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  1. Introduction The number of quality books on Level Design has grown by one with the release of Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series by Max Pears. The book is comprised of 25 subjects organized into 3 different sections (Planning, Blockout, Iteration) over the course of 80 pages. It brings us through concepts such as Metrics, Enemies, Decision Points, Combat Fronts, Verticality, and Local Landmarks. These subjects are presented in bite sized nuggets of insight from Mr. Pears, and supported with fabulously unique graphic depictions. We recently met up with Max to pick his brain about level design, and more specifically about his book on designing for combat. Interview Hey Max. Good to talk to you again. You’ve definitely been one of the most active level design content creators in recent years, putting out numerous articles and videos, along with mentoring others in the community. When and why did you decide to do a level design book? Hey mate, thank you very much for having me and great to be talking with you again. Aha cheers mate, yeah I had not stopped to think about being one of the most active. I guess it’s because more and more people are getting involved in our great Level Design community. It’s a funny one, as honestly I did not think I would write a book. I’m sure some of you who have read my articles on Next Level Design will know I am not the best writer, but I’ve gotten better, haha. My bad writing and jokes aside, it is because people kept asking me to write a book. After the combat article series I wrote and you published here, the demand increased. I thought well let’s give it a go and see what I can do. Another reason I think people were asking was/is because I’m so active. We have many great Design Books, but a lot of them are written by those who are outside of the industry, which does not take away from their value, I just think students and Jr designers want to hear from those who are in the industry. Plus I feel that level design is still not fully understood. So if I can help to reach students or Jr Designers to help them get a clearer picture in a more tangible form, I think a book may be the best way to do it. Yeah, for sure. It's awesome having a full collection of tips and tricks all in one, rather than taking bits and pieces from different places. Speaking of your experience within the industry, that reminds me that there may very well be people reading this that are just getting into level design, and may not be super familiar with you. How long have you been working as a level designer, and can you share some of the projects you've worked on? I have been making games for just about Seven Years now, crazy to think how fast time has flown by. I originally started in mobile games at a studio called FOG (Free Online Games) Media, where I made around 7 games in total, a couple made it to the app charts (Very proud of that). After I left went to Ubisoft Reflections, in which I worked on Tom Clancy's The Division, and the DLC Underground. Once that wrapped up I headed to where I currently am which is CD PROJEKT RED, where I am currently working on Cyberpunk 2077. Sadly right now I can not talk much about CP, but I am sure we will talk again after the game launches. But yeah that is my career so far, I am very happy with the projects I have been able to work on and the other developers I have had the pleasure to work with. Great. Thank you for that. Now let’s talk about this book of yours. Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series is organized into 3 chapters – Planning, Blockout, and Iteration, in that order. I can’t help but point out that this exactly mimics the typical design process order. I assume that was intentional? Do you feel It’s important for level designers to follow a strict process? Should they always (or nearly always) be addressing the subjects covered in the Planning section of the book before moving on to the ‘Blockout’ phase of the process, or should a process be more fluid than that? Also, you’ve worked on games that differ greatly in style, and I’m curious about how process and priorities might change to align with the type of project you’re working on? Glad you noticed mate, yeah I made sure to break it up to make it feel as close to the overall game development process as possible. I think it is important for students to understand how games are made as well as levels, at some parts of your career you might jump into a project at a different stage, so I feel this is a way to help those understand how the overall process looks. Yes, these are the stages everyone should learn, now someone's planning may differ from the next, but the overall experience in terms of big milestone structures are roughly the same. The process of how we design our levels should be roughly the same, but games and plans change throughout development so you might be at a point where an area is already art-ified so you can not block it out with your LD blocks. Yet you can still use the art assets for that area to use as cover instead. There are some adaptations that may be tweaked or less time invested into due to the stage of the project, however, if this book can help up and coming LDs understand how important these stages are to making great levels, then I will be happy as well. I am really glad you pick up on that, as I did think about how to best represent the overall process when coming up with this book, as there are some subtle details and others less subtle in the presentation & structure of this book. I hope other readers notice this as well. Your comment on understanding the importance of the various stages of designing levels brings to mind a semi-related question that I'm really eager to hear your thoughts on. I've noticed that as designers are in the learning stages of understanding level design (and we're basically all always at the learning stage), we tend to focus really heavily on particular concepts as we learn about them, perhaps to an extent that isn't really justified by their actually usefulness. One obvious example in the level design community would be 'leading lines'. Now while this is a cool concept, in the grand scheme of things it's probably not amongst the most important concepts to understand and incorporate. I won't ask you to call out the most over-hyped concepts in level design (but feel free to do so if you really want to, haha), but what are one or two of the concepts covered in your book that you think are undervalued, and really important in the level design process? Aha, yeah leading lines. I won’t lie, I have highlighted these before in my tweets and use them as an example in a few talks I have done. Now is this part of level design over exaggerated? Yes, by a country mile, haha. The element of why to consider is because it is easy to highlight over social media. It’s harder to break down more detailed topics over 280 characters or in a picture. Now that does not mean that we should ignore leading lines, as they are a useful tool, but think of it more as an additional tool. On its own it’s not the best, but when combined with negative space or lighting it really helps. As for a topic of level design that is not spoken about enough, I believe that has to be metrics. When I graduated and started working at Ubisoft, when they started showing me the metrics graph and making sure I stuck to metrics (I was a renegade haha) I was so confused as to how some created them. Why? Because it was not taught to me. Metrics is so crucial for your LD process, we need to be much more aware of how metrics work, how to use it communicate with the player, and when to bend the metrics to craft an emotional response from the player in our spaces. To any up and coming LD, do try to find out more about metrics. Metrics for sure are important and overlooked. I suppose that's part of the reason why it's the very first subject covered in your book. Moving on to a different subject, one of the first things that jumped out at me as I was reading through the book is the graphics in the example depictions. I personally really like the style you went with. It's very unique. There must be a story behind how this graphic style came to be? Yeah exactly mate, hopefully when people read and see it as point 1, they will take notice and prepare as best they can to understand more on metrics. I am glad you liked the graphics, I think it is for sure one of the coolest elements we nailed down for the book. Haha yeah, there was a lot of thought which went behind it. What you might notice with the grey grid and ui in the top right hand corner, is that we wanted it to look like it was taking place inside a game editor. Really ground it to the fact that you as a reader can feel that what you see on the pages can be instantly transferred into say Unity, UE4 Or whatever editor you are using. Which is why the text is window shaped boxes. It is making it not only give information you can apply but feel like it is already applied for you. The process of the pictures was super cool as I would actually block the Out layout, to then give to my artist J. She would then translate it to the beautiful images you see on the pages. She also brought those characters to life, as we wanted to make it super clear what everything was as well as throw in our sense of humor. As learning can always be fun. But I think one of the biggest inspiration for the art style was my Twitter (not in an egotistical way). I found that a lot of people would like to see my early blockouts or 2d layouts for my layout. With that in mind I wanted it to feel like that. I am really glad you liked it, as I feel anyone who reads this book will be delighted with not only the information written but also with the presentation. It's been really nice talking to you again Max, and getting some insight into your book, Let’s Design: Combat – A Level Design Series. Can you share some logistics with us? When and where will the book be available for purchase? What can we expect the price to be? And also, one final question... I can't help but notice that the books subtitle says "A Level Design Series". This would seem to suggest that it's part of a series of level design books. Do you have plans for a follow up book/s? Always a pleasure talk with you buddy, thank you so much again