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  1. Follow Neutronized Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHZkLi-4lIASVlMP-Edq1jg Twitter: https://twitter.com/neutronized Website: http://www.neutronized.com/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  2. For years I’ve been taking a pretty standardized approach to designing each new map in Cogmind, and although we have dozens of them now, it’s one of the few topics I’ve never covered on the blog. This is essentially because a serious in-depth look at the entire process would require spoiling a lot of content, considering that all the most interesting maps have been located beyond the early game. But with the recent release of Beta 8, which adds a very interesting map right to the early game, we now have a good opportunity to discuss map design without worrying too much about spoilers, since for the most part it’s easily accessible content anyway. This article will walk through every stage of the design and implementation process, from start to finish. I took a lot of notes about the process itself as I was building Beta 8, specifically so I could share them here and to ensure that what I write is an accurate representation of what actually went down. Note that unlike the majority of maps in Cogmind, due to its nature this particular map has a mostly static layout and content rather than drawing heavily on procedural methods. As such the process is missing a few steps, but I’ll cover those separately in an addendum. A mostly static map, on the other hand, provides some unique discussion opportunities of its own. Conception Before even starting, each map idea needs one or more concepts to build around, and in this case we have several goals: add more potential variety, especially to the early game provide more early plot hooks help new players For a very long time my notes for potential Cogmind features contained the concept of “derelict labs,” a way to access strange and fun technology, so when I started feeling we’d need a new area of the game to achieve all those goals, this concept seemed particularly fitting. Once I’d decided this was likely to happen (several months before actually doing it), I began intermittently revisiting that section of my notes to expand it with new ideas and considerations. On each new visit to add more ideas, I’d intentionally avoid rereading previous notes on that topic, instead just appending any new thoughts at the bottom. This keeps me in the unique frame of mind I’m in at the time, allowing me to come up with potentially very different ideas, or even perhaps the exact same ideas again without realizing it 😛 (this because usually days or even weeks have passed and I’ve forgotten the details of my earlier ideas). Note that coincidentally repeating notes on the same ideas can actually be valuable, because it validates them, perhaps with different reasoning, or even fleshes them out in different directions I hadn’t thought of in previous note-taking sessions! This process resulted in a total of about 2,600 words of rough notes on the topic, which like all of my notes are organized as nested lists in a TXT file. The entirety of rough notes on the new map, as seen in my editor Normally I just delete rough notes once their contents have been implemented or converted to more permanent notes elsewhere, but this time I saved them to share with you. Download/read the original notes here (you’ll need line wrapping off to view them properly!). Since the notes are a top-to-bottom process, you can see how they kept getting longer and longer with each extension as I apparently went back and forth on various points. There’s even “final summary” followed by the typical “final final notes” followed by “no wait, final final reverses that” xD In short, a new mini-faction of “Exiles” from another community has their own lab, offering the player both a new sensor ability (dubbed “FarCom”) and access to prototype gear from among a pool of possible items. Story-wise, they become the player’s earliest significant exposure to the world’s lore. As such, it’s good that I’ve circled back around to add this map after the rest of the world is already completed, so they can hook into it properly based on my knowledge of how everything can play out both in terms of story and gameplay. The alternative, trying to build this map from the start, would’ve likely meant repeatedly updating or changing its contents as the rest of the world was built. (Cogmind’s world was almost entirely built from beginning to end, rather than skipping around.) I’m not a fan of ripping out or making significant changes to old content, preferring to get it right the first time. So back in late October when it came time to add the Exiles, the first task was to reorganize those rough notes. This normally means reading back over them to remove the stupid ideas, refine rough ideas, and generally consolidate the notes while expanding on any unclear points, making sure it all fits together in support of my vision for the map. I didn’t spend very long in this phase, though, because there were simply too many notes this time around, and more importantly they were just going to be converted to a new form shortly afterward anyway. After just deleting some unnecessary chunks and making a few modifications, I quickly started on the proper map design doc. Map Design Doc The last planning stage before actually working on a map is to finalize all its relevant notes into a basic format I’ve been using since the beginning of Cogmind Alpha. Each map generally has its own text file describing its design. I call these text files “supplements,” since the idea originated when I started using these external files to supplement Cogmind’s original design doc, a massive file which started to get a little unwieldy by the time the first public Alpha was released after two years (plus I didn’t like the format/program that was used to create the original doc and wanted to start moving away from that, and by then the entire primary design doc had been implemented anyway). Supplements for various maps added over the years. “EXI” is the code for Exiles--note its size relative to the others. It happens to be one of the more complex maps, with a lot of possible content and various scenarios. Map design docs break down their contents into a number of common sections, including at the very least the following: goal: Main purpose(s) behind adding the map to begin with layout: An overview of environmental factors including the terrain and any props the player will see inhabitants: Descriptions of all the entities (in Cogmind’s case, essentially robots) found on that map gameplay: Primary interactive elements of the map, including any cause and effect related to dynamic content These are the main four, but some maps have one or two additional note categories applicable to that map in particular. For example the Exiles design doc adds a “location” section, because unlike most maps there are a number of important comments to make regarding how to access this map in the first place, and its general position in the world. There’s also a large “part concepts” section for collecting ideas for their stash of prototypes. You can read the entirety of the Exiles map design doc here (again, turn off line wrapping). If you checked out the rough notes earlier, you can see how they evolved into the proper design doc, which weighs in at three times the size (about 7,500 words). Some of the minor details in this doc may not be the same in the final implementation since I sometimes make last-minute changes that aren’t necessarily reflected back in the notes, but it’s mostly accurate. High-level Design It’s extremely important to expand the initial map design process to include considerations beyond the map itself. How that map fits into the bigger picture with regard to overall player strategy should be determined in advance, since it can have a broad impact on a map’s content, and if not careful a poorly planned map could end up needing more significant changes later on if players find that it’s either not very interesting or useful to them in the long run.* (*There is currently one optional map in Cogmind which unfortunately fits this description: Recycling. It’s a relatively simple, small map with some unique mechanics of its own, but its advantages aren’t really as enticing for players as I had first envisioned them when it was created early in Cogmind Alpha. Back then I was just getting started adding optional maps, and have learned a lot since then, including by way of the player community as it’s matured. I have plans to improve it one day, but it’s not a pre-1.0 priority since it’s rather out of the way anyway.) I wouldn’t want to waste player time, or my own, so the Exiles map in particular has a number of long-term strategic implications, and properly building them into the experience as a whole involved addressing different kinds of player needs, goals, and… um, craftiness 😉 Like pretty much all of the many optional branch maps in Cogmind’s world, the Exiles offer tradeoffs, making certain areas easier while increasing the challenge level in others. Primary long-term strategic decisions related to the Exiles. Note that some “drawbacks” may even be seen as good (or at least neutral) by certain players, so there are alternative interpretations to this graph as far as coloring goes. (I’ve chosen the most common view.) There are other random Exiles scenarios which can affect the available options, but I’m covering just the most common one here. Also, graphed above are only the major strategic considerations--individual prototypes can change a player’s potential route or even suggest builds depending on what they are, because they’re selected randomly from a pool of possibilities. Overall this one map has really opened up a lot of new options! I’ll talk about these options in more detail later. As designed, the standard Exiles benefits (one free prototype + FarCom) are especially noticeable in the short-term, at the expense of long-term drawbacks, making them a great choice for new or inexperienced players. That’s not to say they can’t be useful for experienced players as well--already one player won an extended run despite using FarCom, which essentially makes late-game Research branches off limits, even though that’s where one normally accesses a lot of the most effective tools for tackling extended game challenges. Having tradeoffs makes visiting the Exiles much more interesting, and they’re essential, too, because without tradeoffs it would be easy for a player to become overpowered, and a no-brainer to route a run through this map. Naturally not every map needs such explicit drawbacks, since in a lot of cases the drawback is the inherent cost of reaching and/or fighting whatever is in the given map, but here I should emphasized that the inhabitants of this particular map are all friendly, and reaching it is quite easy, so stronger measures were required. Okay, planning is over, time to start doing. Building Blocks As we already have our high-level analysis and relatively complete plans to guide construction of the new map, the first stage is to put together its entities and items, basically any individual objects that can be created in isolation. This would be the “pieces before the puzzle” approach, breaking down a large project into its smallest parts and working on each of the latter first. But I’m not even adding them to the new map at this point--it doesn’t even exist yet. Since there’s a lot of work to do for such a giant chunk of content, trying to add each new element to the map as it’s finished would often involve thinking at multiple levels (local area, map-wide, game-wide…), which is a lot less efficient than focusing on as few aspects as possible without constantly bouncing around. Working efficiently is not only faster, but also gives better results. So the plan here is to get all the pieces in order, then put them together all at once. Personally I like to start with the pieces that require the most time to implement, which for me includes most importantly anything that I think would be fun and interesting but is ultimately “optional” when it comes down to it, such as certain rare special events, items, etc. Stuff like Beta 8′s time travel-enabling “Chronowheel” item took forever, one of those things where I’d say “okay I’m going to tackle this one today,” then at the end of the day it’s “okay, I’ll just have to finish this tomorrow…,” and then a couple days later I’m like “uh, really gotta finish this thing up today!” (and maybe still don’t xD) But this is the type of content that really makes the project feel more like what it really is, a world built out of passion rather than just a “good enough game to sell and keep the lights on.” If I leave this tough optional stuff until later in the release cycle, it’s more and more likely to get dropped as I see the deadline approaching and there’s still so many other necessary tasks left to do, not to mention the fatigue of what it took to get near the end of the release cycle in the first place. In the end I’m always glad I’ve done these parts of the content, but I have to essentially force it through proper planning to make sure it actually happens 😛 Items Items are the smallest building blocks of a map, so we start there. The notes and design doc originally listed them in completely random order, but again in the interest of efficiency I somewhat reorganized the list to keep certain categories together. For example all projectile weapons should be worked on in succession, since they would all involve similar parts of the data and code. This makes working down the list flow more naturally, without having to jump between too many different areas throughout the source/data, mentally loading extra scopes. Before starting on any code or data at all, however, I worked with a completely different scope: art. All the art for the new items (more than 30 of them) was done together over a several day period, since again it makes sense to tackle like tasks in bulk. It can be harder to bear when a process like this stretches on for weeks or more, but as a solo dev who can only do one thing at a time, despite game development being a huge long-term undertaking, the efficiency gains are pretty vital. Art for some EX-tech prototypes found in Beta 8. Each of the new primary NPCs I’d planned for the new map have “signed” their prototypes with their name. Immediately after the art came the lore. Each of the new items has some lore text associated with it, and seeing how that would in some cases help define or refine the item capabilities themselves, I wanted to make sure they were all accurate and consistent. So all of those entries were written at once, also important here since because they’re generally meant for the player to discover/read them in a particular order. And finally it was time to create the dozens of items themselves--adding the data, balancing their stats, etc., which altogether took a couple weeks. Some items can be added in as little as 30 minutes or so, while others like the Chronowheel mentioned earlier could take several days. The “Latent Energy Streamer” weapon adds a whole new resource in the form of “latent energy” which could potentially be more widely used later, but for now the entire thing was added specifically for just that one weapon, despite taking several days to complete xD Latent energy is found throughout the environment, more often concentrated around stationary props like machines and doors. Activating the LES, which also reveals latent energy nearby. The LES draws on that energy and focuses it for devastating amounts of electromagnetic damage over an area, but also has side effects such as destabilizing nearby explosive machines, breaking automatic doors, and even corrupting the user. In fact, a number of the Exiles prototypes have negative side effects, which is what makes it possible to give the player such powerful parts early on in the game. Firing the LES. The firing animation took a while to perfect, too, being different from normal weapons in that it more closely ties into the surrounding environment, tracing lines through the latent energy that it’s actually using to fire. The LES itself also has a unique tag which displays the amount of nearby accessible energy in number terms, as well as shows the actual range of damage it can convert that energy to, values which change as the local energy naturally ebbs and flows, or is used up and slowly rebuilds. I’m really glad the LES is in game (and can’t wait to get a chance to use it myself during a regular run :D), though if I’d waited until late in the dev cycle to add it I’m not sure it would be a thing. NPCs After items comes another basic building block: NPCs. Some of these bots make use of the new items so they couldn’t come first, but once the items are ready we’ve got everything we need to put bots together, and an entity (robot) is a pretty self-contained little unit of development that doesn’t rely on the map itself (but will become a part of it), so they’re a good candidate for getting out of the way early. They take a while to build and balance, but focusing on them individually now means it will be easy to drop them all in on short notice when and where we need them later. The Exiles map includes four new core NPCs, each of which has a line of data defining their properties. It’s a fairly long line! As a demonstration, here’s the data for one of the new NPCs, 8R-AWN. (I’ve wrapped the line a couple times here so as not to force quite that much horizontal scrolling :P) When their data is complete, I run them through a separate program that can analyze robot designs and tell whether they’ll be overweight, have resource problems, overheat in combat, or any number of other issues. Their stats can be adjusted as necessary before moving on to the actual map 😛 Actually no… At this point I also decided that before the map itself I’d implement the FarCom sensor ability they can give you. This, too, could be worked on as an isolated system since I could test it explicitly rather than immediately developing the proper method of obtaining it in game. It could be hooked in as a piece of the puzzle later. FarCom in action, showing a faint circle within which hostile 0b10 combat bots are detected. (The circle has a slow pulse to it, but the gif doesn’t capture that well.) From an overall design perspective, there are enough types of differences between FarCom and normal attachable Sensors that there is no clearly superior form of detection in all scenarios. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks. A comparison of standard Sensors vs. FarCom. Green cells are a positive, red are negative. That said, FarCom is definitely a clear boon for new players, who get a free way to locate threats from afar without relying on any items for that knowledge. New players don’t have an easy time finding (and knowing to use!) Sensors, and parts can be destroyed, while FarCom cannot. The unquestionably most significant benefit from FarCom, one that’s quite attractive even to non-beginners, is that it doesn’t occupy any part slots at all. This is especially true in the early game where two slots is a larger relative portion of Cogmind’s available slots. Sensor users can try to get away with one slot (just the array without an interpreter), but getting the same level of detail that FarCom offers requires two slots devoted to sensor data. Freeing up a slot or two means extra armor, more storage, better targeting, and/or any number of other utility options, and this is a benefit that extends throughout much of the run, wherever FarCom is active. Of course, using FarCom is still not something everyone will always want to do, as per the earlier chart showing the serious late-game drawbacks. Overall I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out. Layout and Integration Time to build a map! Sort of 🙂 I always start on blank sheets of loose paper since I find it the most natural, fast, and free-form. Exiles map general layout, content, and world connection planning. Most of that page is actually occupied by graphs considering how to connect this new map to the rest of the world. The route the player has to take to reach a map, and return to other areas, are important factors in setting the related rewards and challenge level. The Exiles are accessible from either -10 (essentially the lowest/earliest depth!) or -9, by the way of the Mines at that depth. They will only appear at one depth, though, and as the entrance is somewhat tucked away inside the Mines, I added a special indicator that lets observant players know when they’re at the same depth as the Exiles. I didn’t want players potentially wasting their time scouring an entire Mines depth for an entrance that might not even be there, so I drew on so-called “level feelings,” a mechanic found in a number of classic roguelikes such as NetHack, ADOM, and Angband whereby on entering a new map you get a log message reflecting a special aspect of that map. Cogmind’s first application of “level feeling,” added to save players time when searching for the Exiles. Players can also read lore in the Exiles Terminals which explains the scanning. As for the return trip after visiting the Exiles, I had thought to maybe send the player back to the main path through the Lower Caves, but that was when I was initially trying to restrict the design to existing options. Instead I ended up deciding to add a new Mines depth at -8, one that can only be reached while returning from the Exiles. This is both better gameplay (Mines are the smallest and easiest maps, suitable for weaker players) and more logical (the Exiles shouldn’t feel quite that close to the Complex, hence no immediate return to it from their map). In-game world map showing a player route having visited the Exiles and come back to -8/Materials through -8/Mines. That Mines depth is not normally directly accessible in the reverse direction, from -8/Materials, to avoid adding unnecessary exits in that map. The little nondescript blob at the top right of the note paper is actually quite important, determining the general locations of entrances/exits for the map itself, which in turn can affect the whole map design (terrain layout, content positioning, event timings…). These most vital points determine the flow of the experience. The player enters from the lower-right, and almost immediately there’s a junction leading to an exit out (mainly necessary to provide an avenue for other robots to enter the map from this side--more on that later), then the main content area would be in the middle, and further to the left is a second “back exit” from the map. Lastly, on the left* of the notes is a list of ideas for things I’d need to add to the actual map layout, which I’d sketch out next… *I’m left-handed and tend to orient my paper horizontally and fill pages of notes from right to left 😛 Confident in the connections, it was time to sketch the map layout in more detail! First pass on a reference sketch for Exiles map layout. As a static map with important NPC interactions, the layout really had to take into consideration the flow of a new player coming in and experiencing it for the first time--who will they see first and what will they say so that the order of everything makes sense? So after doing the quick tentative sketch above (based on the earlier general list), I had to take a break from this and jump ahead a bit to work on content for a day, specifically dialogue. True, the NPCs haven’t been placed yet, nor is there even a map to place them in, but by writing out the dialogue in advance I could make sure no single NPC was saying too much or otherwise needed to offload some lines onto another, which might affect the layout. (It did.) After the dialogue detour, I did another pass on the map sketch, creating this second more specific iteration to match it: Second pass on a reference sketch for Exiles map layout. The player enters from the bottom right, sees another corridor leading to an exit but no hostiles in view so it’s safe to continue exploring. Also