Map Design Theory - Knowledge

Discussion in 'Halo and Forge Discussion' started by Insane54, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. Insane54

    Insane54 Promethean
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    Understanding map design can be a daunting task for anyone, but with a little perseverance and open mind it should be relatively easy to grasp. To start, design is all about having the right sets of mentalities and understanding, and three over-arching categories drive successful map design; Gameplay Knowledge, Vision, and Creativity.

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    These three elements need to come together in unison for a map to work well on various levels.

    • If you focus too heavily upon creativity and vision, the map may end up more aesthetically pleasing than it would have, but won’t necessarily play well.
    • If you know gameplay and have a vision for map design, your map may come out a little dull even though it might be fun.
    • I had a third point, but it left me, and now I have to pay alimony every month.
    Balance between the three separates the novice from the exceptional. There are no simple tricks to suddenly finding the balance; as with everything, it requires practice and mental familiarity.

    Knowledge:
    "Knowledge is power"
    Sir Francis Bacon said that
    He didn't work out.


    Knowledge boils down to understanding the various mechanics in Halo 3 in both general terms and specific ways such as; anti-camping concepts, getting a feel for the spawn system to encourage routes and flow, recognizing and preventing choke points (sometimes even effectively implementing them) and much more. However, the point isn't to be rehash previous ideas, rather to know WHY things are and WHY they are subsequently successful or not in their attempts. There's really no limit to what you can learn about map design. It’s just about taking the time to understand how each each aspect works in principle and how to use it effectively.

    Vision:

    Psychic map builder?
    That makes it sound difficult.
    Just think your map through.


    In a few words, vision can be described as being able to mentally visualize the next step like some sort of psychic map-builder. This can be difficult for people as not everyone is able to imagine in 3D, and the good news is, this isn’t always necessary for proper map design.

    Basic questions you should ask:

    • What will the player movement be like?
    • How do you want it to look and what are the major points of interest?
    • Is it going to be mostly flat (too easy a joke)
    • What of elevation changes?
    • Will there be rooms, and if so how will you prevent camping?
    These are all things that you should think about while designing a map. Knowing what devices to envision results from a solid understanding of gameplay and design fundamentals. Essentially, the key to it all is trying to imagine how your idea will actually play out as a map within Halo 3, translating the physical form of the map you're imagining in to an actual gameplay environment, and determining whether or not it will work effectively.

    Creativity:
    Creativity, like any other expressive medium, is an important part of any effective map design. It determines uniqueness, flow, supported playstyles, weapon use, and key areas, if any. These should be minimally addressed in your design before you even start building.

    Thousands of downloads
    for a pallet conveyor
    Creative. 'Nuff said.


    It’s difficult to describe how to be creative or what spurs a design. Sometimes it’s a quick flash of inspiration; other times it’s a focal point that it is built off of. It varies on its creator, and from an ironically objective standpoint, it's luck. What complicates it even more is it can be often difficult to tie everything together, so having a clear vision of what you want to create before focusing on specifics is very important.





    A Haiku:
    Forge guides are fun, but
    disclaimers are important.
    Please, please don't sue us.


    First, a few disclaimers before we start: the focus of this Forging 201 will not be to show you some new Forge tips or a solid set of information, in fact probably nothing will be particularly new. Everything that we'll be saying here you should think critically about; in other words, map design mentality.

    Second, while we'll try to leave things vague and open for you to think about, we'll be making our own assumptions and assertions throughout the piece. It's a guide, not a law, if you can give good reason for anything, supportive, contradictory or unrelated to the topics presented, and it helps your design, it's perfectly fine. Our assumptions are not necessarily fact, just keep that in mind.

    Map design is a puzzle; everything fits together to form one final product. All of the following topics are important interrelated factors in defining the resulting gameplay. Much as map design is being broken down in to various aspects and considerations for the purposes of this article, the real point of map design is understanding them not only in distinct terms, but most importantly how they interact to form the greater whole of a successful map.

    In no way is this discussion close to complete, nor can it ever really be. Map design is a constant learning and innovative process. There's no limit to what you can learn and do with it.

    As a whole, this guide has been a collaboration between Insane54 and MickRaider, except for the very last part, which outlines the process MickRaider went through to create his map, Leviathan.

    Oh, and we're not great at drawing. Sue us.




    Knowledge


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    Player movement, often known as "flow" (and what it will henceforth be referred to as) is the base for map design. Player movement is how the players progress through your map in relation to the various objects in it, or in simpler terms, how players prefer to move about the map.