for us sitting down giving me a chance to be on your site. Yes, so the book releases 21/07/2020 so not long, of us doing our interview. Very excited and nervous haha, I hope everyone who purchases it will enjoy it. In terms of picking it up, you can buy either a physical or ebook copy of the book, which can be found here: Ebook £15 ($18.84 USD) - https://bit.ly/2WvrTUR Physical Book £25 ($31.38 USD) - https://bit.ly/3fBQ2k9 The book will be available on other stores like Amazon, but the best way to support me is to buy it from the links in the article (Gumroad and Lulu bookstore) as most of the money goes to me so I can reinvest into.....your second part of the question. Yes I intend to aim for three right now, the next one will be about Traversal/Exploration and I will start work on this around November and try to release it around Q1 of 2021. I want to make ‘Let’s Design:’ the best possible series I can so aspiring LDs can be better prepared for when they arrive into the industry as well as help those who are already on their great design path. It is an exciting time, I hope those who do pick up ‘Let’s Design: Combat’ truly enjoy it and find it helpful. Resources Looking for more content from Max? Here are links to all of his articles shared on Next Level Design: - Level Design for Combat Part 1 - Level Design for Combat Part 2 - Level Design for Combat Part 3 - Shape Theory in Level Design - The Illusion of Space - Do Your Research: Where’s the Toilet - Game Design: Introducing Mechanics Follow Max/Level Design Lobby Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaxPears iTunes: https://apple.co/2CwAkqD Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ybMelK YouTube: https://bit.ly/2XUXcLf SoundCloud: https://bit.ly/2XYIo9K 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. This is the final part of a 2 part series from Mike Stout on Designing FPS Multiplayer Maps. Missed Part 1? Read it here: https://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/content/articles/designing-fps-multiplayer-maps-part-1-mike-stout-r304/ What is not Fun in Multiplayer? Incredibly long view distances This was covered a bit in the “cover” section, but it is important to break up long views with cover. Failing to do so reduces the importance of skillful close combat and increases the importance of “fire and forget” splash weapons and long distance sniper weapons. It also makes large open areas less useful as good “risk/reward” areas. Linearity The ability for players to choose their own routes, lines, and flows is essential to good multiplayer gameplay. Extreme linearity is a barrier to this and should be avoided except in the case that you want to present a “risk/reward” scenario. Unassailable ambush spots / sniping positions Sniping and ambushing people is a lot of fun. However, being on the receiving end of either of these things is not fun at all – especially if you can’t stop it from happening. To that end, sniper and ambush positions should be carefully placed and balanced. Any unassailable position should either be opened up or removed from a good multiplayer map. Secret areas While secret areas are fun to find in single player, every attempt should be made in a multiplayer game to remove intimate map knowledge as a major determining factor for victory. Secret areas, especially those with very potent powerups or weapons, encourage intimate map knowledge or hiding to the detriment of skillful combat. Creating a Multiplayer Level Determine Requirements Does it need to be symmetrical? Objective-based modes, such as Capture the Flag, are usually well-served by symmetrical maps. It’s very difficult to balance non-symmetrical objective-based maps, but it’s definitely possible. What kind of level is it? Natural, alien, man-made? Is it a city? What kind of assets will you be using to make it? By establishing this early on, before you do your first maps or blockouts, you can get a head start on what basic shapes you’ll want to use to construct your map. While it’s tempting to jump right into construction or mapping, I’ve seen plenty of maps get ruined because not enough thought went into this part of the process. Does it need to support multiple modes or game sizes? In Resistance: Fall of Man, most of our maps were constructed to take advantage of different player counts and game modes. Because we had to balance these maps for so many different variables, we made a lot of choices to ease in the balance process. That’s why most of the resizable maps were symmetrical, for example. Choose your Areas I define an FPS multiplayer level as a connected series of “areas”. A good area is any space which: a) Has a focal point, b) Is a good space for 4-8 players to fight, c) Contains a good amount of terrain choices (like verticality), and d) has at least 2 (preferably 3) entrances / exits. Choose Focal Points When thinking of focal points, you need to think of them in two scopes: Area focal points and Map focal points. Both serve the same twin purposes: 1) To serve as navigational aids and landmarks for the area / map. 2) To provide a gameplay and artistic focus for the area / map. Focal points also tell the players what an area is. “The Lighthouse”, “the base”, “the cave”, or “the docking bay.” Each of these gives you an idea of what it basically is, and what a focal point might be. For example, the docking bay may have a space ship in it that you fight on or around, while the lighthouse is pretty self explanatory. Here’s a number of guidelines that I found useful in constructing maps for Resistance: Every map should strive to have one major focal point that the whole map is based around. The focal points must serve to add visual interest and to drive players towards a goal. Focal points can be gameplay objectives, structures, powerups, etc… The best multiplayer “spaces” are built around a focal point that attracts both visual AND gameplay interest Determine Flow / Connectivity A good first step when starting a Multiplayer design is to create a simple flow diagram. A flow diagram is simply a series of simple shapes representing areas (squares, circles, triangles, etc) with arrows between them which represent connectivity. You may remember me talking about these in a previous article. I called them “Bubble Diagrams.” Pictured above are three examples of simple flow diagrams. Every simple shape represents a different type of area, while the arrows show the flows between them. Keep in mind that these arrows only indicate flow. They don’t necessarily convey any information about number of entrances, exits, or anything else. When thinking about flow, it’s good to consider the following: Global flow (pickup placement) Local flow (focal points, terrain advantages) Think about how to best encourage the player to make good decisions Entrances / exits (every area should have at 2, but preferably 3) Good deathmatch maps connect everywhere to everywhere else Good node / CTF maps strategically block off some connectivity (to make chasing your opponents or defending objectives more possible) Begin Roughing out the Areas Now that you’ve got your flow down, it’s time to start roughing out your areas. This can be done on paper or in 3d, as suits the individual designer. When coming up with gameplay for these areas, it’s good to begin considering the other aspects that make up an area. Most important of all, however, is to add verticality. Verticality is important! Adds visual interest Good re-use of space Fit more gameplay into smaller footprint Gives players interesting choices You’ll also want to start thinking about things like view distances, how good you want your various spaces to be for camping, or what (generally) you want the gameplay to be in those areas. Open Space Vs. Covered Spaces In general large open spaces should be avoided in favor of spaces with lots of cover and/or verticality. The exception is when you want the player to be vulnerable, such as when creating a risk-reward scenario Risk / Reward Scenarios A good way to encourage players to make choices is to place a few “Risk / Reward” setups into your areas. These are any time you want to tempt the player into taking a big risk to obtain some big reward. An example would be a powerful weapon in a vulnerable spot (such as on a small beam, or in a large open area, or near a wall). Other times you can tempt a player with an eventual strategic advantage. For example, you could place two paths leading into a base – one has good cover and excellent spots to attack the defenders. The other has a short patch that is open and easily defended, but leads to some good high ground you can use to further demolish your opponents. A Few Extra Notes CTF Support (Symmetry) CTF and Node modes almost require symmetry to achieve balance. CTF requires that the flag carrier have good places to run, but not to hide Useless Spaces Sometimes you will have places in your map that a good player will never go, since it only gives them a disadvantage. Try to avoid this, whenever possible. If you find, through testing the space, that a part of the map is useless space, try creating a risk/reward scenario there. Put a pickup there or create some other reason why it’s a good place to have. Failing that, block the area off to keep newbies from having enough rope to hang themselves. FPS-Specific Tidbits Avoid extreme changes in terrain grade. Not only do they look too steep to walk up, but they are also pretty hard to see when walking towards them. More gentle grades will often be more obvious. When designing corridor style spaces (Pathways, valleys, streets), determine the minimum amount of space needed for the game play you are intending on before designing these area. If possible, strive to use to already built (to-scale) assets when roughing out a 3D space. This can give you a good idea of whether or not a space you designed is going to be big enough once it has been populated with art assets. Player Map-Knowledge While knowing a map well is a key to attaining vicory, in general it should not be an incredibly important arbiter of who wins or loses. Skill with the core mechanic fills that role. Knowledge of the map as a determining factor of who wins the map is a bad thing when you have: Secret areas – Secret areas allow flag holders to hide in CTF, and reward map knowledge over skill contests. Powerful hidden pickups – Only people who have played the map will know where to get these. In general, place your most powerful weapons in easily accessible places and use them as focal points. Hard-to-find gimmicks – Things like buttons hidden in the level that call in airstrikes make everyone else explode. These can be cool when they’re in an easily accessible area and provoke a gimmick that you have some countermeasure against, but not when hidden or secret. Teleporters (sometimes) – Teleporters in general discourage fair fights, since only those with knowledge of where they go can make good decisions on coming out the other side. Teleporters can be good in some instances, but unless you really have some really good gameplay in mind, there’s usually a better solution *Note: This article is republished in its entirety on Next Level Design with permission from the author. Source: http://www.ongamedesign.net/designing-fps-multiplayer-maps-part-2/ Follow Mike Website: www.ongamedesign.net/ Website: http://www.chaoticstupid.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/MikeDodgerStout 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. Landmarks Are Signposts If a play tester is getting lost then it may be due to the map architecture or colour scheme being too similar. Bold unique details or colours can make a big difference with helping players build up a mental picture quicker in their head for navigation. A landmark does not need to be something ginormous or even visually impressive, but it does need to be something visually unique with regards to the rest of the map. A way to see if this approach is working is trying to describe every location to a friend using 5 words or less. For example, the lake of lava, the giant waterfall, the blue tile room etc. If a location cannot be easily described with something unique then it is unlikely to be memorable or a good sign. Once every location in a map has an unique architectural feature or colour style, the player is much more likely to be able to move around the map quickly and spend more time exploring instead of wondering where they have been already. Materials Have Weight When a game location is built using materials like wood or stone they will come with preconceptions about their weight. Building materials often look and feel better when they are a certain shape relative to their weight. The player is unconsciously expecting them to be a certain look relative to their surroundings. For example a giant undamaged stone pillar should look like it can support its own weight and stand upright. The thickness, angle and shape are often derived from the material used and if the pillar has odd proportions then the presence is diminished. The same could be said for a stone wall between rooms that is too thin for the material used and the structural weight looks wrong. Regardless of how much a game may want to surprise a player with unbelievable structures and scale, the weight of real world materials has a great impact on the players impression of a scene and how believable it looks. Always Iterate This should be a mantra muttered every morning before breakfast! I cannot stress this enough that most tasks associated with game design rarely work first time, they are often tweaked, updated or changed over time. Architecture will often have more detail added, existing routes moved around and even silhouettes manipulated once the lighting is done! Always allow extra time for this by learning to build architecture over time in layers. Create Prefabs Not everything in a map has to be unique, interactive objects especially should be visually consistent. A classic use of prefabs is where an object (button/door) needs to be easily recognizable by the player for its functions and pop out from its surroundings as something important. Some projects like jam or speed creation events do not have the luxury of endless time and prefabs can be used to fill in details quickly. If there is enough time left after gameplay and lighting has been completed then the prefabs can easily be replaced with better unique detail. Embrace Vertical Designs When walking down the street most people will be looking forward and rarely will they be looking up at the top of buildings or down at their feet. People look forward because of their eye position and do not notice the details in their peripheral vision. This is why many games take advantage of this by hiding objects above or below player height. The trick to vertical designs is to find the right gradient angle, the right balance by which a player will be willing to look up or down to notice details and consider it a relevant path to explore. The first type of vertical design is varied floor heights that have obvious connections via steps or moveable objects. These types of designs create better spaces for exploration and encounters while challenging the player to be spatially aware. The second type of vertical design are generally isolated or areas high above the players movement/vision height and not obvious how they are reachable. These ledges, routes or secret places should be reusable spaces and offer the player an alternative viewpoint, a chance to enjoy the previous location but this time from a height advantage. A classic mistake that anyone new to level design makes is create a single floor height room with very little Z axis interaction. The best way to think about vertical design is like a Celtic knot, where floors weave up and down, over and under and create the surprise of an interconnected location to explore and take advantage of! *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://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  4. Edgemister Gaming (@Edgemister) has started up a new level design YouTube series. The first video in this post is an introduction to the series. The second video dives right into the subject matter. Hope you all enjoy! Follow Edgemister Gaming YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/edgemistergaming/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/edgemister_ 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. An Overview: What is Fun About FPS Multiplayer? Choices Sid Meyer once said that “a game is a series of interesting choices” and nowhere in game design is this more true than Multiplayer Design. In a single player game, the designer has access to design tools to help guide the player, like linear progression, or even just general good crafting of gameplay segments. In a multiplayer game, the player is constantly having to make his own experience using only the tools you provide him to do so. As such, it is important to approach multiplayer map design from this perspective: Provide the player with good tools and he can create a good experience. All this sounds blaringly obvious, of course, but given how many people get this basic tenet wrong it deserves stating. Terrain Options One good way to provide players with interesting choices in a multiplayer FPS map is to give them a variety of terrain options to choose from. (Elements like walls, cover, high ground, and low ground are all examples of these terrain options.) Good players learn what terrain to use depending on the situation – for example, it’s usually just a better idea for a player to have higher ground than his opponent. Not only does it provide him with an excellent angle to fire at them with, it also usually provides partial cover. Now lets say you place the high ground near a wall – now the player has a choice to make: Does he go for the high ground and attempt to get cover, or does he stay in the open to avoid getting hit easily with a splash damage weapon? A good multiplayer designer is always thinking of terrain options and trying to engineer them to provide as many good choices for the player as possible. Multiple Paths In single player games, it is often beneficial to lead the player towards the best gameplay experience your game has to offer. Often, this leads to a linear level design (which is, in most cases, best suited to the experience you want to provide). In multiplayer a linear path is rarely beneficial. A good player is constantly varying his route through a level, sometimes to shake off pursuers or sometimes in order to go after desirable weapons or pickups. Either way, it is always advantageous for the player to have a number of paths to get to and from every major area in a multiplayer map. As a general rule, a good multiplayer design should strive to make sure all major areas have at least three ways in and/or out of them. As with all rules, there are exceptions — and I’ll get into those in future installments. Flow In addition to multiple paths, a good multiplayer level designer is constantly thinking of how he wants the players to move globally through a multiplayer map. This level of understanding, called flow, affects everything from pickup placement in a deathmatch map to node placement in a node-capture map. It is often beneficial for a designer to come up with a rough bubble diagram before attacking the level. Such a diagram will usually just consist of simple shapes (circles, squares, triangles) representing major areas. Once you’ve got a nice area layout, you connect them with arrows showing the different ways in or out of that area. Then you start to think about how you want a player to travel from one area to the next and where the points of interest are on that path. If you’re ever having trouble coming up with a good flow, there are several default shapes that you can always fall back on that work almost every time. The Circle A circle is the simplest kind of flow a level could have. While you would almost never design a level that only flowed in a circle, sometimes you can define your major flow path as a simple circuit through the level. This is often a good springboard that gets you thinking about even better flows. The Figure 8 If you play any competitive multiplayer games (most often FPSs) you will notice that a lot of levels are based off the simple figure 8. Figure 8’s are a very interesting shape for major flow. While they offer all the benefits of a circle, as far as providing interesting flow, they also have the added benefit of an additional major flow path that cuts through half the circumference of the circle. Often, you can get incredibly involved and complex flows out of a few well-placed