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  1. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on a selection of tips and tricks that I’ve tweeted over the last few months from my account @TomPugh1112 These tips are methods that Level Designers use to move players, encourage progression and create areas of immersive gameplay. The tips I’m going to share are general bits of advice that work in different ways for different games. As a Level Designer these tips should be interpreted in a way that is relevant to your level designs. Every game is different so every game requires a different approach. This selection of tips are in no way “rules” of level design. As far as I’m concerned there are no rules, only guidelines that help create the best experiences possible. Every designer has their own approach to creating levels and solving problems so please take these tips and tricks as just that, and not some gospel of level design. Each one of these “tips” could easily have a whole blog dedicated to it, and in the future I may write some. But for now I’ve tried to give as much detail in as few words as possible. Tip 1: Have clear and consistent Affordances An affordance is a rule that is created through your games level design. For example in “Tomb Raider” the player learns that if they see a piece of wood or a old cart which is angled in the air, they know that they are able to use it as a launch pad to make longer jumps. A simple real life example of an affordance is a door handle. A pull bar or a push pad on a door informs you what action you should take to open the door. It is very important to have clear and consistent affordances (rules) in your levels. You need to build a trust contract with the player so that they clearly understand what they can and can’t do in the game. You should avoid breaking this contract. If you do you’ll cause confusion and frustration for the player. How annoying is it in real life when a door says push but really means pull? There are times when your game may require you to break this contract with the player. In a survival horror game breaking affordances is a good way to create stress and put the player under pressure. Even this can be risky and may ultimately irritate some players. Tip 2: Use Leading Lines Leading lines are a technique that helps to guide the player’s eye towards a specific location, item or event. Use leading lines to subtly move players in the right direction without the need for additional prompts or breadcrumbing. Leading lines can range from pipes on the ceiling, hedge rows or different textures on the floors and walls. Leading lines can draw the players eye to an important gameplay moment. These should be used in combination with lighting and other techniques. For example you might have a new enemy you want to reveal to the player. Pipes along the roof and walls could be used to make sure players are looking in the right direction, while the area where the new enemy appears is nicely lit. These techniques in combination should control where the player looks. Tip 3: Make use of the Architecture to shape the play space You should always be looking at real life spaces and how their architecture can translate to level design. Architects have been doing the same thing as level designers for hundreds of years so it makes sense to examine and gain an understanding of architectural elements. Architectural elements should be used to shape your level designs. Structural components are tools for organising and shaping a space. Think about what your architecture can do before filling a level with crates as obstacles. For example, rather than placing crates in an open area why not position pillars that can still be used as cover but create a more believable space. By looking at real life spaces you can find ways of creating more believable levels with intuitive architectural elements. Tip 4: Learn to Teach Mechanics One of the jobs of level design is to introduce, pace and teach the player new mechanics when they become available. This is something designers new to the field often get wrong (and sometimes more experienced designers too). You’re very knowledgeable of your game mechanics which means that it’s very easy to make a difficult challenge. Making an introductory challenge is often where mechanic teaching falls down. You can use pacing techniques to plan mechanic introductions and the difficulty of skill gates. Get the pacing right and you shouldn’t have too much trouble with players understanding and trusting mechanics. The rough sketch below gives an additional idea of how this works. An improvement to the sketch would be to make sure that when the player picks up their new weapon they have some targets to shoot at in the area, such as some tin cans for example. This gives them an opportunity to learn the shooting mechanics without have to be concerned about enemies. Tip 5: Use Denial and Reward Denial and reward is an architectural technique that is primarily used to enrich a person’s passage through a built environment. Architects do this by giving people a view of their target and then momentarily screening it from view. This same technique can be used for progression in level design to enhance a players sense of progression. Give players a view of their objective, send them on a route where they can no longer see it, and then emerge them closer to the objective with a new angle of visibility. This image shows how you might start a level using denial and reward. The player can see the objective clearly, they can see the path is blocked and are given an alternative route to take towards the objective. In the following image the player will have a new angle of visibility and the objective being closer will reward them with a real sense of progression. The Last Of Us uses denial and reward in the Pittsburgh chapter. The player is given a glimpse of the yellow bridge (their objective location) and then loses sight of it for a while until it comes back into view. This chapter shows how denial and reward can be used to make a journey much more interesting. Tip 6: Give players a good starting point How players arrive in an area will influence their first move. Start players facing the right direction and be sure their start position gives them visual cues and options on how to proceed. The image above from Uncharted 4 demonstrates how you can craft the players starting position by giving them a clear view of the path ahead, leading lines and framing from the surrounding environment give a clear view of the objective location and the player can see openings and other options. This example uses multiple techniques but it is key to understand how all of these methods combine with the start location to give players a clear understanding of what they have to do. Sometimes this tip can be twisted, but in a cool way. For example the players path or exit could be positioned behind or above them. As long as the player has clear messaging of this it can encourage map exploration and discovery which can create a very rewarding experience. Games like Uncharted have instances of this. This can become a problem when you can’t control the players start position. In linear games it is easy to determine where the player is when a level starts and making sure they have clear cues can be done. But in an open world it’s much harder to be sure of where the players is. One way this can be done is to create areas of linearity within an open world. A recent example of this is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Guerrilla have done a great job of funneling players towards mission areas and creating linear experiences during story missions. In some cases this has been done by creating two or three different entrances to a location. Horizon: Zero Dawn is an excellent study on open worlds for more on this I recommend watching the GDC talk Level Design Workshop: Balancing Action and RPG in Horizon Zero Dawn Quests where Blake Rebouche goes into more detail on their process. Tip 7: Set up some boundaries Boundaries are a way of showing players when they are transitioning between areas. There are two types of boundary - soft boundaries and solid boundaries. Solid boundaries can be used to mark an area of surprise or enemy activity. You don’t want players to know what’s inside and you want them to clearly understand they are changing location. Soft boundaries should be used to entice the player into an area. You want the player to be able to see what’s inside and this should draw them into the area. Tip 8: Bread-crumbing If you’re struggling to get players to go where you want you could try using breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbing can come in many different forms including; a different texture on the floor, gold coins that put the player back on track and collectibles dotted along a path. In the above example you can see the gems in Spyro are placed in this area so as to draw the player to a higher location I find this and the example below to be two subtle ways of breadcrumbing the player without breaking immersion. Tip 9: Lighting You can use lighting to draw attention to exits, points of interest and enemy locations and it can be used as an effective way to guide players through a level. Lighting in levels should be used to highlight the following; exits, path guiding, enemy introductions and points of interest. In the images above you can see that exits, paths and enemies are clearly lit and visible to the players. These examples also show how lighting can help set a tone for your levels. Tip 10: Iteration is key The key to a good level is iteration and constant play testing. The sooner you can get a blockout of your level into the hands of someone the better. It’s through this initial play test that you’ll see the problems, find the solutions and make a start on improving your level. Don't be afraid to let people play your levels, after all that is why we make them. Conclusion: Well thanks for reading this two part blog! I hope you found some tips and guidance that will help you with your own level designs. Remember these are guidelines, not rules. I tried to go into as much detail as I could in as few words as I could. So if you want to talk more about a subject covered here, or not covered here then please feel free to leave a comment and start a discussion. Thanks for Reading, Tom Pugh. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/single-post/2018/10/20/Level-Design-Tips-and-Tricks-Part-1 Follow Tom Website: https://www.tompughdesigner.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPugh1112 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. Hallways are a necessary evil in video games and more specifically level design. Not only are they a natural part of architecture but hallways may be necessary for technical, pacing and narrative reasons. Hallways are a great place for streaming to occur and they are a natural place to slow down the pacing of the level and let the player take a breather. However lame hallways might sound to gamers, if done correctly, they can go from being a bland part of your level to one of the highlights. All level designers have been faced with the problem of dealing with a boring hallway section. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and settle for a variety of reasons. However, if you have the schedule, time and resources, there are two non-gameplay ways to make a boring hallway interesting and fun, removing hallway geometry to open up vistas and adding visual storytelling.In general, hallways are made up of walls, a floor and a ceiling. When a ceiling, wall or both get removed, a huge line of sight area opens up for the player to take in a really cool vista moment. That allows the player to feel part of the vista and in turn, the game world. Visual storytelling captures the imagination of the player for either the behavior of the inhabitants of the space or the space itself. Visual storytelling adds greater meaning to the player's adventure through the game space because it adds to their immersion in the game world.In the following I will illustrate that there are two non-game-play adding ways to make hallways powerful parts of your level design. Although scripted moments, combat moments, etc. can be added to a boring hallway to make it more fun, when you combine gameplay moments with the two techniques discussed herein, your hallway section will turn into a truly memorable part of the level.Geometry RemovalOne of my favorite techniques for making hallways feel special is removing geometry and opening up a vista view. In Transformers War for Cybertron, I had two hallways and room leading to a tube highway structure that felt very generic. My level artist had made a cool vista of Autobot City outside the windows in the hallway. However, the player couldn't see very well out those windows and one day he added a balcony I had asked for as a test, to see if we could make something more interesting.When I stepped out onto that balcony for the first time, I felt a part of the vista, like I was interacting with the environment instead of looking at it through some boring window. The balcony was basically a hallway section missing a roof and two walls. Realizing how much more fun it would be fight and traverse out in the vista, I then proceeded to alter the existing level path.I turned the two hallways and room into a tiered balcony connected by a staircase. The top balcony / hallway section leads to the highway tube in the distance in the image below. Immediately the doubts my level team mates and I had about the space went away. Along with feeling great layout wise, opening up the roof and walls of the game space allowed us to have lots of cool AI vignettes play alongside dynamic enemy entrances. Looking out from the hallways / balconies had a view like in the below image, notice the enemy jet zooming close by the player: Since I had so much room to bring in enemies from the sky and surrounding buildings, I was able to add a turret fight with an AI drop ship that wouldn't have been possible in an interior hallway section: I was recently able to use this technique in Tomb Raider. We had a hallway system leading to a shrine room in a burning Japanese Castle. The interior hallways were on fire and a high intensity moment, we needed a way to take the intensity down a notch and keep the environment interesting to traverse and fight in. We opened up a wall and let the player onto the roof of the castle structure that were simply a hallway with a single wall and a floor. Below is a three quarter view of the rooftops that serve as an exterior hallway section: Once again, moving the player path to an exterior hallway system allowed for cool scripted events, traversal bits and combat moments. Below is an image of what the start of the exterior hallway looks like after the initial transition, during a scripted explosion moment: Here's a cool gameplay sequence where we managed to squeeze a scripted event and traversal moment into: One more where I was able to use the openness combined with verticality to create an interesting shoot out amongst the flames: You can see from the above screen grabs that we took what could have been a repetitive, boring section and turned it into a visual and gameplay treat by tearing off some walls and roofs.Geometry Removal through Adding TransparencyAnother technique to remove geometry without actually removing any geometry is to add transparency to your hallway. Adding transparency lets players see through the geometry without having the freedom to jump over a ledge and die like in the previous examples. Bioshock's underwater hallways did a really good job of opening up underwater vistas and making the player feel immersed in their undersea world, like in the image below: Visual StorytellingBesides adjusted geometry, visual storytelling in a hallway is another way to make them interesting. Visual storytelling is a task whose success will mostly fall on the shoulders of artists, but art and design need to work together closely to make sure that the visual story telling is impactful. In its simplest form, visual storytelling in video games uses game assets to tell a story about the level itself, characters or both. Visual storytelling can be as simple as graffiti on the wall to bodies hung up in sacrificial poses, each telling a different message to the player. An artist could write a whole article about technical ways to create visual storytelling, but I want to focus on how design and art should work together to make sure those visual story telling moments are most impactful. When working with your level artist to dress up a hallway with visual storytelling, do the following:1. Make sure it is in the player's line of sight2. Make sure it is lit in a way to bring attention to it, but does not confuse the main path3. Talk to your narrative designer about what you want to do and see if he or she has any ideas to spice it up.Number one is simple; make sure the player can see the visual story telling. If your artist is going to make something cool that imparts background knowledge of the characters or the level, it should be in a place that the player can see it. Visual story telling should not be a reward for exploring, that's what pickups are for.Notice in the below image from Bioshock, that since the graffiti is on the back wall of the hallway immediately before the right turn up the stairs, the player must look at it the whole time they traverse down the hallway. If the graffiti was on a sidewall, the player would not notice it until they passed by, or even worse, may not even notice it at all. The second thing to do is make sure the artist lights the storytelling scene so that you can see it but also so that it doesn't confuse the player as to where to go. Lights draw a player's eye and tell the player where to go, like runway lights. One of the things I discuss most with artists as a level finishes is where lighting confuses players. It's real easy to let happen.Give the visual storytelling scene light that pulls the player's eye when they walk by it, but make sure that the light at their destination is a brighter, stronger color or whatever y'all can agree to keep drawing the player along the correct player path. You do not want the player to stop and look at this cool thing in the hallway and get up and go back in the direction they came because lighting confused them. For an example of well-lit visual story, look at the below image from Tomb Raider. The player can totally absorb the crazy alter around the strung up dead body, but the torches on the right draw the player down the hallway in the direction they need to go. The third thing to do when creating visual storytelling is talk to the narrative designer. Tell him or her the direction you want to go and see if they have any other ideas. I always advocate talking to narrative designers about stuff like this because they spend all day thinking about the story. Artists and designers have lots of different responsibilities, but since all the narrative designer does is think about story, you may be surprised by some suggestions that are outside of the box.ConclusionRemoving geometry to open up vistas and adding visual storytelling to boring hallways are two techniques to make them more interesting. When a designer adds gameplay into a space that has undergone this treatment, more often than not a memorable gameplay moment will be created. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorSource: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TravisHoffstetter/20130527/193089/Making_Better_Hallways.phpFollow TravisWebsite: https://www.travishoffstetter.com/
