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  1. Follow Game Makers Toolkit Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqJ-Xo29CKyLTjn6z2XwYAw Twitter: https://twitter.com/gamemakerstk Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/GameMakersToolkit 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/hkxwVml0D
  2. a Chunk

    Gunplay - Westin Koessel

    Chapter 1: Hear me out Going as far back as the Halo trilogy, and especially in more modern games like Destiny, the aptly named Modern Warfare, and even Apex Legends, it has been commonplace to refer to all facets of the 'shooting' in one of these games as its gunplay. Which, in and of itself, is fine - vague and generalized word use is very helpful, and allows us to get complicated ideas across quickly when we’re trying to touch on larger points. For that reason, I don’t go around grilling people who don’t use perfectly accurate verbiage at every turn. However, more often than not, when I hear someone specifically refer to gunplay, I don’t think they mean what they think they mean. Perfect examples came out of the recent COD Modern Warfare. We all know that game has problems, and we’re not here to discuss them… but in reference to the game, you'll constantly hear “Yeah that game is really campy and the maps have too many windows and doors, and it’s really too bad, because the gunplay is just "so good". This same idea is communicated in and around plenty of other games, and is regular speech for an FPS player. Inevitably, the first thing that shoots into my head is, what do you mean 'good'? Yes, I completely agree that it feels good to shoot in Modern warfare. The hitmarker sounds, the weapons sounds, the animations, the screams of my dying enemy, even the smoke coming from the barrel of my gun contributes to that effect. The score that pops up after a kill, the guitar riff that plays when I level up. There are endless layers of feedback that all make me feel ecstatic, but at the end of the day, that’s just how I feel, not how the gunplay in Modern Warfare functions. And this is important, because how gunplay functions does contribute to how a game feels, but not in the sense we’ve already described. First of all, mechanics, in the long term, can create a meaningful fulfillment and feelings of personal growth as we understand and even master them. Then, these skills become practical, climaxing when we put this to use effectively, which is immediately satisfying. This whole paradigm is NOT as simple as "short term vs. long term satisfaction". Some of that instant gratification does come from mechanics, some comes from sensory stimuli, and the two can be distinguished. The former version of instant gratification, mechanical fulfillment, is one reason why watching great players is so fun. You get to feel some of that sweet second-hand dopamine as you watch them succeed in ways you only wish you could, even if you haven't seen the meaningful journey of practice that went into being able to play like that. While feeling is the word I’ve chosen to use within the context of this effect, as well as the former effect, when I describe them, they are obviously very different. One is pleasurable, and the other is meaningful, that is, earned, and therefore pleasurable. When you refer to a game in the way I described earlier, where our imaginary person attempts to diagnose the pros and cons of Modern Warfare, it seems like what is unknowingly being referred to is mechanical function. Just reflect on that quote from our imaginary MW player. First, he talks about the gameplay, the camping, then he talks about the maps, how they have too many variables, and finally gunplay. Context points to a conversation about mechanical function, but upon further questioning, most I've interacted with are almost always thinking about how the gun looks and 'feels', and not as a result of difficulty or cultivated skill, but as a result of punchy hitmarker sounds and realistic blood splatters. To explain it once more, and perhaps in a simpler way, imagine any shooter, but the gun models were replaced with inanimate bananas, and there were no weapon sounds or effects. Would it 'feel' good to shoot? In one sense, no, because there isn’t any convincing feedback. In another sense, the functional sense, it would feel no different than it does now, because weapon models, animations, and sounds are all just sensory stimuli. The game would play exactly the same way. Same kill times, same recoil patterns, same flinch, same mechanics to master. A game that all too often receives this treatment is Destiny, but it’s understandable. It is so unreasonably satisfying to shoot a hand cannon in that game, that it’s hard to separate how destiny’s gunplay feels and how it works. Which again, how it works does contribute to the feel, just in a different sense. And I’m going to use destiny as an example of why it’s so important to separate in your mind these two facets of shooting as a designer. If we are to look at destiny, on paper, without the seductive visuals of the dreaming city or my homegirl ada-1, you might be surprised of what we actually find. Many times Destiny has been compared to Halo, but when you really look at it, you will see that Destiny, in reality, will reveal itself. The first thing to look at would be your players movement and strafe within Destiny. Yes, there are plenty of advanced movement options, but the lack of mid-air accuracy successfully grounds players for most gunfights, so as far as gunplay is concerned, these are separated. So then, next, we can look at the players strafe. How good is it? Well, it’s not that great. Even with a max mobility build, it’s not very effective. The insanely high bullet magnetism within Destiny can’t help, but I digress. Most combat is grounded, and the strafe is of little effect. Next, we can look at weapons. Almost all weapons are hitscan, and what is projectile usually (99 times out of 100) tracks your target. For the sake of making a point, humor me, how about the maps? Well, with Destiny 2 especially, we see nothing but Treyarch-like 3 lanes, and flat ones at that. This is starting to sound familiar... The last facet to consider would be any system baked into the mechanics, like descope in Halo. Well, Destiny doesn’t have descoping, but it does have hefty flinch, or aim punch as some call it, where enemy bullets cause your aim to jump about and render your gun inaccurate.. Not only is a strong flinch present, but most weapons are also inaccurate when fired from the hip... Okay, so considering all of this, why does it feel like Halo? Well, as far as I can tell, it’s almost exclusively because of the time to kill. This is where Destiny is closest to Halo, with an average TTK of around 1 second. And so, even though we may feel there is a connection to Halo, and there is, when we parse through the mechanics one by one, Destiny isn't "just like Halo". In reality, it's a lot more like a Call of Duty game. I trust you see what I mean, reader. You're a smart guy. You know that there’s usually more than meets the brain when it comes to this stuff, and I'm sure you'll agree it to be extremely important to look under the hood before we make claims about how good or bad a mechanic is. You probably already know this, but this thought process can be applied to anything, in order to separate the superficial from the real, and not just with gunplay. Chapter 2: Shoot me And, while we’re here, I’ll expand on what I personally find to qualify as ‘good’ functional gunplay. Right off the bat, the suffix of gunplay, play, assumes the presence of, well, play. In other words, some sort of give and take. Some sort of interaction. Going back to Modern Warfare, the games functional gunplay consists of very little give and take. You essentially put the crosshair on your opponent, and click. Attachments combined with the mounting mechanic will often completely nullify recoil, and most COD players already know instinctively to aim at center mass to prevent flinch from knocking them off target, because flinch will severely punish you for aiming at the head by making you miss entirely, which means you never really should go for headshots unless someone isn’t looking at you. All of this, by extension, is less opportunity for 'play' within your shooting mechanics by discouraging the player from aiming at the crit spot. Now, with the games near instant kill times in mind, and the distinct lack of any strafe, again, the game is essentially point, click, and move on. Yes, technically, there is some gun play, some give and take, as you still have to do the aiming, with a little bit of recoil to account for. To that I would say, if the only requirement for good gunplay, functionally speaking, is the generalized presence of aiming, then every shooter ever made would qualify as having ‘good’ gunplay. No, this can’t be the bar we set, I think we can do better. The first way we can do better is with projectile based weapons. Projectiles, while harder to use, are just as accurate as hitscan. The obvious difference being that one must aim ahead and utilize his spatial awareness to account for bullet travel time in order to land shots. Many have said that projectiles are "messy", and that hitscan is the cleaner choice, but projectiles, assuming no other factors are involved, are perfectly accurate. There’s no loss of control as to where your bullets land, they’re just harder to land. Instead of aiming here, you aim 'there', in accordance to your projectile speed and how fast the target is moving and in what direction. This introduces a layer of play, not only within yourself as you master spatial awareness, but when considering projectiles on the slower end of the spectrum, like rockets in Quake, this starts to introduce a layer of play with your opponent, as he can preemptively move away from, and sometimes even react to, the projectiles as they travel, which you then have to adjust for in the future. This becomes an adjustment which your opponent can predict, and then play around, and the cycle of 'mind-play' repeats. Not only are projectiles an incredible source of depth in our games, but they also solve what we could call the 'problem of ranges'. Look, every game is made with target ranges in mind, which is why we often see damage fall-off implemented into games like overwatch and Destiny. This is needlessly frustrating, as it’s next to impossible to predict just how much damage my shots will do. And the question does need to be asked, if I’m landing my shots, why are my bullets arbitrarily doing half damage, and when I take a few steps forward, now full damage? What if I only took one step forward? Or half a step? With this system you inevitably run into these thresholds, which can’t really ever be predicted. You have a vague idea of how close you need to be with a hand cannon in Destiny, but It’s not like there’s a ranger meter in my UI telling me how far my enemy is from me, and so even after hundreds of hours of practice, it’s still impossible to always grasp exactly how much damage I can do. I can’t ever really know. Now THIS is what I call messy. On the other hand, projectile weaponry doesn’t require damage fall-off to keep fights within certain ranges, as the travel time of a projectile inherently makes shooting at players who are further away, harder. Once implemented, the developers need only tune how fast the projectiles will travel, until his or her idea of the perfect median encounter range is found, while still allowing for an excellent player to deal full damage if he can land those difficult shots at range. Seriously, God has handed us the perfect design solution via physics, so why are we so apprehensive to utilize it? Moving on, I believe that we can also do better with the player strafe and movement in our shooters. It’s hard to determine how fast is fast enough for base movement speeds, or strafe acceleration. Do not assume that more is always better. In fact, some games will sport such extreme abilities that the rest of the game starts to fall apart. For example, I can spend a year meticulously designing a Titanfall map, just to have someone grapple across it in one go and completely nullify the level design. Now that's frustrating. I think there's a balance to be struck here. Simply put, I just want to be able to avoid damage. My goal is to always allow the player to live and succeed, even with 1 health point. If play is an interaction, I want to be able to interact with my opponent as he shoots at me. Standing in place and seeing who wins as determined by the whims of flinch should not qualify as gunplay (looking at you, PUBG). The way I see it, my own gunplay is only half of the 'play'. The other half is how I am interacting with my opponent with my strafe, and larger scales of strafe like general movement, geometry manipulation, and advanced movement options. This is about as far as I can go within the context of this topic, because I would have to start introducing specific mechanics from specific games into the discussion to take it any further, and I don’t want to go that far. You get it. Next up, we can do much better with the likes of recoil, spread, and bloom. Randomness doesn't work, because any random penalty is incredibly frustrating, as I know it wasn’t merited by the other player and wasn’t a result of an honest mistake on my part. There’s nothing I could do about it. On the other hand, any random benefit is devoid of meaning, as I know I didn’t earn it, and therefore have nothing to be proud of, and nothing to learn from the win. With that in mind, predictability is key when talking about these things. Recoil, you're up. Some games, especially some PC games, are very heavy handed with the recoil. I’m not the biggest fan of recoil, but I would totally respect it, and do totally respect it, if and only if recoil patterns are predictable. Pulling your thumbstick or mouse down