actually obtain a drop spawned weapon before it despawns. Power Weapon Respawn Rates How fast should a power weapon spawn? This is a difficult question to answer, and there are widely varying opinions on the subject. Many factors must be taken into consideration such as map size and player count, the total number of power weapons on the map, and the relative power of the weapons. Rather than discuss every possible scenario, let's go over some good general guidelines. The main purpose of placing power weapons on a map is to instigate confrontation between teams. Staggering power weapon spawn times increases the number of confrontations between teams. More frequent confrontations results in exciting, fast paced gameplay. In order to maximize the number of potential confrontations between teams, it's generally better to avoid having two power weapons spawn at the same time. There are exceptions, of course. One example of where spawning two power weapons at the same time makes sense would be the Sniper Rifles on The Pit. In instances where each team has an identical power weapon spawning on their side of a symmetrical map, the spawn times on those weapons should be the same. However, using The Pit for another example, it would probably not be good to have the Rockets and the Overshield consistently spawning at the same time because each team could obtain one of them without even needing to engage the opposing team. The goal is to create confrontations for both of those weapons. The way to do so is to stagger their spawn times. The majority of the time, neutrally spawning power weapons should spawn at different times, while symmetrically placed power weapons should spawn at the same time. As a general guideline, the more powerful a weapon is, the longer it should take to respawn. Rockets are usually the most powerful weapon, and easiest weapon to use on a map. They also normally take the longest to respawn. Respawn rates for power weapons can range anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Generally speaking, if a weapon has to respawn at a slower rate than 3 minutes to work on a map, then the weapon is just too powerful for that map. A couple of final notes on respawn times... Initial Ordnance drops take 4 seconds to drop, so Initial Ordnance respawn times should always be set 4 seconds faster than the desired spawn time. For example, if the weapon should spawn every 2 minutes (120 seconds), set the respawn time to 116 seconds. Drop spawned weapons also have a couple of seconds delay built into them. Traditionally, drop spawned weapons have been set to about 2 seconds less than the desired time (set to 118 seconds for a 2 minute respawn rate), but the exact time varies depending upon how it takes for the weapon to come to rest after spawning, and may require some experimentation. Power Weapon Placement Now that the methods and timing of spawning weapons onto the map have been covered, let's discuss weapon placement. Power weapons should very, very rarely be placed in power positions. A power weapon should only be placed in a power position that is also VERY vulnerable. The reason for this is that in addition to creating confrontations between teams, the other main purpose of power weapons is to encourage movement. Placing a power weapon in a desirable location significantly reduces the likelihood that a player or team will ever move from that location. It's very likely to result in gameplay that is either standoffish or too lopsided in one teams favor. Power weapons should be positioned according to their power. If the Rocket Launcher is the most powerful weapon on the map (which it almost always is), it should usually be placed in the most vulnerable of your potential power weapon positions. On the other end of the spectrum is a powerup like Speed Boost, which would probably be placed in a more advantageous position than Rockets. One final thing that was previously mentioned in the article on spawning, but bears repeating here. The initial spawns should always be balanced as fairly as possible by giving each team an equal opportunity of obtaining power weapons at the beginning of a game. On symmetrical maps this means placing power weapons exactly the same distance from each teams initial spawn location. Power weapon placement on asymmetrical maps is not so simple, but should also be as balanced as possible. Part 6 - Aesthetics We all know a beautiful map when we see one. Building a beautiful map can prove quite challenging. A couple of the main obstacles along the way are dynamic lighting and piece restrictions. There's really not much that can be done about the piece restrictions except staying flexible and being sure pieces are used wisely. To avoid breaking the dynamic lighting, get familiar with this guide: A Guide to Dynamic Lighting by WARHOLIC Visual Theme When a player first sets foot on a map, there are essentially 3 potential reactions that they could have to the maps appearance. They could notice how spectacular it looks, how bad it looks, or they could be indifferent to its appearance. One of the goals of a map maker is to create an immersive experience, and the appearance of a map is the main factor in determining whether or not they are successful. Before a forger can create a map that is truly immersive, though, they must first learn how to avoid making a map that looks bad. Every forger knows that a bad looking map detracts from a players experience. However, most lack the understanding of how to create a map that doesn't look bad. Without that