1. Lesson 2: Knowledge is Power

      written by Ray Benefield
      Welcome to the second of forge lessons that I have to offer you. Word has spread quite well amongst the populace about these level design theory articles and that is definitely good news. I have had some comments on how the last one is quite obvious, but all series have to start at the beginning with the basic stuff. Because it is with the basic stuff that the advanced stuff are supported. Today's topic is the importance of having your map teach players about itself. Same deal as the last forge lesson; the more feedback I get the better these can be. Look forward to the next one coming out on Saturday. And now... number two:




      You ever play a map in which you felt like you were at a disadvantage because you didn’t know where a particular weapon was? Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map? Isn’t there a sniper rifle on this map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills? And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it? Why the hell am I playing this map if it doesn’t give me the tools I need to succeed?


      An accurate assessment…


      So I have witnessed many times where a player reviews a map and says something along the lines of “This map needs a sniper rifle on it”. The response they get back; “There IS a sniper on it, it is at the sniper tower.” However the player never comes back to see the response and hence never feels that the map was balanced enough and hence not worth his time. Anything that you feel is important to enjoying the experience on the map you need to have your map show the player where it is on their first run through. If they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map. As a result the player receives a bad first impression due to an inaccurate review and you lose that player forever. Obviously, we do not want that.


      Why is it your job?


      Why do I have to teach them where the key weapons are? Why not just let the players explore the map and find it eventually? Because it is not a player’s job to learn the map… it is a player’s job to play it and enjoy it. The average joe does not have time to study your map, they have tons of other maps to play. So teach them while they play. Or else they start to question your map.

      Where is that rocket launcher when you need it for that warthog racing around the map?
      Imagine feeling like this the whole time you play the map… is the average person going to go back to playing something that just causes them frustration?

      Isn’t there a sniper rifle on the map to get rid of that guy chilling on the turret racking up kills?
      Here’s another example of “if they can’t find it then it might as well not be on the map.”

      And where the hell does that guy keep getting the sword, cuz I’m tired of dying to it?
      How many times have you played on a new map and got destroyed because you didn’t know where the power weapons were? Not everyone has the persistence to go back through the map and find all the weapons. Remember that it is your job to teach them while they play. They didn’t download your map to learn, they downloaded your map to have fun.


      So my goal is to teach, but how?


      In later sections I will teach you techniques that I utilize to be successful. Now that you are informed, try going back to some of the maps that you have designed yourself. Will players be able to find the anti-vehicle items on the map? Will they be able to memorize the layout fairly easily? Will I be able to give them the tools they need on their first run through to be on even ground against players who have played this map before?


      21 comments:

      Prod said...

      It's something i've never really thought about. I mean i know weapons should be spaced to make the most of the map and give balanced gameplay as much as possible, but i never thought about people not finding them, i just asusmed that they'd find them. Thanks.

      BadCompany Brik said...

      I've thought about this before, but how are we supposed to do this, besides writing "Rockets" in merged walls? (As funny as that would be.)

      Sometimes you want weapons to be in the open, so that it's hard to get to them. But sometimes you want there to be cover around a weapon spawn, for example, the Sword on The Pit (that's the map that came to mind because it has all the weapons you mentioned on it). It's surrounded by cover for a reason, because it needs cover to operate, so how do you surround it by cover, but still make it obvious that it's there?

      GodlyPerfection said...

      That my friend will be in a future lesson. Don't worry, it will be out before Reach. There are several techniques that you can use including path manipulation, eye catching, area introduction, and several other but more minor ones. Hopefully you stay tuned. I'll see if I can push those lessons a little earlier, probably sometime in the middle or end of next week. Hope you enjoyed the article regardless.

      And hey, if anything you could right "Rockets" in the walls in Reach. You have tons of budget and stuff there... rofl.

      IxFlashPointxI said...

      Looks very Interesting and I am hoping to see more lessons and even more when Reach comes out.


      I also have a suggestion for a future lesson.
      Manipulating Gammetypes to your will. I think you should make a lesson on how to bend the gametype to create something totally new. Like using Territories for a Mini-game. Using King of the Hill for a mini-game and so on.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      That won't be for a little bit. I've gotta get all these level design theories out first and then I will move into regular game design... which is exactly what that is.

      Wiggums said...

      Nice one! I'm really looking forward to reading everything you throw at me to use for reach, as I'm planning on finally trying my hand at a competitive map.

      Bartoge said...

      I think that you should mention that using Bungie as an example isn't very viable, because while they do are very careful in map design, when it comes to weapons they can be slightly more leaned back because people play their maps like 50 bijillion times a day, so people learn the maps pretty quickly.

      Spud Nuggets said...

      Im waiting for part 3. Saturday is marked on my mental calendar.

      Are you going to have a lesson solely for weapon placement?

      A lesson teaching how to adapt objectives to a map would be good.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      That's a very good point. I will have to find a way to mention that to people. Good call bro.

      Anonymous said...

      I think that "if you cant find a sniper rifle" you shouldn't remove it from the map, because chances are that it needs a sniper, I think that instead you should just move it somewhere else, or tweak it to a perfect balance of spawn time and clip size.

