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  1. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 22? Read it here: Rule of Thirds Intro Sometimes when a player experiences a map for the first time they don’t start with a spawn perspective. Sometimes they get an overview of the map that allows them to make decisions and gain a first impression before they start playing or have any sort of control of what they are seeing. Sometimes a player doesn’t have control over what they see during cinematic sequences and where they look next. These perspectives that players do not have control over are what we call static perspectives. Your terms Static perspectives are a powerful tool in a designer’s toolbox for creating the experience the designer envisions. The designer has full control over static perspectives. They are something that are fully owned by a designer and are very predictable experience-wise when compared to other design theories that rely on hypothesizing what players will see and do. However, with great power comes great responsibility. When things don’t go a player’s way while traversing a map they have the chance to blame themselves because they control their own perspective. However they have no control over static perspectives like map overviews so if they have a bad map overview or see a bad screenshot the fault falls on you as the designer. Don’t ever give your player’s a reason to doubt your credibility as a designer. Remember how important those first impressions are. Painting a picture When preparing a static perspective, always remember that you are painting a picture or film that your players are witnessing. Remember that you are an artist trying to sell your work to your audience. Use whatever techniques you can think of to make your static perspectives as pleasing as possible. Take note of the color contrast that exists in your picture. Remember your eye catching techniques to draw attention to things. Remember the rule of thirds and place important landmarks, incentives, and deterrents on the focus points of the static perspective. Remember the importance of teaching your players your map to provide them the knowledge they need to have a full and enjoyable experience. Static perspectives are also a great tool for area introduction. Remember that level design is a smooth cohesive process, not just a bunch of individual parts. Everything works together as one and learning to combine and mix and match techniques is a delicate but powerful skill. Examples Static perspectives can be many things. Screenshots of your map in a thread on a level design forum are a great example of static perspectives. Sometimes a camera exists that is used to give an overview of a map while players select their weapons. Maybe there is a security camera that players have access to but can’t control and can see the map in the camera’s perspective. Perhaps you created a film to show off your map. In the case of batches of perspectives, remember the perspective variance concept when using various techniques. Games have used many static perspectives throughout the ages and learning to see them as pieces of art will allow you to adjust them and plant a particular opinion or impression on your customers. That. Is. Power. Read Chapter 24: Advertising 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  2. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 19? Read it here: Threat Zones Intro Have you ever spawned into a map and were instantly being fired upon when you spawned in? Do you remember how frustrating that is? How about when you spawn and walk a couple of steps and instantly fall victim to a grenade due to all of the combat nearby? Have you ever spawned at the same time as someone else facing each other only to run at each other spraying and praying that you will be the one that lives? Remember not having any time to react or strategize? Not a fun feeling, is it? Flat-footedness Flat-footed is an adjective that refers to someone as being “unprepared” or “unable to react quickly”. Being flat-footed is not an enjoyable experience for most of those who enjoy fighting. Most fighters love being able to strategically prepare for each incoming attack while removing every possible disadvantage that they may have. Flat-footedness is one of those disadvantages and as a designer you too should do your best to remove this uncomfortable feeling from your maps. No player enjoys being caught off guard unable to use their skill to the best of their advantage. It is one thing for the player to put themselves in that position, at that point they blame themselves and you have nothing to worry about. However if they are caught flat-footed when they spawn that is the fault of the designer and you will be blamed for your poor design skills. Don’t let the player blame you. If you do, you have given your player a bad first impression and that isn’t something that we want. Avoiding the “unfun” So how do you avoid making your players miserable? First thing you want to do is observe high traffic areas with high combat congestion. The more traffic an area is receiving, the higher chance that a player is going to get thrown into the middle of it. Another thing to take a look at is how your map’s path manipulation is moving player’s around the map. Observe where you have placed your incentives and if nearby player’s are going to follow the objective path of their path map towards a nearby spawning player to obtain that incentive. Even more so if the player has the knowledge of the map to know that there is a sniper that spawns around there at certain intervals. Spawn players in low eye catching areas of popular perspectives. If you know that a player on the sniper tower is always looking down at a certain spot in his threat zone, don’t spawn a player near the eye catching portions of his perspective. It will just result in a very sad spawning player. And a sad player is a player not playing or sharing your map. Spawning is important Spawning is one of the most important parts of level design that needs to be handled with care. You’ve already seen how important spawning is through spawn perspectives and smooth spawning. This is just another thing that you need to look out for. Remember that a player’s first impression is everything when they play your map and that spawning is the first few seconds of that experience. If you disappoint them in those first few seconds then you have failed your player and they may not come back. Think about all of the things that you have stopped after experiencing the first few seconds, minutes, or hours. Don’t make that kind of stuff. Trust me. Read Chapter 21: Incentive Weighting 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