understanding, the zeal for creating a spectacular looking map can result in a map that looks spectacularly bad. The main thing that results in a bad looking map is inconsistent and/or sloppy piece usage. Overlooking something as rudimentary as orienting objects the same direction and making sure they line up correctly can prove distracting for players. While consistency in orienting and lining up objects is the first step towards beauty, the next step is consistent piece usage throughout an entire map. Using the same pieces for similar structures throughout a map will greatly enhance its appearance. Using one piece for the floors, and another piece (or handful of pieces) for the walls will result in a clean looking map. There are, however, occasions when it can be beneficial to give different areas of a map different appearances as a way to help players quickly recognize where they are. One side of a map could be inside a rock cave, while the other side extends out from the cliff side and is open aired. As another example, each level of a multilevel map could have it's own look. Even then, it's wise to make sure that any type of structure that appears more than once on the map (windows/doors/ramps) should have a consistent look in all locations. This consistency results in a cohesive looking map with a clear visual theme. Creating an Immersive Experience The next step towards visual mastery is to create a truly immersive play-space. This is accomplished through the creation of a realistic setting. That can mean recreating an actual locale like the pyramids in Egypt, or designing something unique based upon a theme such as an abandoned town or a space station. Individual creativity can really help set a map apart from others. Impact and Ravine offer the best contrast between light and dark pieces. Erosion has a rusty, grungy look. Forge Island has an abundance of rocks, trees, and water. A modded canvas can enable even further immersion. An important element in a 'real' feeling map is structures that look realistic. If there is a long bridge, it should have pillars supporting it from underneath. If a balcony is implemented, it should have railings around the edge. Floors and walls should look real whenever the edges of them are visible. The best way to accomplish that is to use pieces that are at least the thickness of a 'short' block. 'Thin' block pieces, or other relatively thin pieces should be avoided whenever possible in those instances.Utilizing Aesthetics to Improve Flow and Communication Aesthetics can be used for more than just making a map look good. They can be implemented to highlight weapon locations, or be utilized to make callouts more intuitive. The Implementation of weapon holders can be an excellent way to highlight power weapon locations. While weapon holders are essentially only aesthetic touches, they can also positively impact map flow by making the power weapons easily identifiable. Forgers generally address the issue of callouts by color coding sections of a map to differentiate them and to make in-game communication easier. This is perfectly acceptable. It's more than acceptable; it's a good rule of thumb to follow. However, using aesthetics to allow players to differentiate areas of the map from each other can work just as well, or even better. Using a visual theme that incorporates a different look for each area of the map can make color coding completely unnecessary. Even a map that's completely symmetrical with matching pieces used on both sides of the map can use aesthetics to assist with orientation and communication, perhaps by building one side of the map next to a towering cliff. When playing on a map for the first time, if a player makes a callout referring to the 'cliff base', it will immediately be obvious which part of the map is being referred to, while it may take a moment longer to ascertain the location with a callout like 'red base'. Don't forget that there are more than just structure pieces at a forgers disposal. For a few examples, a Dominion Base Terminal can be a great weapon holder, Extraction Cylinders are an excellent way to add color to a map, Dominion Base Shields are perfect for color coding Teleporters, and Base Stripes make good railings. Use all the tools available. Think outside the box. See if an object can be used in a way nobody has ever used it before. Strive to strike a balance of creativity and consistent piece usage, while also making structures look realistic. Part 7 - The Total Package When the phrase 'The Total Package' is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously...Lex Luger. This article isn't going to be about Lex Luger, though (sorry, wrastlin' fans). This is the final article in the Forge Fundamentals series, and it's all about pulling everything together to make a forge map that kicks almost as much ass as the aforementioned grappler...almost. PDCA There is a 4 step business management method called PDCA that’s designed to refine processes/products. It’s a method that can be applied to the forging process with spectacular results. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. We will go over how this tool can be utilized for the development and refinement of a map, by going through each step of the process one by one. Plan – Establish the goals and basic layout of the map. Do – Make the map. Check – Study the results. Look for differences between what is desired and what is actually happening. Act – Implement fixes for any problems that are found during the ‘check’ stage.Plan Thinking through a map in a decent amount of detail before building it can significantly improve the final product. The fact that each aspect is so inextricably interwoven with the others makes some degree of preplanning all the more important. Prior to beginning building, it’s essential to decide the map's desired size player count, and its intended game types. From there, a forger can come up with a basic layout by utilizing some of the tools mentioned in the article on preplanning. Once the basic layout is decided upon, starting spawn locations and power weapon locations can start to enter the thought process. It’s also wise to think about how different sections of the map will connect to each other, and how those connections will impact the maps overall flow. Another thing to consider is the aesthetic theme – is it possible to create recognizable landmarks within that theme that will help players orient themselves and communicate with each other? During the planning stage, a forger should create their map on a smaller scale. This generally means producing the map either on paper or on a modeling program. Doing so can bring to light problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and resulted in hours of wasted time. Do This is the construction phase. The limitations inherent in forge can make this a challenging part of the process. Most of the skill required to efficiently forge a map only comes through experience, as the result of trial and error. It’s important to remain flexible while building. While preplanning is a vital tool that should be utilized, it's the beginning of the design process, not the end. Even maps made my professionals rarely end up exactly the same as the original design. The best policy is to plan well, then adjust where necessary. Don’t wait until the building is complete before making adjustments – Make them immediately. Check When the initial building phase is done, it's time for testing. Here at Halo Evolved, there are testing lobbies which anyone can join to get their map tested, as long as they are willing to return the favor. Getting involved will prove very beneficial, because thorough testing is one of the main ingredients that set great maps apart from decent maps. Though playing on a map is obviously an essential step, the main purpose of the ‘check’ stage is to pinpoint problems. To this end, analyzing gameplay in theater mode is an extremely valuable tool for a forger. Information that went unnoticed while playing on a map can become quite obvious when re-watching a game in theater. When in theater mode, it’s vital that attention is given to the performance of the map rather than the performance of the individuals playing on the map. One of the main things that’s smart to investigate is spawning. Watching every respawn for every player in a match can highlight a problem with one or two particular spawn points, which could then be adjusted accordingly or removed. Spawning can also be watched in a broader way. From overhead, it may become apparent that players are respawning in one particular area of the map too frequently. Perhaps reducing the number of respawn points in that area, or surrounding it with an anti-spawn zone could solve that problem. Another point of focus is power weapons. Following each power weapon from when it’s picked up until it’s out of ammo can provide valuable information on both the positioning of the weapon, and the amount of ammo it spawns with. One of the most difficult things for a forger to learn is how to discern whether or not something is actually a problem. Discernment generally comes with experience. If somebody complains about being spawn killed, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a spawning problem on the map - perhaps they were playing with too many people on the map, or the teams were uneven. The fact that somebody complained about something doesn't automatically mean it needs to be fixed. However, all feedback should be taken seriously. Most good forgers have the ability to build great maps because they welcome and encourage critical feedback. The best attitude to have when analyzing gameplay and feedback is one of non-attachment. If a forger has already decided that their map is perfect, it's very likely that they will overlook critical gameplay problems. Act Acting means applying changes to fix any problems that are uncovered. That may mean changing the location of a power weapon, breaking up a line of sight, or adjusting respawn points. It could also mean completely re-designing a portion of a map. Whatever problems are found in the ‘check’ stage of the process should be addressed one by one, beginning with the larger problems first. If you have some bad spawn points in a section, but that same section also requires a major re-design, then it wouldn’t make any sense to adjust the spawn points first. Once a potential fix for a problem has been implemented, go back to the ‘check’ stage to determine whether or not the fix has worked. If the problem still isn’t fixed, then it’s back to the drawing board. If the problem is fixed adequately, move on to the next problem and repeat the same process - this is the way to a kick-ass forge map. Conclusion Alas, We have arrived at the end of this series. We've only scratched the surface of what’s available and ready to be learned, so if you're hungry for more be sure to check out the other great guides posted on the site. Follow a Chunk Twitter: https://twitter.com/fh_aChunk Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jtjub/