Because my project is to create a multiplayer map I have been researching what level designers need to think about, plan and design when creating a map. Most of the research I have come across is for first/third person shooter map development so some parts aren’t fully relevant but it’s still good information to know for my project and possible future projects.
Thanks to Matt Lane I have a presentation by Jim Brown a lead level designer at epic games, the presentation (The legacy of fail) is all about the processes and development of the map trenches for Gears of War 3. From this presentation you can see all the effort that goes into creating one multiplayer map, There are a number of failed versions of the map before the final version was produced, and this came about through lots of user testing from the beta (which I played). Some notes that I took down whilst reading through the presentation:
- Establish what your game is, for example Gears of War is cover, teamwork, flanking.
- Players need choice.
- Turn failures into wins.
- Clear lines of sight and a focused combat front important.
- Iteration is king, look at everything and ask ‘How can I make this better’.
- Learn from mistakes.
Some images and part of the presentation can be found here.
Flow is a key part involved in any multiplayer map, this can be just how the players naturally move around but also can be pickup placements and capture points in gamemodes as this changes the players needs. Movement around a map is key for any multiplayer game, if a player can’t easily move around and is always hitting dead ends or places where they need to double back to get where they need to go this will break the flow of the map and not be an enjoyable experience for the player (Bad Flow), keeping the player moving is important.
- The ‘O’ or ‘Circle’ design is the most simplistic flow designs for multiplayer maps, mainly in shooters.
- The ‘Figure 8’ is a more complex flow design with 8 shapes overlapping, this improves the variations of movement that can happen.
- Jim Brown talks about creating a ‘U’ flow design for Trenches because it fits better with the Gears of War style play then the ‘O’ does, it draws players into a line of engagement.
One key point I picked up from my research which links in with flow is that map navigation needs to be as clear as possible, as soon as the player spawns they should know where they are, where they need to go and how to get there relatively straight away. This can be done by having focal points on the map, like large towers or structures that are visible from a distance, if the maps was all in doors this could be done by room colours or the type of rooms to make them memorable which would help the player indicate where they was. If a gamemode is objective based like capture the flag, or capture points on the map these need to be visible areas and easy to find for new players, this can be done by having visual points on the mini map, it can be also indicated visually by icons that the player can see from far away just from looking around. Easily identified areas are also important for teamwork, for example in gears of war there are weapon pickups to define areas so if a team mate calls out ‘two at nades’ you know that two enemies are at grenades and you will know exactly where that is on the map, in other games this might be done by different looking areas on the map or landmarks.
Choke points can be effective in multiplayer maps because it funnels the players into a tight area where there will be a lot of action, this can also be a negative though if the choke point is the only route possible because this takes away a players choice. Choke points are very effective for the style of combat that would be played on my map (First/Third person medieval combat) because bottle necking players adds a good area for close quarters combat.
Multiple vertical levels or vantage points add variation to player choices and different things to think about as a player, it creates more diverse gameplay and not as linear as one level maps might be.
Cover is important in shooters because players shouldn’t be able to shoot too far ahead of themselves, also whilst moving through the map players shouldn’t always be vulnerable. If the area is high reward for a good weapon pickup or power up it should also be high risk. For example in Gears of War the Boomshot and Torque bow are arguably the most powerful pickup weapons, these will be placed in the center of maps so both teams have equal chance to get them, this creates contested areas.