there are some “rigged” power sources in the tunnel forward, a mechanic only made available via Exiles tech and therefore will be new to the player--anyone curious will want to check them and out and continue exploring, first meeting 8R-AWN in the corridor there for a friendly welcome/intro chat. Then they’ll move into the central area and spot the second main NPC, EX-HEX, who introduces a bit more of the lore and invites the player to seek out EX-BIN to help with a project. From there they can go anywhere, either learning more about the place from prototype tester NPCs in the south area, or head north to get the main benefits of the map, FarCom and the prototype(s). Either direction is fine for a first experience. Then they can leave by heading back to the east side, but are more likely to take the rear exit. At this point I went ahead and put together all the extra terminal lore and minor NPC dialogue as well, since there might be something in there which could affect the map layout as well (there wasn’t, but anyway having just finished the dialogue it was good to keep up the pace while still in “writing mode”--efficiency!). Then comes time to break out my next tool: REXPaint. I turn the reference sketch into a general layout in REXPaint, measuring out cell distances to make sure everything will fit just right--not too squished and not too open, and that the average player FOV from a given position will reveal the right amount of content. Exiles map taking shape in REXPaint. For now it’s just a single layer containing the general layout, entrance, and exits, still no objects or other details yet. It’s also lacking some layout details that might emerge/become necessary as objects are added. And with that file saved it’s ready to drop into the game! (This map happens to have a fully static layout, so it skips some steps here that many other maps might require. I’ll cover those in an addendum.) Content It’s now time to build the actual experience, starting… outside the map 😛 As a beginner-friendly map which is still kind of out of the way, I wanted there to be some ways to help funnel new players in that direction. So before working on the map itself, I again wanted to develop along the flow of the experience by beginning with how players are most likely to find it the first time. 8R-AWN, the brawn to the Exiles’ brains and the first NPC players meet on entering their lab/cave, is sometimes out running errands for them, and the player might meet him while on one of these errands. In one of the first Materials floors, whichever matches the Exiles depth, 8R-AWN can be found making his way across the floor towards an exit the Mines. The chance he’ll be around is higher for new players who’ve never met the Exiles before (unless they’re using a seed, since seeded content should be consistent, irrelevant of player history). On spotting the player, 8R-AWN invites them to follow, and proceeds to trash hostiles all along the route to the exit. (Or if the player is on the far side of the map, they may simply find a trail of destruction left in his wake from earlier, and 8R-AWN is long gone.) He’ll take the exit himself, and if he spoke with the player earlier will be waiting there when the player arrives before some more dialogue and continuing to lead on to the Exiles’ hidden entrance. Another possible encounter with 8R-AWN occurs during the Mines infestation. Assembled suddenly swarming into the area is a pretty deadly encounter for the unprepared, so it’s nice that 8R-AWN might show up to save the day, using special tech to shut them all down remotely. In this case if he spots the player he’ll also lead them back to the hidden entrance. This hidden entrance actually took a few attempts to design, since there needs to be a wall that opens up automatically for a friendly player, but I didn’t want the player to see a wall from a distance, conclude that it was a dead end, and never bother approaching, so the trigger was placed such that the walls would open immediately as they came into view. Exiles entrance layout design in Mines. To the player it will appear as if the corridor continues forward until they round the corner, at which point the hidden doors open automatically to reveal the exit as long as the player is friendly. This entrance is placed as a guaranteed prefab using the pre-mapgen method described here. Exiles That same post describes the data/scripting methods used to define the contents of Exiles, which as a static map is simply one giant prefab 🙂 At this point we can start dropping in all the objects that were created earlier--items, NPCs, dialogue, lore, etc. So it’s a relatively quick process since the objects are all ready, which is better than having to repeatedly stop what I’m doing to implement them. Instead I can focus on how everything is fitting together at the macro level, rather than worrying about low-level details. Once again we’re following the flow of the experience into the map from the right side, only this time using additional layers of the REXPaint to draw machines (gray lines) and mark entity and item positions (green letters and green numbers, respectively). Machines and other props, including invisible triggers, are identified using uppercase green letters. Final Exiles prefab in REXPaint with all data layers visible. The corresponding data goes into a text file, the features of which I’ve provided a breakdown before in “Map Prefabs, in Depth.” Complete Exiles prefab data in image form, since it’s easier to read with syntax highlighting enabled. (Some of the lines are really long but not worth extending the image for, so they’re just cut off.) The file is also available in text form. As I’m going through adding the objects, I make a list of all the related explicit tests that will be necessary to confirm the content is working as intended. I’m also constantly thinking of all the things that could go wrong and need to be looked into once everything is in motion. This list will be quite important later, and is better put together while each element is on my mind rather than trying to remember these points later, or coming up with tests from scratch. Despite my best efforts at the initial implementation, usually a number of things don’t work as intended, and it’s certainly better to work through it all systematically rather than wait for a stream of bug reports from players 😛 This is a fairly large map so I didn’t wait until everything was placed before testing, instead stopping a few times to test in batches, generally clearing out the list in the process. Bling With most of the main content done, I moved on to more superficial elements of the kind that can be tacked on. The FarCom mechanics were already implement much earlier, but it was still missing the animation played when you first receive the ability from the Exiles. There are a number of full-screen animations throughout Cogmind which occur when major abilities are conferred, so FarCom shouldn’t be an exception. EX-BIN using the FarCom Aligner to add you to their system. One element I also always leave for the end of the content phase is audio. Working with sound effects involves concentrating on tasks other than code, including managing a bunch of audio files and messing with them in Audacity. It’s more efficient to do all of them together, so whenever I come across something that needs audio I just leave a placeholder and add it to a list, one that gets taken care of after the rest of the content. Ambient audio visualization of the area around the FarCom Aligner, where brightness indicates volume. For those who want to read more on this, I’ve written about ambient sound before. There were other non-ambient sounds to handle as well. Variants I keep saying the Exiles map is “static,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a little variety! There’s the usual variety created via the prefab data shared above: Common items in store rooms are randomized, as are the prototypes (where there is quite a large amount of variety since the items can change up gameplay significantly, but appear in different combinations each run). There’s also some variety created via the fact that you may or may not meet 8R-AWN before reaching the Exiles, in different situations, so that makes for unique dialogue options. But the most significant variety comes from players not always finding the map in its default state at all. There are actually four different scenarios, the above text describing only the first. As part of the world generation, a random state for the map is chosen from among the following: 51%: The default scenario, as described. This state is also always forced under a number of other world conditions outside the map, so the effective percentage is somewhat higher. 12%: Deserted. The Exiles have already wiped their terminals and abandoned their lab. 12%: Destroyed. Complex 0b10 has already attacked the Exiles, leaving the place scarred from battle. There are no survivors to be found, but the area contains other useful remains. 25%: This is equivalent to the default scenario, except forces from 0b10 will attack while the player is there. I built the base map first, then implemented the 0b10 attack (essentially an event tacked on), then moved on to the other two variants last since they were less complicated. More complicated map variants should come first in case they require changing parts of the map concept itself to work right, whereas doing complicated variants later could mean having to waste time changing a bunch of earlier work! It’s hard to predict all the changes that might be necessary in advance, so prioritizing like this is important. The deserted and destroyed variants were easy to manage since they were basically just modified data and REXPaint maps. “Destroyed” Exiles prefab in REXPaint with all data layers visible. A comparison to the earlier default scenario reveals newly destroyed machinery, randomized (and randomly shifted) debris, exploded areas, and other different procedural content like possible salvageable robots. The attack scenario was the most time-consuming variant, since I had to watch the same battle again and again to see all the possible outcomes and whether they met expectations. I spent a couple hours just watching attacks, repeatedly tweaking various parameters to get the desired results. The Exiles are attacked by 0b10, with the map fully revealed for observation/debugging purposes. 8R-AWN covers the retreat, and EX-DEC drops a sentry turret before taking off. Special Considerations Finally almost done! The “normal” way to play is complete at this point, but there’s one more important stage: anti-cheese measures 🙂 Naturally some players will try to gain every possible advantage they can think of, even those requiring outright thievery or murdering allies, so it’s necessary to balance those possibilities, too. Aside: Not all roguelikes need to be balanced like this--some even revel in being totally unbalanced, but for the most part Cogmind is meant to be a tightly balanced experience. Even though some players do still manage to stretch the limits through extreme cunning, which is fine, I want to be careful about allowing specific actions to be so rewarding over others that players always see it as “the proper way” to do something, to the detriment of all other possibilities. Sure the Exiles are a friendly bunch, but players who see them as a means to an end will likely… try to end them. Handling this was a bit more complex than usual because the Exiles experience isn’t limited to a single map--player hostility could begin wherever they see 8R-AWN, thus behaviors could change during future meetings, including on the map itself. Earlier I charted the strategic decisions a player can make with regard to the Exiles, and the whole reason these are decisions to begin with is that each comes with an associated cost. Players can choose to… 1) Use the default approach, by taking a single prototype from the Exiles vault and using that and FarCom scanning support to just tackle the main areas of the Complex. This is the easiest option, good for new players. They’ll lose the chance to get imprinted in Zion (normally another good crutch for newer players but one that doesn’t appear until the mid-game), and they’d have to avoid the late-game Research branches which are very deadly for players with FarCom. Balance-wise, this is because those branches contain alien tech and many of the most powerful items in the game. FarCom makes many other maps easier, at the cost of not having access to these resources. 2) Take one prototype and FarCom, and enter the Research branches anyway. This is extremely difficult. Entering a Research branch with FarCom triggers “Maximum Security,” the strongest response from the Complex so far, which is essentially like an instantly triggered version of “High Security” with even more assaults (basically endless increasingly strong waves of hostiles entering the map). This mode was added to Cogmind specifically as a response to FarCom, but also made sense to trigger in a few other special scenarios, so I applied it to those as well. You can see in the rough design notes that the original anti-FarCom plan for Research branches was to dispatch Trackers, a new type of fast and deadly prototype bot. Later I decided that Maximum Security was a better solution there (mainly as an even stronger deterrent), but having already done all the preparations for adding Trackers, I decided to at least make them part of a revamped Intercept squad system. Intercept squads are another form of tradeoff in Cogmind, originally intended to be very challenging, but players had gotten so good at strategizing that they weren’t quite challenging enough anymore--now the good players have to think long and hard about whether they really want to risk Intercepts 😛 Ideally like the FarCom sensor mechanic and other building blocks, something as fundamental to the overarching design as MaxSec and new Intercepts should’ve been determined much earlier in the map design process, but I hadn’t yet come up with a good solution and needed to let it sit for a while, and couldn’t wait any longer to start Exiles work for Beta 8, so it had to be postponed and wasn’t even decided until close to this final stage. Some major changes are best left in waiting 🙂 3) Steal all three prototypes from the Exiles vault and add some challenge to the mid-game caves. For those who really want more than one prototype, this is possible albeit with a bit of a drawback. For one, FarCom will no longer work since by stealing all the prototypes you didn’t follow their instructions, although for some players this may be a positive since entering Research branches then becomes a possibility (as does imprinting, if they want to!). The prototypes are quite powerful, so there needs to be a clear cost associated with stealing them. For this scenario I added a new drawback: Master Thieves. Although they’re not too common, Cogmind already has thieves hiding in caves, so I made a special variant which is even more effective and specifically tracks a thieving player any time they’re traveling through caves. If you steal from the derelicts, they steal right back--it’s an “eye for an eye” sort of deal 🙂 (Thieves race up and try to rip a part off their target, then run away and eventually disappear forever once out of sight.) Beta 8 has been out for a little while and the current meta among the better players seems to be preferring this route more often than others. I’m not sure if it’ll be necessary, but if this route is always superior there are other tweaks to consider, such as allowing Master Thieves to rip parts out of the player’s inventory as well ;). That said, I don’t want to make this tradeoff as expensive as the FarCom-Research thing--it should be something that players are willing to face under certain circumstances. 4) Steal all three prototypes but just tackle the main areas of the Complex, avoiding the caves. While not the easiest option, this is still easier than a non-Exiles run. Stealing all the prototypes means losing FarCom, but using sensors instead and avoiding the caves means staying safe from thieves, and still being able to stealthily raid Research branches for the best parts. Avoiding the caves does means losing access to some potential mid-game benefits, but those are optional and there are helpful non-cave branches to consider anyway. 5) Kill the Exiles, specifically 8R-AWN to salvage his own excellent prototype loadout, and also steal all three prototypes. This is basically the strongest result for the player (assuming no need/desire for FarCom), though also the most dangerous option since 8R-AWN is pretty powerful and Cogmind is weak at the beginning. Players are already doing this, though, because of course they are 😛 I did add the possibility of a Hero of Zion attacking the player as a result of their hostilities, but didn’t make it guaranteed since that, too, could be gamed by players for more cheese potential. I’d rather it just happen in some cases as more of a lore-related surprise. As you can see there are quite a few special considerations when adding a new map! Gotta think of how players will react to each possibility, and whether they’ll think certain tradeoffs are worth it. In making these judgements it helps that I play a fair bit of my own, and that I’m also always reading about player experiences. The next pair of articles are addendums to this one, covering steps specific to procedural level design, and a comparison of static vs. procedural maps. Source:https://www.gridsagegames.com/blog/2019/02/level-design-shaping-cogmind-experience/ Source:https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JoshGe/20190313/338510/ Follow Josh Website:https://www.gridsagegames.com/blog/ Twitter:https://twitter.com/GridSageGames 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. Level design is something you almost always have to go through when making a game, but it’s one of the most overlooked segments of game production, especially on small/indie production teams. Here I’ll try to give some advice on how to make a good level design, by using examples from my own experience. I’ll mostly use recurring games as references (Bad Company 2 and Mirror’s Edge), because they are games I played a lot and feel comfortable mentioning, and because they have fairly different gameplays.WHERE TO START ? Mirror’s Edge The first step before making any “real” level design, is to put everything in perspective before going blindly in any direction. Define what actions are allowed (and what aren’t) by the game design of your specific game, then what intentions or constraints you want on your level. Focus on what makes your game unique. What can the player(s) do in the game? What elements of my game can harm, kill or put the player(s) close to the losing conditions? Is there a theme, or a particular focus I want to put in this level/area of a level? What mechanic stands out in my game? USE GUIDELINES TO TEST & CREATE YOUR LEVEL When making MAZE’s safe zone, we put some clear guidelines down: “We want the safe zone to be square-shaped, with one door on each side of this square, and it should not take more than 30 seconds to run from one side to the other. The safezone is also a “vegetation backup” so it should contain… vegetation.” From these precise directions, we made a huge, square shaped forest, with all the liberty to put any type of vegetation, terrain modifications, little landmarks… Editor view of the safe zone (the train wreckage at the left can be used for scale) Before asking a playtester, or just other people to give you feedback on your level, you must be able to clear your own mistakes and correct your level accordingly. To do so, define key points to help you create your level. It can also help you when testing the level on your own. Having precise constraints allows you to take more liberty to design around them. In my opinion, it’s better to have some rock-hard, definite constraints than no constraints at all, especially when making a game aimed at someone other than just yourself. It gives you directions, and you can be as free as you want on every other part of your level when creating it. DESIGN LEVELS SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR GAMEThe more you design your level while keeping in mind your game design, the better it will be. An example of this can be seen clearly on Source games. When playing Counter Strike, try to play 2Fort (a Team Fortress 2 map) on a community server. You can also find any classic CS map on a custom TF2 server. If the map has not been altered, you’ll see that most of the depth of each map loses its value. It’s not as fun playing de_dust2 on TF2 as it is on CS. This is because dust2 was (brilliantly) designed with Counter Strike’s gameplay in mind, which is very different from Team Fortress 2’s. 2Fort — Team Fortress 2 Try to do the same for your levels: If your environments are imported in other games, they should not be as equally rewarding to experience than in their original game. If your level seems really classic, well, you fucked up. No harm done, but my advice at this point would be to delete completely the faulty level, erase its dullness from existence and start again, from scratch.USE REFERENCES FOR YOUR FUTURE LEVEL The most obvious references when designing a level are the visual ones. Find architectural drawings or photos who capture well what you want to implement in your environment. If you have some references & concept art used in your art direction, be sure to include them. Your artist(s) will be happy to see their work was not only used to be put on the studio walls to look cool. A reference for a level I’m working on(Photo by Asia Chmielewska) Here’s an easy trick that often pays off when I’m looking for references: If you find an image that you want to use as a reference, try to find the author of the picture. The artist’s style, eye, whatever you want to call it, will not be in the one picture you randomly found on Pinterest. Use it to your advantage. This is what I did with the photo above, and looked at other photos from Asia Chmielewska (check her out if you like architectural/urban photos she makes awesome photos). The main problem I had when making a paper level design (I’ll talk about it in literally one paragraph), is that slopes are cool, but they need to lead somewhere. So I found other references I can use to create what’s at the summit of the slope, and it will probably be super coherent because it was in the same photo collection. Neat.DESIGNING ON PAPER Once you have all this preparation part down, you can start actually designing the level… on paper. It’s way faster to iterate on paper than recreate your level digitally.  