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  1. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 26? Read it here: Nurturing Intro Some of you have heard of my works. Some of you have heard of my past. Some of you recognize my name from somewhere. You judge me and my works based on the reputation that I have created. Good or bad. Remember that as a designer, you too are building your reputation for others to judge you by even if they have never met you and you have never met them. Always consider what the future will bring based on your actions, your content, and what you say. An image of you Consider yourself an artist of a painting that all will see when they hear your name. You decide whether it leaves a good first impression or not. Consider how you carry yourself when you speak with others and take the time to nurture your fans. Always keep in mind that you are being judged every minute of every day. Your works speak just as much about you as you do. Some will know you from only the creations that you have built. Some will know you from seeing your feedback that you give to other designers. Some will know you from the help that you have offered others. And yes... some will know you and remember how you acted in a heated argument. Always tread lightly when doing anything. Remember what rewards and what consequences will follow. They will affect the future in a huge way. I have made some mistakes myself in the past, but I am learning. Despite that, the bad in my past will continue to come back to haunt me as it will to you if you don’t learn quickly. It matters This doesn’t really seem like a level design lesson, now does it? Well it is. As you advertise your content people will judge you based on what they have seen from you. Some will make the decision on whether or not they will try out your content based solely on your reputation. So you must always make sure you understand the image you are creating when you do anything. Bad decisions and a bad reputation will cause people to not listen to your advertisement attempts despite any nurturing you may do. While this may not seem as apparent when you first start out it will definitely start to show itself as you continue on in your pursuit to build your credibility as a designer. Making a name Now that you are warned, it is time to go out and start painting that picture for all to see. People that recognize your name are definitely more likely to try out your content. The best way to build that image is to find a community and start painting. Offer to help out. Give your feedback to those who request it. Build memories and make friends. Do this in the most selfless manner. In the future it will repay you as a designer. You will be rewarded for your selfless acts. Remember that bad actions, content, and words will follow you forever. You don’t want to be known as the guy who spams advertisements or the guy who always starts arguments. You want to be known as the guy who has helped everyone else out and deserves to be helped out back. Forget about advertising when you are making your name. It will only lead to bad decisions. Be a loyal member of the community and then advertise to those who know you. Then create, nurture, expand, and profit. What are you waiting for? Use these lessons to invest in your future. Read Chapter 28: (to be updated) Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 25? Read it here: Investment Intro Have you ever taken the time to tell someone that you love their work and that you can’t wait to see more? Well if you have, how many times has that person gotten back to you personally? How much more excited are you for their product when you get that personal message back saying that they thank you for your support? How much more willing are you to share that person’s work with your friends? That person just scored themselves’ more credibility. What it means to nurture Nurturing is the act or process of developing a person. It is bringing them up and developing them into something else. As a designer your goal is to nurture your fans from being casual fans to hardcore fans that will likely spread your creation. Casual fans just like your product and when they see it they will likely download it. Hardcore fans on the other hand, will take the time to spread the word because they feel that your work is worthy of others to experience. While casual fans are important, they are not what make the difference in advertising. Hardcore fans will get the word out that you have something new out and the casual fans will hear the word and download it. Hardcore fans will advertise for you. The more you have, the less you have to advertise, and the more time you can spend on working on new amazing content for your fans to enjoy. The way of nurturing Nurturing fans can be done in various ways. If I receive a comment on one of my creations, I take the time to personally message that user and let them know that their opinion does matter to me. If someone asks for my help I do my best to take the time out of my day to try to work with them. Because I am giving back to them my credibility is raised in their eyes and they are more likely to come back and ask for more help and more likely to help advertise my works. As you get more popular though it becomes harder and harder to nurture all of your fans. At that point you have to take the time to decide who to help and for how long. If you spend too much time nurturing you won’t have any time to finish any of your works and you will start losing fans that are waiting for content. However if you spend too much time making content then you lose that strong advertisement base and the time you spend trying to get your future works out doubles. It is a difficult balance to find and one that you can only find through years of experience. Always respond If you do not have time to nurture every person that comes to you or every person that enjoys your work at least take a little bit of time to acknowledge them. Something is better than nothing and most people will understand that you are busy and will still take the time to look out for your work or wait until you are less busy to ask you for help. Never leave a person hanging because the same way that one person can make you popular, one person can bring you down. You never know who will do what for or to you so never let something just slide by. Nurturing has been one of the best advertisement strategies that I have used to get my content out there, including these lessons. Don’t under estimate the power of personal and direct interaction. Remember that your time is money and giving it to others means a lot to them. Invest in your fans and future. Read Chapter 27: Reputation Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 24? Read it here: Advertising Intro Do you have a great map that you designed that got very little attention way back in the day? How about that crazy little prototype layout that you threw together a couple months ago? Do you have goals of being an iconic figure in the level design world and having everyone enjoy your content? Then everything that you worked on will not go to waste. Quite the opposite, everything you make is crucial to your success in the future. Every little thing you do is an investment towards your goals of being a great level designer. Every little thing matters So what exactly is it you are investing? Well any content you make is an investment. Every person that you talk to is an investment. Every minute of every day is an investment in your future. One step leads to another and you are who you are today because of what you have done in your past. Do you want to make that “you” of today famous? Then you have to start thinking in terms of what you did to get to where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. You remember that kid you helped back on Halo 3, Farcry, Unreal, etc? He could be the key to your success. He could be the person that tells Bungie’s Halo: Reach executive producer that your material is worth looking at. You remember that map you made 3 years ago that you thought didn’t get enough attention? Well that may be the map that tells that executive producer that you need to be working on their next game or future downloadable content. Everything is important... including those 10 minutes you spent helping a new level designer with their first map. That new designer may become your next big follower that gets you that lucky break. Time efficiency So now you know that everything you do matters. But now you need to start figuring out and deciding what your best courses of action are. Is building your map more important than helping your new friend with his map? Is responding to a private message for help worth more than trolling the forums? Is taking the time to respond to someone’s thread about their map a better investment than posting your own map in a thread? You want my opinion? Take the least selfish route. Remember the mention of learning to be selfless for advertising purposes and how you are only good to people for what you can provide for them? Well mix that with the concept of investment. That person you just sacrificed your time for just so happens to be best friends with some big shot... who knew? Sometimes you can only do so much for yourself and you need the help of others which is why investing in being helpful and selfless to others will benefit you the most. Trust me on the sunscreen. Time is money Time is money. Giving your time to others is just as or more valuable than giving those people your money. And some will see it as that and be very grateful. Giving that hour of your time to teach them to fish instead of paying $10 for a meal at Applebee’s will definitely be worth more to them in the long run. Use that never ending cash flow that we call time to your advantage. You never know when one of your selfless investments will pay off and win you the lottery. Read Chapter 26: Nurturing Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 23? Read it here: Static Perspectives Intro So you’ve been reading all of the previous lessons and now you are prepped and ready to go. You feel you’ve got a great map that follows many of the principles of level design that you have learned. You go to play your map and realize that you have no one to playtest it with you. You post your map on the forums and receive little to no replies on your map. Remember the whole deal about if a player can’t find something on your map then it might as well not exist? Well if players can’t find your map then... well, it might as well not exist right? For those demented ones out there do not relate this to suicide. Grrr... Spreading the word You’ve got your beautiful creation... now you have to spread the word. You have got to share it to the world. Just