    There's no good or bad flow. Your map starts with a vision and the flow is the result. Different people have different ways of approaching obstacles in the environment, but as the map creator you can streamline (or expand) routes to better suit certain approaches.

    Flow is invariably affected by the map itself, so the design process should bring about the following questions:

    • What's the ideal amount of players?
    • How big is the map?
    • What playstyles do you want to encourage?
    • What weapons do you want players to use, and how often?
      • i.e. weapon balance

    In Halo, players do not traverse the map on a cover-to-cover basis like Gears of War, nor do they move between random structures; open-area combat is a significant, if not defining, aspect of Halo 3's gameplay mechanic. Therefore, your map design should never be based off of cover or structures themselves, rather any cover provided should be a part of the larger scheme of things. In essence, the cover defines player flow (or choice of route) as opposed to giving them set paths to follow in order to remain behind cover. This will be expanded upon later.

    In general, every area on the map should be accessible by at least 2 paths. The more paths you put into an area, the more it will turn into a transitory area (as opposed to a camp spot). For example, players will more often traverse through Guardian's sniper area via the middle level than on the bottom, simply because it has four paths instead of two. Simple enough. That being said, you don't necessarily want to put many different paths for the sake of having them, just understand which areas call for it, and address them to prevent camping. After all, Halo is about movement, not "tactical waiting" as Sarge would say.

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    Furthermore, your paths should have purpose as opposed to just diversifying routes, that is, they should affect gameplay in some way.
    Example: Guardian. A person is shooting from sniper spawn. Regardless of position, there are various ways to take him out, such as tactical BR shots or providing a distraction while teammates sneak from behind, among other avenues of attack.
    The point is, the map affords plenty of options, and each has a different level and type of risk associated with it, a balance of advantage and disadvantage. To summarize map flow (and subsequent player movement options) for a given situation should not only be suited to this situation, but also balanced with one another so that situations don't arise where one route is overplayed and the other, underused.





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    Lines of Sight: What you can see at any given point, or rather, the damage you can inflict within your field of vision. In quantitative terms, it is your entire 360 degree viewing angle, adjusted by obstructions in your view (walls, barriers, etc).

    This can be accomplished due to a variety of weapon and grenades. However, the concept of 'good LoS' is somewhat misguided and inefficient in practical terms. In fact, lines of sight aren't particularly important in the first place. A player doesn't look directly at one point the entire game. Games are dynamic and have more to do with field of vision than lines of sight.

    Let's do away with the lines of sight idea (again, we'll continue to use the name for simplicity), and think about a very similar but much more important definition:

    Field of Vision is the angle at which the user can see enemy players. In normal circumstances, this angle is approximately 90 degrees.

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    Unaffected "Field of Vision" is shown on the bottom left by the radar.

    Field of vision is, of course, different depending on the situation you're in, such as being in a tunnel with a shotgun or atop an open ledge with a sniper-rifle. Thus, determining what players will be able to see, and where, will have a significant effect on the routes they will use.

    In general, if the player can see the enemy at long range, a direct run is inadvisable by common sense. This changes at close range, especially with the use of the shotguns or assault rifles, as bullet spray is lessened. With this in mind, as a map builder, you can guide gameplay to preference in your map. On that note, you still want to include enough routes for escape, flanking, and other maneuvers.

    Height is important to lines of sight. People on towers have the advantage of cover from people below, and can use that to their advantage. Balancing power points with path and line of sight options is important and can be accomplished through clever grenade bounces and alternative paths.

    Players are dynamic and adjust to the situations they are in, and though you can't control their specific responses, you can set the stimulus that provokes those responses. In other words, you can't control the bee and its honey, but you can determine what flowers it has access to.




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    Here are some of the generic comments you'll often see by forger and other players; "Cool structures", "needs more cover", "too open". A well designed map is not comprised of any of the above, or rather trying to understand map design in these simple terms is essentially flawed and misses the point of how larger design works in Halo 3. Structures, cover, and open areas are a part of map design, sure, but they are nowhere near the major focus of a map, they're more the result of design than an actual part of the design process. If you are ever finding yourself designing a map around random structures or cover, you should be going back to the drawing board and figure out how you are going to tie everything together.

    We've all encountered plenty of awesome structures out there. Structures are capable of defining a map, such as "Relic". You must be careful to have the map tie together though. Structures can be beneficial to a map design by directing players where you want them on a map. An interesting central structure that also has a tactical advantage can direct attention towards that structure and create interesting hot spots and gameplay opportunities. Let me take this moment to say that the goal for map design is not always to create some perfectly designed map that plays exactly evenly or balanced. Your goal should be to create a fun and unique experience that's balanced enough for both teams to have fun. Most importantly your design should offer different options to the player and allowing each of these to have a variety of possibilities.