figure-8s. Interesting Spaces Focal Points Focal points are a particularly important feature of multiplayer maps. Not only do they divide up the players’ interest to many different points on the map, they also provide areas of visual interest. Every well designed map will contain a focal point at the most important point on the map (usually the center) as well as minor focus points in every major area. Examples of focal points include really tall structures, interesting terrain formations, gameplay-required elements (such as nodes), pickups, and anything that adds particular visual interest to an area. Verticality The terrain options section touched on this a little bit, but verticality’s importance in multiplayer design can not be overstated. Verticality increases the amount of player choices in an area, but also increases the “gameplay per square meter” that a map has. A completely flat map that supports 32 players might be 400m x 400m, but you could fit the same number of players into a 200×200 map just by adding one or two levels of verticality to all the major areas on a map. In Resistance, for example, we found that adding verticality to a space in 3 meter increments (specifically 3 and 6 meter height differences up or down) made our spaces much more interesting and allowed them to be a lot denser and generally more fun. Cover It’s important in multiplayer that your players not be able to shoot too far ahead of themselves most of the time. Large open spaces should usually be broken up with a lot of full cover. This also allows players to advance through areas without being vulnerable for too long. The exception to this rule is any area where you want to encourage a risk/reward scenario (for example, with a large open space with lots of cover on the outskirts and a nice powerup in the center the player is encouraged to take a risk and get the powerup with the possibility that someone might shoot at them from the well-covered spots.) We’ll get more into risk/reward scenarios in future installments. *Note: This article is republished in its entirety on Next Level Design with permission from the author. Source: http://www.ongamedesign.net/designing-fps-multiplayer-maps-part-1/ Read the second part of this series here: Follow Mike Website: www.ongamedesign.net/ Website: http://www.chaoticstupid.com/ Twitter: twitter.com/MikeDodgerStout 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. Chris, of Purposeless Rabbitholes, swears a Fu**ing lot. You've been warned. Listen in, if your ears aren't too tender, as he breaks down the fantastic level design of Dishonored 2, and what he believes makes it special. Follow Purposeless Rabbitholes Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCK0_aNgcZI_PrJIUiqedHA/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/PRabbitholes 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. 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
  8. An updated version of Cache was released recently. Check out this site for more info: http://cache.fmpone.com/ Follow Shawn Twitter: https://twitter.com/FMPONE Website: https://www.mapcore.org/ Website: http://cache.fmpone.com/ Follow Salvatore Twitter: https://twitter.com/SalGarozzo Website: http://www.garozzo.net Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2 Discuss on Discord: https://t.co/hkxwVml0Dp
  9. I’ve been constantly updating and tweaking this “bible” for years. Some of it is informed from previous games I worked on, talks, articles but mostly just experience building levels. I’m constantly learning about the world of level design, and what is detailed below may one day be outdated, irrelevant or otherwise but, for now, consider this a small compendium of terminology we use day-to-day in level design and game development. Themes Themes help define a level and give it an identity within the context of the game. A level should be comprised of a dominant theme which drives its development but may contain several sub-themes within the environment to help define key locations or events. Dominant Themes The dominant theme is the key element driving the player’s emotional investment in the level. It helps inform all elements of a level from environment and atmosphere to game mechanics and audio. A great theme can be described in a single sentence e.g. “Oh that level with the exploding planet!”, “The level with the Scorpion boss fight!” etc. In Uncharted 2, “Mission 16 – Where Am I?” is often referred to as “The village level”. In this case, the unique experience is that you spend a lot of time stuck in a Tibetan village, slowly walking around interacting with civilians. In an action game like Uncharted 2, this really stuck out and became a memorable experience. Some examples of results derived from level themes might be: I want the player to feel like a hero! I want the player to feel anxious and tense. I want the player to feel terrified! I want the player to feel clever. Sub-Themes While dominant themes are used to define entire levels, sub-themes are used to define areas and events within the individual levels themselves. In multiplayer levels, sub-themes are used to define key areas of the level and create spacial-awareness for players. E.g. “I’m in the refinery”, “The enemy is in the lightning nebula”. By defining each space uniquely, players can derive a better understanding of the level more quickly. While sub-themes can be reused across levels, a poor dominant theme is exemplified by levels that can share the same description e.g. “The space level”. In a space-sim like Star Citizen for example, this is not a good use of theming. It’s perfectly acceptable for ten levels to all be set in space, but they must each have another unique theme that separates them from one another. Pacing Narrative driven games all exhibit some sense of pacing. The goal for teams developing narrative games is to ensure that that pacing “graph” is understood and utilised to effectively hold the players attention, accentuate moods and deliver engaging experiences. A basic example of pacing might be: an exciting, action packed sequence such as a vehicle chase being followed by some downtime, such as a puzzle or exploration sequence, before ramping up into a combat sequence. The two “high tempo” moments (chase and combat) are emphasised thanks to the “low tempo” break in between them. In single player levels, themes are used to help craft the sense of pacing. If your chapter ends with a massive, exciting boss fight, you might want to start the chapter slowly. Tight, narrow corridors and claustrophobic environments would help deliver that slow experience, and would really contrast against the exciting battle at the end, emphasising the action. Signposting Levels should be set up to allow the player to quickly orient themselves within the environment. This can be achieved through signposting, which involves setting up structures around the level that act as landmarks for the player. In multiplayer levels signposting is crucial, as players will want to learn layouts as quickly as possible so they can focus fully on fighting other players without worrying about getting lost or confused. It also improves communication between players when they have points of reference to describe to one another. In single player levels, the player’s next goal or destination should be signposted to help guide the player. It should be visible enough to reduce frustration but shouldn’t remove the sense of exploration and challenge. If the player is challenged with uncovering the route, then the steps to achieve this can be signposted through lighting, audio or clever game mechanics. “Show Don’t Tell”: This concept should apply to any challenge placed before the player, including exploration. The player should always be aware of their current objective and have an understanding of what they need to achieve, but the steps involved in achieving it are theirs to discover. We help the player to solve these challenges through aids such as signposting. By placing unique structures at key locations around a level we can introduce a basic concept of “signposting”. “Weenies” are distant landmarks that indicate the direction and composition of a goal. The term was coined by engineers working on Walt Disney World, and was used to refer to buildings that stand above all the others and draw the eye of visitors, enticing them to new areas of the park. “Denial spaces” are an architectural concept where the distant goal or “weenie” is lost to the player or obscured. These make reaching the goal more rewarding and the route there more interesting. “Hero Props” are the key structures within a level and can often also be “Weenies”. These usually involve the most work to get right from both art and design. A “Hero Prop” is typically budgeted higher than other structures in a level. Examples include the Mammoth vehicle in Halo 4’s “Reclaimer” mission or the dam generator in Crysis 3’s “Dam” level. Other points of interest in a level can even be developed solely through unique use of lighting and audio. Use these to draw the player’s attention by combining them with scene composition to indicate waypoints and goals. Changing the lighting and atmosphere of a familiar area can also make it distinct and unique within a level, which helps asset reuse and budgets. Level Boundaries Level boundaries are split into two types: Hard Boundaries and Soft Boundaries. Hard Boundaries Hard Boundaries are physical walls or obstructions that prevent the player from leaving the level. They are easier to understand from a player’s perspective but they add to a levels sense of confinement and restrictiveness. Soft Boundaries Soft Boundaries are traditionally found in open levels such as in space-sims or multiplayer levels in games such “Battlefield”. When the player steps over an invisible boundary they are presented with a message informing them to return to the playable area. Vistas Vistas are observation points in a level that give the player a sprawling view of an interesting landscape. These landscapes can be inside or outside the playable area Inside Playable Area A vista that looks out across a playable area may help the player see gameplay opportunities, story events or objectives. These are empowering moments for players and allow them the opportunity to obtain foresight of new encounters and develop tactical strategies