  3. Several years ago my work tasked me to build a cooperative dungeon themed around a volcanic palace. We wanted the dungeon’s difficulty to rise across a series of rooms and end with a fight against the Fire King. At the half-way point through the level, we wanted to challenge the players with a combat-puzzle encounter.For my prototype of this encounter, I locked the players in a room with several waves of combat and environmental hazards. Each wave, the players needed to complete an increasing number of objectives in order to survive lava that would rise through the floor.Outside the specifics of the theme, I designed this encounter to test player coordination across multiple objectives under pressure. The encounter also served as a gear check through the enemies. In the abstract, this encounter is typical of raid design, which was our goal. The problem was the theme and converting my prototype to final art without losing clarity.In one of several meetings dedicated to solving this problem, another designer asked why the Fire King would have this hazardous room in his palace at all. This led to question about who (within the game’s fiction) built this room, why they built it this way, and what happened since it was built.When a level is able to answer these questions, it passes a test I think of as “architectural realism”. If a level does not hold up to this scrutiny, and we’re left saying “no one (within the game’s fiction) would have built this place or built it this way”, it fails the test of architectural realism.This concept overlaps with environmental storytelling, world-building, and immersion, all of which are important for high-fidelity AAA narratives games like Last of Us and God of War (2018). As an industry, we place a lot of value on these concepts.But my level was not for that kind of game. We used a distant 3rd-person camera, larger-than-life characters with exaggerated proportions, and abilities that worked at massive scales. We built our levels and the environment art to match.So, when one of these design meetings entered a third hour of argument to solve the problem of architectural realism, I was ready to ship the level as it was, in Mario-like abstraction where primitive meshes clearly conveyed their function. Immersion be damned.Architectural realism had no place in the problem we were trying to solve, and the efforts to pass its criteria wasted development time and made the encounter’s mechanics opaque. A bad application of best practices made my level worse.Now, when I see the ideas of architectural realism described as best practice, I remember how it can harm the development process when it does not serve the intended experience. Here for example, Mark is correct when referring to most real-world architecture, but most real-world architecture ports badly to video games. This is obvious for those of us who learned level design through modding; our rite-of-passage was to build a replica of our house—or school, or office—in Counter-Strike, Doom (1993), or one of so many other games with mod tools. This was a rite-of-passage because it was a painful realization that we can’t just copy what works in the real-world because the context is different. Even within the same genre, the context of Quake 3: Arena was different from Unreal Tournament 2004. An excellent level in one game will be different, often terrible, in another.The act of design is to recognize a context, its local needs and constraints, and find a solution that fits best. The practice of greyboxing is a way to prototype a solution, evaluate how well it fits the context, and—in professional game development—communicate the solution to the team. The study of level design is too often concerned with the skills of building and not the skills of design, which persist across genre convention. Christopher Alexander wrote about design this way in his 1964 essay “Notes on the Synthesis of Form”, where he created a visual metaphor of constraints and relationships. The dots each denote a constraint, and the lines denote relationships. The + and – along each line indicates whether the constraints support or conflict with each other. This visual metaphor is powerful because it lets us step aside from convention and any dogma around best practices to instead face the specific needs of the problem.In real-world manufacturing, material and production—what Alexander labels “economy”—are real constraints. Even in our digital world of level design, material and production are constraints we need to consider. We have our level construction processes, our art asset pipelines, and our production methodologies. We also have our studio cultures and divisions of responsibilities. All of these factor into the local context within which we solve our design problems.For my lava palace encounter, the values of architectural realism diminished once we recognized the whole context of our production process. Solving the encounter for world-building and immersion conflicted with too many other constraints. // Around the assumed best practices of AAA development, there are assumption of roles and responsibilities. In some studios, level designers are also layout artists, world builders, environment artists, content designer, scripters, and quest designers. Each game and studio has its own needs. (Jeff also clarified in a later tweet that his advice “can be true or false depending on the situation”) On another project as a professional level design, I spent several months sculpting and painting terrain. I placed foliage and props. Again, I did this work as a level designer. For the experience we intended to provide, we needed rolling hills and grass, and someone had to implement that solution to the design problem. This is level building, but we still call the job level design.As another example, look at Dear Esther. Where does the level design end and the environment art begin? This division is artificial until we separate design from building. To provide the right experience, the design of Dear Esther called for an island with terrain and foliage; it doesn’t matter whether it was a level designer or an environment artist who did the work of building.All of that said, when I see talk of “best practices” that don’t specify their context, I get grumpy. And when these “best practices” are directed at students, I get angry. I think about the days of my life wasted solving the wrong problems, and I think about all of the work I shipped that was less than it could have been. // What remains if we throw out “best practices” and say the quality of a design depends on its context?There are fundamentals we can still apply. Gestalt psychology has value. There are also psychological models like Self-Determination Theory to help us better recognize our players’ needs. I personally am skeptical of any application of shape- or color-theory that says “[x] will make the player feel [y]”, but there is still value in studying these areas as well.What remains is local level design, where our work serves a specific context to the best of its ability. To me, this enriches the many forms our levels can take, frees us from the International Style of AAA best practices, and returns us to our position as experience designers instead of overspecialized level builders. This lets us escape high modernism and enter postmodernism (and maybe we’ll catch up with the rest of the art world eventually).For students, my suggestion is that you shouldn’t greybox levels in Unity or Unreal by imagining a context that you can’t playtest. Doing this is making fan art levels, replicating solutions that already exist rather than learning how to solve. Instead, take a game with mod tools and an active community and design a level for that context. Seek feedback, not to hear how your level is good or bad, but to better understand who your level is for. Then build another level with this knowledge. This is the only best practice I know to learn the skills of design. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: https://andrewyoderdesign.blog/2019/02/23/against-best-practices/Follow Andrew:Website: https://andrewyoderdesign.blog/Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mclogenog