My point here is that you should find a "way" allowing you to design your level quickly, so you can iterate swiftly and easily change layouts, details etc. Most people would use paper, but if you prefer using Photoshop, Paint or woodworking, go for what is best for you. From this point on, I’ll drop different points and things I use to design levels, without any ranking. Once you are designing your level, iterating over and over again, you can use or focus on these points to help you enhance your design: VERTICALITY The intro cinematic of The Shard, Mirror’s Edge’s last level. The Shard is the tallest building in Mirror’s Edge’s city, and also the last level of the game. The introduction cinematic of the level gives you the feeling that you are against your biggest challenge, like if the building itself is the final boss. How? By making you enter from the parking underneath the overwhelmingly tall building. You haven’t even started playing this level, but you already know the stakes are high. One of the simplest elements that often separates a good level design from a bad one is verticality. Verticality creates, vantage points, Landmarks, Occlusion and Focal Points (see the other points below). Vantage points are really important to give exposition to your players. They are probably best used when creating a multiplayer map, as they can be fully utilized by players, whereas AIs usually aren’t advanced enough in games to use vantage points at their fullest. It still is important in single player games to give exposition to your players, give them a better view of what challenges will come next. It’s also a really easy way to give your player a powerful feeling. Anyone standing on top of something will tell you: you’re better here than if you were standing at ground level. Anatomically accurate representation of Verticality In MAZE, we use verticality to convey the aggressiveness and strength of the maze itself: The walls stand tall, trapping the players. The maze walls would look inoffensive if they were just too high for the player to vault over. In Mirror’s Edge, verticality is also used as an “enemy”: You have the cool, powerful feeling I described before when you are on top of a building, but you also know that if you slip, you’ll die. In short: Verticality is easy to use because it’s a natural feeling. Utilize it and don’t overthink too much.LANDMARKS Screenshots from the 3rd and 7th level, located at different places in Mirror’s Edge’s city The Shard (the big rectangular building) and the “multiple white tips” building are visible throughout the game and help players locate themselves inside the city. Valparaiso’s lighthouse (Bad Company 2) Most of Bad Company 2’s maps have a singular building, or setting, to help player differentiate the maps and also give them more personality. For example, Valparaiso’s landmark is its lighthouse. It’s probable that most players refer to Valparaiso as “the lighthouse map”. Landmarks are unique and memorable locations in your level. They help players locate themselves, in the level but also inside the whole game, and will make your area/level stand out.FOCAL POINTS The clear focal points (and landmarks) of Heavy Metal are the wind turbines. Heavy Metal is the biggest map in Bad Company 2. Heavy tanks fight each other while infantry tries to escape the firefight and go from one flag to another through areas with little to no cover, all while being careful about the choppers hovering over them. Wind turbines are scattered all along the area. Apart of being a memorable landmark, they are a really practical focal point: by looking at them, players watch the sky, and thus are reminded to be careful about the choppers in the area, as well as the many snipers who are waiting on top of the mountains on the edges of the map (and sometimes on the wind turbines). A simple focal point can change a lot on how people will experience a level. Put focal points wherever you want to guide the player’s eyes. From that point, you just have to choose how to make your focal point stand out. Going to extremes is the easiest way to go: Big, bright, colored.COVER/OCCLUSION Panama Canal — Bad Company 2 The Bad Company series offered a new way of designing cover, with a fully destructible environment. As you’re playing, walls explode, leaving players more and more vulnerable. Shootmania grids In Shootmania, you’ll often find grids in levels. You can’t shoot through them but can watch your opponents movements and give the info to your team. These grids offer cover, but no occlusion. Cover is about providing… cover (yay!) to the player(s), but can also be used to hide informations from them. It’s called occlusion. Cover and occlusion naturally happen whenever you put some solid object on your map, like a wall. You can’t shoot or see through them. You can create cover/occlusion with verticality (like the canal in the Bad Company 2 screenshot above), but also less tangible ones with lights, shadows, sounds, etc. Just think about providing interesting situations to your players. The more cover and less occlusion they’ll have, the safer they’ll feel. A simple situation involving cover in Mirror’s Edge: Players must take cover to the right to avoid being shot by the cops in the main hallway WORLD COHERENCE This industrial area seems functional. (Mirror’s Edge) Buildings in Bad Company 2 lack coherence. You can’t imagine that someone was living here. Make sure your environment is coherent with the game’s reality. To hem your level in the game world, it should always stay coherent: If your enemies are supposed to exist (as in “living THE LIFE”) inside a level, make sure the hallways are wide enough for them to use, that they have toilets and stuff like that. In the photo above, you can see that Bad Company 2 lacks coherence in its building interiors. It was probably done on purpose to offer better situations in mutliplayer. You sometimes have to sacrifice coherence to offer a better experience, but try to avoid finding yourself in these position. DESIGN COHERENCE Red is used to suggest a way to go to the player. The cop is in red too, so you know you’ll have to deal with him at some point. (Mirror’s Edge) In Mirror’s Edge, the red color is associated with Faith, the character embodied by the player, contrary to usual game codes with red being the color of negative stuff (enemies, traps…). Some areas are highlighted in red too guide the player in case he doubts what he should do. You’ll never see red used for something not related to Faith/the player. If the player is used to shooting red barrels every time he sees them because it has always given him some kind of reward, DO NOT create a new situation in the same level / area of the game where he might kill himself if he shoots a red barrel. It is important to be aware of the “codes” you put down on your game. Players are used to playing this way. Their behavior in games are heavily influenced by other games they previously played before trying yours. They will then confront these global video game codes to the first situations of your game, to try and figure what codes are applying to your game. You must be aware of the messages you convey, especially in your first levels, as they will be the bases the player relies on while experiencing the rest of the game. Think of your player as a child, with your game being his upbringing. If you send mixed messages to your kid early on, he’ll be really confused later. Be clear about your messages. Have great kids. One way to fix our red barrel problem, could be to change the color of the new barrel, so the player is aware that he should approach the situation a bit differently.CHOICES “Arland”: The first part Mirror’s Edge’s first level There are at least 4 possible routes to go over the electric fence: 1. Use the easy, suggested route and use a springboard (the red pipe) 2. Jump over on the right from the little chimney-thing 3. Wallrun then walljump from the wall on the left 4. Go to the middle roof on the left and jump over the fence from there These 4 choices are presented to the player in a smooth, binary way: you first have to choose whether you want to go to the right (1. and 2.), or to the left (3. and 4.). Then another binary choice is presented. It adds a lot of value to the level, while still leading to the same place. The player doesn’t feel trapped, or lost, when seeing this situation. Games are mostly about making choices, and Risk/Reward situations. Be sure to offer your players multiple approaches to the same situation. It adds replayability, and gives the player a better sense of freedom. Putting minor choices such as the one in Arland is also an easy way to prevent boredom for the players. Side note: Arland is at a point in the level where the player can take the time to choose his approach. On a chase scene later in the level the player shouldn’t, and doesn’t want to stop running: a unique & clear route is presented. ASSET LIST/ PRODUCTION LIST The same building is used all over the same area. And it’s not really a problem: people just want to shoot at each other. At some point you’ll have to start listing what props, sounds, effects and whatever other thingies you want to use on your level. That way, you can ask the qualified people if they can make these assets for you, or not. In this case, you’ll have to think about optimization, and modularity. Your assets should fit well with other assets, in order to have as many combinations as possible among them. FLOW Flow is a very important part of game and level design. I recommend that you check Jenova Chen’s thesis on flow. I can’t explain it better than him. Flow is mostly about making a level challenging enough for the player , without it feeling too hard to overcome. It is also about making sure the player doesn’t experience any snag: You have to make sure your player doesn’t get stuck on corners, or fails to interact with something etc. RHYTHM Rhythm is something I really like to focus on. It’s very close to the Flow and the Game Design itself. And just like Flow, it’s kinda hard to explain, as it’s really about feeling it. One way to feel it for me is to think about the inputs the Player will most likely do. Mirror’s Edge is very good for this. Most of the game revolves around muscle memory, and being in rhythm when doing runs over and over. Putting rhythm in your game will help players get into the Flow. CHOKE POINTS Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base — Bad Company 2 To arm the two objectives from Isla Innocentes’ 2nd base, infantry has to go through a narrow road, heavily defended by the opposite team. They can also try to attack by sea or land, but time has shown that the victory for this base is almost always determined inside the yellow zone on the image above. Whoever controls it wins the round. Choke points are the areas of your level where your opponents will most likely meet, and a big part of the fight will go there, with restrained movement. Counter Strike maps are all designed with choke points in mind. I would suggest you study these maps if you want to learn more about it. MULTIPLE I wrote “MULTIPLE”, all caps and everything, on my draft. It must have seemed very crucial at the time. So it’s staying here until I find what important piece of knowledge MULTIPLE refers to.CONTRAST — OUTSIDE INSPIRATION Mirror’s Edge Contrast is something vital in black & white photography. In order to have a more pleasing photo, and add depth, you have to think about alternating between dark and white zones. It’s a really precise thing, but a good segway to talk about using other medium’s rules. If you know rules used in photography, painting, cinema, or something else (gardening or sports for example), put them to use when designing your level! Of course every medium has its own rules and it’s better to design with them, but some of these rules may overlap, and it probably won’t have been done before.COLOR THEORY, COLOR HARMONY Same game, different areas, different moods, different colors. (Mirror’s Edge) The same level (Isla Innocentes) can relay a drastically different mood when changing atmospheric colors (Bad Company 2) Colors convey different emotions, and can be used to transcribe a specific mood you want to emphasize on your level. Having the same palette used in similar areas of your world is a good thing to do. You don’t need to use extremely different colors by level like in Mirror’s Edge, nuances always are a good option, and better than just throwing random colors around.BALANCE Balance is more important in multiplayer games than in solo ones. It’s about providing a fair encounter for all the players. The easiest way to balance your level is to use symmetry. But it’s been used over and over since the beginning of level design, so now we’re kinda forced to get more creative, and it’s for the best. If you give an advantage at one area of the map, using verticality or cover for example, be sure the other side also has the same kind of area somewhere else. N.B.: Most Counter Strike maps are not balanced (and mostly CT-sided), but the halftime alternation in the game design provides some sort of balance to the whole game. Seeing the big picture is important. Visual balance is also important in levels. Just like composition in other visual arts, most of the time you want to present balanced images to your player, and sometimes surprise him with a very harsh composition. Here again, symmetry is always the easy and sure way, but getting more creative to find balance is way more interesting for you and your players. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE Side note: During this scene, walls are left naked to encourage the player to use powerful wallrun kicks instead of pick a gun and shoot his way out. Mirror’s Edge run & gun gameplay is shitty: it lacks feedback, slows you down and is overall very limited and boring. It’s like the designer didn’t want you to use guns. And it’s the case. They made a design decision, and it payed off. The game distanced himself from other FPSs, by emphasizing the lightweight running and hand-to-hand combat. Your level and your game don’t need to be the best at every possible thing you can find in games.MENTAL MAPPING Arica Harbor — Bad Company 2 Arica Harbor is one of the most played map in Bad Company 2. There are many reasons to that, and one of them is the depth and various situations it offers, while staying simple. Players can locate themselves really easily. They have a mini-map, the A,B,Cflags appear at all times on the screen. Flags are aligned along the main road. There are different heights in the map (to add verticality), but it is painless to remember: It goes down like a stair, from the mountain to the sea. You should always be careful about your players mentally mapping your layouts, especially when making a game aimed at a large audience. The easier it is for a player to remember where he went, how the level is arranged, the better his experience will be. To facilitate mental mapping you can provide unique props or details to help differentiate between two almost identical hallways, put floor numbers in stairs, vantage points, landmarks, focal points etc. Keeping the same logic throughout a level also helps a lot. If your game involves backtracking, mental mapping goes from important to REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. No-one wants to get lost in a game, trying to find an exit. Make sure you are helping the players as much as possible to avoid frustration.CUT THE NOISE As fun and tempting as it can be for a level designer, you shouldn’t add too much to your environment. Having dull and empty areas is not a good thing, but over-saturating it with props everywhere will just make it worse. Details in your map must not come in the way of playability. DO WHAT YOU ARE “Leper Squint” At the end of the day, you should still feel that the level you designed comes from you. These points are important, but it’s the only one you should always respect. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make your level/game feel different, or look like a particular style, it will never feel unique unless you invest a part of yourself in what you create. . . . . . Alright, that was my advice on level design. I’m a piece of shit, so some of these points might seem wrong to other gamedevs, or wrongly named etc. But hey, feel free to call me out on it, or write your own advice piece. I like talking about LD in general so whether you have a different opinion, or are a beginner seeking advice, drop me a DM, a comment, a mail, shout my name really loud… be original, I’m not going to list all your options. Although they’re here. - Niels . . . . . *This article has been posted in its entirety with permission from the author Original Source: medium.com/ironequal/practical-guide-on-first-person-level-design-e187e45c744c Follow Niels: Website: fuckgamedev.itch.io/ Twitter: twitter.com/fuckgamedev
  4. Hello all of you fantastic and wonderful people, I am BACK! I just want to say thank you all so much for the support and kind words from part 1 of my article. Great to see that many of you enjoyed it and feel like you have learnt something from it, but we can not linger in the past, instead we must look forward to the second part of what makes good level design for combat. Introduction In the first part, I discussed how important it is for you to understand your metrics, scale, weapon, etc. All this planning helps you to create great levels, now that we have an understanding of these crucial elements, it is on us as LDs to crafts spaces that players can have a great amount of fun and enjoyment with. In this article I will be breaking down the next steps of the process of the 2d design, then looking at a level I created and breaking down what I think made it a good level for combat. Pre-production - Research Now that we have gathered all the useful information to help us we need to move through to the research stage of our level design. This stage can not and should not be skipped, it is crucial to not only making a good level but also a believable level (A quick side tangent, always keep in mind and to quote my friend Stuart Scott we are creating ‘Believable not realistic spaces’ meaning we do have creative freedom within our levels) Now you will be set a location for your level, this could be a castle, maybe a hotel or even a space station. Regardless of what that location may be you will need to make sure that you have an understanding of how these spaces work such as: What rooms do this area normally contain? Where is the toilet? How do people interact with this location before the player arrives? How does it connect to other spaces? What is its architectural style? Where can you find this location? Which country is this location located? And other such questions, in order to answer these then you must first do research. You can do this by googling pictures, then entering google maps to find a real life example, you can start to see how the location looks in real life. Videos are also a great help, or there might even be an example in other games. I strongly recommend of gathering not just images of the location but also floor plans as well. The reason for this is it helps you see the overall picture of a location as well as how some typically look. Not only that but this is a great starting point for your own level, as you can use this as a basis for your level. Even better with this, you can not start to see which rooms in a floor plan can be kept, removed or altered. Maybe there are too many rooms that are dead ends which do not give a good loop for combat, or there are not enough spaces for hidden loot, well now you can tweak these in your floor plan but still keep that location based in reality. From doing your research not only will you have a basic understanding of how the locations flows together but you can grasp the theme of location, how it looks at certain times of days, How it will look if it is abandoned or when it is fully functional. Now the gathering resources is in full motion, you can use many different cool tools to store them, from it either being a folder on your computer or Pinterest or Google Docs as long as you have easy ways to access your files that is the most important thing. It is important because you will need to make sure you have access to them while creating your level to constantly reference. Yet it is not only important for your beautiful LD eyes but it will come in handy in reviews, so that when leads or directors are checking your work they can see why it looks the way it does but also helps them understand how you got to this layout and why, also this will really help your teammates in Enviro Art so they can get a much more vivid vision of how the location should look. As for example you may be asked to build a level set in a church, but this church is built in a Latin community. Yet when I think of a church I visualize a huge Gothic church in the shape of a cross, but that would never fit inside a Latin community. By doing your research you can see how different areas and communities view the same space, making sure you create more authentic and believable spaces. Once you have gathered enough references (50 images minimum in my opinion) you can start to move to the next step. Pre-production - 2d Map One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “Max should I do 2d maps, is that the right way?” now for me the answer is yes. I used to do them and then stopped and just jumped straight into the blockout, but I noticed that my quality of my work decrease as well as it taking longer when staring at that ominous blank screen. There are many reasons I believe 2d sketches to be important, such as: Quicker to start work on blockout Easier to address feedback Allows you to see the flaws quicker Helps you go through multiple iterations before choosing and starting a blockout Now I know some of my other friends and other designers I have met use Google Sketch-Up before creating their blockout as it helps get a better sense of scale. Honestly both are great, the point you should take away from this section is that you need to plan before your blockout. People also feel that when they do a 2d map or a form of planning they feel that they are trapped? I put a ‘?’ because you should not. This is a plan meaning this can and should change, this is your starting point! Meaning that you can and must make changes as you see fit, I even did this in a recent level I made, do not be afraid to change from your plan if it does not feel right. Now with these points added to your pipeline of level creation we are going to do a break down of a combat level I created and break it down. (Before we do this though, do make sure to check out this great article which is fantastic for what to think about when creating your levels and brings forth some additional points on things to consider when making your levels) Case Study - Part 1 Okay, you now know how important pre-production is to your level, we are now going to get to the sexy part, which is the level itself. I created a small combat level for a task, now we will be breaking down the level and showing what I believe helps make this level good for combat. Quick side note, all of those documents in part one were my design rules and metrics and those were what I was referring to when I created my level. This level was not built or set on any particular location, we had a week to create Three combat spaces, so there is no reference images, just more of me creating a space that felt right. With no research I had my restrictions for space of 30x30m as well I could only use five enemies, with cover spacing of 2m and with that I created my 2d map. As you can see, it is not the prettiest of sketches but it gets the job done. It is very important when you do a sketch that you do use grid paper. The reason for this that you can get a sense of scale as well when it comes to putting it in the editor it you can translate the cube on the paper for 1m and use that to block out your level in the editor. When creating the level (and hopefully you can see this) that I wanted essentially split the space into quarters, so that the player could feel a difference in each section, but also feel a sense of progression. Quartering the level allowed me to reveal information to the player slowly, not just throwing them into the middle of a battle ground. It allows the player to focus on the task at hand, before showing more slowly, also by hiding certain information from the player it also plays to their disadvantage making the challenge feel even stronger. Another reason I was splitting up the space is the fact that it can and will reduce Long lines of sight. This way it forces players to move through the space in order to engage in combat, while also making them move to get an understanding of how the space is connected. Part of how I quarter the level is by dividing the space between interior and exterior spaces, most of the right hand side is set in the interior space, while the left hand space is kept in the open space to the exterior. This is handy for combat as players will have a different feel in each of the spaces. Exterior - players will have bigger spaces to engage in combat, having flanking opportunities, as well as having a larger line of sight to deal with and keep an eye on as enemies progress. Interior - players will be kept in a much more narrow space forcing them to focus on the front of combat as they battle with the enemies to move forward. Not only is this designed to have a visual separation but also designed like this to provide a number of ways in which players have to deal with the different encounters as well, making the space feel different too. You have now seen why I have decided to quarter the layout but it would not be much of a plan if I did not think about how the enemies occupy this space. Here is the plan I had for my enemies in the space as well: (The enemies are the Red Diamonds with the giant E, inside them. While the player is the Green Circle, with the P inside it) Before I jump to why I have placed the enemies in this position I want to talk about the players position first. This is sometimes an oversight when designing a level but trust me when I say, how the player first sees the level will inform how they play your level. One of the biggest/basic mistakes I see in beginners work is that the designer places the player facing the wrong direction, so make sure you place the players avatar facing the direction you want them to move towards. Look at how Mario always faces the right as players must move right. With that same context I have it so my player faces forward leading them towards the window and to the turning on the left (we will break down why that is important later) but a big reason why I have placed the player a bit away from enemies is for safety. Players can start my level without feeling pressure right away. Allowing them to find their bearing before entering combat. Switching gears now, we will look at enemy placement, now I have only showed you their starting off placement not their patrol route. We will talk about their route when it comes to the blockout phase. One of the key things I have tried to do here is that I have tried to hide enemies from the players initial view. If you look at both the top right and bottom left, there are two enemies in each section, yet only one is visible in the players initial LoS. The reason behind this is: To surprise the player, this way it keeps the engagement interesting Reward the players who do not go in guns blazing, those who statergise and truly take in the level will be able to not be caught off guard. Conclusion From this article I hope you have understood the importance of research and planning, this is a necessary stage to make great levels, as well as seeing some questions you should as yourself as you start working on your level. Always make sure to build up a library of references because the more you know the more authentic and believable your space will become. Floor plans are a great place to start when it comes to creating your own 2d maps, as you can use them to help ground your level or even the foundation of your own level. 