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About Me

Found 15 results

  1. Small 2v2 map called «Alsaleh Factory» (My fourth try! for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design) Modes: TDM, Skirmish (Note: Some 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») CS:GO Workshop link: See more images here:
  2. Small 3v3 map called «Double House» (My third try for «Asymmetric» multiplayer level design) Modes: TDM, Skirmish (Note: Some 3D models in the level are premade Unity assets from «POLYGON») UPDATE: Playtest video added. See more images here:
  3. 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: Follow Exodus Twitter: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  4. An updated version of Cache was released recently. Check out this site for more info: Follow Shawn Twitter: Website: Website: Follow Salvatore Twitter: Website: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  5. Legend has it that it's possible to build a level for the Source Engine within 3ds Max. We've had no concrete evidence of this alleged possibility...until now! Shawn Olson provides video proof, along with a fantastic demonstration. Seeing is believing, my friends. I am now a believer, and this video will turn you into believer as well. 😉 Follow Shawn Youtube: Website: Twitter: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  6. Follow 3kliksphilip Youtube: Twitter: Website: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  7. Choke points are areas of the map where the attacking team meets resistance from the defending team before reaching the objective. Choke points are also called control points or bottlenecks. The attacking team (Terrorist in defuse maps and Counter-Terrorist in hostage rescue maps) must fight through the choke point to reach the objective or retreat and try a different route/strategy. Choke point areas are specifically designed to enhance gameplay. They are used to control flow, pacing and balance within the map. Whether you are playing Dust (Underpass choke point), Office (Side Hall choke point) or Nuke (Outside choke point), each of these areas are manually crafted. The architecture, cover placement and timing are used to channel each team to attack or defend. In this blog post I will cover 6 principles of choke point design and choke points used in most played official maps. You will learn: 6 principles of choke point level design in Counter-Strike maps Examples and how-to application Ideas for choke point design Use of distance for gameplay style options Source: Follow World of Level Design Website: Twitter: Book: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  8. In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to take your top down map layout sketch for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive map and begin blocking in BSP in Hammer level editor. We will create a floor plan of the map in order to test gameplay timing of choke points, objectives and path routes. This process has to happen before creating the shell of the environment, add any detail, props, texture or light the map. In this tutorial you will learn: How to take your top down layout sketch and BSP block-in your map. How to time your choke points and path routes. Workflow of the process How to BSP block in and test your layout for gameplay Follow this link to read the article in its' entirety: Follow World of Level Design Website: Twitter: Book: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  9. NOTE: The following tutorial is focused on Counter-Strike defusal (DE) gametype BUT the technique and principle behind it can be applied to many other games with similar gameplay mechanics. A top-down layout is a schematic design or a floor plan of your map. It could be created in Photoshop, Illustrator, Google Sketchup or AutoCad but using software for layouts is unnecessary. Best and most practical way of creating top-down layouts is pen and paper. Hand drawing layouts are not complicated. You do not need to know how to draw. All that's required is ability to visualize how your level is going to play. You have to plan out map's playable paths, alternative routes, connecting routes, choke points, objectives, obstacles and boundaries of the world. Before you jump into a level editor and begin blocking-in your map with BSP, you should have a top-down layout to guide you. So how do you draw one? There aren't any tutorials out there that show you a workflow for creating a hand-drawn top-down layout. Until now. Read the rest of this article here: Follow World of Level Design Website: Twitter: Book: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  10. Mirage is a classic CS 1.6 map, with a layout nearly as well-known as that of de_Dust. Many might think that a map with a layout as memorable and effective for long-term gameplay as Mirage would have taken months to design, but in this short documentary about the map and its creator, it's revealed that the map was designed in one go. It helps to understand that the map's creator is both a seasoned level designer and a competitive CS player, who's been around a block(out) or two - give the video a watch to understand why it, like other community-made maps in the CS universe are still updated and maintained to this day, after more than a decade of hardcore competitive gameplay. I especially recommend it for designers who are willing to step a little bit outside the box and design with the full potential of a player's abilities in mind. - icyhot Follow BubkeZTwitter: 3kliksphilip Youtube:
  11. How to create competitive Counter-Strike gameplay map layouts? In this tutorial you will learn: How to design layouts from scratch using important gameplay principles How to define pathways that offer strategy and choices How to set up choke points How to determine locations where two teams will meet (at the choke point) How to balance your layout How to structure flow and pacing Note: Examples are Counter-Strike focused, but any level designer that uses any form of attack/defend, assault or search/destroy type of multiplayer layout will greatly benefit from this in-depth guide In Counter-Strike there are certain maps that get a lot of playtime. Servers that are dedicated to only 1 or 2 maps, rotating over and over. After playing Counter-Strike for a good part of a decade I began asking questions. What makes map layouts such as dust, dust2, inferno, office and nuke popular, while maps like chateau, prodigy and havana are forgotten. What makes these maps different from the rest? All great map layouts contain: Good pacing and flow Balance, where skill of the player and skill of the team is the deciding factor of winning; no layout deficiencies, giving advantage to one side Maps that are easy to remember, simple to learn after a few rounds of playing Could rival the gameplay layouts of some official maps (such as Dust 2, Office, Nuke, Train and Inferno). Others enjoy, willing to download and play Contain strategy; choices in pathways Caters to various playing styles (sniping, close quarter battles, stealth) Could be used in competitive gameplay Fun to play These are just some of the competitive multiplayer map design aspects. There are many more but to list them all would still leave you confused as to how you would implement any of them into your map. The following is a study; a how-to guide for gameplay layout map design in Counter-Strike. I will be using Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but this should apply to any Counter-Strike versions released. I will go into depth of popular maps in CS:GO and dissect why these maps are structured the way they are. I will analyze what makes a good map and what creates good gameplay, flow and pacing. I will tell you exactly how you can do the same for your maps. Will this tutorial guide apply to those who do not play Counter-Strike? Yes, any level designer that uses any form of attack/defend, assault or search/destroy type of multiplayer layout will greatly benefit from this guide. A lot of my insights come from variety of online multiplayer games that I've studied. Principles of good multiplayer level design for first-person shooters don't change very much. The applications of the techniques do, but principles stay the same. What You Will Learn From This Tutorial: One important thing you should do to learn level design in Counter-Strike or any other fps game. How to design layouts from scratch using important gameplay principles How to define pathways that offer strategy and choices How to set up choke points How to determine locations where two teams will meet (at the choke point) How to balance your layout How to structure flow and pacing ... and much more Let's begin... Follow this link to read the article in its' entirety: Follow World of Level Design Website: Twitter: Book: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  12. Using CS:GO and Overwatch as the main foundations upon which to builds his case, Flusher shares his views on what makes a good competitive FPS map in this video: Here are the main points of discussion: Level Design is tied to Game Design Mobility and Perception (or Movement and Lines of Site) Loops Timing Management Skill Opportunities Follow Flusher Flusher on Youtube: Flusher on Twitter:
  13. For a long while Dust was the world's most-played Counter-Strike map and it's still the one for which I am best known. Yet few players realise it was the product of thievery and luck... For many FPS players Dust - and the later Dust 2 - are the quintessential Counter-Strike maps. They’ve been featured in nearly every major Counter-Strike tournament, and been responsible for countless millions virtual deaths, bomb detonations and defusals. But these maps actually owe their existence to Team Fortress 2 - a game that was released eight years after Dust became a staple of the Counter-Strike map rotation. Time Travelling It started in the summer of 1999, Suffolk, England. I was 16 years old, recuperating from end-of-year exams and enjoying my newfound freedom from school work. Half-Life was only a few months old, yet was scooping up more ‘Game of the Year’ awards than there were game magazines, leaving gamers