  4. The video goes into detail and provides meaning and context for each of the principles. It's a good time investment if you're at all serious about level design.Among the 10 principles are the following:- Is fun to navigate- Tells what but not how- Is surprising- Is driven by mechanics Interested in reading more? Checkout Dan's articles on this same subject: Part 1 Part 2 Follow Dan Twitter: https://twitter.com/BionicBadAss Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/dantaylordesigner 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. Next Level Design has been given permission from the author to host this entire book in PDF format. Download the attached PDF at the bottom of this article for the entire book, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70zStill not sure? Read through this section on lighting that was recently posted on Next Level Design: In addition, we've included another small section of the book right here: pg. 25 INTRODUCTION Due to games’ ever-increasing complexity and the expanding nature of levels in general, it can certainly be said that levels are not easy to design. Levels, as said before, are combinations of dozens of different aspects, the conglomeration of which render them complex by nature. This combination of complex systems itself requires good design from the start in order to avoid an inconsistent and downright messy result. Because the different aspects are so interdependent, it’s very important not to lose sight of a level’s ‘big picture’. This chapter highlights some of the issues that can pop up when designing a level, as well as some more minor aspects to keep in mind. The overall design is the foundation for a level. Without a clear, strong design, there is no solid base on which to build the level. THE CREATION OF A NEW WORLDThe most important part of a successful level is its beginning. The way a level starts will determine a great deal about how the rest of the level will evolve and how quickly. In these days of growing complexity, efficiency and speed are valued highly. Getting off to a bad start or using bad work methods can cost time which is usually at a premium to begin with. Part of starting a good design is foreseeing potential problems before anything is created. By doing this early in the process, a good level designer can quickly and easily modify the design to better fit the available time, workload, difficulty, technical limits, or all of the above.How one begins a new level is different for every person. One designer may write everything down in a design document while another, like me, just plans it out in their head. The method used also depends upon if one is working in a team environment. Working with a team means that the level’s design must be communicated throughout the team which usually means some sort of written, drawn, or quickly modeled design that can be passed around and/or presented. How it’s done isn’t important as long as several key aspects are kept in mind and the end product is of a sufficient quality. If the technology used cannot create lush jungles, for example, then this must be recognized before starting.A design should progress only when exactly what is wanted and how to accomplish it is known. Exact information is the key to this. Again using the jungle example, one must know what the jungle will look like, the colors it uses, the overall style, how the player will move through it, if the engine can render thick vegetation, what kind of physics will be involved, and too many more to list here.To assist in this task, I have developed a type of checklist that is at the base of everything I design. The list compares several key values against each other to see if they are possible and if they should be modified. It also helps define the values better. The list checks to see if the rules of, for example, lighting and composition are contrary to each other and if the goal is possible and what direction to take. This extensive chapter will mostly be about the latter.A level is complex and it takes increasingly more time and effort to successfully complete one; thus failure is not an option. All the areas that could potentially cause a problem should be identified before starting any work. Once the design process starts it should go smoothly; design dilemmas should not occur or, if they do, should be easily overcome with few modifications to the overall plan. Getting stuck can be very demoralizing and time consuming. pg. 26THE CHECKLISTA level always begins with a goal, a theme, or both. The goal may be that the game requires a medieval castle, or that it’s missing an ominous environment, or that the level is to be the central hub of the game.After identifying the basic idea, certain key information needs to be pinned down before starting the level. This ‘key information’ will be referred to as ‘the keys’. The keys communicate important properties about the level. They are the key words the level is built around and provide more information on the level’s requirements.The following are questions to determine the key information for the level-to-be: • (1-Time) How much time is there available? Is there a deadline? • (2-Tech) What tools and game engine will be used? • (3-Limitations) What limitations are there? Is there a shortage of art assets or staff/personal skill limit? Can anything be made or are some aspects beyond the scope of the project because of their complexity? • (4-Requirements) What kind of requirements are there? Are there any specific elements, for example, special buildings or areas that have to be in the level? When compared to the rest of the game what visual style or theme must the level adhere to? • (5-Purpose) What is the overall purpose? For example, is it a multiplayer practice level or a singleplayer boss arena? • (6-Gameplay) What should the gameplay be like? How should it be played? Should there be enough room for a large boss encounter? Or does it need to be large enough to contain a large number of enemies attacking the player? Perhaps it’s a vehicle level? Or it is a stealth level? And so on. • (7-Theme) What theme and/or style will the level have? Will it be a castle or a jungle? Will the style be cartoonish or realistic?This is all essential information for a level. The order of the list is not as important as the answers. Once the essential elements of the level have been identified it can be run through a checklist to see if it holds up. Will it work? Look right? Play right?The keys provide the information while the checklist determines if it is possible or not. The checklist combines two or more keys in order to determine if they fit together or not. If the desired theme is a jungle, but the engine can’t handle rendering dense vegetation, then these are two keys that do not fit together and the design will need to be adjusted accordingly. This is the type of information the keys provide: essential information that design decisions can be based on before actually starting work on a level. Thinking ahead is the key to success.The checklist itself is a system for asking questions and making comparisons. The questions are different each time, but the comparisons remain the same. Verify that the individual elements compliment each other.Here's the entire Table of Contents: Download the attached PDF below, or view it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uB3pUjPkHuWWOYEc70nkVjVlR09ua70z *The Hows and Whys of Level Design is hosted on Next Level Design with permission from the authorFollow Sjoerd De JongWebsite: http://www.hourences.com/Portfolio: http://www.hourences.com/portfolio/Twitter: https://twitter.com/HourencesYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Hourences/feed The Hows and Whys of Level Design.pdf
  6. Bobby Ross has put together an awesome Visual Guide to Multiplayer Level Design, based upon Ben Bauer's "Ben’s small bible of realistic multiplayer level design". Much like it's inspiration (which is well worth your time as well), this guide is relatively comprehensive in the range of subjects it covers, starting out with definitions of basic terms, and getting into things such as composition and Shape Language. The main sections are as follows: 1: Terms 2: Strategy 3: Tactics 4: Map Scale 5: Orientation & Navigation (Art) 6: Round vs Reinforcement 7: Map Symmetry 8: Realistic & Arcade Style 9: Supporting Game Design 10: Credits It goes without saying that this guide is perfect for the more visual learners amongst us. However, there's tremendous value to be found here for everyone. The design of the article itself is a thing of beauty that needs to be seen (or re-seen). Check it out, and share your takeaways from it. Source: http://bobbyross.com/library/mpleveldesign Follow Bobby Website: http://bobbyross.com/ Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbyross6 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. Architecture is undeniably an essential tool in level design. In this GDC talk, Claire Hosking explains how architecture can be utilized to set the mood and increase the players immersion within a space.What are your take away's from this talk?What would you add that's not been touched on here?
  8. The Forge Fundamentals articles will systematically review the fundamentals of constructing good maps, beginning at the idea stage, ending at a finalized map, and discussing everything that should be considered in between those two stages. The core concepts that will be discussed are essential aspects of any solid forge map, and should always be fresh in our minds. This series covers the following subjects: • Preplanning • Spawning • Cover • Flow • Weapons • Aesthetics • The Total Package Note: This is a series I wrote and released on Forgehub several years ago. I'm re-posting it here primarily to have it posted online at a site where I have complete control over it. The Forge specific info is mostly outdated, but the commentary on Gameplay in Halo maps is still relevant. Part 1 - Preplanning Let's start at the very beginning of the life of almost every great forge map - preplanning. Preplanning is an incredibly important part of designing a map which is, unfortunately, often overlooked. Preplanned maps tend to require fewer time-consuming changes in forge. Preplanning can help you increase your productivity as a map designer and improve the quality of your finished products. There are two main parts to preplanning great maps - generating ideas and developing an idea. Generating Ideas Ideas can be tough to come by - Sometimes they might come from places you've visited or want to visit, pictures, dreams. They might even appear in your mind without an obvious