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  1. 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
  2. *Header Image Credit: Thomas Simonet Follow Mark Twitter: https://twitter.com/markdrew YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/markdrew/ Website: https://markdrew.io/ 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. We here at Next Level Design love being able to learn from other disciplines and interfaces, and apply them to game design and level design. We hope you'll find something within this article that you can use in your own designs. If you do, please share by commenting below. Happy learning! *Note: The following is a portion of an article which was shared on canva.com. It capture some of the main points, but there are detailed examples provided within the source article which are not included here. Please follow the link at the end for the full article. As consumers of design, we’ve all likely experienced this scenario at some point. But as designers, we want to make sure we’re not creating design layouts that might cause viewers to hurry to hit that back button in their browser or trash a flyer in frustration. So what’s the key to a design that’s well organized and easy to navigate? Starting with the foundation of a strong composition and good flow will get your project on the right track. Composition: A Definition for Designers Composition refers to the way all the elements of your design are arranged to create a cohesive whole. It considers actual elements you might add to a design, like typography, photos, or graphics — but it also takes into account “invisible” elements that contribute to the overall visual effect of a layout, like white or blank space, alignment and margins, or any framework you might use to arrange your design (such as a grid, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds). A careful composition should visually lead viewers through the design in a way that makes sense and happens naturally without a lot of thought on the part of the viewer (otherwise known as “flow”). This act of composing, of being thoughtful and intentional about how you piece together a layout, is a skill that applies to many different types of visual arts, from painting to photography. The nice thing is that once you learn the basics of strong composition, you’ll find that they’re useful for all sorts of creative endeavors. Now let’s look at some of the tools and techniques traditionally used to create effective, visually engaging compositions. Visual Weight & Balance: Create a Clear Hierarchy A good composition isn’t just a neatly arranged collection of shapes, colors, and text. Every design has a purpose and communicates a message to its viewers, and a well-planned composition helps prioritize the design’s most important information and reinforce its message in a way that makes sense. This process of arranging information by its importance is often referred to as establishing a hierarchy. No hierarchy (or an inadequate one) makes for a confusing design that has no visual flow, and we don’t want that. Let’s look at two key elements of a clear hierarchy, focal points and balanced organization: Choose a Focal Point A focal point pulls people into your design and gives them a place to start looking at your composition. If viewers only had a couple seconds to glance at your design and take away one impression or piece of information, what would that be? That important element should be your main focal point, and to ensure it’s what people see first, you’ll want to find a way to emphasize that piece and make it the most visible part of the layout. Keep reading to see this concept at work in actual design projects. (Via Dribbble. Design by Mara Dawn Dockery.) How to do that? Through giving your focal point visual weight. When a design element has visual weight, it’s what stands out the most at first glance. It’s visually “heavy” because it makes its presence felt in the layout — you can immediately tell that it’s important, and it attracts your attention through something about its appearance, often by contrasting with the rest of the design. There are a lot of techniques to choose from to give your focal point visual weight, including but not limited to: Size Shape Color Texture Position Let’s walk through some examples: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Make It Big Attract Attention with Unusual Shapes Choose Stand-Out Colors Add Texture for Visual Interest Position for Maximum Visual Impact Balance and Organize the Rest of the Design After a focal point gives viewers an entrance into your design, then it needs to be organized in such a way that they can navigate the rest of the layout easily. This is where the hierarchy really comes into play to give viewers a clear pathway to travel through the composition. Should their eyes move down the page? Across? From one section to another? How the rest of the design flows from the focal point will be key to a successful composition. You can guide viewers through your layout with some of the techniques we’ve already discussed, but most designs will benefit from an overall structure or organizing principle. Instead of just randomly throwing elements into your design and hoping it turn outs ok, being thoughtful and intentional about building your composition will always create a more usable and visually appealing experience for your audience. Let’s look at some common techniques: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Use a Grid Try the “Rule of Thirds” Consider Symmetry Leave Some White Space Leading Lines: Create Movement to Lead the Eye Leading lines are literal or implied lines that lead viewers’ eyes where you want them to go — usually to the focal point of your design, but sometimes just from one section or element of the layout to another. Leading lines can take a number of different forms, including: Diagonal Lines Diagonal lines create movement or imply direction across the design, often from top to bottom and left to right, like with reading. Another common technique is to use two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions to direct users’ focus to a single point. If you’ve ever taken an art class during your school days, a common exercise is to draw a road or pathway extending into the distance: two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions, starting out wide but narrowing until they meet at a spot on the horizon known as the “vanishing point.” This is diagonal leading lines in action, and one of the most basic ways to create depth and perspective in a composition. The following website design uses this concept to organize its product image gallery. Notice how the diagonal lines created by the yellow shape in the background (along with selective blurring) create a sense of depth in the design. Via Dribbble. Design by Cosmin Capitanu Z Shapes & S Curves: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Repeating Lines and Patterns Repetition can act as a leading line, guiding your gaze in a certain direction. It may take the form of repeating lines, shapes, or other elements arranged in a directional way. Repetition can also be a great way to reinforce a visual theme and add a sense of rhythm to your design. Even in-text elements that repeat, like bullet points or numbered lists, can help organize a design and give it a sense of flow. The following magazine layout repeats a visual theme of diagonal lines and triangular shapes in two ways: on individual pages or spreads (to guide readers through the content) and throughout the issue (to create consistency and a sense of rhythm through the whole publication). *Note: Click on the Image for a larger version Via Behance. Design by Bartosz Kwiecień. The Human Gaze: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Over to You Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing! Read the full article here: https://www.canva.com/learn/flow-and-rhythm/ Follow Janie Twitter: https://twitter.com/janiecreates Website: https://janiekliever.com/ 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. Josh Foreman, 20 year gaming industry veteran, shares what he considers to be the pillars of PvP level design, then demonstrates how he's used these pillars in the making of actual levels. Prefer reading? Check Josh's Blog for an article that largely covers the same info: https://joshforeman.artstation.com/blog/PrbL/level-design-for-pvp-fps Follow Josh Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpGvqKfhZF4ipJ7kWFDt0Mg Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshuaForeman Website: https://breathoflifedev.com/ 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. For the past few months I have been researching several different games. During that time I have been researching games like "Uncharted 4" and "The Last of Us" (made by Naughty Dog). With this article I want to share my knowledge with my fellow peers, in the hope of empowering and motivating them to learn more about level design. This will be a crash course on the different elements of level flow, that level designers can use to make informed decisions about their level design. 1 - Introduction: What is level flow My definition of level flow: "When the player knows what to do, where to go. But not always know how to achieve/get towards that goal." (keyword: Spatial Awareness) It is a state where the player has a pleasant experience, traversing through the level. It goes hand in hand with game flow. This definition is quite vague and that is because level flow is a broad subject. For simplicity I will split up "level flow" into four smaller pieces. In high-level terms, these are some of the elements we level designers use to guide the player(s).. "I need to know about geometry and composition? But I am not an artist?!" Yes, I am also not an artist but I do believe that everything is in some way intertwined with level design. Mastering small bits about these subjects will allow you to make more informed design decisions. Geometry Think about collision, physical interactive objects, shape design. Composition A) Focal points. Funneling the player with use of Geometry/Assets. B) Contrast (positive & negative space): Between, Space, Lighting or Color. Scripted Events Companions, Enemies (AI), Moving/Patrolling around. Other events that makes the player move: such as an explosion or a fallen tree trunk. Storytelling Text/Signs (direct) Assets placed in a particular order, like pickups scattered across the map or barrels in a corner (indirect) Geometry, Composition and Scripted Events can be combined to create Storytelling elements. Being able to master these sections will allow you to guide/move the player to where ever you desire them to go. /// Here are some examples of flow elements that can be used to guide the player through the level: 2.1 - Examples: The use of lines Lines, Arrows Shape Silhouettes, Pathways... Lines have two points, a begin and an endpoint. A line affords direction. It is a 2D object that moves in a direction. We can see lines as arrows and arrows afford direction. In this example, multiple objects in the scene will hint towards this focal point, the mega structure. Nathan Drake points at the landmark. (not in this picture, but in game he does) The pathway underneath them, leads towards the landmark. The shape of the mountains. The shape of the houses (especially the roofs) The contrast between the mountains and the forest. As you can see lines are powerful tools to indicate direction. They help to guide the players eye from A to B and visa versa. 2.2 - Examples: Landmark Visibility Landmark definition: An object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables the player to establish their location on the map. Landmarks can be used to determine someone's location, approximately from the landmark. Therefore it is a method to improve flow in the level. An exceptional level designer would work together with the environment artists, to make sure that each area is recognizable. They should work together to determine the line of sight and the visual language of the area. In this example, Joel will be able to see the bridge from multiple angles. This allows the level designer to create a level that doesn't go into a linear/straight direction. As walking straight towards the objective is boring and no fun. The high buildings on the side also helps to frame the bridge, funneling the player towards the objective. The only indication the player needs to know is how far away they are from the bridge. If they are approaching closer to the bridge, they can assume that they are going towards the right direction. 2.3 - Examples: The use of Color Using Color as Affordance: Color can be used to indicate the player, that a certain object is able to afford something. It can be used to contrast the scene, shifting the focal point. In this example, all reachable & climbable ledges have these "light yellowish" color casted on them. Informing the player that those afford to be grabbed/climbed. This is a clever way to indicate something to the player, without it breaking the immersion. By blending in with the cliffs, using the same "earthly" tones. You can also use color to invoke an emotion from the player. Bright shades of red and yellow might indicate danger , while a blue color let them think about water, the sky, calmness or peace. 2.4 - Examples: Repetition, good or bad? Repetition is beautiful as humans can see patterns. Nature is build up out of patterns and we love it. But when you repeat it too often, it becomes boring. You can compare it to listening to the same song for 100x times. At first you might like the song, although after repeatedly listening to it, you might come to hate it. This problem is also true in level/environment design. Do not let the player(s) traverse through areas that all look the same. What is the point of exploring if everything looks the same? You can keep it look coherent, but be sure to have a bit of variation. As mentioned in the previous point: Color is a nice way to break up the monotone feel of a scene and to attract the players attention. 3.1 - Examples: Movement in a Static World In a static scene, movement will catch the players eyes. When characters or objects move from one position to another position, they create a line. (See example 2.1) As I mentioned previously, a line indicates direction. We can use a dynamic element to guide the player through the level, creating flow. Video by: Dops Gaming Do you know the way? In this example, Nathan breaks out of prison with two of his comrades. In this action packed scene, your goal is to escape the prison. The player can experience this scene as stressful and rushed. You aren't prepared for this. You don't even know the layout of the prison and now you have to make a break for it! During this moment, the player doesn't want to constantly think about where they need to go and accidently get lost. This is where the two side characters take it over and guide you through the scene. 3.2 - Examples: Movement, Following the Crowd I don't know where to go, guess I follow everyone else. This is another example of movement being used. Similar to the previous example, the player is confronted with a high intensive experience. Where "yet again" the goal is to escape from the mess you're in. Video by: theRadBrad (fragment: 10:30 - 13:30) In all the chaos you don't know where to go, so you follow the crowd. Where ever they go, you will follow. Your only goal is to get out and keep Sarah safe. The crowd is moved by "seemingly" uncontrollable events in the scene. An exploding car would drive the crowd to the opposite direction, towards safety. 3.3 - Examples: Movement, Subtle environmental hints It doesn't have to be complicated. The previous two examples requires the developers to create AI with a behavior system. Although that could be really cool, it's also complicated. Video by: IFreeMz (fragment: 42:18 - 42:30) A subtle tumble weed rolling in a certain direction or in this example; a swan flying away into the distance. It tells you to keep moving in "that" direction. 4.1 - Examples: Flow through Storytelling elements The easiest noticeable storytelling elements are: Text, signs Decals Meshes placed in a deliberate order You can make patterns or create contrast to highlight an object. Due to how the tank is angled 45 degrees, it naturally guides the player towards the left side. The tank is used as a physical barrier/obstacle to guide the player to the left. Signs will tell you where to go. The left billboard reads: "Medical Evacuation, Use Tunnel" while the right billboard reads "Salt Lake City, Military Zone Ahead". Given that the theme of the game is about survival, the player wants to avoid danger. Another example is to use breadcrumbs to assist your player through the level. It can be a way to indicate the player that they are on the right path. 5.1 - Why everything I mentioned about composition is wrong (kind of...) Well, 3D levels are created in...3D. Cool 2D -> 3D street art from talented artist: Julian Beever It is easier to make a 2D picture look nice from one view. But in games where the player can freely roam around and explore, they usually have multiple views on an object. You and the environment artists can make everything look nice, but you probably don't have all the time of the world to make it perfect. However, as a level designer you can plan ahead and make sure to get the most out of the level, by setting up rules for yourself. Limit the views the player can have. Pay detail to the more important aspects. What do you want the player to see? Try out different lighting setups. Guide the player through the map with use of flow elements! Make the chances that the player wants to go off-track unlikely! Don't place landmarks at spots where you don't want the player to go to. Uncharted 4 levels feel very open. But secretly their levels are linear, with a golden path. There is no point in going off road, there is nothing there anyway... oh look a cool mountain! (road 66) 5.2 - How Naughty Dog makes sure you still see their cool views! A dedicated button! With a press on a button (L3), they allow the camera to momentarily reposition itself, aiming at the focal point. Using this method, the developers have total control on what they want the player to see. 6.1 - Demonstration: Flow Gone Wrong, how to recognize the designers intentions. The good, the bad. To demonstrate on how you can used your now new profound knowledge to recognize flow elements in other games, I will dissect a level section in Uncharted 4. (Chapter 2: Infernal Place) Something to keep in mind: Nathan doesn't have a map, he doesn't use a compass. What a badass. Video by: Moghi plays (fragment: 8.49 - 10:50) Steps performed by the player: The player sees a tower and grapple hook his way towards it. He proceeds to climb up the tower with use of the grooves. Climbs inside of the tower. Walks around the plateau. Falls in the ocean, trying to find a pathway. Re-spawn Can you recognize what goes "wrong" in this small section? What do you think caused the confusion by the player to suddenly fall off the map, into the ocean? Was the player misinformed, weren't there enough flow elements? To my observation, they placed a lot of flow elements to guide the player but because of a few poorly placed assets. It unintentionally outweighed the other flow elements placed by the designers. The cues that should have helped the player Direction This wooden bar seemed to afford to be hooked. It doesn't, but it does points towards the objective. Direction & Shape Language A pointy triangular rock. Points & triangles can be seen as arrows, arrows indicate direction. In this case this rock is telling us to go upwards. Color These grooves have a light yellow rim. In example 2.3, I explained that Uncharted 4 likes to use color to indicate towards the player, that it affords something. Text & Speech Nathan knows something you don't know. "Onward and Upward" he says. He hints to keep going up. This is a critical cue that gets triggered a bit late. Summarized With so many flow elements, the player shouldn't had to be confused right? The reason for the confusion was likely because of two elements. The doorway The wooden balcony When we convert the picture to black and white, we can see that the difference in contrast makes your eyes focused on the doorway and the wooden plateau. The doorway affords to be walked through, gates are strong methods of guiding the player. They have a strong attraction to them. You want to walk through it to see whats on the other side. The imbalance between the contrast in shape, lighting and color made the doorway and wooden board pop out more than intended. A solution? A potential solution to this problem would be to highlight the grooves a bit more. With use of decals, color or by perhaps destroying part of the construction. Any kind of additional indication that tells the player that they can climb the tower. But nonetheless, without applying my potential solution. You can also jump of the cliff and the game would re-spawn you on a spot with a nice view of the wooden bar. It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Is this the real reason? It almost seems like they intended you to struggle. Another theory of mine is that the designers at Naughty Dog planned this all along and this part was supposed to play out like this, to slow down the pacing of the player. Showing them that it is important to look around the environment to find clues. There are really uncountable ways to guide your players. We might never know the truth. 😉 *Note: This article is shared in its entirely on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1792/how_level_flow_works_in_uncharted_.php Follow Trinh Website: https://www.trinhleveldesigner.com/index.html Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trinhleveldesigner/ 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. Follow Chubzdoomer Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaDTauiGdnvTwG_CFmSIOoQ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Chubzdoomer Website: https://chubzdoomer.com/ 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Hello all of you fantastic and wonderful people, I am BACK! I just want to say thank you all so much for the support and kind words from part 1 of my article. Great to see that many of you enjoyed it and feel like you have learnt something from it, but we can not linger in the past, instead we must look forward to the second part of what makes good level design for combat. Introduction In the first part, I discussed how important it is for you to understand your metrics, scale, weapon, etc. All this planning helps you to create great levels, now that we have an understanding of these crucial elements, it is on us as LDs to crafts spaces that players can have a great amount of fun and enjoyment with. In this article I will be breaking down the next steps of the process of the 2d design, then looking at a level I created and breaking down what I think made it a good level for combat. Pre-production - Research Now that we have gathered all the useful information to help us we need to move through to the research stage of our level design. This stage can not and should not be skipped, it is crucial to not only making a good level but also a believable level (A quick side tangent, always keep in mind and to quote my friend Stuart Scott we are creating ‘Believable not realistic spaces’ meaning we do have creative freedom within our levels) Now you will be set a location for your level, this could be a castle, maybe a hotel or even a space station. Regardless of what that location may be you will need to make sure that you have an understanding of how these spaces work such as: What rooms do this area normally contain? Where is the toilet? How do people interact with this location before the player arrives? How does it connect to other spaces? What is its architectural style? Where can you find this location? Which country is this location located? And other such questions, in order to answer these then you must first do research. You can do this by googling pictures, then entering google maps to find a real life example, you can start to see how the location looks in real life. Videos are also a great help, or there might even be an example in other games. I strongly recommend of gathering not just images of the location but also floor plans as well. The reason for this is it helps you see the overall picture of a location as well as how some typically look. Not only that but this is a great starting point for your own level, as you can use this as a basis for your level. Even better with this, you can not start to see which rooms in a floor plan can be kept, removed or altered. Maybe there are too many rooms that are dead ends which do not give a good loop for combat, or there are not enough spaces for hidden loot, well now you can tweak these in your floor plan but still keep that location based in reality. From doing your research not only will you have a basic understanding of how the locations flows together but you can grasp the theme of location, how it looks at certain times of days, How it will look if it is abandoned or when it is fully functional. Now the gathering resources is in full motion, you can use many different cool tools to store them, from it either being a folder on your computer or Pinterest or Google Docs as long as you have easy ways to access your files that is the most important thing. It is important because you will need to make sure you have access to them while creating your level to constantly reference. Yet it is not only important for your beautiful LD eyes but it will come in handy in reviews, so that when leads or directors are checking your work they can see why it looks the way it does but also helps them understand how you got to this layout and why, also this will really help your teammates in Enviro Art so they can get a much more vivid vision of how the location should look. As for example you may be asked to build a level set in a church, but this church is built in a Latin community. Yet when I think of a church I visualize a huge Gothic church in the shape of a cross, but that would never fit inside a Latin community. By doing your research you can see how different areas and communities view the same space, making sure you create more authentic and believable spaces. Once you have gathered enough references (50 images minimum in my opinion) you can start to move to the next step. Pre-production - 2d Map One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “Max should I do 2d maps, is that the right way?” now for me the answer is yes. I used to do them and then stopped and just jumped straight into the blockout, but I noticed that my quality of my work decrease as well as it taking longer when staring at that ominous blank screen. There are many reasons I believe 2d sketches to be important, such as: Quicker to start work on blockout Easier to address feedback Allows you to see the flaws quicker Helps you go through multiple iterations before choosing and starting a blockout Now I know some of my other friends and other designers I have met use Google Sketch-Up before creating their blockout as it helps get a better sense of scale. Honestly both are great, the point you should take away from this section is that you need to plan before your blockout. People also feel that when they do a 2d map or a form of planning they feel that they are trapped? I put a ‘?’ because you should not. This is a plan meaning this can and should change, this is your starting point! Meaning that you can and must make changes as you see fit, I even did this in a recent level I made, do not be afraid to change from your plan if it does not feel right. Now with these points added to your pipeline of level creation we are going to do a break down of a combat level I created and break it down. (Before we do this though, do make sure to check out this great article which is fantastic for what to think about when creating your levels and brings forth some additional points on things to consider when making your levels) Case Study - Part 1 Okay, you now know how important pre-production is to your level, we are now going to get to the sexy part, which is the level itself. I created a small combat level for a task, now we will be breaking down the level and showing what I believe helps make this level good for combat. Quick side note, all of those documents in part one were my design rules and metrics and those were what I was referring to when I created my level. This level was not built or set on any particular location, we had a week to create Three combat spaces, so there is no reference images, just more of me creating a space that felt right. With no research I had my restrictions for space of 30x30m as well I could only use five enemies, with cover spacing of 2m and with that I created my 2d map. As you can see, it is not the prettiest of sketches but it gets the job done. It is very important when you do a sketch that you do use grid paper. The reason for this that you can get a sense of scale as well when it comes to putting it in the editor it you can translate the cube on the paper for 1m and use that to block out your level in the editor. When creating the level (and hopefully you can see this) that I wanted essentially split the space into quarters, so that the player could feel a difference in each section, but also feel a sense of progression. Quartering the level allowed me to reveal information to the player slowly, not just throwing them into the middle of a battle ground. It allows the player to focus on the task at hand, before showing more slowly, also by hiding certain information from the player it also plays to their disadvantage making the challenge feel even stronger. Another reason I was splitting up the space is the fact that it can and will reduce Long lines of sight. This way it forces players to move through the space in order to engage in combat, while also making them move to get an understanding of how the space is connected. Part of how I quarter the level is by dividing the space between interior and exterior spaces, most of the right hand side is set in the interior space, while the left hand space is kept in the open space to the exterior. This is handy for combat as players will have a different feel in each of the spaces. Exterior - players will have bigger spaces to engage in combat, having flanking opportunities, as well as having a larger line of sight to deal with and keep an eye on as enemies progress. Interior - players will be kept in a much more narrow space forcing them to focus on the front of combat as they battle with the enemies to move forward. Not only is this designed to have a visual separation but also designed like this to provide a number of ways in which players have to deal with the different encounters as well, making the space feel different too. You have now seen why I have decided to quarter the layout but it would not be much of a plan if I did not think about how the enemies occupy this space. Here is the plan I had for my enemies in the space as well: (The enemies are the Red Diamonds with the giant E, inside them. While the player is the Green Circle, with the P inside it) Before I jump to why I have placed the enemies in this position I want to talk about the players position first. This is sometimes an oversight when designing a level but trust me when I say, how the player first sees the level will inform how they play your level. One of the biggest/basic mistakes I see in beginners work is that the designer places the player facing the wrong direction, so make sure you place the players avatar facing the direction you want them to move towards. Look at how Mario always faces the right as players must move right. With that same context I have it so my player faces forward leading them towards the window and to the turning on the left (we will break down why that is important later) but a big reason why I have placed the player a bit away from enemies is for safety. Players can start my level without feeling pressure right away. Allowing them to find their bearing before entering combat. Switching gears now, we will look at enemy placement, now I have only showed you their starting off placement not their patrol route. We will talk about their route when it comes to the blockout phase. One of the key things I have tried to do here is that I have tried to hide enemies from the players initial view. If you look at both the top right and bottom left, there are two enemies in each section, yet only one is visible in the players initial LoS. The reason behind this is: To surprise the player, this way it keeps the engagement interesting Reward the players who do not go in guns blazing, those who statergise and truly take in the level will be able to not be caught off guard. Conclusion From this article I hope you have understood the importance of research and planning, this is a necessary stage to make great levels, as well as seeing some questions you should as yourself as you start working on your level. Always make sure to build up a library of references because the more you know the more authentic and believable your space will become. Floor plans are a great place to start when it comes to creating your own 2d maps, as you can use them to help ground your level or even the foundation of your own level. 2d maps don’t need to be art, as long as it is understandable and makes sense then that is the most important thing. Plan the position of your player and your enemies as that will help you get an even better understanding of how the level will actually flow with your objectives. I was planning for us to start looking over the blockout of the level but honestly I think it has turned out better that we have focused solely on the planning phase of development. Because now you can understand how important it is, as well as see my thought process when creating this level. Next will be the concluding part of this mini-series on making a combat level. I did not want to explain all of my design choices in this post as you will see in the next part that some of changed, but also I believe it will be better to see them within the level I have built. Please Support Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you have found it useful. If you do want to hear more about my thoughts on level design, then please checkout my podcast: iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K Read Part 3 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
  10. Jenova a.k.a. Xinghan Chen or 陈星汉 is the visionary designer of the award-winning games Cloud, flOw, Flower, and most recently Journey. He's also the founder of thatgamecompany. *Note: The following is only a portion of the full article. We highly recommend you follow the link at the end to read the full piece. Video games as a media can be reviewed as two essential components: Game Content - The soul of a video game; a specific experience the game is designed to convey Game System - The body of a video game; an interactive software that communicates Game Content to the players through visuals, audio and interactions When treated as content, the definition of Flow is too broad. However, if applied properly, it can literally happen in every game. In order to make a game special, it requires content that is more sophisticated than Flow experiences. But when treated as a system Flow explains why people prefer certain games more than other games and how they become addicted towards these games. If a game meets all the core elements of Flow, any content could become rewarding, any premise might become engaging. [Sweetser & Wyeth 2005] From the simplicity of Tetris to the complexity of Civilization IV, video games have already proven to the world that anything can be fun if players can access Flow. Expand the Flow Zone Assume the content is attractive to the audience. Designing a video game is very much about how to keep the player in the Flow and eventually be able to finish the game. Therefore, the game system needs to maintain different players' experiences inside the Flow Zone. In Figure 2, the red curve represents an actual experience a player gained through playing one segment of a video game. The player may feel a certain part of the game experience is a little bit harder or easier than their expectation. But he can still tolerate and maintain his Flow experience inside the safe zone. If the actual experience gets too far away from the Flow zone, the negative psychic entropy like anxiety and boredom will break player’s Flow experience (see Figure 3 below). Unfortunately, like fingerprints, different people have different skills and Flow Zones. A well-designed game might keep normal players in Flow, but will not be as effective for hardcore or novice players (see Figure 4 below). For example, a simple action to an FPS player such as shooting, might be an extremely difficult task for a casual gamer just starting a game. Even though the rest of the game might be something that casual gamers enjoy a lot, the harsh beginning just turns them off. In order to design a game for broader audiences, the in-game experience can’t be linear and static. Instead, it needs to offer a wide coverage of potential experiences to fit in different players’ Flow Zones. To expand a game's Flow Zone coverage, the design needs to offer a wide variety of gameplay experiences. From extremely simple tasks to complex problem solving, different players should always be able to find the right amount of challenges to engage during the Flow experience. These options of different gameplay experiences need to be obvious, so that when players first start the game they can easily identify the corresponding gameplay experience and delve into it. Passive Flow Adjustment The biggest dilemma on Flow adjustment is whether or not to create a system to adjust the gameplay for the player. Under this kind of passive system, players can enjoy the Flow experience fed by the system. Much research centers around designing a system that adjusts the difficulty based on the player's performance. This kind of system-oriented DDA works under an iterative adjusting loop. The loop consists of four fundamental elements: Player - Create raw data inside the game through playing Monitor System - Choose critical data reflecting player’s Flow state and pass it over Analysis System. Analysis System - Analyze player's Flow state and notify the Game System about what needs to be changed Game System - Apply changes to the gameplay based on the request from Analysis System Theoretically, this system should be able to maintain player's Flow by constantly reacting to the feedback collected from him. [Bailey & Katchabaw 2005] However, there are still several key unsolved problems , which makes this type of passive flow adjustment hard to implement. No direct data - Video games do not read what player thinks yet. Up until today, the most common connections between players and video games are still going through game controllers. With limited inputs, the possibility to sense player's Flow state directly is very low. Although there are biofeedback devices on the market, people still lack the knowledge for imaging data into Flow and emotions. Most of the measurements are still based on assumptions and incomplete statistics. Performance does not mirror Flow - Video game designers and researchers have figured out ways to estimate player's performance through sampling limited data like “Total Kill”, “Accuracy” and “Headshot”. However, performance is objective while Flow is subjective. When a player is in the Flow of just jumping around in Super Mario Bro but not finishing any level, the DDA system will have trouble to sense that. Analysis based on assumptions - Assumptions never work for mass audience. When a player enjoys performing a suicidal stunt in Grand Theft Auto, it would be ridiculous for a DDA system to assume that the player's skill is too poor because of the death count. Changes are based on rigid design – The way a system adjusts its difficulty is pre-determined by the designer. Different designers use their own preferences when deciding how many changes should be applied; however, the individual preferences of a designer will never represent the preferences of a mass audience. [Costikyan 2004] In addition to the portions included here, Jenova proposed methods of implementing 'Active Flow Adjustment', discusses the impacts and takeaways of playtesting, and shares his thoughts on 'Embedding Choices into Gameplay' as a method of determining a players flow state. Read the full article here: http://jenovachen.info/design-flow Follow Jenova Website: http://jenovachen.info/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenovachen?lang=en 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
  11. Introduction The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and insight for designers who are creating or working on a multiplayer level. I will address such topics as Flow, Item Placement, Initial Design, Architecture, and Testing. Although Capture the Flag and other team games are rarely addressed specifically throughout this document, because they are typically for a minimum of four players (two teams of two), with a higher number more often being the case (e.g. 4 on 4, 6 on 6). That being said, many of these guidelines will apply to those types of games as well. (The major new issue in a cooperative/team game is how the new goals will affect gameplay. For example, if capturing the flag and returning to your base is more important than killing your opponents, then a speed power-up may become more important than a better weapon. For another example, consider a location in the map that might be very difficult to hold in free-for-all play, but would become very easy to control for two teammates.) There are many accepted design principles that apply to level design in general. These will not be discussed in depth in this document, and include such things as: Attention to detail. Use of a consistent theme. Effective use of sound and lighting to convey an atmosphere. Sufficient time on either end of the design curve (i.e. planning and testing). However, there are many aspects of the multiplayer experience that can be handled incorrectly if approached from a single-player point of view. This will often result in the production of lower quality, unbalanced, poorly planned levels that will provide a disappointing multiplayer experience. For emphasis: You cannot reliably design good multiplayer levels from a single player point of view. Since overall level flow and item placement are two of the ways in which multiplayer level design differs most dramatically from single player level design, these two aspects will be mentioned first, then followed by more general design principles. Important: The following design guidelines in this document are general rules. As with all general rules, there are always exceptions and special cases. Sometimes good level designers can ignore some of these guidelines and produce excellent levels... but it's not the way to bet. Flow For purposes of this document, flow is defined as a combination of direction of movement, speed of movement, and pace of movement through a level. In a level with an extremely high degree of flow, a player will be able to move at a relatively consistent pace from any area of the level to another with a minimum of dramatic changes in direction and speed. In a level with poor flow, there will be starts and stops, awkward geometry to navigate, edges and corners to get stuck on, and many dead-end areas. Multiple entrances and exits Ideally, any major area in a level should have at least two (and preferably at least three) ways in or out (e.g. a room might have two hallways leading into it, a ledge above it that the player can drop from, and hole in the floor that a player can jump into to get to another area (three ways in, three ways out). To explore the idea of multiple entrances and exits, and the resulting effects on gameplay a bit further, imagine a room like the one below. "W" is a powerful weapon, and "H" is a health kit, and the room has exits/entrances on the north and east walls, and is somewhat flat and unremarkable: It's relatively simple in this particular example for a player to "camp" the weapon by standing in the corner and keeping a sharp eye on both doorways, attacking any player who tries to enter, and using the health kit to counterbalance any damage he or she might have received. Keep in mind that this "camper" does not have quite the same advantage that he would in a typical first person shooter (i.e. It's much more difficult to be sneaky in a game where the other player can easily look at your part of the split screen to see where you are), but it's still a tactic that can have a significant effect on gameplay. Consider the change below: Another door has been added on the west, the health has been moved to the NW corner, and the weapon has been moved to the south wall. Three doorways across a much wider field of view are more difficult to watch than two, and if the player still tries to camp the weapon, he or she has to move back and forth a bit more to obtain the health. This also leaves the camper open to attack by two or more other players from radically different directions (and it's much more difficult to watch what two or three people are doing on the split screen than it is to watch what one person is doing). For another approach, consider the following: The weapon has been moved to a spot between the two doorways where any player who moves through that corner of the room can quickly grab it, and the health is now by itself in the SW corner. Above the health is a shaft from the room above--impossible to travel up, but easy to see down and jump down. This produces some interesting gameplay possibilities and tactics. If a player is camping the weapon, he can be attacked easily through either doorway, and will find it difficult to watch both doorways at once. Suppose he decides to wait in the far corner, picking up health if he needs it, and ambush a player trying to get the weapon? It may work once or twice, but when his opponent catches on, the player will be attacked from a position of relative safety above, or his opponent will simply pay more attention to the player's position via the split screen. Relatively simple changes in room design and item placement can produce much more complex and flexible gaming situations. Note that teleporters, which instantly whisk a player from place to place, can serve to increase connectivity and flow within a level if the level geometry itself is uncooperative. However, teleporters are also easily abused by being used as a quick fix for substandard level design that shouldn't have seen the light of day in the first place. Clipping Geometry "Invisible boxes", "clip brushes", "see-through walls"--different terms for unseen geometry that aids the player in navigating through the level with minimal difficulty. Ideally, this aid should be of the subtle variety--anything that is too intrusive might distract the player from any immersion in the game world that has been created. For example, if there is a slightly protruding arch in a hallway that players tend to get caught on when moving down the hallway, the designer could place an invisible box along the length of the hallway on both sides with the inner plane of the box flush with the inner edge of the arch. What if the arch sides didn't protrude slightly, but instead stuck quite far into the hallway? A box that kept the player from getting anywhere near the wall would be an obvious and blatant "fix", but the designer could place a wedge-shaped brush on the near and far edges of both sides of the arch to gently force the player out and around the arch as they passed by. *Note: The use of clipping geometry will differ somewhat depending on whether the game in question is first person or third person. Something that might work well, and feel relatively unobtrusive from a first person point of view, might be very obvious and clumsy when experienced from a third-person perspective (and vice versa). This is just one area where a great deal of playtesting and feedback is essential. Dead ends In general, dead ends are a bad idea in any multiplayer level for a number of reasons: Dead ends promote poor flow. If a player has to stop or do a U-turn at the end of a dead end passage, then that area is somewhat awkward and clumsy. Dead ends are boring and/or frustrating. The player has to travel back through an area that he or she has just seen. Dead ends can easily result in "no-win" situations for a player. If he or she is trapped in a dead-end, there is no option for a tactical retreat. However, although the preceding points are generally true, in specific situations dead-ends can be useful (e.g. a powerful weapon or item can be placed in a dangerous dead-end in order to properly balance the value of the item with the risk involved in obtaining it). Summary: Have two (and preferably three) ways in and out. Think "outside the box". There are always multiple solutions to a level design problem. Use clipping geometry to aid flow and navigation. Use dead ends sparingly and for very specific reasons. Keep lines of sight in mind, and be aware that different camera views can produce unusual situations. Item Placement Poor item placement can turn an otherwise solid multiplayer level into an unbalanced and irritating gaming environment and can interfere dramatically with flow. Excellent item placement can add much-needed spice to an otherwise forgettable level, and accentuate the architecture and environment that has been created. The items in a multiplayer environment can be divided into four basic types: Offensive Items (e.g. weapons, ammo) There is generally a maximum amount of damage that a player is able to inflict in a given period of time in a given situation. Offensive items increase that amount. Defensive Items (e.g. health, armor) Defensive items increase the amount of damage that a player is able to endure, make that damage have less effect on the player, or allow the player to avoid those effects. Special/Other Items (e.g. binoculars, mine sweeper, jet pack) These are items that can somehow change the balance of the game in a way that isn't purely offensive or defensive (but could strengthen offense or defense for a player, depending on the player's particular situation). Team Items These are items that somehow affect game goals in cooperative play. The best-known example would be the flags in traditional two-team Capture the Flag. Flags are traditionally placed in two opposing bases that often have the same layout, geometry, and item placement (to more easily avoid giving one team a subtle advantage over the other). As a side note: As previously mentioned, this document does not focus on capture the flag (and similar games) to any great degree. However, one of the simplest ways to introduce a CTF-like element into a map for fewer players is to have some single power item or power spot on the map that a player gets points for holding or capturing. Item Quantity and Placement There is a fine balance to item quantity. There should be enough items to make it relatively easy to get the most basic necessities (e.g. basic weapons, some degree of health/protection), but not so many items that the challenge is eliminated and the player is stumbling over some new item every few steps. Generally, there should be fewer of the more powerful items in a level. There would be no reason to pick up the weaker items if there was a better item nearby. The more rare and powerful items can also be placed in locations that are more difficult and/or more dangerous to reach. There is nothing necessarily wrong with placing a powerful item in plain sight in the middle of the level where it is easily reachable by all the players. This placement in itself can add an element of danger as players wait nearby, simply watching the item, and attack other players as they approach. Just realize that much of the action will occur around that powerful item, and that there should be sufficient incentive for players to travel to other parts of the level. Powerful items can also be used to "balance" the level. In other words, if there is a powerful item or weapon at a certain location within a level, a good designer will be likely to put a similarly powerful item or weapon in another area of the level. This accomplishes three things: It makes it less effective to try to "camp" either item. It encourages players to move gameplay around the level. It makes it harder for a player to continually have both items and more easily control the game. Finally, some weapons can be placed in such a way that they are not only balanced to some extent, but also encourage more game flow and movement through a level. One simple example would be to place a sniper rifle in an enclosed area in the depths of a level--in order to make the best use of it, a player would have to get the item, and then travel up to the top of a high tower to get the best vantage point from which to snipe at other players. Ammunition and Minor Item Placement The placement of ammunition (if it exists in the game separately from the weapons), and the placement of minor items can be a much more subtle process then the placement of powerful items, and can be approached in different ways. Furthermore, many of the fine points will be very dependent on specific game mechanics. For example, a game with differing levels of health (or healing potion, or whatever generic "more life" item it happens to have) can have a much more complicated and "fine-tuned" item layout than a game with only one type of healing item. If a game has multiple weapon types and multiple ammo types (or even multiple ammo types for each weapon), this will result in more fine-tuning and more complicated decisions for the designer. A good general rule to remember is that if a player has everything he/she needs in one area, then there's little reason (gameplay-wise) to leave that area and explore the rest of the map. Item Setting It can add significant atmosphere and "feel" to a level if the items are placed in appropriate settings, and not just strewn about in relatively equidistant spots. One good (albeit subjective) rule of thumb: Every area of a level should be attractive enough for a player to want to visit it. Creating a proper item setting is a much more subjective process than some of the ideas that have been mentioned previously, as it deals with artistry and aesthetics rather than easily quantifiable factors such as damage and movement. Items, especially powerful items, are best placed like a gemstone placed in a ring. Impressive and/or detailed geometry, eye-catching lighting, or even props and other items can all be combined to create a memorable setting for items. Camping Revisited As was touched on above, it is very easy to create a situation in a multiplayer level wherein a powerful item (or even a not-so-powerful item) is placed in such a way that it is very easy to defend once it's obtained, and a player can "camp-out" at that location and dominate others who attack that position or try to get that item. For example, a machine-gun with a large supply of ammo and a health kit are placed at the end of a long corridor, behind a pillbox with a small "gunner slot" to shoot through. A player can stay there for a long time racking up victories with relative ease. While this example is an extreme one for illustrative purposes, it is easy to make this mistake in more subtle ways. This mistake becomes less likely if the designer uses the "at least two ways out" guideline, and incorporates some sort of vulnerability into every major item placement. Item Placement and Player Start Locations There seem to be two schools of thought on placement of player start locations relative to weapons and items, the first being: "Players should have to work to get good items/weapons. Gameplay becomes boring when players always have access to all the good items immediately upon starting a level." The opposing point of view goes something like: "When