1. Lesson 14: Essence

      written by Ray Benefield
      I've gotten some great feedback from a ton of people for my upcoming gametype Flatline. If you haven't checked it out you definitely should. I've posted it on the Bungie.Net forums and I would love your comments there if you want to support the gametype. Anyone who roams the Bungie.Net public forums knows how fast a thread can get buried. I'm counting on you guys to keep it unburied lol. ;) Anyways, I'm going to zoom out from my pretty specific level design theories and cover a more general theory today that I think is very important. This doesn't have to be specific to maps at all. You can apply this logic to gametypes, movies, games, collages, etc. Anything really. Take a gander I think you will enjoy the more general focused lesson. Remember I post a new lesson every other day so the next one is up on Sunday. See yall tomorrow or Sunday (depending on if you only come here for the Forge Lessons lol). ;)

      I want you to tell me what you are building. Do you know what you are trying to build? Sure you have an idea for a map, but do you have any goals of what you are trying to create? If I asked you to describe your map, 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, Soul, Root, Base

      So I went to look up some synonyms instead of directly defining “essence”. The essence of your map is its definition. It is the unique soul that you create. It is the root of everything that makes up your map. It serves as the base of the experience. And it is the core of the description that you share with your friends. A map’s essence can consist of numerous amounts of things. Maybe you are trying to create a replica of the Death Star. Maybe you are trying to recreate the feeling of war. Maybe you want your gameplay to consist of shotgun fights down narrow halls. Maybe you want to give the sense of a medieval castle. Maybe you want your players to feel frightened and afraid of going around the next corner. Maybe you want your players to be in a dazed state with dazzling lights that distract them from what is really happening. Theme, feelings, colors, gameplay, areas, and structures are just a few things that the essence of your map can contain. What makes your map unique is taking these features/requirements and mixing and matching them to create something truly unique.

      A list of goals

      Everything that makes up the map’s essence can be broken down into a list of goals. It is important to keep a list in mind of all of your map’s goals. They don’t have to be written down somewhere you just have to make sure that you remember them all. They are what you are trying to achieve with your map. They define what makes your map different. They direct you in how you build your map. Any individual goal could also be possibly used in another one of your creations. Maybe you wanted to keep your goal of a Star Wars theme for your next map, but maybe this time mix it with long range focused combat in space. 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. As you build maps and gain experience you create new goals to add to your growing goal library. 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. This is one of the most important things that I have learned while studying design. This prioritized list of goals is how you will make your decisions on your map. 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. Does the essence also support darkness? Maybe you should put the light after all. Take a look at your prioritized goals and decide based on that. The essence should be the deciding factor. 


      Phaazoid said...

      This is how I start my maps :)

      I can't make a map without it. this is why I REALLY want to make scenery and weather such. It's hard to capture the essence of certain maps with only forerunner architecture. This is why I intend to be a game designer. It feels like a sin to NOT create all of these maps in my head xD

      BadCompany Brik said...

      Again, this one seems so intuitive to me that I do it almost subconsciously. I don't think I could live without the essence of my ideas. I'd implode or something similar.

      GunnerGrunt said...

      A map's atmosphere is always my number one priority. If the map doesn't have a unique atmosphere, I don't enjoy playing on it. The first map I have designed for Reach is going to have a really comfortable atmosphere to it. Soft white lights and whatnot... Great lesson, good sir.

      IxFlashPointxI said...

      Alot of times, I gave up on maps because I cannot achieve the essence I want. I feel that if it doesn't have the right essence then it completely ruins the map. Like a City map on Sandbox or a Barren Desert on foundry, lol. But enough said.

      Sirspy said...

      Hey man I just wanted to say that your posts have really help out to think about balancing options on my map. Especially the incentives/deterrent entries got me to look at this two problems I was having with my map a little differently and eureka! I'd remove the incentive heavy one (pair of jump pads used as shortcuts) and move a pair of teleporters (that were already in area area with multiple path options) that link to an isolated sword room. Bingo! The faster incentive path of simply jump across suddenly become the deterrent of warping into a room that may possibly have a sword camper in it.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Glad these lessons have helped you out Sirspy. I hope you become a part of a very small, but tight knit community and spread the word about the site as well as the lessons. If you become more active over here and start a disqus account and what not we can definitely chill on reach and check out this map of yours bro. Keep reading, learning, and posting bro. It is very nice to meet you.