trigger. So, how can you go about creating an environment in which ideas can begin to bubble to the surface? One logical suggestion is to look at a lot of forge maps (Check out Forgehub Archives HERE). Another is to Look at maps from games other than Halo (Lvlworld, a Quake 3 mapping forum, is an excellent resource). You can always look to developer made Halo maps for inspiration as well. Taking a portion of a map that intrigues you and designing something completely different around it is a good exercise. Looking at buildings or at nature can often spark ideas. Taking a walk outside can help a lot - Something as simple as an interesting facade on a building or the curve of a road may be the beginning of a great map. Of course, there is also the World Wide Web. You can search through images of buildings constructed with different styles of architecture (there are numerous styles out there - check out Wikipedia's list HERE). Maybe even a tattoo or a mandala may lead to a moment of inspiration. Developing an Idea In my experience, there is a very strong correlation between how well developed an idea is prior to building, and the quality of the final product. Any time spent fleshing out an idea will be well worth it in the end. Once an intriguing idea for a map has arisen, a good next step is to figure out what the basic structure of the map will look like in a decent amount of detail. Ideally, the map should be planned with enough detail that a person who sees a sketch or model of it will be able to recognize the map once it's in Forge. It's not necessary to go to the lengths of deciding which forge pieces will be used to construct each portion of the map. Going into specifics such as that can actually hinder the developmental process. There are various ways to create conceptual designs, and the method that will work best may vary largely from person to person. Some people can visualize an entire map in their mind, while others require something physical to look at. If you're one of the former, well...lucky you. If you're one of the latter, then there are a few tools that can be utilized to help bring a map to life without placing a single block. Drawing rough sketches on graph paper is a common practice for many forgers - if you don't have graph paper on hand, you can always use Virtual Graph Paper. Freehand drawing can also work well, especially if you're artistic. However, If you really want to understand the ins and outs of what you're going to build, a 3D modeling program like Google Sketchup is highly recommended (You can download it HERE and mess around - it's free!). There are many guides online to help you learn how to use the program if you're unfamiliar with it (Sketchup's Official YouTube Channel is a great resource - it has a lifetime's worth of videos explaining Sketchup and the process of developing ideas, plus other cool design-related stuff). Of course, there is always the option of taking a basic idea and going right into forge to build it. There are both upsides and downsides of building maps this way - it's much easier to judge things like scaling and lines of sight when you're making a map in forge, but it takes much longer to move a wall or room in forge than it does on a piece of paper or a model. Another major downside of forging ideas straight from your brain is the risk of becoming overly attached to structures and becoming reluctant to make changes due to the time spent building them, even if it's for the better. It's generally not a good idea to jump right into forge and start building unless you can clearly visualize what you're going to make, and are absolutely certain you can do so without becoming attached to what you build. Regardless of which method is used to develop an idea, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind throughout the developmental process. Firstly, know what game types and player count the map will focus on. It's also a great idea to build areas meant for spawning into the geometry of a map. As the map is developing, it's wise to watch out for design flaws like scaling problems (Is the map too big or small to fit the desired player count? If so, should the map or the intended player count be altered?), poor lines of sight (can one area dominate all entrances to another?), too much or not enough cover (can a player get from point A to point B without being exposed to more than five angles on the map, and without awkwardly running around crates). These types of things can become plainly obvious when looking at a sketch or a 3D model. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Use the tools at your disposal to ferret out problems early on in the developmental process. Make thorough assessments as a map progresses, testing out various solutions based on feedback, and being willing to make the necessary adjustments.Making Adjustments This brings us to the final subject for this article, which any serious forger should be serious about - being open to constructive criticism. Viewing your map with an inflexible bias towards its current state, and being resistant to feedback as a result, almost guarantees mediocrity. It’s a good practice to spend more time analyzing what can be improved than admiring what's already good. Approaching forge with the right attitude can make all the difference in the world. A beginner with an open mind and the willingness to listen and learn can quickly attain the knowledge and skill necessary to build a better map than someone who is experienced but resistant to feedback. To make the most of feedback, view designs as flexible pieces of clay rather than solidified bricks. Part 2 - Spawning At first glance, placing spawns seems like a simple endeavor. Just place spawn points around the map, right? If only it were that easy. Sometimes poor spawning alone can mean the demise of a map. The goal of this article is to go over some of the fundamentals of creating an effective spawn system to maximize the potential of a competitive map. Starting Spawns When it comes to placing initial spawns, there are no absolutes . There are, however, some good guidelines that can be followed which have proven to work well. When placing initial spawn points, both teams should be placed on equal ground whenever possible. Spawning one team closer to a power weapon or power position than the other team can end up being the difference in who wins the game. On symmetrical maps, initial spawns should be placed in identical positions on either side of the map. On asymmetrical maps, starting spawn locations should be balanced, inasmuch as it's possible, taking into account things like power weapon placements, power position locations, and any other factors that may provide an advantage. Respawns The best location for a respawn point is in a relatively well protected area - placing them near or directly behind cover is always a good policy. A player should never spawn out in the open without the ability to reach a protected area before dieing. Giving players a fighting chance should be a top priority. The positioning of respawn points is not the only factor to consider - the orientation of spawns (which direction they face) is equally important. A player that spawns facing a wall can find it very disorienting. Anyone who has spawned looking at a wall, turned right and left in an attempt to ascertain their location, and then died before even having a chance to move should understand the importance of orienting respawn points correctly. Aiming spawn points so that players will spawn looking at main pathways or open areas of the map is of the utmost importance. There are many theories about how respawn points should be dispersed throughout a map. Those theories can range from using every respawn point available, to severely limiting the number of respawn points. There are many factors which may go into deciding which strategy is best for a particular map. A small 1v1 map obviously doesn't need over 250 respawn points on it. On the other hand, overly restricting the number of respawn points can result in spawning that is too easily punished. Respawn points should not be restricted to one or two sections of a map. As a general rule, in team games the majority of respawn points will be located in bases since they are generally more protected and allow players to respawn safely. However, an ample number of respawn points should also be placed in other areas of the map. Though this is probably an extreme example, if all of the respawn points on a map were located within bases, it could result in an unbreakable spawn trap. Spawn Zones There is much that could be written about spawn zones. Rather than attempting to go into great detail, this section will focus on covering some of the basics of the subject. On symmetrical game types like CTF (where each team is designated one side of the map) the best way to guarantee that each team will spawn on their side of the map is to put 3 identical spawn zones on each side, assigned to the team that should spawn on that side of the map. For some extra assurance, an Anti Spawn Zone can be placed on each side also, assigned to the team that should NOT spawn on that side of the map. On asymmetrical gametypes like Oddball, King of the Hill, and Extraction, it's often best to have no spawn zones at all. This means that players will not be restricted to spawning in particular portions of the map. Slayer is a unique case - the choice to setup a map with no spawn zones (dynamic spawning) or with sided spawns (static spawning) is often a matter of personal preference. On symmetrical maps, it's always a good idea to test both options and see which