1. Lesson 12: Path Maps

      written by Ray Benefield
      Well hello RP readers, today is another Forge Lesson day. If you weren't here, yesterday was a VERY active day. All of the communities that I hang out at are now gathering together to prepare to get Conquest into Halo: Reach's matchmaking. This is a big step for the custom game community. If Conquest gets into matchmaking then it will open the door for ALL community gametypes. Check out the thread and signup to help with playtesting or map design if you want to help this cause. Speaking of helping a cause, how about donating to charity? The guys at Halo Endurance did a marathon of all of the current Halo campaigns in order to attempt to raise money for the Child's Play charity (charity from gamers). Their goal was $1,000 however they are only at $522. I've donated $50 and if you can manage to donate some too, please help out. They are great guys. And plus every dollar you donate gets you a ticket in a raffle to win 4000 MS points or a signed copy of the RvB Reconstruction DVD. Check it out. On to the lesson... next one is out on Wednesday.

      So we know we can move players around using different techniques in path manipulation, 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. There are two different types of paths that exist in a path map. Objective paths are the shortest paths possible to the player’s current goal from the player’s current position on the map. Divergent paths are paths towards other possible goals that force players to “diverge” from the main objective path. As players move around the map and make decisions, objective and divergent paths change accordingly. Being able to observe a path map at any given point in time is essential to truly mastering path manipulation.

      When to use path maps

      The basic time to observe a path map is typically based on a particular spawn point. 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. 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. The current direction of the player is important when drawing a path map from a designated position on the map. Divergent paths are typically based on the player’s current perspective. Divergent paths may also exist behind the player if the player possesses enough knowledge of the map. Keep in mind that there is typically one objective path and many divergent paths. Divergent paths are just simply all the possibilities that the player may choose to take based on certain situations. For example if a player is going for the rocket launcher, and knows that the sniper is around the corner there would be a divergent path to the sniper. It is the designers job to decide what paths are most likely to exist in various situations.

      From divergent to objective

      To reiterate, 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. When a player spawns his initial goal is to get to his winning objective. Now imagine that while traveling down the objective path a rocket launcher or other incentive catches his eye. He now changes his current goal to achieve the rocket launcher. The new objective path is now the shortest path to the rocket launcher, and the old objective path is now a divergent path. Now imagine that a player has beaten him 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. However if the player is an enemy, then the enemy is a deterrent. 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. Utilizing path maps is a strong tool in observing specific situations when analyzing your path manipulation. Use it well.


      BadCompany Brik said...

      So now we're learning about tools to help accomplish our methods? Cool.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      I told you I would be covering them all in good time didn't I? lol... so what did you think of it Brik? Any feedback for me?

      IxFlashPointxI said...

      I know a way you could utilize this in a very compicated way. If you want me to go into more detail please ask.

      So my Idea is with a huge path map you could ultimately manipulate a players path to one set path rather than others... This could be done very simply by making a one corridor hallway or very complicated by placing deterents and objectives to manipulate the player without realising.

      This one was a good read, I must say.
      Keep it up.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      However you can't just draw a huge path map for the map since a path map is ever changing based on where the player is and what direction they are facing. What you describe with manipulating players with incentives and deterrents and stuff is what Path Manipulation is... I think you just discovered path manipulation for yourself Flashpoint. That is a good step forward and it should help you with more complicated design stuff in the future.

      Cerberus Beast said...

      Ray, I'm on vacation right now and don't have easy access to a computer, so I may not be able to send you my perspective induction write-up until Thursday. I hope you don't mind.

      On topic: This is an excellent tool for designers who feel overwhelmed by the concept of paths and path manipulation as a whole. For those who still aren't quite sure of what path maps are or how to use them, allow me to present my understanding of them.

      For the moment, especially if you are a beginner to this idea, try not to consider the entire map when contemplating a path map. Simply look at the objective path and all of the paths that reach the objective location without significant backtracking or time investment. Understand that path maps are essentially weighted maps of the best and worst decisions a player can make from a certain game state. Try not to get too specific into situations and scenarios. You are trying to quantify and generalize player movement in broad sets of scenarios that share similar relative benefits and risks for a player. If you would like to get some experience with path maps, play a few games of Juggernaut or 1-Flag CTF on maps that you know. For each of these, simply play the game as you would normally, then watch the film in Theater and think about what you thought in certain situations or why you made certain decisions. Whenever you make a decision or encounter a new situation, look at your personal priorities and visualize a map of your movement through the map to meet those priorities. Congratulations! You have just made your first path map!

      In regards to my suggestions of Juggernaut and CTF, my logic is quite simple. In 1-Flag CTF, there is a static objective which remains the primary objective until players move for weapons/pickups/advantages. If at any point a team touches the flag, players will create new priorities of either protecting or killing a carrier. This is great for figuring out simple path maps. Juggernaut is more dynamic, but it factors out as a relatively binary set of path maps. Either a player is the Juggernaut and is seeking incentives to achieve kills towards the main objective, or a player isn't the Juggernaut and wants to locate and kill the Juggernaut so that he/she may continue on in the Juggernaut state.

      I hope that all helps, as it was quite wordy. Good luck with path maps, everyone!

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Not bad as an explanation, but you are thinking too broad when thinking about player objectives. You have to think in more instantaneous objectives. Shit an enemy I have to take cover... look a weapon I will grab that... there's my teammate I need to follow him. Smaller objectives are typically what form path maps, however they are influenced by the overall objective that the player has. Great analysis though Cerberus and keep up the good work.

      As far as your perspective lesson, I can wait. You have all the time in the world my friend.

      StingerSplash01 said...

      I'm thinking as my first map in Reach, I may make a trench warfare map, where you can run on top and quickly get to objectives and such at the cost of no cover or little cover, or go through a maze of tunnels to each individual trench at the cost of time and the possibility of getting lost, do you think this will work well? yay or nay?

      GodlyPerfection said...

      I actually think that is a great idea... remember that path decisions aren't just based on cover and shouldn't just be balanced by the paths alone. Everything in level design has to be taken into consideration; weapons, high points, fusion coils... all incentives and deterrents are huge path decision choices. And also remember all of the other lessons in eye catching and pulling people around with perspectives and what not. If you keep all that in mind then I think you have a great idea going for yourself... I wish you luck with it good sir. I still think you should do a Conquest map first to hone your spawn perspective and eye catching skills before you move on to perfecting path manipulation, since the nature of Conquest's linear setup requires no path manipulation skill and allows you to focus on other things and practice those first. But it's up to you bro. ;)

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