This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A series of Level Design Theory articles
Raymond Benefield aka “GodlyPerfection” 11/22/2010
Forge Lessons is a series of level design theory articles that I have written on my game/level design blog @ ReachingPerfection.com. All of the theories are topics that I have learned throughout my experience with the Halo 3/Reach Forge level editor. They are in no way the “law” of level design; however they can serve as guidelines and help you tweak and perfect your own theories. I hope you enjoy this series and I hope you come to visit us over @ ReachingPerfection.com. See yall around. ;)
Chapter 1: First Impressions
Do you know how powerful a first impression is in everyday life? Sure it can’t make someone love you right out, but a good first impression will encourage them to give you a second date at least. On the flip side a bad first impression can make someone not want to see you ever again. As harsh as that may seem, it is very true. So your first goal in presenting your map to the community... encourage your players to go on that second date. When it’s bad… it hurts So I can tell you that a bad first impression can mean the difference between life and death for your map, but I don’t think that will hit home unless I give you an example. Have you ever looked at a map’s screenshots in its published thread and decided “That map doesn’t really look that great, let me go look at a new one.”? The author of that map just lost a potential fan that could help support the map all because his screenshots weren’t appealing. That one person could have shown his 3 main forger friends and they could have shared it with their other 10 custom game friends and so on and so on. But no… those extra fans of the map have now been lost because the first impression just wasn’t up to par. Think about the hundreds of maps that you scroll through everyday. Quite a bit, eh? Every little piece counts There are SOOO many things that could make a first impression go wrong. The map name could be offending, unoriginal, or just not that interesting. POOF! There goes a bunch of fans. The screenshots could be entirely unsatisfying and uninformative. POOF! And there goes the next 20 or so fans. The format of the map thread could be completely unorganized. POOF! And away those next 30+ potential fans go. And all of that is just the map thread, what about when they first play your map? Some player may be swarmed by warthog turrets and not be able to find any of the three spartan lasers on your map. POOF! You’ll never see that guy again. Some guy could be spawn camped on his first playthrough by someone else who knows the map like the back of his hand. POOF! No fun equals no more playing this map. Some pro may be repeatedly rocked by some random with a sword because the sword is too hidden to be found on the first time through unless you know beforehand. POOF! The pro goes to play some of his favorite MLG maps instead. Why is looking good so important again? Some may argue that a bad first impression won’t always lose you that player for good. Sure I can agree with that. However have you seen the amount of maps that are pushed out every day? It is more important than ever to give players that good first impression to standout in the crowd. And it is only going to get worse with the ease of Halo: Reach’s Forge World. Everything you do for a map has to be considered as a potential risk for making a bad first impression. Even just one good impression will earn you some sort of credibility. So if that spartan laser ain’t easy to find on the first playthrough, you may want to rethink its placement because it could be the difference between two replies/comments and getting on the new Bungie Favorites.
Chapter 2: Knowledge is Power
You ever play a map in which you felt like you were at a disadvantage because you didn’t know where a particular weapon was? Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map? Isn’t there a sniper rifle on this map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills? And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it? Why the hell am I playing this map if it doesn’t give me the tools I need to succeed? An accurate assessment… So I have witnessed many times where a player reviews a map and says something along the lines of “This map needs a sniper rifle on it”. The response they get back; “There IS a sniper on it, it is at the sniper tower.” However the player never comes back to see the response and hence never feels that the map was balanced enough and hence not worth his time. Anything that you feel is important to enjoying the experience on the map you need to have your map show the player where it is on their first run through. If they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map. As a result the player receives a bad first impression due to an inaccurate review and you lose that player forever. Obviously, we do not want that. Why is it your job? Why do I have to teach them where the key weapons are? Why not just let the players explore the map and find it eventually? Because it is not a player’s job to learn the map… it is a player’s job to play it and enjoy it. The average joe does not have time to study your map, they have tons of other maps to play. So teach them while they play. Or else they start to question your map. Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map? Imagine feeling like this the whole time you play the map… is the average person going to go back to playing something that just causes them frustration? Isn’t there a sniper rifle on the map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills? Here’s another example of “if they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map.” And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it? How many times have you played on a new map and got destroyed because you didn’t know where the power weapons were? Not everyone has the persistence to go back through the map and find all the weapons. Remember that it is your job to teach them while they play. They didn’t download your map to learn, they downloaded your map to have fun. So my goal is to teach, but how? In later sections I will teach you techniques I utilize to be successful. Now that you are informed, try going back to some of the maps that you have designed yourself. Will players be able to find the anti-vehicle items on the map? Will they be able to memorize the layout fairly easily? Will I be able to give them the tools they need on their first run through to be on even ground against players who have played this map before?
It is not something to be taken lightly.Chapter 3: Path Manipulation What is path manipulation. By placing a turret in one spot and fusion coils in another spot you force players to work around their area of effects. While players are free to choose how they travel around a map the designer has the ability to completely influence their decisions through various techniques. We build maps to offer players a particular experience. landmarks. If we want players to circle around a map in a warthog. Path manipulation is just one of the many tools at our disposal that we can use to share our dreams. The golden rule The golden rule of path manipulation is to remember that players are most inclined to take the shortest path possible to their current goal until their goal changes. right? Designers also use path manipulation to ensure that certain parts of the map don’t get congested with combat. and as time progresses and as players explore the map they will change their short term goal to achieve that long term goal of winning the match. and objectives. By controlling player movement we craft their experience to our liking. but there is much more to path manipulation than just that. Knowledge is power. It ensures that players do not end up fighting in a huge chaotic mess and allows them to utilize their skills in more organized encounters. Some of the more obvious techniques being weapon placement and objective placement. Everything in level design works together to create a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. path manipulation allows us to give players that experience. By placing weapons on the map you encourage players to move around the map trying to gain an edge over their opponents. Placing spawn points around a map is important to Path Manipulation as they decide which direction and where a player begins their journey around the map. Why build a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing room if players rarely take the time to traverse it? Another good reason is to “teach” the players about the important parts of your maps like power weapons. By default the player’s long term goal is to win the game and will first do what it takes to win the game. you say? Well obviously it is the way of manipulating paths. What does Path Manipulation consist of? What makes players move the way they do? If a player sees a Rocket Launcher are they going to head straight for it? If a player sees a bunch of explosions are they going to go near them? If a player finds an optimal sniper perch are they ever going to move? Path manipulation is a good majority of level design. Controlling your audience Why is controlling player movement so important to us? One of the main reasons is to show off the various parts of a map that we have put our time and effort into. There are various techniques that exist all of which will be covered in extensive detail in future lessons. It is your job as a designer to know what persuades players to want to wander from their current goal. More specifically it is learning how to control a player’s movement throughout your map. . By adjusting lighting and color contrast you can encourage players to look towards and explore various areas of the map. When learning to control player movement this must always be kept in mind.
Being able to see what your player sees. the direction (a three dimensional direction) will define the perspective. excitement. and a direction. This topic is about the importance of a screenshot of a player’s current perspective. Understanding a split second in time makes for a lot of little chunks to analyze. So what is one of the most significant and smallest observable chunks that I have discovered so far in level design? That chunk is the same as any media relating to a TV or monitor or any display similar… a single frame of relay to the user. The main focus point is going to be the player. Learning to control the direction of a future perspective is vital to having full control over a player’s decisions. a point of view. in time Yes I am saying exactly what you think I’m saying. By observing the smallest unit of an idea you can tweak the idea from a smaller setting. etc). movement. In this case I call those screenshots. You can essentially take a larger problem and break it down into the smallest chunks possible and find the chunk or chunks that are causing the problem. Don’t make it fun for you… make it fun for them. and what is being noticed and how much. Analyzing a screenshot in time can tell you a lot of things and learning to modify that screenshot is essential to controlling your player’s decisions. . I will teach you the important perspectives to keep an eye on. essentially the player. Learning to mix the power of manipulating perspectives as well as manipulating the position of the focus point is crucial to any true level designer. where the main attention lies (and thus where the eye is drawn to). A perspective is worth a thousand words… Drawing a perspective It is important to note that a perspective requires. And always keep in mind that the designer’s perspective is in no way the same as the player’s perspective. Learning to keep track of all of these small chunks is essential to being adept at any sort of design. If you can’t do that then you are crafting the wrong experience. whether it be in 1st person or in 3rd person (in the case of driving vehicles). Worth a thousand words While analyzing perspectives. I will teach you what you need to analyze in the pictures presented to your player. a focus point or position. and feelings. A perspective will tell you what the player has their attention on. The focus point is based on the player’s movement around the map utilizing path manipulation to move the focus point around. That is essential to being a good designer. We will be utilizing various art theories to analyze perspectives. You are crafting the experience from what you see way up in the sky. In essence a screenshot in time of what the user is seeing. After those two. In the thousand words that perspectives give us you can find the general sense of feeling (fear. A perspective will tell you what the player’s current visible options are. Perspectives… One moment.Chapter 4: Perspectives You know what the best part about design is? Observing something from the smallest units possible and understanding what changes to those small units can do. Not from what the player sees right in front of them on the bottom floor. analyze them as a picture… as a piece of artwork. Point of view in a first person shooter is almost always going to be first person. The direction is based on the player’s current eye focus and where their attention lies.
Do not fully rely on deterrents to move players around when you start to fully understand them. however they are one of the least bit utilized and researched tools. With the right adjustments and tweaks to the map a turret or other deterrent can be a force to be reckoned with and will become a true path manipulator. Once you do that you will have the power to completely weave the situations that your players encounter. Just the beginning There is so much to deterrents that one can analyze. power ups. Some players are just too skillful to allow such a hindrance stop them from moving forward. However the more you learn the closer you can step towards the unreachable goal of no flaws. Limitations of “discouraging” The word discourage is one that suggests that deterrents do not always work. If several fusion coils are in your direct path. Studying deterrents will require that you understand that while you have the ability to add deterrents around your map such as fusion coils and turrets. disincentive. Some players are stubborn and seek to fight against the odds. A deterrent can be many things. Anything that threatens your chance of winning can be considered a deterrent. Deterrents. you cautiously work your way around them in fear of the opposition killing you with one shot. and cover combined. etc. Learning when and when not to use deterrents or any theory for that matter is what makes perfection so impossible to achieve. Yup… you guessed it based on the title of today’s lesson. armor abilities. impediment. However do not completely disregard them as useless either. what makes them detour to the right? What delays them from having the chance to win the game? There are a couple answers to this question. Several synonyms exist that may help you better understand what a deterrent might be. hindrance. but there is one answer in particular that is more prominent than the simple placement of a Rocket Launcher or the Sniper Rifle. Everything will be covered over time. which is true. Dynamic deterrents are a difficult concept to grasp. Maybe the main reason why deterrents are not talked about much is because they are not always a sure fire way to get players to move around the map. or simply avoiding the confrontation. Deterrents are a big part of controlling a player’s movement around your map and can serve to be quite useful if utilized properly. The definition By definition a Deterrent is something that discourages something else from proceeding. or preparing an ambush. Learning to control planted deterrents as well as dynamic deterrents is a skill that cannot be overlooked when trying to perfect one’s level design theories. Deterrents are the most prominent tools of Path Manipulation. deterrents are created and destroyed constantly throughout the playtime of your map. so learning the basics first are important. you change your short term goal to account for him by moving to cover. . If you know the location of the sniper on the opposite team you maneuver in order to stay out of line of sight.Chapter 5: Deterrents What makes players move around the map the way that they do? If their goal is straight ahead. It exists in a higher quantity than weapons. If you see your opponent straight ahead.