ahead of time. They can also be considered “vantage” points. Playable area vistas should also show the player multiple route options through a space while also hiding areas you want the player to uncover and explore. Vistas within the gameplay space can also be used to compose moments of narrative storytelling for the player to observe without having to force the player camera out of the player’s control. Outside Playable Area Vistas that look out to non-playable space are usually intended to create a spectacular moment or “wow” moment within a level. These can be utilised to enhance moments of “downtime” within a level. A vista that looks out to non-playable areas can also give levels a sense of scale and openness while keeping the actual playable area quite restricted. Visual Language We can enhance the players understanding of an environment by developing a clear visual language that is consistent across our levels. This will assist players in understanding such things as; what areas of a level they can access? What objects can they interact with? etc. Readability Readable environments are ideally devoid of clutter and have reduced visual noise. That is not to say they are not complex or interesting, but they should present gameplay opportunities and routes clearly without frustrating the player. Consistency Consistent environment rules such as attributing a specific light colour for “usable” equipment (blue LED’s or illuminated monitor screens) and colour coding environmental mechanics (red barrels = explosive barrels or yellow = climbable ledges in Uncharted) can give the player familiar elements to help them more quickly understand any new environments. Telegraphing Some environmental features will have components that may cover even larger areas of the level. These can be used to guide the player toward an object or event. Examples include wires leading to a generator, literal signs that warn of dangers such as mines or narrative elements that foreshadow a specific environment. Games such as The Last of Us have good usage of foreshadowing in environments. Usually you are given a hint of what’s in store later in the level by finding survivor notes or environmental storytelling early on. Wow Moments/Set Pieces Wow moments/set pieces are a kind of in game cinematic. They are any take-away moments of spectacle that happen in a level and should literally leave the player thinking (or shouting!) “wow!”. Some “wow moments” can be completely player generated (see Battlefield MP), however most often these will be scripted sequences developed for a particular level. They are infrequent in order to preserve their impact as well as the fact that they are usually expensive to create. Gates Within the context of level design, gates are methods by which a designer controls the linear progression through what would seem to the player to be non-linear worlds. Hard Gates Hard Gates are used to halt the player from progressing any further until they complete an objective or similar criteria. A classic example of a gate in a level is the “keycard” which is required to open a sealed door. Soft Gates Soft Gates are similar in principal to standard Gates, except they can be completed at any time and only serve to slow the player down. A Soft Gate will slow the players progress down through a map, but the criteria to bypass it is not particularly challenging. Examples of soft gating might be a corridor blocked by steam escaping from a pipe, with a valve nearby to turn it off. The gate has succeeded in preventing the player from charging ahead but the means by which they bypass the gate are simple, if not time consuming. Objectives and Rewards Objectives Objectives should be immediately obvious to a player in terms of what they must accomplish. Trial and error should be kept to a minimum. If a player has a solution that makes sense to them, the game should accommodate it. How to accomplish an objective is for the player to discover, however hints and signposting of objectives will be crucial to resolve frustration. Rewards Players should be rewarded frequently with items, story snippets, currency or even a new vista to observe. This is crucial feedback to keep the player feeling invested in a level. Compulsion Loops A compulsion loop is a process whereby the player is rewarded for completing a task and wishes to repeat the action for a similar reward. Repeating the action several times accumulates several rewards, which can be used to accomplish an even tougher task. Each “compulsion loop” can feed another in this way, generating minute-to-minute and hour-to-hour goals. E.g. I want to collect 10 relics in Far Cry 3 tonight (short task requiring exploration) OR I want to unlock 2 new signature weapons (longer task requiring 100 relics). Players can set the scope of their goal for differing play sessions this way. Levels should accommodate immediate goals for players as well as long term goals. Level Design Practice Arena The term “arena” refers to a specific area within a level where the player will encounter some kind of challenge, event or obstacle. Arenas are non-linear spaces, meaning they offer players multiple options in combat and opportunities to explore the environment. They can also include sandbox elements that allow players to formulate unique, tactical opportunities and multiple ways to complete objectives. Arenas can be quite large but have well-defined perimeter borders. Players should always have a decent sense of the scope of the arena upon entering it, even if some parts are obscured from sight. Arenas are generally pro-active gameplay spaces. The player will have an opportunity to choose when to enter combat and can dictate the pacing and flow more than a reactive space. Fronts A “front” is generally a location in a level where an individual or group of faction members establish a foothold. Usually this is in direct defense of the players primary goal, but it is advisable to change up the fronts of battle (or battlefronts!) during a combat sequence to keep the encounter fresh and keep the player moving. Directed Sequence A “Directed Sequence” is a linear space that usually includes a moment of scripted gameplay that the player must engage in. These can include set pieces, forced combat encounters, cinematics or on-rails sections. Directed Sequences are reactive and can be used to control the pacing and flow of key moments in the campaign more tightly than arenas. Exotic Gameplay Exotic Gameplay describes any sequence of gameplay that is not part of the core mechanics set. These might be sections developed exclusively for a single level or section of a level. Exotic Gameplay can provide an immersive, cinematic setpiece to the player within a controlled environment that does not hamper or imbalance existing core gameplay mechanics. Non-Linear Design Illusion of Non-Linearity Sometimes even splitting a single corridor in two can give a space the illusion of non-linearity. Simple decisions such as this keep the player engaged with the level and exploring new options. Verticality Arenas are not restricted to a single plane and vertical routes can be used to gain strategic advantages in combat. These routes are empowering and keep the play space interesting and dynamic, but can also introduce imbalance to an encounter quickly. If a level features a vertical route, AI should be able to reach any area the player can reach. Even slight variations in terrain height can keep a level interesting. Any pathways leading to higher sections must be readable however, as multi-tier levels can quickly become noisy. Vantage Points Vantage Points are elevated locations in an arena that give players key, tactical advantages by providing an overview of the area. Example of vantage point in Far Cry 3 Overview – The player can get a good initial idea of the arena, its scope and its contents. Observe – The player can see any AI in the scene doing something. (Patrolling, talking, working). They can also see their objective. (The next doorway, the switch, the kill target, the kill targets room etc). Also observable are sandbox elements the player can harness within the arena. Plan – The player can formulate a plan of action based on the intel they gathered from a vantage point. Execute – The player leaves the vantage point to execute their plan. Execution does not always go according to plan, however, and so the arena is designed for dynamic play styles instead of a strict execution method. Reward – The player is rewarded. Rewards can take the form of equipment and currency OR story information, a cool cutscene or wow moment! Linear Design When is it ok to be linear? There are occasions where linear design is preferred for gameplay, pacing or technical reasons. Directed Sequences See above. Exotic Gameplay See above. Valves Valves are corridors that connect two areas of a level. They can be used to stream one area out and the next one in. Backgating Backgating is the process of disallowing a player to return to the area they just left. g. forcing the player to fall down a steep drop. Closing and locking a door behind them etc. Exposition A linear section of a level is useful for delivering key story information that is pertinent to the player. Composition Linear sections can ensure the player is facing a certain direction if the designer wants to frame an event or vista for the player to observe. Experiential When it enriches the gameplay experience designers may want to include a linear path through an area. g. shimmying across a ledge, walking through a crowd, crawling through a tunnel. Cover Cover for FPS battles is generally split into two categories: Hard Cover and Soft Cover. Hard Cover Hard Cover is any solid object in the gameplay area that the player can use to block incoming fire and break line of sight. It offers complete protection from projectiles. Examples include concrete barriers, walls and pillars. Soft Cover Soft Cover is any object that obscures the player’s profile and can be used to hide from enemies or distort their perception of the player. This cover does not protect the player from projectiles however. Examples include cloth, vegetation, wood and glass. When a player enters a combat scenario they must be able to immediately identify the cover available to them in the area. Consistency in cover through metrics will play a huge role in