      Also I was just thinking of a map that doesn't spawn with a sniper in halo 3 and the only one i can think of is standoff, so odds are that a map should have a sniper somewhere, unless it is just to overpowering.

      -Jeff

      GodlyPerfection said...

      I was saying that you had to remove the sniper. My point was that if a player cannot find the sniper then the player will get the same effect as if the map didn't have a sniper at all. Of course you should most likely keep the sniper on the map or whatever it is you want to keep. The point of the lesson is you need to show the players all of the important pieces of the map so that way people can assess your map at its best.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      And I completely didn't notice your comment Spud Nuggets. I will have a lesson that covers Incentives in general which includes weapons, objectives, and other things that players would "go after" while playing in a game. That way the lesson is more generalized for all games[types] that may have different types of objectives or goals.

      Also Incentives is not where it ends... a ton of objectives will give various techniques to improve all weapon placement, objective placement, as well as anything else they do. Hopefully that answers your question and I look forward to seeing you here on Saturday. Remember that I do post everyday, tomorrow's post is something that many may enjoy.

      Haloacl said...

      A good follow up to your previous post I would say Godly. Not much to say on improvements and such. On that note, look forward to seeing your Saturday post.

      FenianBhoy said...

      Good read. I get what you mean here, although, I think it would've been better with some tips on where to place the weapons. I think you'll be telling us that in the near future?

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Yes I will be talking about that in the near future. Lesson 4 about perspectives is slowly working towards it, but you will start to see the theories over time that work for weapon placement... don't you worry.

      Ethrock said...

      @BadCompany Brik

      When reading over your comment I realized that your example is actually an excellent demonstration of a method to help make a weapon findable, while still having it hidden. Several things are at play in this situation (godly would know far better how the mechanics and theory work, and can correct any errors in this comment.

      One thing to consider is the location of the sword itself.

      It is in a back room, but the room it is located in is open, the sword is held up by a weapon placeholder, and is positioned in a manner that the most visible side is what players see first when entering the room, or passing it by. The room also features a large television display which lights up the sword even more, and turns it into an area of interest.

      So what we can learn from this is, when a weapon is placed in a tighter location, like sword room on The Pit, it should be positioned so that when players are near it, it is held up, or placed in a manner that is most visible, from the most angles. (Another example would be the sniper rifles on the same map, they are leaned up against the wall in way that broad side is facing out from the wall, making it more visible. If the sniper were held on a weapon holder with the narrow side facing the players it would not be visible enough, and too many people would pass it by.

      What I'd like to next cover is the manner in which The Pit is setup. The Pit follows a basic map concept of open sides. Although there are distinct and recognizable (though Symmetric) sides, the sides are not connected by any narrow passages (side rocket hall, and cloaking hall), and most movement between the two sides is open and fluid. Sword room actually acts as a bank between the two sides, and can be used as a method of travel between the two sides. because it is located on the open side, rather than as a secondary hallway over by rocket hall, it provides cover to any players using it.

      That is the incentive to use the sword room, is the fact that it allows cover from the nearby placed sniper rifles. To receive the benefits fully of the cover, players must navigate to the back of the structure, which opens up to the sword room. This room is very likely to catch attention due to its open structure compared to the hall the player is currently in, and the lighting from within. This draws attention to the sword.

      So another lesson from here would be that when a weapon is in a more hidden or cover filled place, that location should integrate logically into the maps flow and structure setup.

      Lastly, and a little less powerfully, the sword room has weapons (Assault Rifles by default) at each entrance, though less noticeable these cues can help entice players toward the entrance, and acts as a bonus incentive.


      That seem about right GodlyPerfection? it's how the concept functions to my understanding.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      That is exactly how the concept is supposed to function. However you went into a HUGE depth analysis of the full sword room that covered numerous theories that I will be covering over time. All of these theories will be covered in future lessons but what you analyzed was a great example of all of them working as one and that kind of synergy is what makes a map so difficult to perfect.

      All the theories you covered Ethrock are: Eye Catching (Using techniques to bring attention to the sword and the general sword area), Area Introduction (Introducing various areas of the map using various path manipulation techniques), Incentives (the act of offering an assault rifle and grenades as motivation), Deterrents (offering a closed off area that is taken when a sniper is around), and Color Contrast (the turning of the bright sword against the dark back wall and TV). Everything working together is what makes level design beautiful. Great analysis Ethrock.

      BadCompany Brik said...

      Well, that's true... a lot more than I expected, but true... :p

      Noklu said...

      I'm doing exactly that with KOTH. :) Not gonna give away lots, but I'll say Killballs + KOTH embedded.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Lol that does sound like an interesting gametype. Good luck with that bro and hope to see you on the game soon. Glad you are getting to be a regular over here at RP. ;) Your activity is much appreciated.

      Anonymous said...

      My name's Mathew from Gol�en, Germany and I just wanted to tell you your article is really entertaining. The clarity of your blog post is quite nice and I can assume you are an pro on this subject. With your approval, would you allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up-to-date with new posts? Thanks a million and please carry on with the good work.

      my weblog - www.amazon.com