desperate to know what Valve Software were going to make next. Thankfully, news broke that Valve had hired the team behind ‘Team Fortress’, a free mod for Quake that added class-based team multiplayer to the game. Like any responsible teenager, I’d spent more hours sat staring into a screen zooming around dodging rockets, slinging grenades and capturing the flag than I had with my head stuck in schoolwork, much to the chagrin of my parents. Their next project? A sequel, excitingly titled ‘Team Fortress 2’. It seemed that whilst I had been busy ambushing my future educational prospects, behind closed doors Valve had been hammering away at updating and upgrading Team Fortress for a new generation of hardware. News of Team Fortress 2 was rare and sporadic, but occasionally a tidbit here or a screenshot there would nervously peer out to an excited but nervous audience of TF fans. Before too long, a handful of screenshots started their steady journey around the gaming websites of the late nineties. Two particular screenshots leapt out at me: Two early screenshots of Team Fortress 2 The seed had been sown. Meanwhile, a new Half-Life modification known as ‘Counter-Strike’ had been picking up a steady stream of players. In the autumn of 1999, Minh ‘gooseman’ Le and Jess Cliffe released its second beta - and it supplanted Team Fortress to become my new addiction. It came with a texture pack of urban textures (‘cstrike.wad’) that, upon discovery, I set about making a map with - this became ‘cs_tire’, a hostage rescue map set in (of all places) a retirement home. Surprisingly, this map was deemed good enough to be included in the third beta release of Counter-Strike, and Jess subsequently asked me if I’d be interested in making a map for the fourth beta. He was very keen to hook me up with their texture artist to help me make something absolutely and completely original. Jess introduced me to artist Chris ‘MacMan’ Ashton - the same artist behind the urban texture set used in my retirement home map - and we got to work creating a new, totally original Counter-Strike map. Unfortunately it was too late to save me from TF2’s influence and I asked for these instead: Team Fortress 2 screenshots were used to create a core texture set Undeterred by my complete lack of originality, Chris quickly got back to me with beautiful lookalikes. While not exact replicas, I selfishly became completely infatuated with them, just like I had the screenshots they were based on . I quickly bundled them all together into my own texture pack and called it “cs_dest.wad” - shorthand for “Destiny”. With these TF2-alike textures I could finally make a map and pretend I was playing Team Fortress 2, but something was wrong. I felt guilt - TF2 wasn’t even out yet and I was already trying to sap all the effort Valve had been putting into it. It was akin to snatching a duckling from under its mothers beak. “But surely”, I thought, “Valve wouldn’t mind one me making one small map for one small mod for their one and only published game? A map that maybe only a handful of people would ever play?” I marched on. Copy and Paste Starting the map was the easy bit - the first area boasted a long road flanked by buildings, leading to an archway and a wall dividing it in two, just like I’d seen in the screenshots. I decorated every building and wall with ornate trims along the top or bottom, again aping TF2, as I tried my hardest to evoke the same sense of place, desolation, and scale. These features would go on to define the underlying architectural style of Dust. My effort wasn’t quite identical to the map featured in those coveted TF2 screenshots, but it was close enough, and - somewhat more importantly - it was a start. The arched doorways became a hallmark of the Dust theme - a Dust map is simply not Dust without at least two or three arches dividing the map into distinct zones. Creating the first one was at the time a great test of my technical mapping ability, and I struggled for a little while before landing on a technique that worked. My design eschewed the Reuleaux triangle shape of the TF2 arches for a simpler semi-circle, partly because it was simpler, but primarily to ease player passage through them. I extruded the arches from their adjoining wall - lifted straight from the screenshots. The first incarnation of what became the CT spawn I considered against copying the screenshots verbatim for fear of upsetting Valve, and so started guessing how the rest of the area should look. I’d already created a raised platform, and had decided that this could be the area that the Counter-Terrorist team would spawn in at the start of the match. This necessitated defensive measures to protect their spawn area, so I made some windows: The view from inside a building next to the CT spawn Not only did they look hideous, but the windows didn’t give the defensively-advantageous views I wanted the CT team to have. Nor did they fit with the intended gameplay. I didn’t want to encourage the CTs to hold back, and removed them - although in all honestly, at this point I really didn’t know where