at a rate proportionate to your weapon rise, all while tracking your enemy, certainly is a skill. The problem arises (pun intended) when games, often for the sake of realism, introduce random recoil patterns, and especially horizontal recoil. Even the ‘random’ vertical recoil patterns in games aren’t truly random. That is, they have a general direction. A predictable unpredictability. Horizontal recoil, however, is not the same. Unless there exists a weapon with horizontal recoil that tends to only one side of the weapon (which doesn't exist), horizontal bouncing is entirely uncontrollable. It changes directions radically. Even if you knew when the recoil would bounce left or right, we just don’t have the reaction speed as humans to cancel this out on the fly, which means I don’t have control. To put it as simply as I can, that’s why everyone hates the Flatline and Spitfire in Apex Legends. Spread… oh man. Spread is a tricky one. First of all, it should go without saying at this point that random spread is never good. Hitting your shots is not a rewarding experience when you know it’s random, and missing is just annoying, because it's not up to you. So, what then entails a perfectly predictable spread? Honestly, the shotguns in Apex Legends and Gears of war are the only examples I can think of at the moment, and I don’t think there’s a better way of going about it without changing how the weapons themselves fundamentally work. Fixed pellet placement. Hipfire spread on non-shotgun weapons, on the other hand, is a different beast, especially when sustained auto/semiautomatic fire is in question. We all know how annoying it can be to die to someone with a spray weapon in an FPS, hip firing his way to victory. This is true for almost any game, Key word being almost. Think on Call of Duty, where your killcam reminds you of the clueless player that just bested you, as he hipfires and hits all headshots, likely on accident, leaving you saying “ah come on, he just hip fired me!” Let's create our own weapon to use as an example, in the image of all militaristic shooters. We'll call it the… D… the D-78... the D-789 Reaper or something. Nice and boring, just the way developers like it. Now, of course this weapon, while aimed in, is pinpoint accurate. While hipfired, however, the spread becomes a cone. While this cone is no longer pinpoint accurate, all of the bullets will land within the cone, which means, if the cone is about the same size as the enemies hitbox, that all of the bullets within the cone will land. It’s like your bullets become 50 times their normal size, while being just as effective. I know that's not always true, it varies, but bear with me. Now, imagine shooting at someone with this cone vs. aimed down sights. Rather than aiming in, wouldn’t it be easier to hip fire, and always have at least part of the cone on target? Yes, and paired with random spread, this means the chance for perfect accuracy with much less effort required. It’s easier to always be partially on target while using a flashlight instead of a laser pointer, which means you almost always have a chance to hit. In this scenario, hip firing is easier, and potentially just as effective as pinpoint accuracy while aiming in, which is why we get frustrated. It’s inherently easier, partially random, and depending on the game, is almost just as rewarding as aiming. After all, the saying is risk vs. reward, not... less risk, similar reward. The solution to this one of two extremes. Either you can make hip fire on the R-765 Dynasty, or whatever it's called, unusably inaccurate, or make it perfectly accurate. Let's think. Making hip fire spread worse will make it less rewarding, and therefore not as frustrating as often… but at the same time, will crank up the random factor, and make it all the more annoying when someone does get lucky with the hipfire. Not good. The alternative, perfectly accurate hipfire, may just completely solve the issue at hand. No randomness, and hipfire is no longer inherently easier. Hmm… think back, we don’t say “ah, he just hipfired me!” in Halo, do we? In fact, noscopes with certain weapons are considered harder and more impressive! If you then want to incentivize aiming in while keeping hipfire predictable, you could even add something like increased recoil to hipfire. Not random recoil, but increased recoil. We're killing it! Design is easy! Finally, while I hate to say it (that's a lie) we could just do away with bloom. With the recent launch of Halo Reach on PC, this is just in time. With bloom, your shots become increasingly inaccurate if you shoot quickly, which encourages you to pace your shots, and rewards the patient. Or at least, this is what it proposes to do. In reality, it forces you to pace your shots, lest your bullets become forfeit to random spread, while it often rewards the goofball who just spams his trigger and gets lucky. Once again, the problem lies in the unpredictability. The defenders of this mechanic always say “well I like bloom, because you have to pace your shots” and while patience may be worth rewarding generally speaking, it’s not a reward if it’s forced on you. And more than this, the random spread that comes along with this fake patience is just not worth it. Again, I like it when I’m watching a Quake duel, and patience wins out over the other players aggressive play now and again. That can be cool. Bloom, however, especially in reach, is a terrible implementation of that idea. All right! That's all I have to say about Gunplay today. Keep in mind, the scope of most of these arguments will inevitably be limited to what we see in shooter orthodoxy. To many of these questions and proposals, I would personally just get creative, and make entirely new weapon archetypes and entirely new games and systems. But, within the trends that define almost every modern shooter, these were my thoughts. Thanks for reading! Follow Westin Twitter: https://twitter.com/_Xandrith Website: https://westinkoessel.wixsite.com/portfolio 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. Titanfall 2 does so many things well. It has surprisingly robust character-building for a shooter, creating an endearing and believable camaraderie between pilot Jack Cooper and his iron giant buddy BT. Its single-player campaign is short, varied, and intense, packing more into 5 hours than most games do in 15. But perhaps the most impressive feat that Respawn Entertainment’s metal gnashing fun-fest has accomplished is unifying all of the game’s design systems to incentivize one core feeling: speed. For the uninitiated, Titanfall 2’s premise is simple. Militia rifleman Jack Cooper gets a pilot’s life foisted upon him after his mentor dies in battle, leaving Jack and his robot BT-7274 (the thing he ‘pilots’) to go on all manner of death-defying high jinks in an attempt to defeat the evil IMC. The game’s not winning any awards for its story, but you hardly pay attention to the occasionally hackneyed tale when the gameplay is so breathlessly enjoyable. Let’s take a look at how Titanfall 2 uses all the weapons in its game design arsenal to make being a pilot feel so fast. /// Movement For a game built around rapid motion as one of its lodestones, design decisions around player movement are critical, and Titanfall 2 hits it out of the park. The basic move set lays the foundation: the pilot can use his suit to double jump, wall run on vertical surfaces, slide on the ground, and cloak for short periods of time. But the game deliberately subverts industry design norms while implementing these features, incentivizing you to chain these forms of movement into an offensive orchestra during both platforming and combat. Wall runs: When the pilot wall runs, his speed increases with time. This encourages you to chain wall runs with other forms of movement, use wall runs to both attack and evade enemies, and, most importantly, look to start the next wall run as soon as the current one is done. You’re safest when you’re at speed, and wall runs (against conventional logic) help you gain speed. The level environments are also generously sprinkled with surfaces to wall run on, both during scripted story sequences and otherwise, leading you to find creative ways of downing enemies. Definitely more satisfying than a normal knife to the back Slides: Just like wall runs, when the pilot slides, his speed increases with time before coming to a stop. This, coupled with the long duration of a single slide, means that you can use this game mechanic as an offensive maneuver rather than just a retreat to find cover. Again, just like with wall runs, the sine wave of increase-then-decrease of slide speed makes you want to start the next slide that much sooner. The speed of a slide increases with time before coming to a stop Cloak: The pilot can cloak for a vanishingly small amount of time. Titanfall 2 — at least the single player campaign — is not a stealth game, so it was important not to unintentionally hand players a ‘safe’ combination of mechanics that could be used to finish most missions (think MGS Phantom Pain and the silenced pistol). The limited cloak time and the much longer time it takes for the ability to recharge means that you either use it to get out of a jam or to get a drop on unsuspecting enemies. But then the cloak is gone (at least for a while) and you’re back to the usual trapeze artist madness. Cloak in moderation is good for you Other nice touches like being able to change direction in mid-air during double jumps and choosing an ‘always be sprinting’ option from Settings also add to this fast, movement-chain friendly navigation. Enemies Not to diss any other shooters, but you know how enemies in many modern day FPS games are often the same basic unit with more armor and perhaps different weapons? When there’s minimal distinction between the various enemies you encounter, your mind naturally gravitates towards the single optimal way to defeat them. This leads to repetitive combat, which leads to an ultimately monotonous gaming experience. Titanfall 2 circumvents this trope wonderfully through the use of orthogonal unit differentiation. This design principle basically refers to multiple game elements having different functions, forcing you to adopt varying strategies and behaviors while encountering each element. Titanfall 2 has enemies that differ in their speed, damage quantity, and type of attack, and this makes you evolve and adjust with each enemy encounter. This very rudimentary graph highlights Titanfall 2’s enemy variety Grunt: The most basic enemy in the game, this unit is a foot-soldier with limited ability and intelligence. They have a hit scan attack, which means you can’t dodge their bullets when you’re in their sights. The grunt’s hit scan attacks Although individually not that dangerous, Grunts can be formidable in groups, will call for backup, and sometimes have shields that force you to navigate (again, at speed) around them for a hit. A grunt’s shield Stalker: This is a robotic enemy that differs from grunts enough for players to employ new strategies while fighting. They do more damage and are faster than grunts. Rather than just hang around, Stalkers come right at the player, forcing them to get out of cover and showcase that speed. They also have projectile weapons that can be dodged. A stalker comes right at you and hits you with projectiles Drones: These are flying robots that, just like Stalkers, are fast, come right at the player, and fire projectiles that can be dodged. But also, just like Grunts, they attack in groups. By combining bits of other enemies’ behavior, you have a completely new one that must be dealt in a unique manner. Groups of drones can be very frustrating to handle Prowler: Lizard creatures that are insanely fast and rush to bite and maul the player. I’ve categorized them in the graph as CQC or Close Quarters Combat. A different enemy in design and behavior, not just in graphical veneers and name. Prowlers can kill you in seconds if you’re not careful Tick: Robotic arachnids that make a beeline for the player before exploding. They have huge speed and damage, but from a tactical standpoint, their damage hurts other enemies too. If two of these go off in quick succession… I could go on and on, but the central thesis is this: when you’re in a massive arena with all these enemy types, the battle is almost like speed chess on steroids. Because there are enemies that rush directly at you, sniping them all away while sitting behind cover is useless. Because many enemies have projectile attacks that can be dodged, you feel confident jumping and sliding their way around them. And because each enemy has a unique set of attacks and behaviors, your mind (and your character) is whirring at mach speed as you make decisions while bunny hopping your way to victory. Level Design If these core mechanics weren’t enough, Titanfall 2 also has delightfully unique levels that are all geared towards making you take faster decisions and navigate the landscape quickly. So you will be time traveling in one level, taking on different enemy sets in both the past and the present… Best level ever …and jumping from wall to wall while also traveling through time. Ever Another level has you in a manufacturing facility, traipsing your way through the interiors as the level literally moves around you. Factory fun Two levels later, you’re armed with a retrofitted weapon that can move platforms and you basically create the level as your rush to your escape. What does this button do? Two things to note here: Although the themes of these levels are separate, they all feed into the central game feel of breakneck speed by making both navigation and combat faster and more challenging. The themes are abandoned after the levels are complete, preventing any feeling of drudgery or sameness and leaving you wanting more. /// Titanfall 2 is not a perfect game. There still are environments