it's a difficult process to get good items and weapons, then the player who wins any particular skirmish always has the advantage, since he/she already has all the good stuff, and the defeated player has to restart, recollect items, and possibly fight off a beefed-up opponent while doing so." There is no clear answer or definitive formula to resolving this issue. Both points have some validity, and it will usually be safest to try to place your player spawn points while keeping both these points in mind. This is an issue that is usually resolved best with a great deal of playtesting. Ideally, player start locations should be placed with the following additional things in mind: Player starts should not be in a direct line of sight with each other. If they are, this potentially eliminates a major part of a good multiplayer game: maneuvering and responding based on where your opponent is (or where you think he is), and reacting to his movements with appropriate strategy or tactics. Player starts should be placed in places that are "off the beaten path" to some extent. It can put a player at an unfair disadvantage if he/she appears in the middle of a central combat area in the level, and can be frustrating if he/she is immediately defeated before gaining any real momentum. There should always be at least two nearby exits from any player start location. A player spawning into the game in a no-win situation (because a beefed-up opponent has them trapped in a dead end) is simply a result of poor level design. Secrets Finally, placing items in "secret" locations is generally a bad idea in multiplayer levels, since there will often be one or more players who don't know how to obtain the item (bad enough), but may be unaware that it even exists (worse). This sets up a dynamic wherein one player can easily dominate another player or players, only because of the "insider" knowledge that he or she possesses, and results in a blatantly unfair situation which can frustrate and anger players. (Note that I am not referring to items that are simply very difficult to obtain. If everyone knows where it is, it isn't a secret.) Again, although the preceding is generally true, there are some ways to make secrets work in a limited way in multiplayer games: The secret shouldn't be a "game-winner". A secret that gives someone an overwhelming advantage in a game = bad idea. A secret that helps a player slightly, or that simply gives some background color, or information of some kind about the game world = good idea. Secrets that are a relative "one-shot" (i.e. once the secret is discovered, pretty much all the players will know about it) are much less unbalancing. Secrets that have a random factor can work. These can be fun without being too unbalancing. For example, suppose there's a somewhat out-of-the-way spot where a powerful weapon will appear 5% of the time instead of the regular health that appears the rest of the time. Further suppose that there is no additional ammo for the weapon, and that there is no other weapon of this type in the level. This results in a player randomly finding this weapon on rare occasion and only using it for a very short time (thus being likely to establish no serious advantage). In a situation like this, "insider" information can be fun and can produce some interesting gameplay situations (as players begin to shadow the other player trying to find out where the "odd" weapon came from). Summary: • Balance item quantity carefully--enough items, but not too many. • Use powerful items sparingly and in a balanced way. • Spread minor items out, and avoid all-in-one locations. • Place items in a setting to be more aesthetically pleasing. • Make locations of powerful items dangerous or vulnerable. • Handle secrets with care to avoid unbalanced gameplay. Initial Design The initial design process can be a dramatically different one for different designers. Some individuals greatly enjoy it, because it allows them to visualize the level in broad strokes and come up with various ideas without necessarily needing to address some of the more "tedious" or "exacting" details that will appear near the end of the construction process. Other designers struggle to come up with a new and creative idea, or a broad outline, but excel in providing the fine points of a level's look and feel. Some level architects plan out their levels in exacting detail on grid paper beforehand, or work from detailed concept sketches, while others simply start from scratch, allowing ideas to evolve as they work. Both approaches have their pros and cons: A high level of preplanning assures that the designer won't wander off down the wrong track and possibly waste a great deal of time and energy, but can also stifle creativity and force a designer into "mental blinders" that reduce his or her potential. Summary: Everyone has their own way of working... but don't be afraid to think "outside the box" of your own habits, and possibly discover methods that will work better for you. Also, don't assume that work habits that were effective with one set of tools/one game/one design process will work well all the time. General Testing and Game Mechanics Testing is at least as important in multiplayer levels as it is in single player levels, and some would say that it's more important because the actions of a group of players are more unpredictable than the actions of a single player. While multiplayer levels are simpler in some ways than single player levels, players in a multiplayer setting can try new things (and find new problems) that might not have occurred if they were playing alone. Some design questions become exponentially more complicated when designing levels with a multiplayer focus. A few of the basic points to consider in testing and game mechanics: Testing Start Locations If you are one person testing a multiplayer level, it's easy to overlook non-functional or flawed start locations, especially if the start location is not always randomized, and if you do not have any sort of artificial opponents. Always make sure all start locations work consistently and correctly. Gameplay habits We all have a tendency to do things in a certain way, and repeat habits. The only way to be sure that the gameplay in a level isn't broken in some major way is to have the level playtested by someone (preferably many players) other than the designer. That being understood, you can at least playtest better as a designer by doing everything you can to break up your habits--if you find yourself always following a particular path in a level, then consciously go another way. Pretend that you haven't memorized every nook and cranny, and try to play like a new player: "Gee, I wonder what's over here..." Try to look at your map with new eyes, and you will often find problems or possibilities that you didn't realize were there. Gameplay mechanics Be aware that all games--even all multiplayer combat games--have different (sometimes radically different) gameplay mechanics. A couple of notable examples: Camera Angle Lines of sight are as important in multiplayer level design as they are in single player level design. Being able to see an enemy, or be seen by an enemy, is a key factor to victory. When playing from a third-person perspective (again, depending to some extent on camera movement) it's relatively easy to see where players are in relation to one another, and, if you are in a relatively high position, to potentially get a bird's-eye perspective on the entire field of play. In addition, when you are in a low position in a third-person game, it can be quite difficult to see what is above you when compared with a first-person game. When playing a first-person game, your field of view is limited horizontally to approximately 90 degrees, so losing track of your opponent can happen in the literal blink of an eye. In a first-person game, it's pretty much impossible to see anything that your in-game character wouldn't be able to see (i.e. you see through the character's eyes). In a third-person game, the circumstances involved in having a third-person camera view that doesn't necessarily change consistently with player movement can result in a variety of unusual possibilities at any given moment: If it's a console game, no players can see the others directly, but everyone still knows where all the players are by looking at split screens. No players can see the others directly, but players can shoot the other players (e.g. with a weapon like the grenade launcher or mortar that can shoot in an ascending-descending arc). Players can see each other directly, but players can't shoot each other. (This can happen if the players are positioned in such a way that the camera sees around a corner or over an obstacle for each player.) One player can see and shoot at another player without it being possible for the other player to see him directly, or hit him with return fire. (This could happen if, for instance, a player had a high vantage point, and was behind an obstacle of some sort. Direct fire from the other player would hit the obstacle, and arcing fire would either overshoot or collide with other geometry.) Line of sight issues are further complicated by the fact that any player might be able to kneel or drop prone at any time, which could change any of the above situations. It is also possible in some third-person games for a player to change the camera angle without actually moving (by rotating the camera in place). This makes it possible to stand facing in one direction, but keep a 360-degree watch. This would, of course, only provide an advantage in certain situations, and if you have the control skills to make it useful. Also, consider the effect of ground cover on combat. In a first-person game, the heavy use of ground cover (e.g. bushes, low walls, obstacles) can easily obscure the field of play and add a hide-and-sneak element, emphasizing the importance of accurate prediction of an opponent's tactics. In a third person game with any sort of height to the camera angle, this sort of ground cover is more of a simple obstruction to movement than a serious influence on tactics and strategy. These issues become very important to a level designer when questions about gameplay, balance, and tactics arise. Auto-Aiming For another example, consider the subject of auto-aiming. Auto-aiming (when the computer/game system does some of the work of aiming for the player), gives a very different feel to a skirmish, and a player must concentrate more on positioning, movement, and any other ways in which he or she can help the auto-aiming system along, and less on accurate crosshair positioning and shot-timing. Summary: Test extensively with real gameplay. Break up habits. Get another point of view. Alter your design to best utilize the specific gameplay mechanics and tactics that will be involved. Research To make good multiplayer levels, and to continue to grow in his or her skills, a designer needs to play lots of good multiplayer levels, and, unfortunately, the only way to play lots of good levels is to wade through even more levels that aren't so good. While you're playing a particular level, analyze what is working in that particular level--very simply, what makes that level good and not bad? If you don't know quite specific answers to that question, then you may not be able to create the same great gameplay and fun experience in your levels, and if you do, it may be by accident rather than by design. Finally, write things down. That may sound obvious and slightly juvenile, but you will not remember important things if you don't. I have a simple text file called "tips" that I just copy and paste tidbits of various kinds into--technical tips, design tips, interesting gaming anecdotes, "here's a great idea for a level" bits, obscure design facts, and so forth. If you have any doubt if you should put something in, go ahead and put it in, then review the file periodically and weed out things that are outdated, have lost their usefulness, or were just never quite as useful as you thought they might be. Summary: • Keep looking. • Keep learning. Source: http://www.robotrenegade.com/articles/multiplayer-level-design-guide.html *Note: This article is shared in full on Next Level Design in accordance with the Creative Commons Guidelines noted on the source site. Follow Patrick Website: http://www.pjwnex.us/ lvlworld: https://lvlworld.com/author/pjw 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 .galleria, .galleria-container { height:480px !important }
  12. 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: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categories/csgo-tutorials/csgo-principles-choke-point-level-design.php Follow World of Level Design Website: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameLevelDesign Book: https://www.amazon.com/Preproduction-Blueprint-Environments-Level-Designs/dp/1539103188/ 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
  13. IntroductionGame spaces provide a context for the game's rules and systems, and a space for the game agents to perform mechanics. When we go about designing game spaces, sometimes thinking in pure spatial terms clouds what a designer needs to achieve with a certain game space.For FPS games, sitting yourself down with your favorite prototyping tool kit and drawing corridors and rooms is a recipe for disaster. It is difficult to design interesting spatial puzzles when you are creating game spaces using the rules of reality. How many office blocks are fun to navigate?Molecule design is a way of applying graphing theory for concepting and fine-tuning of various types of game spaces. This rational approach to design is a means to design spaces without thinking about the representational elements of space itself. This article still accepts the importance of planar maps; however, we need better tools to help us create these first.This article will examine some useful tools gathered from the field of graphing theory that designers can use to conceptualize various game components. The latter half of this article will examine a real-world application of these tools. By doing so, we will examine how iterations of a level design benefited from this abstracted means of realizing space.The Basics of GraphingGraphing theory is a broad and diverse field of mathematics; however, this article discusses graphs that can explain spatial relationships. Core to graphs that explain spatial relationships are nodes and edges (Figure 1). Nodes can represent game spaces / rooms, pickups, spawn points and AI pathing nodes. Edges define relationships between nodes. Figure 1 Figure 2 is a simple molecule consisting of several nodes, linked by edges. In this example, we have defined a set of tokens around the players spawn point. This is a literal depiction of space using a graphing approach. Nodes become linked by edges, and these define the shortest possible distance between the player and other node. The more powerful a token is, the longer the edge should become.This approach works well for PvP games -- to create a game space with roughly similar distributions of pickups, to achieve game balance. Repeating and rotating a molecule leads to symmetrical distributions throughout the game space. Edges are abstract ways of defining relationships but not necessarily hallways or any other level geometry. To explain this further, we need to look at weighted and directed graphs. Figure 2 We can manipulate the physical appearance of our edges to help communicate different types of relationships between the nodes. In Figure 3, the edge between nodes A and C is thicker than the rest. If we are using graphing theory to create spaces, and the nodes represent particular game spaces, then the larger edge does not imply a bigger space between the two nodes, but rather a more direct route. Figure 3 Figure 4 takes our molecule from Figure 3 and uses weighted edges as a guideline to place out level geometry. In this example, heavy weighted edges create a path between nodes A and C that is direct and unimpeded. Alternatively, the thin edge connecting nodes A and B results in a meandering pathway that is complex in nature. This example shows that edges do not depict geometry, but rather the relationship between nodes. Figure 4 We can further increase the information that an edge communications by adding direction. Figure 5 is an example of a graph that has directed and weighted edges. Figure 5 uses directed and weighted edges to communicate two different ways to get between node A and node B. The thicker edge is more direct than the other. Linking nodes B and C is an indirect one-way gate. The thick edge linking nodes A and C is another one-way gate. The thickness of this edge shows a direct and unimpeded relationship between the nodes. Figure 5 Nodes and edges can represent nearly any feature of game level design. For example, we could use a system whereby the weight of the lines also tells us about the difficulty of getting between nodes. By using edges to depict vertical space, we could say that node C is the highest point of the map. Node C is then transitive in the sense that it can only be accessed from node B. The one-way direction between nodes B and C might be achieved by having a "jump pad" at node B, pointing towards node C, but not in the opposite direction. It is really at the discretion of the designer and their team to define a key for their particular molecule system.To further explain the concept of using spatial molecules to create play spaces, let us consider one example molecule and how it should and should not be implemented. The molecule represented in Figure 6 is a simple spatial molecule that defines a linear level progression, suitable for single player type maps. Weighted edges have not been used in this example; however directed edges have been used to create interesting spatial puzzles. Figure 6 Figure 7 is an example of what not to do with a spatial molecule. The reason to use a molecule-based approach is to free your creative process from thinking in purely spatial terms, and instead think about creating interesting spatial relationships. Although the planar map in Figure 7 does follow the spatial relationships of the molecule, it is a boring, linear space.There are also a number of other flaws that demonstrate why designing maps from a planar perspective is problematic. First, the linear, room-by-room layout of the map is a direct product of drawing maps out in planar space. When your imaginative space is two-dimensional, your maps will be two-dimensional also. As such, there are no interesting vertical spaces and, more importantly, the objective is not clearly visible from the beginning of the map. Figure 7 Figure 8 is a better implementation of the same spatial molecule. This example treats each node as a "play space" and uses the edges of the molecule to define how these play spaces can interact with each other. Below is a hypothetical playthrough:In this example, the player starts on a ledge overlooking a valley (node A). Beside them they can see play area F, a large manmade structure towering over the environment. This is the final objective and its size and scale immediately compels the player to wonder how they can get inside the structure. The player notices that the entry to the tower is locked, but they can see another structure in the distance, a large pyramid in section E of the map. The pyramid has a grand entryway that draws the player's attention -- it is the only other major point of interest in the landscape and as such acts to draw the player towards it. Between their starting point at section A and the pyramid, the player sees a number of obstacles that they need to overcome: a large wall, a bridge with a closed gate and a canyon filled with water. The player has time to survey the landscape from their elevated position and gain situational awareness. From node A the player begins to plan their route. The player jumps down from the elevated platform of node A -- this is a one way gate. In section B, they need to make their way to the open gate. Initially they will be drawn to the bridge that crosses the canyon, but they soon realize that it is blocked off and can only be open from the other side. Close to the bridge, the player notices that there is a section of rocks which they can use to jump into the river below without taking damage. Once in the river, they follow it downstream towards a large open section. Here the player finds a set of stairs that will take them up to the plateau containing the pyramid. Once inside the pyramid, there is an underground road which links back to the objective at section F. This road will collapse behind them once they get close to section F so it acts as a one-way gate. The hidden room, "a", is connected to F and to E, however it is also a one-way gate and can only be accessed from F. The room will flood once entered, causing it to be blocked off from F, and forcing the player back up into section E. Section F is the objective, and once inside, the player can continue onwards. Note that because section A is a one-way gate and section F is closed off, the player should not be allowed to return back into the open-area space. Figure 8 Figure 9 is another interpretation of the same molecule, this time using a more traditional room-based approach. In this playthrough, the player starts in section A, a large room with two doors, one open and one closed. The player goes through the only open door into a large arena section -- B. There is a door in this room, but it is blocked in such a way that the player knows that it is broken and they cannot get through it. Inside B are a number of containers that the player needs to jump between in order to get out of the room. Above this tall room is a gantry, suspended high above the floor. The player can also see a room overlooking the arena -- section E. The player jumps from container to container, slowly exploring the vertical space. Once they are in the highest position they enter a network of small service tunnels (section C) that gradually descend. After navigating the tunnels, the player drops down into an outdoor section -- section D. From here, they can go between D and E via the stair. Once inside E, they can cross the suspended bridge that they saw earlier to their objective. On the way to F, they notice a pickup, situated on a container that they previously could not access via section B. If they player decided to jump down onto this container, then they need to backtrack via, B, C, and D. Figure 9 Figure 8 and Figure 9 demonstrate how creating a planar map based on a molecule can be an excellent way to creatively problem-solve spatial design. This method of concepting forces the designer to create interesting spatial options at the planar map stage of level design. From my own experiences, designing levels starting at the planar stage more often than not leads to boring, linear progressions which are a consequence of trying to create interesting 3D spaces in a purely 2D creative space. More Advanced Toolsets Now that the basics of graphing theory have been discussed, it is time to move on examine some of the tools that designers have at fingertips when going about designing game spaces. It is important to note that these are just some of the concepts available for designers. As this article is appropriating some of these ideas, there are instances where it is necessary to deviate from some of the pure mathematical interpretations of these concepts. This article will explore the following graphing concepts: • Dominion Theory • Steiner Points • Spanning Trees Dominion / Domination Theory Domination Theory is a way to understand how nodes can have an area of effect (AOE) and how this AOE might overlap with other nodes. This tool is especially useful to analyze your existing maps from the perspective of player experience. Using this method, each node represents "zones of play" and the intensity of play that happens within each space. This notion of "zones of play" is something that was originally explored during the design of Half-Life and is referred to as "Experiential Density". Experiential Density is a term coined by Valve's designers during the creation of Half-Life. The concept refers to play experience being distance-based, rather than time-based. The basic concept is that a player should always opt-in to the next section of the play experience. They should be given as much time as they need in order to accumulate loot or simply explore before being placed in a situation of high intensity. Figure 10 Figure 10 is an example taken from Half-Life 2 that demonstrates how dominion theory can be used to promote Experiential Density. In this map, we have three distinct section of high-intensity play represented by nodes, A, B, and C. The area of effect around the nodes is meant to represent the intensity of play in each of these sections. The greater the AOE, the greater the challenge posed to the player. If we are designing with Experiential Density in mind, then we can use Dominion to ensure that we are not forcing the player into consecutive, high intensity play zones. Quite literally we are looking at molecule design to ensure that we have enough emotional "cool-down" time for the player between zones. I like to think of these cool-down zones as being similar to dynamics in music. In his book The Clarinet and Clarinet Playing, musician and author David Pino sums this notion up well: Think of it this way: If you look out from the shore upon a great expanse of ocean, you may become very quickly bored. If however the ocean is enlivened by the sudden appearance of an interesting ship, the view is more likely to hold your attention. Similarly, if your view is suddenly filled with hundreds of ships, not any single one of them will hold interest for very long. The same principle holds for the performance of music: If the listener perceives no subtleties he becomes bored; if he detects nothing but subtleties he becomes disorientated and bored... the most important element in any piece of music is its rhythmic flow. To better demonstrate how Dominion Theory works, let us use the same example from Half-Life 2, but let's intentionally break the Experiential Density (Figure 11). In Figure 11, the overlapping play sections are represented by the overlapping, red AOEs. From a player experience perspective, this is like trying to read a book with no punctuation. The game experience lacks a satisfactory blend of emotional states as the player "detects nothing but subtleties," in Pino's words. Figure 11 This map, therefore, is a prime candidate to apply dominion theory to in order to solve the problem of Experiential Density. Depending on the amount of cool-down space you wish the player to have you can adjust your rules for "dominion-overlap" to suit. For example, you could remove overlapping nodes from your molecule so there was no-overlap (as per Figure 10) or you could revise your zones of play so that the play intensity is lower, yet more frequent (as in Figure 12). Figure 12 From a level concepting perspective, Dominion can also be used to define a "spawn exclusion zone" or any other type of "exclusion zone." An exclusion zone can define an area in which something should not happen -- i.e., there should not be an overlap with the dominion of another node. In this application of Dominion Theory, a node can represent a pickup or a player spawn point. The red AOE is therefore a visual representation of the spatial metric that you have decided to use to represent minimum distances to a spawn event. Figure 13 is an example of using Dominion to define an exclusion zone. The node represents an actual player spawn point, but could be any game token. The red AOE around the node is a visual representation of the minimum distance that another spawn can occur. For example, if we are working within the confines of UDK, then we might say that based on the size of our map, each spawn point must be at least 1024UU away from another if it occupies the same vertical space. The rules of your dominion zones are flexible; however, for this example, the rule is that no other