being able to identify what will protect the player and what won’t. Cover should ideally sit around half-height or full-height. Players become frustrated when attempting to take cover behind an object that still leaves part of their profile exposed to incoming fire, especially if it results in death! If something looks like it should offer cover, then it should be the correct height. Spaces should have interesting cover layouts that include a mix of this full and half-height cover. Cover should be used to block long lines of sight in a level and promote “flow”. Soft cover can also be used to this effect, but players will sometimes expect to move through soft cover (if it’s tall grass, a bush or a breakable wooden crate) instead of around it. This can open up more risky/stealthy routes for players to utilise. Cover should never be scattered around a level at repetitious, consistent intervals. Not only does this create too much visual noise and chaos, it also hinders pathfinding for AI and causes a lot of snagging for players, restricting flow. Cover should instead be “clustered” into interesting groups and placed strategically. The space between cover is as important as the cover itself. Players should be forced to make risk/reward decisions about moving between cover locations. A dash between two cover objects can be an exciting choice as opposed to a monotonous chore. The cover should promote tactical, risk/reward movements across the battlefield and should not just be laid out in a column down the level. The term “rope swinging” is sometimes used to describe how the player moves between cover. Cover layouts should introduce opportunities for flanking tactics. No single cover object should be so overpowered that all attackers must attack it from the same direction. Players should require battlefield awareness to stay alive, as AI should be able to flank cover from multiple directions. Cover layouts should give players a chance to fall back or retreat when overextended. Players are still susceptible to death if they make poor choices, but a little leeway in the form of retreat routes helps keep the pace and flow of combat fluid. This also adds to the sandbox feeling of an arena, as challenges change over time and are never static. In an arena, cover layouts should promote non-linearity within a confined space. If the player only has a limited amount of cover to use, the space will feel very restrictive regardless of how large the environment might be. By planning multiple routes and vantage points through a space, these areas feel less linear and much more open. Cover should be used to guide players around the level, much like a multiplayer level, and promote traversal and exploration. However, in this way cover layouts can also be used to create a specific narrative experience, so knowing how to utilise the mechanics of your game to create these moments is important. Sandbox Gameplay Player Agency In level design, a sandbox space is one which provides players with a greater extent of player agency. The player should have many tools available to them to make meaningful choices with regards to combat and objectives. There should rarely be one, singlular, scripted method to completing an objective and instead the player should utilise emergent game rules to accomplish objectives however they want. Delivering this level of player agency requires a holistic design where game mechanics never have a singular bespoke purpose, and instead can be used in as many ways as the player can imagine. The properties of a mechanic should be modelled to interact with as many other mechanics as the player expects. E.g. A blow torch can be contextually restricted to only open sealed doors OR it can be used to open any sealed doors AND burn paper AND burn wood AND damage enemies etc Readable, Consistent Mechanics By creating consistent rules within levels, players will learn the language of the game through repeated interactions with each mechanic. By modelling realistic properties within each asset/mechanic, players can utilise them however they want and expect each asset/mechanic to react accordingly (affordance). Players entering a new space will recognize familiar mechanics, allowing them to make more informed tactical decisions and formulate unique strategies. Players will be able to personalize their play styles, which is why it is crucial to develop features that work within a holistic environment. Any elements in a play space that are too bespoke will deny players the ability to personalize their experience. Levels should try to accommodate a high first-try success rate for player actions. This doesn’t mean the game should be easy! The challenge for players is formulating a tactic or solution, but executing the tactic once they’ve figured it out should not be frustrating. For example, if the player needs to drag a crate from one end of a level to another, the crate should fit down the corridor without having to snag over objects or frustratingly snag on walls. This could lead the player to believe the solution they thought they had figured out isn’t actually the correct one. Interior Spaces Flanking Any combat spaces should enable the player AND AI to flank one another. Interiors are a great way to accomplish this. Interiors should ideally have more than two entry points to keep players on their toes and watching their corners. Crossfire Crossfire keeps action interesting. Plan for areas where players and AI can establish “fronts” or bunkers. Height variation and verticality can be used to keep these spaces diverse. Cover Interiors are one of the most obvious areas of cover for players. Take advantage of this by rewarding players for exploring interiors with ammo or new routes inside. AI should always be able to flank, ambush or flush a player out of an interior. This will keep the action flowing around the level and keep combat feeling diverse as well as emergent. Exploration Interiors can hold rewards inside them that benefit players who explore each environment. New sandbox toys could be hidden inside or telegraphed with exterior geometry, enticing players to venture in. Break Up Linear Spaces Interiors are a great way to break up an environment. Ensure players who enter an interior space have two or more ways to exit it. Source: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/my-level-design-guidelines/ Follow Michael Website: www.mikebarclay.co.uk/ Twitter: twitter.com/MotleyGrue 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. A recurring comment through the development of video games seems to be that a level ‘Feels too flat’. For years, games with vertical levels simply used staircases, the two-storey design producing positive results. Recent releases however are giving their players some revolutionary movement tools.Advanced Warfare’s exoskeleton and Far Cry 4’s combination of wing suit and grapple hook allow for mobility in all directions, and the levels they’re implemented in provide great opportunities for said travel.Verticality provides a fresh change in the flow of how the game works, giving a whole new axis to worry about. Instead of checking your flanks and what’s in front and behind you, you’re looking up to the skies to check for a flying super soldier, or beneath you if you are the flying super soldier.Extreme verticals allow for a massive shift in environment. Battlefield 3’s Damavand Peak featured a 500-metre drop and with it came a shift in environment. At the top of the drop was a funnel of natural landscape and a light scattering of buildings, some of them even reaching heights of 50 metres themselves. Upon jumping off and parachuting onto the next enemy’s position, the environment becomes entirely industrial.Such a change of environment gives more tactical opportunities: the top of the peak was a sniper’s dream, whereas the industrial area saw LMGs and RPGs wreak glorious havoc.In less competitive environments, verticality can create a sense of depth or adventure. In Dark Souls you’re initially travelling downwards, with constant reminders of how deep you are via upward views. It’s most intimidating example is Ash Lake, in which you are surrounded by countless giant trees which go straight up as far as the eye can see; the vertical effect is used to intimidate and frighten. Later in Anor Londo you feel triumphant, having travelled upwards to the highest point of the game from where you can see the world below.The sharp cliffs being scaled with the grappling hook in Far Cry 4 make the environments appealing to explore. Swinging by your grapple hook on a cliff that’s 300m high with a sharp drop below is thrilling, and the caves have massive drops and climbs, all of which can be explored. Nowhere is out of bounds with the right tools, save for the classic invisible barrier surrounding the mountain.Verticality is a game element that needs to see the light of day in as many titles as possible. If you want to try travelling up and down instead of forwards and backwards, try games such as Dark Souls, Far Cry 4 and Titanfall.Source: https://www.techly.com.au/2014/12/03/high-ground-verticality-good-level-design/Follow GavinTwitter: https://twitter.com/Ompased