that feel similar and enemy encounters that make you think ‘I did something like this two hours ago’. But these foibles pale in comparison to its most towering success: the conceptualization and execution of a distinct game feel. A game feel of speed. You feel like a maverick pilot with a planet-hopping jumpsuit every second, from initial training to dramatic denouement. And all of the game’s systems — movement, enemies, level design, and more — coalesce with the aim of making you feel that way. Know any other games that have executed game feel successfully? Any other things in Titanfall 2 that I missed out? Let me know in the comments! *Note: This article is republished in full on Next Level Design with permission from the author. Source: https://medium.com/the-cube/titanfall-2-how-design-informs-speed-f14998d7f470 Follow Abhishek Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nickspinkboots Medium: https://medium.com/@abhishekiyer_25378 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. "In many video games, the player has control of the camera. However, the developer can control what's on screen through use of the environment to direct the player's movements and attention. Miriam Bellard has been referring to this as spatial cinematography. Miriam's talk explores spatial cinematography in theory and practice using examples from GTA V Online DLC (pre-production to final art). A truly cinematic experience can be developed by adapting film concepts such as shots, editing and 2D screen design as well as understanding how the player interacts with and perceives the game environment. Miriam discusses the effect of the 3D environment on the cinematic experience, including through movement, player attention, and spatial design." Follow Miriam Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiriamBellard Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/miriam-bellard-a4339a127 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. This article is a portion of the thesis titled "What Level Design Elements Determine Flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom" by David Eliasson. The 'Results' and 'Analysis' portions for Doom have been left out of this posting, along with several other sections. Please follow the link at the end to read the full thesis. We hope that you'll find something of value in this piece, and would love to hear what you've learned from it in the comments below. Happy reading! Abstract This thesis presents a comparative study between Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016) to determine how these fast-paced games facilitate flow in their gameplay. The second chapter looks at formal definitions of flow and level design to establish a vocabulary for following chapters. Through formal analysis the level designs of both games are then examined to establish what elements in them guide players and keep the flow in gameplay. The thesis also examines how the initial gameplay design principles, which are rooted in the older shooter genre, have impacted the level design. The author uses screenshots from both games, interviews with the design teams and published literature on game design for the study. It was found that the architectural design of a level in hero-based gameplay (Overwatch (2016)) could control the pacing by changing the elements that enable certain types of movement such as climbing or creating setups that favor one team over the other. On an individual player level, flow is kept with intentional placement of light and bright colors to guide the player. While Doom (2016) uses different abilities and movement sets for its hero, the tools of guiding the player proved to be very similar but with heavier focus on environmental markings and lights. In both cases the look of these guiding tools was adapted to fit into the game world without breaking the player’s immersion. Introduction Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? “Heroes” and “Doom-guy” are references to different player avatars from the two games this study is based on. “Heroes” comes from the online fps multiplayer game Overwatch (2016) where players control one of several heroes, all with their unique abilities and means to traverse and interact with the environment. “Doom-guy” is the space-marine protagonist of the Doom (2016) single player campaign. The first part of this thesis’s title “What level design elements determine flow? How Light and Objects Guide the Player in Overwatch and Doom.” addresses two theoretical parts of level design; principles and flow. To establish what principles exist in a field which is heavily dependent on which genre it is and as its own individual game. What principles determine which elements should exist and their placement so they enhance flow and do not disrupt it. In turn provides immersion by catering to players’ suspension of disbelief. The second part of the thesis consists of a practical examination of the two games to pinpoint these elements within their levels to determine if they create and continue to enable flow. The purpose of this thesis is to examine what level design principles exist to curate flow and then to compare two games with different mechanics and player abilities to examine how those principles are applied in each game to support the intended experience. Background These two games were chosen since they were both nominated for the same awards during 2016’s Game Awards. They were nominated for: Game of the Year, which Overwatch (2016) won. Best Studio/Game Direction, which Overwatch (2016) won Best Action Game, which Doom (2016) won Both games are also grounded in the old-school fast-paced FPS shooter genre. Jeff Kaplan game designer on Overwatch addresses this in the GameSpot video interview (GameSpot 2016) The Story of Overwatch: Return of the 90s Shooter (which refers to Doom (1996), Quake 2 (1997), Team Fortress Classic (1999) & Team Fortress 2 (2007)) and how these games have influenced the Overwatch (2016) development. In the interview Kaplan talks about how they want to bring back fast-paced gameplay with free-flowing movement abilities. In his opinion, this has been lost over the past decade as the design philosophy in the fps genre at large has moved closer toward mimicking reality. The goal of Overwatch (2016) was to bring back intuitive gameplay where players compete to get to alternative vantage points and use unique abilities to maneuver as well as neutralize enemies. With focus on the player’s ability to control how they traverse through a level. Kaplan continues to explain their level designs guiding goals and how they work to facilitate this. These are: Heroes First - Levels are meant to support the heroes’ differences and so they are built to create different opportunities for each hero’s movement abilities and skills. Maps should feel intuitive enough to navigate that they do not draw away attention from the heroes. Diversity of Experience - Levels should be playgrounds for different playstyles and skill levels, with built-in vantage points to climb and chokepoints for close combat. Environments should be diverse enough for all hero types to shine. Clarity of Space - Players should be able to smoothly navigate levels even if it is their first time playing them. They should have enough affordances to clearly direct them and distinguish between travel areas and locked areas. Every playthrough, players should find new, alternative ways to maneuver through the level. The environment should be visually clean, with clear points of interest. Immersive World Fantasy - Each level should be a fantasy-rich and inspiring version of real-world locations to further immerse the player in being the hero. Environments should also provide a clear view of distant areas to make the levels feel as a part of a larger, surrounding world. Doom (2016) is heavily influenced by its predecessor from 1996 in terms of level layout and how they make speed into a key element for more intuitive gameplay. In an interview (Graft 2017) Marty Stratton game director on Doom (2016) talks about this and how the team aimed to recapture the original game’s essence of fast-paced, agile combat. Creating a fundamental core design principle of gameplay resulting in a constant push-forward combat tactic. Stratton defines this as combat chess, consisting of: Speed of movement. Players’ ability to in an agile way move around in the environment. Individuality of demons. Prioritize enemies based on their unique traits and how they work in unison, variation of demons presents different challenges. Distinctiveness of the weapons. Like distinctive enemies determine which weapon best deals with facing various kinds of demons as well how they feel to interact with. Overall power of the player. Players’ health, weapon damage, reload speed and how well they are equipped overall to face various kinds of demons and obstacles. “Make me think, make me move”. This concept refers to a style of gameplay where, due to the player’s fast movement speed, challenges must be solved as they move through the environment. So, all information needed to solve those challenges must be clearly visible and easy to understand as the player maneuvers the environment. In the same interview Stratton also states: “The right size arena, with just the right amount of space, actually made the players feel even faster, … Your top-end speed is good but you’re more agile than you are fast. If you’re in the right space, it can just feel perfect. We spent a lot of time during development finding exactly what the rightsized spaces are for Doom to make you feel quick and agile, but still under control.” Here both Stratton’s and Kaplan’s design principles match, both are looking back into what now could be called classics. Striving for gameplay where a player’s control over their avatar determines how good they are at the game, as long the game provide enough feedback and has mechanics that are in tune with the levels they traverse. To summarize, there are similarities in both design philosophies, showing that they strive for: Core gameplay centered around player avatars and their abilities. An immersive world with plenty of affordances for varied playstyles Simple but stylized environments which clearly show that the avatar belongs in them as well clearly showing how to traverse them. So, what have these games done to facilitate these design goals and how does these it affect the flow within the games. What elements do their levels contain and what principles have they used to guide their players? Previous Work This section explains the fundamentals and guiding principles of level design to provide a vocabulary for the methodology. What is a Level? Game development terminology describes the term “level” as multifaceted. Scott Rogers writes in Level Design: Processes and Practices (2017:102) that a game level can be the environment the player is currently traveling/performing actions within. As well as a numeric sense of how far they have progressed within the game or as a representation of an avatar’s power. In his book, Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Games Second Edition (2014:225) he defines four different variations for this term, Rogers states that this is due to a limited professional vocabulary within the industry. These are: Level: Environment/location where gameplay occurs. Level: Physical (in-game) space based upon specific gameplay experience. Level: Unit of counting player’s overall game progression. Level: Term for marking character progression and improvement. The first two definitions are aimed toward environmental aspects where the first encompasses the larger play space and the second definition refers to the smaller sections within the space. For example, the desert in Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainment 2012) represents a large level that the player can travel through and at various places there exists explorable caves. The caves are parts of the desert level but each cave is their own level and would be broken down to more levels if the caves would contain various locations. Anna Anthropy (Anthropy, 2014:40) explains this divide further by defining and breaking down levels as scenes which in themselves are built by various scenes, “A scene is a more atomic, fundamental unit of gameplay than a level, or a world, or a region in a game world.” To continue the previous example from Diablo 3 the various rooms within the cave are independent scenes connected by traversal scenes. A traversal scene would be a bridge presenting a challenge the player must clear to proceed, Anthropy means that if any form of progression occurs it is a scene of its own. For the scope of this thesis levels are defined as Rogers described them as a main level containing certain sublevels instead of the in-depth definition which Anthropy talks about. Instead Anthropy’s definition of scenes, especially traversal scenes is being used to examine how levels facilitate flow. What is Level Design? Ernest W. Adams in his book Fundamentals of Game Design, explains it as “The level designer creates not only the space in which the game takes place—its furnishing and backgrounds—but also the player’s moment-by-moment experience of the game and much of its emotional context.” He also notes that level design is “…the process of constructing the experience that will be offered directly to the player using components provided by the game designer.” Christopher W. Totten in his book Level Design: Processes and Experiences makes the distinction between level design is neither art nor game design even though it is dependent on both, just as they are dependent on it. Level design is not about the creation of assets or definition of game mechanics but a middle point of both as the level should work to facilitate core mechanics and thus shape its landscape accordingly. To make use of assets so they enhance, rather than hinder flow in the game. Ernest W. Adams argues as well that it is the level designer who puts it all into practice as they design the challenges and set the mood in the levels. Huaxin Wei and Chaoguang Wang also state that level design is its own position, apart from that of game designers and environmental artists. It is the role of the level designer to guide players through the game and so they must work in close tandem with programmers and artists as “In the actual design process, it is important to communicate with artists and programmers to get their attention on the functionality of a game level, which is realized in both the operational and the presentational structures.” They write how the levels are more than their design and visuals, they embody the player’s possibilities to navigate through and interact with the level. Jess Schell states in his book Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses: “All a level designer does is arrange the architecture, props, and challenges in a game in ways that are fun and interesting — that is, making sure there is the right level of challenge, the right amount of reward, the right amount of meaningful choice, and all the other things that make a good game. Level design is just game design exercised in detail — and it isn’t easy, for the devil is in the details. Level design is different for every game, because every game is different.” This thesis will view the position and work of a level designer as one who builds the player experience based on a design goal with the tools made available from programmers and artists alike. What is Flow? One of the challenges with level design is to determine how the dramatic curve is shaped throughout the level so as to produce a balance between action sequences and rest areas. A generalized term for this is called “flow”. The vision for each level is for players to flow seamlessly through them without breaking the game’s immersion. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow from a general perspective of everyday life and the different obstacles people face, although these are applicable on games as well. Csikszentmihalyi suggests three conditions which must be met to produce flow. Firstly, when the activity shows “…a clear set of goals”. These goals are intended to provide a purpose to the intended activity and keep channeling the player’s attention for the duration of the game and so keep them immersed. Secondly, flow is “…a balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills.” If the challenge is greater than the players’ current skillset it risks becoming frustrating as the odds for them to overcome the challenge diminish. If the player’s skillset is greater than the challenges it risks becoming dull, the balance between these two should allow the players to face and complete challenges equal to their skill. Third and final is “…clear and immediate feedback.” Players should not doubt where they are going given what their goal is and so levels should always inform the player how they progress. These three conditions of clear directional goals, clear understanding of skill versus challenge and constant feedback will be the lens this thesis examines the games through. What is the Goal of a Level Designer? Ernest W. Adams lists certain principles regarding level design and explains briefly what is essential about them. These principles are: “The space in which the game takes place.” It’s the game designer job to create the games features but it is the level designer who determines when, where and how those are presented. “The initial conditions of the level.” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose” Here Adams refers to expendable resources within the level such as number of enemies the player faces or resources they either gain or lose. “The set challenges the player will face within the level.” What challenges the level produces, either environmental obstacles or enemies as well as in what sequence they appear. “The termination conditions of the level.” What must the player accomplish in order to complete the level and in what ways can they fail? “The interplay between the gameplay and the game’s story, if any.” If the level has a narrative its design must present it accordingly to the player. “The aesthetic and mood of the level.” How the player experiences the intended aesthetics is up to the level designer. They are given a tone and then decide at what pace it is revealed. “Atmosphere.” This connects with the aesthetics of the level although in a larger sense as it encompasses lightning, colors, visual effects as well audio to produce the intended experience. “Pacing and progress.” This ties into what conditions and challenges exist in the level, as it determines how frequently the players are challenged and when they have a moment to rest. “Tutorial levels.” They are separate from the main game levels and are a safe-zone where the player can learn new abilities and where new challenges are presented in a set order. Out of these principles, this study looks foremost at the architectural space within the level and how it is designed to form paths and how the atmospheric effects provide visual guiding tools. It also looks at environments from two aspects. What challenges the layout presents based on the limitations of character movement and how players overcome these challenges. Also, how environmental markings are placed to direct players. Purpose The purpose of this thesis is to gain an understanding of which elements and principles determine flow. Then see how these are used to guide players in fast paced games such as Overwatch (2016) and Doom (2016). This will be accomplished by firstly conducting a comparative study of these two games to analyze their flow based upon knowledge of what guides a level designer and which goals they strive towards. This study emphasizes the importance of designing a seamless flow throughout the level, allowing players to become immersed in the way they travel and interact with levels through gameplay. Secondly by conducting a formal analysis of the levels from these games to determine how their architectural layout is designed. How do these environmental elements work with how players traverse throughout the level? The focus is on gaining an understanding of how these game levels are executed to constantly guide the players forward with minimal risk of breaking immersion. The underlying question is: What in these environments subconsciously guides the player during play? Analysis Procedure Elements of flow are for example architecture layout, environmental objects/markings and various visual effects. Examples of these might be how a building is designed to open/close a line of sight or how objects and environmental markings form directional arrows. How lights and sounds draw players’ attention. These are the most commonly used ways to guide players but it is sometimes difficult to make them feel integrated within the level. Both games are analyzed in three steps. These are: During gameplay distinguish the following elements: Architecture: How buildings and paths provide moment-by-moment information as players traverse. How they are shaped based upon the avatar’s mobility and do these affect the line of sight. Objects: How objects such as crates, ladders, ledges etc. either become hindrances and blocks paths or provide alternative traversal routes. Markings: How environmental markings such as signs, scrapes, blood etc. form directional arrows. Visuals: How visual effects such as wind, light and sounds are meant to draw the player’s attention to them and guide them further along. Do these elements fit into the three flow categories? Clear directional goals: Are players always aware of where they need to be going by following these elements. Skill vs Obstacle: Are players able to overcome obstacles while moving or do they have to stop. Clear Feedback: Do they provide clear visual feedback before and while players interact with them or as they pass them. Do these elements and flow categories support their initial design principles? Avatar based gameplay. World created for various playstyles. Clean world for quick reading. This approach is looking at how the landscape and objects in the environment allow the players to either traverse the level or stop them. Does the background continuously telegraph where players should go next and is it all in coherence with the game’s overall aesthetic and design? A different approach to this study would have been to conduct interviews with the design team behind both games about their process and the principles they have followed. This would have given concrete data on their work, how they chose their elements and most importantly why they chose these. However, this would not have been possible given the scope of this thesis. Results Overwatch Overwatch is a multiplayer online fps game developed and released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016. Each player controls one of a variety of heroes in a competitive six versus six-person teams. The goal of each match is to capture an objective through one of several game modes, and in doing so defeat the enemy team (Blizzard 2016a). At launch the game featured a roster of twenty-one unique heroes and twelve maps based on real world locations. The game is set 60 years into the future and Jeff Kaplan talks about their vision during development. The aim for these levels was to create an imaginary reflection of what our current world could come to be in a society with heroes. Rather than a realistic translation of what exists today, they strived to build a better future for the world. Show something more than war torn cities and grim gray environments, something we could strive towards and hope for. Kaplan goes on to talk about how each area should be a place their players would want to visit. Levels should be a place where they would want to spend a long time, they should allure players to explore them and try to traverse them in as many ways as possible. Avatar Mobility For this thesis Overwatch’s hero roster is divided into three categories based on their mobility, high, medium and low. High mobility heroes can climb walls or have an ability which allows them to reach high vantage points, alternatively use this ability to find other routes to the objective. Hanzo (see Figure 1) is one of the heroes with high mobility. He is a ranged attack hero with the ability to, for a short duration climb walls, both in a vertical and horizontal direction. Hanzo can also leap off in any direction can while climbing. Figure 1: Overwatch character Hanzo climbing the wall towards the right. His direction is shown by the dust cloud left behind him. Hanzo’s climbing ability depends on his distance from the wall. For Hanzo to climb walls they must be relatively clean from any sort of bumps or extensions, and to climb over edges they can not extend too far out from the wall. During the climb players are facing the wall, removing any possibility to respond should an enemy player appear which makes Hanzo an easy target for the duration of the climb. This risk of being ambushed has the potential of a high reward, should players reach a high vantage point from which they can utilize their long-ranged attacks. Medium mobility heroes have abilities that allow them to either temporarily fly or teleport, which can be used to gain an advantage during fights or avoid areas by passing over them. Pharah (see Figure 2) is one of the heroes with medium mobility. She is a ranged attack hero equipped with a jetpack that allows her to leap into the air to either to levitate for a short duration or fly short distances. In addition to her jetpack she has an ability that allows her to burst short distances. When this ability is used midair, Pharah can reach higher areas, alternatively cover more distance in a shorter amount of time. Figure 2: Overwatch character Pharah levitating midair while activating her ultimate ability. While Pharah is airborne she has limited movement speed, making her slower in the air than she is on foot. With no option for cover she risks becoming an easy target since players must look in the direction they are flying. She also requires open outdoor areas to fully utilize her flight potential which restricts her indoors. It also allows her to reach high vantage points with the tradeoff of being more easily spotted by enemy players. Low mobility heroes are restricted to the ground and have no abilities for either exploring alternative routes or reaching advantage points. Reinhardt (see Figure 3) is one of the heroes with low mobility. He is a melee range attack hero with the ability to charge towards enemy players in a straight line and pin them against obstacles. Figure 3: Overwatch Character Reinhardt using his charge ability. Being restricted to the ground has no actual disadvantages since each level offers various rooms and other passages which offer protection from any attacks from above. At key points in each level, heroes with high mobility are forced to descend to proceed further or clear an objective. Although that is not to say that medium and high mobility heroes cannot use the ground to the same extent as low mobility heroes. Rather they are suited for an agile playstyle which uses the environment to their advantage if they can traverse freely and be used to their full potential. To support the different kinds of mobility as well as to increase the attraction for players to explore and seek alternative routes, Blizzard has removed drawbacks such as fall damage. Players falling from great heights take no damage upon landing, as long as they fall inside the level’s perimeter. This makes exploration risk free, so players do not need to hurt their avatar should they fall down into a group of enemy players. Instead they should be given the element of surprise and rewarded for their interest in exploring