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 12? Read it here: Path Maps Intro I want you to think about all of the maps that have very important areas in them that players use to orient themselves and their teammates. Ever heard of people calling out the shotgun room? How about when players say that he is in the sniper tower? In order for player’s to enjoy the optimal experience on your map it is probably best for them to be able to understand where these areas might be, correct? Even more so it is probably best if players knew about every single area that exists on the map in order to allow them to make the best decisions possible, right? You tell me... Defining the obvious Hmmm so what is area introduction? I don’t know... maybe it is introducing areas to a player. But it is more than just that. It is showing players everything there is to a map. It is showing your players the options that they have when choosing where to go from where they are. Area introduction is a form of Path Manipulation that is used when a player is new to a map to show them major sections that are available to them. But why is area introduction so important? If a player explores enough won’t he/she find every place on the map eventually? Well sure, but it is more than just that. If I give you a dictionary eventually you will memorize every single word and definition in it if you read it enough right? No? Well why not? Tying things together Remember when we talked about how a player’s first impression of a map is extremely important? Remember when we said that Knowledge is Power and in order for a player to give a proper analysis of a map he needs to be introduced to the most important parts of the map? By mixing these two concepts we see the importance of teaching players the map as fast as we possibly can because we do not know how long a player’s first impression will last. You only have the player’s attention for a short period of time until you win over their trust. Once you win their trust then you have their attention for a long while. The key is proving to them that it’s a good map to play on. And in order to do that they have to know the important parts about the map in order to judge it well or their judgment will be skewed and you will lose them for a while because they didn’t know about that one thing that could have made their experience better. Giving them the tour So how do you show the player around without doing it yourself? How do you show the player the map while they are in the heat of combat and focused on winning the match? You already have a good amount of tools at your disposal. What does the player see in his first perspective? Is that a pretty blue room that has caught my eye? Oooo... look there’s a shotgun over there I’m going to go check that out. This place looks too open and will leave me too vulnerable so I’m going to go see what’s over here instead. You see what I did there? By mixing spawn perspectives and eye catching you can show off the blue room. With incentives like a shotgun you can show people the shotgun room. Using deterrents and traffic control you can encourage people to take a look around somewhere else. All of these things relate in the greater sense of Path Manipulation. Now that you know how important area introduction is... go use it. Read Chapter 14: Essence 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  4. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 6? Read it here: Incentives Intro Have you ever taken the time to wonder why most maps are designed to have multiple paths? Most people just blindly build their maps to have multiple paths because it has become a simple standard base rule that everyone follows. I feel that it is important to completely understand why standard practices exist in the industry. Take the time to imagine a Halo map with only one path between two flag points. Everyone just ends up clashing over and over again in the center right? This is a phenomenon that I like to call Combat Congestion. What’s wrong with it? So what’s wrong with everyone running into each other and just shooting to try to kill someone? Nothing if that is what you want. It creates simplistic gameplay because it removes the skill of out-smarting your opponent based on path selection and cutting him off. Not only that, but there is no order to 8 people running at each other at once. It is hard for players to choose their target so it ends up being chance that you only get shot by one person or the whole other team at once. Dying to 4 people at once happens a lot faster than just 1 or 2 guys. You end up having no time at all to plan out your attack and if you don’t have any time at all to use skill or strategy then what fun is that? The concept of Traffic The basic concept of traffic is an observance of how players are spread out on your map. If you have too many players traversing one area then maybe you should spread them out a little more. The more players that go through an area the higher chance of combat congestion happening. And as discussed, this is something that we need to avoid as it is no fun to the player. Avoiding the chaos So having one path can cause combat congestion, that’s pretty simple to understand. Well having multiple paths around the map isn’t magically going to solve this problem. You have to use a variety of Path Manipulation techniques in order to get your players to spread out and to reduce the chance of combat congestion happening on your map. A ton of tricks exist for what I call controlling traffic, and you’ve already learned some of them. Incentives can be used to force players to take paths that players normally wouldn’t. Deterrents can be used to discourage players from taking commonly traversed paths. But Incentives and Deterrents can’t just exist on the map. They end up having no effects on a player if the player is unaware of them being on the map. Remember that talk on Knowledge is Power? You have to use techniques like Eye Catching, Area Introduction, Color Contrast, and Screen Real Estate. But in order to understand those techniques and fully apply them you have to be able to think in Perspectives and observe Perspective Variance. So again why do all of these things? Because combat congestion is one of those things that will cause a poor First Impression for your map, and we already learned how bad that can be. It is one of those things that is frustrating to experience because nobody enjoys just running in and dying. They enjoy using their skills. This was your first combination lesson where I tie everything that you’ve learned so far and everything that you will learn together to help you grasp the bigger picture. Hope you enjoyed it. Read Chapter 8: Eye Catching 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  5. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 1? Read it here: First Impressions Intro You ever play a map in which you felt like you were at a disadvantage because you didn’t know where a particular weapon was? Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map? Isn’t there a sniper rifle on this map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills? And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it? Why the hell am I playing this map if it doesn’t give me the tools I need to succeed? An accurate assessment... So I have witnessed many times where a player reviews a map and says something along the lines of “This map needs a sniper rifle on it”. The response they get back; “There IS a sniper on it, it is at the sniper tower.” However the player never comes back to see the response and hence never feels that the map was balanced enough and hence not worth their time. Anything that you feel is important to enjoying the experience on the map you need to have your map show the player where it is on their first run through. If they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map. As a result the player receives a bad first impression due to an inaccurate review and you lose that player forever. Obviously, we do not want that. Why is it your job? Why do I have to teach them where the key weapons are? Why not just let the players explore the map and find it eventually? Because it is not a player’s job to learn the map... it is a player’s job to play it and enjoy it. The average joe does not have time to study your map, they have tons of other maps to play. So teach them while they play, or else they start to question your map. Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map? Imagine feeling like this the whole time you play the map... is the average person going to go back to playing something that just causes them frustration? Isn’t there a sniper rifle on the map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills? Here’s another example of “if they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map.” And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it? How many times have you played on a new map and got destroyed because you didn’t know where the power weapons were? Not everyone has the persistence to go back through the map and find all the weapons. Remember that it is your job to teach them while they play. They didn’t download your map to learn, they downloaded your map to have fun. So my goal is to teach, but how? In later sections I will teach you techniques I utilize to be successful. Now that you are informed, try going back to some of the maps that you have designed yourself. Will players be able to find the anti-vehicle items on the map? Will they be able to memorize the layout fairly easily? Will I be able to give them the tools they need on their first run through to be on even ground against players who have played this map before? Read Chapter 3: Path Manipulation 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  6. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge, and to these specific games. Chapter 1: First Impressions Do you know how powerful a first impression is in everyday life? Sure it can’t make someone love you right out, but a good first impression will encourage them to give you a second date at least. On the flip side a bad first impression can make someone not want to see you ever again. As harsh as that may seem, it is very true. So your first goal in presenting your map to the community...encourage your players to go on that second date. When it’s bad... it hurts So I can tell you that a bad first impression can mean the difference between life and death for your map, but I don’t think that will hit home unless I give you an example. Have you ever looked at a map’s screenshots in its published thread and decided “That map doesn’t really look that great, let me go look at a new one.”? The author of that map just lost a potential fan that could help support the map all because his screenshots weren’t appealing. That one person could have shown his 3 main forge friends and they could have shared it with their other 10 custom game friends and so on and so on. But no... those extra fans of the map have now been lost because the first impression just wasn’t up to par. Think about the hundreds of maps that you scroll past everyday. Quite a bit, eh? Every little piece counts There are SOOO many things that could make a first impression go wrong. The map name could be offending, unoriginal, or just not that interesting. POOF! There goes a bunch of fans. The screenshots could be entirely unsatisfying and uninformative. POOF! And there goes the next 20 or so fans. The format of the map thread could be completely unorganized. POOF! And away those next 30+ potential fans go. And all of that is just the map thread, what about when they first play your map? Some player may be swarmed by warthog turrets and not be able to find any of the three spartan lasers on your map. POOF! You’ll never see that guy again. Some guy could be spawn camped on his first play-through by someone else who knows the map like the back of his hand. POOF! No fun equals no more playing this map. Some pro may be repeatedly rocked by some random with a sword because the sword is too hidden to be found on the first time through unless you know beforehand. POOF! The pro goes to play some of his favorite MLG maps instead. Why is looking good so important again? Some may argue that a bad first impression won’t always lose you that player for good. Sure I can agree with that. However have you seen the amount of maps that are pushed out every day? It is more important than ever to give players that good first impression to stand out in the crowd. And it is only going to get worse with the ease of Halo: Reach’s Forge World. Everything you do for a map has to be considered as a potential risk for making a bad first impression. Even just one good impression will earn you some sort of credibility. So if that spartan laser ain’t easy to find on the first playthrough, you may want to rethink its placement because it could be the difference between two replies/comments and getting on the new Bungie Favorites. Read Chapter 2: Knowledge is Power 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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
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