spawns are to happen within the Dominion Zone -- at least from a planar perspective. Figure 13 Figure 14 is a dominion problem that needs to be resolved. The problem may be a result of overlapping spawns or pickups that are too close. We can remove the overlap in dominion by placing these nodes further apart or by simply using level geometry to mitigate overlap, as in Figure 15. Figure 14 Figure 15 It is important though to use common sense when implementing Domination Theory. Once you start to add in level geometry, you are adding another layer of complexity to your designs that will call for revising some of your rules. Figure 16 In this example, Figure 16, I have used the spawn exclusion system to spread spawn locations in an asymmetric environment. One thing to note is that spawn point 3 has been intentionally moved further away from spawns 1 and 2. The reason for this is due to the fact that spawns 1 and 2 have fewer approach vectors -- i.e. the player can see any oncoming enemy in their view frustum upon spawn. Spawn point 3, on the other hand, has a wide arc of approach vectors which the player cannot possibly cover within the same view frustum, hence the need to compensate by moving it further away from the other spawn points. You can apply this same spawn exclusion system to other pickups -- the more powerful the pickup, the larger the spawn exclusion should be. As mentioned earlier though, level geometry and other factors such as pickups and the player's ability to move within the game space will necessitate the use of more sophisticated analytical tools -- namely Spanning Trees and Steiner Points. Using Graphing Theory to Understand Player Choice and Strategy All game levels provide some type of spatial problem-solving puzzle. These puzzles take a number of forms, but one type of puzzle which can be improved via the application of graphing theory are puzzles relating to optimum movement strategies seen in all well-designed deathmatch style maps. Players thrive on choice; however, too much choice can be just as bad as too little choice. Further to this, players take great pride in achieving victories via the execution of "good" strategic choices. So far we have used graphing theory to examine the construction of play spaces; however, graphing theory is especially useful when we examine our level designs with human cunning and strategy as our primary concern. The principles of Steiner trees, spanning trees, and maximum and minimum cutting are integral to understanding these human factors. Figure 17 Figure 17 is an example of a hypothetical level. Each node, designated A-H, represents a different type of play space, and each edge represents how many different ways a player can move from space to space. Note that each edge does not represent a corridor, but rather the player's options. The length of the edge is short or long based on how complex that particular route is -- i.e., the longer an edge, the more time it should take to use that option. In the case of Figure 17, each space (node) has between three to five different options for the player to consider when exploring the space. The graph also communicates how the player needs to move through spaces in order to traverse the map. Figure 18 Spanning trees can be used to define the most optimal connection of nodes in a graph. This tool can also be useful when we are trying to understand player behavior in a map and look for aspects of the design that may be unfair or unbalanced. We can use spanning trees such as those seen in Figure 18 to help disperse item pickups, define spawn points, and place level geometry to help counteract any significantly overpowered (OP) movement strategies that might emerge in a PvP map. Although mapping out specific permutations of the optimal movement strategy for a level is a good way to start defining your play spaces, it is essential that we give further consideration for players' desire to exercise cunning and emergence. A good example of this point is considering the pride that people (not just players) take in identifying shortcuts. A shortcut is a set of strategic choices that sit outside of the norm. Players will look for opportunities like this in any game environment and their discovery and exploitation of this can be very satisfying on an emotional level. A great way of planning for an understanding this behavior comes from the theory of Steiner trees. A Steiner tree is a type of spatial problem that looks for the shortest interconnection between a number of nodes. The example that Raph Koster gives in his "Games are Math" presentation is a good way to understand the application of Steiner trees in games. In his presentation, Koster states "If you have three nodes and you need to create the shortest possible route between them, what is the shortest amount of edges required?" Koster states that most people will answer something similar to Figure 19. Figure 19 The answer to this problem is slightly more devious, as it requires adding another node in the puzzle -- a Steiner point. Via introducing the Steiner point in Figure 20, we have created the most optimal solution to this puzzle. Steiner points and the edges that they create can be treated just like any other type of graph. In the context of games, we can use weighted and directed edges to help define how a Steiner point might be a height element of a map or may be another one-way gate, like a teleporter or jump pad. Figure 20 A Steiner Point is a shortcut. It is that element of a level's design that players will seek out in order to exploit. The secret for level designers is to make the Steiner points in your map seem less obvious than the spanning tree routes. Borderlands is a good example of this. Within the maps, spanning tree paths are clearly defined and for the most part, appear as clearly defined paths and gantries. Steiner points exist within the game in the form of height elements which allow the player to skip large sections of the spanning trees by jumping down to certain parts of the map, therefore avoiding large path traversal. Krom's Canyon in Borderlands is just one example where the player can jump down from raised platforms to quickly move to another point in the map, therefore creating a Steiner point (see Figure 21). Figure 21 Figure 22 (taken from Krom's Canyon above) is an example of how spanning trees and Steiner points work from a level design perspective. In this example, in order for the player to get from node A to node F, they must enact a spanning tree solution. This relationship is represented in the level design by a set of gradually ascending platforms which are interconnected via bridges. A number of bonus items are implemented in this section of the map via Steiner points. Figure 22 In Figure 23, two Steiner points have been added. Although there are actually several other Steiner points in this spatial molecule, these nodes are pickups placed on high platforms, only accessible from the nodes above them. As such, not only are these considered to be Steiner points as they offer the player a shortcut, but they are important points of interest for the player that allow them to explore the environment as a spatial puzzle. Figure 23 Figure 24 expands this particular section of play into an even more defined molecule and adds two other major Steiner nodes that show how the player can traverse the space when they are either ascending or descending. Figure 24 Now that we have taken a look at how Steiner points operate from a spatial puzzle perspective, lets revisit our spanning tree molecule originally introduced in Figure 17. If we applied Steiner points to link nodes in close proximity, then we would have something similar to what is seen in Figure 25. Figure 25 These Steiner nodes could take many forms. They could be teleporters, actual level geometry, or even height elements that allow for faster path traversal. Figure 25 shows how many Steiner points we could possibly have in this spatial design. According to Koster, too many Steiner points are bad for human players, because you have provided so much opportunity; there really isn't much scope to exercise what I like to call "skillful strategy." Basically, there is no pleasure to be derived from creating shortcuts in this environment because there are so many of them. Figure 26 If we begin to use level geometry to reduce the amount of possible Steiner points, we are beginning to ask much more of the player. By giving them fewer options (Figure 26), we are asking the player to exercise better strategy than the other players on the map. The upside to this is that players who do well in this environment will take much more satisfaction from its successful completion, as they perceive the lack of options to be indicative of a more complex problem. To demonstrate how a reduction in Steiner points relates to increased difficulty, we need look no further than the Steiner tree problem that we see in the lower, east quadrant of the Fallout 3 overworld (see Figure 27.) Figure 27 Spatial navigation problems in the early parts of Fallout 3 are negotiated via simple spanning trees where you have many possible Steiner points. This is most noticeable in the areas to the south of main Vault as this is the first (and easiest) part of the map that the player is expected to explore. As difficulty increases, though, these Steiner points are vastly reduced; this can be seen in the subway system of DC, which the player encounters later in the main quest of Fallout 3. A Practical Implementation So far we have examined the basic principles of graphing theory and applied this to the analysis of a number of commercial examples, but how does graphing theory stack up as a tool to concept game spaces? The following is an example of a practical implementation of the theory of molecule design created by Nassib Azar. In this example, a molecule concept is tested, implemented, and refined in order to create a balanced, multiplayer space, which despite its simplicity, offers players with a significant amount of interesting strategic possibilities to explore. The core idea Nassib decided to explore was a map design which had three layers of experience, represented as three concentric circles. The game space is a deathmatch style map within the default game type of Unreal Development Kit. The outer layer comprises low intensity zones designed to "feed" players into the innermost section of the game space. For the purposes of this design, "intensity" is measured by the amount of players actively trying to kill each other within each zone. Figure 28 is one of the preproduction sketches of the map. This diagram explores how choke points, intersections, spawn points and weapon pickups could be used to increase the intensity of the play experience as the player nears the center of the map. Figure 28 After some initial paper prototypes and feedback, the core idea of three concentric play spaces of varying intensity eventually developed into a more concrete molecule which defines the space as a whole. Figure 29 is an iteration of the early concept. In this iteration, we still have the same set of concentric circles representing intensity of play; however, edges have been added to describe how the outer sections feed into the middle. To achieve this goal, Nassib applied the notion of Compression and Funneling, a simple tool which looks at how forcing the player around a game space using various game elements can create heightened emotional states. In Figure 29, each edge represented additional vectors of compression on the nodes they led to. In the case of this example, the nodes represented spaces for conflict; the more the edges leading into a node the higher the compression on that node (and as a result, the higher the intensity of game experience). In this application, node size was used to represent increased compression, and subsequently, intensity of play. Figure 29 Although the application of molecule design is meant to create a distinction between play experience and level geometry, Nassib chose to explore whether pure geometrical representations of space have inherent player experience value. The hexagonal attributes of Nassib's molecule prototypes were worthy of further investigation. The question was: Would the molecule translate to actual level geometry and still retain the original design intent? The prototype molecule used to define the overall game space went through a number of iterations in the form of grey box levels developed within UDK. It was clear through prototyping that the experiment had merit; the intensity of the player's experience increases as they work their way towards the center of the map. Nodes became generic play spaces (rooms) and edges became corridors that would feed into these spaces. Figure 30 is one of the more advanced iterations of the grey box. It shows the implementation of the original molecule into a playable space. During testing, it was found that for intensity of play to increase, the room sizes needed to increase in order to accommodate the increased play intensity. Room sizes are designed to create the most optimal zone sizes for the desired amount of play intensity. The original molecule design translated well in this regard. Play zones became progressively larger as they player moves towards the center of the map, yet the zones are also small enough to force the players into close proximity combat, hence increasing play intensity. Figure 30 In order to create a siphoning of players towards the center of the map, a molecule was designed to aid in the placement of various weapon pickups. There are two main molecules used to define token placement. Weapon pickups were embedded in a molecule that forced the player to move quickly towards the center of the map. Health pickups were embedded in a molecule that forced the player to explore the circular boundaries of each play zone. The differing nature of these two molecules not only adds to creating clearly defined and different movement tactics for offensive and defensive play, but also aids spreading play over the entirety of the map rather than the central most zones. Figure 31 Figure 31 breaks down the graphing further. In the close up of the medium node (upper left), a differentiation is made between two different edge types leading into it. Edges 1 and 2 come from the spawn point while 3 and 4 are fed from other medium nodes. This suggests a difference in danger level and is therefore represented by expressing the edges differently. Although the initial design hypothesis suggested that there would be some type of discernable difference between edges one and two AND three and four, it took several revisions of the grey box to observe this hypothesis the real world, seen in Figure 32. Figure 32 Early iterations of the grey box demonstrated a fundamental flaw in the design. Although play was becoming intensified as it reached the center of the map, a secondary mechanic was emerging; players became aware that it was possible to farm the outer ring of the map and rack up numerous spawn kills. As a result of testing, edges [corridors] 1 and 2 were raised to create one-way gates, allowing them to feed players into the map but not allowing players already within the map to access the spawn points. The elevated corridors were re-conceptualized in the physical space as maintenance shafts, as can be seen below in Figure 33. Figure 33 The placement of pickups also benefited from the molecule design approach and followed a similar symmetrical layout to the level geometry. Although the use of symmetrical molecules creates an easy workflow for designing the map, too much symmetry is often boring and even confusing for players. To address this issue, asymmetry was used to create navigation landmarks for the players as well rooms that highlighted different types of weapons and game mechanics. Differences in each room's layout served two purposes: to aid with player navigation and to create "perceived" advantages to each room. Perceived unfairness suggests no matter how fair or balanced a system is, players will be drawn to elements of the game that they believe are broken, even if they are not. In essence, each room in the second ring contained a different type of spatial molecule. The molecules differed by varying choke points and cover elements. The result of this can be seen in the comparison between Figure 34 and Figure 35; both are rooms in the second ring and both offer different types of play experience within them. Figure 34 After further iteration and testing, it was found that players were entering the primary room more than the second ring / medium rooms, but not at the expected proportion. The intensity of the play experience needed to be very high in the center room and there simply was not enough player traffic to achieve the desired experience. Of course, this could have been addressed with revising the space to make it smaller, however as much of the level art had already gone into production, it became necessary to look at alternative option. To amplify this experience, a second ring of player spawn points where created on the mezzanine floor of the secondary ring. The walking distance to the center room from the upper spawns was shorter than the ground floor and therefore encouraged far more traffic to the central room and as such created the desired effect. Figure 35 The two stacked spawns in Figure 36 did not have the same spawn-to-engagement times to the mid rooms. In other words, the edges above were not equal to those below when they should have been. By changing the position of the spawns in line with the revised molecule design, time to engagement was negligible when compared with the existing spawn points. Figure 36 Symmetrical molecules create fair distribution of stairs and elevators in the map; however, the actual design of each of these three elevators is varied intentionally (Figure 37). The rationale for this approach was to highlight the psychology of perceived unfairness. Via testing, it was shown that most players thought that the stairs near their spawn point gave them the advantage, and that this advantage was not used against them. Asymmetry was also used in the design of stairs themselves, again this served two functions: to assist with navigation and vary the play experience in the medium rooms. Figure 37 Another strategy that was used for balancing was not in the graphing theory itself, but highlights how graphing theory can help read player behavior. A Kismet script was created where every three minutes the game would compare the number of players that have passed through each of the six medium rooms and determine which one had the least traffic. The room with the least activity would then spawn a trigger. When pressed by a player, this trigger would vent every other player into space, killing them and scoring multiple kills for the instigator. (Figure 38 is a view from above the map, and the last thing a player would see before dying.) This encourages "heat" where there is least, therefore creating a dynamic balancing system through mechanics rather than the static graphing. When presented with this scenario, players are given a choice to exercise Steiner point solutions to resolve the spatial problem -- what is the shortest route to the target. Figure 38 Once the script had identified the room with the least traffic, all players in the map receive both an auditory and a console announcement letting them know which medium room the trigger is available in. Depending on the player's current location, they are presented with two main choices. They can use the risky, but shortest path through the center OR they can navigate the longer, but safer path through the medium rooms, avoiding the central conflict area. By doing so, we have created two different strategies for players; they can use the middle room as a Steiner node or use the outer rooms as a spanning tree solution (Figure 39). These strategic options play to a player's sense of accomplishment. The player feels a sense of pride, as they feel they are outwitting the rest by taking a shortcut to the proper room. Level assets used to populate the various rooms also served to reduce the total amount of possible Steiner points, creating higher intrinsic value for finding one of the limited solutions. Figure 39 The final published map went through eight major revisions, resulting in updates to either the grey box or the molecules themselves to achieve the final product. Underpinning each revision was a revised molecule concept that would then be converted into a grey box. As such, each revision had clear objectives and goals and the final product benefited greatly from this, as time was extremely limited. Conclusion People like Dan Cook and Chris Crawford look at how people's motivation to play games stems from our need to learn and prove these new gained skills. Raph Koster takes this notion further by being even more specific; people are pattern-finding machines and we take pleasure from games when we identify patterns and pre-empt them. It therefore stands to reason that using the pattern-based approach of molecule design to define play spaces immediately plays to this desire. There is one main consideration to keep in mind; the player doesn't perceive the game as a planar map; they sense it from their own camera frustum. As such, the scale and "identifiability" of the molecules you want to implement is very much limited by how much of the game world the player can perceive at any one point in the game. Too often designers create labyrinth type maps, which -- although being easily understand from a planar perspective -- are absolutely impossible to traverse when viewed through the limited perspective of the player. As such, molecules and the patterns that they create need not necessarily be complex in order for them to be "fun" for the player. Instead, well designed game spaces tend to have a number of nested molecules, rather than a molecule that defines the space as a whole. The practical example created by Nassib Azar is relatively simple from a graphing perspective, however the amount of molecule permutations created by the dynamic game elements create a diverse, yet manageable set of strategies for the players to explore. It is important to point out the use of graphing theory to conceptualize and analyze game spaces is not a new idea, but rather one that has been discussed in various forms by different authors. The original inspiration for this research came from Raph Koster and his Games are Math presentation, and I would recommend Koster's work to anyone interested in rational approaches to design. Joris Dormans also has a few informative articles that deal with how graphing theory can be a powerful tool for level designers. Dormans' Adventures in Level Design and Level Design as Model Transformation [Links N/A] are excellent and display the malleability of this toolset. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/184783/the_metrics_of_space_molecule_.php\ Follow Luke Website: https://330mega.wordpress.com/ Follow Nassib Website: https://nassibazardotcom.wordpress.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/azarnas
  14. As our frequent readers know, one stylistic cornerstone of InnerSpace is the image of a strange, foreign tower jutting out from rock formations, bending over the curve of a hollowed-out planet. These aren’t merely exterior decoration, though, as the player can enter and explore many of these towers. We’ve written about our level design process in the past, but as the game evolved, so too has this methodology. Here, I wanted to reveal a bit about our new tower design process, and show a bit about what goes into creating a game about flow. Here’s a quick version of the steps: 1. Draw it on paper, usually during meetings or the bus ride to and from work. 2. Whitebox in Unity with ProBuilder, creating plenty of abhorrent geometry. Iterate ceaselessly. 3. Apply modules to create the form, balancing looks (important) with function (still important, I guess). 