the levels in detail. The strength of a hero’s abilities is therefore dependent on the player’s expertise. This feeds into players having to become more observant of their surroundings since enemy players could potentially come from various directions, creating an active gameplay. Level Layout The level layout in Overwatch maps changes throughout the game to give advantage to different teams, attackers/defenders and different mobility heroes. Early in maps advantage is often given to high and medium mobility heroes through open spaces with alternative route options. This can be seen in both the Hanamura (see Figure 4) and Kings Row (see Figure 5) map. In both maps their first objective of two is displayed, these are capture points where one team is defending and one is attacking. In Hanamura attackers come through the gates on the right side and despite those being the main point of entry there are four different openings surrounding the door. There is open sky for flying heroes to enter and navigate and on the right of the gates there is an entrance into the little house providing cover for low mobility heroes. This open space and short distance between covers favor low and medium mobility heroes since most walls have larger extensions and most roofs are leaning downward making it difficult to climb and find a vantage point. Figure 4: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. The first objective is located inside the house to the avatars left. Figure 5: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The first objective is located behind the trees and car to the avatar’s right. For King’s Row attackers come in from the left and just like in Hanamura there is plenty of open sky and the statue in the middle offers a two-way split. Just like Hanamura, this location provides an open space with some cover options for low mobility heroes. This location is favorable for low and high mobility heroes due to it containing more objects which block teleportation and force flying heroes to expose themselves. This puts medium mobility heroes at a disadvantage. The walls of the buildings are cleaner than in Hanamura so they support climbing to vantage points, most noticeably the opening on the second floor in the upper right corner. The statue and the house behind it contain doors which offer cover suitable for quick ground movement. There are some covers present in both locations for the defending team heroes to take cover in but due to the capture points being exposed, the odds of being overrun are great. In Hanamura the first point is located within the house to the left. Inside is an open space with bare walls and multiple entering points. In Kings Row defenders are pushed to the walls of the building behind the trees and car, leaving them out in the open if they wish to hold it. There are options to cover it from afar but this leaves the point open to be captured if there are no defenders on site. These points are located a short distance from the attacking teams spawn points which are placed beyond the walls in both maps, whereas defenders must traverse the entire map to reach it. Because of these facts attackers have the advantage on capturing it early on. This advantage disappears when the attacking team reaches the second objective point. Hanamura’s (see Figure 6) second point is indoors, now openly exposed in the middle of the room. The layout of the room and the lack of cover forces the heroes to move close to the center, leaving them exposed to defenders on either side. There are three entrances leading straight to the middle and two more on each side of the capture points, all converging toward the middle. To the avatar’s left, there are stairs visibly connected to a plateau which goes along sides and ends where the avatar is standing. The porch has pillars, like those directly opposite of the avatar, surrounding it and granting protection to defending players. Now the attacking team must traverse the entire map whereas the defending team’s spawn point is in an adjacent room behind the avatar. Because of this, the defending team has the advantage on protecting the objective. Figure 6: In-game screenshot taken from the Hanamura map, Overwatch. Second objective point is the open area in the middle of the room, lit by sunshine coming in from the roof. It is the same in King’s Row (see Figure 7) where there is a narrow, crooked path containing multiple smaller rooms leading up to the second objective. This gives defending heroes the possibility to set up hidden defenses. To the left of the avatar there are concealed plateaus, surrounding the objective point. Defending low mobility heroes has the advantage as players are forced into the same space, restricting agile high and medium mobility heroes. Figure 7: In-game screenshot taken from the Kings Row map, Overwatch. The second objective, an open platform at the end of a crooked path, is located in the bottom left corner. One factor which differs in King’s Row compared to Hanamura is the second objective which is transporting a vehicle (the car seen Figure 6) onto the platform. In order to transport the car, players must be near it. This restricts high and medium mobility heroes on the attacking team but favors high and medium mobility heroes on the defending team since their abilities allow them to outmaneuver the heroes transporting the car and launch surprise attacks from various vantage points. Such vantage points include the roof directly opposing the avatar as well the smaller room on its right. A third example of this level design is the Volskaya Industries map (see Figure 8). As in the previous two maps the map’s first objective point is an open area located outside. A short distance away is the attacking team’s spawn point which is located inside the building past the wall in the right-side corner. The map’s second objective point is located inside, with various smaller rooms and passages surrounding it. What differs between Volskaya Industries and the previous two maps is the fact that this level caters to all mobility categories. High mobility heroes can make use of the smooth walls and various entrance points without risking to much exposure. Medium mobility heroes can use their abilities to reach the same places high mobility heroes as well make us of the open skies, passages and rooms to move around the map. Low mobility heroes are offered the same routes as other heroes since the same openings and possibilities of cover exist on all levels. Closed-in openings at ground-level offer protection from other low mobility heroes as well as offering cover against flying heroes. Open areas on the second floors are accessible to various heroes and while they offer high vantage points, those points leave the heroes exposed due to a lack of cover options. Figure 8: In-game screenshots taken from the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. First objective point (left) and second objective (right). Both points are the square areas in front of the avatar. In these three maps, the game’s designers have catered to all three mobility types as players can choose to traverse these levels in various ways. Their layout provides players with alternative passages and invites them to explore them to reach new vantage points. There is a shifting advantage between the teams where attackers benefit from being aggressive early on while defenders must be tactical. These early parts are also more suited for medium/high mobility heroes. The later parts of the maps tend to favor the defending team and low mobility heroes. The levels facilitate this by having the first stage of the map be an open environment which, as the attacking team advances, narrows down. In coherence with how the distance of each team’s spawn point changes so does the time required for each team’s heroes to respawn and reach the rest of their team. Analysis Overwatch Below follows an examination of Overwatch’s levels to determine how they facilitate flow. Environment By studying the architecture, objects, marking and visuals in Hanamura (see Figure 14) it is determined that this level primarily uses objects as well as lights to guide players. This view is the first players on the attacking team see, with five locations where the environment draws the players’ attention. From left to right, the first circle shows traffic signs where one is an arrow pointed inwards toward the street and the other is a warning sign placed above the arrow in such a way that it lets players notice it first and then the arrow. The second two circles show traffic lights which are natural objects for people to look towards while traveling. Below the middle traffic light is a huge wooden door with an emblem upon it, marking its importance and letting the attacking team players know they are targeting an area of importance. The last two bubbles contain a parked car and a restaurant icon, displaying a humanoid creature. What makes them noticeable are their size and recognizability. They are both facing toward the street, same as the arrow sign and them being relatable objects with a clear front and back end, makes them natural arrows. Figure 14: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. The house provides a two-way split but the path on the right side is almost concealed by what looks to be a small crane apparatus, as well as being concealed in shadow by the surrounding houses. The left path meanwhile is partly lit by the sun as well as containing several objects forming directional signs, guiding players toward this path. Outside the defenders’ spawn point (see Figure 15) there are less objects but instead light which indicates which way players could take or where potential enemies might enter from. Both circles on the left show dim lights near door openings while the circles on the right show glimpses of a large cherry blossom tree. These two circles are also placed near the massive sunlight shining in from the roof, which subconsciously draws the players attention if only for a moment so the next objects they see are the cherry tree’s pink color and the three openings leading out. Figure 15: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Hanamura map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. King’s Row (see Figure 16) also uses lights to guide its defending players outward and luring the attacking team inward. The first object both teams see as they enter is the large orange lamp hanging from the ceiling. With its bright light and size, it points out a place of importance. The dark orange lights along the floor show the path and like the large lamp signals importance, the floor lights invite players to follow them. The blue lights inside the rooms set a cold, rather saddening tone, making them less inviting to follow. The start zone of the attacking team on King’s Row (see Figure 17) uses light and the architecture to guide the players. The lights within the left circles start at street level and slowly move diagonally upward and inward to the screen center, almost blending in with the roof above. The roof is pointing diagonally downwards into the middle, in the same manner as the bus in front of the avatar and theater sign on the right do. These guide the player’s vision toward the middle and into the large, blue lit tower, hovering behind the bus which seems to hold an open area for players to explore. Figure 16: In-game screenshot taken outside the defending team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles indicate environmental elements. Figure 17: In-game screenshot taken outside the attacking team’s spawnpoint on the Kings Row map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements Both the attacking and defending teams’ spawnpoints in Volskaya industries (see Figure 18) use lights and buildings to create directional arrows. The lights catch the players’ attention and guide them as the building points downward into the center of the screen where a light blue light indicates that the map continues further in that direction. In these maps, the sides surrounding the critical path are purposefully made dull and important by comparison to funnel players toward certain areas. These elements guide both teams, pulling both the defending and the attacking team inward. Figure 18: In-game screenshot outside attacking (left) and defending (right) teams spawn point on the Volskaya Industries map, Overwatch. White circles and arrows indicate environmental elements. Flow So, do these level design elements found within these three levels support flow? Clear directional goals? Yes, as players traverse the level, elements within the level keep telegraphing to the players where the next objective lies and which path leads them toward it. The layouts contain plenty of open space in the first half and narrows down around the second objective where the players are guided more strictly Skill vs obstacle? Yes, each hero, regardless of their mobility category are shown available routes and these are visible as players approach them. Players must not stop and search for a way in as the open level design is clearly guiding them. While there is a main road to any objective, there are always various alternative routes if players control a hero with more mobility. Clear feedback? o Yes, every important building, object and sign are created so they can always be spotted and reached if possible. All heroes have passages they can take and if the player knows the limitations of their hero they do not need to wonder if they can reach them, unless they are looking for more original routes. Design Principles Overwatch has an avatar based gameplay where the player’s expertise and control over their hero determine their success in each match. It also has a level design which allows for all three mobility types to traverse in more ways than one. Its visual design makes it easy to tell what can be interacted with and which paths lead where. Based upon this analysis it can be said that Overwatch has successfully achieved their initial design goals. Reflections The purpose of this thesis is to examine level design to determine what within the design enables flow. First off, this is a broad topic addressing the subject of level design which by itself lacks a unified meaning. The meaning of level design changes depending on developers and genre and most have their own level design principles. Even flow has a different meaning and implementation, depending on the genre and intention of the game. However, there are commonly used principles and a vocabulary which helps game developers in different genres to find common ground. Looking at Doom (2016) and Overwatch (2016), despite their similarities the dramatic curve in both games differs a great deal. This is partially due to the size of their maps. Overwatch (2016) has short maps made for bursts of gameplay with certain points focusing on combat. In Doom (2016) levels are longer, contain more content and most areas are a mixture of combat and travel area. Leaving their different artstyle aside and focusing on key elements, they can be broken down into the same objects and elements. Looking at these elements as basic building blocks there are lights and arrows. Regardless of their size and aesthetics, the leaning buildings in Overwatch (2016) and the pools of blood in Doom (2016) fill the same function. Street lights or fires, they are given a meaning once they have aesthetics which are in coherence with the overall environment. Objects found in one game would become immersion-breaking if put into the other. The games use the same building blocks, just re-skinned to suit their own game’s aesthetic. This brings into focus how much of the flow in the games is dependent upon the assets graphical styles as well as their location. Compare the environment outside of both teams spawning points in Volskaya Industries with the first outdoor level the Doom-guy experiences. Both contain environmental elements (houses in Overwatch (2016), mountains in Doom (2016)), that are leaning toward the left. Even replacing their narrative-specific models and textures and replacing them with untextured primitive objects, these elements would still point players in the right direction. The same principles applies to the lights, as the value contrast they provide would still catch the players’ attention. However disguising them in appropriate graphics feeds into the overall immersion of the game, making them fulfill their purpose and enabling flow. Both these games have succeeded in creating aesthetically appropriate elements for each map which serve to subconsciously guide players. Conclusion Immersive gameplay is vital to all aspects of game design but how do developers design gameplay which causes the least amount of immersion breakage. How is level design affected by the playable characters’ abilities to maneuver and interact with the environment within the level? If a player’s abilities to explore and traverse are being hindered, or if their current abilities are inadequate to overcome the challenges they face, the players risk losing immersion in the game. So, how are levels designed to reduce this? To conclude, the elements found in these games facilitating flow are simple elements of light and direction. Simple in this case means basic building blocks which have been created, with a specific function in mind for a specific location. Dark areas exist to enhance spots of light and make them more alluring for players. The lights are then placed and given specific colors and intensities to create a specific feeling. Each opening has a specific purpose, either to create a vantage point for the player of lead to an alternative path. In Overwatch (2016) levels are changing as they progress to cater to the various heroes and their different mobilities. All heroes can always find a route best suited for their hero, either by using an alternative path to reach objectives or finding an area where their hero’s abilities offer them an advantage over those of the enemy team. Ability-based gameplay is the key to this game and the levels does nothing but enhances this. Read the full paper here: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1146250/FULLTEXT01.pdf Follow David Website: https://davideliasson.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/eliasson_david?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
  6. 'Map Design Theory' comes from the heyday of Halo 3's Forge Mode. This one holds a special place in my heart because it's one of the first articles that got me thinking seriously about level design. It covers all of the essentials of level design, and use examples to support the discussion points. This article was written exclusively with Halo 3 in mind, but is most definitely applicable to Level Design in other FPS games as well. Understanding map design can be a daunting task for anyone, but with a little perseverance and open mind it should be relatively easy to grasp. To start, design is all about having the right sets of mentalities and understanding, and three over-arching categories drive successful map design; Gameplay Knowledge, Vision, and Creativity. These three elements need to come together in unison for a map to work well on various levels. If you focus too heavily upon creativity and vision, the map may end up more aesthetically pleasing than it would have, but won’t necessarily play well. If you know gameplay and have a vision for map design, your map may come out a little dull even though it might be fun. I had a third point, but it left me, and now I have to pay alimony every month. Balance between the three separates the novice from the exceptional. There are no simple tricks to suddenly finding the balance; as with everything, it requires practice and mental familiarity.Knowledge:"Knowledge is power"Sir Francis Bacon said thatHe didn't work out.Knowledge boils down to understanding the various mechanics in Halo 3 in both general terms and specific ways such as; anti-camping concepts, getting a feel for the spawn system to encourage routes and flow, recognizing and preventing choke points (sometimes even effectively implementing them) and much more. However, the point isn't to be rehash previous ideas, rather to know WHY things are and WHY they are subsequently successful or not in their attempts. There's really no limit to what you can learn about map design. It’s just about taking the time to understand how each each aspect works in principle and how to use it effectively. Vision:Psychic map builder?That makes it sound difficult.Just think your map through.In a few words, vision can be described as being able to mentally visualize the next step like some sort of psychic map-builder. This can be difficult for people as not everyone is able to imagine in 3D, and the good news is, this isn’t always necessary for proper map design. Basic questions you should ask: What will the player movement be like? How do you want it to look and what are the major points of interest? Is it going to be mostly flat (too easy a joke) What of elevation changes? Will there be rooms, and if so how will you prevent camping? These are all things that you should think about while designing a map. Knowing what devices to envision results from a solid understanding of gameplay and design fundamentals. Essentially, the key to it all is trying to imagine how your idea will actually play out as a map within Halo 3, translating the physical form of the map you're imagining in to an actual gameplay environment, and determining whether or not it will work effectively. Creativity:Creativity, like any other expressive medium, is an important part of any effective map design. It determines uniqueness, flow, supported playstyles, weapon use, and key areas, if any. These should be minimally addressed in your design before you even start building.Thousands of downloadsfor a pallet conveyorCreative. 'Nuff said.It’s difficult to describe how to be creative or what spurs a design. Sometimes it’s a quick flash of inspiration; other times it’s a focal point that it is built off of. It varies on its creator, and from an ironically objective standpoint, it's luck. What complicates it even more is it can be often difficult to tie everything together, so having a clear vision of what you want to create before focusing on specifics is very important. A Haiku:Forge guides are fun, butdisclaimers are important.Please, please don't sue us.First, a few disclaimers before we start: the focus of this Forging 201 will not be to show you some new Forge tips or a solid set of information, in fact probably nothing will be particularly new. Everything that we'll be saying here you should think critically about; in other words, map design mentality.Second, while we'll try to leave things vague and open for you to think about, we'll be making our own assumptions and assertions throughout the piece. It's a guide, not a law, if you can give good reason for anything, supportive, contradictory or unrelated to the topics presented, and it helps your design, it's perfectly fine. Our assumptions are not necessarily fact, just keep that in mind.Map design is a puzzle; everything fits together to form one final product. All of the following topics are important interrelated factors in defining the resulting gameplay. Much as map design is being broken down in to various aspects and considerations for the purposes of this article, the real point of map design is understanding them not only in distinct terms, but most importantly how they interact to form the greater whole of a successful map.In no way is this discussion close to complete, nor can it ever really be. Map design is a constant learning and innovative process. There's no limit to what you can learn and do with it. As a whole, this guide has been a collaboration between Insane54 and MickRaider.Knowledge Player movement, often known as "flow" (and what it will henceforth be referred to as) is the base for map design. Player movement is how the players progress through your map in relation to the various objects in it, or in simpler terms, how players prefer to move about the map. There's no good or bad flow. Your map starts with a vision and the flow is the result. Different people have different ways of approaching obstacles in the environment, but as the map creator you can streamline (or expand) routes to better suit certain approaches. Flow is invariably affected by the map itself, so the design process should bring about the following questions: What's the ideal amount of players? How big is the map? What playstyles do you want to encourage? What weapons do you want players to use, and how often? i.e. weapon balance In Halo, players do not traverse the map on a cover-to-cover basis like Gears of War, nor do they move between random structures; open-area combat is a significant, if not defining, aspect of Halo 3's gameplay mechanic. Therefore, your map design should never be based off of cover or structures themselves, rather any cover provided should be a part of the larger scheme of things. In essence, the cover defines player flow (or choice of route) as opposed to giving them set paths to follow in order to remain behind cover. This will be expanded upon later.In general, every area on the map should be accessible by at least 2 paths. The more paths you put into an area, the more it will turn into a transitory area (as opposed to a camp spot). For example, players will more often traverse through Guardian's sniper area via the middle level than on the bottom, simply because it has four paths instead of two. Simple enough. That being said, you don't necessarily want to put many different paths for the sake of having them, just understand which areas call for it, and address them to prevent camping. After all, Halo is about movement, not "tactical waiting" as Sarge would say. Furthermore, your paths should have purpose as opposed to just diversifying routes, that is, they should affect gameplay in some way. Example: Guardian. A person is shooting from sniper spawn. Regardless of position, there are various ways to take him out, such as tactical BR shots or providing a distraction while teammates sneak from behind, among other avenues of attack. The point is, the map affords plenty of options, and each has a different level and type of risk associated with it, a balance of advantage and disadvantage. To summarize map flow (and subsequent player movement options) for a given situation should not only be suited to this situation, but also balanced with one another so that situations don't arise where one route is overplayed and the other, underused. Lines of Sight: What you can see at any given point, or rather, the damage you can inflict within your field of vision. In quantitative terms, it is your entire 360 degree viewing angle, adjusted by obstructions in your view (walls, barriers, etc).This can be accomplished due to a variety of weapon and grenades. However, the concept of 'good LoS' is somewhat misguided and inefficient in practical terms. In fact, lines of sight aren't particularly important in the first place. A player doesn't look directly at one point the entire game. Games are dynamic and have more to do with field of vision than lines of sight. Let's do away with the lines of sight idea (again, we'll continue to use the name for simplicity), and think about a very similar but much more important definition:Field of Vision is the angle at which the user can see enemy players. In normal circumstances, this angle is approximately 90 degrees. Unaffected "Field of Vision" Field of vision is, of course, different depending on the situation you're in, such as being in a tunnel with a shotgun or atop an open ledge with a sniper-rifle. Thus, determining what players will be able to see, and where, will have a significant effect