like anything else that you can possibly make you have to advertise what you have created. Whether it is a new map, a new game mode, a new game, a new community, a new shower head, etc. you need to show what you have created to people who will enjoy it. Everyone has their own way of advertising, some better than others. Some spam every person they possibly can on the internet. Some pay hundreds to get some popular hangout to advertise them. Advertising is a big part of becoming successful and I’m going to share my secrets of success to you, my faithful reader. And my tricks work. Don’t believe me? You are reading these lessons aren’t you? Advertising is everything Think about how you found these lessons. I will be honest with you my friends. You fell for my advertisement tricks. There was something that I did successfully to get you to read this right here and now. You are one of hundreds and maybe even thousands of people reading what I have to say. But why are you reading this? What did I do to draw you in? Who was it that introduced these to you? How did I bring you here to ReachingPerfection.com? But it isn’t just me who has fooled you. Do you have a favorite news channel? There is a reason that you watch it over other news channels. How about a favorite restaurant? How did you find that restaurant? Why do you like it over all of the other ones? Now how do you get people to play your map? How do you get people to enjoy your map better than Joe over there? Advertising is a skill that is used in everything. It’s time somebody let you in on the tricks of the trade. It’s not about you The most important thing to remember is that in order to get people to experience your content you have to forget that it is all about getting your content popular. Nobody truly cares about what is in it for you. They care about what is in it for them. The trick to successful advertising is giving, not receiving. Learn to give and eventually you will receive. People want to know what you have to offer them. Before people will give your map a chance you have to give them something they want. If you are only focused on getting your map popular then you will fail. However if you are focused on offering your help, time, services, and whatever else you have to offer they will give back to you. So the first rule about advertising is learning to not be selfish and learn to give rather than receive. If you do this, then you will receive advertising naturally. Read Chapter 25: Investment Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  5. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 22? Read it here: Rule of Thirds Intro Sometimes when a player experiences a map for the first time they don’t start with a spawn perspective. Sometimes they get an overview of the map that allows them to make decisions and gain a first impression before they start playing or have any sort of control of what they are seeing. Sometimes a player doesn’t have control over what they see during cinematic sequences and where they look next. These perspectives that players do not have control over are what we call static perspectives. Your terms Static perspectives are a powerful tool in a designer’s toolbox for creating the experience the designer envisions. The designer has full control over static perspectives. They are something that are fully owned by a designer and are very predictable experience-wise when compared to other design theories that rely on hypothesizing what players will see and do. However, with great power comes great responsibility. When things don’t go a player’s way while traversing a map they have the chance to blame themselves because they control their own perspective. However they have no control over static perspectives like map overviews so if they have a bad map overview or see a bad screenshot the fault falls on you as the designer. Don’t ever give your player’s a reason to doubt your credibility as a designer. Remember how important those first impressions are. Painting a picture When preparing a static perspective, always remember that you are painting a picture or film that your players are witnessing. Remember that you are an artist trying to sell your work to your audience. Use whatever techniques you can think of to make your static perspectives as pleasing as possible. Take note of the color contrast that exists in your picture. Remember your eye catching techniques to draw attention to things. Remember the rule of thirds and place important landmarks, incentives, and deterrents on the focus points of the static perspective. Remember the importance of teaching your players your map to provide them the knowledge they need to have a full and enjoyable experience. Static perspectives are also a great tool for area introduction. Remember that level design is a smooth cohesive process, not just a bunch of individual parts. Everything works together as one and learning to combine and mix and match techniques is a delicate but powerful skill. Examples Static perspectives can be many things. Screenshots of your map in a thread on a level design forum are a great example of static perspectives. Sometimes a camera exists that is used to give an overview of a map while players select their weapons. Maybe there is a security camera that players have access to but can’t control and can see the map in the camera’s perspective. Perhaps you created a film to show off your map. In the case of batches of perspectives, remember the perspective variance concept when using various techniques. Games have used many static perspectives throughout the ages and learning to see them as pieces of art will allow you to adjust them and plant a particular opinion or impression on your customers. That. Is. Power. Read Chapter 24: Advertising Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 21? Read it here: Incentive Weighting Intro Have you ever taken a picture of yourself or family and friends centered in the picture? Have you noticed that the picture just doesn’t feel right and doesn’t feel pleasing? Have you ever placed an object directly in front of someone for it just to go unnoticed? That’s because a person’s focus is typically not on the center of their current perspective. Learning to place objects at a player’s focus point is key to ensuring that they notice what you are trying to show them. Rule of thumb Remember when we talked about how perspectives are like pictures or photographs? Well applying common techniques used in art and photography can be used to truly help enhance a player’s experience on your map. Photography is all about object placement, depth, scene composition, as well as various other techniques. I’m not an expert so don’t judge me when I talk about their techniques. However I do know that one common rule of thumb that photographers use is known as the “rule of thirds”. The rule of thirds states that if you divide a picture,photograph, screenshot, or whatever into thirds both vertically and horizontally, the perspectives main points of focus lie at the intersections. Not the center So taking the basic definition of the rule of thirds we can take any good screenshot and divide it with two lines going vertically in thirds and two lines going horizontally in thirds and find the main focus points of the screenshot. What you end up getting is a little square in the center with its corners being used as focus points. This is why you see many pictures and self portraits with the subject slightly to the right or left and not directly in the center of the picture. If a painting is being drawn with the sun as a main focus it is normally placed at one of the top two corners of that center square. This rule is one of the simplest rules of photography and will help assist you in your quest towards becoming a great map designer. Application So now you’ve got the gist of the rule of thirds so let’s take some time to re-tie it back in with level design. You should be very well versed in the definition of a perspective. Let’s run through a scenario to help you get a bit more acquainted to working with the rule of thirds. Imagine setting up a spawn perspective for your map. You want a player to first spawn and pickup the sniper rifle that is in front of them. First of all you want to place the spawn facing towards the general direction of the sniper rifle. Second, you want to set the sniper rifle a good distance away from a player in order to follow the smooth spawning concept. Now keep in mind the spawning default eye level of the player. Tweak the spawn perspective so that the sniper rifle is placed near one of the four points of interest. Apply whatever eye catching techniques you would like and viola you have encouraged your player to take the role of the sniper. Well done. This technique doesn’t just have to be used on spawns. It can be used for when a player first walks through a doorway. Take the time to imagine the general direction that the player is facing and setup your objects based on the rule of thirds in order to maximize their attention. Make your map fun to play by making what they need to have fun easier to find. Don’t you hide that good ol’ rifle. Read Chapter 23: Static Perspectives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  7. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 20? Read it here: Safe Spawning Intro There’s a word that is always thrown around when talking about great maps. What is that word you say? My friend... that word is“balance”. Is your map “balanced”? How do you go about answering that? How do you weigh your map? Well typically you measure the map by comparing all of the advantages throughout it to ensure there is a balance of advantages no matter where you are. What do we call advantages again? OH YEAH! Incentives... Weighing the un-weighable So here’s a quick overview of incentives. Incentives are areas, objects, course of actions, etc. that help you achieve your current goal easier. These incentives can be a height advantage, a good defensive position, a rocket launcher, a shortcut, a batch of grenades, etc. There are so many types of incentives and they are all completely incomparable to each other side by side. So how do we weigh them? We make up a weight for each based on the experience that we want to create. As a designer it is your job to set a weight or priority for all of the incentives in your map to meet your map’s essence. Did you plan to setup a huge long range combat focus for your map? The sniper probably has a higher priority/weight than the rocket launcher on that map. Does your second map essence focus on vehicle usage? Well now a rocket launcher is probably much heavier than that sniper. Think about how important each incentive is to your players based on the experience you are trying to create and the objectives you are setting for your audience. A balancing act So now you know how to find the weight of all of those advantages. It is time to start spinning plates on sticks. Imagine a massive overview of your map, something like a heatmap. Now imagine as many incentives across your map as you can. Create a radius of effect based on your map’s essence for each one. Mentally tally up the weight of each millimeter of your map and imagine darkening up the heavier areas. The heavier incentives and a lot of incentives will cause darker areas. Always keep in mind each incentive’s individual weight as well to help you move things around. Imagine having a pistol and assault rifle in one corner of a map and a sniper and a rocket on the other corner. Which corner do you think is heavier? Typically, it’s obvious. Now what if it was a pistol/rocket vs. an assault rifle/sniper? It depends on the map’s essence. Spreading the love So now you’ve got your “heatmap” of advantage. What do you do with it? Well typically you want to spread out the incentives to have the weighting be “balanced” around the map. Why? Because players are drawn to incentives like lions are drawn to meat. Do you have an armory on your map? It is probably a good place to chill if your map’s essence is about killing. However its weighting goes down if the goal is to capture the flag and the armory is out of the way. All situations are different and it is your job to create the situation that you want. Maybe an armory is fine for your map as long as you weigh the rest of your map to balance it out. An armory is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Learning to balance the advantages of your map is a delicate and essential skill. It will help you control the traffic of your map and ensure that every part of your map is worth traveling through. That is what path manipulation is really all about,right? Read Chapter 22: Rule of Thirds Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  8. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 19? Read it here: Threat Zones Intro Have you ever spawned into a map and were instantly being fired upon when you spawned in? Do you remember how frustrating that is? How about when you spawn and walk a couple of steps and instantly fall victim to a grenade due to all of the combat nearby? Have you ever spawned at the same time as someone else facing each other only to run at each other spraying and praying that you will be the one that lives? Remember not having any time to react or strategize? Not a fun feeling, is it? Flat-footedness Flat-footed is an adjective that refers to someone as being “unprepared” or “unable to react quickly”. Being flat-footed is not an enjoyable experience for most of those who enjoy fighting. Most fighters love being able to strategically prepare for each incoming attack while removing every possible disadvantage that they may have. Flat-footedness is one of those disadvantages and as a designer you too should do your best to remove this uncomfortable feeling from your maps. No player enjoys being caught off guard unable to use their skill to the best of their advantage. It is one thing for the player to put themselves in that position, at that point they blame themselves and you have nothing to worry about. However if they are caught flat-footed when they spawn that is the fault of the designer and you will be blamed for your poor design skills. Don’t let the player blame you. If you do, you have given your player a bad first impression and that isn’t something that we want. Avoiding the “unfun” So how do you avoid making your players miserable? First thing you want to do is observe high traffic areas with high combat congestion. The more traffic an area is receiving, the higher chance that a player is going to get thrown into the middle of it. Another thing to take a look at is how your map’s path manipulation is moving player’s around the map. Observe where you have placed your incentives and if nearby player’s are going to follow the objective path of their path map towards a nearby spawning player to obtain that incentive. Even more so if the player has the knowledge of the map to know that there is a sniper that spawns around there at certain intervals. Spawn players in low eye catching areas of popular perspectives. If you know that a player on the sniper tower is always looking down at a certain spot in his threat zone, don’t spawn a player near the eye catching portions of his perspective. It will just result in a very sad spawning player. And a sad player is a player not playing or sharing your map. Spawning is important Spawning is one of the most important parts of level design that needs to be handled with care. You’ve already seen how important spawning is through spawn perspectives and smooth spawning. This is just another thing that you need to look out for. Remember that a player’s first impression is everything when they play your map and that spawning is the first few seconds of that experience. If you disappoint them in those first few seconds then you have failed your player and they may not come back. Think about all of the things that you have stopped after experiencing the first few seconds, minutes, or hours. Don’t make that kind of stuff. Trust me. Read Chapter 21: Incentive Weighting Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 18? Read it here: Patience Intro When playing a map if you see a set of explosives you tend not to worry too much about them until you are in their proximity. If you see a player with a shotgun you tend not to be too worried until he gets up close and personal. If you see someone on a turret from sniper distance they tend to not bug you due to the turret’s spread of fire. All deterrents have a set area where they are most effective and where they aren’t very scary. I call these areas around a deterrent a Threat Zone. Threat weighting Understanding the threat zone of a deterrent is important to placing them effectively throughout your map and controlling their effectiveness. A threat zone is more than just an area that a deterrent affects. Imagine the zone being cover by a very opaque color where it is most effective and the zone getting more transparent in areas where it is most ineffective. For example a shotgun has a very opaque center at point blank range, but as you observe the zone farther out it gets more and more transparent until it is completely ineffective. Sniper type weapons tend to have an opposite style for their threat zones. Typically the closer you are to the origin of a sniper the more difficult it is for the sniper to kill you. So in this scenario the area around the sniper would be very transparent but as you get farther the zone would get more opaque up to its max range and the get more transparent to represent the more difficult longer shots. Static vs dynamic Static zones are typically the easiest to manipulate and control. They typically don’t move from where you place them. Good examples of these static zones are explosives, turrets, poisonous areas, etc. The real difficulty is learning to control dynamic threat zones. All players are threat zones as long as they hold the ability to disturb you in your pursuit of a goal. The problem with players is that they are technically uncontrollable and unpredictable. The best way to control a player is to use path manipulation and path maps in order to best observe how they will move. Keep in mind where you place weapons or anything that may change the player’s threat zone. If you place a sniper rifle on the top of the base it is a good chance that a player up there will pickup the sniper rifle and have their current threat zone be weighted more towards long range. If a shotgun is in a hallway it is probably safe to assume that any player that is down there may have the shotgun and has a very heavily close range weighted threat zone. Assumption of threat zone Players will make decisions based on assumed threat zones. If players see a person in the shotgun tunnel there is a certain distance away from that area that they feel safe traversing by assumption. The reverse is true if a player sees someone around or near the sniper spawn. He assumes that the player has the sniper and is more cautious at long range but more aggressive at close range. Use this knowledge to help adjust certain areas of your map. If you know a certain area is vulnerable to the sniper’s threat zone that originates where the sniper spawns then add things accordingly. Understanding what sort of threat zones a player may have in certain areas will help you make decisions on how and where you want to push players on the map. Read Chapter 20: Safe Spawning Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 17? Read it here: Color Contrast Intro Never rush your map. I know you are in a hurry to show it off to the world and get your name out there, but make sure you have taken the time to test, tweak, and review every little facet of your map. Sure you have contest deadlines at times, but most of the time you are on your own timeline. Don’t set deadlines for yourself. The only thing that will result it is you pushing the design and the building too fast and you end up missing things that you know you shouldn’t have missed. This is your creation; make it the best that it can possibly be. Don’t lie to me I know a lot of you will tell me that you definitely follow this guideline, but don’t lie to me. Designers are always anxious to show off what they have been working on all this time. Don’t get careless. Go over every lesson and every possible trick that you know. Have you taken the time to check every single one of your spawn perspectives? Have you observed what kind of paths a player will take from that position? Have you made sure that all of your weapons can be found easily? Does each area of your map have enough area introduction to spread out traffic and control combat congestion? Have you taken a look at the path maps for all of the important areas of your map? Look at every lesson one at a time and go over your map. Remember the importance of first impressions and knowledge of a map? Making sure your map is the best that it can be will help your map get out there and spread to the masses. Remember your credibility as a designer is on the line. If you lose your audiences trust, it will be hard to earn that trust back and you are going to have to use some crazy innovation techniques to re-grab their attention. Remember when I reminded you about how you scroll through the map forums and skip over thousands of maps? If you lose your player’s trust, that player will scroll past your creations on that forum. Don’t be one of those designers that get scrolled over. Take your time. Considering a change takes time While designing maps I have noticed a major mistake that