1. Lesson 1: First Impressions

      written by Ray Benefield
      Here is the first of many level design lessons to come. I need all of your help. Please comment with any errors that you happen to see; grammatical, spelling, or otherwise. Also please comment on the writing style and if there is anything I can change (including header titles). This set of lessons will be my official level design theory content that I share with communities. The more feedback I get, the better it becomes. These lessons are the articles that you want to share with all of your friends that build maps. These lessons will prepare all level designers for Halo: Reach's new Forge World. Next one comes out Thursday. Ready? Here we go...

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      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.

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      GD27 BlueDevil said...

      FIRST lol this reply will go down in history!

      Interesting write up man. The post is informative, and makes sense to me, however some examples of Bungie's maps where weapons/objectives are placed may help this blog make more sense to beginners.

      Also, a table of contents would be useful. Or atleast say the topic of the next post so people know what to pay attention and look forward to.

      But this blog is off to a great start and to be honest, first impressions was something I havn't yet taken into account. Good job, more great stuff to come.

      Paulie walnuttz said...

      Only you AZN... only you, you are the best at taking something apart to every little detail

      Sharp said...

      Well here comes the Saga of AZN FTW all over again. I like the write up and it all reigns true. If you need any help, you know how to get me~

      Prod said...

      Nice post, everything in it is true and makes perfect sence. I did have a lengthy reply lined up, but it didn't make sence. Something about how playing leaves a good first impression.

      Anyway i'm looking forward to tomorrows post.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      As a heads up tomorrow's post is an analysis of Conquest and its transformation for Halo: Reach. I will be discussing the aspects that I plan on keeping to keep the original flavor of Conquest alive.

      MickRaider said...

      Good food for thought I guess. Though it doesn't offer much in terms of advice or guidance. The writing style also tends to be a bit repetitive.

      FenianBhoy said...

      Good write up AZN. If this applies for Infection (I think it does) I'll really keep reading these; although I suppose they won't truly become interesting until Reach is out.

      RPAL said...

      Very informative, and it makes perfect sense. The only thing that I wouldn't approve of is using Forgehub as the best of the best. Its understandable why people would say that, but I would rather strive for perfection within my friends than over at Forgehub. Just my opinion.

      Looking forward to the next post as well.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      "The only thing that I wouldn't approve of is using Forgehub as the best of the best. Its understandable why people would say that, but I would rather strive for perfection within my friends than over at Forgehub. Just my opinion."

      I took your advice Paul and I changed it to the new Bungie Favorites instead. I also added that the next one comes out Thursday. Thanks for the great feedback so far everyone.

      Oh and as for the repetitive writing style I guess I use it to sort of engrave the concept into people's head. RPAL said he agrees but it's not necessarily a bad thing. I will definitely make sure I keep an eye out for that in the future though.

      Bartoge said...

      Nice write up. I think the only two things I would suggest would be to avoid words like "SOOOOOOOOOO". It just makes it seem less official and more like something you just thought up to me. Maybe extremely or incredibly or some cool word like that. Also, and this might be more for longer, confusinger articles, but maybe a "review" section at the end where you just throw up some bullet points addressing the major points of an article. That way, someone who forgot something doesn't have to read through the whole article to find that single sentence (something I've done a lot with stuff). For this the review could have
      - Bad first impression could mean the death of your map
      - Every detail (from thread organization to actual gameplay) can have an effect on your map's fans
      - Having at least one good first impression will increase your credibility

      Maybe something like that, eh?

      Anonymous said...

      Nice write up Godly. Overall I found it pretty easy to read and understand. As I am not the greatest forger and I don't quite know all the termanology you guys use, it seemed still pretty easy to follow what you had to say.

      Good work and please keep the post up!

      Robert said...

      xThorgoldx here. Nice overview on how important marketing your map can be for it to become popular. A few flaws in your general writing here, however.

      1. POOF! is a bit overused. Good thinking to have that feeling of "Poof, it's gone," but it's only effective the first few times.
      2. Only lists negatives. DON'T have a disorganized thread. DON'T have bad screenshots. DON'T have a design that favors veterans of the map. How about explaining what you SHOULD do? What kind of thread layout is most effective? What kind of screenshots should I capture? Granted, map design is another lesson entirely, but you get my point.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      As far as thread layout goes that is something that I can cover later. As far as screenshots I am actually going to be cover that soon with my Static Perspectives lesson. And as far as map design goes, just keep reading the lessons lol ;).

      I will definitely take a look at re-writing it a little bit in the future with what you said in mind though Thor... thanks for your feedback bro.

      Sybercat6 said...

      I would include a suggestion for using the Tag system to
      A. Make your map more searchable
      B. Identify your community
      C. Cite your source material, if any.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      As for the tag system, I am making all of these lessons not game specific so since the tag system refers to Halo mainly I will be covering it under a more general lesson. As far as the reasons you mention to cover why using the tag system is good are definitely good reasons, however they can be under a more general topic and when the lesson comes around I will be using those as reasons. Thanks for your input sybercat.

      Dragonfly79 said...

      spent several hours this weekend reading through these lessons.  they are an invaluable resource for the community and all forgers everywhere.  big thanks for sharing your knowledge and all the effort that must have gone into putting this together. definitely going to revisit these over and over again.