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    Therefore, there is plenty of room for structures to be a big part of your map design, but don't let that overshadow the overall design, any structure should instead be thought of in terms of whether or not it compliments the overall design. The most notable problem you'll find in structure-based maps is that they are reliant on players to run around in those structures. There should always be advantages and disadvantages to various flow routes, as explained before. Forcing players to be on some kind of structure to do well should be avoided at all costs. Players on the ground should be able to have fun, and people playing on structures should have some sort of advantage and disadvantage against those players.

    Cover can be thought of in the same regard. A map should never be defined by it's cover. Though at some point you will likely be giving players a chance to get out of a line of fire. Never, ever randomly place cover in a "middle" areas to make it "less open". When players make a decision, such as to go one route versus another, there should be another driving force. Throwing down a block in the middle that he can hide behind turns that into bland and repetitive game. In a good design the natural cover is often more than adequate. Though chances are at some point you'll need some kind of additional cover. Specific cover objects should be used as a last resort if a natural approach could not be found. Keep in mind that what you build should be what players will use to move around the map. In general, objects should be used to compliment lines of sight and flow. If you find that players are getting cut down in an undesirable crossfire, cover might then be necessary to break up the action. An area you designed should never be "too open". The amount of an open area varies depending on several factors, and quite often an open run might be desirable as opposed to the same area littered with unnecessary structures and cover. If you find that players are not using your routes as you had originally planned, cover can be used to help solve this issue if nothing else will work.





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    Though spawns and objectives are generally placed once your map is already built, it is still good practice to keep them in mind when designing. This foresight can make the difference between a good map or a great map, and if you build a whole map without considering how you want spawning to work, then when you come to placing spawns you may find it hard to implement an effective spawning system.

    If you haven't already read and really thought hard about Devinish's Advanced Guide to Respawns, do so. (Important Note: Understand it; if you've just skimmed it or haven't been able to apply it, reread it) Even if you know it, we recommend you look through it again. No one, except maybe Bungie, truly understands the spawn system so continuous practice to understand it is highly encouraged.

    In general, it is important to have, at a minimum, two major areas for each team to spawn at. Applying what we learned before, try and visualize what the players will think once they spawn. How many route options do they have? Do they encompass the necessary possibilities that will allow the player to make proper use of this life? Will they be aware which direction they need to travel without taking the time to analyze their surroundings?

    While planning spawn points in advance can be difficult; it is important to remember that the way they are placed spawn points is vital to how the map will flow. A player should have options straight off of his spawn, thus it is important to make sure that there is at least two paths from every spawn. Also it is important to check each and every spawn. Stand directly over the spawn, exactly copying what it will look like when the player spawns, and then consider exactly what a player could do with the spawn you have given them against various scenarios. Alternatively, you could kill yourself repeatedly.

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    Things to keep in mind when placing spawn points. You should be pointed towards a possible path; you should be able to run straight forwards for 2-3 seconds without turning at all. In addition, put yourself in the shoes of a player who doesn't know the map. What options do you have? The player should never be completely hopeless. In general a spawn point should point towards a point of interest, such as an objective or a power weapon. It is bad form to point a player towards their own base and will often confuse and frustrate a player by doing so. Always give them an objective when they spawn. This can be especially useful in situations where players are not finding your weapons, having a spawn pointed at them will almost guarantee that they will happen upon it. The counter to this is that if a power weapon is over used, don't have spawn points directed at it or too close to it and it's use will decrease.

    Objective planning is similar. Make sure attacking and defending teams both have at least three options, and that each of these options have varying pros and cons. Often this fits directly into flow, but objectives offer some variations on the normal flow. A flag can be thrown down a higher area into a more open run, or can sneak around. The defense should have options as well. Once a flag is taken or a bomb is armed, what possibilities do they have?

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    Again, make sure they are all different. There should rarely be a case where the defense has very little chances of success of returning or disarming. And of course, neutral objectives should be even for both sides. One last point we'd like to make: in most cases, don't put your objectives in corners! It's amazing how many maps make this mistake, not only does it limit flow possibilities for both teams, it turns the corners into camping areas and renders them highly susceptible to grenades. Some map designs require it, but this a rare occasion and should be avoided unless you've really thought about making this decision.





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    Aesthetics often play a major role in the player's decision on where they choose to go. If we look at typical play styles, a player is generally reluctant to move from a normal hot spot of the map, even if it means getting to a higher point. This tends to only happen if they have a long ranged weapon. There are some important points to think about here also. Players want roam to run around, even if only in a small area. A cramped tower is much less likely to be used than one that is well spaced and flows well with the rest of the map. Never throw a random sniper tower to the side of a map, assuming that people will want to use it because it's a high tower. Expanding on this; a bland, basic area of the map will often be used less than a nice looking one, particularly by new players. The designer can use these visual cues to direct players to places they want.

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    One mistake often made is "mounting" weapons on walls. Though this looks great and can often work wonderfully for more basic items, if the weapon or equipment is poking out sideways it can get in the way, and if the item is pushed to the wall (as it normally is), it can be hard to find if the player does not know the map. Therefore, if you want players to go to your power weapons, make them obvious to find. Exhibit them to the whole map, not just those who are standing right next to it. Consider the Rockets on The Pit, for example. They can't be seen from a large amount of the map's area, but as long as you are on the long hall/needler area you can see when they have respawned without being right next to them.

    Continuity is an "uninterrupted connection or union", and should not be confused with our earlier discussions on cover and structures or flow. Continuity means players make choices based on the choices available on the map. Good continuity lets players choose routes that will always lead to the destination they had in mind. Whether the destination is to flank an enemy position or a route to the opposing team’s high ground. Every part of the map the player can walk on has a specific purpose and eventually leads to a specific place on the map. A path/tunnel or corridor that appears, in terms of its direction, to lead to a given area of the map, but actually curves around and leads to a different area, can be confusing to players.





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    The Pit is truly one of the greatest Halo maps of all time. There has never been a design that uses so many staple Halo weapons and play styles and combines them so well. You could spend a week looking at every part of it and appreciating it for how great of a map it really is. For this example we'll try and analyze what the designers were thinking and how this great map came about.

    Flow
    The Pit generally plays towards BRs and Snipers, or mid to long range weapons. That doesn't exclude anything else, like the Sword, but close range is obviously not the main gameplay focus. There is enough variety of close, medium, and long range routes to keep the player on their toes.


    Let's take a look at some closer examples. How many times have you been rushing through the long hallway and just get demolished by grenades? Wouldn’t it make sense for Bungie to have put a block there so that wouldn’t happen? We realize that this aspect is built in to the design. By having the longest and straightest path to the enemy base, this encourages the player to subconsciously try to get there as fast as possible, although they know the risk. This is made fair and fun due to the fact that you’re rewarded by getting there faster than anyone else with the rockets, but with a high risk of dying. This is bluntly called "risk vs. reward."

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    When looking at The Pit there are either 3 or 4 main routes. Each route should have a different advantage and disadvantage, height advantages, weapon spawns, line of sight to popular areas, etc. The hard part is not just balancing these, not to encourage even use, but so that each one has a different and interesting playstyle that all come together for a fun experience. A great example of this is "Runway" on The Pit (where the overshield is); it obviously is not a place that's good for slaying, being it has few lines of sight and field of vision to anything important, however it is an excellent flank, most particularly to the sniper tower. A sniper usually has his field of vision trained on the more traffic-heavy parts of the map on the opposite side.

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    Another interesting point is that routes to an area have an effect on how it’s used. For example, let's examine the shotgun cave or sniper tower from The Pit. It is obvious that these places encourage players to use their respective weapons. These only have two main routes to them thus the foot traffic is naturally low, but increases due to the power weapons effect. If you want players to be moving to other areas of the map, they tend to have more paths such as each sides "Training" on The Pit). Knowing where you want players moving is what player movement is all about.

    Lines of Sight
    We can see how The Pit has a wide variety of sight lines. Though the cross map sniper battles from the tower, to the narrow and dangerous sword room. Each of these sight lines allow for a good variety of gameplay and excitement. We can learn a lot about the effect the sniper has on the map by examining one point in particular, the sniper tower.

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    From the sniper tower the player can have a view of essentially their entire side, though the view of the oppositions base is drastically limited. This accomplishes two things, the first being so that the player is not able to dominate the entire map from one spot the entire game, which lends itself to the second, that the player is forced to leave his perch to find the enemy when they become wise and avoid his position. By providing a series of safe routes for the players to use the sniper tower's power is severely limited. This encourages map flow by directing players to certain areas to both prevent and defend against snipers.

    The sword room also provides an interesting assortment of lines of sight. The first and most obvious is the back hallway where a sword can dominate. This is cleverly countered by a long line of sight from training and green box where players can throw grenades and shoot in at a safe distance. This balance allows the area to be both powerful and vulnerable in a way that makes the gameplay fun.

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    Cover
    The Pit is a great example of a map that uses natural cover very effectively and in a way that works well throughout. Only in a few notable places do we see the addition of cover. The first obvious point is training's "Corner." This simple design allows for a safety area from the sniper tower or sword room, but as it has opening it is very easy to detect when a player is there. This makes it so the player must move from the area quickly or risk being spotted and grenaded out.

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    The natural cover of The Pit shows us how important elevation changes are in a map. Simply by lowering the middle parts of The Pit it allows the player an alternate route to move around without being easily detected from other areas on the map. The height of the sniper is countered by the elevated height of the rocket tunnel entrance. This use of high and low areas allows The Pit to play dynamically and uniquely every time.

    Spawns and Objectives

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    The spawns on The Pit are well laid out to encourage the flow of the map. In general the spawns are weighted such that the players will spawn at the higher portion near green box or the shotgun tunnel. This is by design as this area is intended to be the highest trafficked area. The designers knew that as most battles would take place in this are they want to allow players the quickest routes back upon respawn. In order to prevent spawn trapping the second alternate spawn area is below the sniper tower. This area is less used, though serves important functions to separate the base into two distinct spawn zones. If we analyze the spawns further we'd notice how they always point towards a main route or looking at a power weapon/equipment. Even in some cases spawning directly on the overshield.

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    The objectives on The Pit were obviously something the designers had in mind from the start. Getting the iconic callout, "The Pit," describes the room in which the objective will spawn. If we look closer at this we can see how the objective is located in the center of the room with two main routes in or out. The third route is through the front but requires a teammate to catch the objective or a box to jump out on. This balance makes it a challenge to get the objective both in an out, but not an impossible one.

    Points of Interest and Continuity
    There are a few main points of interest on this map. The first plays a crucial role in the map design even though it could be argued it was added as an afterthought, "The Green Box." This point on the map plays a very crucial role. It offers a safety zone from the sniper tower while still providing a variety of routes. The player could choose to continue through green tunnel to acquire the Active Camo, continue to the long hallway to get the rockets, or move down the map towards Training to flank the opponents. This point is something that the player is naturally drawn to due to it's color and size. This simple use of aesthetics plays a huge role in how the map ultimately plays.

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    Continuity on The Pit is rather obvious. A friend said it best when he described a map as being "Wheel Chair Accessible". Every point is walkable by more than one route, even though every route is not necessarily connected. If we look again at the "Runway" we can see how this route connects both sniper towers through a safety route, while still having a connection to the middle of the map. If that middle route was not there this route would have been dangerous to the point where it would rarely or never be used.





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    Guardian is a spiritual successor to Lockout of sorts. Being primarily designed around a center "circle" the map itself plays very uniquely to even it's predecessor and is definitely amongst the top ranking halo maps.

    Flow
    If we look at an overview of Guardian we can see how the major player movement is designed to move in a counterclockwise circle. Now this doesn’t mean that it’s the only way people will go, but it’s actually the basis on which the map runs. The uniqueness of Guardian - it's counterclockwise movement, use of low and high routes, and successful mancannons - is what makes it so intriguing and fun to play.

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    From this we can see an emergence of 4 major "bases". The sniper tower, Green platform, Gold room, and blue room. Each of these areas plays a major role in how Guardian flows. In general the play tends to focus heavily around controlling sniper tower or gold lift, but as Guardian has a tendency to support close range combat this is not it's only function. There is plenty of opportunities for flanking due to the assortment of low and high routes.

    Lines of Sight

    Being a room-based map the lines of sight on Guardian are broken up well and efficiently. There is a good assortment of long line of sights from the sniper tower and bottom of sniper tower to gold. The number of long lines are contrasted by the increased number of short ones such as green platform, blue room, and gold room. These short sight lines help to encourage the use of short range weaponry, which outnumbers the long/medium range weapons. The shotgun, hammer, and mauler play a critical role in how the map ultimately plays out. However, controlling the sniper rifle is very important as essentially the entire upper portion of the map can be controlled with it.

    Cover

    Guardian is another example of a map that relies on it's natural cover without the need for extra cover in most cases. Only in a few points do we see the addition of cover which is cleverly blended into the map itself. The first of which being the cover around the hammer.

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    This cover is useful in a number of ways. The first being that it slightly breaks up the lines of sight between the bottom of sniper tower and the bottom of gold room. The second being that it provides cover in the likely event that a battle takes place between green platform and hammer. This cover is definitely an important element of the map design and without it the map would play very differently in these areas.

    The second use of cover is the trees on green platform. Again a very important use of cover to break up the sight lines between elbow and green platform. This makes it more difficult for a sniper to control the map from elbow and thus forces him to a higher location, where everyone on the map can easily see him. Without this cover it would be possible for a sniper to control elbow very easily and make a flank extremely difficult.

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    The third use of cover is the glass window that protects blue room from the sniper tower. Without this critical piece of cover the sniper would be able to dominate the entirety of the upper portion of the map. By using this glass window a player could place shots on a sniper in the tower while still having a safety zone to retreat to when the situation turns against them. This window is very vulnerable from the green tree thus has a good balance of power and weakness that forces players to act fast and move on.

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    Spawns and Objectives

    As Guardian is an asymmetric map, spawning and objective balance is much more difficult. One team should not feel at a disadvantage by spawning at one side versus another. It is also important to have a good spawn spread so that predicting the spawns is difficult. Each of the main area on the map has a balanced assortment of spawns, with the main rooms having a higher weighting than the connecting walkways. This means that players will tend to spawn in one of four critical areas, while still having backup spawns in the event that each of these rooms is compromised.

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    The objectives on Guardian are definitely something to take notice of. If we look at the transition between Lockout and Guardian we can see why they chose to take it in a different direction. In Lockout the flag spawned on the elbow, which made it difficult to move it away from. This played well due to the emphasis on short range combat. In Halo 3, the emphasis is more on medium to long range and if the flag was placed on the elbow then the player would have had an incredibly hard time moving it to a safer location. To help fix this problem they made the elbow the return point and placed the flag underneath blue room. By doing this they accomplished a balanced location that provides the player with a multitude of possibilities. The player could choose to run it towards the lift, which would take them to sniper and a short safe route to the flag. The downside of this being that that they would be very vulnerable while traveling through the man cannon. The second alternative is to take it up the ramp to blue window and run across the middle. Another short route but this requires that the attacking team controls the upper portion of the map. The final possibility is to take it back down towards gold room. This is the "safest" of all the routes as the flag runner is well covered, though the danger being that they will be running into the defense's major spawn areas.

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    Points of Interest and Continuity

    The two main points of interest on Guardian are the sniper tower and gold room. The sniper tower is a very important location as it houses the sniper rifle and a sort of sniper perch. With the right skill set a player could control a large portion of the map from this location. This makes it very important to either control or prevent the other team from controlling this area. The gold lift is also an important point of interest as it provides a good variety of close and medium range combat and houses the active camouflage. The camo plays an important role in balancing the sniper's power so it is important that the player controls one or the other of these power items. It is also easy to defend gold room as they are somewhat protected from the sniper tower and can monitor 2 of the 4 main routes in by listening for the lift sounds.


    Being a circular flow map, the continuity is easy to identify. As the player could walk in a complete circle around the map it is important to connect routes together to provide enough variety so that they don't. The middle platform is an obvious connection point that connects the four main rooms with the quickest routes. As these routes are vulnerable from the sniper tower another combination of lower routes help to connect the map together without being too vulnerable. This combination of quick and dangerous, and slow and protected is one of the reasons that Guardian plays so well for almost all gametypes.




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    While map design is of course an abstract business, designing of your own maps is even more so. We'll go through the process that the authors go through, and it should be noted that any way works fine if it works for you.

    Designing your map requires an understanding not just of what we've put above, but of the mentality that it gives you. You should be able to take any given map and break it down to it's core elements, and say what parts are what, why, and how it works. Depending on the person, this will often take anywhere from a day or two to weeks or months to truly understand. Once you've got that under your belt, you're ready to start designing your own maps.

    The first thing you want to envision is how the players will move through the map, or path planning. This can be done as simply as a 2D sketch with major path lines planned. The idea is that it's vague, but shows where I want my players to be moving around, and shows the basis of map movement. It's quite simple, but without one of these at least in your head, your map can be significantly worse. Your basic paths should be simple and well-thought out, from our example, The Pit has 3 or 4 major paths. All of these offer wildly different possibilities. Alternative paths are wonderful, and you're free to work with those, but for now we're only talking about major flow.

    Once you've got your flow down, you'll want to think about how people will interact with each other by lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences. Try to envision yourself in this kind of blocky, empty map, and what kind of gameplay you'd like to see yourself playing. Then, just think about how that gameplay can be encouraged by your design. Lines of sight, field of vision, and height differences can help that enormously.


    Designing Leviathan

    Leviathan was intended to be a spiritual successor to the map "Colossus," though in it's final form the similarities are far and few. The one thing that remains constant is the U shaped design. This is where my sketches began.

    [​IMG]

    Though my routes are not as clearly defined, I had intended for there to be 2 main routes, the first being following the bend in the U and the second being a redirection towards the middle. The middle area is further split to connect the bottom section to the lower portion of the U. As I had intended this map to be very large, essentially the size of the crypt, but in the sky, I decided to make a sketchup first to ensure that it was possible.

    [​IMG]

    From this design I had a good idea of not only what the map would look like but exactly what pieces I needed to use and how everything would connect together. As an added bonus, designing in sketchup allowed me to easily try several designs. The most difficult of which being what to do with the area between the bases on the bottom plate, This would eventually become the iconic man cannon, adding another route in the map.

    During designing I noticed that the map would have issues with bottle necking at the lower portion of the U. To help alleviate this I split the main route into two, adding a protected but dangerous alternate route.

    [​IMG]

    From this we can see clearly the main routes of the design. The point being not so much to direct the players to the middle, but to give them a variety of options into and out of the bases.

    [​IMG]

    While in the lower portions of the map I had designed it such that it felt like close quarters combat due to the assortment of large columns, on the upper part I had not initially intended to have any cover but was forced to add a few key pieces to ensure that the walkway was not too dangerous.

    [​IMG]

    This did serve a secondary purpose of stopping the player on the man cannon from being able to reach the sniper directly from the jump. I learned from this mistake for my future maps and attempted to never again add unnecessary cover.

    Doing spawns was a bit of a challenge for me as this was the first map I actually had to devise my own system. I had concerns about players being spawn trapped inside their own bases so I attempted to move the spawns more towards the middle of the map. In the end I found a good mixture of high and low spawns that helped encourage map flow without feeling at a disadvantage at any spawn point. The main focus of the spawn was pointed at the sniper in the middle, which would direct the players towards the main routes toward the opponents base. Other lower spawns were directed towards the rockets in the middle which was underused and thus encouraged players to pick them up.

    Overall I consider Leviathan a successful map. The large size and spread out gameplay allows it to comfortable support 5v5 slayer and 6v6 objective gametypes. The reason why their is a difference is that in slayer players tend to move towards the opponents as fast as possible, thus causing bottle necking. Though in objectives the players are forced to move into and out of the bases causing them to try alternate paths to achieve the goal.





    [​IMG]
    Well, we hope you've enjoyed our Forging 201 on the knowledge portion of map design. We'll be back soon with articles on the other two remaining parts, but we're hoping this will get you started in the right direction. Remember that the point of this isn't to give you a set of information, but to start you in the right mindset. There's no way to ever know everything in map design; it's a constant learning and thinking process that we're hoping this may possibly spark.

    We'd like to thank the Academy fo--heh, who am I kidding? Of course, we'd like to thank Bungie; Shock Theta, Fritzster, and Devinish are probably some of the major driving forces that made this possible. Pegasi helped a good amount with the writing. There's also an amazing number of people who gave us a helpful "tl;dr"...thanks, I suppose. And lastly, we'd like to thank Kidbomber for making some epic images for us to use.

    Thanks to Cosmic Rick for
    These wonderful haikus; this
    One isn't very good

    -Insane

    If it's clear you've got the drive and enough smarts to think through all the stuff above, that's all you'll need to be great at map design. If you're still having trouble, feel free to message Insane54 or MickRaider. And of course, normal comments and questions can go in the discussion thread :)
     
    #1 Insane54, Mar 25, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2010
  2. Vincent Torre

    Vincent Torre Promethean
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    Well I never thought we'd actually get this finished :)

    I hope everyone enjoys! It's been a fun write and hopefully the future revisions won't be quite as long lol
     
  3. DimmestBread

    DimmestBread Promethean
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    You quoted theroeu. his book (walden and other writings) absolutely destroyed my english grade. Take it out.

    Nice to have another 201 though, I thought this disappeared.
     
  4. Nondual

    Nondual Promethean
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    Wow, excellent thread you guys. I've already been reading it and thinking about it for a a couple of hours, but there is SO much info. I'm definitely going to keep coming back to this.

    A point I would like to emphasize, that you guys touched on, is spawns pointing towards points of interest/ where you want players to go. In most cases this should be towards the center of the map. Of the 3 hundred or so maps I've looked at in order to get the 130 that are in our customs rotation, this is main problem I see (I admittedly did this to my own map when I first made it.) Players get extremely confused when they spawn facing the wrong direction. This is especially important with so many Sandbox and Foundry maps looking so similar aesthetically.

    Thanks again guys!
     
    #4 Nondual, Mar 25, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2010
  5. Dak393

    Dak393 Promethean
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    Wow looks amazing there is sooo much good information in there. I hope map makers read this and include more of these design elements into their maps. Hopefully the number of maps lacking in design, or that have line of site issues will go down. Anyway these forging 201 posts are really incredible.
     