2d maps don’t need to be art, as long as it is understandable and makes sense then that is the most important thing. Plan the position of your player and your enemies as that will help you get an even better understanding of how the level will actually flow with your objectives. I was planning for us to start looking over the blockout of the level but honestly I think it has turned out better that we have focused solely on the planning phase of development. Because now you can understand how important it is, as well as see my thought process when creating this level. Next will be the concluding part of this mini-series on making a combat level. I did not want to explain all of my design choices in this post as you will see in the next part that some of changed, but also I believe it will be better to see them within the level I have built. Please Support Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you have found it useful. If you do want to hear more about my thoughts on level design, then please checkout my podcast: iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K Read Part 3 Here: Follow Max Level Design Lobby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCncCrL2AVwpp7NJEG2lhG9Q Website: http://www.maxpears.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  5. Introduction The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and insight for designers who are creating or working on a multiplayer level. I will address such topics as Flow, Item Placement, Initial Design, Architecture, and Testing. Although Capture the Flag and other team games are rarely addressed specifically throughout this document, because they are typically for a minimum of four players (two teams of two), with a higher number more often being the case (e.g. 4 on 4, 6 on 6). That being said, many of these guidelines will apply to those types of games as well. (The major new issue in a cooperative/team game is how the new goals will affect gameplay. For example, if capturing the flag and returning to your base is more important than killing your opponents, then a speed power-up may become more important than a better weapon. For another example, consider a location in the map that might be very difficult to hold in free-for-all play, but would become very easy to control for two teammates.) There are many accepted design principles that apply to level design in general. These will not be discussed in depth in this document, and include such things as: Attention to detail. Use of a consistent theme. Effective use of sound and lighting to convey an atmosphere. Sufficient time on either end of the design curve (i.e. planning and testing). However, there are many aspects of the multiplayer experience that can be handled incorrectly if approached from a single-player point of view. This will often result in the production of lower quality, unbalanced, poorly planned levels that will provide a disappointing multiplayer experience. For emphasis: You cannot reliably design good multiplayer levels from a single player point of view. Since overall level flow and item placement are two of the ways in which multiplayer level design differs most dramatically from single player level design, these two aspects will be mentioned first, then followed by more general design principles. Important: The following design guidelines in this document are general rules. As with all general rules, there are always exceptions and special cases. Sometimes good level designers can ignore some of these guidelines and produce excellent levels... but it's not the way to bet. Flow For purposes of this document, flow is defined as a combination of direction of movement, speed of movement, and pace of movement through a level. In a level with an extremely high degree of flow, a player will be able to move at a relatively consistent pace from any area of the level to another with a minimum of dramatic changes in direction and speed. In a level with poor flow, there will be starts and stops, awkward geometry to navigate, edges and corners to get stuck on, and many dead-end areas. Multiple entrances and exits Ideally, any major area in a level should have at least two (and preferably at least three) ways in or out (e.g. a room might have two hallways leading into it, a ledge above it that the player can drop from, and hole in the floor that a player can jump into to get to another area (three ways in, three ways out). To explore the idea of multiple entrances and exits, and the resulting effects on gameplay a bit further, imagine a room like the one below. "W" is a powerful weapon, and "H" is a health kit, and the room has exits/entrances on the north and east walls, and is somewhat flat and unremarkable: It's relatively simple in this particular example for a player to "camp" the weapon by standing in the corner and keeping a sharp eye on both doorways, attacking any player who tries to enter, and using the health kit to counterbalance any damage he or she might have received. Keep in mind that this "camper" does not have quite the same advantage that he would in a typical first person shooter (i.e. It's much more difficult to be sneaky in a game where the other player can easily look at your part of the split screen to see where you are), but it's still a tactic that can have a significant effect on gameplay. Consider the change below: Another door has been added on the west, the health has been moved to the NW corner, and the weapon has been moved to the south wall. Three doorways across a much wider field of view are more difficult to watch than two, and if the player still tries to camp the weapon, he or she has to move back and forth a bit more to obtain the health. This also leaves the camper open to attack by two or more other players from radically different directions (and it's much more difficult to watch what two or three people are doing on the split screen than it is to watch what one person is doing). For another approach, consider the following: The weapon has been moved to a spot between the two doorways where any player who moves through that corner of the room can quickly grab it, and the health is now by itself in the SW corner. Above the health is a shaft from the room above--impossible to travel up, but easy to see down and jump down. This produces some interesting gameplay possibilities and tactics. If a player is camping the weapon, he can be attacked easily through either doorway, and will find it difficult to watch both doorways at once. Suppose he decides to wait in the far corner, picking up health if he needs it, and ambush a player trying to get the weapon? It may work once or twice, but when his opponent catches on, the player will be attacked from a position of relative safety above, or his opponent will simply pay more attention to the player's position via the split screen. Relatively simple changes in room design and item placement can produce much more complex and flexible gaming situations. Note that teleporters, which instantly whisk a player from place to place, can serve to increase connectivity and flow within a level if the level geometry itself is uncooperative. However, teleporters are also easily abused by being used as a quick fix for substandard level design that shouldn't have seen the light of day in the first place. Clipping Geometry "Invisible boxes", "clip brushes", "see-through walls"--different terms for unseen geometry that aids the player in navigating through the level with minimal difficulty. Ideally, this aid should be of the subtle variety--anything that is too intrusive might distract the player from any immersion in the game world that has been created. For example, if there is a slightly protruding arch in a hallway that players tend to get caught on when moving down the hallway, the designer could place an invisible box along the length of the hallway on both sides with the inner plane of the box flush with the inner edge of the arch. What if the arch sides didn't protrude slightly, but instead stuck quite far into the hallway? A box that kept the player from getting anywhere near the wall would be an obvious and blatant "fix", but the designer could place a wedge-shaped brush on the near and far edges of both sides of the arch to gently force the player out and around the arch as they passed by. *Note: The use of clipping geometry will differ somewhat depending on whether the game in question is first person or third person. Something that might work well, and feel relatively unobtrusive from a first person point of view, might be very obvious and clumsy when experienced from a third-person perspective (and vice versa). This is just one area where a great deal of playtesting and feedback is essential. Dead ends In general, dead ends are a bad idea in any multiplayer level for a number of reasons: Dead ends promote poor flow. If a player has to stop or do a U-turn at the end of a dead end passage, then that area is somewhat awkward and clumsy. Dead ends are boring and/or frustrating. The player has to travel back through an area that he or she has just seen. Dead ends can easily result in "no-win" situations for a player. If he or she is trapped in a dead-end, there is no option for a tactical retreat. However, although the preceding points are generally true, in specific situations dead-ends can be useful (e.g. a powerful weapon or item can be placed in a dangerous dead-end in order to properly balance the value of the item with the risk involved in obtaining it). Summary: Have two (and preferably three) ways in and out. Think "outside the box". There are always multiple solutions to a level design problem. Use clipping geometry to aid flow and navigation. Use dead ends sparingly and for very specific reasons. Keep lines of sight in mind, and be aware that different camera views can produce unusual situations. Item Placement Poor item placement can turn an otherwise solid multiplayer level into an unbalanced and irritating gaming environment and can interfere dramatically with flow. Excellent item placement can add much-needed spice to an otherwise forgettable level, and accentuate the architecture and environment that has been created. The items in a multiplayer environment can be divided into four basic types: Offensive Items (e.g. weapons, ammo) There is generally a maximum amount of damage that a player is able to inflict in a given period of time in a given situation. Offensive items increase that amount. Defensive Items (e.g. health, armor) Defensive items increase the amount of damage that a player is able to endure, make that damage have less effect on the player, or allow the player to avoid those effects. Special/Other Items (e.g. binoculars, mine sweeper, jet pack) These are items that can somehow change the balance of the game in a way that isn't purely offensive or defensive (but could strengthen offense or defense for a player, depending on the player's particular situation). Team Items These are items that somehow affect game goals in cooperative play. The best-known example would be the flags in traditional two-team Capture the Flag. Flags are traditionally placed in two opposing bases that often have the same layout, geometry, and item placement (to more easily avoid giving one team a subtle advantage over the other). As a side note: As previously mentioned, this document does not focus on capture the flag (and similar games) to any great degree. However, one of the simplest ways to introduce a CTF-like element into a map for fewer players is to have some single power item or power spot on the map that a player gets points for holding or capturing. Item Quantity and Placement There is a fine balance to item quantity. There should be enough items to make it relatively easy to get the most basic necessities (e.g. basic weapons, some degree of health/protection), but not so many items that the challenge is eliminated and the player is stumbling over some new item every few steps. Generally, there should be fewer of the more powerful items in a level. There would be no reason to pick up the weaker items if there was a better item nearby. The more rare and powerful items can also be placed in locations that are more difficult and/or more dangerous to reach. There is nothing necessarily wrong with placing a powerful item in plain sight in the middle of the level where it is easily reachable by all the players. This placement in itself can add an element of danger as players wait nearby, simply watching the item, and attack other players as they approach. Just realize that much of the action will occur around that powerful item, and that there should be sufficient incentive for players to travel to other parts of the level. Powerful items can also be used to "balance" the level. In other words, if there is a powerful item or weapon at a certain location within a level, a good designer will be likely to put a similarly powerful item or weapon in another area of the level. This accomplishes three things: It makes it less effective to try to "camp" either item. It encourages players to move gameplay around the level. It makes it harder for a player to continually have both items and more easily control the game. Finally, some weapons can be placed in such a way that they are not only balanced to some extent, but also encourage more game flow and movement through a level. One simple example would be to place a sniper rifle in an enclosed area in the depths of a level--in order to make the best use of it, a player would have to get the item, and then travel up to the top of a high tower to get the best vantage point from which to snipe at other players. Ammunition and Minor Item Placement The placement of ammunition (if it exists in the game separately from the weapons), and the placement of minor items can be a much more subtle process then the placement of powerful items, and can be approached in different ways. Furthermore, many of the fine points will be very dependent on specific game mechanics. For example, a game with differing levels of health (or healing potion, or whatever generic "more life" item it happens to have) can have a much more complicated and "fine-tuned" item layout than a game with only one type of healing item. If a game has multiple weapon types and multiple ammo types (or even multiple ammo types for each weapon), this will result in more fine-tuning and more complicated decisions for the designer. A good general rule to remember is that if a player has everything he/she needs in one area, then there's little reason (gameplay-wise) to leave that area and explore the rest of the map. Item Setting It can add significant atmosphere and "feel" to a level if the items are placed in appropriate settings, and not just strewn about in relatively equidistant spots. One good (albeit subjective) rule of thumb: Every area of a level should be attractive enough for a player to want to visit it. Creating a proper item setting is a much more subjective process than some of the ideas that have been mentioned previously, as it deals with artistry and aesthetics rather than easily quantifiable factors such as damage and movement. Items, especially powerful items, are best placed like a gemstone placed in a ring. Impressive and/or detailed geometry, eye-catching lighting, or even props and other items can all be combined to create a memorable setting for items. Camping Revisited As was touched on above, it is very easy to create a situation in a multiplayer level wherein a powerful item (or even a not-so-powerful item) is placed in such a way that it is very easy to defend once it's obtained, and a player can "camp-out" at that location and dominate others who attack that position or try to get that item. For example, a machine-gun with a large supply of ammo and a health kit are placed at the end of a long corridor, behind a pillbox with a small "gunner slot" to shoot through. A player can stay there for a long time racking up victories with relative ease. While this example is an extreme one for illustrative purposes, it is easy to make this mistake in more subtle ways. This mistake becomes less likely if the designer uses the "at least two ways out" guideline, and incorporates some sort of vulnerability into every major item placement. Item Placement and Player Start Locations There seem to be two schools of thought on placement of player start locations relative to weapons and items, the first being: "Players should have to work to get good items/weapons. Gameplay becomes boring when players always have access to all the good items immediately upon starting a level." The opposing point of view goes something like: "When it's a difficult process to get good items and weapons, then the player who wins any particular skirmish always has the advantage, since he/she already has all the good stuff, and the defeated player has to restart, recollect items, and possibly fight off a beefed-up opponent while doing so." There is no clear answer or definitive formula to resolving this issue. Both points have some validity, and it will usually be safest to try to place your player spawn points while keeping both these points in mind. This is an issue that is usually resolved best with a great deal of playtesting. Ideally, player start locations should be placed with the following additional things in mind: Player starts should not be in a direct line of sight with each other. If they are, this potentially eliminates a major part of a good multiplayer game: maneuvering and responding based on where your opponent is (or where you think he is), and reacting to his movements with appropriate strategy or tactics. Player starts should be placed in places that are "off the beaten path" to some extent. It can put a player at an unfair disadvantage if he/she appears in the middle of a central combat area in the level, and can be frustrating if he/she is immediately defeated before gaining any real momentum. There should always be at least two nearby exits from any player start location. A player spawning into the game in a no-win situation (because a beefed-up opponent has them trapped in a dead end) is simply a result of poor level design. Secrets Finally, placing items in "secret" locations is generally a bad idea in multiplayer levels, since there will often be one or more players who don't know how to obtain the item (bad enough), but may be unaware that it even exists (worse). This sets up a dynamic wherein one player can easily dominate another player or players, only because of the "insider" knowledge that he or she possesses, and results in a blatantly unfair situation which can frustrate and anger players. (Note that I am not referring to items that are simply very difficult to obtain. If everyone knows where it is, it isn't a secret.) Again, although the preceding is generally true, there are some ways to make secrets work in a limited way in multiplayer games: The secret shouldn't be a "game-winner". A secret that gives someone an overwhelming advantage in a game = bad idea. A secret that helps a player slightly, or that simply gives some background color, or information of some kind about the game world = good idea. Secrets that are a relative "one-shot" (i.e. once the secret is discovered, pretty much all the players will know about it) are much less unbalancing. Secrets that have a random factor can work. These can be fun without being too unbalancing. For example, suppose there's a somewhat out-of-the-way spot where a powerful weapon will appear 5% of the time instead of the regular health that appears the rest of the time. Further suppose that there is no additional ammo for the weapon, and that there is no other weapon of this type in the level. This results in a player randomly finding this weapon on rare occasion and only using it for a very short time (thus being likely to establish no serious advantage). In a situation like this, "insider" information can be fun and can produce some interesting gameplay situations (as players begin to shadow the other player trying to find out where the "odd" weapon came from). Summary: • Balance item quantity carefully--enough items, but not too many. • Use powerful items sparingly and in a balanced way. • Spread minor items out, and avoid all-in-one locations. • Place items in a setting to be more aesthetically pleasing. • Make locations of powerful items dangerous or vulnerable. • Handle secrets with care to avoid unbalanced gameplay. Initial Design The initial design process can be a dramatically different one for different designers. Some individuals greatly enjoy it, because it allows them to visualize the level in broad strokes and come up with various ideas without necessarily needing to address some of the more "tedious" or "exacting" details that will appear near the end of the construction process. Other designers struggle to come up with a new and creative idea, or a broad outline, but excel in providing the fine points of a level's look and feel. Some level architects plan out their levels in exacting detail on grid paper beforehand, or work from detailed concept sketches, while others simply start from scratch, allowing ideas to evolve as they work. Both approaches have their pros and cons: A high level of preplanning assures that the designer won't wander off down the wrong track and possibly waste a great deal of time and energy, but can also stifle creativity and force a designer into "mental blinders" that reduce his or her potential. Summary: Everyone