the map was going. Under the Influence Side-by-side, the TF2 ‘influence’ is plain to see: Side-by-side, the influence of TF2 on the design of the CT spawn area is apparent TF directly influenced building placement and the design of the arches In many respects, the TF2 screenshot looks nicer to me - smoother and softer than the harsh edges of the Dust buildings. I was far more comfortable working with standard geometric shapes, 90 degree corners and 45 degree angles, which is why Dust looks far boxier in comparison to the TF2 screenshot it was based on. That was the easy part done - after all, Valve had already created this much of the map for me and all I’d had to do was copy it. But what I had wasn’t much - it was barely enough for a one-on-one deathmatch, let alone two teams of eight players gunning it out. Worse still, there were no more screenshots to use for ‘inspiration’ - I had to make the rest of the map off my own back and imagination. Extrapolation Having nailed down the design of the first area, producing the rest of the map was merely a case of extrapolating it into a complete, playable environment. However this was much easier said than done - the next section of the map proved rather more challenging. I had created a T-junction out of the CT spawn, but struggled to know what to do with it. My past mapping experience was mostly creating tight interiors rather than not vast exteriors, and so I was feeling very lost. Desperate, I shoe-horned a bend in the road leading to a downward slope, and at the end of it - an underground cavern. The underpass originally descended into a vast underground facility, but this was scrapped the moment I played it It didn’t work, of course. While the CT spawn area was light and airy, this giant room was gloomy, boxy and felt dead compared to the sunny exterior I’d already made. Observing it also lacked any gameplay potential, I swiftly deleted it. Dust would be an outdoor map. I was still stuck. It’s at times like these where working without an initial design can prove extremely difficult. You look at what you’ve got, and struggle to see where to take it, knowing that a step in one direction is a step away from a solution in another direction - and you don’t know which will turn out better. It can be very tough and incredibly tempting to just scrap everything and start again. I’d made all my previous maps one room at a time, making it up as I go along with precious little pre-planning, and they had gone reasonably well. I had to hope I could do the same again. Mercifully, that’s exactly what happened. The Terrorist spawn area, and shallow decline into the underpass Within just a few hours - and seemingly out of nowhere - the Terrorist spawn area was complete. I was far happier with this side of the map, perhaps a product of becoming comfortable with the visual and architectural style. The shallow decline into the underpass is perhaps one of my favourite aspects, both aesthetically and as a player who spent many hours armed with a Steyr Scout at the crest popping off opponents’ heads. At one point I planned an alleyway from the Terrorist side of the underpass that fed around to the CT ‘sniper nest’, but this path seemed like it would be too long, too linear, and simply too dull. I just blocked it up with crates instead, still visible in the original version of the map (and the screenshot above.) Dust’s central hallway was pivotal in tying all these pieces together. Unfortunately, I can recollect very little about its creation, bar my explicit efforts to ensure players couldn’t see all the way through it from one end to the other. Every crate found in the intersection was strategically positioned to cut off lines-of-sight and improve performance. It was in this corridor that each team would typically meet, and so it needed to be fair, and balanced, with a slight defensive bias. The central corridor, Terrorists approached from the top, Counter-Terrorists from the bottom. Note the stack of crates opposite the doorway in the bottom-right corner blocking the long sightline In retrospect, it’s clear the upturned ’T’ shape of this corridor - which gave the CT team two points from which to defend against the single Terrorist entrance point - played an important role pacing each team. A good CT team would hold steady in these locations, forcing Terrorists to check both corners before advancing. However, the Terrorist team had a similar advantage if CT’s became over-confident and tried advancing too far. Getting this balance of opportunity right came down to timing. The aim was to ensure both teams caught first sight of each other in this corridor. Knowing that most players will start running the second the match begins, I did the same, timing how long it took to go from each team’s spawn area to the central corridor. By making sure each team had exactly the same distance to run I could dictate exactly where first contact would be most likely to happen. Bomb Planted Despite the map layout being largely complete, I’d paid very little attention to the core gameplay. Dust would be one of the very first ‘Bomb Defusal’ maps, a new gmetype that was due to be introduced at the same time as the map itself (all previous CS maps had featured hostage rescue.) No one had played a Defusal map before - least of all me - and so I had to rely on guesswork and logic to place the spawns and bomb locations. Bomb Spot A was easy to place - the courtyard area had no purpose otherwise - but Bomb Spot B proved more difficult. I thought about putting it the underpass. This suited better - it was equidistant between the two spawns, and I thought offered a reasonable amount of cover. So it went there. Bomb location decided, I zipped up the map and fired it towards Cliffe for the first round of playtesting. He immediately suggested that the bomb spot below the underpass should be moved directly in the CT spawn - a change that was undoubtedly crucial to the map’s success. The problem was I’d been treating this brand-new ‘Defusal’ gametype as if it was one I knew already - Capture the Flag - except in this CTF mode the flag (the bomb) started at the Terrorist spawn. But Defusal wasn’t Capture the Flag. In fact, it was so utterly different that hardly a comparison could be drawn. Placing the bomb in the CT spawn hadn’t even crossed my mind. I made the change, and sent it back for playtests. Playtesting is an important stage of any map’s development cycle. While thoughtful logic and engineering are incredibly important to help ensure a map’s success, player feedback is critical. There’s little way of knowing exactly how a map will play when faced with real people. It’s playtests that uncover deep and subtle-but-damaging flaws that need fixing before release - if the map is even fit to be released at all. The map overview from CS 1.6 I didn’t get to play in the playtests (by virtue of being in a different timezone) but I heard that they went well enough to be included in BETA 4. To have one map (‘cs_tire’) already in the official map rotation was great, but to have two? The pressure was mounting. What if it didn’t live up to people’s expectations? Would people even take to this new ‘Bomb Defusal’ mode? What if players didn’t like the sunny golden demeanor of Dust, and really did prefer dark, gritty urban maps? A few days later, on the 5th November of 1999 - a Friday - I got my answer. BETA 4 was released as I slept. Saturday morning arrived, and I - skipping breakfast - rushed to download the new beta, just like everyone else had done hours before. There were already hundreds of servers and on them thousands of people were already planting and defusing bombs on the map I’d designed, and I’d not even got to play it myself yet. It seemed as though Bomb Defusal mode was a hit, and thousands of players were already enjoying the change of pace from hostage rescue maps. But how about Dust? Well, this was the day that the first “Dust 24/7” server appeared… …and players seemed to like it. Getting BETA Dust underwent changes in almost every subsequent release of CS during the BETA phase. These changes were frequently somewhat speculative, more often they were aesthetic, and sometimes they changed the game play entirely. BETA 4 Comparing the first version of Dust to CS 1.6’s shows the major differences that were made in its lifetime. BETA 4 Dust had far fewer crates and cover than in CS 1.6 - all added to help balance the map and embellish defensive/offensive strategies. Aesthetically, CS 1.6’s Dust is also far cleaner and warmer, having benefited from a custom skybox and tweaked sunlight. Between CS BETA 4 and CS 1.6 the sun shifted slightly, elongating the shadows and upping the contrast to match the new skybox Between CS BETA 4 and CS 1.6 the Terrorist spawn also had a minor facelift with additional graffiti. The source of the sunlight and the shadows it created helped draw Terrorist players towards the bomb spots BETA 5 The BETA 5 version of Dust consisted of both aesthetic and gameplay changes. One seemingly small gameplay change was introduced in the form of a crack in the wall of the CT sniper nest overlooking the underpass. The intention was to expose CT snipers, making it easier for Terrorists to advance through the underpass. I reinforced this principle by adding more crates in the underpass as cover, strategically placed to let them get close enough to toss a grenade into the sniper nest. The underpass in BETA 5 had a distinct CT bias, with a crack in the wall and very little cover making it hard for Terrorists to get through The crack in the wall backfired. Rather than hinder CT snipers it had helped them by offering a wider, unobscured view of Terrorists entering the underpass. Miraculously, the full wall was restored in BETA 6. BETA 6.1 and 6.5 BETA 6.1 contained a small change to spawns that had big consequences. I thought the map had become unbalanced in the favour of the Terrorist team, and wanted to find a way to address this advantage. My fix involved moving the CT spawns forward by a few metres to push back the first line of contact between the two teams. The exact placement of Dust’s player spawns had always been crucial in ensuring balance, so I