works best. Asymmetrical maps should almost always use Dynamic Spawning. There are additional ways to use Spawn zones also. As an example, if one or two respawn points on a map prove to be problematic, the easy solution is to delete them. However, another possible solution is to surround them with either an Anti or Anti-Weak Spawn Zone, which would allow those respawn points to remain on the map, but result in them being utilized less frequently. Part 3 - Cover Cover is an essential element of a good map. Properly implemented cover should allow players to spawn safely and move fluidly, while also contributing to the desired type of gameplay. There are numerous factors to consider when trying to ensure that the cover on a map works well. Lazy Cover vs. Structural Cover There are two main types of cover - lazy cover and structural cover. Lazy cover refers to any piece of cover that isn't a functional part of the structure of a map. Lazy cover generally serves only one purpose - providing cover. A random piece sticking out of the ground in the middle of an otherwise open area is an obvious example of lazy cover. The mohawks on Narrows and the crates on Solace could both be considered lazy cover. While lazy cover can be effective, and is often better than having no cover at all, it is far from ideal because it generally looks unnatural and often impedes natural movement. The second type of cover is 'structural cover'. Anything that is a functional part of the structure of a map and also provides cover qualifies as structural cover. There are many ways of implementing structural cover - angles or indentations in walls, changes in elevation, or doorways and pillars incorporated as part of an architectural theme can all provide cover on a map. Cover Influencing Immersion Forethought is necessary in order to successfully implement structural cover into a map. As a beginning forger, the tendency is to construct the basic layout of a map first, and then add cover afterwards. Maps constructed in this way are often filled with lazy cover, and lacking in structural cover. This can result in a map that looks like a bunch of pieces that were thrown together haphazardly. As a forger gains experience, there is generally a desire to make something more immersive. While making an immersive play space can seem daunting, structural cover can go a long way towards creating a sense of immersion because it makes a map feel and look more real. The ability to implement structural cover into a map is something that generally comes with experience. Whenever possible, structural cover should be built into a map during the preparation period rather than being added at the end of the process. The difference WILL be noticeable. Catering Cover to the Desired Gameplay Style When designing a map, it's helpful to keep in mind the type of gameplay it's intended to foster. If the gameplay will focus on close quarters combat (a lot of melee battles and short range weapons), then it should be designed with a lot of tight spaces and sharp corners. If the focus will be on long range battles, then there should be an abundance of long, open lines of sight. Most competitive maps focus on mid-range battles, since they are the type of battles that best test a players skill while reducing the effect of the built in randomness of weapons as much as possible. When the focus is on mid-range battles, a map should be constructed with that desired range in mind. If during the building process it becomes apparent that there is a line of sight that is too long, then the structure of the map needs to be adjusted to shorten that line of sight. There are many ways to incorporate structural cover to create mid range battles. If, for example, there is a long straight hallway, there a few ways to reduce the line of sight to the desired distance. The hallway can be angled or curved, or an elevation change can be implemented within the hallway. Either of these options will result in a better looking, better playing map than taking the easy way out and simply placing an object in the middle of the hallway to break up the long line of sight. In fact, placing blocks or pillars in the middle of main pathways is something that should always be avoided because they prevent players from being able to strafe freely. Cover should complement movement, not impede it. Part 4 - Flow "This map has really good flow." "The map just doesn't flow very well." These types of comments are frequently heard when discussing the merits of a map. What does 'flow' mean, and what can be done to create the elusive 'good flow'? Flow generally refers to the direction and pace of movement through a map. While there is no secret formula that guarantees a map will flow well, there are some good standards that can be followed. Player movement should be smooth The pace of play should be neither hectic nor stagnant Connections should be intuitive and have a clear purpose Power weapons and power positions should encourage players to constantly be on the move Movement There are 4 basic methods of movement in Halo - walking, jumping, taking a gravity lift, and teleporting. Each of them affects map flow differently. Teleporters can move players long distances in an instant. They can be effectively used to improve movement in areas where it's lacking, but they can also result in teleporter camping and leave players feeling disoriented if implemented improperly. It's generally best if teleporters are set up so that players exit moving the same direction they were going when they entered. The teleporter to top gold on the MLG version of Zealot is a good example of how not to implement a teleporter, as it is unintuitive and disorienting to exit a teleporter facing the opposite direction from which you entered. Also, a teleporter exit should have a clear path leading from it with plenty of room for players to maneuver - people shouldn't be left staring at a wall, unsure of where they are once they walk through. Silent vertical lifts can be created with one-way shield doors. The decision to use this style of lift instead of a regular gravity lift usually is a matter of personal preference, but there may be times where the presence or absence of a sound cue will have a clear impact upon flow. Tactical jumps (also called tac jumps, trick jumps, or jump ups) are another common type of movement option incorporated into maps. They are often quick but exposed routes to a higher elevation which offer a tactical advantage to a player. Tactical jumps can greatly benefit flow if used properly, but shouldn't be overused. They sometimes require players to stop moving horizontally in order to gain a vertical advantage, which can result in erratic movement. Therefore, tactical jumps should generally be a secondary means of movement to an area to throw off unsuspecting players, not the sole or primary means of movement to an area. The best method of movement is walking. Pathways that are designed for walking are frequently referred to as 'hard routes'. The main paths on a map should almost always be hard routes. Hard routes are optimal because they give players total control over their character. They result in smoother, steadier movement than the other options, while also producing more interesting battles. A battle where one player is traveling on foot and another player is traveling on a lift, for example, become repetitive since the movement of the player on the lift is very predictable. If the 4 types of movement were prioritized according to how frequently they should be used, the vast majority of a map's movement options should consist of hard routes, with the occasional tactical jump being implemented to add some depth to movement. Lifts should be used more sparsely, and teleporters should be the least used movement method. Connections Connectivity is another factor that determines how well a map flows. Both the number of connections and the way in which those connections are implemented should be taken into consideration. Too many connections (or routes) can create hectic, unpredictable gameplay, while too few can result in stalemates and slow gameplay. While having 3 routes into and out of each "area" of a map is a good standard to follow, there are certainly times where having more or less than 3 routes is the right decision. To decide how many connections should be in any given area, it's necessary to first know what purpose that area serves. Is it a flanking route? A flanking route through the middle of a map will often consist of numerous movement options, while one on the exterior of a map may offer a very limited number of options. Is it home to an objective? The ideal number of routes will vary greatly depending upon which type of objective it is, and where it is located on the map. For example, a 'neutral flag' location should generally be more accessible than a traditional CTF flag location. Is it a power position? Power positions can derive their power from a variety of attributes. The number of routes to an area is a significant factor in determining whether or not it works as a power position - too many ways to access a power position lessens its strength, while too few can result in it being overpowered. Power Positions and Power Weapons Power positions can have an enormous impact on how players move around the map. Clear power positions can offer a great incentive for players to move. However, a position that is too powerful becomes detrimental to flow, turning matches into a linear game of attacking and defending one position while the rest of the map lies nearly unused. The right balance encourages players to gravitate towards power positions, but also makes them challenging to maintain control of. A good example of a balanced power position is top mid on Wizard/Warlock. It offers the best lines of sight on the map and has a fair amount of cover. It's also difficult to stay alive there for very long. Power weapons are another element to be aware of. They are one of the biggest influences on player movement on any map. Placing them in the right positions and having them respawn at reasonable intervals can do wonders for map flow. The next article will cover the subject of power weapons more thoroughly. Until then, go with the flow. 😛 Part 5 - Weapons The subject of weapons is a broad one indeed. This article is going to focus primarily on power weapons and powerups, covering weapon spawning methods, respawn rates, and weapon positioning. Weapon Spawning Methods The three methods of spawning weapons are ordnance, drop spawn, and traditional placement. Traditional weapon placement entails simply dropping weapons onto a map. The main advantage of placing them this way is the ability to control the amount of ammo. A possible disadvantage is that it makes the respawn time of a weapon more difficult to predict. While traditional placement allows a forger to set the respawn rate for weapons down to the second, those weapons will respawn according to when they were picked up rather than at a static rate. If the respawn rate on a traditionally placed weapon is set to 2 minutes, it will respawn 2 minutes after it was previously picked up. This can be more confusing than having a weapon spawn every 2 minutes on the spot, and can potentially create a cascading advantage for the team that initially obtains the weapon. However, it could be argued that this rewards awareness and communication more than Ordnance or Drop Spawns do. Drop Spawning is the third weapon spawning method. To setup a drop spawned weapon, hold it in mid air and set the physics to 'fixed'. After releasing hold of the weapon, highlight it by placing the selector over it (don't grab it) and press the X button to bring up the options menu. Change the physics back to 'Normal'. This will result in a weapon that spawns in the elevated position and then immediately drops until it hits a solid surface. When the weapon comes to rest, the game will register it as having been picked up. Drop Spawning has been commonly used for power weapons over the last few Halo titles. It offers the ammo count control of traditional placement and the respawn time consistency of Ordnance drops. Drop spawned weapons despawn very quickly in Halo 4 (as quick as 12 seconds in some cases), meaning that there is a decent chance that nobody will actually obtain a drop spawned weapon before it despawns. Power Weapon Respawn Rates How fast should a power weapon spawn? This is a difficult question to answer, and there are widely varying opinions on the subject. Many factors must be taken into consideration such as map size and player count, the total number of power weapons on the map, and the relative power of the weapons. Rather than discuss every possible scenario, let's go over some good general guidelines. The main purpose of placing power weapons on a map is to instigate confrontation between teams. Staggering power weapon spawn times increases the number of confrontations between teams. More frequent confrontations results in exciting, fast paced gameplay. In order to maximize the number of potential confrontations between teams, it's generally better to avoid having two power weapons spawn at the same time. There are exceptions, of course. One example of where spawning two power weapons at the same time makes sense would be the Sniper Rifles on The Pit. In instances where each team has an identical power weapon spawning on their side of a symmetrical map, the spawn times on those weapons should be the same. However, using The Pit for another example, it would probably not be good to have the Rockets and the Overshield consistently spawning at the same time because each team could obtain one of them without even needing to engage the opposing team. The goal is to create confrontations for both of those weapons. The way to do so is to stagger their spawn times. The majority of the time, neutrally spawning power weapons should spawn at different times, while symmetrically placed power weapons should spawn at the same time. As a general guideline, the more powerful a weapon is, the longer it should take to respawn. Rockets are usually the most powerful weapon, and easiest weapon to use on a map. They also normally take the longest to respawn. Respawn rates for power weapons can range anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Generally speaking, if a weapon has to respawn at a slower rate than 3 minutes to work on a map, then the weapon is just too powerful for that map. A couple of final notes on respawn times... Initial Ordnance drops take 4 seconds to drop, so Initial Ordnance respawn times should always be set 4 seconds faster than the desired spawn time. For example, if the weapon should spawn every 2 minutes (120 seconds), set the respawn time to 116 seconds. Drop spawned weapons also have a couple of seconds delay built into them. Traditionally, drop spawned weapons have been set to about 2 seconds less than the desired time (set to 118 seconds for a 2 minute respawn rate), but the exact time varies depending upon how it takes for the weapon to come to rest after spawning, and may require some experimentation. Power Weapon Placement Now that the methods and timing of spawning weapons onto the map have been covered, let's discuss weapon placement. Power weapons should very, very rarely be placed in power positions. A power weapon should only be placed in a power position that is also VERY vulnerable. The reason for this is that in addition to creating confrontations between teams, the other main purpose of power weapons is to encourage movement. Placing a power weapon in a desirable location significantly reduces the likelihood that a player or team will ever move from that location. It's very likely to result in gameplay that is either standoffish or too lopsided in one teams favor. Power weapons should be positioned according to their power. If the Rocket Launcher is the most powerful weapon on the map (which it almost always is), it should usually be placed in the most vulnerable of your potential power weapon positions. On the other end of the spectrum is a powerup like Speed Boost, which would probably be placed in a more advantageous position than Rockets. One final thing that was previously mentioned in the article on spawning, but bears repeating here. The initial spawns should always be balanced as fairly as possible by giving each team an equal opportunity of obtaining power weapons at the beginning of a game. On symmetrical maps this means placing power weapons exactly the same distance from each teams initial spawn location. Power weapon placement on asymmetrical maps is not so simple, but should also be as balanced as possible. Part 6 - Aesthetics We all know a beautiful map when we see one. Building a beautiful map can prove quite challenging. A couple of the main obstacles along the way are dynamic lighting and piece restrictions. There's really not much that can be done about the piece restrictions except staying flexible and being sure pieces are used wisely. To avoid breaking the dynamic lighting, get familiar with this guide: A Guide to Dynamic Lighting by WARHOLIC Visual Theme When a player first sets foot on a map, there are essentially 3 potential reactions that they could have to the maps appearance. They could notice how spectacular it looks, how bad it looks, or they could be indifferent to its appearance. One of the goals of a map maker is to create an immersive experience, and the appearance of a map is the main factor in determining whether or not they are successful. Before a forger can create a map that is truly immersive, though, they must first learn how to avoid making a map that looks bad. Every forger knows that a bad looking map detracts from a players experience. However, most lack the understanding of how to create a map that doesn't look bad. Without that understanding, the zeal for creating a spectacular looking map can result in a map that looks spectacularly bad. The main thing that results in a bad looking map is inconsistent and/or sloppy piece usage. Overlooking something as rudimentary as orienting objects the same direction and making sure they line up correctly can prove distracting for players. While consistency in orienting and lining up objects is the first step towards beauty, the next step is consistent piece usage throughout an entire map. Using the same pieces for similar structures throughout a map will greatly enhance its appearance. Using one piece for the floors, and another piece (or handful of pieces) for the walls will result in a clean looking map. There are, however, occasions when it can be beneficial to give different areas of a map different appearances as a way to help players quickly recognize where they are. One side of a map could be inside a rock cave, while the other side extends out from the cliff side and is open aired. As another example, each level of a multilevel map could have it's own look. Even then, it's wise to make sure that any type of structure that appears more than once on the map (windows/doors/ramps) should have a consistent look in all locations. This consistency results in a cohesive looking map with a clear visual theme. Creating an Immersive Experience The next step towards visual mastery is to create a truly immersive play-space. This is accomplished through the creation of a realistic setting. That can mean recreating an actual locale like the pyramids in Egypt, or designing something unique based upon a theme such as an abandoned town or a space station. Individual creativity can really help set a map apart from others. Impact and Ravine offer the best contrast between light and dark pieces. Erosion has a rusty, grungy look. Forge Island has an abundance of rocks, trees, and water. A modded canvas can enable even further immersion. An important element in a 'real' feeling map is structures that look realistic. If there is a long bridge, it should have pillars supporting it from underneath. If a balcony is implemented, it should have railings around the edge. Floors and walls should look real whenever the edges of them are visible. The best way to accomplish that is to use pieces that are at least the thickness of a 'short' block. 