4. Finalize and optimize geometry. This is the point of no return, so all iteration leads here. Each stage carries a number of considerations, from the speed of completion to what the player sees when they exit the tower. Through each step, these considerations morph and take on different weights as we move from 2d to 3d, then through different versions of the same central concept. In the end, we hope to end up with a smooth space that provokes curiosity and encourages the player to fly in daring ways. Step 1: Draw It This stage covers everything from tiny doodles in my pocket sketchbook to slightly larger, more deliberate drawings in my larger sketchbook. Early on, we’re looking to nail down the overall form, the core mechanic concepts, and the essential flow and feeling of the tower. Rough photo of the rough sketch. This is the height of precision-engineered levels. It helps to look at this method in contrast to more traditional, some might say, precise versions of level design. Whereas an FPS or more floor-bound game is served well by rooms plotted on graph paper, we face a central challenge of designing levels in full 3d with a player in near-constant motion. So, instead of encountering spaces as individually parseable, explorable segments, an InnerSpace player instead moves endlessly. Any evaluation or decision-making needs more lead time, and spaces themselves have to facilitate forward motion. While taking measurements and relating space-traveled to time-traveled is useful, the core of each tower rests in the possibilities for forward momentum found within. What’s it all for? The lofty goal of each tower is: introduce a new space in the world, mechanically and experientially, drawing them to explore and find lost relics. Each tower should build on player’s flight knowledge and lead them somewhere new. Where to start? Site selection Whether in the shallows, mountains, or fallen into an abyss, a tower’s context plays a role in helping shape the kind of interaction that suits it best, as well as the space we have to work with. This context also sets up the basic shape the tower will take. For example, if nested against mountains, the tower will likely rise vertically to match the terrain, wrap around the ridge, or possibly shoot through the mountain itself as a series of tunnels. Central Concept Each tower is built according to a combination of ideas, coalescing around a central chamber, an essential flow, or both. Chamber: The focal point around which the rest of the tower is built. It’s usually a goal or a resting spot of some kind, and isn’t always an entrance. Essential flow: As mentioned above, the player is in constant motion, and InnerSpace is meant to be more relaxing than stressful. That means that more confined spaces (i.e., anything indoors) need to present decision points without introducing hard stops that would force a player to crash. We have areas where it’s advantageous to stall, but even when stalling the plane moves. Regular maze-like room layouts won’t work. Instead we key into the concept of “flow.” Flow isn’t very scientific here. It basically means that I can draw a line through a level that doesn’t curve back on itself at an angle less than, say, 45 degrees. It’s a loose concept intended to help make levels that take advantage of constant motion. In a tower (or section) designed around flow, a general shape will form out of this initial stroke. Because this stage doesn’t worry about 3D precision, the flow can remain relatively loosely defined, forming an idea of the shapes and structures that will be needed to actually form the space. One final consideration at this stage is the way our tower will sit on the interior curve of the planet. Because the structures become rather large, they can stretch across multiple gravity tangents. Inside, this results in spaces that appear to curve upward and hallways at interesting angles. Beats: Larger towers are usually made of a few different shapes and segments, each designed independently, but with context in mind. When imagining how each will link together, it’s helpful to think of each segment as “beats.” This turns compounds of structures into a kind of rhythmic build, linking the feeling of motion to the twisting, expansion, and contraction of space at different intervals. Once a number of sketches covering these angles are complete, it’s time to prototype in Unity. Step 2: Whitebox with ProBuilder This takes up the bulk of our time in level creation, but there’s not a whole lot of new philosophy at this stage. In Unity, we use a tool called ProBuilder, which lets you create and edit (relatively simple) geometry directly in-editor. This greatly speeds up prototyping and iteration, as we no longer have to hop between Blender and our scene to make level adjustments. Without this more organic editing ability, it would be a sight more difficult to build levels to fit the model so-far discussed. The general form, in ProBuilder geometry. At this stage, it’s all down to building and iterating to strike a balance between realizing and improving upon the initial sketch. Taking the sketches, I build out the essential structures, then size internally and externally to fit both the site and the allowances of the plane’s speed and handling. Usually, this amounts to lengthening hallways, expanding angles on curves, or dropping pillars into the middle of tall chambers. While our foundational ideas are formed with certain assumptions about how the game plays, it’s only in-engine that such projections are proven, or else shown to be delusions. A look from inside the “central chamber” of this tower. Throughout this stage I produce a hefty pile of abhorrent geometry (sorry, Steve), but it mostly gets the job done as we perform playtests and iterate on the towers. While the surroundings are taken into account throughout the process, it’s usually after a few stages of iteration that the whiteboxed tower is dropped into the environment, where more changes can be made if necessary. Step 3: Give It Form To speed our level creation process, and save the sanity of our 3D artists, we’ve maintained a modular tower construction(kitbashing) system throughout the project. At this stage, we select modules and actually form the tower. The same tower, “skinned” with modules. You can see how the exterior expresses the interior form, while adding on additional detail. Also, note how the segment on the right bends towards the left- this is accounting for the planet’s curvature. There are some basic rules here. For one, the tower itself should obey, or at least bear evidence of, the changing direction of gravity as it straddles the curvature of the planet. As a result, towers tend to exhibit braced, almost cantilevered forms that push up and out from the water. While we have to be careful not to design death traps within the interiors, we gain much more freedom when constructing the external shapes of each tower. Beyond basic constraints and needs (i.e., the modules should cover/contain the interior form), the specifics of each tower arise out of fun and experimentation. What shapes and forms would be cool to fly over, around, and under? In some cases, this thinking has resulted in additional rooms or sections being grafted into the outside of towers. Since stylistic considerations enter into it here, it’s worth mentioning our two tower materials and the way they interact: stone plates and metal rails. If you remember our tripartite aesthetic goals from way back, you’ll get why using these materials well is so important. Visually, rails add contrast and dynamic, strong lines that can support or cut across the “body” built of stone plates. In terms of the aesthetics of worldbuilding, the rails define form and show, quite boldly, the way that a tower stands against the changing gravity across the planet’s surface. Functionally, in terms of the player’s experience, they help delineate and hint at a tower’s interior flow, and they themselves form exterior flight paths. Step 4: Boolean + Detail This step has little to no design work, and is basically up to Steve, one of our 3D artists, and whether he wants to put up with my ProBuilder geometry or not. So far, he hasn’t flat-out refused to do it, so kudos to him there. The direction of the rails hints at the flow of the interior. Here, you can also see glass and some of the hanging civilization added in the last stage. Here, there’s a fun process whereby the individual module meshes are joined into one, optimized piece (rails and stone separate). Then, the interior form is subtracted from this mesh, and it’s all further cleaned up and detailed with floor patterns and doors. Certain towers have interior structures added, though these usually emphasize, rather than fully alter, the flow of a space. Finally, relics and other discoverable points of interest are placed, along with external structures like hanging gardens and the rail-dwelling civilization that built them. As well as we can, we repeat this process for everything from towers to natural formations in the Ice World and beyond. While I love the process and the details, ultimately it comes down to how well the spaces flow in their final form, and how empowered and enlivened a player feels tackling their halls head-on. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: http://polyknightgames.com/level-design-designing-for-flow/ Follow Eric Website: https://emgrossman.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/EM_Grossman
  15. 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: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categories/csgo-tutorials/csgo-how-to-design-gameplay-map-layouts.php Follow World of Level Design Website: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameLevelDesign Book: https://www.amazon.com/Preproduction-Blueprint-Environments-Level-Designs/dp/1539103188/ 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
  16. This is my approach to map design, it is not the ultimate view of halo map design, there are many different approaches to take, and this is one of the many that has been shown to work.During the early days of forge I contributed many things to our development and understanding of asymmetrical map design. Some of this work dates back 6 years. All of my post and articles were recently lost when MLG deleted the Halo 3 forge forums post. I am posting a compilation of my work on asymmetrical map design that has been edited and expanded. This post is an accumulation of a large chunk of my knowledge of map design, to which I want to share with the rest of the community.Some of this information is now common knowledge, but I think it is important to have it set and well defined. This also helps newer designers and forgers understand and develop their concept of map design. I hope that this will be of help to new and old forgers alike. It is a long and extensive read, so be ready to set some time aside for this. All together it is 8 full pages on a Microsoft Word document.Thank you and Enjoy,John “Darkling Ninja”Section 1: FlowA. Defining FlowFlow is basically the way in which player(s) move through a map during the course of a game. As stated by Bungie flow is very hard to define and talk about being that it is an abstract concept. Here are two articles from professionals that talk about flow and explain it better then I can.Bungie:http://nextleveldesign.proboards.com/thread/256/carneys-crash-course-map-designEpic Games:http://nextleveldesign.proboards.com/thread/151/multiplayer-map-theoryB. Circular FlowA circular flow is a common and great way to create successful flow throughout a map. That does not mean that players should be running around in a circle the entire time they play your map. Instead of thinking about this idea geometrically think of it in terms of conceptual movement. Conceptually a circle is a consistent, easily repeated, and natural pattern of movement.A good analogy for this would be rocks moving around in circulating water. The rocks move around in a circular motion within the water, occasionally they will run into another rock or two. This run in will cause those rocks to be set off course with the circular flow of the water. The rocks might end up moving through the center of the circular flowing water or go outside of it. Even though those rocks where set off course they will eventually be drawn back into that circular movement, flowing around inside the water. This process would repeat itself over and over.Although this might sound odd, think of the rocks as players and the circulated water as the map they are playing on. Players are going to be set off course of your maps flow over and over, your job as the designer is to make sure the player can once again be easily drawn back into the flow of your map.As a designer creating this within your map takes time, thought and testing. When designing a map, you want to make sure that the flow of your map extends to all areas. A majority of the time, the reason why an area on a map is underused is because there is no flow into that area. Paying attention to flow of your map will help contribute to the overall game play of your design.Section 2: ConnectionsA. IntroConnections are basically the way in which a player transitions from one part of the map to another. There are many ways to create connections in your map design. In the end these connections are what determine the flow of your map. There are many different ways to create and use connections. In the end the connections on your map will be its life line. How you use connections will determine whether or not your map plays well.B. Types of Connections and TransitionsThere are many different types of connections and transitions. So I will just list them in a simple way.Types of Connections:1. Hard Connection - Hard connections are basically routes from one place to another that do not involve the player to do anything but move through it. They do not involve jumping, or going out of the way in any fashion, it is just a straight walk from one point to another. Examples of this would be a bridge, floor, ramp ect…2. Soft connections - Soft connections are routes to a location that involves the player actively doing something in order to use. In most scenarios this type of connection involves jumping, thus the term “jump ups”. Lifts and drop downs are also forms of soft connections.3. Direct Connections and Indirect Connections - A direct connection is one that takes a player directly to where they want to go without having to go out of the way to get there. An indirect connection usually involves the player having to go out of their way in order to get to an area. An example of these types of connection would be bottom middle of guardian. If I am bottom middle on guardian and I want to approach Snipe tower I can either take the direction connection through S1 or take the indirect connect through Green and L.4. Controlled and Uncontrolled Connections - Most connections are controlled connections, meaning the player has full control of what they are doing.An uncontrolled connection is a connection that when used a player does not have control over their movement. In Halo there are really only three ways to create uncontrolled connections, and that is a Lift, Teleporters and drop down. In all three cases the player does not have control of what they are doing while they use the connection.C. Designing ConnectionsEach type of connection has its own advantages and disadvantages. Balancing out these advantages and disadvantages is very important. Halo 3 Construct is a good example of connection usage. The lifts are direct, soft, uncontrolled connections. The speed of the lifts allows the player to quickly reach the top most powerful part of the map. In return the player cannot control themselves until after they have used this connection, making it a risky connection to use.Players also have the option of taking the gold ramps up to open street, this is an indirect, hard, controlled connection. The ramps allow a safer transition to the top then the lifts, but the amount of time it takes gives the enemy team a chance to set up.The ramps up to sword room give the player a third option of approach creating a direct, soft, controlled connection. A player must go out of there way, and do something just to use this, but it results in a direct path to the top of the map and a possible flank.Putting to much emphasis on one type of connection can make it over powered or useless. Making a route to indirect can make it take so long to use that its pointless to give the other that much time to set up, so by they time you get there you just get destroyed. Having a route be direct can result it the route being over powered and over used, restricted the flow of your map to that section.As one can see designing the connections on your map can be a real pain, and take a lot of thought, but it is a vital part of your design.Section 3: VerticalityA. Intro to VerticalityVerticality, one of the hardest things to pull off right, but important in every map design except for a griff ball court. Many terms and phrases are used to describe verticality, “height variation or changes”. “Different Levels”, we all have a term or way to describe this. The ubiquitous nature of verticality shows its importance to map design. Without verticality all you have is a flat map like most griff ball courts. For most forgers verticality is a wall that we all must climb over in our development as designers.This section on verticality explored the properties, and usage of verticality in map design. Many new forgers do not take proper consideration into the vertical space that their map occupies. A map can have the same width and depth of the original guardian, but the vertical height of the map can make it 5 times larger then guardian. Realizing this, the application and usage of verticality in your design has a huge impact on your map.B. Properties and Functions of VerticalityThis section is short and sweet, I am just going to list some of the main properties or functions that verticality can have. If I miss some, please comment and I will do my best to add them in.1. Dynamic and Versatile - Verticality creates dynamic and versatile game play in a map. The height variations prevent stale and repetitive game play.2. Divisions - Verticality creates divisions between the difference levels of your map. This can be for better or for worse. Divisions can be used to promote movement and create dynamic game play. They can also cause your map to be sectioned off and disconnected. You can prevent this from happening by proper use of connections.3. Advantages - Verticality can create advantages for players. Verticality can provide control over a fight, superior angles, height advantage, Cover and many other things.4. Disadvantages - Verticality can also create disadvantages for players. Being high up and out in the open can result in a player becoming an easy target or a swift death.5. Flow - Verticality has a clear impact on the flow of the map. Instinctively players will travel to the highest point of the map, thus verticality can make the lower part of your maps underused or even ignored.C. Usage and Application of VerticalityThe primary concern when using vertically is how you make the connections from one level to the other. Making sure there is adequate and balanced connections is what will make or break the verticality on your map. A player should be able to move from varies level changes smoothly. A good way to create this is using Drop Downs and Lifts. Lifts and drop downs allow for instantaneous vertical movement up and down. In the best map throughout the halo series lifts and drops downs are common place. Wizard, Pirate, Midship, Lockout, Foundation, Ivory Tower, Construct, Guardian, The Pit, Narrows all had lifts and drop downs.Making sure there is also a diversity of all the connections that balance out with one and other is key in creating successful vertically. In order to make sure the lower portions of your map are used, a good trick is to give them an ample supply of connections that are greater then their higher up adversaries. When designing the vertically make sure to take everything into account.Section 4: Asymmetrical Map DesignA. An Intro to Pie MethodNow after all that reading we finally get to the bread and butter, Asymmetrical Map Design. There are multiple ways to approach Asymmetrical Map Design. Asymmetrical Maps are maps that are inherently are not balanced. Thus when creating an asymmetrical map you are creating an unbalanced map. That does not mean the map will not work, that means that you have to find a way to create a form of balance or asymmetrical balance. This does not mean making the two uneven sides equal in power, that usually results in standoffish game play.Pie method is a layout that Bungie was very fond of using in their maps. I am sure they have a more technical name for it, but until they tell us what it is pie method will do. I posted pie method 6 years ago as a way to layout out a functioning asymmetrical map. This was during a time when forgers where struggling to find a way to create a proper asymmetrical design and find a way to make asymmetry work.Note that pie method is not the only way to layout an asymmetrical map, but for those who want to learn how to design asymmetrical maps or better their asymmetrical design it is a successful ad easy to use template.B. TerminologyControl points: Control points are areas on the map that offer rewards for controlling. The rewards can range from controlling other areas of the map to shooting angles, power weapons and/or connections.Dominate control points: This refers to the parts of the map that have the most power or rewardsSecondary Control points: These parts of the map are usually checked by one of the dominate control points on the map, and are controlled by the team in control of the dominate control point that checks it.Checks: Checks refer to areas on the map that counter another area of the map, or put them into check.C. Pie MethodPie method lays out 4 sections of the map, dividing it into two dominate areas, which both have control over a different secondary control point on the map. Pie Method Layout:• Red is the most dominate control point, the most powerful area of the map• Blue is the sub-dominate control point, the second most powerful area on the map.• The shooting angles on Red allow it to check Green, making it Green Red’s secondary control point.• The shooting angles on Blue allow it to check Gold, making it Gold Blue’s secondary control point.• Red checks both Green and Blue, and has a slight advantage on Gold but not enough to check or control Gold.• Blue checks both Gold and Red, and has a slight advantage in Green but not enough to check or control Green• Green and Gold check each otherExample:A team’s objective is to control the Dominate Control Point, due to the fact that it offers the best rewards and advantages to control.Red team will be in control of The dominate point, while blue team is in control of the Sub-dominate control point. Blues teams objective is to take control of the dominate control point, While Red teams objective will be to keep control of the dominate point.By being in control of a dominate control point, a team also controls a secondary control point that is not as powerful as a primary control point, but allows players to move about the map more, and have more shooting angles.As players fight for control of the different areas of the map the flow around it shifting control of different areas, and flowing around the map like a circle. You can easily shift up where the control points are on the map, making Gold dominate and Blue a secondary, or do the same with Red and Green or both.D. Power weapons and Balance"Your map should not support your power weapons, Your power weapons should support your Map." - Darkling NInjaBasically what this quote means is that an area of your map should not be designed around a power weapon. The power weapons that are placed on your map should reinforce the structure and flow of your map. No area on your map should rely on power weapon support to function properly. The best way to avoid doing this in a design is to not even think about power weapons on your map until after it has been completely forged.I personally do not even begin to place or think about power weapons until after I have placed the spawns and set up all game types. This is so that I can gear the spawns and game types in the way that will play best with the structure of my maps. The power weapons go last, because they allow me to place weapons that reinforce not just my maps geometry but also every game type and player spawn.When balancing out the many different areas on your map, you do not need to rely on power weapon spawns to create flow and movement. Instead use Flow, connections and verticality to strengthen the core of your map design. Flow, connections and verticality will give you more then enough ways to balance out your asymmetrical map. Instead of relying on gimmicks like power weapons use your knowledge and tools as a designer to create harmony within your map.That doesn't mean that a map is not good if it has an area that relies on a power weapon to function properly. My personal opinion is to avoid it though.E. ConclusionPie method can be seen in multiple asymmetrical maps throughout the Halo series, including Chill out, Hang'em High, Lockout, Guardian, Prisoner, Headlong, Damnation, and Ivory Tower.Pie method is not the only way to approach and design an asymmetrical map, but it is a reliable and easy method that works. For those of you just starting off or veterans who are struggling with an asymmetrical map design, Pie Method can be a valuable asset.For those trying to learn asymmetrical map design, creating a map using pie method can teach you a lot about making an asymmetrical map. It can be a great tool that will help you understand and learn how to make successful asymmetrical maps.I hope You all enjoyed the read!Source: https://www.forgehub.com/threads/map-design-flow-connections-verticality-and-asymmetry.145326/
  17. Follow the PresentersDavid Shaver:Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidShaver?lang=enWebsite: http://www.davidshaver.net/ Robert Yang:Twitter: https://twitter.com/radiatoryangWebsite: https://radiatoryang.itch.io/
  18. Introduction Michael Barclay started off modding in Unreal Tournament and Warcraft 3. He started off as in programming and spcripting, and eventually got into level design with stints at Free Radical Design, Crytek, and Naughty Dog, amongst others. The following are excerpts from an interview that Michael did with 80 Level. Follow the link at the end of this post to read the whole interview.Prototyping Earlier in his career, Michael typically made massive documents and spent a lot of time on level pitches. He moved away from this method over time, finding that others simply didn't have the time to absorb all of the information in them. Now he tends to get to the prototyping phase very quickly. How does level design work with gameplay Here we get some thoughts on the importance of understanding the mechanics of the game you're designing for, and the challenges of designing levels for a game where the mechanics are constantly evolving. Navigation On the subject of navigation, Michael suggests that designers tend to go overboard in guiding players, rather than trusting in their natural ability to understand the world they find themselves in. Sandbox design Michael discusses the benefits of different types of sandbox design. On the subject of open vs linear, he says this: He then goes on to cite some specific games, and how they approach sandbox design. Finally, the discussion turns to the challenge of building areas that have extreme interconnectivity: Source: https://80.lv/articles/how-to-work-with-level-design/Follow MichealWebsite: http://www.mikebarclay.co.uk/Twitter: https://twitter.com/MotleyGrue
  19. In this article, originally posted on Bungie.net, Chris Carney, designer at Bungie for 15 years, shares some insight into the level design process used to create the Halo: Reach map The Cage. His intent is to provide food for thought for those jumping into Halo's Forge Mode, but it's most definitely applicable to anyone with an interest in level design.The article starts off at...well...the start of the design process: Chris suggests starting out by answering 3 questions: How many players is your level going to be designed for? What are the Primary and Secondary Gametypes that will be played on it? Will the maps have Vehicles? Of course, these questions may vary depending upon the game you're designing for, but you get the point. Once you have your answers, we move on to the initial design stage. The form this takes can vary greatly from person to person, so Chris suggests using whichever method works best for you. For the purposes of this article, Chris ultimately decided to use The Cage as his example level. He stated that it "started off as a small to mid-sized, 4 – 8 player map, intended for Team Slayer and map possession gametypes such as Stockpile that was going to use some ideas from Lockout and feature outer circulation similar to Ascension and the Pit." Chris then begins to systematically work through what he calls "the seven essential multiplayer design elements." Element #1: Simplicity Element #2: Orientation Element #3: Navigation Element #4: Flow/Circulation Now we get into the nitty gritty - the actual design process used for The Cage. Chris started out knowing that the level would consist of isolated combat areas, akin to Lockout. He explains that they used colored cardboard cutouts to start out, with green boxes representing rooms, blue rectangles being bridges, a yellow circle signifying a platform, and red circles designating alternative movement options (teleporters, lifts, jumps). Element #5: Hard Points Chris continues to share further iterations, along with supporting cardboard cutout images, which you can see by following the link at the end of this post. And then he comes to the next of his seven essential elements. Element #6: Layout of Game Objects Which brings us to the final critical element. Element #7: Iteration After this brief interlude to finalize his list of essential elements, Chris returns to The Cage. And finally, we get to the editor. Chris jumps into forge and begins constructing his well prepared level, making various further adjustments as he went along. As was the case earlier, Chris provides more detail on the iteration process, which can be seen in the original article. And with that, we reach the end of our lesson. Read the full article here: http://halo.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=29601 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
  20. Splash Damage has released the Game Design Document for Dirty Bomb to the public. One section of this document consists of notes on the Map Designs. This section can be seen below:Map Designs: Gallery: Terminal Redux: Dome Redux: Vault: Heist: Castle: View the entire document here: https://www.splashdamage.com/news/the-design-of-dirty-bomb/
  21. Table Of Contents: I. Introduction A. Purpose B. Audience C. Thanks II. Getting Started A. Links 1. Articles 2. Forums B. Decision Time C. Drawing Up a Layout D. Testing Time III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose B. Definitions 1. Tournament Mode 2. Device #1 - Levels 3. Device #2 - Items C. Fundamentals 1. Verticality 2. Balance 3. Flow 4. Connectivity 5. Scale D. Layout Types 1. Single Atrium 2. Duel Atrium 3. Tri Atrium E. Examples 1. HUB3AEROQ3 2. CPM1A 3. PRO-Q3DM6 IV. Item Placement A. Purpose B. Weapons 1. Shotgun 2. Grenade Launcher 3. Rocket Launcher 4. Lightning Gun 5. Railgun 6. Plasma Gun 7. BFG C. Ammo D. Health E. Armor/MH 1. Placement 2. Sets F. Other 1. Powerups/Holdables 2. Shards/+5h's V. Level Design Considerations A. Purpose B. Architecture C. Clipping D. Aesthetic E. Lighting F. Performance VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps 1. Creation 2. Types B. In-Game Sounds C. World Dangers 1. Lava/Slime 2. Void 3. Traps D. Spawnpoints 1. Amount 2. Location E. Vertical Transport 1. Teleporters 2. Jumppad 3. Elevators 4. Stairs I. IntroductionA. Purpose This guide will attempt to clarify the seemingly mysterious methods, rules, and design techniques one should take into account when attempting to create a competitive level. Specifically, the guide will focus on the aspects of mapping for the Challenge ProMode mod for Quake III Arena. I know, you're probably wondering why you would need this guide when you've already got all those other great articles around. But this particular guide will be a sort of culmination of previous knowledge–taking in all past information and conglomerating it into one single comprehensive article. Hopefully this will make it much easier for the beginning mapper to create quality competitive maps without having to take ages to learn all the aspects of creating them. The guide is to be used as a sort of reference book. Although reading it one time through is okay, it is best to treat it as if it were a kind of manual. You don't usually read manuals straight through, but instead keep them handy for looking up various things at different times. B. Audience This guide is for anyone who has ever thought about, is presently considering, or is thinking about creating a serious playing tourney map for Quake3. While not a guarantee, the guide will set you in the right step forward to get your maps play time on actual servers. Even if you are just wanting to create a fun non-competitive tourney map, the guide will still be of use. C. Thanks Before I get started I would just like to thank all of the guys over at the Promode Forums for putting up with all the testing of my maps and for actually showing me most of this stuff. II. Getting StartedA. Links First of all, there are already some very informative articles out there which have a great deal of useful information in them. Much of what this guide says is simply shadowing what some of these articles have already said. 1. Articles: - TwoAM's Level Design article (Link Not Available) - DM4 Discussion (Link Not Available) - Lunaran's Design Theory (Link Not Available) - Gameplay is King (Link Not Available) - HowTo: Level Design (Link Not Available) - Spawnpoint article (Link Not Available) 2. Forums: - Promode Forums (Link Not Available) - CPMA.ORG.UK Forums (Link Not Available) - XSReality (Link Not Available)B. Decision Time Before you even start your map, you should decide exactly what you are wanting to do with the map. This is A Good Thing(tm) to do for any map you do, not just tourney. So you need to decide if you really want to do a competitive tourney map, or if you'd rather just do a "fun" tourney map. What's the difference? Well, the biggest visible difference occurs in the layout/item placement area. But there are also hidden differences one can only see during the design/creation stage. This is because the mind set that you need for one type of map verses the other is completely different. So in doing a "serious" tourney map, the whole design process is going to be different from a "fun" tourney map. You will have to constantly test the map with players who know what they are doing, and you will also have to make every decision based on how it will affect the gameplay of your map. "Fun" tourney maps, on the other hand, usually will have a decent layout, but on average, will not have enough depth or complexity to quench the thirsts of the more serious players. These type of maps will also usually focus as much attention on the looks part of it as the gameplay part of the map.C. Drawing Up a Layout So now that you have correctly chosen the path of the Enlightened (making a competitive tourney map of course!), you will need to design a layout for the map. This step is the single most important part to the map, so much care and thought is needed in the process of the design stage One thing to caution in designing your layout is careless randomness. Although starting out with a "kewl room" and "going with the flow" to create your level might seem like the right thing to do at the time, in the long run it will most likely cripple your map. This is because, unless you're an expert at this stuff, making rooms as you go results in a layout which usually doesn't work very well and lacks the depth and strategy needed in a tourney map. Instead, you should intelligently come up with a design either on paper or in your head. You don't need to necessarily come up with every little detail of the level, but at least get a rough layout of the map going. In the alpha and beta stages you will most likely end up making many small changes to the layout so you don't need to be worrying too much about the first few layout attempts Here is an example of a rough sketch I did for my level wvwq3dm3: [See Pt. III of this guide for more details on designing your layout.] D. Testing Time This next part is also quite crucial to the design of your map. Once you get that killer layout drawn out, churn out a simple little alpha map for some players to get a hold of. In this first alpha map, you want to get all of that basic layout that you thought/drew out and apply it to 3D brush form. Don't worry about any texturing, detailing, or lighting in this first version. You just want to get the basic "skeleton" worked out. This includes one of the hardest parts for many mappers–getting the scale right. So the main purpose of these earlier map testing projects is for getting a feel of what works and what doesn't. To do this, you'll probably want to enlist the help of a clan or some players from one of the forums I have linked above. If the general consensus of the testers is that the map's layout doesn't have what it takes, suck it in and scrap the map. After all, that's why you're doing an alpha–to see if the layout works. Often, even if the layout isn't all that great to start with, enough changes to it in the early stages of design can improve the gameplay drastically. A sample shot from the alpha of my level wvwq3dm6: III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose This section is going to attempt to go into detail on some of the design theory behind creating good layouts. I will first make some simple definitions in an attempt to give the mapper a clear view on what exactly it is that he is mapping for. I will then go into more detail, describing the different aspects of a good layout. However, this section will not try to give you a quick "easy-as-1-2-3" way to making great maps. Instead, when you understand the basic fundamentals, you will be able to apply what you know to an actual map. Just remember that experience is the best teacher though. You can know all the fundamentals in the world, but experience will still take you that extra step and make it that much easier to create your maps.B. Definitions1. Tournament Mode [also called: tourney, 1-on-1, DM, match play] A type of play, specifically in the FPS genre of games, in which two and only two players oppose one another with the single goal of "scoring" more "points" than their opponent. They must do this by killing their opponent more often than they themselves are killed. a. Basic: In its simplest form, players would "float" in an empty 2D space with absolutely no interferences or boundaries. Also, players would be completely balanced in that there would be only one single method (weapon) to "score" on their opponent by. One hit would kill, and there would be nothing to pick up. Players would reappear after being scored upon exactly as they were before. b. Complex: Quake 3 has added many things to complicate this process though, and in this case, complicating things is a good thing to do. Roaming around an empty space with no items would get awfully boring after about three seconds. There are two main "devices" which Quake3 utilizes to create a fun and strategic experience for Tourney Mode–3D Levels and Items.2. Device #1 - Levels The function of the level is to create a continually interesting playing field for the players. Without any items at all, a level already presents several new strategies for the players. All of these strategies in and of themselves give the players sufficient reason to traverse the level, if only to gain the tactical edge. a. Higher Ground: Players on higher ground (a higher ledge or floor) have several advantages over the lower player. (1) Higher weapon utility - weapons "work" better because your line of sight opens up more and because you may use the floor as a backstop for any splash damage weapons. (2) More freedom of movement - Players at higher levels have more choices since they can simply drop down to any lower level they wish. (3) Cover - Players may take cover more easily by using the floor/walkway that their feet are on as cover simply by moving back out of sight from the player below. b. Multiple Routes: Players can now make intelligent decisions as to which routes they will and will not take. This allow for much more strategy since it will make the players have to predict which route their opponent has taken at any given moment. It also allows for new gameplay opportunities such as ambushes and route cut-offs. c. Cover: Level architecture provides important coverage of players so they are not in the line-of-sight of their enemies all the time. d. Distinct Geographic Features: Levels provide players with useful information as to where they are in location to their opponent and to the rest of the level. This allows the player to create a mental map of the level in his head.3. Device #2 - Items a. Control: This is one of the most important functions/aspects of an item set. Players must now relocate from their starting position to the locations of different important items in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent. He may do so either by gaining a better weapon, gaining more life (in the form of health or armor), or a combination of the two. With this, the idea of control is introduced. Players must now find the best way to be able to gain all the items needed to gain the upper hand while still fighting off his opponent. b. Higher Ground: As stated in the Level category, weapons further the desire of players to attain a higher position than their adversaries. This is due in part to the increased line of sight, therefore making their weapons more effective. It is also due to the way splash damage weapons work. Since they explode on contact with any surface, it is naturally easier to hit someone from above since the radius of possibly damaging them is greatly increased with the induction of the floor. c. Ceiling Splash Damage: Splash damage weapons also introduce the possibility for ceiling splash damage. This is often a way for the mapper to give as much or more power to the lower level players. The mapper must make sure to have the upper floor ceilings low enough for this to be effective if he wishes to implement this strategy. d. Sound Cues: Due to Quake 3 having assigned sounds with the pickup of items, players can now predict where their opponents are based on the sounds of items they hear. This leads to all sorts of new strategies for players to take advantage of. They now have reason to bypass a certain item due to it possibly giving away their position.C. Fundamentals1. Verticality As you probably remember from the definitions section, this is one of the aspects that a level may introduce to increase the playability and strategy of the map. The intelligent mapper must take advantage of the 3D space allotted to him by creating multiple tiers/levels to further the gameplay of his map. With proper verticality, the gameplay will be greatly diversified and interesting. So how do you create good verticality in your map? (as opposed to bad verticality) Well, besides the obvious point of adding more levels to it, there are also specific ways you can create interesting play. Here is one way: In the first design, the mapper has foolishly decided to put all three levels directly on top of each other. (Silly mapper!) Thus, the only possibly way of adding visible connections between the levels will have to be through the use of holes made in the floor. The second picture shows a better way to layout your tiers. In this method, the mapper offsets the different levels so players can have much more contact with players on other levels than their own. 2. Balance [Lunaran's explanation] A perfectly balanced map would ultimately be pretty boring to play. See the link above for a very good explanation of what too much balance can do for a map.On the other hand, a completely unbalanced map can also make for boring play in that the first player to gain control will keep control easily. The ideal is a map in which there is enough unbalance to make it interesting yet not so much as to make it overwhelmingly controllable. DM4 is one of the more unbalanced maps you will find, yet it is also one of the most popular precisely for that reason. - Symmetry - Please, do not make your levels completely symmetric. This effectively halves the gameplay of the level since there is now only half of the level which is unique. The only reason q3tourney2 can get away with being symmetrical is because it has an asymmetric item placement. Even then, q3tourney2's gameplay is severely limited because of its symmetry. 3. Flow [Lunaran's explanation] Generally, a map needs to have a circular flow on the macro level. Not necessarily resembling a circle, but a flow in which the player doesn't have to turnaround and do a 180 all the time but instead can just run around the map in loops. Flow is very closely related to the layout of a map, so you'll want to see that section for more info. - Dead Ends - Generally, dead ends are a very, very bad thing. They abrupt the flow and slow down the gameplay. But every so often the mapper can in fact use a dead end to house an important item. DM4's MH deadend is probably the best example of this. The player has to risk being trapped in the deadend in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent by gaining the MH. 4. Connectivity [Lunaran's explanation] This is a word often used to describe a well-playing level. People often say "That level has good connectivity." The word actually describes how well players areallowed to flow throughout the map from one section to another. The more paths/openings a level has, the more connective it will probably be. It is always good to have a somewhat high connectivity because this gives the player options on where to go, resulting in increased strategy. Just be careful not to make too many passages from one area to another, otherwise it turns into Swiss Cheese and loses the effectiveness of the layout. Achieving proper connectivity often can be a difficult thing to do for many mappers. Often maps suffer from what I call "room-hall-room" syndrome. This iswhere the player can easily tell one section of a map from another due to there being strict and distinct passages from one area to another, thus creating poor choke-points and bad gameplay. Instead, the mapper should attempt to create a continuously flowing map where rooms flow into other rooms. Maybe an illustration will help: As you can see, the first pic is simply a room connected to another via a simple stairway. Not only does this create a very bad choke point, but it also creates bad connectivity. The second pic shows another possible way, which would provide much more connectivity. There are now 3 possible routes from the lower level to the upper level. One route via jumppad takes you to an even higher level (3), the second route uses a teleporter, and the third route use the stairs method. 5. Scale This aspect of the layout is often one of the hardest to nail down for many mappers. One must strike a balance between too large/open and too small/tight. Onething that helps is to look at some other good maps and get a feel for the scale used in them. You could even use the -bsp2map function of bspc to create a pseudo test map to check out the maps scale and quantify it. For example, with my map wvwq3dm5, I de-compiled CPM1A since I was wanting my map to be similar to it in scale. I then measured the distances between different floors, measured the width of walkways, and measured the distance of various jumps.Also, another important thing which the mapper needs to get right is the "chunkiness" of the architecture. Paper thin walls don't do well for gameplay or for aesthetics. Here are some specs to help you out (none of these are "official", just what I have observed): - Walkways - CPM1,3 type = 128 units wide. 192 units is also common, and if you're doing major hallways/walkways you will need even larger. - Distance between Levels/Floors - Average seems to be about 256 units. - Atrium Size - 1024 units for smaller/tighter maps - Wall Thickness - 64 units D. Layout Types Over the years, there have been a number of basic layout types that have worked. Just by looking at the major successful 1v1 maps you can already start tocategorize them into various groups. Here are some of the most common layouts that have worked: Note: These are just here for guidance. Don't think for a minute that you HAVE to follow these layouts. Feel free to experiment and find what is best. 1. Single Atrium [hub3aeroq3, q2dm1, q1dm4, cpm7] This type of layout consists of only one main area with smaller sub-areas usually surrounding the main atrium. Since there is only one atrium, there's often fouror more separate levels to the map. Flow usually ends up being somewhat circular on the outside of the main area with players inextricably pouring into the middle for the main fights. Play is usually very fast with mid-ranged hide-and-seek type play from multiple levels in the main atrium. On the "outside loop" the play usually results in quick up close and personal skirmishes. Item placement usually consists of the armors on opposite sides of the outer loop, and a major item such as Mega Health in the central atrium. 2. Duel Atrium [cpm1a, cpm3, hub3tourney1 (cpm12), ik3dm2] The seemingly undisputed champion of recent Quake 3 maps. This layout consists of two separate atriums (large rooms) which are connected "at the hip" There are usually at least three distinct tiers (levels) to each atrium with hallways/passages winding all about the two atriums going from tier to tier via stairways, jumppads, or teleporters. As far as item placement goes, you'll often find an RL and an armor of some kind in each atrium. This item placement works here because the pair of RL's and pair of armors correspond to the 2 players who are dueling in the map. Duel-Atrium style often results in there being a player in each atrium for half the time, and then the other half of the time will be brief medium distance fighting. It also can create "armor running" in which a player traverses from one atrium to the other to grab both armors and remain in control of the map. A duel-atrium map will usually result in a figure-8 style of flow, therefore keeping players on the go all the time. 3. Tri Atrium [ospdm4 (mrcq3t6), pro-q3dm6] This layout often leads to the most strategic and complex, albeit slower games. Although the gameplay can't really be compared to that of the duel-atrium style,one could still say its basically a duel-atrium map with a third room tacked on. This third atrium may be either larger or smaller than the other two. Since there is a bigger footprint with this style, there are often only two or three floors at any one point in the level. Players will now not see each other quite as often as in other styles of layouts, and when they do, it will more likely be at longer distances. Item placement can be similar to the duel-atrium style with an armor in the two equal sized atriums. The third atrium, depending on its size will usually serve as either the main fighting forum, or as a regrouping area for down players. E. Examples One of the best ways to develop a layout is to look at current map layouts that work. This section will specifically analyze three different maps, one from eachof the categories above. 1. HUB3AEROQ3 [single atrium] This map's layout, originally developed by Preacher, is probably one of the best examples of the fast play a single-atrium map induces. The map has a total of 4 floors for players to traverse on. As you can see in the following illustration, the lowest section/floor is in the center of the map. It then gradually increases inheight as the players make a complete circle around the center atrium. The 2 teleporters in the center bottom create good opportunity for the player to get to both the mid and top levels. This results in players being seen only sporadically in the central atrium at different ledges and also jumping down into the teleporters and vanishing from the wide open. The teleporter on the left hand side however, is the key one. The area surrounding the GA teleporter is often subject to a number of heated battles due to the fact that the teleporter takes you from the bottom of the map to the top very quickly. Not only that, but it also give the player quick access to the railgun up top. As far as item placement goes, the second pic shows how the red and yellow armors have been places separate at opposite ends of the outer loop. Also, the Megahealth's placement in the middle creates many interesting fights in which players can come from any number of areas and angles by simply dropping down. Lastly, the Green Armor area, with its important teleporter, functions as a regrouping area for down or newly respawned players. - Here is a key control point for the up player. The area in red represents where the player can be to have access to all of these areas. The blue lines representtop level routes and Lines Of Sight (LOS) which the players have immediate access to. The green lines represent drop down routes and LOS's which the playeralso has access to. Not only does the player have access to all of these, but he also can guard the important RG teleporter, and more importantly the MH area. One disadvantage of this area is that the player can't directly defend the RA area, therefore leaving his opponent open to grab the RA. 2. CPM1A [duel atrium] One of the most popular CPM maps ever, and my personal favorite, this map sports a nifty duel-atrium style which works very well. Three major floors make up the map (although you can't see that from the pic below). What you can see, however, is the general flow of the map. The two atriums are connected diagonally with the hallways wrapping around in between. The single set of reciprocal teleporters are very important to the map due to the fact that players can venture from the bottom to the top very quickly. This results in many great fights because the top level players who are in the hallway section can keep track of both teleporters at once, therefore maintaining control. But if the up player decides to get either Yellow Armor, he has to give up his position of control for a moment, therefore allowing the down player to regain control. There are also the 2 jumppads that are shown in the pic which allow for vertical mobility. These are not used as often, but may allow players to sneak up on their opponents or launch surprise attacks. In the second pic, you can see how the author has decided to separate the armors at opposite ends of the map, in separate atriums, and at separate levels. This makes it harder to run the armors for the up player, but instead makes the player have to work for it. - This next pic shows one of the key control areas to the map. The red area is where the player will often be. Here, he will have access to the YA to the left, and the 2 25h's behind him. On the upper level, the player has 3 options to take. These are again represented by the blue lines. The green lines once again represent the LOS areas which the player may keep track of their opponents. With the railgun, this upper player is in one of the best positions due to the multiple routes and multiple LOS's he has access to. Not to mention the teleporter LOS. Probably the only big disadvantage to this position is the difficulty it is getting out of it. The player has to either turn around and go down the dangerous hallway with their opponent potentially waiting for them, or he has to jump into the wide open atrium to get to any of the other areas (blue & green lines). This leaves him open to any kind of attacks that his opponent might launch on him. - This final pic shows another key control area for the player. Once again there are 3 good upper level escape routes/LOS's (blue lines) and 3 good lower levelescape routes/LOS's (green lines). The player also has a LOS's to the full set of reciprocal teleporters, meaning he can fully control them, therefore keeping the player on the bottom level better. For items, the player has access to the mid-level YA and either 50h. But to do this, he must make the dangerous wide open jump across, opening himself up to attacks once again. 