  11. This is my approach to map design, it is not the ultimate view of halo map design, there are many different approaches to take, and this is one of the many that has been shown to work.During the early days of forge I contributed many things to our development and understanding of asymmetrical map design. Some of this work dates back 6 years. All of my post and articles were recently lost when MLG deleted the Halo 3 forge forums post. I am posting a compilation of my work on asymmetrical map design that has been edited and expanded. This post is an accumulation of a large chunk of my knowledge of map design, to which I want to share with the rest of the community.Some of this information is now common knowledge, but I think it is important to have it set and well defined. This also helps newer designers and forgers understand and develop their concept of map design. I hope that this will be of help to new and old forgers alike. It is a long and extensive read, so be ready to set some time aside for this. All together it is 8 full pages on a Microsoft Word document.Thank you and Enjoy,John “Darkling Ninja”Section 1: FlowA. Defining FlowFlow is basically the way in which player(s) move through a map during the course of a game. As stated by Bungie flow is very hard to define and talk about being that it is an abstract concept. Here are two articles from professionals that talk about flow and explain it better then I can.Bungie:http://nextleveldesign.proboards.com/thread/256/carneys-crash-course-map-designEpic Games:http://nextleveldesign.proboards.com/thread/151/multiplayer-map-theoryB. Circular FlowA circular flow is a common and great way to create successful flow throughout a map. That does not mean that players should be running around in a circle the entire time they play your map. Instead of thinking about this idea geometrically think of it in terms of conceptual movement. Conceptually a circle is a consistent, easily repeated, and natural pattern of movement.A good analogy for this would be rocks moving around in circulating water. The rocks move around in a circular motion within the water, occasionally they will run into another rock or two. This run in will cause those rocks to be set off course with the circular flow of the water. The rocks might end up moving through the center of the circular flowing water or go outside of it. Even though those rocks where set off course they will eventually be drawn back into that circular movement, flowing around inside the water. This process would repeat itself over and over.Although this might sound odd, think of the rocks as players and the circulated water as the map they are playing on. Players are going to be set off course of your maps flow over and over, your job as the designer is to make sure the player can once again be easily drawn back into the flow of your map.As a designer creating this within your map takes time, thought and testing. When designing a map, you want to make sure that the flow of your map extends to all areas. A majority of the time, the reason why an area on a map is underused is because there is no flow into that area. Paying attention to flow of your map will help contribute to the overall game play of your design.Section 2: ConnectionsA. IntroConnections are basically the way in which a player transitions from one part of the map to another. There are many ways to create connections in your map design. In the end these connections are what determine the flow of your map. There are many different ways to create and use connections. In the end the connections on your map will be its life line. How you use connections will determine whether or not your map plays well.B. Types of Connections and TransitionsThere are many different types of connections and transitions. So I will just list them in a simple way.Types of Connections:1. Hard Connection - Hard connections are basically routes from one place to another that do not involve the player to do anything but move through it. They do not involve jumping, or going out of the way in any fashion, it is just a straight walk from one point to another. Examples of this would be a bridge, floor, ramp ect…2. Soft connections - Soft connections are routes to a location that involves the player actively doing something in order to use. In most scenarios this type of connection involves jumping, thus the term “jump ups”. Lifts and drop downs are also forms of soft connections.3. Direct Connections and Indirect Connections - A direct connection is one that takes a player directly to where they want to go without having to go out of the way to get there. An indirect connection usually involves the player having to go out of their way in order to get to an area. An example of these types of connection would be bottom middle of guardian. If I am bottom middle on guardian and I want to approach Snipe tower I can either take the direction connection through S1 or take the indirect connect through Green and L.4. Controlled and Uncontrolled Connections - Most connections are controlled connections, meaning the player has full control of what they are doing.An uncontrolled connection is a connection that when used a player does not have control over their movement. In Halo there are really only three ways to create uncontrolled connections, and that is a Lift, Teleporters and drop down. In all three cases the player does not have control of what they are doing while they use the connection.C. Designing ConnectionsEach type of connection has its own advantages and disadvantages. Balancing out these advantages and disadvantages is very important. Halo 3 Construct is a good example of connection usage. The lifts are direct, soft, uncontrolled connections. The speed of the lifts allows the player to quickly reach the top most powerful part of the map. In return the player cannot control themselves until after they have used this connection, making it a risky connection to use.Players also have the option of taking the gold ramps up to open street, this is an indirect, hard, controlled connection. The ramps allow a safer transition to the top then the lifts, but the amount of time it takes gives the enemy team a chance to set up.The ramps up to sword room give the player a third option of approach creating a direct, soft, controlled connection. A player must go out of there way, and do something just to use this, but it results in a direct path to the top of the map and a possible flank.Putting to much emphasis on one type of connection can make it over powered or useless. Making a route to indirect can make it take so long to use that its pointless to give the other that much time to set up, so by they time you get there you just get destroyed. Having a route be direct can result it the route being over powered and over used, restricted the flow of your map to that section.As one can see designing the connections on your map can be a real pain, and take a lot of thought, but it is a vital part of your design.Section 3: VerticalityA. Intro to VerticalityVerticality, one of the hardest things to pull off right, but important in every map design except for a griff ball court. Many terms and phrases are used to describe verticality, “height variation or changes”. “Different Levels”, we all have a term or way to describe this. The ubiquitous nature of verticality shows its importance to map design. Without verticality all you have is a flat map like most griff ball courts. For most forgers verticality is a wall that we all must climb over in our development as designers.This section on verticality explored the properties, and usage of verticality in map design. Many new forgers do not take proper consideration into the vertical space that their map occupies. A map can have the same width and depth of the original guardian, but the vertical height of the map can make it 5 times larger then guardian. Realizing this, the application and usage of verticality in your design has a huge impact on your map.B. Properties and Functions of VerticalityThis section is short and sweet, I am just going to list some of the main properties or functions that verticality can have. If I miss some, please comment and I will do my best to add them in.1. Dynamic and Versatile - Verticality creates dynamic and versatile game play in a map. The height variations prevent stale and repetitive game play.2. Divisions - Verticality creates divisions between the difference levels of your map. This can be for better or for worse. Divisions can be used to promote movement and create dynamic game play. They can also cause your map to be sectioned off and disconnected. You can prevent this from happening by proper use of connections.3. Advantages - Verticality can create advantages for players. Verticality can provide control over a fight, superior angles, height advantage, Cover and many other things.4. Disadvantages - Verticality can also create disadvantages for players. Being high up and out in the open can result in a player becoming an easy target or a swift death.5. Flow - Verticality has a clear impact on the flow of the map. Instinctively players will travel to the highest point of the map, thus verticality can make the lower part of your maps underused or even ignored.C. Usage and Application of VerticalityThe primary concern when using vertically is how you make the connections from one level to the other. Making sure there is adequate and balanced connections is what will make or break the verticality on your map. A player should be able to move from varies level changes smoothly. A good way to create this is using Drop Downs and Lifts. Lifts and drop downs allow for instantaneous vertical movement up and down. In the best map throughout the halo series lifts and drops downs are common place. Wizard, Pirate, Midship, Lockout, Foundation, Ivory Tower, Construct, Guardian, The Pit, Narrows all had lifts and drop downs.Making sure there is also a diversity of all the connections that balance out with one and other is key in creating successful vertically. In order to make sure the lower portions of your map are used, a good trick is to give them an ample supply of connections that are greater then their higher up adversaries. When designing the vertically make sure to take everything into account.Section 4: Asymmetrical Map DesignA. An Intro to Pie MethodNow after all that reading we finally get to the bread and butter, Asymmetrical Map Design. There are multiple ways to approach Asymmetrical Map Design. Asymmetrical Maps are maps that are inherently are not balanced. Thus when creating an asymmetrical map you are creating an unbalanced map. That does not mean the map will not work, that means that you have to find a way to create a form of balance or asymmetrical balance. This does not mean making the two uneven sides equal in power, that usually results in standoffish game play.Pie method is a layout that Bungie was very fond of using in their maps. I am sure they have a more technical name for it, but until they tell us what it is pie method will do. I posted pie method 6 years ago as a way to layout out a functioning asymmetrical map. This was during a time when forgers where struggling to find a way to create a proper asymmetrical design and find a way to make asymmetry work.Note that pie method is not the only way to layout an asymmetrical map, but for those who want to learn how to design asymmetrical maps or better their asymmetrical design it is a successful ad easy to use template.B. TerminologyControl points: Control points are areas on the map that offer rewards for controlling. The rewards can range from controlling other areas of the map to shooting angles, power weapons and/or connections.Dominate control points: This refers to the parts of the map that have the most power or rewardsSecondary Control points: These parts of the map are usually checked by one of the dominate control points on the map, and are controlled by the team in control of the dominate control point that checks it.Checks: Checks refer to areas on the map that counter another area of the map, or put them into check.C. Pie MethodPie method lays out 4 sections of the map, dividing it into two dominate areas, which both have control over a different secondary control point on the map. Pie Method Layout:• Red is the most dominate control point, the most powerful area of the map• Blue is the sub-dominate control point, the second most powerful area on the map.