has their own way of working... but don't be afraid to think "outside the box" of your own habits, and possibly discover methods that will work better for you. Also, don't assume that work habits that were effective with one set of tools/one game/one design process will work well all the time. General Testing and Game Mechanics Testing is at least as important in multiplayer levels as it is in single player levels, and some would say that it's more important because the actions of a group of players are more unpredictable than the actions of a single player. While multiplayer levels are simpler in some ways than single player levels, players in a multiplayer setting can try new things (and find new problems) that might not have occurred if they were playing alone. Some design questions become exponentially more complicated when designing levels with a multiplayer focus. A few of the basic points to consider in testing and game mechanics: Testing Start Locations If you are one person testing a multiplayer level, it's easy to overlook non-functional or flawed start locations, especially if the start location is not always randomized, and if you do not have any sort of artificial opponents. Always make sure all start locations work consistently and correctly. Gameplay habits We all have a tendency to do things in a certain way, and repeat habits. The only way to be sure that the gameplay in a level isn't broken in some major way is to have the level playtested by someone (preferably many players) other than the designer. That being understood, you can at least playtest better as a designer by doing everything you can to break up your habits--if you find yourself always following a particular path in a level, then consciously go another way. Pretend that you haven't memorized every nook and cranny, and try to play like a new player: "Gee, I wonder what's over here..." Try to look at your map with new eyes, and you will often find problems or possibilities that you didn't realize were there. Gameplay mechanics Be aware that all games--even all multiplayer combat games--have different (sometimes radically different) gameplay mechanics. A couple of notable examples: Camera Angle Lines of sight are as important in multiplayer level design as they are in single player level design. Being able to see an enemy, or be seen by an enemy, is a key factor to victory. When playing from a third-person perspective (again, depending to some extent on camera movement) it's relatively easy to see where players are in relation to one another, and, if you are in a relatively high position, to potentially get a bird's-eye perspective on the entire field of play. In addition, when you are in a low position in a third-person game, it can be quite difficult to see what is above you when compared with a first-person game. When playing a first-person game, your field of view is limited horizontally to approximately 90 degrees, so losing track of your opponent can happen in the literal blink of an eye. In a first-person game, it's pretty much impossible to see anything that your in-game character wouldn't be able to see (i.e. you see through the character's eyes). In a third-person game, the circumstances involved in having a third-person camera view that doesn't necessarily change consistently with player movement can result in a variety of unusual possibilities at any given moment: If it's a console game, no players can see the others directly, but everyone still knows where all the players are by looking at split screens. No players can see the others directly, but players can shoot the other players (e.g. with a weapon like the grenade launcher or mortar that can shoot in an ascending-descending arc). Players can see each other directly, but players can't shoot each other. (This can happen if the players are positioned in such a way that the camera sees around a corner or over an obstacle for each player.) One player can see and shoot at another player without it being possible for the other player to see him directly, or hit him with return fire. (This could happen if, for instance, a player had a high vantage point, and was behind an obstacle of some sort. Direct fire from the other player would hit the obstacle, and arcing fire would either overshoot or collide with other geometry.) Line of sight issues are further complicated by the fact that any player might be able to kneel or drop prone at any time, which could change any of the above situations. It is also possible in some third-person games for a player to change the camera angle without actually moving (by rotating the camera in place). This makes it possible to stand facing in one direction, but keep a 360-degree watch. This would, of course, only provide an advantage in certain situations, and if you have the control skills to make it useful. Also, consider the effect of ground cover on combat. In a first-person game, the heavy use of ground cover (e.g. bushes, low walls, obstacles) can easily obscure the field of play and add a hide-and-sneak element, emphasizing the importance of accurate prediction of an opponent's tactics. In a third person game with any sort of height to the camera angle, this sort of ground cover is more of a simple obstruction to movement than a serious influence on tactics and strategy. These issues become very important to a level designer when questions about gameplay, balance, and tactics arise. Auto-Aiming For another example, consider the subject of auto-aiming. Auto-aiming (when the computer/game system does some of the work of aiming for the player), gives a very different feel to a skirmish, and a player must concentrate more on positioning, movement, and any other ways in which he or she can help the auto-aiming system along, and less on accurate crosshair positioning and shot-timing. Summary: Test extensively with real gameplay. Break up habits. Get another point of view. Alter your design to best utilize the specific gameplay mechanics and tactics that will be involved. Research To make good multiplayer levels, and to continue to grow in his or her skills, a designer needs to play lots of good multiplayer levels, and, unfortunately, the only way to play lots of good levels is to wade through even more levels that aren't so good. While you're playing a particular level, analyze what is working in that particular level--very simply, what makes that level good and not bad? If you don't know quite specific answers to that question, then you may not be able to create the same great gameplay and fun experience in your levels, and if you do, it may be by accident rather than by design. Finally, write things down. That may sound obvious and slightly juvenile, but you will not remember important things if you don't. I have a simple text file called "tips" that I just copy and paste tidbits of various kinds into--technical tips, design tips, interesting gaming anecdotes, "here's a great idea for a level" bits, obscure design facts, and so forth. If you have any doubt if you should put something in, go ahead and put it in, then review the file periodically and weed out things that are outdated, have lost their usefulness, or were just never quite as useful as you thought they might be. Summary: • Keep looking. • Keep learning. Source: http://www.robotrenegade.com/articles/multiplayer-level-design-guide.html *Note: This article is shared in full on Next Level Design in accordance with the Creative Commons Guidelines noted on the source site. Follow Patrick Website: http://www.pjwnex.us/ lvlworld: https://lvlworld.com/author/pjw Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp .galleria, .galleria-container { height:480px !important }
  6. In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to take your top down map layout sketch for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive map and begin blocking in BSP in Hammer level editor. We will create a floor plan of the map in order to test gameplay timing of choke points, objectives and path routes. This process has to happen before creating the shell of the environment, add any detail, props, texture or light the map. In this tutorial you will learn: How to take your top down layout sketch and BSP block-in your map. How to time your choke points and path routes. Workflow of the process How to BSP block in and test your layout for gameplay Follow this link to read the article in its' entirety: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categories/csgo-tutorials/csgo-from-top-down-layout-to-bsp-block-in-workflow.php Follow World of Level Design Website: https://www.worldofleveldesign.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameLevelDesign Book: https://www.amazon.com/Preproduction-Blueprint-Environments-Level-Designs/dp/1539103188/ Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  7. As our frequent readers know, one stylistic cornerstone of InnerSpace is the image of a strange, foreign tower jutting out from rock formations, bending over the curve of a hollowed-out planet. These aren’t merely exterior decoration, though, as the player can enter and explore many of these towers. We’ve written about our level design process in the past, but as the game evolved, so too has this methodology. Here, I wanted to reveal a bit about our new tower design process, and show a bit about what goes into creating a game about flow. Here’s a quick version of the steps: 1. Draw it on paper, usually during meetings or the bus ride to and from work. 2. Whitebox in Unity with ProBuilder, creating plenty of abhorrent geometry. Iterate ceaselessly. 3. Apply modules to create the form, balancing looks (important) with function (still important, I guess). 4. Finalize and optimize geometry. This is the point of no return, so all iteration leads here. Each stage carries a number of considerations, from the speed of completion to what the player sees when they exit the tower. Through each step, these considerations morph and take on different weights as we move from 2d to 3d, then through different versions of the same central concept. In the end, we hope to end up with a smooth space that provokes curiosity and encourages the player to fly in daring ways. Step 1: Draw It This stage covers everything from tiny doodles in my pocket sketchbook to slightly larger, more deliberate drawings in my larger sketchbook. Early on, we’re looking to nail down the overall form, the core mechanic concepts, and the essential flow and feeling of the tower. Rough photo of the rough sketch. This is the height of precision-engineered levels. It helps to look at this method in contrast to more traditional, some might say, precise versions of level design. Whereas an FPS or more floor-bound game is served well by rooms plotted on graph paper, we face a central challenge of designing levels in full 3d with a player in near-constant motion. So, instead of encountering spaces as individually parseable, explorable segments, an InnerSpace player instead moves endlessly. Any evaluation or decision-making needs more lead time, and spaces themselves have to facilitate forward motion. While taking measurements and relating space-traveled to time-traveled is useful, the core of each tower rests in the possibilities for forward momentum found within. What’s it all for? The lofty goal of each tower is: introduce a new space in the world, mechanically and experientially, drawing them to explore and find lost relics. Each tower should build on player’s flight knowledge and lead them somewhere new. Where to start? Site selection Whether in the shallows, mountains, or fallen into an abyss, a tower’s context plays a role in helping shape the kind of interaction that suits it best, as well as the space we have to work with. This context also sets up the basic shape the tower will take. For example, if nested against mountains, the tower will likely rise vertically to match the terrain, wrap around the ridge, or possibly shoot through the mountain itself as a series of tunnels. Central Concept Each tower is built according to a combination of ideas, coalescing around a central chamber, an essential flow, or both. Chamber: The focal point around which the rest of the tower is built. It’s usually a goal or a resting spot of some kind, and isn’t always an entrance. Essential flow: As mentioned above, the player is in constant motion, and InnerSpace is meant to be more relaxing than stressful. That means that more confined spaces (i.e., anything indoors) need to present decision points without introducing hard stops that would force a player to crash. We have areas where it’s advantageous to stall, but even when stalling the plane moves. Regular maze-like room layouts won’t work. Instead we key into the concept of “flow.” Flow isn’t very scientific here. It basically means that I can draw a line through a level that doesn’t curve back on itself at an angle less than, say, 45 degrees. It’s a loose concept intended to help make levels that take advantage of constant motion. In a tower (or section) designed around flow, a general shape will form out of this initial stroke. Because this stage doesn’t worry about 3D precision, the flow can remain relatively loosely defined, forming an idea of the shapes and structures that will be needed to actually form the space. One final consideration at this stage is the way our tower will sit on the interior curve of the planet. Because the structures become rather large, they can stretch across multiple gravity tangents. Inside, this results in spaces that appear to curve upward and hallways at interesting angles. Beats: Larger towers are usually made of a few different shapes and segments, each designed independently, but with context in mind. When imagining how each will link together, it’s helpful to think of each segment as “beats.” This turns compounds of structures into a kind of rhythmic build, linking the feeling of motion to the twisting, expansion, and contraction of space at different intervals. Once a number of sketches covering these angles are complete, it’s time to prototype in Unity. Step 2: Whitebox with ProBuilder This takes up the bulk of our time in level creation, but there’s not a whole lot of new philosophy at this stage. In Unity, we use a tool called ProBuilder, which lets you create and edit (relatively simple) geometry directly in-editor. This greatly speeds up prototyping and iteration, as we no longer have to hop between Blender and our scene to make level adjustments. Without this more organic editing ability, it would be a sight more difficult to build levels to fit the model so-far discussed. The general form, in ProBuilder geometry. At this stage, it’s all down to building and iterating to strike a balance between realizing and improving upon the initial sketch. Taking the sketches, I build out the essential structures, then size internally and externally to fit both the site and the allowances of the plane’s speed and handling. Usually, this amounts to lengthening hallways, expanding angles on curves, or dropping pillars into the middle of tall chambers. While our foundational ideas are formed with certain assumptions about how the game plays, it’s only in-engine that such projections are proven, or else shown to be delusions. A look from inside the “central chamber” of this tower. Throughout this stage I produce a hefty pile of abhorrent geometry (sorry, Steve), but it mostly gets the job done as we perform playtests and iterate on the towers. While the surroundings are taken into account throughout the process, it’s usually after a few stages of iteration that the whiteboxed tower is dropped into the environment, where more changes can be made if necessary. Step 3: Give It Form To speed our level creation process, and save the sanity of our 3D artists, we’ve maintained a modular tower construction(kitbashing) system throughout the project. At this stage, we select modules and actually form the tower. The same tower, “skinned” with modules. You can see how the exterior expresses the interior form, while adding on additional detail. Also, note how the segment on the right bends towards the left- this is accounting for the planet’s curvature. There are some basic rules here. For one, the tower itself should obey, or at least bear evidence of, the changing direction of gravity as it straddles the curvature of the planet. As a result, towers tend to exhibit braced, almost cantilevered forms that push up and out from the water. While we have to be careful not to design death traps within the interiors, we gain much more freedom when constructing the external shapes of each tower. Beyond basic constraints and needs (i.e., the modules should cover/contain the interior form), the specifics of each tower arise out of fun and experimentation. What shapes and forms would be cool to fly over, around, and under? In some cases, this thinking has resulted in additional rooms or sections being grafted into the outside of towers. Since stylistic considerations enter into it here, it’s worth mentioning our two tower materials and the way they interact: stone plates and metal rails. If you remember our tripartite aesthetic goals from way back, you’ll get why using these materials well is so important. Visually, rails add contrast and dynamic, strong lines that can support or cut across the “body” built of stone plates. In terms of the aesthetics of worldbuilding, the rails define form and show, quite boldly, the way that a tower stands against the changing gravity across the planet’s surface. Functionally, in terms of the player’s experience, they help delineate and hint at a tower’s interior flow, and they themselves form exterior flight paths. Step 4: Boolean + Detail This step has little to no design work, and is basically up to Steve, one of our 3D artists, and whether he wants to put up with my ProBuilder geometry or not. So far, he hasn’t flat-out refused to do it, so kudos to him there. The direction of the rails hints at the flow of the interior. Here, you can also see glass and some of the hanging civilization added in the last stage. Here, there’s a fun process whereby the individual module meshes are joined into one, optimized piece (rails and stone separate). Then, the interior form is subtracted from this mesh, and it’s all further cleaned up and detailed with floor patterns and doors. Certain towers have interior structures added, though these usually emphasize, rather than fully alter, the flow of a space. Finally, relics and other discoverable points of interest are placed, along with external structures like hanging gardens and the rail-dwelling civilization that built them. As well as we can, we repeat this process for everything from towers to natural formations in the Ice World and beyond. While I love the process and the details, ultimately it comes down to how well the spaces flow in their final form, and how empowered and enlivened a player feels tackling their halls head-on. *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: http://polyknightgames.com/level-design-designing-for-flow/ Follow Eric Website: https://emgrossman.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/EM_Grossman
  8. IntroductionThe following is a recap of an article from David Ballard that was posted on 80 Level. Follow the link at the end of this post for the full article. In this article, David walks us through his multiplayer level design process. David explains that he had originally build for co-op play. Representation of the PlayerIn order to be able to understand the players will feel and interact inside a play space, it's critical to put yourself in digital shoes. From there, you must understand and support the overall conceptual goals and approach of the game you're designing for. Blocking Out the General SpaceAt the Blockout stage, David worked on things like geometrical focal points, movement options, and scaling. He started off with a drawing, and made adjustments as needed as he transitioned it into a 3D world. Making AdjustmentsAs is always the case in a collaborative environment, it's critical to be flexible, and able to develop creative alternatives quickly. Adding Assets to the LevelIt's time to get fancy. After plenty of playtesting and iterating, David's next step was to begin adding assets. ConclusionFinally, the level is complete. David looks back at the rewards and lessons that came of it. Source: https://80.lv/articles/the-last-of-us-multiplayer-level-design-process/Follow DavidSite: http://www.davidgballard.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/DBalArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/dbal
  9. In this article, originally posted on Bungie.net, Chris Carney, designer at Bungie for 15 years, shares some insight into the level design process used to create the Halo: Reach map The Cage. His intent is to provide food for thought for those jumping into Halo's Forge Mode, but it's most definitely applicable to anyone with an interest in level design.The article starts off at...well...the start of the design process: Chris suggests starting out by answering 3 questions: How many players is your level going to be designed for? What are the Primary and Secondary Gametypes that will be played on it? Will the maps have Vehicles? Of course, these questions may vary depending upon the game you're designing for, but you get the point. Once you have your answers, we move on to the initial design stage. The form this takes can vary greatly from person to person, so Chris suggests using whichever method works best for you. For the purposes of this article, Chris ultimately decided to use The Cage as his example level. He stated that it "started off as a small to mid-sized, 4 – 8 player map, intended for Team Slayer and map possession gametypes such as Stockpile that was going to use some ideas from Lockout and feature outer circulation similar to Ascension and the Pit." Chris then begins to systematically work through what he calls "the seven essential multiplayer design elements." Element #1: Simplicity Element #2: Orientation Element #3: Navigation Element #4: Flow/Circulation Now we get into the nitty gritty - the actual design process used for The Cage. Chris started out knowing that the level would consist of isolated combat areas, akin to Lockout. He explains that they used colored cardboard cutouts to start out, with green boxes representing rooms, blue rectangles being bridges, a yellow circle signifying a platform, and red circles designating alternative movement options (teleporters, lifts, jumps). Element #5: Hard Points Chris continues to share further iterations, along with supporting cardboard cutout images, which you can see by following the link at the end of this post. And then he comes to the next of his seven essential elements. Element #6: Layout of Game Objects Which brings us to the final critical element. Element #7: Iteration After this brief interlude to finalize his list of essential elements, Chris returns to The Cage. And finally, we get to the editor. Chris jumps into forge and begins constructing his well prepared level, making various further adjustments as he went along. As was the case earlier, Chris provides more detail on the iteration process, which can be seen in the original article. And with that, we reach the end of our lesson. Read the full article here: http://halo.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?cid=29601 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  10. Splash Damage has released the Game Design Document for Dirty Bomb to the public. One section of this document consists of notes on the Map Designs. This section can be seen below:Map Designs: Gallery: Terminal Redux: Dome Redux: Vault: Heist: Castle: View the entire document here: https://www.splashdamage.com/news/the-design-of-dirty-bomb/
  11. Table Of Contents: I. Introduction A. Purpose B. Audience C. Thanks II. Getting Started A. Links 1. Articles 2. Forums B. Decision Time C. Drawing Up a Layout D. Testing Time III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose B. Definitions 1. Tournament Mode 2. Device #1 - Levels 3. Device #2 - Items C. Fundamentals 1. Verticality 2. Balance 3. Flow 4. Connectivity 5. Scale D. Layout Types 1. Single Atrium 2. Duel Atrium 3. Tri Atrium E. Examples 1. HUB3AEROQ3 2. CPM1A 3. PRO-Q3DM6 IV. Item Placement A. Purpose B. Weapons 1. Shotgun 2. Grenade Launcher 3. Rocket Launcher 4. Lightning Gun 5. Railgun 6. Plasma Gun 7. BFG C. Ammo D. Health E. Armor/MH 1. Placement 2. Sets F. Other 1. Powerups/Holdables 2. Shards/+5h's V. Level Design Considerations A. Purpose B. Architecture C. Clipping D. Aesthetic E. Lighting F. Performance VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps 1. Creation 2. Types B. In-Game Sounds C. World Dangers 1. Lava/Slime 2. Void 3. Traps D. Spawnpoints 1. Amount 2. Location E. Vertical Transport 1. Teleporters 2. Jumppad 3. Elevators 4. Stairs I. IntroductionA. Purpose This guide will attempt to clarify the seemingly mysterious methods, rules, and design techniques one should take into account when attempting to create a competitive level. Specifically, the guide will focus on the aspects of mapping for the Challenge ProMode mod for Quake III Arena. I know, you're probably wondering why you would need this guide when you've already got all those other great articles around. But this particular guide will be a sort of culmination of previous knowledge–taking in all past information and conglomerating it into one single comprehensive article. Hopefully this will make it much easier for the beginning mapper to create quality competitive maps without having to take ages to learn all the aspects of creating them. The guide is to be used as a sort of reference book. Although reading it one time through is okay, it is best to treat it as if it were a kind of manual. You don't usually read manuals straight through, but instead keep them handy for looking up various things at different times. B. Audience This guide is for anyone who has ever thought about, is presently considering, or is thinking about creating a serious playing tourney map for Quake3. While not a guarantee, the guide will set you in the right step forward to get your maps play time on actual servers. Even if you are just wanting to create a fun non-competitive tourney map, the guide will still be of use. C. Thanks Before I get started I would just like to thank all of the guys over at the Promode Forums for putting up with all the testing of my maps and for actually showing me most of this stuff. II. Getting StartedA. Links First of all, there are already some very informative articles out there which have a great deal of useful information in them. Much of what this guide says is simply shadowing what some of these articles have already said. 1. Articles: - TwoAM's Level Design article (Link Not Available) - DM4 Discussion (Link Not Available) - Lunaran's Design Theory (Link Not Available) - Gameplay is King (Link Not Available) - HowTo: Level Design (Link Not Available) - Spawnpoint article (Link Not Available) 2. Forums: - Promode Forums (Link Not Available) - CPMA.ORG.UK Forums (Link Not Available) - XSReality (Link Not Available)B. Decision Time Before you even start your map, you should decide exactly what you are wanting to do with the map. This is A Good Thing(tm) to do for any map you do, not just tourney. So you need to decide if you really want to do a competitive tourney map, or if you'd rather just do a "fun" tourney map. What's the difference? Well, the biggest visible difference occurs in the layout/item placement area. But there are also hidden differences one can only see during the design/creation stage. This is because the mind set that you need for one type of map verses the other is completely different. So in doing a "serious" tourney map, the whole design process is going to be different from a "fun" tourney map. You will have to constantly test the map with players who know what they are doing, and you will also have to make every decision based on how it will affect the gameplay of your map. "Fun" tourney maps, on the other hand, usually will have a decent layout, but on average, will not have enough depth or complexity to quench the thirsts of the more serious players. These type of maps will also usually focus as much attention on the looks part of it as the gameplay part of the map.C. Drawing Up a Layout So now that you have correctly chosen the path of the Enlightened (making a competitive tourney map of course!), you will need to design a layout for the map. This step is the single most important part to the map, so much care and thought is needed in the process of the design stage One thing to caution in designing your layout is careless randomness. Although starting out with a "kewl room" and "going with the flow" to create your level might seem like the right thing to do at the time, in the long run it will most likely cripple your map. This is because, unless you're an expert at this stuff, making rooms as you go results in a layout which usually doesn't work very well and lacks the depth and strategy needed in a tourney map. Instead, you should intelligently come up with a design either on paper or in your head. You don't need to necessarily come up with every little detail of the level, but at least get a rough layout of the map going. In the alpha and beta stages you will most likely end up making many small changes to the layout so you don't need to be worrying too much about the first few layout attempts Here is an example of a rough sketch I did for my level wvwq3dm3: [See Pt. III of this guide for more details on designing your layout.] D. Testing Time This next part is also quite crucial to the design of your map. Once you get that killer layout drawn out, churn out a simple little alpha map for some players to get a hold of. In this first alpha map, you want to get all of that basic layout that you thought/drew out and apply it to 3D brush form. Don't worry about any texturing, detailing, or lighting in this first version. You just want to get the basic "skeleton" worked out. This includes one of the hardest parts for many mappers–getting the scale right. So the main purpose of these earlier map testing projects is for getting a feel of what works and what doesn't. To do this, you'll probably want to enlist the help of a clan or some players from one of the forums I have linked above. If the general consensus of the testers is that the map's layout doesn't have what it takes, suck it in and scrap the map. After all, that's why you're doing an alpha–to see if the layout works. Often, even if the layout isn't all that great to start with, enough changes to it in the early stages of design can improve the gameplay drastically. A sample shot from the alpha of my level wvwq3dm6: III. Layout Design Theory A. Purpose This section is going to attempt to go into detail on some of the design theory behind creating good layouts. I will first make some simple definitions in an attempt to give the mapper a clear view on what exactly it is that he is mapping for. I will then go into more detail, describing the different aspects of a good layout. However, this section will not try to give you a quick "easy-as-1-2-3" way to making great maps. Instead, when you understand the basic fundamentals, you will be able to apply what you know to an actual map. Just remember that experience is the best teacher though. You can know all the fundamentals in the world, but experience will still take you that extra step and make it that much easier to create your maps.B. Definitions1. Tournament Mode [also called: tourney, 1-on-1, DM, match play] A type of play, specifically in the FPS genre of games, in which two and only two players oppose one another with the single goal of "scoring" more "points" than their opponent. They must do this by killing their opponent more often than they themselves are killed. a. Basic: In its simplest form, players would "float" in an empty 2D space with absolutely no interferences or boundaries. Also, players would be completely balanced in that there would be only one single method (weapon) to "score" on their opponent by. One hit would kill, and there would be nothing to pick up. Players would reappear after being scored upon exactly as they were before. b. Complex: Quake 3 has added many things to complicate this process though, and in this case, complicating things is a good thing to do. Roaming around an empty space with no items would get awfully boring after about three seconds. There are two main "devices" which Quake3 utilizes to create a fun and strategic experience for Tourney Mode–3D Levels and Items.2. Device #1 - Levels The function of the level is to create a continually interesting playing field for the players. Without any items at all, a level already presents several new strategies for the players. All of these strategies in and of themselves give the players sufficient reason to traverse the level, if only to gain the tactical edge. a. Higher Ground: Players on higher ground (a higher ledge or floor) have several advantages over the lower player. (1) Higher weapon utility - weapons "work" better because your line of sight opens up more and because you may use the floor as a backstop for any splash damage weapons. (2) More freedom of movement - Players at higher levels have more choices since they can simply drop down to any lower level they wish. (3) Cover - Players may take cover more easily by using the floor/walkway that their feet are on as cover simply by moving back out of sight from the player below. b. Multiple Routes: Players can now make intelligent decisions as to which routes they will and will not take. This allow for much more strategy since it will make the players have to predict which route their opponent has taken at any given moment. It also allows for new gameplay opportunities such as ambushes and route cut-offs. c. Cover: Level architecture provides important coverage of players so they are not in the line-of-sight of their enemies all the time. d. Distinct Geographic Features: Levels provide players with useful information as to where they are in location to their opponent and to the rest of the level. This allows the player to create a mental map of the level in his head.3. Device #2 - Items a. Control: This is one of the most important functions/aspects of an item set. Players must now relocate from their starting position to the locations of different important items in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent. He may do so either by gaining a better weapon, gaining more life (in the form of health or armor), or a combination of the two. With this, the idea of control is introduced. Players must now find the best way to be able to gain all the items needed to gain the upper hand while still fighting off his opponent. b. Higher Ground: As stated in the Level category, weapons further the desire of players to attain a higher position than their adversaries. This is due in part to the increased line of sight, therefore making their weapons more effective. It is also due to the way splash damage weapons work. Since they explode on contact with any surface, it is naturally easier to hit someone from above since the radius of possibly damaging them is greatly increased with the induction of the floor. c. Ceiling Splash Damage: Splash damage weapons also introduce the possibility for ceiling splash damage. This is often a way for the mapper to give as much or more power to the lower level players. The mapper must make sure to have the upper floor ceilings low enough for this to be effective if he wishes to implement this strategy. d. Sound Cues: Due to Quake 3 having assigned sounds with the pickup of items, players can now predict where their opponents are based on the sounds of items they hear. This leads to all sorts of new strategies for players to take advantage of. They now have reason to bypass a certain item due to it possibly giving away their position.C. Fundamentals1. Verticality As you probably remember from the definitions section, this is one of the aspects that a level may introduce to increase the playability and strategy of the map. The intelligent mapper must take advantage of the 3D space allotted to him by creating multiple tiers/levels to further the gameplay of his map. With proper verticality, the gameplay will be greatly diversified and interesting. So how do you create good verticality in your map? (as opposed to bad verticality) Well, besides the obvious point of adding more levels to it, there are also specific ways you can create interesting play. Here is one way: In the first design, the mapper has foolishly decided to put all three levels directly on top of each other. (Silly mapper!) Thus, the only possibly way of adding visible connections between the levels will have to be through the use of holes made in the floor. The second picture shows a better way to layout your tiers. In this method, the mapper offsets the different levels so players can have much more contact with players on other levels than their own. 2. Balance [Lunaran's explanation] A perfectly balanced map would ultimately be pretty boring to play. See the link above for a very good explanation of what too much balance can do for a map.On the other hand, a completely unbalanced map can also make for boring play in that the first player to gain control will keep control easily. The ideal is a map in which there is enough unbalance to make it interesting yet not so much as to make it overwhelmingly controllable. DM4 is one of the more unbalanced maps you will find, yet it is also one of the most popular precisely for that reason. - Symmetry - Please, do not make your levels completely symmetric. This effectively halves the gameplay of the level since there is now only half of the level which is unique. The only reason q3tourney2 can get away with being symmetrical is because it has an asymmetric item placement. Even then, q3tourney2's gameplay is severely limited because of its symmetry. 3. Flow [Lunaran's explanation] Generally, a map needs to have a circular flow on the macro level. Not necessarily resembling a circle, but a flow in which the player doesn't have to turnaround and do a 180 all the time but instead can just run around the map in loops. Flow is very closely related to the layout of a map, so you'll want to see that section for more info. - Dead Ends - Generally, dead ends are a very, very bad thing. They abrupt the flow and slow down the gameplay. But every so often the mapper can in fact use a dead end to house an important item. DM4's MH deadend is probably the best example of this. The player has to risk being trapped in the deadend in order to gain an upper hand on his opponent by gaining the MH. 4. Connectivity [Lunaran's explanation] This is a word often used to describe a well-playing level. People often say "That level has good connectivity." The word actually describes how well players areallowed to flow throughout the map from one section to another. The more paths/openings a level has, the more connective it will probably be. It is always good to have a somewhat high connectivity because this gives the player options on where to go, resulting in increased strategy. Just be careful not to make too many passages from one area to another, otherwise it turns into Swiss Cheese and loses the effectiveness of the layout. Achieving proper connectivity often can be a difficult thing to do for many mappers. Often maps suffer from what I call "room-hall-room" syndrome. This iswhere the player can easily tell one section of a map from another due to there being strict and distinct passages from one area to another, thus creating poor choke-points and bad gameplay. Instead, the mapper should attempt to create a continuously flowing map where rooms flow into other rooms. Maybe an illustration will help: As you can see, the first pic is simply a room connected to another via a simple stairway. Not only does this create a very bad choke point, but it also creates bad connectivity. The second pic shows another possible way, which would provide much more connectivity. There are now 3 possible routes from the lower level to the upper level. One route via jumppad takes you to an even higher level (3), the second route uses a teleporter, and the third route use the stairs method. 5. Scale This aspect of the layout is often one of the hardest to nail down for many mappers. One must strike a balance between too large/open and too small/tight. Onething that helps is to look at some other good maps and get a feel for the scale used in them. You could even use the -bsp2map function of bspc to create a pseudo test map to check out the maps scale and quantify it. For example, with my map wvwq3dm5, I de-compiled CPM1A since I was wanting my map to be similar to it in scale. I then measured the distances between different floors, measured the width of walkways, and measured the distance of various jumps.Also, another important thing which the mapper needs to get right is the "chunkiness" of the architecture. Paper thin walls don't do well for gameplay or for aesthetics. Here are some specs to help you out (none of these are "official", just what I have observed): - Walkways - CPM1,3 type = 128 units wide. 192 units is also common, and if you're doing major hallways/walkways you will need even larger. - Distance between Levels/Floors - Average seems to be about 256 units. - Atrium Size - 1024 units for smaller/tighter maps - Wall Thickness - 64 units D. Layout Types Over the years, there have been a number of basic layout types that have worked. Just by looking at the major successful 1v1 maps you can already start tocategorize them into various groups. Here are some of the most common layouts that have worked: Note: These are just here for guidance. Don't think for a minute that you HAVE to follow these layouts. Feel free to experiment and find what is best. 1. Single Atrium [hub3aeroq3, q2dm1, q1dm4, cpm7] This type of layout consists of only one main area with smaller sub-areas usually surrounding the main atrium. Since there is only one atrium, there's often fouror more separate levels to the map. Flow usually ends up being somewhat circular on the outside of the main area with players inextricably pouring into the middle for the main fights. Play is usually very fast with mid-ranged hide-and-seek type play from multiple levels in the main atrium. On the "outside loop" the play usually results in quick up close and personal skirmishes. Item placement usually consists of the armors on opposite sides of the outer loop, and a major item such as Mega Health in the central atrium. 2. Duel Atrium [cpm1a, cpm3, hub3tourney1 (cpm12), ik3dm2] The seemingly undisputed champion of recent Quake 3 maps. This layout consists of two separate atriums (large rooms) which are connected "at the hip" There are usually at least three distinct tiers (levels) to each atrium with hallways/passages winding all about the two atriums going from tier to tier via stairways, jumppads, or teleporters. As far as item placement goes, you'll often find an RL and an armor of some kind in each atrium. This item placement works here because the pair of RL's and pair of armors correspond to the 2 players who are dueling in the map. Duel-Atrium style often results in there being a player in each atrium for half the time, and then the other half of the time will be brief medium distance fighting. It also can create "armor running" in which a player traverses from one atrium to the other to grab both armors and remain in control of the map. A duel-atrium map will usually result in a figure-8 style of flow, therefore keeping players on the go all the time. 3. Tri Atrium [ospdm4 (mrcq3t6), pro-q3dm6] This layout often leads to the most strategic and complex, albeit slower games. Although the gameplay can't really be compared to that of the duel-atrium style,one could still say its basically a duel-atrium map with a third room tacked on. This third atrium may be either larger or smaller than the other two. Since there is a bigger footprint with this style, there are often only two or three floors at any one point in the level. Players will now not see each other quite as often as in other styles of layouts, and when they do, it will more likely be at longer distances. Item placement can be similar to the duel-atrium style with an armor in the two equal sized atriums. The third atrium, depending on its size will usually serve as either the main fighting forum, or as a regrouping area for down players. E. Examples One of the best ways to develop a layout is to look at current map layouts that work. This section will specifically analyze three different maps, one from eachof the categories above. 1. HUB3AEROQ3 [single atrium] This map's layout, originally developed by Preacher, is probably one of the best examples of the fast play a single-atrium map induces. The map has a total of 4 floors for players to traverse on. As you can see in the following illustration, the lowest section/floor is in the center of the map. It then gradually increases inheight as the players make a complete circle around the center atrium. The 2 teleporters in the center bottom create good opportunity for the player to get to both the mid and top levels. This results in players being seen only sporadically in the central atrium at different ledges and also jumping down into the teleporters and vanishing from the wide open. The teleporter on the left hand side however, is the key one. The area surrounding the GA teleporter is often subject to a number of heated battles due to the fact that the teleporter takes you from the bottom of the map to the top very quickly. Not only that, but it also give the player quick access to the railgun up top. As far as item placement goes, the second pic shows how the red and yellow armors have been places separate at opposite ends of the outer loop. Also, the Megahealth's placement in the middle creates many interesting fights in which players can come from any number of areas and angles by simply dropping down. Lastly, the Green Armor area, with its important teleporter, functions as a regrouping area for down or newly respawned players. - Here is a key control point for the up player. The area in red represents where the player can be to have access to all of these areas. The blue lines representtop level routes and Lines Of Sight (LOS) which the players have immediate access to. The green lines represent drop down routes and LOS's which the playeralso has access to. Not only does the player have access to all of these, but he also can guard the important RG teleporter, and more importantly the MH area. One disadvantage of this area is that the player can't directly defend the RA area, therefore leaving his opponent open to grab the RA. 2. CPM1A [duel atrium] One of the most popular CPM maps ever, and my personal favorite, this map sports a nifty duel-atrium style which works very well. Three major floors make up the map (although you can't see that from the pic below). What you can see, however, is the general flow of the map. The two atriums are connected diagonally with the hallways wrapping around in between. The single set of reciprocal teleporters are very important to the map due to the fact that players can venture from the bottom to the top very quickly. This results in many great fights because the top level players who are in the hallway section can keep track of both teleporters at once, therefore maintaining control. But if the up player decides to get either Yellow Armor, he has to give up his position of control for a moment, therefore allowing the down player to regain control. There are also the 2 jumppads that are shown in the pic which allow for vertical mobility. These are not used as often, but may allow players to sneak up on their opponents or launch surprise attacks. In the second pic, you can see how the author has decided to separate the armors at opposite ends of the map, in separate atriums, and at separate levels. This makes it harder to run the armors for the up player, but instead makes the player have to work for it. - This next pic shows one of the key control areas to the map. The red area is where the player will often be. Here, he will have access to the YA to the left, and the 2 25h's behind him. On the upper level, the player has 3 options to take. These are again represented by the blue lines. The green lines once again represent the LOS areas which the player may keep track of their opponents. With the railgun, this upper player is in one of the best positions due to the multiple routes and multiple LOS's he has access to. Not to mention the teleporter LOS. Probably the only big disadvantage to this position is the difficulty it is getting out of it. The player has to either turn around and go down the dangerous hallway with their opponent potentially waiting for them, or he has to jump into the wide open atrium to get to any of the other areas (blue & green lines). This leaves him open to any kind of attacks that his opponent might launch on him. - This final pic shows another key control area for the player. Once again there are 3 good upper level escape routes/LOS's (blue lines) and 3 good lower levelescape routes/LOS's (green lines). The player also has a LOS's to the full set of reciprocal teleporters, meaning he can fully control them, therefore keeping the player on the bottom level better. For items, the player has access to the mid-level YA and either 50h. But to do this, he must make the dangerous wide open jump across, opening himself up to attacks once again. 3. PRO-Q3DM6 [Tri Atrium] This map, being the favorite id map of many players for competitive play, is one of the few tri-atrium tourney maps that work. Even though the q3dm6 layout is very large and spread out, the map shrinks immensely when learned and due to the speeds which players can get to in the map. The pic below shows the relative sizes of the 3 atriums. As you can see, the middle one is the largest and the two outside ones are slightly smaller and elongated. The flow is very circular, taking the players from one atrium to the next in sequence. Most passages eventually lead to the center however, therefore creating the most action in this central atrium. With the addition of the bottom-to-top level jumppad in the center and also the MH, this makes for some very interesting action. Due to the extreme verticality in the center of the map, many long range hide-and=seek fights occur with the railgun/rocket launcher. In the side atriums however, fights usually will be more horizontal with long LOS's therefore once again making the railgun an important asset. This is why the railgun has been intelligently placed at the end of a somewhat dangerous pathway. Players must either travel along the pathway, or make a dangerous jump from the RL platform. In the second pic below (the gray one), you'll notice that the armors have been placed for maximum separation between each other. This is to prevent easy armor-running by the up player. The MH's position is much like that of HUB3AEROQ3 in that it has been placed in the bottom middle, making it a dangerous item to grab. - Here is one of the primary control points of the map. When the player is anywhere in the red-zone, he has two top level routes/LOS's (blue lines), two mid-level routes/LOS's (green lines), and 2 bottom level routes/LOS's (yellow line). This allows the player to guard all entry points to the MH, therefore allowing him to grab the MH himself. It also allows the player to escape via any number of routes if in conflict. One disadvantage is the jumppad right ahead of the player. This can allow for his opponent to get right in his face very quickly, possibly allowing his opponent to regain control. IV. Item Placement A. Purpose In the last section, it was mentioned that items are one of the devices used to complicate gameplay. This section will further go into how to place items in your level–when to put something in, when not to, where to put it, etc. There, of course, isn't any set rules for this kind of thing, but there's plenty of useful previous knowledge which may be applied to your current maps.B. Weapons We'll start with the most important items of course! Without weapons, play would get boring extremely fast. With Quake 3, id decided to try and balance the weapons as much as possible. Why you ask? Because if any one weapon completely ruled everything else, players would end up only going for that weapon and once they got it, would be able to easily control the map. (see BFG) And on the opposite end of the spectrum, if any one weapon was weaker than everything else by a large margin (besides your spawn weapon), there would be no point in having it. What unfortunately ended up happening though was that the hitscan (mainly the railgun and machine gun) weapons began to rule play. This resulted in gameplay which relied on pure aiming skill as opposed to the skill of the player as a whole. Since then, Promode has fixed this problem with a number of weapon tweaks to the weapons. So now, in Promode the weapons are balanced a little bit better with the RL, LG, and RG being the "terrific three" of the lot. So where does that leave the mapper? Well, with the weapon set being like it is, the mapper doesn't get many choices. Currently, pretty much 99% of the competitive tourney maps have the following weapons: SG, GL, RL, LG. The RG is also in most maps, but every once in awhile it is excluded. The PG is in every once in awhile it seems, depending on the map. BFG almost never (although that might change with the new CPM changes to it) So there is not really that much question as to WHAT weapons you should put in your map (with the exception of the PG and RG), now just a question of WHERE you should put them.1. Shotgun (SG) a. Utility - The shotgun is a frequently understated weapon which used in the right hands can deal some heavy blows. It is most often useful to the down playerbecause it is a step up from the MG and gives the player something to use until he gets a major weapon. The weapon's effectiveness is directly proportional to the type of map it is–tighter maps mean it is more powerful, larger, more open maps mean it is less effective. Plan accordingly. b. Placement - I've noticed that in most maps the SG is placed in a somewhat well frequented area, yet off to the side and not the center of the attention. Also, if you are wanting the down player to be able to grab it quick, make sure there are a few respawns close by. c. Amount - Usually 1. Sometimes 2 depending on the map. d. Ammo - To give down players even more of an edge, one may include an ammo pack right next to the weapon. Other than that, the SG doesn't usually need all that ammo around the level, if any at all because the players don't often use the SG enough to warrant the need. If you do put ammo in, 1 pack should be enough.2. Grenade Launcher (GL) a. Utility - Another overlooked weapon, the GL can also be useful to the down player. In close combat, a direct ‘nade to the face can cripple a player's opponent. The weapon may also be used in conjunction with other weapons to confuse the player into either stepping onto a grenade or walking into the line of fire of another weapon. Third, grenades can be very useful to block off different areas temporarily or to spam lower levels when you know the player is below. Overall, the GL adds a lot of depth to a level. It provides for more interesting fights (although it can slow down play sometimes), therefore it is almost always good to have a GL in. b. Placement - Two schools of thought on this: Place it high and encourage spamming, or place it low to discourage spamming. Both are actually valid techniques, but it really depends on the map and what the mapper is wanting to do with it. Just know the consequences of the placement ahead of time. c. Amount - Almost always one. d. Ammo - Really doesn't need any usually. However, if it's a rather large level or you are wanting to produce spamming, then include a pack of ammo.3. Rocket Launcher (RL) a. Utility - Ah, the mighty Rocket Launcher! With Promode's changes to its velocity and damage, it is now the major weapon to have. Its vast possibilities for use is one of the reasons why it is so popular. Players can use it in close battles to bounce their opponents around, mid-range battles by predicting where their opponent is going to be and usually hitting them with splash damage via walls or ceilings, and long range to protect certain doorways or spam various areas. It also, of course, allows the player much more vertical mobility with the rocket jump. b. Placement - Most often, the RL will end up being not only a highly used weapon, but also a spamming weapon. Because of this, it is usually good to place any RL's in the map in the more frequented areas. Place them in central locations making the player expose himself to get it. If you decide to have two RL's in your map (which is usually a good idea) you will most likely want to spread them apart in opposite atriums and likely on different floors. c. Amount - 1 or 2. It seems as if more and more maps are sporting 2 RL's as this allows for more rocket spamming and lets each player grab an RL, making it a somewhat standard weapon when dueling. d. Ammo - If you are wanting to encourage spamming, you'll want a few ammo packs in your map also. With 2 RL's, not as many packs are needed, but it might work to put an ammo pack next to one of the RL's (CPM1A does this). This makes the one RL more important to control than the other. Overall, 2 or 3 ammo packs is usually good for the RL.4. Lightning Gun (LG) a. Utility - Provides excellent short to mid-range offensive capabilities. Due to its fast (somewhat) hitscan nature, it is often used in combos or to finish off the opponent. The weapon is usually the most effective in smaller single or duel atrium style maps where long range battles don't come into play as much. b. Placement - From what I've noticed on maps, the weapon is usually placed in a "sub-area" or side room off the main area. This area is frequented every so often, although not continually. So why does this type of location usually work for the LG? I think its because the LG is more of a specialized weapon, and something that needs to be sought after to get. Its usually in a side area because this creates just enough danger (but not too much danger) to allow the players to grab the weapon, yet still make for interesting battles over it. c. Amount - Definitely only 1 is needed. d. Ammo - Usually, the mapper wants to make the ammo somewhat scarce in order to limit the weapon somewhat. Sometimes there is an ammo pack a hop, skip, and a step away to allow the player a little more long lasting flavor with the weapon. Only do this if you don't think the LG is powerful enough as is, and needs a bit of extra ammo to keep up with the other weapons. Otherwise, just place 2 or 3 ammo packs around the map in order to make the player have to move around to stay loaded.5. Railgun (RG) a. Utility - Covers the long-range combat aspect quite well. Also may be used in combos to finish off enemies. Acts as a great spawn-raper in Promode unfortunately (or fortunately depending on who you are) Can be over-powering in more open maps, so its inclusion is not always a good idea. b. Placement - By default, the RG is a very dangerous weapon. Therefore it needs to be in a somewhat dangerous location. Either place it in the open, making players have to expose themselves, or place it in a dangerous area like a small dead-end or 2-door area. For example, CPM1A's RG placement is perfect because it makes the player very susceptible to an attack from his opponent, and initially renders the weapon not as effective since it is on the lowest level. Careful when thinking about putting it at a top level, as this might encourage unneeded sniping. c. Amount - If you do decide to include the railgun, never include more than one. d. Ammo - Almost always none. Every once in awhile 1 pack which is dangerous to grab.6. Plasma Gun (PG) a. Utility - This weapon does decent to good in every area of combat (short to long range), yet it doesn't excel in any. This may be the reason why it is often left out–another weapon can do its job. At close range, the PG can eat away at a players health faster than any other weapon. At medium to long range, the weapon usually serves as more of a defensive weapon through the use of spam. It also is the anti-railgun as it can confuse the player with the RG when his opponent is shooting a bunch of projectiles at him. b. Placement - May usually be placed in a similar manner to the LG. Often it serves as more of a down player weapon, so it may also be placed in an easy to get spot, yet out of the way. c. Amount - No more than 1 if any. d. Ammo - Usually only 1 or 2 packs. If you are wanting more spamming with the PG, for example if the RG is becoming too dominant, give the player more ammo.7. BFG The BFG has no place in the serious tourney map, especially the vQ3 one. It reduces all strategy into a simple "Whoever has the BFG wins" type play. Recently, the Promode mod has made some big changes to the way the BFG works. With these changes, the BFG now acts as a slightly faster, slightly more powerful RL. While with these changes, a level might actually work now with the BFG, I would still have to say to leave it out. It's a bit late in the ballgame to be adding a "new" weapon to the weapon set, and I seriously doubt players would accept the map for tournaments or in leagues because of the BFG–no matter how well it works in the map.C. Ammo I know, I've already gone over this in the weapons section. But here are just a few general rules to follow: - Don't place ammo by its respective weapon. Instead, you should place the ammo a little ways away to make the players traverse the map more. - 3 ammo packs for any single weapon should be the limit. More often than not, 1 or 2 ammo packs will be plenty. - It is usually a good idea to group different types of ammo into groups of 2 or more. This focuses on one area instead of 2 to remember, which makes for both simpler gameplay and better reason to visit the one single area.D. Health Not usually a huge issue in item placement, yet health placement still has some certain guidelines to follow: - 150-250h is usually the range of health per level (not including +5h's) Larger levels require a bit more usually. Also, the amount greatly depends on whether you want players to have access to more health and less armor, or vice versa. For example, CPM1A gives the players a total of 225h which is quite a lot for such a small level. This shifts the focus over to the armors more though. - If there is a Megahealth in the level, less health is needed. - Put health into different types of groups to diversify gameplay. Usually, you'll want to limit it to just a few main areas in the level to group health in. Don't spread the health out too evenly, otherwise gameplay will dull since players will be picking up health every where they go. Place the larger groups of health in more dangerous and fought over areas, and place smaller amounts of health in "down" areas. Just don't make it a kamikaze run for the down player to heal up. - 2x25h vs. 50h - With a 50h in there, players can deny their opponents health easier. With 2x25h, if the player has >75h, he can only take one of the 25h's, therefore leaving the other one for his opponent. Therefore, if in testing, the up player is denying the down player health too often by picking up the 50h's, change them to 25h's.E. Armor/MH Armor is one of the most important items to control in a level, so much care is needed in adding armor to your level. The armor you choose and its placement in the level can dramatically affect your level's gameplay: such as the importance of different areas, the paths players will take, and the balance and controllability of the map.1. Placement A few guidelines regarding the placement of armors: - Spread the armor out as much as possible. You don't want players to be able to run the armors too easily. - The danger in grabbing an armor should match its respective armor. Meaning the RA should be more dangerous to get than the YA and the YA should be more dangerous to get than the GA (Green Armor). Note: "dangerous" doesn't necessarily include world dangers like lava or the void. The danger can also be in relation to the other player. For example, if an armor is out in the open on a bottom floor, the player must expose himself to possible attacks from a number of angles. - There should be interesting architecture and sufficient verticality surrounding most armor locations. This is because the area of the armors will most likely be fought in the most, so the players need different angles and levels to attack from. - One thing that has been successful in the past is to put an armor (specifically the RA) in an easily camp-able/defendable spot such as the RA+MH in Q1DM2. What this will do is give the down player a chance to control the armor even with limited weaponry due to the chokepoints going to the armor. If done right, this results in some very interesting fights for control of the major armor. Note that the rule above about interesting space should be more important than ever if you are to use this method. - The GA often serves as an armor for the down player, so place it accordingly. Often the GA will be placed in a regrouping area out of the way. - Treat the MH as a kind of armor. It usually has slightly higher precedence than the YA, but not quite as high as the RA.2. Sets There are quite a few combinations of armors one can have in a level. Here are a few of them (Taken from Pure Imaginary's post in this thread - Link Not Available😞 a. 2 YA (MH) - Often ends up in players armor running the map all the time. Usually more fast-paced but often results in an unbalanced map when one player is able to run the armors. An MH is useful in making for better games since it gives for the down player a chance to get back up. b. 1 RA, 1 YA (MH) - Similar to the 2 YA system. The map usually must support this set by being unbalanced in relation to the RA and YA. No third armor makes it hard for the down player to get back up if both the RA and YA have been taken. The addition of the MH makes play more interesting since it will often up RA vs. MH+YA. c. 1 RA, 2 YA (MH) - Better player will often end up with RA + YA by running armors. If the map can somehow allow for RA vs. 2 YA fights, it will be better. An MH will further mix up things, making the inevitable armor runs not as effective. d. 1 RA, 1 YA, 1 GA (MH) - Balances out the map more because the down player can grab the GA+YA against the up RA player, therefore making the RA weaker. With the MH thrown in, the down player can now attack the RA player and possibly gain the advantage. e. 1 YA, X GA (MH) - With 1 GA, this system becomes similar to the 1 RA, 1 YA system except the MH will become more important. With 2 GA's, it is similar to the 1 RA, 2 YA system, except once again armor isn't as important as health.F. Other1. Powerups/Holdables These items (quad, enviro, regen, invis, haste, flight, medkit, and personal tele) absolutely have NO place in a competitive tourney map. Why you ask? Powerups don't belong in a level because they are all based on a certain amount of time that they are effective. Because of this, whenever a player has a powerup, his opponent simply can run and hide until the powerup is gone, therefore slowing up the game immensely. The medkit isn't good because its annoying to have your opponent use it right as you're about to kill him. The Personal Teleporter isn't good because it makes the game too gimmicky–you'd never know if your opponent is about to disappear. 2. Shards/+5h's These items are often overlooked and just randomly placed in areas, but they can actually serve some quite useful purposes. - They provide important sound cues as to where the opponent is. Because of this, it is always good to put shards/+5h's in varying numbered groups. If the mapper does this, a player can know where his opponent is based on whether he hears 3 shards or 4 shards being picked up. Groups almost always range from 2-5 shards/+5h's. - Shards/+5h's can also make certain areas more powerful than others. The classic example is q3tourney2 in which the 10 shards in the main room make that room much more valuable to control (as far as armor goes) than the other YA room. - Important to the down player. A down player in CPM can pick up a single shard after he respawns and therefore be alive even after a RG hit. V. Level Design ConsiderationsA. Purpose This section will focus on the other aspects of level design besides gameplay. These aspects, however unrelated they may seem to be, will still be directly or indirectly related to the gameplay of the map.B. Architecture This topic is often misunderstood by many mappers. Many mappers love the kind of architecture that makes the map more "pretty" while the players want the kind of architecture that makes the map more interesting to play in. Often times, mappers have the false idea that players want completely empty rooms with "padded walls" when in fact the opposite is true. Now, when I say architecture, I'm talking about any brushwork that the player can interact with or move around which will result in more interesting play. Well placed architecture can provide players with a number of things such as cover, higher ground, lines-of-sight, and trickjumps. Here are some ideas to help you when doing architecture:Cover - A simple pole or obstruction in the middle of the room (such as in q3tourney2) can make an area a whole lot more fun to play in. Players hide and seek around the obstruction taking quick shots at one another. Castle-wall type structures (also could be bars in a window) also provide an interesting dynamic to the gameplay of a map. As players walk by, they are exposed every so often because they are not behind a structure. Higher Ground - Simple deviance in elevations can greatly change the way an area plays. A few stairs here and there to change the height of one area over another make for better fights in general. Just be careful not to make your floors too "bumpy", otherwise players will get annoyed at not being able to aim correctly. - NOTE - One thing to watch out for when doing your level is low overhangs such as doorways. Its not usually good to be speeding through the level only to run your head into a doorway that's 16 units too low.Lines-of-Sight - Fully detailed levels can provide for more interesting play if they can give the players better angles in which to attack from. For example, an L-shaped hallway with completely flat walls will not be as fun as if the hallway's halls were riveted and the corners were rounded off a bit .If this were to happen, when players are at opposite ends of the L-shaped hallway, the architecture would allow them to fight better by shooting through the rivets or bouncing grenades off the angled walls. Here is a pic in case you didn't catch what I was saying: The top drawing shows the flat-walled cornered hallway. The only option the players have is move forward into sight in order to fight their opponents. The second drawing however, shows the more detailed walled, angled cornered hallway. The green represents the "riveting" in the wall which can be shot through at certain angles/heights. Players now have more angles to shoot their opponents from without giving away cover, and also may bounce grenades off the angled walls or use splash damage more effectively. Trickjumps - One of the best things that the mapper can unknowingly do when adding architecture is to give the players more options by trickjumping. More will be said about this later on in the guide, but for now, know that well placed architecture will inevitably spawn trickjumps. For example, any small changes in height such as stairs will automatically allow the players to double-jump off them (in CPM of course!). Any ramped brushes such as trims will also allow the players to reach areas they couldn't before hand. For this reason, adding ramped trims to the sides of stairways can often be a way to introduce more trickjumps. C. Clipping Closely related to architecture, clipping is often overused in levels. Its really not all to hard to know when to clip. Here is the key thing to remember: The clipping of a level should