3. PRO-Q3DM6 [Tri Atrium] This map, being the favorite id map of many players for competitive play, is one of the few tri-atrium tourney maps that work. Even though the q3dm6 layout is very large and spread out, the map shrinks immensely when learned and due to the speeds which players can get to in the map. The pic below shows the relative sizes of the 3 atriums. As you can see, the middle one is the largest and the two outside ones are slightly smaller and elongated. The flow is very circular, taking the players from one atrium to the next in sequence. Most passages eventually lead to the center however, therefore creating the most action in this central atrium. With the addition of the bottom-to-top level jumppad in the center and also the MH, this makes for some very interesting action. Due to the extreme verticality in the center of the map, many long range hide-and=seek fights occur with the railgun/rocket launcher. In the side atriums however, fights usually will be more horizontal with long LOS's therefore once again making the railgun an important asset. This is why the railgun has been intelligently placed at the end of a somewhat dangerous pathway. Players must either travel along the pathway, or make a dangerous jump from the RL platform. In the second pic below (the gray one), you'll notice that the armors have been placed for maximum separation between each other. This is to prevent easy armor-running by the up player. The MH's position is much like that of HUB3AEROQ3 in that it has been placed in the bottom middle, making it a dangerous item to grab. - Here is one of the primary control points of the map. When the player is anywhere in the red-zone, he has two top level routes/LOS's (blue lines), two mid-level routes/LOS's (green lines), and 2 bottom level routes/LOS's (yellow line). This allows the player to guard all entry points to the MH, therefore allowing him to grab the MH himself. It also allows the player to escape via any number of routes if in conflict. One disadvantage is the jumppad right ahead of the player. This can allow for his opponent to get right in his face very quickly, possibly allowing his opponent to regain control. IV. Item Placement A. Purpose In the last section, it was mentioned that items are one of the devices used to complicate gameplay. This section will further go into how to place items in your level–when to put something in, when not to, where to put it, etc. There, of course, isn't any set rules for this kind of thing, but there's plenty of useful previous knowledge which may be applied to your current maps.B. Weapons We'll start with the most important items of course! Without weapons, play would get boring extremely fast. With Quake 3, id decided to try and balance the weapons as much as possible. Why you ask? Because if any one weapon completely ruled everything else, players would end up only going for that weapon and once they got it, would be able to easily control the map. (see BFG) And on the opposite end of the spectrum, if any one weapon was weaker than everything else by a large margin (besides your spawn weapon), there would be no point in having it. What unfortunately ended up happening though was that the hitscan (mainly the railgun and machine gun) weapons began to rule play. This resulted in gameplay which relied on pure aiming skill as opposed to the skill of the player as a whole. Since then, Promode has fixed this problem with a number of weapon tweaks to the weapons. So now, in Promode the weapons are balanced a little bit better with the RL, LG, and RG being the "terrific three" of the lot. So where does that leave the mapper? Well, with the weapon set being like it is, the mapper doesn't get many choices. Currently, pretty much 99% of the competitive tourney maps have the following weapons: SG, GL, RL, LG. The RG is also in most maps, but every once in awhile it is excluded. The PG is in every once in awhile it seems, depending on the map. BFG almost never (although that might change with the new CPM changes to it) So there is not really that much question as to WHAT weapons you should put in your map (with the exception of the PG and RG), now just a question of WHERE you should put them.1. Shotgun (SG) a. Utility - The shotgun is a frequently understated weapon which used in the right hands can deal some heavy blows. It is most often useful to the down playerbecause it is a step up from the MG and gives the player something to use until he gets a major weapon. The weapon's effectiveness is directly proportional to the type of map it is–tighter maps mean it is more powerful, larger, more open maps mean it is less effective. Plan accordingly. b. Placement - I've noticed that in most maps the SG is placed in a somewhat well frequented area, yet off to the side and not the center of the attention. Also, if you are wanting the down player to be able to grab it quick, make sure there are a few respawns close by. c. Amount - Usually 1. Sometimes 2 depending on the map. d. Ammo - To give down players even more of an edge, one may include an ammo pack right next to the weapon. Other than that, the SG doesn't usually need all that ammo around the level, if any at all because the players don't often use the SG enough to warrant the need. If you do put ammo in, 1 pack should be enough.2. Grenade Launcher (GL) a. Utility - Another overlooked weapon, the GL can also be useful to the down player. In close combat, a direct ‘nade to the face can cripple a player's opponent. The weapon may also be used in conjunction with other weapons to confuse the player into either stepping onto a grenade or walking into the line of fire of another weapon. Third, grenades can be very useful to block off different areas temporarily or to spam lower levels when you know the player is below. Overall, the GL adds a lot of depth to a level. It provides for more interesting fights (although it can slow down play sometimes), therefore it is almost always good to have a GL in. b. Placement - Two schools of thought on this: Place it high and encourage spamming, or place it low to discourage spamming. Both are actually valid techniques, but it really depends on the map and what the mapper is wanting to do with it. Just know the consequences of the placement ahead of time. c. Amount - Almost always one. d. Ammo - Really doesn't need any usually. However, if it's a rather large level or you are wanting to produce spamming, then include a pack of ammo.3. Rocket Launcher (RL) a. Utility - Ah, the mighty Rocket Launcher! With Promode's changes to its velocity and damage, it is now the major weapon to have. Its vast possibilities for use is one of the reasons why it is so popular. Players can use it in close battles to bounce their opponents around, mid-range battles by predicting where their opponent is going to be and usually hitting them with splash damage via walls or ceilings, and long range to protect certain doorways or spam various areas. It also, of course, allows the player much more vertical mobility with the rocket jump. b. Placement - Most often, the RL will end up being not only a highly used weapon, but also a spamming weapon. Because of this, it is usually good to place any RL's in the map in the more frequented areas. Place them in central locations making the player expose himself to get it. If you decide to have two RL's in your map (which is usually a good idea) you will most likely want to spread them apart in opposite atriums and likely on different floors. c. Amount - 1 or 2. It seems as if more and more maps are sporting 2 RL's as this allows for more rocket spamming and lets each player grab an RL, making it a somewhat standard weapon when dueling. d. Ammo - If you are wanting to encourage spamming, you'll want a few ammo packs in your map also. With 2 RL's, not as many packs are needed, but it might work to put an ammo pack next to one of the RL's (CPM1A does this). This makes the one RL more important to control than the other. Overall, 2 or 3 ammo packs is usually good for the RL.4. Lightning Gun (LG) a. Utility - Provides excellent short to mid-range offensive capabilities. Due to its fast (somewhat) hitscan nature, it is often used in combos or to finish off the opponent. The weapon is usually the most effective in smaller single or duel atrium style maps where long range battles don't come into play as much. b. Placement - From what I've noticed on maps, the weapon is usually placed in a "sub-area" or side room off the main area. This area is frequented every so often, although not continually. So why does this type of location usually work for the LG? I think its because the LG is more of a specialized weapon, and something that needs to be sought after to get. Its usually in a side area because this creates just enough danger (but not too much danger) to allow the players to grab the weapon, yet still make for interesting battles over it. c. Amount - Definitely only 1 is needed. d. Ammo - Usually, the mapper wants to make the ammo somewhat scarce in order to limit the weapon somewhat. Sometimes there is an ammo pack a hop, skip, and a step away to allow the player a little more long lasting flavor with the weapon. Only do this if you don't think the LG is powerful enough as is, and needs a bit of extra ammo to keep up with the other weapons. Otherwise, just place 2 or 3 ammo packs around the map in order to make the player have to move around to stay loaded.5. Railgun (RG) a. Utility - Covers the long-range combat aspect quite well. Also may be used in combos to finish off enemies. Acts as a great spawn-raper in Promode unfortunately (or fortunately depending on who you are) Can be over-powering in more open maps, so its inclusion is not always a good idea. b. Placement - By default, the RG is a very dangerous weapon. Therefore it needs to be in a somewhat dangerous location. Either place it in the open, making players have to expose themselves, or place it in a dangerous area like a small dead-end or 2-door area. For example, CPM1A's RG placement is perfect because it makes the player very susceptible to an attack from his opponent, and initially renders the weapon not as effective since it is on the lowest level. Careful when thinking about putting it at a top level, as this might encourage unneeded sniping. c. Amount - If you do decide to include the railgun, never include more than one. d. Ammo - Almost always none. Every once in awhile 1 pack which is dangerous to grab.6. Plasma Gun (PG) a. Utility - This weapon does decent to good in every area of combat (short to long range), yet it doesn't excel in any. This may be the reason why it is often left out–another weapon can do its job. At close range, the PG can eat away at a players health faster than any other weapon. At medium to long range, the weapon usually serves as more of a defensive weapon through the use of spam. It also is the anti-railgun as it can confuse the player with the RG when his opponent is shooting a bunch of projectiles at him. b. Placement - May usually be placed in a similar manner to the LG. Often it serves as more of a down player weapon, so it may also be placed in an easy to get spot, yet out of the way. c. Amount - No more than 1 if any. d. Ammo - Usually only 1 or 2 packs. If you are wanting more spamming with the PG, for example if the RG is becoming too dominant, give the player more ammo.7. BFG The BFG has no place in the serious tourney map, especially the vQ3 one. It reduces all strategy into a simple "Whoever has the BFG wins" type play. Recently, the Promode mod has made some big changes to the way the BFG works. With these changes, the BFG now acts as a slightly faster, slightly more powerful RL. While with these changes, a level might actually work now with the BFG, I would still have to say to leave it out. It's a bit late in the ballgame to be adding a "new" weapon to the weapon set, and I seriously doubt players would accept the map for tournaments or in leagues because of the BFG–no matter how well it works in the map.C. Ammo I know, I've already gone over this in the weapons section. But here are just a few general rules to follow: - Don't place ammo by its respective weapon. Instead, you should place the ammo a little ways away to make the players traverse the map more. - 3 ammo packs for any single weapon should be the limit. More often than not, 1 or 2 ammo packs will be plenty. - It is usually a good idea to group different types of ammo into groups of 2 or more. This focuses on one area instead of 2 to remember, which makes for both simpler gameplay and better reason to visit the one single area.D. Health Not usually a huge issue in item placement, yet health placement still has some certain guidelines to follow: - 150-250h is usually the range of health per level (not including +5h's) Larger levels require a bit more usually. Also, the amount greatly depends on whether you want players to have access to more health and less armor, or vice versa. For example, CPM1A gives the players a total of 225h which is quite a lot for such a small level. This shifts the focus over to the armors more though. - If there is a Megahealth in the level, less health is needed. - Put health into different types of groups to diversify gameplay. Usually, you'll want to limit it to just a few main areas in the level to group health in. Don't spread the health out too evenly, otherwise gameplay will dull since players will be picking up health every where they go. Place the larger groups of health in more dangerous and fought over areas, and place smaller amounts of health in "down" areas. Just don't make it a kamikaze run for the down player to heal up. - 2x25h vs. 50h - With a 50h in there, players can deny their opponents health easier. With 2x25h, if the player has >75h, he can only take one of the 25h's, therefore leaving the other one for his opponent. Therefore, if in testing, the up player is denying the down player health too often by picking up the 50h's, change them to 25h's.E. Armor/MH Armor is one of the most important items to control in a level, so much care is needed in adding armor to your level. The armor you choose and its placement in the level can dramatically affect your level's gameplay: such as the importance of different areas, the paths players will take, and the balance and controllability of the map.1. Placement A few guidelines regarding the placement of armors: - Spread the armor out as much as possible. You don't want players to be able to run the armors too easily. - The danger in grabbing an armor should match its respective armor. Meaning the RA should be more dangerous to get than the YA and the YA should be more dangerous to get than the GA (Green Armor). Note: "dangerous" doesn't necessarily include world dangers like lava or the void. The danger can also be in relation to the other player. For example, if an armor is out in the open on a bottom floor, the player must expose himself to possible attacks from a number of angles. - There should be interesting architecture and sufficient verticality surrounding most armor locations. This is because the area of the armors will most likely be fought in the most, so the players need different angles and levels to attack from. - One thing that has been successful in the past is to put an armor (specifically the RA) in an easily camp-able/defendable spot such as the RA+MH in Q1DM2. What this will do is give the down player a chance to control the armor even with limited weaponry due to the chokepoints going to the armor. If done right, this results in some very interesting fights for control of the major armor. Note that the rule above about interesting space should be more important than ever if you are to use this method. - The GA often serves as an armor for the down player, so place it accordingly. Often the GA will be placed in a regrouping area out of the way. - Treat the MH as a kind of armor. It usually has slightly higher precedence than the YA, but not quite as high as the RA.2. Sets There are quite a few combinations of armors one can have in a level. Here are a few of them (Taken from Pure Imaginary's post in this thread - Link Not Available😞 a. 2 YA (MH) - Often ends up in players armor running the map all the time. Usually more fast-paced but often results in an unbalanced map when one player is able to run the armors. An MH is useful in making for better games since it gives for the down player a chance to get back up. b. 1 RA, 1 YA (MH) - Similar to the 2 YA system. The map usually must support this set by being unbalanced in relation to the RA and YA. No third armor makes it hard for the down player to get back up if both the RA and YA have been taken. The addition of the MH makes play more interesting since it will often up RA vs. MH+YA. c. 1 RA, 2 YA (MH) - Better player will often end up with RA + YA by running armors. If the map can somehow allow for RA vs. 2 YA fights, it will be better. An MH will further mix up things, making the inevitable armor runs not as effective. d. 1 RA, 1 YA, 1 GA (MH) - Balances out the map more because the down player can grab the GA+YA against the up RA player, therefore making the RA weaker. With the MH thrown in, the down player can now attack the RA player and possibly gain the advantage. e. 1 YA, X GA (MH) - With 1 GA, this system becomes similar to the 1 RA, 1 YA system except the MH will become more important. With 2 GA's, it is similar to the 1 RA, 2 YA system, except once again armor isn't as important as health.F. Other1. Powerups/Holdables These items (quad, enviro, regen, invis, haste, flight, medkit, and personal tele) absolutely have NO place in a competitive tourney map. Why you ask? Powerups don't belong in a level because they are all based on a certain amount of time that they are effective. Because of this, whenever a player has a powerup, his opponent simply can run and hide until the powerup is gone, therefore slowing up the game immensely. The medkit isn't good because its annoying to have your opponent use it right as you're about to kill him. The Personal Teleporter isn't good because it makes the game too gimmicky–you'd never know if your opponent is about to disappear. 2. Shards/+5h's These items are often overlooked and just randomly placed in areas, but they can actually serve some quite useful purposes. - They provide important sound cues as to where the opponent is. Because of this, it is always good to put shards/+5h's in varying numbered groups. If the mapper does this, a player can know where his opponent is based on whether he hears 3 shards or 4 shards being picked up. Groups almost always range from 2-5 shards/+5h's. - Shards/+5h's can also make certain areas more powerful than others. The classic example is q3tourney2 in which the 10 shards in the main room make that room much more valuable to control (as far as armor goes) than the other YA room. - Important to the down player. A down player in CPM can pick up a single shard after he respawns and therefore be alive even after a RG hit. V. Level Design ConsiderationsA. Purpose This section will focus on the other aspects of level design besides gameplay. These aspects, however unrelated they may seem to be, will still be directly or indirectly related to the gameplay of the map.B. Architecture This topic is often misunderstood by many mappers. Many mappers love the kind of architecture that makes the map more "pretty" while the players want the kind of architecture that makes the map more interesting to play in. Often times, mappers have the false idea that players want completely empty rooms with "padded walls" when in fact the opposite is true. Now, when I say architecture, I'm talking about any brushwork that the player can interact with or move around which will result in more interesting play. Well placed architecture can provide players with a number of things such as cover, higher ground, lines-of-sight, and trickjumps. Here are some ideas to help you when doing architecture:Cover - A simple pole or obstruction in the middle of the room (such as in q3tourney2) can make an area a whole lot more fun to play in. Players hide and seek around the obstruction taking quick shots at one another. Castle-wall type structures (also could be bars in a window) also provide an interesting dynamic to the gameplay of a map. As players walk by, they are exposed every so often because they are not behind a structure. Higher Ground - Simple deviance in elevations can greatly change the way an area plays. A few stairs here and there to change the height of one area over another make for better fights in general. Just be careful not to make your floors too "bumpy", otherwise players will get annoyed at not being able to aim correctly. - NOTE - One thing to watch out for when doing your level is low overhangs such as doorways. Its not usually good to be speeding through the level only to run your head into a doorway that's 16 units too low.Lines-of-Sight - Fully detailed levels can provide for more interesting play if they can give the players better angles in which to attack from. For example, an L-shaped hallway with completely flat walls will not be as fun as if the hallway's halls were riveted and the corners were rounded off a bit .If this were to happen, when players are at opposite ends of the L-shaped hallway, the architecture would allow them to fight better by shooting through the rivets or bouncing grenades off the angled walls. Here is a pic in case you didn't catch what I was saying: The top drawing shows the flat-walled cornered hallway. The only option the players have is move forward into sight in order to fight their opponents. The second drawing however, shows the more detailed walled, angled cornered hallway. The green represents the "riveting" in the wall which can be shot through at certain angles/heights. Players now have more angles to shoot their opponents from without giving away cover, and also may bounce grenades off the angled walls or use splash damage more effectively. Trickjumps - One of the best things that the mapper can unknowingly do when adding architecture is to give the players more options by trickjumping. More will be said about this later on in the guide, but for now, know that well placed architecture will inevitably spawn trickjumps. For example, any small changes in height such as stairs will automatically allow the players to double-jump off them (in CPM of course!). Any ramped brushes such as trims will also allow the players to reach areas they couldn't before hand. For this reason, adding ramped trims to the sides of stairways can often be a way to introduce more trickjumps. C. Clipping Closely related to architecture, clipping is often overused in levels. Its really not all to hard to know when to clip. Here is the key thing to remember: The clipping of a level should match the visual This means that if it looks like a player should be able to get caught on a light fixture, don't clip it off! If it looks like a player can get up on top of a roof, don't block it off! So when do you use clip brushes? - Clip bumpy floors to smooth them out. Players never like it when they can't aim due to being constantly jumbled around while running along. - Use angled clips to smooth out certain details jutting out from walls. Just be careful not to use it too extensively. D. Aesthetic Just a few notes about the aesthetics of a map. First of all, many mappers have a misconception that players care nothing for the aesthetics of a map when in fact they do. They like a good looking map just as much as the rest of us. But the crucial difference is that they care for the gameplay of that map a lot more than its looks. Also, when developing the aesthetic of the map, make sure to test it out in different configs to make sure it works. For example, a higher picmip setting on some textures could potentially wash out any distinguishing features–therefore making it harder for the player to navigate the level. Another thing that aesthetic is good for is to mark different areas of a map. Things such as weapons, items, different rooms, and floors can be marked with distinguishing textures to allow the players to navigate the level better. So don't feel confined to doing the same old plain gothic aesthetic. Feel free to make your map good looking and well playing at the same time. Just be sure that the aesthetic never hurts the playability or performance of the map. E. Lighting Lighting is closely related to the aesthetic of a map. The brightness of the lighting in a map has been discussed between mappers and players frequently in the past. Mappers argue that they want their maps to have moody atmospheres, and players just want to be able to see their opponents. Lighting however, really shouldn't be that big of an issue. In a standard competitive player config, pretty much any map will be bright enough, and if it isn't, you are doing something terribly wrong. So just develop the map to look good in lightmap mode, and every once in awhile, check it in a player's config to make sure it looks okay in vertex mode. As long as the lighting has no affect on the gameplay, feel free to do whatever you want with it to make it look good in lightmap. Once players start complaining about dark areas in the map, you better get it lit. F. Performance Here is another touchy issue for the mapper. There is that magical ratio between performance and looks that every mapper must attain with his map. For the competitive tourney mapper, he must always be watching out for poor performance throughout his map. So how do you know where to stop adding detail and start optimizing? The best way is to have the map tested on a number of different systems in order to see if there are any slowdown areas. Many mappers rely on the r_speeds tool, but this doesn't take into account a number of other performance hogs such as fill rate and overdraw. For this reason, checking the framerate in conjunction with checking the r_speeds is the best method for you yourself to test the map. Things to watch out for: - shaders with multiple stages can greatly increase the amount of fill on the screen. - texture use: check \imagelist and make sure your texel count isn't too high. What's too high? Compare with other maps. - overdraw will result in extra tris and pixels being drawn. Hint/build properly. - as a general guide, r_speeds usually need to stay below 7 or 8k - in major areas that will see a lot of action (not that kind of action...), watch out for slow downs with both players in there spamming each other. - speaking of spam (mmm... spam), if you decide to have the PG in the level, watch out for slow downs with that weapon - often overlooked, if you are wanting the level to play well with bots, make sure to simplify the map with botclips as much as possible. Also, if you can, try to clusterportal the map. This will relieve the CPU a bit and will hopefully make the map play better with bots. VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps While it isn't necessarily required for a level to have trick jumps, they do add certain extra dimensions to the level. Trick jumps allow skilled players to be rewarded (in the form of an item or strategic advantage) taking jumps or risks they normally wouldn't. Trick jumps also add to the "cool factor" of playing a map and watching a demo of the map.1. Creation This is one main question about trick jumps that needs to be answered however. Do you, the mapper, knowingly add trick jumps to your map, or do you allow the players to find the jumps themselves? It seems as if everybody has a different opinion about this (as demonstrated in THIS thread - Link Not Available). On the one hand, players like to discover trick jumps on their own. Obvious trick jumps that look like the mapper put them in are never as good as the player found trick jumps. But on the other hand, its extremely difficult for the mapper not to know about the trick jumps in his map. Unless of course, he's a bad Q3 player. So this still leaves us with the question of what to do about trick jumps. I personally think the best way to go is to make the map in such a way that there will be trick jumps that are somewhat obvious (although not forced) and then there will be trickjumps which will be brought up to the surface as the map gets played more. This is one of the many marks of a great tourney map. If the map has been built right (plenty of architecture, not "padded-walls"), trick jumps should show up. 2. Types Promode has introduced a number of new possibilities as far as trick jumps go. If you're not an avid player of Promode, yet still want to map for it (is this possible? ) then you'll want to know the trick jumps available. There are a number of articles written which explain the Promode physics and the new trick jumps associated with it. If you really want to get in depth about trick jumps, you'll want to read these: - Promode Movement: Art Meets Science (promode.org) - Link Not Available - Promode Movement (cpma.org.uk) - Link Not Available Here are the basic trick jumps (for explanations on how to do them, see links above) you'll need to be aware of: a. Circle Strafe Jump - Allows players to jump very far distances such as gaps. This can allow for players to take shortcuts or to surprise their opponents. CPM1A's jump from upper YA to opposite path is a good example of this jump in which players can exit quickly after grabbing the YA. b. Double Jump - Allows players to jump greater heights using any varied height surfaces like stairs. A good example would be on CPM3–going from the lava walkway up to the RL using a double jump. Also, since a double jump is due to the player jumping consecutive times in under 400ms, very low ceilings can allow the player to double jump. (e.g - q3dm14tmp) c. Ramp Jump - This jump is another addition of Promode. When players jump off of a ramp, if the ramp is sloping up they will gain vertical speed and if the ramp is sloping down they will gain horizontal speed. The steeper the angle the more effect it has on the movement (up to 45 degrees at least) This presents a number of possibilities to the map. d. Double Ramp Jump - A combination of the double jump and the ramp jump, this trick jump can launch players in many circumstances. It was used extensively on CPM4 with ramped lights, allowing players to get to higher levels quickly. e. Tele Jump - This is essentially a double jump going through a teleporter. The jump allows the player to gain speed quickly after teleporting, or to get to different areas of the map quicker .For example, on CPM1A and CPM3 players can reach areas otherwise impossible to get from that location. In order to allow tele-jumps, make sure the teleporter destination is on the ground and not floating in midair. Also make sure there is nothing in the way for the player to bump their head on when jumping out. f. Framerate based jumps - DO NOT include framerate based jumps in your map. Most often, these come in the form of the 64-unit jump like the one in q3dm13 to the MH. Pmove_fixed has partly fixed this problem, but its still not a good idea.B. In-Game Sounds Adding target_speakers to the level to generate ambient sounds is not usually a good idea. It will only serve to hinder the gameplay, so its best to leave them out. Players need to concentrate on their opponents and the sounds associated with them picking up items–not on world noises. C. World Dangers In the right situation, the addition of world dangers can further the gameplay of a certain part of a map. World dangers include lava, slime, void, and traps. Often if the mapper decides to include a world danger, he should place it around an important item like MH or RA.1. Lava/Slime Probably the only world danger the mapper should use. Not every level should have this, and when it is used it should be used sparingly. Proper placement will result in making an area of a map more dangerous than others because the player has to risk falling in and hurting himself. Two consideration go along with this. The mapper has to decide how much the lava/slime will hurt the player, and he has to decide how hard to make it to get out of the danger. The dangerousness of the area will of course increase depending on how much hard it is to get out of the lava/slime. 