And now that there is danger at hand that wall to your right looks quite appetizing as cover. Using the previous turret example. Taking account for the advantage Something that designers tend to forget is what effect that particular advantage has on the player. if no one is on the turret then that bunker is not much of an incentive anymore and you can just continue down the center path. sometimes it is an area or some other type of advantage. . Sometimes you need new weapons. These things that encourage us to move around… we call them Incentives. It is another to account for that advantage and make sure that you don’t give the player too much of what they want. An incentive isn’t always an item. When a player picks up active camouflage. Always keep a good balance. As you strive to win the game at hand there are many things around a map that encourage you to detour away from your main objective. the cover acts as an incentive to continue moving forward. If the only incentive on a path is the sniper rifle then when it is not there then there is no use in going down that path anymore is there? Sure you have the rocket launcher off on the side but that rocket launcher isn’t always going to be there. do you take the time to consider that he can now travel for a certain distance without being seen? Do you consider that when a player picks up a feather in Mario that they can now fly through the whole level with no opposition? Do you consider that if they gain the high ground that they have full control of this half of the map? It is one thing to offer an advantage to the player. If you don’t find that balance then you will end up pulling away from other incentives on the map and pushing too many players to that one incentive. It is a very handy skill to have and one that is well worth the investment in time. Most incentives only exist until they are used up. The height advantage is definitely seen by many as an incentive to travel up a ramp. After mastering that you can follow that up with learning how to effectively control that trait of an incentive by moving players down a path when you want them to go down there and then stopping them from going down there whenever you want. If you place a rocket launcher here people are going to want to head to it to pick it up. More than the obvious Most people understand a base concept of incentives when they think about weapon placement. That skill alone can fully control the traffic on the map. right? Well a sniper rifle or spartan laser isn’t the only thing that can get you to move. You see a bunker slightly ahead so instead of being discouraged by the turret’s threat zone. any time you give the player an advantage make sure to compensate. or sometimes powerups will make winning easier. some may not be there forever. You ever fight over one piece of cake? It’s not pretty.Chapter 6: Incentives So sometimes just having the will is not enough to complete the objective at hand. Non-existent incentives Now while incentives are great for moving players around a map. A key skill to master when utilizing incentives is taking the time to realize when incentives are turned on and when they are turned off. Maybe ahead of you there is a turret acting as a deterrent on the main objective path. Items are just the obvious incentives.
Color Contrast. but there is no order to 8 people running at each other at once. Well having multiple paths around the map isn’t magically going to solve this problem. and we already learned how bad that can be. Everyone just ends up clashing over and over again in the center right? This is a phenomenon that I like to call Combat Congestion. . It creates simplistic gameplay because it removes the skill of out-smarting your opponent based on path selection and cutting him off. Incentives can be used to force players to take paths that players normally wouldn’t. It is hard for players to choose their target so it ends up being chance that you only get shot by one person or the whole other team at once. If you have too many players traversing one area then maybe you should spread them out a little more. Hope you enjoyed it. Area Introduction. and Screen Real Estate. So again why do all of these things? Because combat congestion is one of those things that will cause a bad First Impression for your map. But in order to understand those techniques and fully apply them you have to be able to think in Perspectives and observe Perspective Variance. It is one of those things that are just frustrating to experience because nobody enjoys just running in and dying. What’s wrong with it? So what’s wrong with everyone running into each other and just shooting to try to kill someone? Nothing if that is what you want. Deterrents can be used to discourage players from taking commonly traversed paths. And as discussed. Avoiding the chaos So having one path can cause combat congestion. You end up having no time at all to plan out your attack and if you don’t have any time at all to use skill or strategy then what fun is that? The concept of Traffic The basic concept of traffic is an observance of how players are spread out on your map. I feel that it is important to completely understand why standard practices exist in the industry. Not only that. Remember that talk on Knowledge is Power? You have to use techniques like Eye Catching. You have to use a variety of Path Manipulation techniques in order to get your players to spread out and to reduce the chance of combat congestion happening on your map. The more players that go through an area the higher chance of combat congestion happening. Take the time to imagine a Halo map with only one path between two flag points.Chapter 7: Combat Congestion and Traffic Have you ever taken the time to wonder why most maps are designed to have multiple paths? Most people just blindly build their maps to have multiple paths because it has become a simple standard base rule that everyone follows. This was your first combination lesson where I tie everything that you’ve learned so far and everything that you will learn together to help you grasp the bigger picture. Dying to 4 people at once happens a lot faster than just 1 or 2 guys. They enjoy using their skills. and you’ve already learned some of them. But Incentives and Deterrents can’t just exist on the map. A ton of tricks exist for what I call controlling traffic. They end up having no effects on a player if player is unaware of them being on the map. that’s pretty simple to understand. this is something that we need to avoid as it is no fun to the player.
but how should one use it for level design? How about using eye catching techniques to attract players towards incentives? Or maybe you can use eye catching to warn players of a deterrent ahead. all of his options.Chapter 8: Eye Catching So I have introduced you to perspectives. but also exactly where your player is looking and when. and overall the true experience that they have while playing your map. The results In a picture when you grab the viewer’s attention they move their eyes towards the designated “eye catcher”. The basics Eye catching is a pretty self explanatory term. Meaning that eventually you have to vary your techniques and use eye catching only up to certain point. or anything else of interest all in one screenshot that can be observed as a picture. This is a technique that can be used everywhere in your map and knowing when to use eye catching and when not to is a delicate decision. Learning to transition between new perspectives is a powerful skill allowing you to fine tune not only the player’s movement. size. So not only do you get to control the direction the player is facing. Now I’m going to teach you how to move that perspective so that you can control exactly what your players see. The funny thing about humans is that we are curious and we love shiny things or anything that points out of a given scene. Pick your uses carefully and use this powerful technique wisely. Using this knowledge to our advantage is something that I like to call Eye Catching. which in short are screenshots of the player’s view. the decisions that they can make. Well yellow stands out quite well in a purple background and is sure to grab your player’s attention. Pick something that fits with what you are doing anyways. but you also control where they decide to move. Remember that if a player is in the middle of traversing a map. everything that a player sees. This technique is used in millions of pieces of artwork. moving their eyes towards the “eye catcher”. It is using various techniques to “catch” the human eye. etc. eventually the player will catch on. shapes. eh? Applying the technique So now you’ve got this basic understanding of changing the player’s perspective. any incentives in his view. However in a game moving a player’s eyes causes a change of perspective and makes a new picture for us to use and analyze. typically changing the direction their eyes are looking it they tend to gravitate towards that area. so why not utilize it in a perspective if a perspective can be seen as a picture? The human eye can be drawn by a ton of different things. You know those papers that say “Turn the page to see how to keep a blonde busy”? The same concept is applied in this situation. Making a dark map for some sort of zombie gameplay? Then use lit objects to attract attention. Maybe your map is quite purple from the covenant theme you’ve created. Controlling your player allows you to tweak what they feel. How about just introducing a new area of the map? Eye catching is part of the major concept that is Path Manipulation. It is your job as the designer to decide which type of attention grabber you want to use on your map. . what they see. like light differences. distance. When in a game players do the same thing. color contrast. Not bad for applying art theory to a video game.
Path Manipulation is also very important in that moving a player around changes the player’s perspective. Consider how perspectives vary from each other when a player is traveling in a straight line. Meaning sharp turns result in a massive amount of variance between perspectives. One play through of a map consists of millions of perspectives. While taking the time to study single important perspectives it is important to study them in batches or groups as well. To simplify this concept imagine watching a replay of a game and taking a single screenshot of the player’s perspective every second or half-second. If that light in the corner is only visible by the player for a split second then it will most likely never catch his eye. Repetition is key Once again… anything you want your player to notice has to exist from one perspective to another in order to have more effect. The idea behind perspective variance is observing the changes between perspectives that occur one after the other. How are you going to show them that the rocket launcher in the corner is going to help them if it just barely passes them by as they turn the corner? Tying it to movement So while eye catching is an extremely important aspect when thinking about perspective variance. .Chapter 9: Perspective Variance Well I have taught you the concept of drawing attention to important parts of your map by using Eye Catching techniques. Your eye catching techniques must exist in multiple perspectives over time in order to give the player a chance to notice what you have laid out before them. Things that are close will eventually disappear from the perspective while things farther away stay for longer. What’s the point of those subtitles or captions if you never get their full meaning? The same case is true here. What good are eye catching techniques if a player only sees them for a split second in time? In order to draw attention to something you must give the player the chance and time to notice it. What about when a player is rounding a corner? The things that are on the side of the perspective that the player is turning away from will disappear sooner than those on the side that the player is turning towards. it is not the only factor. Is this good or bad? Well that is up to you as a designer. Remember that the player is always alert and always moving and looking around and constantly changing his perspective. All of the things around him are fighting for his attention and he is observing everything that he notices. Humans always over look things when they have a goal like capturing the flag ahead of them. The player’s perspective is always changing and this must always be taken into account. And before I teach you these various techniques I must first introduce you to the concept of Perspective Variance. The sharper the turn is the faster objects disappear from a player’s perspective. Perspectives over time The concept of a perspective is just a single moment in time. Just because you use eye catching in one perspective doesn’t mean that it will catch the player’s attention in that instance in time. A simplified real life example is when you are trying to read subtitles or captions for a movie but they do not stay on screen long enough for you to read.
Chapter 10: Spawn Perspectives Over the various past lessons you have been introduced to how powerful observing perspectives can really be. One type of perspective that is common across all maps and extremely useful to observe is the Perspective that exists for each spawn point on the map. etc. Learning to observe key perspectives is important to saving yourself sometime. You want to remove as much unpredictability as possible in order to have stronger control over the player. The spawn perspective is the start of a long chain of perspectives that only ends when a player dies and then restarts from there until the game ends. Know what incentives exist. However there are billions of possible perspectives that exist on a map. From this first perspective player begin to decide exactly how they move around the map. If you want him to go right towards rockets then turn his perspective so that the path to rockets is in plain sight. Observe them heavily As a designer you should be aware of everything that the player can see from each spawn point of your map. find some way to force spawn on it. Other perspectives may be seen first. what deterrents may exist. You have full control. Every perspective in the chain is influenced by the spawn perspective so setting up the spawn perspective properly will lead to huge control over the player when dealing with Path Manipulation. Take the time to observe what is in the scene. Remember that you have control over the player’s experience. Spawn perspectives are the only truly guaranteed perspectives that you can observe exactly as the player will see it since there has been no previous eye catching. or just find some way to view the spawn’s perspective. but I will cover those in later lessons. Note that I say controllable perspective meaning that the player is able to fully move his perspective at his will from this point forward. what paths are available. If you want him to go left for the sniper then turn that perspective left. . Give the player direction and guide him from where he spawns. Take note of what paths the player can choose from. what is he going to do? He has an equal chance to turn right or left where he will proceed to choose his path. You control your players Whenever you place any spawn point the first thing you need to do is stand on it. Take notes of any possible threats that may exist in the perspective. If a player spawns and the only thing he sees is a wall. The first of many The spawn perspective is typically the first full controllable perspective of the map that the player receives. or other influence upon the perspective. Take note of what weapons the player can see. It is important to take the time to study each and every one carefully. Take the time to analyze the eye catching that exists in the perspective to get a good idea of where the player may be heading. Being the first controllable perspective all eye catching techniques are extremely important to study. Keep in mind that there are many factors that will influence all future perspectives. A good general rule to go by is to give the player at least one path as the focus of the spawn perspective. deterrent. Spawn perspectives are very powerful tools for applying the Knowledge is Power concept and teaching players important parts of the map. incentive.
