1. Lesson 34: Peer Review

      written by Ray Benefield
      And here is lesson number two for today. If you missed it, I am posting THREE lessons today in celebration of halloween/me and Manda's first anniversary. I hope you enjoy the topics and here is Lesson 33 if you missed it. Also for those Conquest fans out there, I am working on Conquest v2. It will bring some major changes to gameplay to improve the experience. Slightly higher damage resistance, respawn traits, and the inclusion of armor lock as a weapon through the use of custom powerups (I'll explain later). Also remember that we are looking for maps for the Official Conquest Map Archive. Our goal is to setup a full map pack to try to get Conquest into Halo: Reach's matchmaking system. Not sure exactly how we are going to go about it. But right now, let's focus on getting some quality Conquest maps out there. We've already got three, with a couple more about to be added. Read the Official Conquest Map Creation Guide to find all of the nitpicky requirements of making a quality Conquest map. One more lesson to post. Stay tuned.

      How many times have you had someone find something in your map that you passed over a hundred times? Designers have everything engraved into their head and have a very narrow vision of what is happening on their map. They designed it… it is their baby and it is flawless in their mind. That is until your friend walks in and says, “Why the hell is this here?” Oops… that’s what friends are for, right?

      A second pair of eyes

      You aren’t perfect and neither am I. We will not get things right on the first time through. We will always miss something. We have spent hours, days, and weeks looking over our own creation. Our mind is spinning with the major essence of the map, and sometimes that causes us to forget the minor details that matter. So how do you fix that? Grab a friend, a significant other, a fellow designer, a random guy, or someone to look over your map and critique it. They will find things that you may have never found yourself because you approved of that area a week ago and forgot about it after you redesigned the rest of your map. They may not even point it out directly. Sometimes they will ask questions like, “Why is this red and that one orange?” or “Dude, did you know about this sweet shortcut over here?”. Sometimes the questions may not be directly related to the problem, but it will remind you to re-look over something. It never hurts to grab a second pair of eyes to look over your masterpiece.

      Why not just apply

      So you may remember the lesson on application that tells you to play something to learn how it will play. While that may be true, remember that while playing with a test group you are still trying to get the best first impression that you can. So before you just throw your map out there it helps to get some friends to look it over it and pick out any obvious things that you may have overlooked. People will be much more understanding when you are showing them in the middle of design. If they are playing your map, they expect it to be good. So before you get that first playtest together to test your map, get a peer reviewer. It will improve the first impression of your map. A good first impression during playtesting helps build anticipation and hype for your map. Who knows… word may spread and as soon as you release there will be a huge outburst of “OMG IT IS FINALLY OUT!!!”.

      A different point of view

      So what if it is like 2am and you can’t get someone to look over your map? Sometimes it helps to play through your own map. Seeing from a designer’s point of view can convolute your vision. Jump on your map and run around it. Try your best to find shortcuts. Imagine how you would camp the flag room. Imagine this map is a map made by your greatest rival and you want to find every imperfection possible. If someone else isn’t handy, then become that someone else. Note that this is easier said than done. You have to let go of your baby and criticize every detail as if it wasn’t yours. You may surprise yourself and find things that you never knew existed. So invest in the time that it takes to perfect that first impression. You can’t afford to lose someone’s interest in the first playtest. Sometimes they won’t come back, no matter how different it is. 


      GodlyPerfection said...

      Sorry I wasn't on last night, like I said with the anniversary thing and having friends over it is tough to get online.

      And that is something that I wanted to hint at Brik. I wanted a theory that suggest to playtest your maps for technicalities as well as cover the general design theory behind it. I didn't want to get too much into the technicalities portion because this series is based on theory of general level design, not the technicalities of particular level editors like forge.

      BadCompany Brik said...

      "Sometimes it helps to play through your own map." This is an excellent tip. Especially for things you're uncertain about like object labeling. You don't exactly look professional when you start a game and immediately go "oh crap, the flag hasn't spawned!'

      Anyway, on this topic, are you going to be online tonight Godly? I'm testing my FFA map.