knew that tweaking them could have large repercussions. However, this was one tweak too far - once 6.1 was released it was clear the change the balance had become worse, not better. What happened? The change had made it easier for CTs to hold down the hallway, and harder for the Terrorists to rush the bomb site - all exactly as intended. However, the balance was now slightly too far in the CTs favour, and while some players welcomed this change, it was an overall worse experience for most. In BETA 6.5 the CT spawns were reverted back to their original positions. (BETA 6.5 also introduced my third Counter-Strike map, ‘de_cbble’. It was very nearly a castle.) Retail 1.0 In April 2000, Valve bought Counter-Strike and secured the right to include Dust in a physical, boxed retail version of the game. It was hard to believe this small map I’d made in my spare time less than a year before would be appearing on store shelves. Yet, on the 1st November 2000 - days before Dust turned one-year-old - that’s where it was. I was now 17, and Dust was now my first published work. (A few months later my fourth CS map - the inventively titled ‘de_dust2’ - was added in CS 1.1.) Rejected Ideas Dust didn’t see any further changes after 1.0. The map was about as good as I could make it without the risk of alienating players who were fans of the map, and I really didn’t want to rock the boat. However, that’s not to say I didn’t toy with a few ideas… The major change that I almost made at CS 1.1 time would have changed the dynamics of the entire map destroyed many proven strategies. I thought a new route directly from the underpass to the very centre of the hallway would help Terrorists form a firmer front-line, and encourage a more defensive strategy. Rejected: a staircase joining the underpass to the central hallway In retrospect, I think it would have just become the fastest route for Terrorists to reach the underpass, undermining and deprecating a large area of the map in the process. It would have removed one of the dynamics that made the underpass so fun. (Note this is not the same as the staircase added to Dust in CS:GO, which connects the platform above the underpass directly to the bottom. I believe the CS:GO solution is far better suited to Dust than my original plan was.) 24/7 Dust was once the most-played FPS map in the world, both in terms of the number of concurrent players, and the amount of time those players spent in the map. There were thousands of “Dust 24/7” servers, and the map became particularly popular amongst newbies, despite falling out of favour from clan matches. Dust turned out to be the perfect place for new players to learn the rules of the game, without being distracted by map complexity. There is no way to know how well the map would have done if some of the changes mentioned in this article remained - for example, the bomb site in the underpass, the sniper house, or the stairs between the underpass and the hallway. I expect they wouldn’t have worked in the maps favour. Ultimately, it’s hard for me to claim I knew what I was doing as I pieced Dust together. I attribute its success more to incredible luck and lack of imagination more than any skill I possess. If anything, I learnt more from Dust post-release (and in writing up these memories!) than I knew when I was making it. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero In March 2004 Valve released Condition Zero, an updated version of Counter-Strike that included a single-player mode and updated versions of all the popular maps from the main game. Its version of Dust shared much in common with the original, being largely based on the original brushwork. The map notably featured more pronounced structural detail supported by an expanded and more colourful palette. Dust got a fresh lick of paint in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero This version of the map was the product of Ritual, although some finishing touches were added by Valve just before release of the game. The Levelord played a hand in the renovation. Counter-Strike: Source Dust in CS 1.6 vs CS:Source In November 2004 - mere months after the release of Condition Zero - Valve released Counter-Strike: Source, a completely refreshed and revamped version of Counter-Strike based on the Source engine. Counter-Strike: Source introduced the biggest changes to Dust in its history, with more realistic proportions and the introduction of physics objects This renovation of Dust was done at Valve by Kristen Perry and Ido Magal who were given the unenviable job of determining appropriate architectural references for Dust based upon the Condition Zero version. I think they nailed the look completely - maintaining the golden tones everyone was used to, embellishing the few details that were there and giving Dust the kind of ambience that it had always lacked. My reaction when I first saw what they had done was nothing short of complete astonishment and amazement. I was proud of what Dust had become and ever grateful to those who had helped get it there. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive The CS:S version of Dust caused my jaw to drop, but the iteration in CS:GO floored me. Easily the most detailed, intricate and life-like version of Dust ever created This version was developed by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment and evidently based on the proportions set by the CS:S version of the map (many CS:S assets can be seen around the map, albeit in updated forms). This version heralded the most major layout changes to the map since the original release, featuring a bridge across CT side of the underpass, and a staircase by the underpass, refreshing Dust for competitive play and bringing it in line with more recent maps. The underpass has a side passage leading directly to the central corridor At a glance these changes bear a resemblance to one of my “rejected ideas” above, but only in concept. The underpass’s linearity always posed a problem due to its length, and Valve clearly agreed that a third exit right underneath the platform was necessary. But unlike my solution, which would have drawn players right into the centre hallway, Valve opted to put the underpass passage on the opposite side, directing players up to the far end of the platform. It’s clearly the better design and one I wish I had thought of when I still had the chance! Meat-Space Dust has also manifested itself in real, physical forms… Dust manifests itself in real life I still don’t know who was responsible for the sand castle, but the real-life crates were by Aram Bartholl, a Berlin-based artist who is also planning to create a life-size Dust replica. And then, of course, there’s Minecraft: Minecraft This Minecraft version of Dust was made by users of the forums, who have also been recreating other popular CS maps. In Closing To this day I am still amazed that Dust was as successful as it has been, and I have a hard time believing that I actually created it at all. But, looking back, its success is hardly surprising given those who helped it along the way, from Minh Le and Jess Cliffe’s invitation and support, to Chris Ashton’s painterly skills, the feedback from players, through to Brian Martel, Richard Gray, Kristen Perry, Ido Magal, and a whole plethora of talented behind-the-scenes clever clogs who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, but deserve far more credit than I could ever give. Also, of course, ultimately I have to thank Valve Software for the idea I stole in the first place, and without which none of this would have ever happened. I hope they didn’t mind. Source: *Note: This article has been posted with the permission of the author, and in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License Follow Dave Website: Twitter: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  14. YouTuber 3kliksphilip has put together a whopping 13-part series of videos which chronicle the development of his CS:GO map de_sparity In it, you'll see the approach that was taken. You'll see challenges that arose, and how they were tackled and resolved. You'll learn about how he set priorities, and what was learned from the project. And much more. It's a really well put together series, and worth your time.
  15. In this Blog post, Curtis Gaunt analyzes some well known maps from FPS games, and shares his thoughts on why they work (or don't). The post focuses primarily on designing to fit the mechanics of the game. For the purpose of this post, I will be examining the level design at a basic level and ignoring all of the finished assets and props that give it life, and looking strictly at the layouts that the players can move and interact in within the level. He continues on by doing case studies of 3 maps: Dust II (Counter-Strike), Temple of Anubis (Overwatch), and Sovereign (Call of Duty:Ghosts). Here's a portion of his breakdown of Temple of Anubis: Overwatch has some fundamental differences when compared to other titles in the genre. Unlike most games, verticality plays a large factor as some of the characters within the game can fly. Due to this new mechanic, the level design changes to accommodate height and has multiple tiers of height. Having added emphasis on height doesn’t change the core pathing of the level at its most basic form. This map is known as Temple of Anubis and like Dust II, it has two objectives. Red lines indicate potential attack paths. Finally, he asks the question "What can we learn?" The largest take away here is that less is more in level design. Too many paths to a location make defense of objectives too difficult for players. Having too many choke points makes choices from either team less meaningful. Getting a good layout of your level is more important than the aesthetics. Remember to keep the mechanics of your game in mind when designing your levels. Once all of these ideas are taken into account, the visuals and aesthetics can be considered and your level can be completed. Read through the entire blog post here: are your thoughts on this subject? Where do you agree with Curtis, and where do you disagree?A bigger and more important question... How do YOU learn from studying levels?