Alright now… where did my opponent go? In that split second that I took to get my DMR I completely lost my goal and have to re-adjust myself and figure out what I’m going to do next adding to the spawn process. Let’s translate that into perspective variance terms. Smooth trails When a player spawns they are more likely than not be holding down forward on the thumbstick because humans are impatient and expect to reach their destination as fast as possible. After a bit of working with spawns I learned that as a player I never enjoyed spawning and walking into a wall. Time to adjust When a player spawns he must take a few seconds to adjust to his surroundings and learn where he has spawned in relation to things that are familiar to him on the map. Don’t introduce decisions or any changes until the player has completely oriented himself and recovered from “summoning sickness”. Do whatever it takes to keep the player’s perspectives similar in those first few seconds of spawning. A bumpy start So all those situations have one thing in common… they start you off with a hiccup in your game plan. and pick up a weapon? Have you ever spawned and tried to figure out where you were on the map and then suddenly drop a whole story and have to re-adjust and figure out where you are again? All of this is slightly frustrating to gameplay and is easily remedied. you spawn and you see an opponent passing by you so you head slightly to the right to cut him off and… OH WAIT!!! Was that a DMR that I passed? Hold on… let me move back and get that real quick. So now that we realize that players will be moving forward when they spawn we have to do our best as level designers to not disrupt their initial spawn thought process. Have you ever experienced this problem? Have you ever spawned walked past a weapon right next to you and realize it a couple of steps later and have to stop. Any change you introduce to the situation in those few seconds could just exponentially increase what he has to think about causing frustration to the sub-conscious. That’s today’s lesson. What this essentially boils down to is not letting them drop off of cliffs. . step backwards. not forcing them to turn as soon as they spawn. A player’s perspective should change the least in the first few seconds of a player’s spawn in order to avoid disrupting the initial spawn thought process. This is where minimal perspective variance is important.Chapter 11: Smooth Spawning Understanding spawns consists of more than just observing the Spawn Perspective. This may be a minor technique but it is quite powerful. and making sure they don’t bump into any corners or anything that could cause their perspectives to change too much. Don’t make things more difficult for your player. Have you ever thought that the extra second you took stepping back to pick up that battle rifle could be the difference between life and death? Imagine that you are ready to go. While a player does this it is best not to disturb his train of thought or change anything in those first few seconds until he is ready to start making decisions. While that may seem easy to adjust to. Humans are impatient. it is slightly twisted when we factor in one thing.
The player’s new objective path may now be to the nearest piece of cover. At that point the player may choose to remove the deterrent or seek safe passage and his objective path will change accordingly. Keep in mind that there is typically one objective path and many divergent paths. Use it well. and knows that the sniper is around the corner there would be a divergent path to the sniper.Chapter 12: Path Maps So we know we can move players around using different techniques in path manipulation. objective paths is the shortest path to the player’s current goal. A player’s goal is ever changing as they traverse around the map and make decisions. Divergent paths are typically based on the player’s current perspective. and the old objective path is now a divergent path. For example if a player is going for the rocket launcher. Another popular use of the path map is from incentives or landmark areas to understand where a player will move after arriving or acquiring what they traveled there to achieve. When a player spawns his initial goal is to get to his winning objective. Divergent paths may also exist behind the player if the player possesses enough knowledge of the map. objective and divergent paths change accordingly. but how do we observe that? How do we analyze a player’s movement? How do we visualize a player’s movement? The tool that I tend to use is a little something that I like to call path maps. An intro to path maps A path map is a map of all the possible paths that can be taken on a designate level based on a given position of the player. It is the designers job to decide what paths are most likely to exist in various situations. As players move around the map and make decisions. then the enemy is a deterrent. . Divergent paths are just simply all the possibilities that the player may choose to take based on certain situations. Now imagine that a player has beaten him to the rocket launcher. However if the player is an enemy. Divergent paths are paths towards other possible goals that force players to “diverge” from the main objective path. Now imagine that while traveling down the objective path a rocket launcher or other incentive catches his eye. Objective paths are the shortest paths possible to the player’s current goal from the player’s current position on the map. Being able to observe a path map at any given point in time is essential to truly mastering path manipulation. The current direction of the player is important when drawing a path map from a designated position on the map. There are two different types of paths that exist in a path map. From divergent to objective To reiterate. The new objective path is now the shortest path to the rocket launcher. His goal no longer exists so now his objective path must change. If the player that grabbed the rocket launcher is a teammate then it is more than likely that his old objective path will become the objective again. Utilizing path maps is a strong tool in observing specific situations when analyzing your path manipulation. He now changes his current goal to achieve the rocket launcher. This allows the designer to analyze where a player plans on moving as soon as they spawn and allows the designer to adjust that to his/her liking. When to use path maps The basic time to observe a path map is typically based on a particular spawn point.
The key is proving to them that it’s a good map to play on. You see what I did there? By mixing spawn perspectives and eye catching you can show of the blue room. Once you win their trust then you have their attention for a long while. correct? Even more so it is probably best if players knew about every single area that exists on the map in order to allow them to make the best decisions possible. You only have the player’s attention for a short period of time until you win over their trust. It is showing your players the options that they have when choosing where to go from where they are. . but it is more than just that.Chapter 13: Area Introduction I want you to think about all of the maps that have very important areas in them that players use to orient themselves and their teammates. Now that you know how important area introduction is… go use it. All of these things relate in the greater sense of Path Manipulation. What does the player see in his first perspective? Is that a pretty blue room that has caught my eye? Oooo… look there’s a shotgun over there I’m going to go check that out. Ever heard of people calling out the shotgun room? How about when players say that he is in the sniper tower? In order for player’s to enjoy the optimal experience on your map it is probably best for them to be able to understand where these areas might be. But it is more than just that. With incentives like a shotgun you can show people the shotgun room. It is showing players everything there is to a map. But why is area introduction so important? If a player explores enough won’t he/she find every place on the map eventually? Well sure. If I give you a dictionary eventually you will memorize every single word and definition in it if you read it enough right? No? Well why not? Tying things together Remember when we talked about how a player’s first impression of a map is extremely important? Remember when we said that Knowledge is Power and in order for a player to give a proper analysis of a map he needs to be introduced to the most important parts of the map? By mixing these two concepts we see the importance of teaching players the map as fast as we possibly can because we do not know how long a player’s first impression will last. Area introduction is a form of Path Manipulation that is used when a player is new to a map to show them major sections that are available to them. Giving them the tour So how do you show the player around without doing it yourself? How do you show the player the map while they are in the heat of combat and focused on winning the match? You already have a good amount of tools at your disposal. right? You tell me… Defining the obvious Hmmm so what is area introduction? I don’t know… maybe it is introducing areas to a player. Using deterrents and traffic control you can encourage people to take a look around somewhere else. And in order to do that they have to know the important parts about the map in order to judge it well or their judgment will be skewed and you will lose them for a while because they didn’t know about that one thing that could have made their experience better. This place looks too open and will leave me too vulnerable so I’m going to go see what’s over here instead.
This is one of the most important things that I have learned while studying design. They define what makes your map different. Any individual goal could also be possibly used in another one of your creations. It is the unique soul that you create. . They are what you are trying to achieve with your map. and structures are just a few things that the essence of your map can contain. They direct you in how you build your map. And it is the core of the description that you share with your friends. Maybe you want your gameplay to consist of shotgun fights down narrow halls. areas. what kind of things would you tell me that you are trying to create that are different than other maps that exist out there? Would you be able to give me a short unique set of points that completely describe what you are trying to create? What is the essence of your map my friend? Core. feelings.Chapter 14: Essence I want you to tell me what you are building. colors. They don’t have to be written down somewhere you just have to make sure that you remember them all. Theme. Base So I went to look up some synonyms instead of directly defining “essence”. Take a look at your prioritized goals and decide based on that. Maybe you want your players to be in a dazed state with dazzling lights that distract them from what is really happening. A list of goals Everything that makes up the map’s essence can be broken down into a list of goals. but do you have any goals of what you are trying to create? If I asked you to describe your map. Root. What makes your map unique is taking these features/requirements and mixing and matching them to create something truly unique. As you build maps and gain experience you create new goals to add to your growing goal library. but maybe this time mix it with long range focused combat in space. It is important to keep a list in mind of all of your map’s goals. A map’s essence can consist of numerous amounts of things. Do you know what you are trying to build? Sure you have an idea for a map. But that isn’t the only reason to make a list of goals… Essence is key to decision making Take that list of goals for your map and put them in order from most important to least important. gameplay. Maybe you want to give the sense of a medieval castle. Soul. Does the essence also support darkness? Maybe you should put the light after all. The essence of your map is its definition. It is the root of everything that makes up your map. Maybe you want your players to feel frightened and afraid of going around the next corner. Should you put a sniper rifle in this area as an incentive or should you instead use a bright light to serve as eye catching for area introduction? Does your map encourage long range combat? Then put a sniper rifle. This prioritized list of goals is how you will make your decisions on your map. Maybe you are trying to create a replica of the Death Star. The essence should be the deciding factor. Maybe you wanted to keep your goal of a Star Wars theme for your next map. Mixing and matching individual goals is a great way to define a new map creation… essentially you are building an essence out of building blocks. Maybe you are trying to recreate the feeling of war. It serves as the base of the experience.
Be prepared to answer the why while you build your map. or something else along those lines. Good luck. This is a very effective way of improving your map based on its essence and concentrating the focus of your creation. Do you choose the tower to meet a higher priority or do you get more “bang for your buck” by serving a mid priority as well as a low priority? This is where the designer shines. While this too seems simple. Everything that goes into your map needs to have one or more of those goals supporting it. That sniper tower can help your long range goal greatly. On the most basic level it will help you decide what things are the most important to have in your map. Ask yourself questions as you build something like “why am I adding this to my map?” or “how does this help create the map’s essence?” If you find yourself trying to make an excuse with no solid answer then you should probably rethink about what you are trying to do. sometimes it needs to be pointed out. Sometimes it is worth trading a path for a new aesthetic castle tower if your medieval goal is a higher priority than your path manipulation goals. “I don’t know”. You should be able to answer with something like “because one of my goals is to give this map a medieval feel” or “this path serves as a backdoor into the blue base to allow for flanking and another route out for the flag”. Long range could be a high priority for you while multiple paths have mid priority and medieval theme has low priority. The power of prioritization I mentioned briefly how important it is to prioritize the goals of your map. Why put something into a map that doesn’t support your cause? Why my friend? So why is that wall down there? Is there a reason you have that massive structure up there? What’s your reasoning behind this path back here? If you can’t answer any of those questions with your list of goals then it most likely serves no purpose on your map. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the answer “because it looks cool”. It will help you decide whether you want a sniper rifle in this corridor or a shotgun in the adjacent room. If you have a goal of long range combat that has a higher priority than the medieval thing you are going for then maybe it would be beneficial to trade out that draw bridge in order to add more long range combat elements into your map. In reality however one structure or idea can serve multiple goals for your map. While this may seem like common sense. Something you can do to help improve your map is trade one idea for another that has a purpose with a higher priority. It is up to you to juggle the pros and cons. This is where making decisions gets difficult. I cannot stress this enough. Learning to juggle So far I have talked about ideas and objects that only serve a single goal in order to teach in a simplified manner. But adding a draw bridge instead could help your path manipulation as well as help your medieval goal. .Chapter 15: Purpose So have you figured out what you are trying to do with your map? Do you have a list of goals that you are trying follow to fulfill your map’s essence? Are they prioritized and ready to go? Good because they need to be followed every step of the way.
Have your maps ever caused someone to just pause and look around instead of play? Innovation is defined as something newly introduced. Well what if you intentionally didn’t have multiple paths and only had one linear path? Surely that is unique (cue Conquest). Judging by a book’s cover Your best way of creating shock and awe is using aesthetics. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people register for a site and post just so they can comment on how crazy and innovative something is. If you are the first to break the rules you will be the innovator. If people are utilizing blue and red lights everywhere then use the yellow and green ones. . Break the rules I have found great success in going against gameplay standards and practices. such as a new method or device. There is no such thing as impossible in your mind. Have you ever thought of a yin yang shaped map? How about one to resemble a lizard or something and capture a player’s attention with the map overview? Looks are the easiest way to attract attention. That wow factor is a very powerful thing. So make them see something crazy. Otherwise you’re just another fish in the sea. but that isn’t the only way to do it. Build the map completely underwater like in Bioshock.Chapter 16: Innovation So you know how to make a good map right? How the hell do you get it noticed? There are thousands of maps out there. Maybe you can recreate a popular symbol in the world. Look through all the competition. Try something else new. Think about something that your audience has never seen before and do it. Players normally see a map before they actually play it. and while they are being posers you can go try another challenge. If people are making maps with lots of cover and hallways make a map that has lots of open areas. Stand out. What about the standard of having multiple paths into a base? Could you make a successful map with only one path into the base? Is there something that people tell you not to do ever at all? Find the exception to that rule. what is going to get people to notice your map and want to take their time out of the day to play your map above all others? The trick… you’ve got to have a little pizzazz and give people that WOW factor. Whether it is remaking the Titanic or making a game out of betraying your friends. Be that person to break the trend and do what they say can’t be done. What is everyone else doing? Now do the opposite. How about making a map that is based around dark alleys? Maybe base the map around the sun and utilize those burning visuals. Take every challenge that people present to you. It is time for you to be the whales of the sea. Profit. Never say never. It is common practice to create multiple paths and what not around a map in order to address the issue of Combat Congestion and Traffic. If people are saying it can’t be done you tell them that it can and you show them. Anything is possible. Make a statue that is as tall as a building (cue Statue of Liberty). You’ve got to do something that is unique and powerful. Who could miss an animal that large? . Be different. The rest will then just be posers.) The power of jaw dropping I’ve seen the power of innovation cause crazy things to happen.
Pick one color on that wheel and then grab the color directly across from it. But color contrast isn’t just about eye catching. Place purple weapons on a yellow backdrop in order to draw attention to them as incentives. So how do you find low contrast and high contrast color combinations? Take a look at a color wheel. The difference is black and white Contrast is defined as the difference between two colors that appear next to each other. not to draw attention. One of those ways is to use contrasting colors in an otherwise bland scene. Now pick a color next to it. So when do you want to hide something? Why not just high contrast everything in the scene to draw attention to it? Because the more things that are trying to pull attention the less affect each one has on the player. It is easy to notice when something black is on a white field. That color is known as an analogous color. It shows players a weapon that they may not have been able to find otherwise. There are many ways to draw a player’s gaze. They are there to complete the whole experience and keep the map from feeling bland. Applying to maps So through the topic of eye catching you already know when to use high contrast colors. Scenery and other objects that help smooth out the feeling of the map. Place yellow explosives against a dark gray wall in order to make them aware of the deterrent. however if you want it to stand out then maybe the black on white is a better idea. You do not want to be bringing attention to something that doesn’t need attention and you don’t want to hide something that needs to be seen. Most color wheel diagrams consist of 12 colors containing the three primary colors that blend together to form three secondary colors and then all six of these blend with the one two next to them to create six tertiary colors. You can easily find an example of the color wheel by searching google. but how easy is it to tell when something black is on a purple field in comparison? With that in mind how much do you want that black object to stand out? If you want the object to just accent the scene then maybe the black on purple is a good idea.Chapter 17: Color Contrast You know how important catching a person’s eye is. that aren’t necessarily important to gameplay. A natural occurrence of the color spectrum is a rainbow. It can attract players to places they would never explore otherwise. The color wheel just places all of these colors in a perfect circle that links the red to the purple in order to restart the color sequence. These colors blend really well together and hide things while still adding color to the scene. High and low contrasts are both important in their own situations. . need to use low contrast in order to not draw too much attention to them. The color wheel So everything we see exists on our visible color spectrum with each color slowly blending into the next and becoming a new color. Place a dark red door in a bright green wall to show players that it exists. That color is known as its complementary or contrasting color. A rainbow is seen by the human eye as several colors blending into each other from Red to Purple. So next to that purple weapon on the yellow backdrop don’t place purple chairs around it or people may miss the purple weapon and only see the purple chairs and move on.
It is your player that you want to appease. Don’t lie to me I know a lot of you will tell me that you definitely follow this guideline. By doing this you improve all of your future creations exponentially. The only thing that will result it is you pushing the design and the building too fast and you end up missing things that you know you shouldn’t have missed. don’t shut them out because they didn’t design the map and don’t have your vision. but don’t lie to me. It takes patience to be a great designer and you can never practice too much. Remember the importance of first impressions and knowledge of a map? Making sure your map is the best that it can be will help your map get out there and spread to the masses. Don’t get careless. Designers are always anxious to show off what they have been working on all this time. if someone suggests something then put off that publishing time until you fully consider their suggestion. Remember your credibility as a designer is on the line. Go over every lesson and every possible trick that you know. tweak. take that into consideration. Remember when I reminded you about how you scroll through the map forums and skip over thousands of maps? If you lose your player’s trust. Take your time. Take the time to improve your skills as a designer with maps you are already familiar with. . Even if you were about to publish it and show it off that night. but most of the time you are on your own timeline. I know you are in a hurry to show it off to the world and get your name out there. People tend to ignore suggestions of changes when they are done or close to done with their map. If someone gives you a suggestion of changing something major. it will be hard to earn that trust back and you are going to have to use some crazy innovation techniques to re-grab their attention. If you truly analyze it. but make sure you have taken the time to test. Sure you have contest deadlines at times. Experiencing what is bad is just as important. that player will scroll past your creations on that forum. and review every little facet of your map. This is your creation. If you lose your audiences trust. Don’t set deadlines for yourself. Don’t be one of those designers that get scrolled over. Do not be afraid to make a big change to a map due to time or more effort. Go back over your past creations and apply new things that you have learned to it. you will grow as a designer. Remember that while you did have a vision. Considering a change takes time While designing maps I have noticed a major mistake that many designers make because they are afraid of adding more time and effort into their creation. make it the best that it can possibly be. Remember that even after you have published your map that it can still be improved.Chapter 18: Patience Never rush your map. maybe the way you went about it can be done better. Take the time to improve it instead of just saying “I will follow that guideline on my next map”. Weigh the pros and cons of the change. Have you taken the time to check every single one of your spawn perspectives? Have you observed what kind of paths a player will take from that position? Have you made sure that all of your weapons can be found easily? Does each area of your map have enough area introduction to spread out traffic and control combat congestion? Have you taken a look at the path maps for all of the important areas of your map? Look at every lesson one at a time and go over your map. This mistake is setting your ideas in stone. Trust me when I say that if you keep attempting tips and advice you will grow whether or not that advice was good.
. Understanding what sort of threat zones a player may have in certain areas will help you make decisions on how and where you want to push players on the map. etc. Static vs dynamic Static zones are typically the easiest to manipulate and control. The reverse is true if a player sees someone around or near the sniper spawn. He assumes that the player has the sniper and is more cautious at long range but more aggressive at close range. If you see a player with a shotgun you tend not to be too worried until he gets up close and personal. Keep in mind where you place weapons or anything that may change the player’s threat zone. They typically don’t move from where you place them. Assumption of threat zone Players will make decisions based on assumed threat zones. Use this knowledge to help adjust certain areas of your map. Typically the closer you are to the origin of a sniper the more difficult it is for the sniper to kill you. I call these areas around a deterrent a Threat Zone. If you know a certain area is vulnerable to the sniper’s threat zone that originates where the sniper spawns then add things accordingly. but as you observe the zone farther out it gets more and more transparent until it is completely ineffective. If players see a person in the shotgun tunnel there is a certain distance away from that area that they feel safe traversing by assumption. If you place a sniper rifle on the top of the base it is a good chance that a player up there will pick up the sniper rifle and have their current threat zone be weighted more towards long range. Good examples of these static zones are explosives. If a shotgun is in a hallway it is probably safe to assume that any player that is down there may have the shotgun and has a very heavily close range weighted threat zone. All players are threat zones as long as they hold the ability to disturb you in your pursuit of a goal. If you see someone on a turret from sniper distance they tend to not bug you due to the turret’s spread of fire. The best way to control a player is to use path manipulation and path maps in order to best observe how they will move. Threat weighting Understanding the threat zone of a deterrent is important to placing them effectively throughout your map and controlling their effectiveness. poisonous areas. turrets. The real difficulty is learning to control dynamic threat zones. Imagine the zone being cover by a very opaque color where it is most effective and the zone getting more transparent in areas where it is most ineffective. So in this scenario the area around the sniper would be very transparent but as you get farther the zone would get more opaque up to its max range and the get more transparent to represent the more difficult longer shots. A threat zone is more than just an area that a deterrent affects.Chapter 19: Threat Zones When playing a map if you see a set of explosives you tend not to worry too much about them until you are in their proximity. All deterrents have a set area where they are most effective and where they aren’t very scary. For example a shotgun has a very opaque center at point blank range. The problem with players is that they are technically uncontrollable and unpredictable. Sniper type weapons tend to have an opposite style for their threat zones.
Spawning is important Spawning is one of the most important parts of level design that needs to be handled with care. Another thing to take a look at is how your map’s path manipulation is moving player’s around the map. minutes. Spawn players in low eye catching areas of popular perspectives. This is just another thing that you need to look out for. If you disappoint them in those first few seconds then you have failed your player and they may not come back. Being flat-footed is not an enjoyable experience for most of those who enjoy fighting. or hours. It will just result in a very sad spawning player. at that point they blame themselves and you have nothing to worry about. Avoiding the “unfun” So how do you avoid making your players miserable? First thing you want to do is observe high traffic areas with high combat congestion. don’t spawn a player near the eye catching portions of his perspective. If you do you have given your player a bad first impression and that isn’t something that we want. . Don’t make that kind of stuff. Most fighters love being able to strategically prepare for each incoming attack while removing every possible disadvantage that they may have. Remember that a player’s first impression is everything when they play your map and that spawning is the first few seconds of that experience. If you know that a player on the sniper tower is always looking down at a certain spot in his threat zone. is it? Flat-footedness Flat-footed is an adjective that refers to someone as being “unprepared” or “unable to react quickly”. Think about all of the things that you have stopped after experiencing the first few seconds. No player enjoys being caught off guard unable to use their skill to the best of their advantage. Even more so if the player has the knowledge of the map to know that there is a sniper that spawns around there at certain intervals. the higher chance that a player is going to get thrown into the middle of it.Chapter 20: Safe Spawning Have you ever spawned into a map and were instantly being fired upon when you spawned in? Do you remember how frustrating that is? How about when you spawn and walk a couple of steps and instantly fall victim to a grenade due to all of the combat nearby? Have you ever spawned at the same time as someone else facing each other only to run at each other spraying and praying that you will be the one that lives? Remember not having any time to react or strategize? Not a fun feeling. You’ve already seen how important spawning is through spawn perspectives and smooth spawning. And a sad player is a player not playing or sharing your map. Flat-footedness is one of those disadvantages and as a designer you too should do your best to remove this uncomfortable feeling from your maps. The more traffic an area is receiving. Don’t let the player blame you. Observe where you have placed your incentives and if nearby player’s are going to follow the objective path of their path map towards a nearby spawning player to obtain that incentive. However if they are caught flat-footed when they spawn that is the fault of the designer and you will be blamed for your poor design skills. Trust me. It is one thing for the player to put themselves in that position.
Chapter 21: Incentive Weighting There’s a word that is always thrown around when talking about great maps. What do we call advantages again? OH YEAH! Incentives… Weighing the un-weighable So here’s a quick overview of incentives. There are so many types of incentives and they are all completely incomparable to each other side by side. a batch of grenades. The heavier incentives and a lot of incentives will cause darker areas. An armory is a bit extreme. it’s obvious. However its weighting goes down if the goal is to capture the flag and the armory is out of the way. Do you have an armory on your map? It is probably a good place to chill if your map’s essence is about killing. Now imagine as many incentives across your map as you can. a rocket launcher. Which corner do you think is heavier? Typically. Is your map “balanced”? How do you go about answering that? How do you weigh your map? Well typically you measure the map by comparing all of the advantages throughout it to ensure there is a balance of advantages no matter where you are. What do you do with it? Well typically you want to spread out the incentives to have the weighting be “balanced” around the map. Incentives are areas. Mentally tally up the weight of each millimeter of your map and imagine darkening up the heavier areas. Create a radius of effect based on your map’s essence for each one. course of actions. What is that word you say? My friend… that word is “balance”. All situations are different and it is your job to create the situation that you want. etc. As a designer it is your job to set a weight or priority for all of the incentives in your map to meet your map’s essence. A balancing act So now you know how to find the weight of all of those advantages. right? . It will help you control the traffic of your map and ensure that every part of your map is worth traveling through. Think about how important each incentive is to your players based on the experience you are trying to create and the objectives you are setting for your audience. Learning to balance the advantages of your map is a delicate and essential skill. etc. but you get the point. Why? Because players are drawn to incentives like lions are drawn to meat. Now what if it was a pistol/rocket vs. a good defensive position. So how do we weigh them? We make up a weight for each based on the experience that we want to create. an assault rifle/sniper? It depends on the map’s essence. that help you achieve your current goal easier. Spreading the love So now you’ve got your “heatmap” of advantage. These incentives can be a height advantage. a shortcut. Maybe an armory is fine for your map as long as you weigh the rest of your map to balance it out. Imagine having a pistol and assault rifle in one corner of a map and a sniper and a rocket on the other corner. That is what path manipulation is really all about. something like a heatmap. It is time to start spinning plates on sticks. Does your second map essence focus on vehicle usage? Well now a rocket launcher is probably much heavier than that sniper. Did you plan to setup a huge long range combat focus for your map? The sniper probably has a higher priority/weight than the rocket launcher on that map. objects. Imagine a massive overview of your map. Always keep in mind each incentive’s individual weight as well to help you move things around.
Well done. You should be very well versed in the definition of a perspective. Second. or whatever into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Apply whatever eye catching techniques you would like and viola you have encouraged your player to take the role of the sniper. Now keep in mind the spawning default eye level of the player. the perspectives main points of focus lie at the intersections. This rule is one of the simplest rules of photography and will help assist you in your quest towards becoming a great map designer. Don’t you hide that good ol’ rifle. The rule of thirds states that if you divide a picture. However I do know that one common rule of thumb that photographers use is known as the “rule of thirds”. I’m not an expert so don’t judge me when I talk about their techniques. Rule of thumb Remember when we talked about how perspectives are like pictures or photographs? Well applying common techniques used in art and photography can be used to truly help enhance a player’s experience on your map. Tweak the spawn perspective so that the sniper rifle is placed near one of the four points of interest. Photography is all about object placement. What you end up getting is a little square in the center with its corners being used as focus points. First of all you want to place the spawn facing towards the general direction of the sniper rifle.Chapter 22: Rule of Thirds Have you ever taken a picture of yourself or family and friends centered in the picture? Have you noticed that the picture just doesn’t feel right and doesn’t feel pleasing? Have you ever placed an object directly in front of someone for it just to go unnoticed? That’s because a person’s focus is typically not on the center of their current perspective. photograph. Take the time to imagine the general direction that the player is facing and setup your objects based on the rule of thirds in order to maximize their attention. Imagine setting up a spawn perspective for your map. Not the center So taking the basic definition of the rule of thirds we can take any good screenshot and divide it with two lines going vertically in thirds and two lines going horizontally in thirds and find the main focus points of the screenshot. This technique doesn’t just have to be used on spawns. If a painting is being drawn with the sun as a main focus it is normally placed at one of the top two corners of that center square. screenshot. Make your map fun to play by making what they need to have fun easier to find. Let’s run through a scenario to help you get a bit more acquainted to working with the rule of thirds. Learning to place objects at a player’s focus point is key to ensuring that they notice what you are trying to show them. depth. scene composition. You want a player to first spawn and pickup the sniper rifle that is in front of them. you want to set the sniper rifle a good distance away from a player in order to follow the smooth spawning concept. It can be used for when a player first walks through a doorway. This is why you see many pictures and self portraits with the subject slightly to the right or left and not directly in the center of the picture. Application So now you’ve got the jist of the rule of thirds so let’s take some time to re-tie it back in with level design. as well as various other techniques. .
However they have no control over static perspectives like map overviews so if they have a bad map overview or see a bad screenshot the fault falls on you as the designer. always remember that you are painting a picture or film that your players are witnessing. Games have used many static perspectives throughout the ages and learning to see them as pieces of art will allow you to adjust them and plant a particular opinion or impression on your customers. Static perspectives are also a great tool for area introduction. remember the perspective variance concept when using various techniques. Don’t ever give your player’s a reason to doubt your credibility as a designer. Painting a picture When preparing a static perspective. They are something that are fully owned by a designer and are very predictable experience-wise when compared to other design theories that rely on hypothesizing what players will see and do. Take note of the color contrast that exists in your picture. In the case of batches of perspectives. When things don’t go a player’s way while traversing a map they have the chance to blame themselves because they control their own perspective. Maybe there is a security camera that players have access to but can’t control and can see the map in the camera’s perspective. Power. Sometimes they get an overview of the map that allows them to make decisions and gain a first impression before they start playing or have any sort of control of what they are seeing. Everything works together as one and learning to combine and mix and match techniques is a delicate but powerful skill. That. Remember that level design is a smooth cohesive process. Remember the importance of teaching your players your map to provide them the knowledge they need to have a full and enjoyable experience. Sometimes a player doesn’t have control over what they see during cinematic sequences and where they look next. Screenshots of your map in a thread on a level design forum are a great example of static perspectives. Is.Chapter 23: Static Perspectives Sometimes when a player experiences a map for the first time they don’t start with a spawn perspective. incentives. Remember your eye catching techniques to draw attention to things. Use whatever techniques you can think of to make your static perspectives as pleasing as possible. . Perhaps you created a film to show off your map. Remember how important those first impressions are. Sometimes a camera exists that is used to give an overview of a map while players select their weapons. and deterrents on the focus points of the static perspective. not just a bunch of individual parts. Remember that you are an artist trying to sell your work to your audience. These perspectives that players do not have control over are what we call static perspectives. Remember the rule of thirds and place important landmarks. with great power comes great responsibility. Examples Static perspectives can be many things. Your terms Static perspectives are a powerful tool in a designer’s toolbox for creating the experience the designer envisions. The designer has full control over static perspectives. However.
it might as well not exist right? For those demented ones out there do not relate this to suicide. a new community. services. then you will receive advertising naturally. There was something that I did successfully to get you to read this right here and now. You post your map on the forums and receive little to no replies on your map. Learn to give and eventually you will receive.com? But it isn’t just me who has fooled you. a new game. The trick to successful advertising is giving. not receiving. Advertising is a big part of becoming successful and I’m going to share my secrets of success to you. and whatever else you have to offer they will give back to you. Remember the whole deal about if a player can’t find something on your map then it might as well not exist? Well if players can’t find your map then… well. So the first rule about advertising is learning to not be selfish and learn to give rather than receive. You fell for my advertisement tricks. It’s time somebody let you in on the tricks of the trade. How about a favorite restaurant? How did you find that restaurant? Why do you like it over all of the other ones? Now how do you get people to play your map? How do you get people to enjoy your map better than Joe over there? Advertising is a skill that is used in everything. You feel you’ve got a great map that follows many of the principles of level design that you have learned. Whether it is a new map. Don’t believe me? You are reading these lessons aren’t you? Advertising is everything Think about how you found these lessons. Some spam every person they possibly can on the internet. You are one of hundreds and maybe even thousands of people reading what I have to say. my faithful reader. If you do this. Nobody truly cares about what is in it for you. a new game mode. Do you have a favorite news channel? There is a reason that you watch it over other news channels. time. But why are you reading this? What did I do to draw you in? Who was it that introduced these to you? How did I bring you here to ReachingPerfection. You have got to share it to the world.Chapter 24: Advertising So you’ve been reading all of the previous lessons and now you are prepped and ready to go. Before people will give your map a chance you have to give them something they want. And my tricks work. a new shower head. It’s not about you The most important thing to remember is that in order to get people to experience your content you have to forget that it is all about getting your content popular. You go to play your map and realize that you have no one to playtest it with you. etc. Just like anything else that you can possibly make you have to advertise what you have created. . you need to show what you have created to people who will enjoy it. People want to know what you have to offer them. They care about what is in it for them. some better than others. If you are only focused on getting your map popular then you will fail. Everyone has their own way of advertising. I will be honest with you my friends. Grrr… Spreading the word You’ve got your beautiful creation… now you have to spread the word. However if you are focused on offering your help. Some pay hundreds to get some popular hangout to advertise them.
Trust me on the sunscreen. And some will see it as that and be very grateful. Do you want to make that “you” of today famous? Then you have to start thinking in terms of what you did to get to where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. You remember that map you made 3 years ago that you thought didn’t get enough attention? Well that may be the map that tells that executive producer that you need to be working on their next game or future downloadable content. Time is money Time is money. Giving your time to others is just as or more valuable than giving those people your money. Use that never ending cash flow that we call time to your advantage. Every little thing matters So what exactly is it you are investing? Well any content you make is an investment. That new designer may become your next big follower that gets you that lucky break. Giving that hour of your time to teach them to fish instead of paying $10 for a meal at Applebee’s will definitely be worth more to them in the long run. everything you make is crucial to your success in the future. Unreal. etc? He could be the key to your success. That person you just sacrificed your time for just so happens to be best friends with some big shot… who knew? Sometimes you can only do so much for yourself and you need the help of others which is why investing in being helpful and selfless to others will benefit you the most. Time efficiency So now you know that everything you do matters. Remember the mention of learning to be selfless for advertising purposes and how you are only good to people for what you can provide for them? Well mix that with the concept of investment. Is building your map more important than helping your new friend with his map? Is responding to a private message for help worth more than trolling the forums? Is taking the time to respond to someone’s thread about their map a better investment than posting your own map in a thread? You want my opinion? Take the least selfish route. But now you need to start figuring out and deciding what your best courses of action are. . You never know when one of your selfless investments will pay off and win you the lottery. Every person that you talk to is an investment. Farcry. Everything is important… including those 10 minutes you spent helping a new level designer with their first map. Quite the opposite. He could be the person that tells Bungie’s Halo: Reach executive producer that your material is worth looking at. Every little thing you do is an investment towards your goals of being a great level designer. One step leads to another and you are who you are today because of what you have done in your past. Every minute of every day is an investment in your future. You remember that kid you helped back on Halo 3.Chapter 25: Investment Do you have a great map that you designed that got very little attention way back in the day? How about that crazy little prototype layout that you threw together a couple months ago? Do you have goals of being an iconic figure in the level design world and having everyone enjoy your content? Then everything that you worked on will not go to waste.
Because I am giving back to them my credibility is raised in their eyes and they are more likely to come back and ask for more help and more likely to help advertise my works. Hardcore fans on the other hand. how many times has that person gotten back to you personally? How much more excited are you for their product when you get that personal message back saying that they thank you for your support? How much more willing are you to share that person’s work with your friends? That person just scored themselves’ more credibility. If I receive a comment on one of my creations I take the time to personally message that user and let them know that their opinion does matter to me. Nurturing has been one of the best advertisement strategies that I have used to get my content out there. Casual fans just like your product and when they see it they will likely download it. Always respond If you do not have time to nurture every person that comes to you or every person that enjoys your work at least take a little bit of time to acknowledge them. If someone asks for my help I do my best to take the time out of my day to try to work with them. It is bringing them up and developing them into something else. one person can bring you down. Invest in your fans and future. the less you have to advertise. Hardcore fans will get the word out that you have something new out and the casual fans will hear the word and download it. . As a designer your goal is to nurture your fans from being casual fans to hardcore fans that will likely spread your creation. While casual fans are important. The way of nurturing Nurturing fans can be done in various ways. Don’t under estimate the power of personal and direct interaction. Remember that your time is money and giving it to others means a lot to them. Never leave a person hanging because the same way that one person can make you popular. Something is better than nothing and most people will understand that you are busy and will still take the time to look out for your work or wait until you are less busy to ask you for help. What it means to nurture Nurturing is the act or process of developing a person. Hardcore fans will advertise for you. If you spend too much time nurturing you won’t have any time to finish any of your works and you will start losing fans that are waiting for content. they are not what make the difference in advertising. and the more time you can spend on working on new amazing content for your fans to enjoy. You never know who will do what for or to you so never let something just slide by. It is a difficult balance to find and one that you can only find through years of experience. As you get more popular though it becomes harder and harder to nurture all of your fans. including these lessons. The more you have. At that point you have to take the time to decide who to help and for how long.Chapter 26: Nurturing Have you ever taken the time to tell someone that you love their work and that you can’t wait to see more? Well if you have. However if you spend too much time making content then you lose that strong advertisement base and the time you spend trying to get your future works out doubles. will take the time to spread the word because they feel that your work is worthy of others to experience.
Give your feedback to those who request it. Your works speak just as much about you as you do. Always tread lightly when doing anything. your content. Build memories and make friends. now does it? Well it is. expand. Remember what rewards and what consequences will follow. You want to be known as the guy who has helped everyone else out and deserves to be helped out back. And yes… some will know you and remember how you acted in a heated argument. nurture. What are you waiting for? Use these lessons to invest in your future. You judge me and my works based on the reputation that I have created. So you must always make sure you understand the image you are creating when you do anything. Always consider what the future will bring based on your actions. Forget about advertising when you are making your name. Consider how you carry yourself when you speak with others and take the time to nurture your fans. Some will make the decision on whether or not they will try out your content based solely on your reputation. Be a loyal member of the community and then advertise to those who know you. the bad in my past will continue to come back to haunt me as it will to you if you don’t learn quickly. Some of you have heard of my past. I have made some mistakes myself in the past. You will be rewarded for your selfless acts. While this may not seem as apparent when you first start out it will definitely start to show itself as you continue on in your pursuit to build your credibility as a designer. Bad decisions and a bad reputation will cause people to not listen to your advertisement attempts despite any nurturing you may do. . Remember that bad actions. you too are building your reputation for others to judge you by even if they have never met you and you have never met them.Chapter 27: Reputation Some of you have heard of my works. content. As you advertise your content people will judge you based on what they have seen from you. it is time to go out and start painting that picture for all to see. An image of you Consider yourself an artist of a painting that all will see when they hear your name. but I am learning. Some will know you from only the creations that you have built. Always keep in mind that you are being judged every minute of every day. Some will know you from seeing your feedback that you give to other designers. You don’t want to be known as the guy who spams advertisements or the guy who always starts arguments. and what you say. It will only lead to bad decisions. People that recognize your name are definitely more likely to try out your content. and words will follow you forever. Offer to help out. It matters This doesn’t really seem like a level design lesson. Making a name Now that you are warned. Remember that as a designer. In the future it will repay you as a designer. and profit. Do this in the most selfless manner. You decide whether it leaves a good first impression or not. They will affect the future in a huge way. Some of you recognize my name from somewhere. The best way to build that image is to find a community and start painting. Good or bad. Despite that. Then create. Some will know you from the help that you have offered others.
and other eye catching techniques. whether it is coming in through a doorway. A third dimension When considering a player’s perspective direction it is easy to keep in mind that they can be focused anywhere in front of them. incentive presentation. If you know a player is moving around a lot. not as the designer.Chapter 28: Perspective Direction Are you still having problems getting players to find the incentives that you have placed around the map? Do players just walk past weapons laying around the map despite the eye catching techniques you used to draw attention to them? There’s more to getting people to notice things than just using color contrast. and other such instances. this could be any possible threats. Remember that they don’t know your map like you do. So placing an incentive at the very bottom of the ramp is probably not a good idea as it is out of the player’s perspective. or sitting at a control point. Now in your mind draw a sample of their possible perspective based on their focus point and position. Now imagine the player’s current priorities and where their point of focus is. Have you ever thought about their attention being drawn elsewhere in that situation? Point of Focus When in a combat situation players are constantly maneuvering their focus to things that they feel require their attention at the time. or to either side of them. deterrent warnings. See your creation from their eyes. keep in mind the possible perspective variance and plan accordingly. the next objective. This technique can be used in a variety of ways. If there is a rocket launcher sitting high up on a pedestal with lights shining all over it they aren’t going to notice the hidden shortcut that is off to the side out of their view. You can use it for area introduction. any obvious incentives. . Standing in their shoes When trying to draw attention to something think about the most likely places that a player is going to be. hiding behind cover. color contrast. If the capture the flag waypoint is straight across the map then their attention is going to be towards the shortest path to get to it. If a player is sitting at the bottom of the ramp and their path map reads that they are likely to be going forward over that ramp where is the player’s focus point? It isn’t straight ahead because then their perspective is filled with the ramp. Always put yourself in your player’s shoes. Use that as a guideline as to what the player is looking at. Imagine a ramp. Perspective direction is about making an educated guess and imagining yourself as a player. not from yours. This is similar to the way that you setup spawn perspectives except that a spawn perspectives direction is always known. When sitting at the base of a ramp that area is typically the very top of the ramp. behind them. etc. Their perspective direction is towards the area of highest possible threat. If someone is shooting at them then their attention is drawn to that deterrent. not the sniper rifle that is sitting comfortably in a cupboard behind them. not the weapon lying on the ground beside them. Most designers forget that there is a third dimension in most games. Place what you are trying to draw attention to in that perspective keeping in mind the rule of thirds. So show them.
. If all three paths in a room can be watched from one perspective then the room is just as easy to lockdown as a room with only one entrance. What is degree of focus? Well let’s find out.Chapter 29: Degree of Focus Ever wonder what makes a spot easy to control compared to other areas of a map? It isn’t always just the amount of pathways that lead to it. In order for a player to fully control that type of area they have to divide their attention everywhere and stay vigilant at all times. Aerial combat is becoming very popular as a game mechanic. Degree of focus can make or break a map and it can also be the focus of a map’s essence. Degree of focus is based on how many perspective directions are required to lockdown the area. There are many factors that can determine whether an area is easy to control or hard to control. A large open area in the center of a map is a very popular technique to stop players from taking the quickest route as it has an extremely high degree of focus and is very hard to be in for any given amount of time. A low degree of focus can actually serve as a very strong incentive for many players acting as powerful as a sniper rifle or rocket launcher. but one of the main factors is the degree of focus that the area requires for control. Increasing the degree of focus of an area can lessen an area’s incentive weighting and too much can actually become a strong deterrent. you control how much power they get. Placing a roof above an area can help reduce the degree of vertical focus while still keeping the high degree of lateral focus to help create the experience that you are looking for. Now on the opposite side of a coin. Degree of focus can serve as a powerful path manipulation tool if used correctly. while an area with minimal degree of focus is typically very advantageous as it allows a player to divide his attention less. The doorway serves as the only area of focus. A completely open flat field requires 360 degrees of focus laterally and vertically… a full sphere of attention. More than just multiple paths Just having multiple paths to an area does not guarantee that the area will have a higher degree of focus. As a designer. Requiring more perspective variance can also to control an area will also help decrease an area’s incentive weighting. Path Manipulator Degree of focus is a very important thing to pay attention to for popular areas and main pathways. Players love having tons of control over situations. And areas like a room with minimal entrances are great incentives to encourage players to move as they offer a sense of security. as it gives them the ability to focus all of their attention with very little perspective variance. These areas are also popular places to situate powerful incentives like the rocket launcher as the high degree of focus lowers the incentive weighting of the rockets serving as a counterbalance to its power. An area with a high degree of focus is typically not desirable. Keep in mind that degree of focus includes the third dimension. The given area hence has a very minimal degree of focus required to lockdown that area. imagine a room with one entry way into it that can be watched without moving one’s perspective. Sphere of attention The degree of focus refers to the amount of area that a player must focus on visually in order to fully lock down an area.
We always start out theorizing how one might go about doing something based on what we know. however when you play your map it may prove to be a bad decision due to unforeseen circumstances. Many people will tell you that smoking is addicting. Sometimes you never know that something is going to work until you try it. or even create a super computer. Everything in map design works this way. Nobody knows everything and nobody can consider every possible variable that plays into that decision. Now what if you knew that I was talking about a game where only headshots will earn you points. what we’ve been told. Learn what works and what doesn’t for you. . but you never actually know that for sure until you try it right? Context is everything So what if I told you that people will pick up a pistol over the rocket launcher? Most of you would probably call me a liar. I may tell you that people will go over to a rocket launcher and pick it up over a pistol. Everything affects everything else and learning how everything works together sometimes requires experimentation and study. This goes for everything that you may read in these lessons. the pistol or the rocket launcher? After going through this scenario. Am I right now? Possibly. read a book. Don’t just assume. Most of the time it is one thing to think about how to do something and another thing to actually go out and do it. you will realize that it depends on the context of the situation. You never know if color contrast is going to grab people’s attention until you go out and setup a scenario to test it. So what will people choose. So what are you waiting for? Start applying these lessons. but you never know that until you actually jump on a horse and ride it around. Then again I also forgot to tell you that you can only have a maximum of ten lives. Did I forget to mention that getting a kill with the rocket launcher will earn you an extra life? Now the rocket launcher looks quite a bit more promising. You never know exactly what is going to happen until you try something yourself. but you never actually know how addicting until you try it right? Some people will tell you that horseback riding is a blast. and this could be because of anything on your map. You never know that players are going to take the shortest path possible to the flag unless you actually go out and place a flag for people to go get. Sometimes you never know until you try. and what we’ve researched. Never know until you try So how do you know that the sniper rifle belongs in the sniper tower of your map? Well you don’t yet. do a back flip. write.Chapter 30: Application Ever build a map that has played completely differently from how you design it to? Have you made a design decision expecting one result but getting a completely different one? Level design is not a piece by piece or step by step process that one follows. At first it may seem like a good idea based on what you know. Just because it is typically good practice to put the sniper rifle around high areas does not mean that is what is best for your map. From theory to reality We didn’t just start out knowing exactly how to walk. You only know if you put the sniper rifle there and play your map.
They talk about how they worked as a team to capture the flag in those final seconds. By the books immersion is the state of being deeply engaged or involved. And once they lose immersion they start looking for other things and finding more and more problems turning from a player to a critic. Arguably that isn’t always a good thing for the player. . Immersion ensures that the only thing that matters is what you are doing. When players play on a good map they don’t typically talk about how awesome the map was. Enjoy it. but then realize that four has gone by? Ever play a map where you were so deep into having fun and fighting the opposition that you had no time to criticize the map fully because you were so focused on playing the game that the map was made for? What is immersion? I’m glad you asked Jimmy. Then all of a sudden you notice that something is amiss. When your map is amazing. It means he did his job. then they are obviously not immersed. Whether that experience is having to go to a doctor’s appointment or meeting up with an ex-wife to settle some differences. Everything in your dream works together to create a believable experience that gives the illusion of everything being real. Typically at this point you wake up. And that is what designers should look to achieve. Immersion is all about giving your players such an enjoyable experience that they don’t pay attention to things that can ruin their day. In a dream you get the feeling that everything is real. It is a way to experience the gameplay in a different setting. Something doesn’t feel right and then you realize that you are dreaming and the whole experience is destroyed now that you have a full realization of what is going on. people don’t talk about your map… they talk about their experiences on the map. Making a map is very similar to a dream in that you seek to immerse your players into your map and to distract them from everything that shouldn’t matter to lock them into your experience. you can’t because the experience was broken for you. but it is a sign of success for the designer. You are creating something to give your players an experience to share with their coworkers the next day at work… as they talk about how they forgot their wife’s birthday because they were too busy destroying on said map. They talk about how much fun they had destroying the tank across the map. If your player is asking you where to find the sniper rifle then they are not immersed. Now it is time to do yours. you have to realize one thing. Your map is only a tool for the game.Chapter 31: Immersion Have you ever done something that made time fly without you realizing it? Ever play a game where you felt you spent only an hour. You are not creating a map. not what is going on around you. Even if you want to re-immerse yourself into the dream. If your player is busy saying that your map is ugly. And trust me… we hate critics. Playing the game. not the map As a level designer. Creating a dream Let’s talk about dreams for a second. Once you lose that immersion then it is very difficult to regain it. That is the power of a designer my friend. They talk about how they jumped over the wall and snuck up on their friends.
and a dark environment. And when that hold is broken it is extremely difficult to recreate the connection. As you move farther there is more blue and less red. A good example of where cohesion fails is when you notice something in a dream that makes you realize you are dreaming. The basics So how do you turn a forest into a desert without losing your grasp on your subject? Imagine the forest as red and the desert as blue. If you do it right and they won’t notice. Move from a solid green to a lighter green to a yellow-green and then to the tan of the sand. little by little. Cohesion helps create immersion. It takes an active understanding and active research to build that sense. but it is a steady progression. Getting sucked in So what’s the point of cohesion? Why is it important for a map to feel like one cohesive whole? The answer is immersion. Go slowly from rocks to no rocks. Defining cohesion Cohesion isn’t a word that is thrown out very often. does it? While that may be an extreme example. The concept of cohesion is important to understand to help you perfect your map to the best of your abilities. Slow progression of aesthetics helps “sneak” a new feel into view. supporting each other rather than acting on their own accord. When a player is sucked into your map. mechanical parts. Now throw a soccer ball in it. These features work together as a cohesive whole to create an experience that your players can share with their friends. There is no single. Imagine the gradient that is created from going from red to purple to blue. Doesn’t really fit. they ignore the minor fallacies and focus on having fun instead. convincing them to come back for more. As you progress from red. Go from a dense amount of trees to a less dense amount until there is none.Chapter 32: Cohesion A map is not just a bunch of objects thrown together. Now start with the forest and progress forward taking minor details of deserts and build them into the scene without completely overpowering the scene. definitive way to detect an incohesive environment. Immersion is a powerful effect that can suck players into your world and allow them to fully enjoy themselves. Imagine you have a beautiful factory setup. Anything sudden will break immersion. fully equipped with steam. Keep them focused on gameplay while you change the textures behind the scenes. you can find many instances in user created maps where the designer throws in some pillars that just don’t fit with the general feel of the map. Learning to find parts that are not fully connected takes time and experience. Cohesion refers to the act of sticking very tightly together… a unity of sorts. That lack of flow and lack of cohesion brings realization and breaks the hold that your dream world has on you. Take the time to observe your surroundings and understand how things flow into each other and transition. speckles of blue are thrown in. It is a place where you create a full-fledged experience for your players to enjoy. It isn’t just a bunch of rooms joined together. from tapestries to doorways to hallways to the entrance hall to the drawbridge to a courtyard. It will do you good. Where a bunch of things come together and hold together tightly. . It is a series of features that flow together. It can only be felt and sensed.
Discontinuity can be used for both good and evil. continuity is the ability to traverse a map without making any conscious decisions. This breaking of continuity is what we call discontinuity. Waking up from a great dream is something that we don’t enjoy doing. Players don’t need to be aware of your map. Based on the game that you are playing continuity can be measured differently. If a player is paying attention to the map then you can do better at sucking players in. Bumpity Bump So what breaks continuity? Imagine being in an intense one on one match. You got that? Let’s move on. Continuity can be a huge factor in keeping the dream or creating an extremely uncomfortable wake-up call. Discontinuity can act as a deterrent for a shortcut. Do you really want to force your players to jump up to the main central circular platform? Or would you rather have them focus on surviving the huge degree of focus? . Waking up So continuity is important. So what is a conscious decision? Anything that is not a normal means of movement. Discontinuity isn’t always a bad thing though. A map’s continuity is one such topic that can help us avoid immersion disruption. That is where the immersion breaks. Finding a balance between good and evil is something that can only be learned over time and with the application of the technique. you have lost your player to a bad first impression. Discontinuity So what do I mean by continuity? To me. We learned that it’s your job as a designer to avoid this disruption. Why? Because a lack of continuity equals a lack of cohesion and immersion. popping into the air and missing the final headshot. Breaking continuity can be caused simply by narrow hallways and sharp corners where you constantly bump into the walls because the hallways and corners did not take dashing into account as normal movement. So in a game where you walk around all the time a conscious decision could be jumping or rolling. So why wake them up. It is the designer’s job to learn where discontinuity breaks immersion. However the main areas that contain a ton of traffic should not require a breaking of concentration. Basically anything that breaks natural movement.Chapter 33: Continuity Ever run into a bump or a difficult jump to a key area while trying to naturally move around a map to achieve your goal? If you noticed it. then the designer did something wrong. and where the player starts criticizing the map. Or imagine running up to a ledge that looks like you can jump over it and you are in hot pursuit of your target. And then all of the sudden you hit a slight bump. It is also our job to learn where discontinuity can be used to control how players move. they need to be aware of their surroundings and the game. Say you are playing a game where it is natural to dash a couple yards every second. Your map does not flow as one. That is where the player starts blaming the map for his performance. when you can suck them in even deeper. and because of that players wake up from their dream and start criticizing the reality that you have created for them. Once that happens. You attempt to jump the ledge to cut your target off and find yourself not being able to make it.
While that may be true. They will find things that you may have never found yourself because you approved of that area a week ago and forgot about it after you redesigned the rest of your map. If someone else isn’t handy. So before you get that first playtest together to test your map. A good first impression during playtesting helps build anticipation and hype for your map. So how do you fix that? Grab a friend. did you know about this sweet shortcut over here?”. a significant other. You have to let go of your baby and criticize every detail as if it wasn’t yours. We will not get things right on the first time through. then become that someone else. they expect it to be good. A different point of view So what if it is like 2am and you can’t get someone to look over your map? Sometimes it helps to play through your own map. but it will remind you to re-look over something. Jump on your map and run around it. Sometimes they won’t come back. We have spent hours. Imagine this map is a map made by your greatest rival and you want to find every imperfection possible. If they are playing your map. Who knows… word may spread and as soon as you release there will be a huge outburst of “OMG IT IS FINALLY OUT!!!”. You can’t afford to lose someone’s interest in the first playtest. no matter how different it is. get a peer reviewer. right? A second pair of eyes You aren’t perfect and neither am I. and weeks looking over our own creation. a fellow designer. That is until your friend walks in and says. days. Why not just apply So you may remember the lesson on application that tells you to play something to learn how it will play. It will improve the first impression of your map. Try your best to find shortcuts. You may surprise yourself and find things that you never knew existed. a random guy. So invest in the time that it takes to perfect that first impression. “Why is this red and that one orange?” or “Dude. They may not even point it out directly. . So before you just throw your map out there it helps to get some friends to look it over it and pick out any obvious things that you may have overlooked. Sometimes they will ask questions like. Seeing from a designer’s point of view can convolute your vision. We will always miss something. People will be much more understanding when you are showing them in the middle of design. or someone to look over your map and critique it. “Why the hell is this here?” Oops… that’s what friends are for. Sometimes the questions may not be directly related to the problem. Note that this is easier said than done. Imagine how you would camp the flag room. They designed it… it is their baby and it is flawless in their mind. remember that while playing with a test group you are still trying to get the best first impression that you can. It never hurts to grab a second pair of eyes to look over your masterpiece. and sometimes that causes us to forget the minor details that matter. Our mind is spinning with the major essence of the map.Chapter 34: Peer Review How many times have you had someone find something in your map that you passed over a hundred times? Designers have everything engraved into their head and have a very narrow vision of what is happening on their map.
If you have a crazy idea that might not work. Innovation in design can lead to tragic failures. right? And sometimes you never know how good something is until you know how bad it can be. On the flip side it can lead to something revolutionary. How about instead of ignoring our failures we learn from them. Not everything you make is going to succeed in the vast ocean of content out there in the world. Revisit your idea every once in a while to see if new things you learned can help you solve the problem that you had. Who knows… a year from now you may return to an idea with a fancy new toolbox and a shiny new hammer. you’ve got to create the base. It is hard to accept and admit failure. but you may find something that can completely change the world of design as you know it. Don’t deny it. Fail when people aren’t expecting you to be perfect. Failure is never a waste of time. Never fully drop an idea into the abyss. Sometimes it is the most important tool in your toolbox. You’ve got to build up to reach the sky. If I can do it. When you fail. You never know what’s good until you know what’s bad. There is no shame in making a mistake once as long as we learn from it. Acceptance If something doesn’t play well. It is better to know now than to wonder later and fail when you have so many people counting on you to be awesome. Fail to succeed So what’s the key to success? Fail early and fail often. But learning to use failure as a tool to reach perfection is key to improving as a designer. solidifying its spot in history. However you should be ashamed if you haven’t tried to learn from your mistake and you blatantly commit the same crime again. Let your idea simmer on the back burner as you work on other things. Maybe at that point you can finally nail that idea to the ground. . you grow. Failure can lead to inspiration for your next project that seeks to remedy the mistake that you made. Then you can look back and tell people how you turned failure into success and made a name for yourself. then go try it.Chapter 35: Failure Things can’t always go your way. the sooner you can use it as a stepping stone towards something greater. Failure isn’t always a bad thing. Nobody wants to say that their map is terrible. then admit it. You will fail along the way. We want to share our successes and ignore our failures. Fail at the earliest opportunity possible because what you learn from your failure may help in your next project. Set your idea to the side for now. Future failures and things that you learn may help you learn from your massive failure. Sometimes you don’t know that something is going to be terrible until you apply it. Innovate the world around you and then tweak it to perfection. so can you. The trick is to make that idea work. Before you can create a wondrous pyramid. Taking the time to invest in failure is something that needs to be taken into consideration as well. Don’t just drop it completely. The back burner So sometimes you fail and you can’t figure out where you went wrong. All ideas have merit. Not everything you make is going to be perfect. Sometimes you can only get better through failing. The sooner you admit that it didn’t play to your standards.
Now what if I throw a wall in between you? Now you have to work around the wall and adjust accordingly. large. Less can be more So when designing your map. They are on your map for the experience that it creates. not for the map itself. and the need to build massive. Sometimes though… it is easier just to take a step back and build something small and simple. Now you are starting to get to the point where you are fighting more against the map than you are the other person. confusing labyrinths. As with all design topics. Since the goal was to kill the other person. You want to have a simple enough layout to be able to teach your players quickly. Do you really need 5 paths into this one room? Is setting up 12 different main paths going to really improve the combat on your map by giving your players more options? Or is it just going to cause the player to get lost and make playing too difficult. great. and teaching your map quickly to your players can help them get to the meat of the experience. That kind of power is an amazing feeling. Simplicity can work as a good thing and as a bad thing. some slick jumps. Ease of learning Creating your map with the concept of simplicity can help in other ways as well. You are here to build an experience for everyone who plays on your map. Learning the map is only a small and quick part of strategy. Now add some ramps. But the more complex the map is. When looking at just a map. a couple catwalks. and maybe even a dense fog. causing a bad first impression? Is it really necessary to have 7 floors for your map when only 3 of them are getting used regularly? Maybe having too many floors is spreading out traffic too much. Remember that knowledge is power. the more difficult it can be to accomplish objectives on the map. Sometimes that means building in the simplest form in certain areas. Through a simple layout one can quickly teach what the player needs to know and have them spend the majority of their time completing the task at hand. and complex structures of beauty. There is no harm in teaching players what they need to know right away. You have the ability to create MASSIVE worlds. But why do this. you can see how this just gets frustrating to a point.Chapter 36: Simplicity You are a designer. a complex. question yourself on how complex you are making it. you have to find that delicate balance for your maps. If I place you in a box and tell you to kill the other person then all you have to do is focus on killing the other person. The real strategy is learning to use the map to give you an advantage in different situations. and complex things to show what you can do is tempting. difficult-to-build structure is impressive. when you can build cities? Simplify to amplify I must remind you that you are not here to build only for yourself. but you also want a complex enough layout so that players have more options when dealing with situations. It can actually help players enjoy their experience more because now they have more options in which they can accomplish their goal. Does your map really have to take an age and a half to traverse? Think about it… . Build your map to meet the experience you are trying to create without over complicating the situation. creating too sparse of an experience.
We do this in our real lives as well. with no color or lighting differentiation. Landmarks Of course orientation isn’t really the true problem that we are looking to fix. A lack of control over a situation is a frustrating thing for players. . A perspective that faces a wall is extremely disorienting. a player is flat-footed and unprepared for combat. Why? Because if we are focused on looking around the map trying to orient ourselves we aren’t paying attention to the sniper that is about to take our heads off. “Jimmy go all the way down the road and take a left at the Burger King followed by a right at the Arby’s and Wal-Mart will be on the left. We do this by carefully laying out landmarks for players to add to their mental map. If players are sharply turning corners constantly they lack the time to “save” objects in their mental map as a landmark. Without orientation a player may not be able to make crucial movement decisions that can improve their chances of winning. and keeping in mind a player’s perspective direction in key sections of a map can help you place landmarks so that they will be noticed during combat. only to have to look around a little bit after you spawn before you figure out where you are? It is hard to jump straight into combat when you have no idea where you are on the map. Knowing where you are Orientation is all about figuring out where you are on a map in relation to everything around you. Winding and claustrophobic corridors can be extremely disorienting as there is very little time to learn the map. Our goal as map designers is to quickly show players where they are on a map so they can focus on their task at hand. While trying to orient themselves. Dying when unprepared is never an enjoyable experience. Incentives and deterrents make great landmarks due to their significance. A good spawn perspective can help players by showing them a landmark on spawn to instantly know where they are. Low perspective variance gives players the chance to take in their environment and create landmarks in their mind. As they walk around they take note of any key unique features on your map and use it in the future to figure out where they are and where they should go next. The problem we are looking at is quickly orienting our players.Chapter 37: Orientation Ever had those times when you spawn on a map that you think you have figured out and memorized. So by that we can deduce that the best way to disorient our players is to make a map where nothing is unique. but once you leave the center you have nothing to anchor you down in your mental image. Imagine walking around a map with the same column repeating in a grid. Orient your players towards an enjoyable experience. What if you colored the center column red? That allows you to relate the red column to the center of the map. As players move around your map they are drawing a mental image of it in their head. With enough time a player will figure out where they are on most maps. That is where orientation comes into play.” Tying it in There are a lot of things that interact with trying to orient players. How do you know if this is the same area that you were in last time? You don’t. Good eye catching and high color contrast can help make landmarks standout.
Confined areas restrict what a player can do and it reduces the options that players have. Like flamboyant twirls. Sure if a player is on a catwalk he has the option to jump off and could blame himself for his death. so when in doubt it may be better to give the player a little more space to maneuver. You think I’m kidding? Well maybe just a little. the player plays on it. but they do like their space to do what they want.Chapter 38: Dance Floor Wanna know a little secret? Players like to dance. We don’t want our players to be having a bad day on our map. It seems like such a minor change but it is a crucial one. So what do you need to do? Build them space to dance my friends. but there is some truth to my statements. flips. So what does that mean? If a player can’t move the way he wants to. You have the power to shape what is around them. jetpacks. If your opponent is in front of you. Catwalks can serve as a deterrent because they remove your ability to move left and right for a certain amount of time. It rarely feels good to have your regular movement impeded by the environment. and flips. I mean REALLY dance. it is because they didn’t dodge properly. while they have to adhere to what you give them. And guess who’s in charge of the environment… the guy building the map. Imagine having to fight on a catwalk… your only options are forward and back. they will. like they can on any other area of the map. Too much of a bad thing can result in a bad day. but how many people do you know that will openly admit it was their fault when something goes wrong? I rest my case. Now what if you doubled the width of the catwalk? Now you give the players the ability to move left and right. . So let your players dance and move and flow through your map. Remember reputation is a powerful thing. etc. I swear. and when you are having a bad day you become extremely critical of everything around you. If the player can find a reason to blame their faults on the level designer. Sometimes they don’t realize it. Let’s not forget about vehicles… anything that allows players to move really. If the designer is responsible for a player’s misfortune and unfun then what reason does a player have to trust the designer with the rest of the map or other maps for that matter? This is that point where you have broken the immersion of a player’s experience as well as lost some credibility as a designer. Now if they die. YOU are to blame. Space is nice So players may not like to literally dance. Moderation in everything Of course none of this means that you should never use catwalks or narrow alleyways. but they do. Ever had anger taken out on you that you didn’t deserve? Yeah it is kind of like that. it is also about the vertical space that is available for vertical movement like jumping. jumps. Everything can be good as long as it is in moderation. It’ll put a smile on their face. Placing blame You build the map. And not like slow dance in a little circle. then forward and back probably aren’t going to cut it as viable options to dodge? But the dance floor concept isn’t just about lateral movement. However if your whole map is made mostly of catwalks then a player has to suffer this deterrent too often.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.