2. Void Probably shouldn't be used. Players get annoyed when they are in the lead, are full of ammo and weapons, and stacked up on armor–and then fall into the void. 3. Traps Unless you can conceive an ingenious trap which will further the gameplay of the map, its probably not a good idea to add any kind of traps. This usually will lend to slow gimmicky gameplay.D. Spawn Points First of all, read over Hoony's spawn points article here (Link Not Available). It explains everything quite well, and the inherent problems associated with the current spawn point system. Besides that article, there aren't really any concrete rules on placing spawn points. So I'm just going to describe some of the effects that may result from doing the spawn points a certain way.1. Amount No, there is not a magical number of spawn points you should put in your map. Just know that fewer spawn points (lets say under 😎 will often result in more spawn-raping. But then again, more spawn points could make it more likely for the down player to spawn directly in front of his up opponent therefore giving him a free kill. Note that spawn-raping isn't always necessarily a bad thing. That is one of the things that made dm4 such a great level–the frag runs that could be had by the experienced player. So if it's a type of level where you want more spawn-raping to occur, than lower the spawn point count. 2. Location Once again, it comes down to what you are wanting in your level. If most of the level is open and railgun spawn-raping is a problem, it might be a good idea to put more spawns in untraveled, unexposed areas. Generally you will want to place most spawns in less traveled areas anyway. Also, make sure to keep them near walls and out of major pathways–otherwise you might get unwanted spawn frags.One other thing you can do is place spawn points on major items such as armors or the MH. This works effectively in maps such as CPM1A and CPM3 because it gives the down player a better chance at survival if he happens to spawn directly on an armor/MH.E. Vertical Transport1. Teleporters Teleporters are probably the best mode of vertical transport when going a somewhat good distance. In recent Q3 maps, it seems as if mappers have almost been afraid to use them, instead focusing more on jumppads. Teleporters are good however, because they keep the flow going better than jump pads. This is because jump pads create stop-and-go type play. Some of the best tourney levels have a number of teleporters, for example dm4 had 5, and aerowalk had 4. Two problems you should be aware of appear when putting a bunch of teleporters in your map. First of all, players can get confused as to which teleporter takes them to which area, thus steepening the learning curve of the map. Not really all that big of a problem since you're not designing the maps for newbies, right? The second problem that arises with the addition of teleporters is the possibility of telefrags. This problem occurs most frequently when the map has reciprocal teleporters. So does that mean you shouldn't include 2-way teleporters? That really depends on the map. CPM3 contains a good implementation of a 2-way teleporter set in that the teleport destination is off set from that actual teleporter by a strafe jump. Some players think telefragging completely ruins a map, while others think it adds strategy to the area. So if, in testing the map, the players complain about telefragging, you might want to reconsider your teleporter system. 2. Jumppads Jumppads are a relatively new addition to tourney maps which Q3 introduced. If you do decide to use jumppads in your level, you must be very cautious as to how you place them. First of all, as mentioned earlier, jumppads often create a stop-and-go type flow, which ends up slowing down the map. Secondly, jumppads can render the player useless and open to any rails that his opponent can get in. With those issues in mind, here are some general rules to abide by when placing jumppads: a. Flight Cover - Unless you're purposely wanting to make a jumppad dangerous to use, you'll want to make sure the jumppad has some kind of cover from enemy line-of-sight. Not necessarily the whole flight, but at least part of the flight. See CPM1A for an example. b. Height - Know when you should be using jumppads as opposed to some other form of movement. If the player just needs to go up a half a level or so, stairs are usually a better mode of transportation. If the player needs to go from the bottom level to the top level, a teleporter might serve better.3. Elevators These kind of got left in the dust after Q2 when Q3 added jumppads. One of the things that was holding them back from being used more extensively in Q3 maps was the borked up sound associated with them. Luckily, arQon has fixed this in his recent CPMA build. Now mappers can associate any sound he wishes with the elevators. So what are elevators good for? They are somewhat multipurpose in that they can serve as vertical transporters for relatively small height changes or multilevel height changes. They also add strategy to the level for two reason. First, players can now hear where their opponent is going depending on what elevators their opponents take. Secondly, players can deny their opponent vertical transport rights by sitting on elevators or guarding elevators. Because of this, make sure that it doesn't hurt the gameplay if a player does do this. Just make sure you tweak the speed of the elevators to fit the gameplay. Nobody likes going up an elevator for what seems like an eternity. Q2DM1's main atrium elevator is a great example of what a lift can add in terms of gameplay. Many an intense fight has occurred on that elevator due to a down player running away from his opponent by trying to get to the top of the map. Another good example is the lift in the recent Q3 map FFDM2. This lift is the single vertical transporter in the room, making it a heated point of battle. A player from below may hear his opponent go up the lift and rocket-jump up to meet him with a shotgun blast to the face. 4. Stairs Ah, the old standby–stairs. Stairs should probably be the most used vertical transport, especially for small height changes. Stairs keep everybody moving and don't hinder gameplay at all. They also can provide for more possibilities for player movement such as trick jumps and so on. Some guidelines: a. Stair-Height - Long flights of stairs usually disrupt the gameplay of a map. Stairs work better for shorter height distances. Replace with a different mode of transport if need be. b. Step-Height - Q3's maps pioneered the 8-unit step height. Recent tourney maps seem to have gone with larger step heights such as 12 or 16 units. Once you do go with a certain step-height, try to maintain some consistency with that step-height throughout the level. Also, remember that higher steps make it easier for players to double-jump off of them. c. Trim - The mapper has the option of adding trim to the stairways of his map. In doing this, he can potentially create a number of new trick jumps in the map, so be aware of that. Source: http://polyculture.co/polyculture/cdg/ Follow JoelWebsite:http://polyculture.co/polyculture/ Twitter:https://twitter.com/mcdjoel 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
  22. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying either a game that they are making or one that they are playing! I have been thinking about what to write about, what deep design philosophies can I share with my fellow devs? So many wise thoughts and the one I landed on is “Where is the Toilet?” Now you may be thinking “What the F*** does this have to with Level Design” and I am glad you asked, even though I did not like your sass there. When I ask this question I am asking about the research you have done before building this level and also where is the toilet in your level. (The ‘where is the toilet part’ may not apply to all games or levels) In case you hadn't guessed this post is going to be about Level Designers needing to do more research before starting work on their levels. I know this sounds like an obvious part of level design but I see a lot of young level designers go in and making the level instantly without much thought. I too was guilty of this when I was younger as well. Now when creating anything, the blank screen can be the most intimidating thing ever! We have all been there staring at the screen thinking, “where to begin?” well the answer should always and I mean always…….. No back chat here sonny Jim. Research! So what research am I referring to for level design then? First think of the theme of your level, such as Victorian, utility, native, and also the location of your level as well. A house out in the mountains of Alaska will be designed different to a house in London’s city centre. Gather as many reference pictures as possible for your research. One of my leads (Daniel Molnar, great guy and very intelligent level designer) said to me, “Only when you have 100 pictures, do you start to understand the space” And true to his word he would not let me touch the editor until I had enough pictures, an understanding of the space and how it worked. Thanks to Dan I made a great sewer level and now know the stages of the sewage processing system. So ever since that I ALWAYS try to make sure I make time to do my research, sadly I do not always get as long as I want but I do make sure I have enough pictures to help me create a picture in my head. Now that you understand the location of your level and the theme you want to start looking into the architecture of these buildings and areas. As level designers, we should be looking at architecture regularly. (A cool article on what it was like for architects to work on video games: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DeannaVanBuren/20151012/254238/Architecture_in_Video_Games_Designing_for_Impact.php). Look around the room you are sat in now, and see how many indents, angled corners and other shapes there are which make your room Not a box. Once you start to research these things you will start to pick this stuff up. One thing which is noticeable with inexperienced LDs work is all the rooms are boxes. Architecture is where we see a lot of real level design work every day. How their structures of these buildings affects how we move through them, the layout of rooms, what rooms they have in these buildings, space certain rooms may need and how the flow from one room to another works. One of my favourite things to research is floor plans of buildings. Each of these layouts will be different depending on the theme and will obtain different items as well due to the theme. These will not only help influence your design but also help your artist (or artistic side depending on how you are working) understand how to decorate your level and may possibly help you guys come up with interesting methods to signpost. Another reason is you never know what you might see, which could inspire your design and provide you with something even more incredible. Now for example look at this power plant, which in my opinion is super cool, this top catwalk is interesting as instead of the bridges connected maybe the player has to rotate them from the ground floor to get them to join. With all these layers and sections, it looks like a great area for traversal. Being able to go up, around and under this area is amazing. When it comes to white boxing your level you will be able to show these images to your artist and they will be able to understand what you mean by those giant boxes. “Pictures speak a thousand words”. If you were to put a twist on this power plant and to make it feel like a maze, then now you want to start researching what? Mazes! 10 gold stars (Sounded way more patronizing than I meant it to be). So now we can see that there dead ends but also viewpoints to allow players to find their bearings. When designing this level we can add vantage points for players to scan the area for clues, maybe even have loot/collectibles in certain dead ends to reduce player frustration and reward exploration. Summary on why research/reference is important: - Give you a better understanding of what is believable in this theme. - Provide an idea for your artist on what you want. - Inspire your design choices Where is the toilet? Now onto the second part of the blog (I swear readers are going to get sick of that question) of where is the toilet? Dan had now let me work in the editor it now came time for his reviews on my work, and what was the question he asked me for each of my levels! Yeah you know what it is, now we working together on Tom Clancy’s The Division – Underground which in case you do not know is a procedurally generated dungeon expansion in which players travel through the underground areas of New York, from the subway system to the sewers to clear out the threat brewing underneath the civilians feet. Overall the review was going well, the flow was good, it had good landmarks for players to orientate themselves in case they were lost. But Dan felt some of these areas were not believable because there were no toilets. Because the Division is based on reality I had skipped one thought process when doing my research and that was “How would these spaces of been used before chaos struck?” Boom mind blown, I had created these thrilling and high octane areas but not grounded them in reality or the law of my game’s world. Dan then showed me one of the Senior LDs work who was working on a subway level and what did he have….toilets. His space felt not only good to play through but also was grounded by reality. (Some playthroughs of the expansion HERE) These critics’ could have been avoided had I done my research on these areas I was making and thought about how they are originally used and not just how I would use them for good combat or traversal. If you go back and look at those pictures of the floor plans I have in this blog. You will see how all of them have bathrooms laid out on them. The floor plans are mainly residential or commercial buildings so they will. When making your level, (again will not apply to every game or level) think about how was this spaced use before the player reached it and more than likely how did the people inhabiting this space use it? Because if they are bipedal human-like creatures I think we all know that they will need to use the bathroom at some point or another. Next time you are in a realistic gaming setting, try and find the bathroom, as it will most likely be there. Hope this helps guys and “Where is the bathroom?” is a question I keep asking myself when creating my levels as well as researching the buildings, themes, environments etc, for my game. I hope it makes you think about carrying out your research before starting work on your level. Which trust me will make your level much better and more believable. *This article is posted on Next Level Design with the author's permission Source: https://www.gamesfounder.com/articles/do-your-research-wheres-the-toilet-level-design/ 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
  23. About Ben Burkart I initially became interested in level design as a full time career at the age of 12 when somebody gave me a copy of the original Unreal Tournament. I do not recall exactly how it happened but I ended up stumbling upon the level editor and quickly became fascinated with it. Above all the thing that stood out to me and fascinated me the most was the idea of creating my own levels. The authors names were under the properties of each level in the game and because I was so interested in level design these people in a very large way became my role models even though I had no idea who they were. One name that appeared on several of my favorite maps was Cliff Bleszinski. I knew nothing about him other than that he made a lot of my favorite maps and that I also wanted to become a level designer so I set out to contact him. I sent an email with one single question “How much money do you make a year?” I was not aware that this was rude to ask, I was just a clueless kid in the country who wanted to make video games… I received a response that simply said “3 billion“. I do not remember if I actually believed him at the time but it was enough to make me excited to push forward with making levels. After making levels for a couple of years I got my first phone interview at Nintendo at the age of 15. I do not know what they saw in my work but I was told that my work stood out to them and it was all I needed to hear to push myself to getting my first job in the industry which eventually happened in 2007 at Gearbox Software. At Gearbox Software I worked as a level designer on Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway. They had an amazing cog program that really helped me get my foot in the door initially. After Gearbox Software I worked at a studio named Blue Omega Entertainment where I worked on a game called Damnation. I came in towards the end of the production of Damnation so my responsibilities were more in the direction of polishing the levels and improving upon the multiplayer maps in terms of both layout and visuals. Lake Scene by Ben Burkart After Blue Omega I started at a small indie studio named Trendy Entertainment working on Dungeon Defenders1/firstwave/second wave, and Dungeon Defenders 2. I stayed at Trendy Entertainment for 4 1/2 years and then got a job at Empire Studios working on an unannounced Unreal Engine 4 title. Overall my responsibilities in each studio were generally the same with the exception that I was given more responsibilities as I became more experienced and I eventually took a lead level designer position at Trendy Entertainment. Responsibilities at each studio generally came down to creating the level layouts and bringing them to final visual polish, including gameplay passes, decoing the levels, lighting them, and in many situations optimizing and finalizing them.The Best Tools for the Level Designer Forest Scene by Ben Burkart I use Unreal Engine 4 for one very important reason, it empowers its users. One of the most important advantages I believe Unreal Engine has always had over other engines is a superior workflow. Tools are always robust and empower the developers to save hundreds of hours of development time even over the previous Unreal Engine 3. In Unreal Engine 1 and 2 if a level designer or artist wanted to do some fun scripted stuff that the code didn’t currently support they would need the help of a programmer. With the additions of kismet and Blueprint the engine has basically upped the possibilities that a developer can pull off allowing for not only quick prototyping but also quick implementation, bug fixing, and overall just general production. The most important thing when it comes to game engines is that they allow the developers to do what they want. The less time you spend fighting technical stuff and trying to get buggy software to work the quicker you can get an amazing project finished. And for this reason I have stuck with Unreal Engine since 2001 through all of its iterations. Generally a level designer can get away with knowing nothing more than the Unreal Editor and still be an amazing level designer. However several level design job positions will require some knowledge of 3D modeling software such as 3ds Max, or Maya so I would suggest learning one of these as a secondary skill to at least an intermediate level. If you are just starting out I would definitely suggest putting all of your time and effort into only learning UE4 to start off as it can easily be daunting all by itself. Companies will prefer somebody extremely efficient in UE4 vs somebody who is mediocre in both UE4 and 3D modeling.The Tricks of Building Levels in 3D Daoist - Unreal Tournament 3 Level from Ben Every project should be approached differently when it comes to planning out your level but generally there are a lot of points that remain the same. Spending a few days worth of planning out your level can save you weeks or headaches and reworking later on. There are a few main things you need to get down before you even begin thinking out your layout. It is always important to have a goal and purpose for your level, deciding this early on should influence how you make decisions regarding layout/visuals/balancing through every step of your levels creation. When preparing to design your level you should have a clear indication as to what kind of visual theme you are going for as it should influence your layout as well as allow you to get the right assets together or to get a better idea of what kind of assets you are going to need.Multiplayer Maps: The Main Staples of Level Design Vicinity - Unreal Tournament 3 Level from Ben The way you approach multiplayer maps depends very heavily on what type of multiplayer map it is going to be and what game it is being developed. Let’s imagine you’re building a DeathMatch level for an arena game such as Unreal Tournament.Flow: Flow is above and beyond the most important thing in any multiplayer map, while the other things on this list have a possibility of not breaking the map if they are done somewhat poorly your map will always fail if your flow is bad.Item Placement: As with most of the things on this list the Item placement in a map can make or break your layout.Vertical Spaces: Any good Death Match level will have multiple floors/stories. Having several overlapping floors makes the gameplay a lot more interesting as well as exciting.Spawn Points: Spawn points should never be obvious to other players or be marked visually to allow players to camp and spawn kill players. Level Designers should place a minimum of 2-3 times more spawn points throughout the level than the player count its designed for, for instance if your level is designed for 4 players you should be placing a minimum of 8-12 spawn points in your level. Make sure spawn points are set so that players are spawned facing in an interesting direction or towards a nearby weapon. The sooner you can get the player back into the action the better!Using Sound: One often times overlooked feature most newer level designers overlook is using sound cues to trigger at specific spots in a level when a player runs over them. This allows players to hear where other players are at and react to the sounds they hear. A few simple ways to do this are, placing water puddles, creaking boards, clanging metal, etc.. In the case of games such as Unreal Tournament you should also use some of the health pickups in this way such as a health vial that makes a very unique sounds when picked up. Also if you have a level with several lifts/elevators it helps giving each a unique sound effect.Visual Clarity: Any competitive multiplayer game should have two things in common, good frame rates, and a very good visual clarity. Levels should be lit very well and player pathways should be extremely obvious and clear. Overall maps should be mostly devoid of noisy details as you want the players to stand out from the environment. Generally when it comes to making multiplayer maps it pays to under deco vs over deco your maps. As much as a lot of people enjoy making their levels a visual masterpiece players will often times pick the more simple maps with a better layout.Utilizing Gameplay Mechanics: Most games will have something that makes them unique. As a level designer it is your job to ensure that players are made to use these unique abilities often. For instance, in Unreal Tournament 4 players have the ability to dodge off walls, climb ledges, lift jumping, piston jumping etc… So giving players areas cool areas they can only reach by jumping at the right time at the top of a lift would be a good example of taking advantage of the gameplay mechanics.Size: The overall size of a map doesn’t always play into the final deciding factor on if it is easier or harder to create as it all depends on what the overall goal of the map is and how detailed each will be but generally a larger map will come with more challenges. For instance, making a giant MMO style map that is mostly open spaces with very little detail will for the most part be easier to create than a full city block that’s 10X smaller with 100X the detail. However, creating very large maps will have their own unique challenges, such as performance and memory restrictions. Things that are generally easier to maintain in a smaller map. However in some instances creating larger environments may be easier, but they are also easier to mess up and generally take a lot more experience from both the level designers and artists to get right. Original Source: https://80.lv/articles/8-secrets-of-a-great-multiplayer-map/ *This article has been posted in its entirely with permission from the author Ben's Website: http://www.evilmrfrank.com/ Ben's Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/evilmrfrank/videos Ben's Twitter: https://twitter.com/evilmrfrank
  24. In this Blog Post, Zi Peters discusses what he considers the basics of level design in First and Third Person Shooters: There are some considerable differences between single player and multiplayer level design. In a single player game you have a lot more control on how the player is manipulated, but with multiple human players you can’t as accurately foretell how they will act and react to each other. This is also the beauty of it all, as it generates a lot of tension and increases the excitement of the experience. Outsmarting another human opponent is far more rewarding that taking down AI. Single player levels are created with a limited amount of objectives in mind that once completed the player will then progress to the next level. The player may choose to replay this level on subsequent play through attempts, but even then the amount time spent playing it will still be fairly little. The amount of time to be spent by a player in a multiplayer level is to be quite extensive, meaning that there is the risk of boredom if the level doesn’t provide enough options. Also the time spent in these levels means that any faults or weaknesses of the map will be discovered and exploited, leading to unbalance. From here, Zi goes on to cover the following aspects of level design in some detail: Process - What should you focus on? Core Mechanics - Leverage the unique mechanics of the game you're designing for Player Tactics - Accommodating various playstyles Game Modes - What are you designing for? High Concept - A big idea Size - Why size matters Layout - Balancing complexity Flow - Layering flow patterns Choke Point - Where and when Combat Areas - limiting predictability Navigation - Landmarks Weapons/Items - Ideal locations Balance - Crafting fairness Terrain/Architechture - Building variety and verticality Navigation - Visual distinction Playtesting - Identifying problems Summary The desired achievement of a multiplayer map is: Durability to still remain fun even after countless hours of play Accessibility through clear navigation of the map Allow players to get into the action quickly Provide options for countering the enemies position Design around the core mechanics of the game Allow for variable tactics to lead to success Support multiple modes of play Minimise the advantage of players who know the maps well Read the complete article to find out how to achieve these goals - zipeters.com/2012/10/31/fps-and-tps-multiplayer-basics/ Do you agree with the goals Zi has listed? What other goals do you set for your levels?