many designers make because they are afraid of adding more time and effort into their creation. This mistake is setting your ideas in stone. Remember that while you did have a vision, maybe the way you went about it can be done better. If someone gives you a suggestion of changing something major, take that into consideration. Weigh the pros and cons of the change; don’t shut them out because they didn’t design the map and don’t have your vision. It is your player that you want to appease. Do not be afraid to make a big change to a map due to time or more effort. If you truly analyze it, you will grow as a designer. People tend to ignore suggestions of changes when they are done or close to done with their map. Even if you were about to publish it and show it off that night, if someone suggests something then put off that publishing time until you fully consider their suggestion. Remember that even after you have published your map that it can still be improved. Go back over your past creations and apply new things that you have learned to it. Take the time to improve it instead of just saying “I will follow that guideline on my next map”. Take the time to improve your skills as a designer with maps you are already familiar with. By doing this you improve all of your future creations exponentially. It takes patience to be a great designer and you can never practice too much. Trust me when I say that if you keep attempting tips and advice you will grow whether or not that advice was good. Experiencing what is bad is just as important. Read Chapter 19: Threat Zones Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  11. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 16? Read it here: Innovation Intro You know how important catching a person’s eye is. It can attract players to places they would never explore otherwise. It shows players a weapon that they may not have been able to find otherwise. There are many ways to draw a player’s gaze. One of those ways is to use contrasting colors in an otherwise bland scene. But color contrast isn’t just about eye catching. The color wheel So everything we see exists on our visible color spectrum with each color slowly blending into the next and becoming a new color. A natural occurrence of the color spectrum is a rainbow. A rainbow is seen by the human eye as several colors blending into each other from Red to Purple. The color wheel just places all of these colors in a perfect circle that links the red to the purple in order to restart the color sequence. Most color wheel diagrams consist of 12 colors containing the three primary colors that blend together to form three secondary colors and then all six of these blend with the one two next to them to create six tertiary colors. You can easily find an example of the color wheel by searching google. The difference is black and white Contrast is defined as the difference between two colors that appear next to each other. It is easy to notice when something black is on a white field, but how easy is it to tell when something black is on a purple field in comparison? With that in mind how much do you want that black object to stand out? If you want the object to just accent the scene then maybe the black on purple is a good idea, however if you want it to stand out then maybe the black on white is a better idea. High and low contrasts are both important in their own situations. You do not want to be bringing attention to something that doesn’t need attention and you don’t want to hide something that needs to be seen. So how do you find low contrast and high contrast color combinations? Take a look at a color wheel. Pick one color on that wheel and then grab the color directly across from it. That color is known as its complementary or contrasting color. Now pick a color next to it. That color is known as an analogous color. These colors blend really well together and hide things while still adding color to the scene. Applying to maps So through the topic of eye catching you already know when to use high contrast colors. Place purple weapons on a yellow backdrop in order to draw attention to them as incentives. Place a dark red door in a bright green wall to show players that it exists. Place yellow explosives against a dark gray wall in order to make them aware of the deterrent. So when do you want to hide something? Why not just high contrast everything in the scene to draw attention to it? Because the more things that are trying to pull attention the less affect each one has on the player. So next to that purple weapon on the yellow backdrop don’t place purple chairs around it or people may miss the purple weapon and only see the purple chairs and move on. Scenery and other objects that help smooth out the feeling of the map, that aren’t necessarily important to gameplay, need to use low contrast in order to not draw too much attention to them. They are there to complete the whole experience and keep the map from feeling bland; not to draw attention. Read Chapter 18: Patience *Note: We have a thread dedicated to Color Theory, with a lot of useful links on this subject. Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  12. *Header Image Credit: Ovidiu Mantoc About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 15? Read it here: Purpose Intro So you know how to make a good map right? How the hell do you get it noticed? There are thousands of maps out there, what is going to get people to notice your map and want to take their time out of the day to play your map above all others? The trick... you’ve got to have a little pizzazz and give people that WOW factor. You’ve got to do something that is unique and powerful. Otherwise you’re just another fish in the sea. It is time for you to be the whales of the sea. Who could miss an animal that large? 😉 The power of jaw dropping I’ve seen the power of innovation cause crazy things to happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people register for a site and post just so they can comment on how crazy and innovative something is. That wow factor is a very powerful thing. Have your maps ever caused someone to just pause and look around instead of play? Innovation is defined as something newly introduced, such as a new method or device. Think about something that your audience has never seen before and do it. Whether it is remaking the Titanic or making a game out of betraying your friends. Look through all the competition. What is everyone else doing? Now do the opposite. If people are making maps with lots of cover and hallways make a map that has lots of open areas. If people are utilizing blue and red lights everywhere then use the yellow and green ones. Be different. Stand out. Profit. Judging by a book’s cover Your best way of creating shock and awe is using aesthetics. Players normally see a map before they actually play it. So make them see something crazy. Make a statue that is as tall as a building (cue Statue of Liberty). How about making a map that is based around dark alleys? Maybe base the map around the sun and utilize those burning visuals. Build the map completely underwater like in Bioshock. Maybe you can recreate a popular symbol in the world. Have you ever thought of a yin yang shaped map? How about one to resemble a lizard or something and capture a player’s attention with the map overview? Looks are the easiest way to attract attention, but that isn’t the only way to do it. Break the rules I have found great success in going against gameplay standards and practices. It is common practice to create multiple paths and what not around a map in order to address the issue of Combat Congestion and Traffic. Well what if you intentionally didn’t have multiple paths and only had one linear path? Surely that is unique (cue Conquest). What about the standard of having multiple paths into a base? Could you make a successful map with only one path into the base? Is there something that people tell you not to do ever at all? Find the exception to that rule. Take every challenge that people present to you. There is no such thing as impossible in your mind. If people are saying it can’t be done you tell them that it can and you show them. If you are the first to break the rules you will be the innovator. The rest will then just be posers, and while they are being posers you can go try another challenge. Try something else new. Never say never. Be that person to break the trend and do what they say can’t be done. Anything is possible. Read Chapter 17: Color Contrast Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  13. *Header Image Credit: Jean Pez About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 14? Read it here: Essence Intro So have you figured out what you are trying to do with your map? Do you have a list of goals that you are trying follow to fulfill your map’s essence? Are they prioritized and ready to go? Good because they need to be followed every step of the way. Everything that goes into your map needs to have one or more of those goals supporting it. Why put something into a map that doesn’t support your cause? Why my friend? So why is that wall down there? Is there a reason you have that massive structure up there? What’s your reasoning behind this path back here? If you can’t answer any of those questions with your list of goals then it most likely serves no purpose on your map. While this may seem like common sense, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the answer “because it looks cool”, “I don’t know”, or something else along those lines. You should be able to answer with something like “because one of my goals is to give this map a medieval feel” or “this path serves as a backdoor into the blue base to allow for flanking and another route out for the flag”. Be prepared to answer the why while you build your map. Ask yourself questions as you build something like “why am I adding this to my map?” or “how does this help create the map’s essence?” If you find yourself trying to make an excuse with no solid answer then you should probably rethink about what you are trying to do. The power of prioritization I mentioned briefly how important it is to prioritize the goals of your map. I cannot stress this enough. On the most basic level it will help you decide what things are the most important to have in your map. It will help you decide whether you want a sniper rifle in this corridor or a shotgun in the adjacent room. While this too seems simple, sometimes it needs to be pointed out. Something you can do to help improve your map is trade one idea for another that has a purpose with a higher priority. If you have a goal of long range combat that has a higher priority than the medieval thing you are going for then maybe it would be beneficial to trade out that draw bridge in order to add more long range combat elements into your map. This is a very effective way of improving your map based on its essence and concentrating the focus of your creation. Sometimes it is worth trading a path for a new aesthetic castle tower if your medieval goal is a higher priority than your path manipulation goals. Learning to juggle So far I have talked about ideas and objects that only serve a single goal in order to teach in a simplified manner. In reality however one structure or idea can serve multiple goals for your map. That sniper tower can help your long range goal greatly. But adding a draw bridge instead could help your path manipulation as well as help your medieval goal. This is where making decisions gets difficult. Long range could be a high priority for you while multiple paths have mid priority and medieval theme has low priority. Do you choose the tower to meet a higher priority or do you get more “bang for your buck” by serving a mid priority as well as a low priority? This is where the designer shines. It is up to you to juggle the pros and cons. Good luck. Read Chapter 16: Innovation Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  14. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 13? Read it here: Area Introduction Intro I want you to tell me what you are building. Do you know what you are trying to build? Sure you have an idea for a map, but do you have any goals of what you are trying to create? If I asked you to describe your map, what kind of things would you tell me that you are trying to create that are different than other maps that exist out there? Would you be able to give me a short unique set of points that completely describe what you are trying to create? What is the essence of your map my friend? Core, Soul, Root, Base So I went to look up some synonyms instead of directly defining “essence”. The essence of your map is its definition. It is the unique soul that you create. It is the root of everything that makes up your map. It serves as the base of the experience. And it is the core of the description that you share with your friends. A map’s essence can consist of numerous amounts of things. Maybe you are trying to create a replica of the Death Star. Maybe you are trying to recreate the feeling of war. Maybe you want your gameplay to consist of shotgun fights down narrow halls. Maybe you want to give the sense of a medieval castle. Maybe you want your players to feel frightened and afraid of going around the next corner. Maybe you want your players to be in a dazed state with dazzling lights that distract them from what is really happening. Theme, feelings, colors, gameplay, areas, and structures are just a few things that the essence of your map can contain. What makes your map unique is taking these features/requirements and mixing and matching them to create something truly unique. A list of goals Everything that makes up the map’s essence can be broken down into a list of goals. It is important to keep a list in mind of all of your map’s goals. They don’t have to be written down somewhere you just have to make sure that you remember them all. They are what you are trying to achieve with your map. They define what makes your map different. They direct you in how you build your map. Any individual goal could also be possibly used in another one of your creations. Maybe you wanted to keep your goal of a Star Wars theme for your next map, but maybe this time mix it with long range focused combat in space. Mixing and matching individual goals is a great way to define a new map creation... essentially you are building an essence out of building blocks. As you build maps and gain experience you create new goals to add to your growing goal library. But that isn’t the only reason to make a list of goals... Essence is key to decision making Take that list of goals for your map and put them in order from most important to least important. This is one of the most important things that I have learned while studying design. This prioritized list of goals is how you will make your decisions on your map. Should you put a sniper rifle in this area as an incentive or should you instead use a bright light to serve as eye catching for area introduction? Does your map encourage long range combat? Then put a sniper rifle. Does the essence also support darkness? Maybe you should put the light after all. Take a look at your prioritized goals and decide based on that. The essence should be the deciding factor. Read Chapter 15: Purpose Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  15. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 12? Read it here: Path Maps Intro I want you to think about all of the maps that have very important areas in them that players use to orient themselves and their teammates. Ever heard of people calling out the shotgun room? How about when players say that he is in the sniper tower? In order for player’s to enjoy the optimal experience on your map it is probably best for them to be able to understand where these areas might be, correct? Even more so it is probably best if players knew about every single area that exists on the map in order to allow them to make the best decisions possible, right? You tell me... Defining the obvious Hmmm so what is area introduction? I don’t know... maybe it is introducing areas to a player. But it is more than just that. It is showing players everything there is to a map. It is showing your players the options that they have when choosing where to go from where they are. Area introduction is a form of Path Manipulation that is used when a player is new to a map to show them major sections that are available to them. But why is area introduction so important? If a player explores enough won’t he/she find every place on the map eventually? Well sure, but it is more than just that. If I give you a dictionary eventually you will memorize every single word and definition in it if you read it enough right? No? Well why not? Tying things together Remember when we talked about how a player’s first impression of a map is extremely important? Remember when we said that Knowledge is Power and in order for a player to give a proper analysis of a map he needs to be introduced to the most important parts of the map? By mixing these two concepts we see the importance of teaching players the map as fast as we possibly can because we do not know how long a player’s first impression will last. You only have the player’s attention for a short period of time until you win over their trust. Once you win their trust then you have their attention for a long while. The key is proving to them that it’s a good map to play on. And in order to do that they have to know the important parts about the map in order to judge it well or their judgment will be skewed and you will lose them for a while because they didn’t know about that one thing that could have made their experience better. Giving them the tour So how do you show the player around without doing it yourself? How do you show the player the map while they are in the heat of combat and focused on winning the match? You already have a good amount of tools at your disposal. What does the player see in his first perspective? Is that a pretty blue room that has caught my eye? Oooo... look there’s a shotgun over there I’m going to go check that out. This place looks too open and will leave me too vulnerable so I’m going to go see what’s over here instead. You see what I did there? By mixing spawn perspectives and eye catching you can show off the blue room. With incentives like a shotgun you can show people the shotgun room. Using deterrents and traffic control you can encourage people to take a look around somewhere else. All of these things relate in the greater sense of Path Manipulation. Now that you know how important area introduction is... go use it. Read Chapter 14: Essence Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  16. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 11? Read it here: Smooth Spawning Intro So we know we can move players around using different techniques in path manipulation, but how do we observe that? How do we analyze a player’s movement? How do we visualize a player’s movement? The tool that I tend to use is a little something that I like to call path maps. An intro to path maps A path map is a map of all the possible paths that can be taken on a designated level based on a given position of the player. There are two different types of paths that exist in a path map. Objective paths are the shortest paths possible to the player’s current goal from the player’s current position on the map. Divergent paths are paths towards other possible goals that force players to “diverge” from the main objective path. As players move around the map and make decisions, objective and divergent paths change accordingly. Being able to observe a path map at any given point in time is essential to truly mastering path manipulation. When to use path maps The basic time to observe a path map is typically based on a particular spawn point. This allows the designer to analyze where a player plans on moving as soon as they spawn and allows the designer to adjust that to his/her liking. Another popular use of the path map is from incentives or landmark areas to understand where a player will move after arriving or acquiring what they traveled there to achieve. The current direction of the player is important when drawing a path map from a designated position on the map. Divergent paths are typically based on the player’s current perspective. Divergent paths may also exist behind the player if the player possesses enough knowledge of the map. Keep in mind that there is typically one objective path and many divergent paths. Divergent paths are just simply all the possibilities that the player may choose to take based on certain situations. For example if a player is going for the rocket launcher, and knows that the sniper is around the corner there would be a divergent path to the sniper. It is the designers job to decide what paths are most likely to exist in various situations. From divergent to objective To reiterate, objective paths is the shortest path to the player’s current goal. A player’s goal is ever changing as they traverse around the map and make decisions. When a player spawns his initial goal is to get to his winning objective. Now imagine that while traveling down the objective path a rocket launcher or other incentive catches his eye. He now changes his current goal to achieve the rocket launcher. The new objective path is now the shortest path to the rocket launcher, and the old objective path is now a divergent path. Now imagine that a player has beaten him to the rocket launcher. His goal no longer exists so now his objective path must change. If the player that grabbed the rocket launcher is a teammate then it is more than likely that his old objective path will become the objective again. However if the player is an enemy, then the enemy is a deterrent. The player’s new objective path may now be to the nearest piece of cover. At that point the player may choose to remove the deterrent or seek safe passage and his objective path will change accordingly. Utilizing path maps is a strong tool in observing specific situations when analyzing your path manipulation. Use it well. Read Chapter 13: Area Introduction Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  17. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 10? Read it here: Spawn Perspectives Intro Understanding spawns consists of more than just observing the Spawn Perspective. After a bit of working with spawns I learned that as a player I never enjoyed spawning and walking into a wall. Have you ever experienced this problem? Have you ever spawned walked past a weapon right next to you and realize it a couple of steps later and have to stop, step backwards, and pick up a weapon? Have you ever spawned and tried to figure out where you were on the map and then suddenly drop a whole story and have to re-adjust and figure out where you are again? All of this is slightly frustrating to gameplay and is easily remedied. A bumpy start So all those situations have one thing in common... they start you off with a hiccup in your game plan. Have you ever thought that the extra second you took stepping back to pick up that battle rifle could be the difference between life and death? Imagine that you are ready to go, you spawn and you see an opponent passing by you so you head slightly to the right to cut him off and...OH WAIT!!! Was that a DMR that I passed? Hold on...let me move back and get that real quick. Alright now... where did my opponent go? In that split second that I took to get my DMR I completely lost my goal and have to re-adjust myself and figure out what I’m going to do next adding to the spawn process. Don’t make things more difficult for your player. That’s today’s lesson. Time to adjust When a player spawns he must take a few seconds to adjust to his surroundings and learn where he has spawned in relation to things that are familiar to him on the map. While a player does this it is best not to disturb his train of thought or change anything in those first few seconds until he is ready to start making decisions. Any change you introduce to the situation in those few seconds could just exponentially increase what he has to think about causing frustration to the sub-conscious. Let’s translate that into perspective variance terms. A player’s perspective should change the least in the first few seconds of a player’s spawn in order to avoid disrupting the initial spawn thought process. While that may seem easy to adjust to, it is slightly twisted when we factor in one thing. Humans are impatient. Smooth trails When a player spawns they are more likely than not be holding down forward on the thumbstick because humans are impatient and expect to reach their destination as fast as possible. So now that we realize that players will be moving forward when they spawn we have to do our best as level designers to not disrupt their initial spawn thought process. This is where minimal perspective variance is important. Do whatever it takes to keep the player’s perspectives similar in those first few seconds of spawning. What this essentially boils down to is not letting them drop off of cliffs, not forcing them to turn as soon as they spawn, and making sure they don’t bump into any corners or anything that could cause their perspectives to change too much. Don’t introduce decisions or any changes until the player has completely oriented himself and recovered from “summoning sickness”. This may be a minor technique but it is quite powerful. Read Chapter 12: Path Maps Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  18. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 9? Read it here: Perspective Variance Intro Over the various past lessons you have been introduced to how powerful observing perspectives can really be. However there are billions of possible perspectives that exist on a map. Learning to observe key perspectives is important to saving yourself sometimes. One type of perspective that is common across all maps and extremely useful to observe is the Perspective that exists for each spawn point on the map. The first of many The spawn perspective is typically the first full controllable perspective of the map that the player receives. Note that I say controllable perspective meaning that the player is able to fully move his perspective at his will from this point forward. Other perspectives may be seen first, but I will cover those in later lessons. Being the first controllable perspective all eye catching techniques are extremely important to study. From this first perspective player begin to decide exactly how they move around the map. It is important to take the time to study each and every one carefully. Spawn perspectives are the only truly guaranteed perspectives that you can observe exactly as the player will see it since there has been no previous eye catching, incentive,deterrent, or other influence upon the perspective. Observe them heavily As a designer you should be aware of everything that the player can see from each spawn point of your map. Know what incentives exist, what paths are available, what deterrents may exist, etc. Take the time to analyze the eye catching that exists in the perspective to get a good idea of where the player may be heading. Keep in mind that there are many factors that will influence all future perspectives. The spawn perspective is the start of a long chain of perspectives that only ends when a player dies, and then restarts from there until the game ends. Every perspective in the chain is influenced by the spawn perspective so setting up the spawn perspective properly will lead to huge control over the player when dealing with 'Path Manipulation'. You control your players Whenever you place any spawn point the first thing you need to do is stand on it, find some way to force spawn on it, or just find some way to view the spawn’s perspective. Take the time to observe what is in the scene. Spawn perspectives are very powerful tools for applying the 'Knowledge is Power' concept and teaching players important parts of the map. Take note of what weapons the player can see. Take note of what paths the player can choose from. Take notes of any possible threats that may exist in the perspective. A good general rule to go by is to give the player at least one path as the focus of the spawn perspective. Give the player direction and guide him from where he spawns. If a player spawns and the only thing he sees is a wall, what is he going to do? He has an equal chance to turn right or left where he will proceed to choose his path. You want to remove as much unpredictability as possible in order to have stronger control over the player. Remember that you have control over the player’s experience. If you want him to go right towards rockets then turn his perspective so that the path to rockets is in plain sight. If you want him to go left for the sniper then turn that perspective left. You have full control. Read Chapter 11: Smooth Spawning Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  19. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 8? Read it here: Eye Catching Intro Well I have taught you the concept of drawing attention to important parts of your map by using Eye Catching techniques. And before I teach you these various techniques I must first introduce you to the concept of Perspective Variance. What good are eye catching techniques if a player only sees them for a split second in time? In order to draw attention to something you must give the player the chance and time to notice it. Perspectives over time The concept of a perspective is just a single moment in time. One play through of a map consists of millions of perspectives. While taking the time to study single important perspectives it is important to study them in batches or groups as well. To simplify this concept imagine watching a replay of a game and taking a single screenshot of the player’s perspective every second or half-second. The idea behind perspective variance is observing the changes between perspectives that occur one after the other. The player’s perspective is always changing and this must always be taken into account. Just because you use eye catching in one perspective doesn’t mean that it will catch the player’s attention in that instance in time. Your eye catching techniques must exist in multiple perspectives over time in order to give the player a chance to notice what you have laid out before them. Repetition is key Once again... anything you want your player to notice has to exist from one perspective to another in order to have more effect. A simplified real life example is when you are trying to read subtitles or captions for a movie but they do not stay on screen long enough for you to read. What’s the point of those subtitles or captions if you never get their full meaning? The same case is true here. If that light in the corner is only visible by the player for a split second then it will most likely never catch his eye. Remember that the player is always alert and always moving and looking around and constantly changing his perspective. All of the things around him are fighting for his attention and he is observing everything that he notices. Humans always overlook things when they have a goal like capturing the flag ahead of them. How are you going to show them that the rocket launcher in the corner is going to help them if it just barely passes them by as they turn the corner? Tying it to movement So while eye catching is an extremely important aspect when thinking about perspective variance, it is not the only factor. Path Manipulation is also very important in that moving a player around changes the player’s perspective. Consider how perspectives vary from each other when a player is traveling in a straight line. Things that are close will eventually disappear from the perspective while things farther away stay for longer. What about when a player is rounding a corner? The things that are on the side of the perspective that the player is turning away from will disappear sooner than those on the side that the player is turning towards. The sharper the turn is the faster objects disappear from a player’s perspective. Meaning sharp turns result in a massive amount of variance between perspectives. Is this good or bad? Well that is up to you as a designer. Read Chapter 10: Spawn Perspectives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  20. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 7? Read it here: Combat Congestion and Traffic Intro So I have introduced you to perspectives, which in short are screenshots of the player’s view; everything that a player sees, all of his options, any incentives in his view, or anything else of interest all in one screenshot that can be observed as a picture. Now I’m going to teach you how to move that perspective so that you can control exactly what your players see. The funny thing about humans is that we are curious and we love shiny things or anything that points out of a given scene. Using this knowledge to our advantage is something that I like to call Eye Catching. The basics Eye catching is a pretty self explanatory term. It is using various techniques to “catch” the human eye. This technique is used in millions of pieces of artwork, so why not utilize it in a perspective if a perspective can be seen as a picture? The human eye can be drawn by a ton of different things; like light differences, color contrast, size, distance, shapes, etc. It is your job as the designer to decide which type of attention grabber you want to use on your map. Pick something that fits with what you are doing anyways. Making a dark map for some sort of zombie gameplay? Then use lit objects to attract attention. Maybe your map is quite purple from the covenant theme you’ve created. Well yellow stands out quite well in a purple background, and is sure to grab your player’s attention. The results In a picture when you grab the viewer’s attention they move their eyes towards the designated “eye catcher”. When in a game players do the same thing; moving their eyes towards the “eye catcher”. However in a game moving a player’s eyes causes a change of perspective and makes a new picture for us to use and analyze. Learning to transition between new perspectives is a powerful skill allowing you to fine tune not only the player’s movement, but also exactly where your player is looking and when. Remember that if a player is in the middle of traversing a map, typically changing the direction their eyes are looking will tend to make them gravitate towards that area. So not only do you get to control the direction the player is facing, but you also control where they decide to move. Not bad for applying art theory to a video game, eh? Applying the technique So now you’ve got this basic understanding of changing the player’s perspective, but how should one use it for level design? How about using eye catching techniques to attract players towards incentives? Or maybe you can use eye catching to warn players of a deterrent ahead. How about just introducing a new area of the map? Eye catching is part of the major concept that is Path Manipulation. Controlling your player allows you to tweak what they feel, what they see, the decisions that they can make, and overall the true experience that they have while playing your map. This is a technique that can be used everywhere in your map and knowing when to use eye catching and when not to is a delicate decision. You know those papers that say “Turn the page to see how to keep a blonde busy”? The same concept is applied in this situation, eventually the player will catch on. Meaning that eventually you have to vary your techniques and use eye catching only up to certain point. Pick your uses carefully and use this powerful technique wisely. Read Chapter 9: (to be updated) Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  21. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 6? Read it here: Incentives Intro Have you ever taken the time to wonder why most maps are designed to have multiple paths? Most people just blindly build their maps to have multiple paths because it has become a simple standard base rule that everyone follows. I feel that it is important to completely understand why standard practices exist in the industry. Take the time to imagine a Halo map with only one path between two flag points. Everyone just ends up clashing over and over again in the center right? This is a phenomenon that I like to call Combat Congestion. What’s wrong with it? So what’s wrong with everyone running into each other and just shooting to try to kill someone? Nothing if that is what you want. It creates simplistic gameplay because it removes the skill of out-smarting your opponent based on path selection and cutting him off. Not only that, but there is no order to 8 people running at each other at once. It is hard for players to choose their target so it ends up being chance that you only get shot by one person or the whole other team at once. Dying to 4 people at once happens a lot faster than just 1 or 2 guys. You end up having no time at all to plan out your attack and if you don’t have any time at all to use skill or strategy then what fun is that? The concept of Traffic The basic concept of traffic is an observance of how players are spread out on your map. If you have too many players traversing one area then maybe you should spread them out a little more. The more players that go through an area the higher chance of combat congestion happening. And as discussed, this is something that we need to avoid as it is no fun to the player. Avoiding the chaos So having one path can cause combat congestion, that’s pretty simple to understand. Well having multiple paths around the map isn’t magically going to solve this problem. You have to use a variety of Path Manipulation techniques in order to get your players to spread out and to reduce the chance of combat congestion happening on your map. A ton of tricks exist for what I call controlling traffic, and you’ve already learned some of them. Incentives can be used to force players to take paths that players normally wouldn’t. Deterrents can be used to discourage players from taking commonly traversed paths. But Incentives and Deterrents can’t just exist on the map. They end up having no effects on a player if the player is unaware of them being on the map. Remember that talk on Knowledge is Power? You have to use techniques like Eye Catching, Area Introduction, Color Contrast, and Screen Real Estate. But in order to understand those techniques and fully apply them you have to be able to think in Perspectives and observe Perspective Variance. So again why do all of these things? Because combat congestion is one of those things that will cause a poor First Impression for your map, and we already learned how bad that can be. It is one of those things that is frustrating to experience because nobody enjoys just running in and dying. They enjoy using their skills. This was your first combination lesson where I tie everything that you’ve learned so far and everything that you will learn together to help you grasp the bigger picture. Hope you enjoyed it. Read Chapter 8: Eye Catching Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  22. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 5? Read it here: Deterrents Intro So sometimes just having the will is not enough to complete the objective at hand. Sometimes you need new weapons, or sometimes powerups will make winning easier. And now that there is danger at hand that wall to your right looks quite appetizing as cover. As you strive to win the game at hand there are many things around a map that encourage you to detour away from your main objective. These things that encourage us to move around... we call them Incentives. More than the obvious Most people understand a base concept of incentives when they think about weapon placement. If you place a rocket launcher here people are going to want to head to it to pick it up, right? Well a sniper rifle or spartan laser isn’t the only thing that can get you to move. Maybe ahead of you there is a turret acting as a deterrent on the main objective path. You see a bunker slightly ahead so instead of being discouraged by the turret’s threat zone, the cover acts as an incentive to continue moving forward. An incentive isn’t always an item, sometimes it is an area or some other type of advantage. The height advantage is definitely seen by many as an incentive to travel up a ramp. Items are just the obvious incentives. Non-existent incentives Now while incentives are great for moving players around a map, some may not be there forever. Most incentives only exist until they are used up. If the only incentive on a path is the sniper rifle, when it is not there then there is no use in going down that path anymore is there? Sure you have the rocket launcher off on the side but that rocket launcher isn’t always going to be there. Using the previous turret example, if no one is on the turret then that bunker is not much of an incentive any more and you can just continue down the center path. A key skill to master when utilizing incentives is taking the time to realize when incentives are turned on and when they are turned off. After mastering that you can follow that up with learning how to effectively control that trait of an incentive by moving players down a path when you want them to go down there and then stopping them from going down there whenever you want. It is a very handy skill to have and one that is well worth the investment in time. That skill alone can fully control the traffic on the map. Taking account for the advantage Something that designers tend to forget is what effect that particular advantage has on the player. When a player picks up active camouflage, do you take the time to consider that he can now travel for a certain distance without being seen? Do you consider that when a player picks up a feather in Mario that they can now fly through the whole level with no opposition? Do you consider that if they gain the high ground that they have full control of this half of the map? It is one thing to offer an advantage to the player. It is another to account for that advantage and make sure that you don’t give the player too much of what they want. Always keep a good balance - any time you give the player an advantage make sure to compensate. If you don’t find that balance then you will end up pulling away from other incentives on the map and pushing too many players to that one incentive. You ever fight over one piece of cake? It’s not pretty. Read Chapter 7: Combat Congestion and Traffic Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  23. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 4? Read it here: Perpectives Intro What makes players move around the map the way that they do? If their goal is straight ahead, what makes them detour to the right? What delays them from having the chance to win the game? There are a couple answers to this question, but there is one answer in particular that is more prominent than the simple placement of a Rocket Launcher or the Sniper Rifle. It exists in a higher quantity than weapons, power ups, armor abilities, and cover combined. Yup... you guessed it based on the title of today’s lesson; Deterrents. The definition By definition a Deterrent is something that discourages something else from proceeding. Several synonyms exist that may help you better understand what a deterrent might be; impediment, hindrance, disincentive, etc. Deterrents are the most prominent tools of Path Manipulation, however they are one of the least bit utilized and researched tools. A deterrent can be many things. If you see your opponent straight ahead, you change your short term goal to account for him by moving to cover, or preparing an ambush, or simply avoiding the confrontation. If you know the location of the sniper on the opposite team you maneuver in order to stay out of line of sight. If several fusion coils are in your direct path, you cautiously work your way around them in fear of the opposition killing you with one shot. Anything that threatens your chance of winning can be considered a deterrent. Limitations of “discouraging” The word discourage is one that suggests that deterrents do not always work, which is true. Maybe the main reason why deterrents are not talked about much is because they are not always a sure fire way to get players to move around the map. Some players are stubborn and seek to fight against the odds. Some players are just too skillful to allow such a hindrance stop them from moving forward. Do not fully rely on deterrents to move players around when you start to fully understand them. However do not completely disregard them as useless either. With the right adjustments and tweaks to the map a turret or other deterrent can be a force to be reckoned with and will become a true path manipulator. Learning to control planted deterrents as well as dynamic deterrents is a skill that cannot be overlooked when trying to perfect one’s level design theories. Learning when and when not to use deterrents or any theory for that matter is what makes perfection so impossible to achieve. However the more you learn the closer you can step towards the unreachable goal of no flaws. Just the beginning There is so much to deterrents that one can analyze. Everything will be covered over time. Deterrents are a big part of controlling a player’s movement around your map and can serve to be quite useful if utilized properly. Studying deterrents will require that you understand that while you have the ability to add deterrents around your map such as fusion coils and turrets, deterrents are created and destroyed constantly throughout the playtime of your map. Dynamic deterrents are a difficult concept to grasp, so learning the basics first are important. Once you do that you will have the power to completely weave the situations that your players encounter. Read Chapter 6: Incentives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  24. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 3? Read it here: Path Manipulation Intro You know what the best part about design is? Observing something from the smallest units possible and understanding what changes to those small units can do. By observing the smallest unit of an idea you can tweak the idea from a smaller setting. You can essentially take a larger problem and break it down into the smallest chunks possible and find the chunk or chunks that are causing the problem. Learning to keep track of all of these small chunks is essential to being adept at any sort of design. So what is one of the most significant and smallest observable chunks that I have discovered so far in level design? That chunk is the same as any media relating to a TV or monitor or any display similar... a single frame of relay to the user. In essence a screenshot in time of what the user is seeing. In this case I call those screenshots, Perspectives... One moment, in time Yes I am saying exactly what you think I’m saying. This topic is about the importance of a screenshot of a player’s current perspective, whether it be in 1st person or in 3rd person (in the case of driving vehicles). Analyzing a screenshot in time can tell you a lot of things and learning to modify that screenshot is essential to controlling your player’s decisions. A perspective will tell you what the player’s current visible options are. A perspective will tell you what the player has their attention on. A perspective is worth a thousand words... Drawing a perspective It is important to note that a perspective requires; a focus point or position, a point of view, and a direction. Point of view in a first person shooter is almost always going to be first person. The main focus point is going to be the player. After those two, the direction (a three dimensional direction) will define the perspective. The focus point is based on the player’s movement around the map utilizing path manipulation to move the focus point around, essentially the player. The direction is based on the player’s current eye focus and where their attention lies. Learning to control the direction of a future perspective is vital to having full control over a player’s decisions, movement, and feelings. Learning to mix the power of manipulating perspectives as well as manipulating the position of the focus point is crucial to any true level designer. Worth a thousand words While analyzing perspectives, analyze them as a picture... as a piece of artwork. We will be utilizing various art theories to analyze perspectives. In the thousand words that perspectives give us you can find the general sense of feeling (fear, excitement, etc), where the main attention lies (and thus where the eye is drawn to), and what is being noticed and how much. Understanding a split second in time makes for a lot of little chunks to analyze. I will teach you the important perspectives to keep an eye on. I will teach you what you need to analyze in the pictures presented to your player. And always keep in mind that the designer’s perspective is in no way the same as the player’s perspective. That is essential to being a good designer. Being able to see what your player sees. If you can’t do that then you are crafting the wrong experience. You are crafting the experience from what you see way up in the sky. Not from what the player sees right in front of them on the bottom floor. Don’t make it fun for you... make it fun for them. Read Chapter 5: Deterrents Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  25. Reaching Perfection consists of a series of short articles on Level Design, written by Ray Benefield over the course of several years. The articles were originally published on his website (www.reachingperfection.com), and are republished here on Next Level Design with permission from the author. The subject matter is wide ranging, covering everything from Threat Zones, to Peer Review, to Cohesion, and many, many other aspects of level design. *Note: These articles are a snapshot of the authors viewpoint at the time they were written, and should not be interpreted as 'truth' - take them as food for thought, and an impetus for discussion on the various topics.) The website these articles were published on was focused exclusively on the Forge mode within Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so there will be many references to Forge and these games. Missed Chapter 2? Read it here: Knowledge is Power Intro What is path manipulation, you say? Well obviously it is the way of manipulating paths. More specifically it is learning how to control a player’s movement throughout your map. While players are free to choose how they travel around a map the designer has the ability to completely influence their decisions through various techniques. Some of the more obvious techniques being weapon placement and objective placement, but there is much more to path manipulation than just that. What does Path Manipulation consist of? What makes players move the way they do? If a player sees a Rocket Launcher are they going to head straight for it? If a player sees a bunch of explosions are they going to go near them? If a player finds an optimal sniper perch are they ever going to move? Path manipulation is a good majority of level design. Everything in level design works together to create a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. Placing spawn points around a map is important to Path Manipulation as they decide which direction and where a player begins their journey around the map. By placing weapons on the map you encourage players to move around the map trying to gain an edge over their opponents. By adjusting lighting and color contrast you can encourage players to look towards and explore various areas of the map. By placing a turret in one spot and fusion coils in another spot you force players to work around their area of effects. Controlling your audience Why is controlling player movement so important to us? One of the main reasons is to show off the various parts of a map that we have put our time and effort into. Why build a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing room if players rarely take the time to traverse it? Another good reason is to “teach” the players about the important parts of your maps like power weapons, landmarks, and objectives. Knowledge is power, right? Designers also use path manipulation to ensure that certain parts of the map don’t get congested with combat. It ensures that players do not end up fighting in a huge chaotic mess and allows them to utilize their skills in more organized encounters. By controlling player movement we craft their experience to our liking. The golden rule The golden rule of path manipulation is to remember that players are most inclined to take the shortest path possible to their current goal until their goal changes. When learning to control player movement this must always be kept in mind. It is your job as a designer to know what persuades players to want to wander from their current goal. By default the player’s long term goal is to win the game and will first do what it takes to win the game, and as time progresses and as players explore the map they will change their short term goal to achieve that long term goal of winning the match. There are various techniques that exist all of which will be covered in extensive detail in future lessons. We build maps to offer players a particular experience. Path manipulation is just one of the many tools at our disposal that we can use to share our dreams. If we want players to circle around a map in a warthog, path manipulation allows us to give players that experience. It is not something to be taken lightly. Read Chapter 4: Perspectives Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp