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  1. Create layers over time A classic mistake to make when setting up game encounters is to allow all of the AI to attack at once without any spawn delays. The player will end up just being overrun by AI from all directions and the encounter will quickly descends into chaos. There is a good chance that most players discovering this 'surprise' will not enjoy it. The trick to any encounters is pacing, to stagger the spawning over time and create different waves that are triggered via an event. As the different waves are spawned in, the encounter can eventually build up to a crescendo event and a distinct pause. The break in the flow might seem counter intuitive, but this is the moment to look around, investigate and explore the environment. Limit attack direction Most players approaching an encounter will expect the enemies to be attacking them from one direction and will not expect attacks from multiple angles (side or flank) all at once. This does not mean multiple attack directions should never be used, but wide angle (135+ degrees) attacks should either be linked to a skill level or that the player has plenty of good equipment to cope with the situation. Often players will claim they want enemies to be smart and more intelligent/aggressive with their attacks, but there is a point at which enemy attacks from too many different angles at once can be regarded as cheating or a cheap trick by the level designer. If you are planning to attack the player from multiple angles be aware that this kind of tactic can become tiresome if used too often. Compliment attack types Most game enemies have a couple (1-2) of different types (range, melee, AoE or debuff) of attacks and the level designer is responsible for creating different combinations of the enemies with complimentary attacks to challenge the player in different environments. Each enemy individually should not be much of a threat, but once they are grouped together they should become part of a complex puzzle of different threats which the player has to learn how to prioritize in order to survive. Some group encounters are more difficult than others and that is mainly to do with how many of their abilities overlap and how diverse they are with attack types. A group of enemies which has a single attack (1 melee or 1 range) will be far easier to deal with than a group with a large variety of different attacks because of priority concerns. This is how difficult can be scaled up or down when creating encounters for the beginning or the end of a map. Roller coaster pacing Many games are built with a pacing, a distinct ebb and flow to how events unfold and an intensity to the encounters. Some games vary the rate of pacing by using different activities like using reflexes for encounters and lateral thinking for puzzles. When designing a map try to break it down into zones or bubbles of player activity. Consider each zone being a mixture of different types of encounters and try to vary the pace by having sections where there are puzzles. Remember to keep the combat away from the boundaries to each zone and don't be afraid to create empty spaces to allow players time to breath before the next climb upwards on the roller coaster. Always iterate As encounters become more complex with larger groups, multiple waves, and special events, the testing of the pacing can quickly get time consuming because the order of each new encounter will affect the overall flow. I highly recommend to start the testing at the beginning each time to make sure the encounters are balanced in sequence, otherwise there is a good chance a gameplay difficulty spike will appear due to lack of resources. *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm Follow Simon Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimsOCallaghan Website: http://www.simonoc.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://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  2. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 19? Read it here: Threat Zones Intro Have you ever spawned into a map and were instantly being fired upon when you spawned in? Do you remember how frustrating that is? How about when you spawn and walk a couple of steps and instantly fall victim to a grenade due to all of the combat nearby? Have you ever spawned at the same time as someone else facing each other only to run at each other spraying and praying that you will be the one that lives? Remember not having any time to react or strategize? Not a fun feeling, is it? Flat-footedness Flat-footed is an adjective that refers to someone as being “unprepared” or “unable to react quickly”. Being flat-footed is not an enjoyable experience for most of those who enjoy fighting. Most fighters love being able to strategically prepare for each incoming attack while removing every possible disadvantage that they may have. Flat-footedness is one of those disadvantages and as a designer you too should do your best to remove this uncomfortable feeling from your maps. No player enjoys being caught off guard unable to use their skill to the best of their advantage. It is one thing for the player to put themselves in that position, at that point they blame themselves and you have nothing to worry about. However if they are caught flat-footed when they spawn that is the fault of the designer and you will be blamed for your poor design skills. Don’t let the player blame you. If you do, you have given your player a bad first impression and that isn’t something that we want. Avoiding the “unfun” So how do you avoid making your players miserable? First thing you want to do is observe high traffic areas with high combat congestion. The more traffic an area is receiving, the higher chance that a player is going to get thrown into the middle of it. Another thing to take a look at is how your map’s path manipulation is moving player’s around the map. Observe where you have placed your incentives and if nearby player’s are going to follow the objective path of their path map towards a nearby spawning player to obtain that incentive. Even more so if the player has the knowledge of the map to know that there is a sniper that spawns around there at certain intervals. Spawn players in low eye catching areas of popular perspectives. If you know that a player on the sniper tower is always looking down at a certain spot in his threat zone, don’t spawn a player near the eye catching portions of his perspective. It will just result in a very sad spawning player. And a sad player is a player not playing or sharing your map. Spawning is important Spawning is one of the most important parts of level design that needs to be handled with care. You’ve already seen how important spawning is through spawn perspectives and smooth spawning. This is just another thing that you need to look out for. Remember that a player’s first impression is everything when they play your map and that spawning is the first few seconds of that experience. If you disappoint them in those first few seconds then you have failed your player and they may not come back. Think about all of the things that you have stopped after experiencing the first few seconds, minutes, or hours. Don’t make that kind of stuff. Trust me. Read Chapter 21: Incentive Weighting Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  3. About Reaching Perfection Missed Chapter 9? Read it here: Perspective Variance Intro Over the various past lessons you have been introduced to how powerful observing perspectives can really be. However there are billions of possible perspectives that exist on a map. Learning to observe key perspectives is important to saving yourself sometimes. One type of perspective that is common across all maps and extremely useful to observe is the Perspective that exists for each spawn point on the map. The first of many The spawn perspective is typically the first full controllable perspective of the map that the player receives. Note that I say controllable perspective meaning that the player is able to fully move his perspective at his will from this point forward. Other perspectives may be seen first, but I will cover those in later lessons. Being the first controllable perspective all eye catching techniques are extremely important to study. From this first perspective player begin to decide exactly how they move around the map. It is important to take the time to study each and every one carefully. Spawn perspectives are the only truly guaranteed perspectives that you can observe exactly as the player will see it since there has been no previous eye catching, incentive,deterrent, or other influence upon the perspective. Observe them heavily As a designer you should be aware of everything that the player can see from each spawn point of your map. Know what incentives exist, what paths are available, what deterrents may exist, etc. Take the time to analyze the eye catching that exists in the perspective to get a good idea of where the player may be heading. Keep in mind that there are many factors that will influence all future perspectives. The spawn perspective is the start of a long chain of perspectives that only ends when a player dies, and then restarts from there until the game ends. Every perspective in the chain is influenced by the spawn perspective so setting up the spawn perspective properly will lead to huge control over the player when dealing with 'Path Manipulation'. You control your players Whenever you place any spawn point the first thing you need to do is stand on it, find some way to force spawn on it, or just find some way to view the spawn’s perspective. Take the time to observe what is in the scene. Spawn perspectives are very powerful tools for applying the 'Knowledge is Power' concept and teaching players important parts of the map. Take note of what weapons the player can see. Take note of what paths the player can choose from. Take notes of any possible threats that may exist in the perspective. A good general rule to go by is to give the player at least one path as the focus of the spawn perspective. Give the player direction and guide him from where he spawns. If a player spawns and the only thing he sees is a wall, what is he going to do? He has an equal chance to turn right or left where he will proceed to choose his path. You want to remove as much unpredictability as possible in order to have stronger control over the player. Remember that you have control over the player’s experience. If you want him to go right towards rockets then turn his perspective so that the path to rockets is in plain sight. If you want him to go left for the sniper then turn that perspective left. You have full control. Read Chapter 11: Smooth Spawning Follow Ray Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayBenefield Mixer: https://mixer.com/RayBenefield Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg
  4. About Ben Burkart I initially became interested in level design as a full time career at the age of 12 when somebody gave me a copy of the original Unreal Tournament. I do not recall exactly how it happened but I ended up stumbling upon the level editor and quickly became fascinated with it. Above all the thing that stood out to me and fascinated me the most was the idea of creating my own levels. The authors names were under the properties of each level in the game and because I was so interested in level design these people in a very large way became my role models even though I had no idea who they were. One name that appeared on several of my favorite maps was Cliff Bleszinski. I knew nothing about him other than that he made a lot of my favorite maps and that I also wanted to become a level designer so I set out to contact him. I sent an email with one single question “How much money do you make a year?” I was not aware that this was rude to ask, I was just a clueless kid in the country who wanted to make video games… I received a response that simply said “3 billion“. I do not remember if I actually believed him at the time but it was enough to make me excited to push forward with making levels. After making levels for a couple of years I got my first phone interview at Nintendo at the age of 15. I do not know what they saw in my work but I was told that my work stood out to them and it was all I needed to hear to push myself to getting my first job in the industry which eventually happened in 2007 at Gearbox Software. At Gearbox Software I worked as a level designer on Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway. They had an amazing cog program that really helped me get my foot in the door initially. After Gearbox Software I worked at a studio named Blue Omega Entertainment where I worked on a game called Damnation. I came in towards the end of the production of Damnation so my responsibilities were more in the direction of polishing the levels and improving upon the multiplayer maps in terms of both layout and visuals. Lake Scene by Ben Burkart After Blue Omega I started at a small indie studio named Trendy Entertainment working on Dungeon Defenders1/firstwave/second wave, and Dungeon Defenders 2. I stayed at Trendy Entertainment for 4 1/2 years and then got a job at Empire Studios working on an unannounced Unreal Engine 4 title. Overall my responsibilities in each studio were generally the same with the exception that I was given more responsibilities as I became more experienced and I eventually took a lead level designer position at Trendy Entertainment. Responsibilities at each studio generally came down to creating the level layouts and bringing them to final visual polish, including gameplay passes, decoing the levels, lighting them, and in many situations optimizing and finalizing them.The Best Tools for the Level Designer Forest Scene by Ben Burkart I use Unreal Engine 4 for one very important reason, it empowers its users. One of the most important advantages I believe Unreal Engine has always had over other engines is a superior workflow. Tools are always robust and empower the developers to save hundreds of hours of development time even over the previous Unreal Engine 3. In Unreal Engine 1 and 2 if a level designer or artist wanted to do some fun scripted stuff that the code didn’t currently support they would need the help of a programmer. With the additions of kismet and Blueprint the engine has basically upped the possibilities that a developer can pull off allowing for not only quick prototyping but also quick implementation, bug fixing, and overall just general production. The most important thing when it comes to game engines is that they allow the developers to do what they want. The less time you spend fighting technical stuff and trying to get buggy software to work the quicker you can get an amazing project finished. And for this reason I have stuck with Unreal Engine since 2001 through all of its iterations. Generally a level designer can get away with knowing nothing more than the Unreal Editor and still be an amazing level designer. However several level design job positions will require some knowledge of 3D modeling software such as 3ds Max, or Maya so I would suggest learning one of these as a secondary skill to at least an intermediate level. If you are just starting out I would definitely suggest putting all of your time and effort into only learning UE4 to start off as it can easily be daunting all by itself. Companies will prefer somebody extremely efficient in UE4 vs somebody who is mediocre in both UE4 and 3D modeling.The Tricks of Building Levels in 3D Daoist - Unreal Tournament 3 Level from Ben Every project should be approached differently when it comes to planning out your level but generally there are a lot of points that remain the same. Spending a few days worth of planning out your level can save you weeks or headaches and reworking later on. There are a few main things you need to get down before you even begin thinking out your layout. It is always important to have a goal and purpose for your level, deciding this early on should influence how you make decisions regarding layout/visuals/balancing through every step of your levels creation. When preparing to design your level you should have a clear indication as to what kind of visual theme you are going for as it should influence your layout as well as allow you to get the right assets together or to get a better idea of what kind of assets you are going to need.Multiplayer Maps: The Main Staples of Level Design Vicinity - Unreal Tournament 3 Level from Ben The way you approach multiplayer maps depends very heavily on what type of multiplayer map it is going to be and what game it is being developed. Let’s imagine you’re building a DeathMatch level for an arena game such as Unreal Tournament.Flow: Flow is above and beyond the most important thing in any multiplayer map, while the other things on this list have a possibility of not breaking the map if they are done somewhat poorly your map will always fail if your flow is bad.Item Placement: As with most of the things on this list the Item placement in a map can make or break your layout.Vertical Spaces: Any good Death Match level will have multiple floors/stories. Having several overlapping floors makes the gameplay a lot more interesting as well as exciting.Spawn Points: Spawn points should never be obvious to other players or be marked visually to allow players to camp and spawn kill players. Level Designers should place a minimum of 2-3 times more spawn points throughout the level than the player count its designed for, for instance if your level is designed for 4 players you should be placing a minimum of 8-12 spawn points in your level. Make sure spawn points are set so that players are spawned facing in an interesting direction or towards a nearby weapon. The sooner you can get the player back into the action the better!Using Sound: One often times overlooked feature most newer level designers overlook is using sound cues to trigger at specific spots in a level when a player runs over them. This allows players to hear where other players are at and react to the sounds they hear. A few simple ways to do this are, placing water puddles, creaking boards, clanging metal, etc.. In the case of games such as Unreal Tournament you should also use some of the health pickups in this way such as a health vial that makes a very unique sounds when picked up. Also if you have a level with several lifts/elevators it helps giving each a unique sound effect.Visual Clarity: Any competitive multiplayer game should have two things in common, good frame rates, and a very good visual clarity. Levels should be lit very well and player pathways should be extremely obvious and clear. Overall maps should be mostly devoid of noisy details as you want the players to stand out from the environment. Generally when it comes to making multiplayer maps it pays to under deco vs over deco your maps. As much as a lot of people enjoy making their levels a visual masterpiece players will often times pick the more simple maps with a better layout.Utilizing Gameplay Mechanics: Most games will have something that makes them unique. As a level designer it is your job to ensure that players are made to use these unique abilities often. For instance, in Unreal Tournament 4 players have the ability to dodge off walls, climb ledges, lift jumping, piston jumping etc… So giving players areas cool areas they can only reach by jumping at the right time at the top of a lift would be a good example of taking advantage of the gameplay mechanics.Size: The overall size of a map doesn’t always play into the final deciding factor on if it is easier or harder to create as it all depends on what the overall goal of the map is and how detailed each will be but generally a larger map will come with more challenges. For instance, making a giant MMO style map that is mostly open spaces with very little detail will for the most part be easier to create than a full city block that’s 10X smaller with 100X the detail. However, creating very large maps will have their own unique challenges, such as performance and memory restrictions. Things that are generally easier to maintain in a smaller map. However in some instances creating larger environments may be easier, but they are also easier to mess up and generally take a lot more experience from both the level designers and artists to get right. Original Source: https://80.lv/articles/8-secrets-of-a-great-multiplayer-map/ *This article has been posted in its entirely with permission from the author Ben's Website: http://www.evilmrfrank.com/ Ben's Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/evilmrfrank/videos Ben's Twitter: https://twitter.com/evilmrfrank
  5. Bobby Ross has put together an awesome Visual Guide to Multiplayer Level Design, based upon Ben Bauer's "Ben’s small bible of realistic multiplayer level design". Much like it's inspiration (which is well worth your time as well), this guide is relatively comprehensive in the range of subjects it covers, starting out with definitions of basic terms, and getting into things such as composition and Shape Language. The main sections are as follows: 1: Terms 2: Strategy 3: Tactics 4: Map Scale 5: Orientation & Navigation (Art) 6: Round vs Reinforcement 7: Map Symmetry 8: Realistic & Arcade Style 9: Supporting Game Design 10: Credits It goes without saying that this guide is perfect for the more visual learners amongst us. However, there's tremendous value to be found here for everyone. The design of the article itself is a thing of beauty that needs to be seen (or re-seen). Check it out, and share your takeaways from it. Source: http://bobbyross.com/library/mpleveldesign Follow Bobby Website: http://bobbyross.com/ Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbyross6 Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  6. The Forge Fundamentals articles will systematically review the fundamentals of constructing good maps, beginning at the idea stage, ending at a finalized map, and discussing everything that should be considered in between those two stages. The core concepts that will be discussed are essential aspects of any solid forge map, and should always be fresh in our minds. This series covers the following subjects: • Preplanning • Spawning • Cover • Flow • Weapons • Aesthetics • The Total Package Note: This is a series I wrote and released on Forgehub several years ago. I'm re-posting it here primarily to have it posted online at a site where I have complete control over it. The Forge specific info is mostly outdated, but the commentary on Gameplay in Halo maps is still relevant. Part 1 - Preplanning Let's start at the very beginning of the life of almost every great forge map - preplanning. Preplanning is an incredibly important part of designing a map which is, unfortunately, often overlooked. Preplanned maps tend to require fewer time-consuming changes in forge. Preplanning can help you increase your productivity as a map designer and improve the quality of your finished products. There are two main parts to preplanning great maps - generating ideas and developing an idea. Generating Ideas Ideas can be tough to come by - Sometimes they might come from places you've visited or want to visit, pictures, dreams. They might even appear in your mind without an obvious trigger. So, how can you go about creating an environment in which ideas can begin to bubble to the surface? One logical suggestion is to look at a lot of forge maps (Check out Forgehub Archives HERE). Another is to Look at maps from games other than Halo (Lvlworld, a Quake 3 mapping forum, is an excellent resource). You can always look to developer made Halo maps for inspiration as well. Taking a portion of a map that intrigues you and designing something completely different around it is a good exercise. Looking at buildings or at nature can often spark ideas. Taking a walk outside can help a lot - Something as simple as an interesting facade on a building or the curve of a road may be the beginning of a great map. Of course, there is also the World Wide Web. You can search through images of buildings constructed with different styles of architecture (there are numerous styles out there - check out Wikipedia's list HERE). Maybe even a tattoo or a mandala may lead to a moment of inspiration. Developing an Idea In my experience, there is a very strong correlation between how well developed an idea is prior to building, and the quality of the final product. Any time spent fleshing out an idea will be well worth it in the end. Once an intriguing idea for a map has arisen, a good next step is to figure out what the basic structure of the map will look like in a decent amount of detail. Ideally, the map should be planned with enough detail that a person who sees a sketch or model of it will be able to recognize the map once it's in Forge. It's not necessary to go to the lengths of deciding which forge pieces will be used to construct each portion of the map. Going into specifics such as that can actually hinder the developmental process. There are various ways to create conceptual designs, and the method that will work best may vary largely from person to person. Some people can visualize an entire map in their mind, while others require something physical to look at. If you're one of the former, well...lucky you. If you're one of the latter, then there are a few tools that can be utilized to help bring a map to life without placing a single block. Drawing rough sketches on graph paper is a common practice for many forgers - if you don't have graph paper on hand, you can always use Virtual Graph Paper. Freehand drawing can also work well, especially if you're artistic. However, If you really want to understand the ins and outs of what you're going to build, a 3D modeling program like Google Sketchup is highly recommended (You can download it HERE and mess around - it's free!). There are many guides online to help you learn how to use the program if you're unfamiliar with it (Sketchup's Official YouTube Channel is a great resource - it has a lifetime's worth of videos explaining Sketchup and the process of developing ideas, plus other cool design-related stuff). Of course, there is always the option of taking a basic idea and going right into forge to build it. There are both upsides and downsides of building maps this way - it's much easier to judge things like scaling and lines of sight when you're making a map in forge, but it takes much longer to move a wall or room in forge than it does on a piece of paper or a model. Another major downside of forging ideas straight from your brain is the risk of becoming overly attached to structures and becoming reluctant to make changes due to the time spent building them, even if it's for the better. It's generally not a good idea to jump right into forge and start building unless you can clearly visualize what you're going to make, and are absolutely certain you can do so without becoming attached to what you build. Regardless of which method is used to develop an idea, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind throughout the developmental process. Firstly, know what game types and player count the map will focus on. It's also a great idea to build areas meant for spawning into the geometry of a map. As the map is developing, it's wise to watch out for design flaws like scaling problems (Is the map too big or small to fit the desired player count? If so, should the map or the intended player count be altered?), poor lines of sight (can one area dominate all entrances to another?), too much or not enough cover (can a player get from point A to point B without being exposed to more than five angles on the map, and without awkwardly running around crates). These types of things can become plainly obvious when looking at a sketch or a 3D model. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Use the tools at your disposal to ferret out problems early on in the developmental process. Make thorough assessments as a map progresses, testing out various solutions based on feedback, and being willing to make the necessary adjustments.Making Adjustments This brings us to the final subject for this article, which any serious forger should be serious about - being open to constructive criticism. Viewing your map with an inflexible bias towards its current state, and being resistant to feedback as a result, almost guarantees mediocrity. It’s a good practice to spend more time analyzing what can be improved than admiring what's already good. Approaching forge with the right attitude can make all the difference in the world. A beginner with an open mind and the willingness to listen and learn can quickly attain the knowledge and skill necessary to build a better map than someone who is experienced but resistant to feedback. To make the most of feedback, view designs as flexible pieces of clay rather than solidified bricks. Part 2 - Spawning At first glance, placing spawns seems like a simple endeavor. Just place spawn points around the map, right? If only it were that easy. Sometimes poor spawning alone can mean the demise of a map. The goal of this article is to go over some of the fundamentals of creating an effective spawn system to maximize the potential of a competitive map. Starting Spawns When it comes to placing initial spawns, there are no absolutes . There are, however, some good guidelines that can be followed which have proven to work well. When placing initial spawn points, both teams should be placed on equal ground whenever possible. Spawning one team closer to a power weapon or power position than the other team can end up being the difference in who wins the game. On symmetrical maps, initial spawns should be placed in identical positions on either side of the map. On asymmetrical maps, starting spawn locations should be balanced, inasmuch as it's possible, taking into account things like power weapon placements, power position locations, and any other factors that may provide an advantage. Respawns The best location for a respawn point is in a relatively well protected area - placing them near or directly behind cover is always a good policy. A player should never spawn out in the open without the ability to reach a protected area before dieing. Giving players a fighting chance should be a top priority. The positioning of respawn points is not the only factor to consider - the orientation of spawns (which direction they face) is equally important. A player that spawns facing a wall can find it very disorienting. Anyone who has spawned looking at a wall, turned right and left in an attempt to ascertain their location, and then died before even having a chance to move should understand the importance of orienting respawn points correctly. Aiming spawn points so that players will spawn looking at main pathways or open areas of the map is of the utmost importance. There are many theories about how respawn points should be dispersed throughout a map. Those theories can range from using every respawn point available, to severely limiting the number of respawn points. There are many factors which may go into deciding which strategy is best for a particular map. A small 1v1 map obviously doesn't need over 250 respawn points on it. On the other hand, overly restricting the number of respawn points can result in spawning that is too easily punished. Respawn points should not be restricted to one or two sections of a map. As a general rule, in team games the majority of respawn points will be located in bases since they are generally more protected and allow players to respawn safely. However, an ample number of respawn points should also be placed in other areas of the map. Though this is probably an extreme example, if all of the respawn points on a map were located within bases, it could result in an unbreakable spawn trap. Spawn Zones There is much that could be written about spawn zones. Rather than attempting to go into great detail, this section will focus on covering some of the basics of the subject. On symmetrical game types like CTF (where each team is designated one side of the map) the best way to guarantee that each team will spawn on their side of the map is to put 3 identical spawn zones on each side, assigned to the team that should spawn on that side of the map. For some extra assurance, an Anti Spawn Zone can be placed on each side also, assigned to the team that should NOT spawn on that side of the map. On asymmetrical gametypes like Oddball, King of the Hill, and Extraction, it's often best to have no spawn zones at all. This means that players will not be restricted to spawning in particular portions of the map. Slayer is a unique case - the choice to setup a map with no spawn zones (dynamic spawning) or with sided spawns (static spawning) is often a matter of personal preference. On symmetrical maps, it's always a good idea to test both options and see which works best. Asymmetrical maps should almost always use Dynamic Spawning. There are additional ways to use Spawn zones also. As an example, if one or two respawn points on a map prove to be problematic, the easy solution is to delete them. However, another possible solution is to surround them with either an Anti or Anti-Weak Spawn Zone, which would allow those respawn points to remain on the map, but result in them being utilized less frequently. Part 3 - Cover Cover is an essential element of a good map. Properly implemented cover should allow players to spawn safely and move fluidly, while also contributing to the desired type of gameplay. There are numerous factors to consider when trying to ensure that the cover on a map works well. Lazy Cover vs. Structural Cover There are two main types of cover - lazy cover and structural cover. Lazy cover refers to any piece of cover that isn't a functional part of the structure of a map. Lazy cover generally serves only one purpose - providing cover. A random piece sticking out of the ground in the middle of an otherwise open area is an obvious example of lazy cover. The mohawks on Narrows and the crates on Solace could both be considered lazy cover. While lazy cover can be effective, and is often better than having no cover at all, it is far from ideal because it generally looks unnatural and often impedes natural movement. The second type of cover is 'structural cover'. Anything that is a functional part of the structure of a map and also provides cover qualifies as structural cover. There are many ways of implementing structural cover - angles or indentations in walls, changes in elevation, or doorways and pillars incorporated as part of an architectural theme can all provide cover on a map. Cover Influencing Immersion Forethought is necessary in order to successfully implement structural cover into a map. As a beginning forger, the tendency is to construct the basic layout of a map first, and then add cover afterwards. Maps constructed in this way are often filled with lazy cover, and lacking in structural cover. This can result in a map that looks like a bunch of pieces that were thrown together haphazardly. As a forger gains experience, there is generally a desire to make something more immersive. While making an immersive play space can seem daunting, structural cover can go a long way towards creating a sense of immersion because it makes a map feel and look more real. The ability to implement structural cover into a map is something that generally comes with experience. Whenever possible, structural cover should be built into a map during the preparation period rather than being added at the end of the process. The difference WILL be noticeable. Catering Cover to the Desired Gameplay Style When designing a map, it's helpful to keep in mind the type of gameplay it's intended to foster. If the gameplay will focus on close quarters combat (a lot of melee battles and short range weapons), then it should be designed with a lot of tight spaces and sharp corners. If the focus will be on long range battles, then there should be an abundance of long, open lines of sight. Most competitive maps focus on mid-range battles, since they are the type of battles that best test a players skill while reducing the effect of the built in randomness of weapons as much as possible. When the focus is on mid-range battles, a map should be constructed with that desired range in mind. If during the building process it becomes apparent that there is a line of sight that is too long, then the structure of the map needs to be adjusted to shorten that line of sight. There are many ways to incorporate structural cover to create mid range battles. If, for example, there is a long straight hallway, there a few ways to reduce the line of sight to the desired distance. The hallway can be angled or curved, or an elevation change can be implemented within the hallway. Either of these options will result in a better looking, better playing map than taking the easy way out and simply placing an object in the middle of the hallway to break up the long line of sight. In fact, placing blocks or pillars in the middle of main pathways is something that should always be avoided because they prevent players from being able to strafe freely. Cover should complement movement, not impede it. Part 4 - Flow "This map has really good flow." "The map just doesn't flow very well." These types of comments are frequently heard when discussing the merits of a map. What does 'flow' mean, and what can be done to create the elusive 'good flow'? Flow generally refers to the direction and pace of movement through a map. While there is no secret formula that guarantees a map will flow well, there are some good standards that can be followed. Player movement should be smooth The pace of play should be neither hectic nor stagnant Connections should be intuitive and have a clear purpose Power weapons and power positions should encourage players to constantly be on the move Movement There are 4 basic methods of movement in Halo - walking, jumping, taking a gravity lift, and teleporting. Each of them affects map flow differently. Teleporters can move players long distances in an instant. They can be effectively used to improve movement in areas where it's lacking, but they can also result in teleporter camping and leave players feeling disoriented if implemented improperly. It's generally best if teleporters are set up so that players exit moving the same direction they were going when they entered. The teleporter to top gold on the MLG version of Zealot is a good example of how not to implement a teleporter, as it is unintuitive and disorienting to exit a teleporter facing the opposite direction from which you entered. Also, a teleporter exit should have a clear path leading from it with plenty of room for players to maneuver - people shouldn't be left staring at a wall, unsure of where they are once they walk through. Silent vertical lifts can be created with one-way shield doors. The decision to use this style of lift instead of a regular gravity lift usually is a matter of personal preference, but there may be times where the presence or absence of a sound cue will have a clear impact upon flow. Tactical jumps (also called tac jumps, trick jumps, or jump ups) are another common type of movement option incorporated into maps. They are often quick but exposed routes to a higher elevation which offer a tactical advantage to a player. Tactical jumps can greatly benefit flow if used properly, but shouldn't be overused. They sometimes require players to stop moving horizontally in order to gain a vertical advantage, which can result in erratic movement. Therefore, tactical jumps should generally be a secondary means of movement to an area to throw off unsuspecting players, not the sole or primary means of movement to an area. The best method of movement is walking. Pathways that are designed for walking are frequently referred to as 'hard routes'. The main paths on a map should almost always be hard routes. Hard routes are optimal because they give players total control over their character. They result in smoother, steadier movement than the other options, while also producing more interesting battles. A battle where one player is traveling on foot and another player is traveling on a lift, for example, become repetitive since the movement of the player on the lift is very predictable. If the 4 types of movement were prioritized according to how frequently they should be used, the vast majority of a map's movement options should consist of hard routes, with the occasional tactical jump being implemented to add some depth to movement. Lifts should be used more sparsely, and teleporters should be the least used movement method. Connections Connectivity is another factor that determines how well a map flows. Both the number of connections and the way in which those connections are implemented should be taken into consideration. Too many connections (or routes) can create hectic, unpredictable gameplay, while too few can result in stalemates and slow gameplay. While having 3 routes into and out of each "area" of a map is a good standard to follow, there are certainly times where having more or less than 3 routes is the right decision. To decide how many connections should be in any given area, it's necessary to first know what purpose that area serves. Is it a flanking route? A flanking route through the middle of a map will often consist of numerous movement options, while one on the exterior of a map may offer a very limited number of options. Is it home to an objective? The ideal number of routes will vary greatly depending upon which type of objective it is, and where it is located on the map. For example, a 'neutral flag' location should generally be more accessible than a traditional CTF flag location. Is it a power position? Power positions can derive their power from a variety of attributes. The number of routes to an area is a significant factor in determining whether or not it works as a power position - too many ways to access a power position lessens its strength, while too few can result in it being overpowered. Power Positions and Power Weapons Power positions can have an enormous impact on how players move around the map. Clear power positions can offer a great incentive for players to move. However, a position that is too powerful becomes detrimental to flow, turning matches into a linear game of attacking and defending one position while the rest of the map lies nearly unused. The right balance encourages players to gravitate towards power positions, but also makes them challenging to maintain control of. A good example of a balanced power position is top mid on Wizard/Warlock. It offers the best lines of sight on the map and has a fair amount of cover. It's also difficult to stay alive there for very long. Power weapons are another element to be aware of. They are one of the biggest influences on player movement on any map. Placing them in the right positions and having them respawn at reasonable intervals can do wonders for map flow. The next article will cover the subject of power weapons more thoroughly. Until then, go with the flow. 😛 Part 5 - Weapons The subject of weapons is a broad one indeed. This article is going to focus primarily on power weapons and powerups, covering weapon spawning methods, respawn rates, and weapon positioning. Weapon Spawning Methods The three methods of spawning weapons are ordnance, drop spawn, and traditional placement. Traditional weapon placement entails simply dropping weapons onto a map. The main advantage of placing them this way is the ability to control the amount of ammo. A possible disadvantage is that it makes the respawn time of a weapon more difficult to predict. While traditional placement allows a forger to set the respawn rate for weapons down to the second, those weapons will respawn according to when they were picked up rather than at a static rate. If the respawn rate on a traditionally placed weapon is set to 2 minutes, it will respawn 2 minutes after it was previously picked up. This can be more confusing than having a weapon spawn every 2 minutes on the spot, and can potentially create a cascading advantage for the team that initially obtains the weapon. However, it could be argued that this rewards awareness and communication more than Ordnance or Drop Spawns do. Drop Spawning is the third weapon spawning method. To setup a drop spawned weapon, hold it in mid air and set the physics to 'fixed'. After releasing hold of the weapon, highlight it by placing the selector over it (don't grab it) and press the X button to bring up the options menu. Change the physics back to 'Normal'. This will result in a weapon that spawns in the elevated position and then immediately drops until it hits a solid surface. When the weapon comes to rest, the game will register it as having been picked up. Drop Spawning has been commonly used for power weapons over the last few Halo titles. It offers the ammo count control of traditional placement and the respawn time consistency of Ordnance drops. Drop spawned weapons despawn very quickly in Halo 4 (as quick as 12 seconds in some cases), meaning that there is a decent chance that nobody will actually obtain a drop spawned weapon before it despawns. Power Weapon Respawn Rates How fast should a power weapon spawn? This is a difficult question to answer, and there are widely varying opinions on the subject. Many factors must be taken into consideration such as map size and player count, the total number of power weapons on the map, and the relative power of the weapons. Rather than discuss every possible scenario, let's go over some good general guidelines. The main purpose of placing power weapons on a map is to instigate confrontation between teams. Staggering power weapon spawn times increases the number of confrontations between teams. More frequent confrontations results in exciting, fast paced gameplay. In order to maximize the number of potential confrontations between teams, it's generally better to avoid having two power weapons spawn at the same time. There are exceptions, of course. One example of where spawning two power weapons at the same time makes sense would be the Sniper Rifles on The Pit. In instances where each team has an identical power weapon spawning on their side of a symmetrical map, the spawn times on those weapons should be the same. However, using The Pit for another example, it would probably not be good to have the Rockets and the Overshield consistently spawning at the same time because each team could obtain one of them without even needing to engage the opposing team. The goal is to create confrontations for both of those weapons. The way to do so is to stagger their spawn times. The majority of the time, neutrally spawning power weapons should spawn at different times, while symmetrically placed power weapons should spawn at the same time. As a general guideline, the more powerful a weapon is, the longer it should take to respawn. Rockets are usually the most powerful weapon, and easiest weapon to use on a map. They also normally take the longest to respawn. Respawn rates for power weapons can range anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Generally speaking, if a weapon has to respawn at a slower rate than 3 minutes to work on a map, then the weapon is just too powerful for that map. A couple of final notes on respawn times... Initial Ordnance drops take 4 seconds to drop, so Initial Ordnance respawn times should always be set 4 seconds faster than the desired spawn time. For example, if the weapon should spawn every 2 minutes (120 seconds), set the respawn time to 116 seconds. Drop spawned weapons also have a couple of seconds delay built into them. Traditionally, drop spawned weapons have been set to about 2 seconds less than the desired time (set to 118 seconds for a 2 minute respawn rate), but the exact time varies depending upon how it takes for the weapon to come to rest after spawning, and may require some experimentation. Power Weapon Placement Now that the methods and timing of spawning weapons onto the map have been covered, let's discuss weapon placement. Power weapons should very, very rarely be placed in power positions. A power weapon should only be placed in a power position that is also VERY vulnerable. The reason for this is that in addition to creating confrontations between teams, the other main purpose of power weapons is to encourage movement. Placing a power weapon in a desirable location significantly reduces the likelihood that a player or team will ever move from that location. It's very likely to result in gameplay that is either standoffish or too lopsided in one teams favor. Power weapons should be positioned according to their power. If the Rocket Launcher is the most powerful weapon on the map (which it almost always is), it should usually be placed in the most vulnerable of your potential power weapon positions. On the other end of the spectrum is a powerup like Speed Boost, which would probably be placed in a more advantageous position than Rockets. One final thing that was previously mentioned in the article on spawning, but bears repeating here. The initial spawns should always be balanced as fairly as possible by giving each team an equal opportunity of obtaining power weapons at the beginning of a game. On symmetrical maps this means placing power weapons exactly the same distance from each teams initial spawn location. Power weapon placement on asymmetrical maps is not so simple, but should also be as balanced as possible. Part 6 - Aesthetics We all know a beautiful map when we see one. Building a beautiful map can prove quite challenging. A couple of the main obstacles along the way are dynamic lighting and piece restrictions. There's really not much that can be done about the piece restrictions except staying flexible and being sure pieces are used wisely. To avoid breaking the dynamic lighting, get familiar with this guide: A Guide to Dynamic Lighting by WARHOLIC Visual Theme When a player first sets foot on a map, there are essentially 3 potential reactions that they could have to the maps appearance. They could notice how spectacular it looks, how bad it looks, or they could be indifferent to its appearance. One of the goals of a map maker is to create an immersive experience, and the appearance of a map is the main factor in determining whether or not they are successful. Before a forger can create a map that is truly immersive, though, they must first learn how to avoid making a map that looks bad. Every forger knows that a bad looking map detracts from a players experience. However, most lack the understanding of how to create a map that doesn't look bad. Without that understanding, the zeal for creating a spectacular looking map can result in a map that looks spectacularly bad. The main thing that results in a bad looking map is inconsistent and/or sloppy piece usage. Overlooking something as rudimentary as orienting objects the same direction and making sure they line up correctly can prove distracting for players. While consistency in orienting and lining up objects is the first step towards beauty, the next step is consistent piece usage throughout an entire map. Using the same pieces for similar structures throughout a map will greatly enhance its appearance. Using one piece for the floors, and another piece (or handful of pieces) for the walls will result in a clean looking map. There are, however, occasions when it can be beneficial to give different areas of a map different appearances as a way to help players quickly recognize where they are. One side of a map could be inside a rock cave, while the other side extends out from the cliff side and is open aired. As another example, each level of a multilevel map could have it's own look. Even then, it's wise to make sure that any type of structure that appears more than once on the map (windows/doors/ramps) should have a consistent look in all locations. This consistency results in a cohesive looking map with a clear visual theme. Creating an Immersive Experience The next step towards visual mastery is to create a truly immersive play-space. This is accomplished through the creation of a realistic setting. That can mean recreating an actual locale like the pyramids in Egypt, or designing something unique based upon a theme such as an abandoned town or a space station. Individual creativity can really help set a map apart from others. Impact and Ravine offer the best contrast between light and dark pieces. Erosion has a rusty, grungy look. Forge Island has an abundance of rocks, trees, and water. A modded canvas can enable even further immersion. An important element in a 'real' feeling map is structures that look realistic. If there is a long bridge, it should have pillars supporting it from underneath. If a balcony is implemented, it should have railings around the edge. Floors and walls should look real whenever the edges of them are visible. The best way to accomplish that is to use pieces that are at least the thickness of a 'short' block. 'Thin' block pieces, or other relatively thin pieces should be avoided whenever possible in those instances.Utilizing Aesthetics to Improve Flow and Communication Aesthetics can be used for more than just making a map look good. They can be implemented to highlight weapon locations, or be utilized to make callouts more intuitive. The Implementation of weapon holders can be an excellent way to highlight power weapon locations. While weapon holders are essentially only aesthetic touches, they can also positively impact map flow by making the power weapons easily identifiable. Forgers generally address the issue of callouts by color coding sections of a map to differentiate them and to make in-game communication easier. This is perfectly acceptable. It's more than acceptable; it's a good rule of thumb to follow. However, using aesthetics to allow players to differentiate areas of the map from each other can work just as well, or even better. Using a visual theme that incorporates a different look for each area of the map can make color coding completely unnecessary. Even a map that's completely symmetrical with matching pieces used on both sides of the map can use aesthetics to assist with orientation and communication, perhaps by building one side of the map next to a towering cliff. When playing on a map for the first time, if a player makes a callout referring to the 'cliff base', it will immediately be obvious which part of the map is being referred to, while it may take a moment longer to ascertain the location with a callout like 'red base'. Don't forget that there are more than just structure pieces at a forgers disposal. For a few examples, a Dominion Base Terminal can be a great weapon holder, Extraction Cylinders are an excellent way to add color to a map, Dominion Base Shields are perfect for color coding Teleporters, and Base Stripes make good railings. Use all the tools available. Think outside the box. See if an object can be used in a way nobody has ever used it before. Strive to strike a balance of creativity and consistent piece usage, while also making structures look realistic. Part 7 - The Total Package When the phrase 'The Total Package' is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously...Lex Luger. This article isn't going to be about Lex Luger, though (sorry, wrastlin' fans). This is the final article in the Forge Fundamentals series, and it's all about pulling everything together to make a forge map that kicks almost as much ass as the aforementioned grappler...almost. PDCA There is a 4 step business management method called PDCA that’s designed to refine processes/products. It’s a method that can be applied to the forging process with spectacular results. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. We will go over how this tool can be utilized for the development and refinement of a map, by going through each step of the process one by one. Plan – Establish the goals and basic layout of the map. Do – Make the map. Check – Study the results. Look for differences between what is desired and what is actually happening. Act – Implement fixes for any problems that are found during the ‘check’ stage.Plan Thinking through a map in a decent amount of detail before building it can significantly improve the final product. The fact that each aspect is so inextricably interwoven with the others makes some degree of preplanning all the more important. Prior to beginning building, it’s essential to decide the map's desired size player count, and its intended game types. From there, a forger can come up with a basic layout by utilizing some of the tools mentioned in the article on preplanning. Once the basic layout is decided upon, starting spawn locations and power weapon locations can start to enter the thought process. It’s also wise to think about how different sections of the map will connect to each other, and how those connections will impact the maps overall flow. Another thing to consider is the aesthetic theme – is it possible to create recognizable landmarks within that theme that will help players orient themselves and communicate with each other? During the planning stage, a forger should create their map on a smaller scale. This generally means producing the map either on paper or on a modeling program. Doing so can bring to light problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and resulted in hours of wasted time. Do This is the construction phase. The limitations inherent in forge can make this a challenging part of the process. Most of the skill required to efficiently forge a map only comes through experience, as the result of trial and error. It’s important to remain flexible while building. While preplanning is a vital tool that should be utilized, it's the beginning of the design process, not the end. Even maps made my professionals rarely end up exactly the same as the original design. The best policy is to plan well, then adjust where necessary. Don’t wait until the building is complete before making adjustments – Make them immediately. Check When the initial building phase is done, it's time for testing. Here at Halo Evolved, there are testing lobbies which anyone can join to get their map tested, as long as they are willing to return the favor. Getting involved will prove very beneficial, because thorough testing is one of the main ingredients that set great maps apart from decent maps. Though playing on a map is obviously an essential step, the main purpose of the ‘check’ stage is to pinpoint problems. To this end, analyzing gameplay in theater mode is an extremely valuable tool for a forger. Information that went unnoticed while playing on a map can become quite obvious when re-watching a game in theater. When in theater mode, it’s vital that attention is given to the performance of the map rather than the performance of the individuals playing on the map. One of the main things that’s smart to investigate is spawning. Watching every respawn for every player in a match can highlight a problem with one or two particular spawn points, which could then be adjusted accordingly or removed. Spawning can also be watched in a broader way. From overhead, it may become apparent that players are respawning in one particular area of the map too frequently. Perhaps reducing the number of respawn points in that area, or surrounding it with an anti-spawn zone could solve that problem. Another point of focus is power weapons. Following each power weapon from when it’s picked up until it’s out of ammo can provide valuable information on both the positioning of the weapon, and the amount of ammo it spawns with. One of the most difficult things for a forger to learn is how to discern whether or not something is actually a problem. Discernment generally comes with experience. If somebody complains about being spawn killed, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a spawning problem on the map - perhaps they were playing with too many people on the map, or the teams were uneven. The fact that somebody complained about something doesn't automatically mean it needs to be fixed. However, all feedback should be taken seriously. Most good forgers have the ability to build great maps because they welcome and encourage critical feedback. The best attitude to have when analyzing gameplay and feedback is one of non-attachment. If a forger has already decided that their map is perfect, it's very likely that they will overlook critical gameplay problems. Act Acting means applying changes to fix any problems that are uncovered. That may mean changing the location of a power weapon, breaking up a line of sight, or adjusting respawn points. It could also mean completely re-designing a portion of a map. Whatever problems are found in the ‘check’ stage of the process should be addressed one by one, beginning with the larger problems first. If you have some bad spawn points in a section, but that same section also requires a major re-design, then it wouldn’t make any sense to adjust the spawn points first. Once a potential fix for a problem has been implemented, go back to the ‘check’ stage to determine whether or not the fix has worked. If the problem still isn’t fixed, then it’s back to the drawing board. If the problem is fixed adequately, move on to the next problem and repeat the same process - this is the way to a kick-ass forge map. Conclusion Alas, We have arrived at the end of this series. We've only scratched the surface of what’s available and ready to be learned, so if you're hungry for more be sure to check out the other great guides posted on the site. Follow a Chunk Twitter: https://twitter.com/fh_aChunk Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jtjub/
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