• The shooting angles on Red allow it to check Green, making it Green Red’s secondary control point.• The shooting angles on Blue allow it to check Gold, making it Gold Blue’s secondary control point.• Red checks both Green and Blue, and has a slight advantage on Gold but not enough to check or control Gold.• Blue checks both Gold and Red, and has a slight advantage in Green but not enough to check or control Green• Green and Gold check each otherExample:A team’s objective is to control the Dominate Control Point, due to the fact that it offers the best rewards and advantages to control.Red team will be in control of The dominate point, while blue team is in control of the Sub-dominate control point. Blues teams objective is to take control of the dominate control point, While Red teams objective will be to keep control of the dominate point.By being in control of a dominate control point, a team also controls a secondary control point that is not as powerful as a primary control point, but allows players to move about the map more, and have more shooting angles.As players fight for control of the different areas of the map the flow around it shifting control of different areas, and flowing around the map like a circle. You can easily shift up where the control points are on the map, making Gold dominate and Blue a secondary, or do the same with Red and Green or both.D. Power weapons and Balance"Your map should not support your power weapons, Your power weapons should support your Map." - Darkling NInjaBasically what this quote means is that an area of your map should not be designed around a power weapon. The power weapons that are placed on your map should reinforce the structure and flow of your map. No area on your map should rely on power weapon support to function properly. The best way to avoid doing this in a design is to not even think about power weapons on your map until after it has been completely forged.I personally do not even begin to place or think about power weapons until after I have placed the spawns and set up all game types. This is so that I can gear the spawns and game types in the way that will play best with the structure of my maps. The power weapons go last, because they allow me to place weapons that reinforce not just my maps geometry but also every game type and player spawn.When balancing out the many different areas on your map, you do not need to rely on power weapon spawns to create flow and movement. Instead use Flow, connections and verticality to strengthen the core of your map design. Flow, connections and verticality will give you more then enough ways to balance out your asymmetrical map. Instead of relying on gimmicks like power weapons use your knowledge and tools as a designer to create harmony within your map.That doesn't mean that a map is not good if it has an area that relies on a power weapon to function properly. My personal opinion is to avoid it though.E. ConclusionPie method can be seen in multiple asymmetrical maps throughout the Halo series, including Chill out, Hang'em High, Lockout, Guardian, Prisoner, Headlong, Damnation, and Ivory Tower.Pie method is not the only way to approach and design an asymmetrical map, but it is a reliable and easy method that works. For those of you just starting off or veterans who are struggling with an asymmetrical map design, Pie Method can be a valuable asset.For those trying to learn asymmetrical map design, creating a map using pie method can teach you a lot about making an asymmetrical map. It can be a great tool that will help you understand and learn how to make successful asymmetrical maps.I hope You all enjoyed the read!Source: https://www.forgehub.com/threads/map-design-flow-connections-verticality-and-asymmetry.145326/
  12. In this 8 page paper, Ken Hullett and Jim Whitehead seek to more clearly define "how levels create gameplay". It's written in a very formal and structured manner, which we will try to keep mostly intact. There will be a LOT of sections and examples that are left completely out of our recap here. The authors have requested that their work not be shared in its entirety without permission. Therefore, it's being posted here in a very brief form as an attempt to share their insight while also respecting their request. We strongly suggest following the link at the end of the article and reading their full paper if this subject is of interest to you. In fact, if you know that you want to read the entire paper, we suggest skipping this article entirely and simply reading the paper in full. It will be worth your time. Consider this article a teaser for those who may not be sure whether they wish to read the full piece.Here's a small part of the introductory statement of the paper: After the Introduction, the authors move on to the subject of Design Patterns: And now we move on to Level Design: Next, we take a look at Pattern Collection: Category 1 - Patterns for Positional Advantage: The above is of Sniper positioning one of many example of Positional Advantage provided in the paper. Other examples cover Galleries and Choke Points. Category 2 - Patterns for Large-Scale Combat: Follow the link at the end of this article to read much more info on the categories above, and these which we've not included here:Category 3 - Patterns for Alternate GameplayCategory 4 - Patterns for Alternate RoutesThe authors then use the Bioshock Level "Medical Pavilion" as a case-study example of the patterns described above. Here's a brief snippet of this section: And then we reach the conclusion, where the authors sum up their findings: Source: https://games.soe.ucsc.edu/sites/default/files/khullett-fdg-camera-ready.pdfJim Whitehead Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheJimWhitehead
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. This article is an in-depth autobiographical interview with level designer Stefan Doetschel, whose work has been featured in some of the most acclaimed video game IPs of the last decade. Starting out with community modding scenes as a student of architecture, Stefan eventually decided that he was more interested in applying what he'd learned from his experience with architecture to the player experience. After leaving the world of architecture and working at some smaller game studios, he got a position with 2K Australia, which gave him access to renowned IPs like Bioshock and Borderlands, among other 2K-published, Unreal-based properties. By discussing his work on these games, notable for their single-player campaign level design, game design, and art styles - not to mention commercial and critical acclaim - Stefan is able to explain the kinds of challenges native to such an environment, and the kinds of principles he had to develop in order to tackle them. We're only able to reproduce some choice sections here, so go give the [full version] a careful read, and check out some of the sections he refers, if you can. I'm certain that by examining his ideas and their concrete form, you'll come to understand more fully why he made the choices he did. What Does It Mean to Be a Level Artist In the old days the level designer was also the level artist. But with every new generation games are becoming more complex. Today I think most companies have Visual Designers on one side and Level Gameplay Designers on the other side. What the exact difference between these two roles is depends on the company you work for. Some companies leave most of the level layout work to the level artist while other companies let designers build a grey box for the initial layout before the artist takes the visual side over. The major difference is that the visual designer is responsible for the visuals in the level while the gameplay designer mostly works on enemy placement, objectives and most actions the player can do. Every company I worked on had a slightly different process. Sometimes the responsibilities can be a bit blurry. The environment artist doesn’t design anything. He just builds the environment to the requirements given to him by a designer. On Verticality in Level Design I’m not totally sure if this is true for many games. Borderlands 2 for example has huge height differences. Maybe they are not so visible to the player. Dishonored, Mirror’s Edge and Assassin’s Creed are examples were the game play is specifically designed to use verticality. Other good examples are Uncharted, Tomb Raider or God of War which use a lot of verticality. But for a very realistic game it might not make much sense to climb up walls. Some levels are unnecessary flat. The only explanation that comes to my mind is that designers often start a level on paper. It’s difficult to design a 3 dimensional space on a 2 dimensional medium. For The Pre-Sequel we based our initial design too much on the Borderlands 2 gameplay. How we would use low gravity wasn’t always that clear until late in the project. So some of the areas are not as vertical as they could be. We did a better job in The Claptastic Voyage DLC. Overall, it's a very interesting and punctual read, especially for those who are curious what kind of choices can lead to a successful career in the world of video games and level design.-icyhotSource: https://80.lv/articles/stefan-doetschel-the-principles-of-level-design/ Follow StefanWebsite: http://www.s-dot.de/php/home.phpYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG4P6f6_i4oq9AdiZMpl2mA/videos