match the visual This means that if it looks like a player should be able to get caught on a light fixture, don't clip it off! If it looks like a player can get up on top of a roof, don't block it off! So when do you use clip brushes? - Clip bumpy floors to smooth them out. Players never like it when they can't aim due to being constantly jumbled around while running along. - Use angled clips to smooth out certain details jutting out from walls. Just be careful not to use it too extensively. D. Aesthetic Just a few notes about the aesthetics of a map. First of all, many mappers have a misconception that players care nothing for the aesthetics of a map when in fact they do. They like a good looking map just as much as the rest of us. But the crucial difference is that they care for the gameplay of that map a lot more than its looks. Also, when developing the aesthetic of the map, make sure to test it out in different configs to make sure it works. For example, a higher picmip setting on some textures could potentially wash out any distinguishing features–therefore making it harder for the player to navigate the level. Another thing that aesthetic is good for is to mark different areas of a map. Things such as weapons, items, different rooms, and floors can be marked with distinguishing textures to allow the players to navigate the level better. So don't feel confined to doing the same old plain gothic aesthetic. Feel free to make your map good looking and well playing at the same time. Just be sure that the aesthetic never hurts the playability or performance of the map. E. Lighting Lighting is closely related to the aesthetic of a map. The brightness of the lighting in a map has been discussed between mappers and players frequently in the past. Mappers argue that they want their maps to have moody atmospheres, and players just want to be able to see their opponents. Lighting however, really shouldn't be that big of an issue. In a standard competitive player config, pretty much any map will be bright enough, and if it isn't, you are doing something terribly wrong. So just develop the map to look good in lightmap mode, and every once in awhile, check it in a player's config to make sure it looks okay in vertex mode. As long as the lighting has no affect on the gameplay, feel free to do whatever you want with it to make it look good in lightmap. Once players start complaining about dark areas in the map, you better get it lit. F. Performance Here is another touchy issue for the mapper. There is that magical ratio between performance and looks that every mapper must attain with his map. For the competitive tourney mapper, he must always be watching out for poor performance throughout his map. So how do you know where to stop adding detail and start optimizing? The best way is to have the map tested on a number of different systems in order to see if there are any slowdown areas. Many mappers rely on the r_speeds tool, but this doesn't take into account a number of other performance hogs such as fill rate and overdraw. For this reason, checking the framerate in conjunction with checking the r_speeds is the best method for you yourself to test the map. Things to watch out for: - shaders with multiple stages can greatly increase the amount of fill on the screen. - texture use: check \imagelist and make sure your texel count isn't too high. What's too high? Compare with other maps. - overdraw will result in extra tris and pixels being drawn. Hint/build properly. - as a general guide, r_speeds usually need to stay below 7 or 8k - in major areas that will see a lot of action (not that kind of action...), watch out for slow downs with both players in there spamming each other. - speaking of spam (mmm... spam), if you decide to have the PG in the level, watch out for slow downs with that weapon - often overlooked, if you are wanting the level to play well with bots, make sure to simplify the map with botclips as much as possible. Also, if you can, try to clusterportal the map. This will relieve the CPU a bit and will hopefully make the map play better with bots. VI. Other Considerations A. Trickjumps While it isn't necessarily required for a level to have trick jumps, they do add certain extra dimensions to the level. Trick jumps allow skilled players to be rewarded (in the form of an item or strategic advantage) taking jumps or risks they normally wouldn't. Trick jumps also add to the "cool factor" of playing a map and watching a demo of the map.1. Creation This is one main question about trick jumps that needs to be answered however. Do you, the mapper, knowingly add trick jumps to your map, or do you allow the players to find the jumps themselves? It seems as if everybody has a different opinion about this (as demonstrated in THIS thread - Link Not Available). On the one hand, players like to discover trick jumps on their own. Obvious trick jumps that look like the mapper put them in are never as good as the player found trick jumps. But on the other hand, its extremely difficult for the mapper not to know about the trick jumps in his map. Unless of course, he's a bad Q3 player. So this still leaves us with the question of what to do about trick jumps. I personally think the best way to go is to make the map in such a way that there will be trick jumps that are somewhat obvious (although not forced) and then there will be trickjumps which will be brought up to the surface as the map gets played more. This is one of the many marks of a great tourney map. If the map has been built right (plenty of architecture, not "padded-walls"), trick jumps should show up. 2. Types Promode has introduced a number of new possibilities as far as trick jumps go. If you're not an avid player of Promode, yet still want to map for it (is this possible? ) then you'll want to know the trick jumps available. There are a number of articles written which explain the Promode physics and the new trick jumps associated with it. If you really want to get in depth about trick jumps, you'll want to read these: - Promode Movement: Art Meets Science (promode.org) - Link Not Available - Promode Movement (cpma.org.uk) - Link Not Available Here are the basic trick jumps (for explanations on how to do them, see links above) you'll need to be aware of: a. Circle Strafe Jump - Allows players to jump very far distances such as gaps. This can allow for players to take shortcuts or to surprise their opponents. CPM1A's jump from upper YA to opposite path is a good example of this jump in which players can exit quickly after grabbing the YA. b. Double Jump - Allows players to jump greater heights using any varied height surfaces like stairs. A good example would be on CPM3–going from the lava walkway up to the RL using a double jump. Also, since a double jump is due to the player jumping consecutive times in under 400ms, very low ceilings can allow the player to double jump. (e.g - q3dm14tmp) c. Ramp Jump - This jump is another addition of Promode. When players jump off of a ramp, if the ramp is sloping up they will gain vertical speed and if the ramp is sloping down they will gain horizontal speed. The steeper the angle the more effect it has on the movement (up to 45 degrees at least) This presents a number of possibilities to the map. d. Double Ramp Jump - A combination of the double jump and the ramp jump, this trick jump can launch players in many circumstances. It was used extensively on CPM4 with ramped lights, allowing players to get to higher levels quickly. e. Tele Jump - This is essentially a double jump going through a teleporter. The jump allows the player to gain speed quickly after teleporting, or to get to different areas of the map quicker .For example, on CPM1A and CPM3 players can reach areas otherwise impossible to get from that location. In order to allow tele-jumps, make sure the teleporter destination is on the ground and not floating in midair. Also make sure there is nothing in the way for the player to bump their head on when jumping out. f. Framerate based jumps - DO NOT include framerate based jumps in your map. Most often, these come in the form of the 64-unit jump like the one in q3dm13 to the MH. Pmove_fixed has partly fixed this problem, but its still not a good idea.B. In-Game Sounds Adding target_speakers to the level to generate ambient sounds is not usually a good idea. It will only serve to hinder the gameplay, so its best to leave them out. Players need to concentrate on their opponents and the sounds associated with them picking up items–not on world noises. C. World Dangers In the right situation, the addition of world dangers can further the gameplay of a certain part of a map. World dangers include lava, slime, void, and traps. Often if the mapper decides to include a world danger, he should place it around an important item like MH or RA.1. Lava/Slime Probably the only world danger the mapper should use. Not every level should have this, and when it is used it should be used sparingly. Proper placement will result in making an area of a map more dangerous than others because the player has to risk falling in and hurting himself. Two consideration go along with this. The mapper has to decide how much the lava/slime will hurt the player, and he has to decide how hard to make it to get out of the danger. The dangerousness of the area will of course increase depending on how much hard it is to get out of the lava/slime. 2. Void Probably shouldn't be used. Players get annoyed when they are in the lead, are full of ammo and weapons, and stacked up on armor–and then fall into the void. 3. Traps Unless you can conceive an ingenious trap which will further the gameplay of the map, its probably not a good idea to add any kind of traps. This usually will lend to slow gimmicky gameplay.D. Spawn Points First of all, read over Hoony's spawn points article here (Link Not Available). It explains everything quite well, and the inherent problems associated with the current spawn point system. Besides that article, there aren't really any concrete rules on placing spawn points. So I'm just going to describe some of the effects that may result from doing the spawn points a certain way.1. Amount No, there is not a magical number of spawn points you should put in your map. Just know that fewer spawn points (lets say under 😎 will often result in more spawn-raping. But then again, more spawn points could make it more likely for the down player to spawn directly in front of his up opponent therefore giving him a free kill. Note that spawn-raping isn't always necessarily a bad thing. That is one of the things that made dm4 such a great level–the frag runs that could be had by the experienced player. So if it's a type of level where you want more spawn-raping to occur, than lower the spawn point count. 2. Location Once again, it comes down to what you are wanting in your level. If most of the level is open and railgun spawn-raping is a problem, it might be a good idea to put more spawns in untraveled, unexposed areas. Generally you will want to place most spawns in less traveled areas anyway. Also, make sure to keep them near walls and out of major pathways–otherwise you might get unwanted spawn frags.One other thing you can do is place spawn points on major items such as armors or the MH. This works effectively in maps such as CPM1A and CPM3 because it gives the down player a better chance at survival if he happens to spawn directly on an armor/MH.E. Vertical Transport1. Teleporters Teleporters are probably the best mode of vertical transport when going a somewhat good distance. In recent Q3 maps, it seems as if mappers have almost been afraid to use them, instead focusing more on jumppads. Teleporters are good however, because they keep the flow going better than jump pads. This is because jump pads create stop-and-go type play. Some of the best tourney levels have a number of teleporters, for example dm4 had 5, and aerowalk had 4. Two problems you should be aware of appear when putting a bunch of teleporters in your map. First of all, players can get confused as to which teleporter takes them to which area, thus steepening the learning curve of the map. Not really all that big of a problem since you're not designing the maps for newbies, right? The second problem that arises with the addition of teleporters is the possibility of telefrags. This problem occurs most frequently when the map has reciprocal teleporters. So does that mean you shouldn't include 2-way teleporters? That really depends on the map. CPM3 contains a good implementation of a 2-way teleporter set in that the teleport destination is off set from that actual teleporter by a strafe jump. Some players think telefragging completely ruins a map, while others think it adds strategy to the area. So if, in testing the map, the players complain about telefragging, you might want to reconsider your teleporter system. 2. Jumppads Jumppads are a relatively new addition to tourney maps which Q3 introduced. If you do decide to use jumppads in your level, you must be very cautious as to how you place them. First of all, as mentioned earlier, jumppads often create a stop-and-go type flow, which ends up slowing down the map. Secondly, jumppads can render the player useless and open to any rails that his opponent can get in. With those issues in mind, here are some general rules to abide by when placing jumppads: a. Flight Cover - Unless you're purposely wanting to make a jumppad dangerous to use, you'll want to make sure the jumppad has some kind of cover from enemy line-of-sight. Not necessarily the whole flight, but at least part of the flight. See CPM1A for an example. b. Height - Know when you should be using jumppads as opposed to some other form of movement. If the player just needs to go up a half a level or so, stairs are usually a better mode of transportation. If the player needs to go from the bottom level to the top level, a teleporter might serve better.3. Elevators These kind of got left in the dust after Q2 when Q3 added jumppads. One of the things that was holding them back from being used more extensively in Q3 maps was the borked up sound associated with them. Luckily, arQon has fixed this in his recent CPMA build. Now mappers can associate any sound he wishes with the elevators. So what are elevators good for? They are somewhat multipurpose in that they can serve as vertical transporters for relatively small height changes or multilevel height changes. They also add strategy to the level for two reason. First, players can now hear where their opponent is going depending on what elevators their opponents take. Secondly, players can deny their opponent vertical transport rights by sitting on elevators or guarding elevators. Because of this, make sure that it doesn't hurt the gameplay if a player does do this. Just make sure you tweak the speed of the elevators to fit the gameplay. Nobody likes going up an elevator for what seems like an eternity. Q2DM1's main atrium elevator is a great example of what a lift can add in terms of gameplay. Many an intense fight has occurred on that elevator due to a down player running away from his opponent by trying to get to the top of the map. Another good example is the lift in the recent Q3 map FFDM2. This lift is the single vertical transporter in the room, making it a heated point of battle. A player from below may hear his opponent go up the lift and rocket-jump up to meet him with a shotgun blast to the face. 4. Stairs Ah, the old standby–stairs. Stairs should probably be the most used vertical transport, especially for small height changes. Stairs keep everybody moving and don't hinder gameplay at all. They also can provide for more possibilities for player movement such as trick jumps and so on. Some guidelines: a. Stair-Height - Long flights of stairs usually disrupt the gameplay of a map. Stairs work better for shorter height distances. Replace with a different mode of transport if need be. b. Step-Height - Q3's maps pioneered the 8-unit step height. Recent tourney maps seem to have gone with larger step heights such as 12 or 16 units. Once you do go with a certain step-height, try to maintain some consistency with that step-height throughout the level. Also, remember that higher steps make it easier for players to double-jump off of them. c. Trim - The mapper has the option of adding trim to the stairways of his map. In doing this, he can potentially create a number of new trick jumps in the map, so be aware of that. Source: http://polyculture.co/polyculture/cdg/ Follow JoelWebsite:http://polyculture.co/polyculture/ Twitter:https://twitter.com/mcdjoel Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  12. Intro This tutorial will cover where to look for ideas/inspiration and how to put them on paper for current or future reference. Please note that this is not the right way of doing things. This is simply my methods of producing and documenting level design ideas.Looking for Ideas There are lots of ways how you can find ideas. Sources of inspiration are practically endless, but the problem is that some are harder to spot than others. Little things such as a shape of a flower can give an idea for an organic level. It's just a matter of how you look at things. Here's a brief list of where you can find ideas: - Digital and printed photos - Movies - Real life architecture - Concept art - Video games - Nature patterns For me one of the most important parts of the level design is atmosphere. I play games to escape reality, to feel like I am in a different place. The way a level designer can create (visual) atmosphere is by paying attention to shape, space and lighting. What kind of shape is it? How does a space define it? How much does a light reveal of that space? All those questions are important to achieve atmosphere. Sound plays a big role in atmosphere as well, as showed in Doom 3 and Condemned games. If you choose to look at architecture for ideas, then my suggestion would be to take a look at contemporary architecture. The reason it can spark a lot of ideas is because it has interesting looking shapes that are wisely defined in space. Most of the structures don't have a lot of textures or small details on them, therefore you are free to use your imagination. *TIP: German publisher Taschen produces some of the most affordable contemporary architecture books of great printing quality.Sketching Ideas Once you found inspiration or got an idea, it's wise to put it on the paper, so you won't forget it. Plus planning a level on the paper before building it in the level editor, guarantees to save you time and prevent most mistakes that could be encountered later in the design process. I suggest using printer and grid paper. Printer paper is great for rough sketches of shapes. Grid paper is more precise and let's you plan the space more wisely.*TIP: Fine point Sharpie marker is great for putting ideas on paper, because you can apply pressure for rough and solid lines. When I find an interesting shape, I draw several variations of it on the printer paper. Some are top view and some are side view. It's wise to put a little note of that next to the sketch, so in the future you won't be confused. Once I'm happy with the shape, I define the space by cross-hatching with pen outside the shape. Making a small solid rectangle for the player size to show the proportions can be useful. Next step would be to use grid paper or continue on the printer paper and add more notes for the sketch. Here's a list of things you can add notes for: - Item placement - Height level - Direction of stairs/slope surface - Entrance/exit points*TIP: Try not to be too specific when putting ideas on the paper, so you can add and improve them later in the design process. At this point you should have enough information to open up the editor and start blocking the level out. Outro I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments or questions you can contact me at the links below. *Note - This article does not represent Yan's current approach, which has evolved during the 10+ years since this article was first published. Source: web.archive.org/web/20090412012908/http:/www.methodonline.com:80/ld_ideas.htmFollow Yan Website: methodonline.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/idMethod
  13. In this 2013 article, we hear from some of the designers behind Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 4. In it, they talk about the developmental process levels go through.One of the earliest steps is to get something down on paper: With this basic spec decided, it's time to begin designing. At the outset, paper is weapon of choice. "To me the layout is the most important aspect of a map, so I might quickly sketch out some patterns and paths on paper to start to figure out how I want the map to play," says Smith. Echoing Smith's sentiment that the layout of the two-dimensional plan is all-important, Clopper explains that the paper design is a crucial reference point when designing the detail in 3D. "It allows us to think back to what the essence of the map is. Sometimes in the 3D realm you can go down a rabbit hole riffing on some of the smaller encounter spaces." From there, they put some additional thought into the maps flow, spawning, and weapon placement, but the primary focus is on getting the level to a playable state: The flow of play and players on a map will not become evident until testing, which begins as soon as a basic 3D model is roughed or "blocked" out, and continues as the design iterates. "I try to get a level playable as soon as possible. Multiplayer layouts need hours and hours of playtime to make adjustments to make sure the map plays well," he adds. "So there is no time to waste theorizing about how it will play; you just need to get on with it." Both teams agree that one of the primary things they look for initially in playtests is engagement distances: "Early on I am looking for the distances at which people meet: where they stop to shoot at other players and if they can even find each other," says Smith. Similarly, Halo 4's designers keep a watchful eye on distance. "We definitely have standards for the size than something can be and the time it takes from one corner of a map to the other, or one objective sight to the other," says Pearson. "It's to make sure we're tuning the experience to keep the time-to-death down, or making sure that your time-to-engagement is enough to give you a breather between dying, but not so long that you're hunting through the map and not finding people." Again, game mechanics have a direct bearing. In Halo 3, sprinting was impossible. In Halo: Reach, sprinting was a selectable armor ability. In Halo 4, everyone's at it, and the maps have grown to compensate. From there, the focus shifts to metrics that are more specific to each game: Call of Duty's multiplayer modes dial up the tension as players try to stay alive to protect their "killstreaks," chains of consecutive kills that see players rewarded with powerful ordnance that can ultimately swing the outcome of a match. "Early on in development I look to see if these locations are being used," says Smith. "If so, is it too strong a position? Can the other team clear the enemy out of the location? Is it too easy to take and no one survives there for very long? You can control the flow of the map this way." Clopper echoes the importance of balancing strongholds. "Skyline has this fantastic center structure, but also out to the wings are these two bases that can also offer a very similar kind of thing. What you'll see is fights moving from the center, flowing around the space, then coming back to the center." "What we're trying to do is sort of facilitate flow between these strongpoints and counter-strongpoints," he adds. "We want to make sure there are multiple areas and multiple strategies to facilitate flow around the map. We don't want people arriving at one strongpoint, camping out there, and then winning the game just sitting in one spot." This is but a taste of the 3 page article. Visit the source to read it in its entirety: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/195069/deathmatch_map_design_the_.php