1. Lesson 38: Dance Floor

      written by Ray Benefield
      So it's been like over a week since my last lesson. This isn't normal trust me. The forgetacular contest has got me busy. It's crunch time and Helix is starting to play to near perfection. Just gotta re-adjust my building blocks to reduce some of the minor framerate issues in some spots on the map. I will be releasing a public beta version in a couple of days so that everyone who wants can download it and can look around or play it if they are able to get a BTB game together. Then if you have any concerns, suggestions, or what not you can give them to me so I can put in my submission this weekend. Keep an eye out for it folks. Speaking of the forgetacular contest, I have been playtesting TONS of maps out there and this lesson comes thanks to those maps and what I learned with Double Helix (the older version of Helix). Don't build maps with TONS of bridges and inclines linked as your primary mode of travel. They are WAY too narrow and players love their dance floor. Some is fine, but too much can make movement too restrictive. Try flipping them upside down and doubling them up... trust me ;).

      EDIT: Helix, my first competitive map, has been officially released and submitted to the forgetacular contest. Enjoy!

      Wanna know a little secret? Players like to dance. Sometimes they don’t realize it, but they do, I swear. And not like slow dance in a little circle. I mean REALLY dance. Like flamboyant twirls, jumps, and flips. So what do you need to do? Build them space to dance my friends. You think I’m kidding? Well maybe just a little, but there is some truth to my statements.

      Space is nice

      So players may not like to literally dance, but they do like their space to do what they want. Confined areas restrict what a player can do and it reduces the options that players have. Imagine having to fight on a catwalk… your only options are forward and back. If your opponent is in front of you, then forward and back probably aren’t going to cut it as viable options to dodge? But the dance floor concept isn’t just about lateral movement; it is also about the vertical space that is available for vertical movement like jumping, flips, jetpacks, etc. Let’s not forget about vehicles… anything that allows players to move really. It rarely feels good to have your regular movement impeded by the environment. And guess who’s in charge of the environment… the guy building the map.

      Placing blame

      You build the map, the player plays on it. You have the power to shape what is around them, while they have to adhere to what you give them. So what does that mean? If a player can’t move the way he wants to, YOU are to blame. Sure if a player is on a catwalk he has the option to jump off and could blame himself for his death, but how many people do you know that will openly admit it was their fault when something goes wrong? I rest my case. If the player can find a reason to blame their faults on the level designer, they will. Now what if you doubled the width of the catwalk? Now you give the players the ability to move left and right, like they can on any other area of the map. Now if they die, it is because they didn’t dodge properly. It seems like such a minor change but it is a crucial one. If the designer is responsible for a player’s misfortune and unfun then what reason does a player have to trust the designer with the rest of the map or other maps for that matter? This is that point where you have broken the immersion of a player’s experience as well as lost some credibility as a designer. Remember reputation is a powerful thing, so when in doubt it may be better to give the player a little more space to maneuver.

      Moderation in everything

      Of course none of this means that you should never use catwalks or narrow alleyways. Everything can be good as long as it is in moderation. Catwalks can serve as a deterrent because they remove your ability to move left and right for a certain amount of time. However if your whole map is made mostly of catwalks then a player has to suffer this deterrent too often. Too much of a bad thing can result in a bad day, and when you are having a bad day you become extremely critical of everything around you. We don’t want our players to be having a bad day on our map. Ever had anger taken out on you that you didn’t deserve? Yeah it is kind of like that. So let your players dance and move and flow through your map. It’ll put a smile on their face.


      Noklu said...

      Cage is fun sometimes. It gets annoying for the lack of room and the sniper tower, though.

      Dance floor is important. Part of the reason why people use the walkways so much is because they make too many floating maps that do not rely on the terrain.

      Trousered said...

      Great lesson, I've been having qualms about the map I'm working on for this very reason. I knew it needed an overhaul, but this lesson has motivated me to actually do it.

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