  6. Noxiw

    Noxiw Promethean
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    Great guide guys. I don't even want to know how long it took to write, glad to see something new in the 201 section.
     
  7. AceOfSpades

    AceOfSpades Talented
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    tl;dr

    No, but really. I have this bookmarked so I can read it in full tomorrow. Just from skimming through it right now, I can tell it will be a great read.

    Lol at the tag: lrn2frg
     
  8. Transactionzero

    Transactionzero Promethean
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    I think this turned out really well, glad to have help just a smiggen.
     
  9. Kitten X

    Kitten X Promethean
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    Very nice writeup Insane and Mick and everyone else who contributed! I'll definitely be referencing this a lot in the future. My only issue was with the continuity bit because it was confusing at first, but I think I understand it now.
     
  10. Insane54

    Insane54 Promethean
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    Not necessarily should they be pointed towards the middle (look at the picture of Guardian spawns for an example, quite a few are pointing back towards your own base), however every spawn needs to have an obvious direction the player is supposed to go. If the player is ever confused right off spawn, even a new player or even for a split second, then it's not a good spawn point. A common mistake I've seen is players who throw around spawn points like they should be put everywhere that looks "safe", quite often pointing back towards their own base, but in a way that makes no sense off of your spawn. That's what we're trying to get people to stop doing.


    Actually, it took us almost exactly one week from time of starting to write to posting here. It could have been significantly longer, however for the reader's sake we slimmed it down, in addition to splitting it up into 3 parts. We hope to be back here with a new writeup in a couple weeks with something on creativity (which will probably focus on getting ideas, inspiration, proper forging environment, etc) or vision (which is more like paper drawings, sketches, sketchup, etc).


    I also feel the continuity was the hardest part to understand when I was proofreading, however we couldn't really rephrase it so it made sense...if you understand the point though by the end, that's great.
     
  11. Col Keller

    Col Keller Promethean
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    nice job! the article was definitely an interesting read.
     
  12. noklu

    noklu Promethean
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    The spelling **** arrives.

    But seriously, brilliant write up which made me think about design. That is the aspect of forge I enjoy. The actual map making...meh. I keep on intending to go forge something, but then I see mass effect.

    I really am looking forward to parts 2, 3.

    BTW, I don't think your drawing is bad. :)
     
  13. Matty

    Matty Promethean
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    Very descriptive and insightful, however i can see a bit of a premature god complex coming along.
     
  14. SPOC

    SPOC Promethean
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    Amazing, well done fellas. Very thorough and well written. +74 rep for both of you!
     
  15. IH8YourGamerTag

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    thanks for this, although its all things we know at a subconcious level to have it spelled out in plain english helps understand these concepts. thanks
     
  16. acap41

    acap41 Mythic

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    THIS WAS FEATURED ON BUNGIE.NET!

    and its an awesome post
     
  17. SPRdragon

    SPRdragon Promethean
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    This is awesome. I know sketching and planning your map out first is important before actually going in and forging, but the latter is what I just do.

    I tinker with some ideas I have, and I just put some objects together in a way I think could turn into something. It's probably why I'm not very good, but that's just my style.
     
  18. Vault Tec

    Vault Tec Mythic
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    Thank you for taking the tremendous amount of time to write and edit this. It is always good to read and reread pieces like these to refresh yourself.
     
  19. Paulie Walnuttz

    Paulie Walnuttz Promethean
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    insane did this all by himself while playing headquarters pro, but anyway this was a great article, really gets me pumped up for reach's forge and brings back some good old memories.
     
    #19 Paulie Walnuttz, Mar 27, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
  20. Spaceneil8

    Spaceneil8 Promethean
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    I like your ideas, but you should understand that guardian is a dynamic map; there are no "bases" on guardian. The "enemy's side" could be anywhere, and the spawns reflect that. It's best for symmetrical maps to have the spawns facing the center/towards the enemy. The pit is an example of this. The general rule is to basis the spawning on the main objective gametype for the map. Guardian's clustered spawn points look meant for oddball while pit's spawns are directed at necessary choke points for flag.

    I think it would be a good idea to make these 201 guides dynamic. When the times change, the guides will change. These 201 guides should grow over time, people have different ideas on map design as a whole, and you should add key quotes from other sources to reflect that. That being said, this guide, although geared more towards competitive maps, is an extremely good source that provides insight on everything the current knowledge guide is lacking. Continuity needs a little work IMO.

    To summarize; great guide, it should be improved.
     

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