'Thin' block pieces, or other relatively thin pieces should be avoided whenever possible in those instances.Utilizing Aesthetics to Improve Flow and Communication Aesthetics can be used for more than just making a map look good. They can be implemented to highlight weapon locations, or be utilized to make callouts more intuitive. The Implementation of weapon holders can be an excellent way to highlight power weapon locations. While weapon holders are essentially only aesthetic touches, they can also positively impact map flow by making the power weapons easily identifiable. Forgers generally address the issue of callouts by color coding sections of a map to differentiate them and to make in-game communication easier. This is perfectly acceptable. It's more than acceptable; it's a good rule of thumb to follow. However, using aesthetics to allow players to differentiate areas of the map from each other can work just as well, or even better. Using a visual theme that incorporates a different look for each area of the map can make color coding completely unnecessary. Even a map that's completely symmetrical with matching pieces used on both sides of the map can use aesthetics to assist with orientation and communication, perhaps by building one side of the map next to a towering cliff. When playing on a map for the first time, if a player makes a callout referring to the 'cliff base', it will immediately be obvious which part of the map is being referred to, while it may take a moment longer to ascertain the location with a callout like 'red base'. Don't forget that there are more than just structure pieces at a forgers disposal. For a few examples, a Dominion Base Terminal can be a great weapon holder, Extraction Cylinders are an excellent way to add color to a map, Dominion Base Shields are perfect for color coding Teleporters, and Base Stripes make good railings. Use all the tools available. Think outside the box. See if an object can be used in a way nobody has ever used it before. Strive to strike a balance of creativity and consistent piece usage, while also making structures look realistic. Part 7 - The Total Package When the phrase 'The Total Package' is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously...Lex Luger. This article isn't going to be about Lex Luger, though (sorry, wrastlin' fans). This is the final article in the Forge Fundamentals series, and it's all about pulling everything together to make a forge map that kicks almost as much ass as the aforementioned grappler...almost. PDCA There is a 4 step business management method called PDCA that’s designed to refine processes/products. It’s a method that can be applied to the forging process with spectacular results. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. We will go over how this tool can be utilized for the development and refinement of a map, by going through each step of the process one by one. Plan – Establish the goals and basic layout of the map. Do – Make the map. Check – Study the results. Look for differences between what is desired and what is actually happening. Act – Implement fixes for any problems that are found during the ‘check’ stage.Plan Thinking through a map in a decent amount of detail before building it can significantly improve the final product. The fact that each aspect is so inextricably interwoven with the others makes some degree of preplanning all the more important. Prior to beginning building, it’s essential to decide the map's desired size player count, and its intended game types. From there, a forger can come up with a basic layout by utilizing some of the tools mentioned in the article on preplanning. Once the basic layout is decided upon, starting spawn locations and power weapon locations can start to enter the thought process. It’s also wise to think about how different sections of the map will connect to each other, and how those connections will impact the maps overall flow. Another thing to consider is the aesthetic theme – is it possible to create recognizable landmarks within that theme that will help players orient themselves and communicate with each other? During the planning stage, a forger should create their map on a smaller scale. This generally means producing the map either on paper or on a modeling program. Doing so can bring to light problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and resulted in hours of wasted time. Do This is the construction phase. The limitations inherent in forge can make this a challenging part of the process. Most of the skill required to efficiently forge a map only comes through experience, as the result of trial and error. It’s important to remain flexible while building. While preplanning is a vital tool that should be utilized, it's the beginning of the design process, not the end. Even maps made my professionals rarely end up exactly the same as the original design. The best policy is to plan well, then adjust where necessary. Don’t wait until the building is complete before making adjustments – Make them immediately. Check When the initial building phase is done, it's time for testing. Here at Halo Evolved, there are testing lobbies which anyone can join to get their map tested, as long as they are willing to return the favor. Getting involved will prove very beneficial, because thorough testing is one of the main ingredients that set great maps apart from decent maps. Though playing on a map is obviously an essential step, the main purpose of the ‘check’ stage is to pinpoint problems. To this end, analyzing gameplay in theater mode is an extremely valuable tool for a forger. Information that went unnoticed while playing on a map can become quite obvious when re-watching a game in theater. When in theater mode, it’s vital that attention is given to the performance of the map rather than the performance of the individuals playing on the map. One of the main things that’s smart to investigate is spawning. Watching every respawn for every player in a match can highlight a problem with one or two particular spawn points, which could then be adjusted accordingly or removed. Spawning can also be watched in a broader way. From overhead, it may become apparent that players are respawning in one particular area of the map too frequently. Perhaps reducing the number of respawn points in that area, or surrounding it with an anti-spawn zone could solve that problem. Another point of focus is power weapons. Following each power weapon from when it’s picked up until it’s out of ammo can provide valuable information on both the positioning of the weapon, and the amount of ammo it spawns with. One of the most difficult things for a forger to learn is how to discern whether or not something is actually a problem. Discernment generally comes with experience. If somebody complains about being spawn killed, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a spawning problem on the map - perhaps they were playing with too many people on the map, or the teams were uneven. The fact that somebody complained about something doesn't automatically mean it needs to be fixed. However, all feedback should be taken seriously. Most good forgers have the ability to build great maps because they welcome and encourage critical feedback. The best attitude to have when analyzing gameplay and feedback is one of non-attachment. If a forger has already decided that their map is perfect, it's very likely that they will overlook critical gameplay problems. Act Acting means applying changes to fix any problems that are uncovered. That may mean changing the location of a power weapon, breaking up a line of sight, or adjusting respawn points. It could also mean completely re-designing a portion of a map. Whatever problems are found in the ‘check’ stage of the process should be addressed one by one, beginning with the larger problems first. If you have some bad spawn points in a section, but that same section also requires a major re-design, then it wouldn’t make any sense to adjust the spawn points first. Once a potential fix for a problem has been implemented, go back to the ‘check’ stage to determine whether or not the fix has worked. If the problem still isn’t fixed, then it’s back to the drawing board. If the problem is fixed adequately, move on to the next problem and repeat the same process - this is the way to a kick-ass forge map. Conclusion Alas, We have arrived at the end of this series. We've only scratched the surface of what’s available and ready to be learned, so if you're hungry for more be sure to check out the other great guides posted on the site. Follow a Chunk Twitter: https://twitter.com/fh_aChunk Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jtjub/