on the routes they will use. In general, if the player can see the enemy at long range, a direct run is inadvisable by common sense. This changes at close range, especially with the use of the shotguns or assault rifles, as bullet spray is lessened. With this in mind, as a map builder, you can guide gameplay to preference in your map. On that note, you still want to include enough routes for escape, flanking, and other maneuvers.Height is important to lines of sight. People on towers have the advantage of cover from people below, and can use that to their advantage. Balancing power points with path and line of sight options is important and can be accomplished through clever grenade bounces and alternative paths.Players are dynamic and adjust to the situations they are in, and though you can't control their specific responses, you can set the stimulus that provokes those responses. In other words, you can't control the bee and its honey, but you can determine what flowers it has access to.Here are some of the generic comments you'll often see by forger and other players; "Cool structures", "needs more cover", "too open". A well designed map is not comprised of any of the above, or rather trying to understand map design in these simple terms is essentially flawed and misses the point of how larger design works in Halo 3. Structures, cover, and open areas are a part of map design, sure, but they are nowhere near the major focus of a map, they're more the result of design than an actual part of the design process. If you are ever finding yourself designing a map around random structures or cover, you should be going back to the drawing board and figure out how you are going to tie everything together.We've all encountered plenty of awesome structures out there. Structures are capable of defining a map, such as "Relic". You must be careful to have the map tie together though. Structures can be beneficial to a map design by directing players where you want them on a map. An interesting central structure that also has a tactical advantage can direct attention towards that structure and create interesting hot spots and gameplay opportunities. Let me take this moment to say that the goal for map design is not always to create some perfectly designed map that plays exactly evenly or balanced. Your goal should be to create a fun and unique experience that's balanced enough for both teams to have fun. Most importantly your design should offer different options to the player and allowing each of these to have a variety of possibilities. Therefore, there is plenty of room for structures to be a big part of your map design, but don't let that overshadow the overall design, any structure should instead be thought of in terms of whether or not it compliments the overall design. The most notable problem you'll find in structure-based maps is that they are reliant on players to run around in those structures. There should always be advantages and disadvantages to various flow routes, as explained before. Forcing players to be on some kind of structure to do well should be avoided at all costs. Players on the ground should be able to have fun, and people playing on structures should have some sort of advantage and disadvantage against those players.Cover can be thought of in the same regard. A map should never be defined by it's cover. Though at some point you will likely be giving players a chance to get out of a line of fire. Never, ever randomly place cover in a "middle" areas to make it "less open". When players make a decision, such as to go one route versus another, there should be another driving force. Throwing down a block in the middle that he can hide behind turns that into bland and repetitive game. In a good design the natural cover is often more than adequate. Though chances are at some point you'll need some kind of additional cover. Specific cover objects should be used as a last resort if a natural approach could not be found. Keep in mind that what you build should be what players will use to move around the map. In general, objects should be used to compliment lines of sight and flow. If you find that players are getting cut down in an undesirable crossfire, cover might then be necessary to break up the action. An area you designed should never be "too open". The amount of an open area varies depending on several factors, and quite often an open run might be desirable as opposed to the same area littered with unnecessary structures and cover. If you find that players are not using your routes as you had originally planned, cover can be used to help solve this issue if nothing else will work.Though spawns and objectives are generally placed once your map is already built, it is still good practice to keep them in mind when designing. This foresight can make the difference between a good map or a great map, and if you build a whole map without considering how you want spawning to work, then when you come to placing spawns you may find it hard to implement an effective spawning system.In general, it is important to have, at a minimum, two major areas for each team to spawn at. Applying what we learned before, try and visualize what the players will think once they spawn. How many route options do they have? Do they encompass the necessary possibilities that will allow the player to make proper use of this life? Will they be aware which direction they need to travel without taking the time to analyze their surroundings?While planning spawn points in advance can be difficult; it is important to remember that the way spawn points are placed is vital to how the map will flow. A player should have options straight off of his spawn, thus it is important to make sure that there is at least two paths from every spawn. Also it is important to check each and every spawn. Stand directly over the spawn, exactly copying what it will look like when the player spawns, and then consider exactly what a player could do with the spawn you have given them against various scenarios. Alternatively, you could kill yourself repeatedly. Things to keep in mind when placing spawn points. You should be pointed towards a possible path; you should be able to run straight forwards for 2-3 seconds without turning at all. In addition, put yourself in the shoes of a player who doesn't know the map. What options do you have? The player should never be completely hopeless. In general a spawn point should point towards a point of interest, such as an objective or a power weapon. It is bad form to point a player towards their own base and will often confuse and frustrate a player by doing so. Always give them an objective when they spawn. This can be especially useful in situations where players are not finding your weapons, having a spawn pointed at them will almost guarantee that they will happen upon it. The counter to this is that if a power weapon is over used, don't have spawn points directed at it or too close to it and it's use will decrease. Objective planning is similar. Make sure attacking and defending teams both have at least three options, and that each of these options have varying pros and cons. Often this fits directly into flow, but objectives offer some variations on the normal flow. A flag can be thrown down a higher area into a more open run, or can sneak around. The defense should have options as well. Once a flag is taken or a bomb is armed, what possibilities do they have? Again, make sure they are all different. There should rarely be a case where the defense has very little chances of success of returning or disarming. And of course, neutral objectives should be even for both sides. One last point we'd like to make: in most cases, don't put your objectives in corners! It's amazing how many maps make this mistake, not only does it limit flow possibilities for both teams, it turns the corners into camping areas and renders them highly susceptible to grenades. Some map designs require it, but this a rare occasion and should be avoided unless you've really thought about making this decision.Aesthetics often play a major role in the player's decision on where they choose to go. If we look at typical play styles, a player is generally reluctant to move from a normal hot spot of the map, even if it means getting to a higher point. This tends to only happen if they have a long ranged weapon. There are some important points to think about here also. Players want roam to run around, even if only in a small area. A cramped tower is much less likely to be used than one that is well spaced and flows well with the rest of the map. Never throw a random sniper tower to the side of a map, assuming that people will want to use it because it's a high tower. Expanding on this; a bland, basic area of the map will often be used less than a nice looking one, particularly by new players. The designer can use these visual cues to direct players to places they want. One mistake often made is "mounting" weapons on walls. Though this looks great and can often work wonderfully for more basic items, if the weapon or equipment is poking out sideways it can get in the way, and if the item is pushed to the wall (as it normally is), it can be hard to find if the player does not know the map. Therefore, if you want players to go to your power weapons, make them obvious to find. Exhibit them to the whole map, not just those who are standing right next to it. Consider the Rockets on The Pit, for example. They can't be seen from a large amount of the map's area, but as long as you are on the long hall/needler area you can see when they have respawned without being right next to them.Continuity is an "uninterrupted connection or union", and should not be confused with our earlier discussions on cover and structures or flow. Continuity means players make choices based on the choices available on the map. Good continuity lets players choose routes that will always lead to the destination they had in mind. Whether the destination is to flank an enemy position or a route to the opposing team’s high ground. Every part of the map the player can walk on has a specific purpose and eventually leads to a specific place on the map. A path/tunnel or corridor that appears, in terms of its direction, to lead to a given area of the map, but actually curves around and leads to a different area, can be confusing to players.The Pit is truly one of the greatest Halo maps of all time. There has never been a design that uses so many staple Halo weapons and play styles and combines them so well. You could spend a week looking at every part of it and appreciating it for how great of a map it really is. For this example we'll try and analyze what the designers were thinking and how this great map came about. FlowThe Pit generally plays towards BRs and Snipers, or mid to long range weapons. That doesn't exclude anything else, like the Sword, but close range is obviously not the main gameplay focus. There is enough variety of close, medium, and long range routes to keep the player on their toes. Let's take a look at some closer examples. How many times have you been rushing through the long hallway and just get demolished by grenades? Wouldn’t it make sense for Bungie to have put a block there so that wouldn’t happen? We realize that this aspect is built in to the design. By having the longest and straightest path to the enemy base, this encourages the player to subconsciously try to get there as fast as possible, although they know the risk. This is made fair and fun due to the fact that you’re rewarded by getting there faster than anyone else with the rockets, but with a high risk of dying. This is bluntly called "risk vs. reward." When looking at The Pit there are either 3 or 4 main routes. Each route should have a different advantage and disadvantage, height advantages, weapon spawns, line of sight to popular areas, etc. The hard part is not just balancing these, not to encourage even use, but so that each one has a different and interesting playstyle that all come together for a fun experience. A great example of this is "Runway" on The Pit (where the overshield is); it obviously is not a place that's good for slaying, being it has few lines of sight and field of vision to anything important, however it is an excellent flank, most particularly to the sniper tower. A sniper usually has his field of vision trained on the more traffic-heavy parts of the map on the opposite side. Another interesting point is that routes to an area have an effect on how it’s used. For example, let's examine the shotgun cave or sniper tower from The Pit. It is obvious that these places encourage players to use their respective weapons. These only have two main routes to them thus the foot traffic is naturally low, but increases due to the power weapons effect. If you want players to be moving to other areas of the map, they tend to have more paths such as each sides "Training" on The Pit). Knowing where you want players moving is what player movement is all about. Lines of SightWe can see how The Pit has a wide variety of sight lines. Though the cross map sniper battles from the tower, to the narrow and dangerous sword room. Each of these sight lines allow for a good variety of gameplay and excitement. We can learn a lot about the effect the sniper has on the map by examining one point in particular, the sniper tower. From the sniper tower the player can have a view of essentially their entire side, though the view of the oppositions base is drastically limited. This accomplishes two things, the first being so that the player is not able to dominate the entire map from one spot the entire game, which lends itself to the second, that the player is forced to leave his perch to find the enemy when they become wise and avoid his position. By providing a series of safe routes for the players to use the sniper tower's power is severely limited. This encourages map flow by directing players to certain areas to both prevent and defend against snipers. The sword room also provides an interesting assortment of lines of sight. The first and most obvious is the back hallway where a sword can dominate. This is cleverly countered by a long line of sight from training and green box where players can throw grenades and shoot in at a safe distance. This balance allows the area to be both powerful and vulnerable in a way that makes the gameplay fun. CoverThe Pit is a great example of a map that uses natural cover very effectively and in a way that works well throughout. Only in a few notable places do we see the addition of cover. The first obvious point is training's "Corner." This simple design allows for a safety area from the sniper tower or sword room, but as it has opening it is very easy to detect when a player is there. This makes it so the player must move from the area quickly or risk being spotted and grenaded out. The natural cover of The Pit shows us how important elevation changes are in a map. Simply by lowering the middle parts of The Pit it allows the player an alternate route to move around without being easily detected from other areas on the map. The height of the sniper is countered by the elevated height of the rocket tunnel entrance. This use of high and low areas allows The Pit to play dynamically and uniquely every time. Spawns and ObjectivesThe spawns on The Pit are well laid out to encourage the flow of the map. In general the spawns are weighted such that the players will spawn at the higher portion near green box or the shotgun tunnel. This is by design as this area is intended to be the highest trafficked area. The designers knew that as most battles would take place in this are they want to allow players the quickest routes back upon respawn. In order to prevent spawn trapping the second alternate spawn area is below the sniper tower. This area is less used, though serves important functions to separate the base into two distinct spawn zones. If we analyze the spawns further we'd notice how they always point towards a main route or looking at a power weapon/equipment. Even in some cases spawning directly on the overshield. The objectives on The Pit were obviously something the designers had in mind from the start. Getting the iconic callout, "The Pit," describes the room in which the objective will spawn. If we look closer at this we can see how the objective is located in the center of the room with two main routes in or out. The third route is through the front but requires a teammate to catch the objective or a box to jump out on. This balance makes it a challenge to get the objective both in an out, but not an impossible one. Points of Interest and ContinuityThere are a few main points of interest on this map. The first plays a crucial role in the map design even though it could be argued it was added as an afterthought, "The Green Box." This point on the map plays a very crucial role. It offers a safety zone from the sniper tower while still providing a variety of routes. The player could choose to continue through green tunnel to acquire the Active Camo, continue to the long hallway to get the rockets, or move down the map towards Training to flank the opponents. This point is something that the player is naturally drawn to due to it's color and size. This simple use of aesthetics plays a huge role in how the map ultimately plays. Continuity on The Pit is rather obvious. A friend said it best when he described a map as being "Wheel Chair Accessible". Every point is walkable by more than one route, even though every route is not necessarily connected. If we look again at the "Runway" we can see how this route connects both sniper towers through a safety route, while still having a connection to the middle of the map. If that middle route was not there this route would have been dangerous to the point where it would rarely or never be used. Guardian is a spiritual successor to Lockout of sorts. Being primarily designed around a center "circle" the map itself plays very uniquely to even it's predecessor and is definitely amongst the top ranking halo maps.FlowIf we look at an overview of Guardian we can see how the major player movement is designed to move in a counterclockwise circle. Now this doesn’t mean that it’s the only way people will go, but it’s actually the basis on which the map runs. The uniqueness of Guardian - it's counterclockwise movement, use of low and high routes, and successful mancannons - is what makes it so intriguing and fun to play. From this we can see an emergence of 4 major "bases". The sniper tower, Green platform, Gold room, and blue room. Each of these areas plays a major role in how Guardian flows. In general the play tends to focus heavily around controlling sniper tower or gold lift, but as Guardian has a tendency to support close range combat this is not it's only function. There is plenty of opportunities for flanking due to the assortment of low and high routes. Lines of SightBeing a room-based map the lines of sight on Guardian are broken up well and efficiently. There is a good assortment of long line of sights from the sniper tower and bottom of sniper tower to gold. The number of long lines are contrasted by the increased number of short ones such as green platform, blue room, and gold room. These short sight lines help to encourage the use of short range weaponry, which outnumbers the long/medium range weapons. The shotgun, hammer, and mauler play a critical role in how the map ultimately plays out. However, controlling the sniper rifle is very important as essentially the entire upper portion of the map can be controlled with it. CoverGuardian is another example of a map that relies on it's natural cover without the need for extra cover in most cases. Only in a few points do we see the addition of cover which is cleverly blended into the map itself. The first of which being the cover around the hammer.This cover is useful in a number of ways. The first being that it slightly breaks up the lines of sight between the bottom of sniper tower and the bottom of gold room. The second being that it provides cover in the likely event that a battle takes place between green platform and hammer. This cover is definitely an important element of the map design and without it the map would play very differently in these areas.The second use of cover is the trees on green platform. Again a very important use of cover to break up the sight lines between elbow and green platform. This makes it more difficult for a sniper to control the map from elbow and thus forces him to a higher location, where everyone on the map can easily see him. Without this cover it would be possible for a sniper to control elbow very easily and make a flank extremely difficult. The third use of cover is the glass window that protects blue room from the sniper tower. Without this critical piece of cover the sniper would be able to dominate the entirety of the upper portion of the map. By using this glass window a player could place shots on a sniper in the tower while still having a safety zone to retreat to when the situation turns against them. This window is very vulnerable from the green tree thus has a good balance of power and weakness that forces players to act fast and move on. Spawns and ObjectivesAs Guardian is an asymmetric map, spawning and objective balance is much more difficult. One team should not feel at a disadvantage by spawning at one side versus another. It is also important to have a good spawn spread so that predicting the spawns is difficult. Each of the main area on the map has a balanced assortment of spawns, with the main rooms having a higher weighting than the connecting walkways. This means that players will tend to spawn in one of four critical areas, while still having backup spawns in the event that each of these rooms is compromised. The objectives on Guardian are definitely something to take notice of. If we look at the transition between Lockout and Guardian we can see why they chose to take it in a different direction. In Lockout the flag spawned on the elbow, which made it difficult to move it away from. This played well due to the emphasis on short range combat. In Halo 3, the emphasis is more on medium to long range and if the flag was placed on the elbow then the player would have had an incredibly hard time moving it to a safer location. To help fix this problem they made the elbow the return point and placed the flag underneath blue room. By doing this they accomplished a balanced location that provides the player with a multitude of possibilities. The player could choose to run it towards the lift, which would take them to sniper and a short safe route to the flag. The downside of this being that that they would be very vulnerable while traveling through the man cannon. The second alternative is to take it up the ramp to blue window and run across the middle. Another short route but this requires that the attacking team controls the upper portion of the map. The final possibility is to take it back down towards gold room. This is the "safest" of all the routes as the flag runner is well covered, though the danger being that they will be running into the defense's major spawn areas. Points of Interest and ContinuityThe two main points of interest on Guardian are the sniper tower and gold room. The sniper tower is a very important location as it houses the sniper rifle and a sort of sniper perch. With the right skill set a player could control a large portion of the map from this location. This makes it very important to either control or prevent the other team from controlling this area. The gold lift is also an important point of interest as it provides a good variety of close and medium range combat and houses the active camouflage. The camo plays an important role in balancing the sniper's power so it is important that the player controls one or the other of these power items. It is also easy to defend gold room as they are somewhat protected from the sniper tower and can monitor 2 of the 4 main routes in by listening for the lift sounds. Being a circular flow map, the continuity is easy to identify. As the player could walk in a complete circle around the map it is important to connect routes together to provide enough variety so that they don't. The middle platform is an obvious connection point that connects the four main rooms with the quickest routes. As these routes are vulnerable from the sniper tower another combination of lower routes help to connect the map together without being too vulnerable. This combination of quick and dangerous, and slow and protected is one of the reasons that Guardian plays so well for almost all gametypes. While map design is of course an abstract business, designing of your own maps is even more so. We'll go through the process that the authors go through, and it should be noted that any way works fine if it works for you.Designing your map requires an understanding not just of what we've put above, but of the mentality that it gives you. You should be able to take any given map and break it down to it's core elements, and say what parts are what, why, and how it works. Depending on the person, this will often take anywhere from a day or two to weeks or months to truly understand. Once you've got that under your belt, you're ready to start designing your own maps.The first thing you want to envision is how the players will move through the map, or path planning. This can be done as simply as a 2D sketch with major path lines planned. The idea is that it's vague, but shows where I want my players to be moving around, and shows the basis of map movement. It's quite simple, but without one of these at least in your head, your map can be significantly worse. Your basic paths should be simple and well-thought out, from our example, The Pit has 3 or 4 major paths. All of these offer wildly different possibilities. Alternative paths are wonderful, and you're free to work with those, but for now we're only talking about major flow.Once you've got your flow down, you'll want to think about how people will interact with each other by lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences. Try to envision yourself in this kind of blocky, empty map, and what kind of gameplay you'd like to see yourself playing. Then, just think about how that gameplay can be encouraged by your design. Lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences can help that enormously.Well, we hope you've enjoyed our Forging 201 on the knowledge portion of map design. Remember that the point of this isn't to give you a set of information, but to start you in the right mindset. There's no way to ever know everything in map design; it's a constant learning and thinking process that we're hoping this may possibly spark.If it's clear you've got the drive and enough smarts to think through all the stuff above, that's all you'll need to be great at map design. Source: https://www.forgehub.com/threads/map-design-theory-knowledge.97349/ Follow Insane54 Website: https://halocustoms.com/ Follow Mick Raider Twitter: https://twitter.com/VincentTorre Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  7. 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
  8. Using CS:GO and Overwatch as the main foundations upon which to builds his case, Flusher shares his views on what makes a good competitive FPS map in this video: Here are the main points of discussion: Level Design is tied to Game Design Mobility and Perception (or Movement and Lines of Site) Loops Timing Management Skill Opportunities Follow Flusher Flusher on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSFm1rKp0SlfwFRowlFyq9Q/ Flusher on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FlusherTheDude?lang=fr
  9. 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/