1. Map Design 101 vs Forge Lessons

      written by Ray Benefield
      So some of you have noticed that I am back on the xbox and having some fun much more often. My friends left on Monday so now I can finally get back to forging. I may not be submitting something to the Forgetacular contest. I don't want to lock myself down with a timeline. I want to make sure my stuff comes out naturally over time. And you guys don't want me taking away your first prize. lol... :P. Anyways, if you guys had not noticed the great Carney of Bungie released a Map Design 101 guide for all aspiring level designers out there. While the title of this may suggest that I am against it, I am actually quite the opposite. I LOVED the guide and it is perfect for all of those who also read the Forge Lessons. For today's post I want to compare some of the things that Carney talks about with some of the things that I have already written about, plan on writing about, and things he has brought up that I didn't think about to write about to begin with. Yes folks that is possible... lol. :P I'll get back to you with a new forge lesson tomorrow. I swear. And if I feel peachy, maybe tonight.

      General Impression

      Before I start comparing I wanted to say a couple things. First a personal thanks to Carney for releasing this. As a guy aspiring to be one of Bungie's level designers I am greatly appreciative of the guide he wrote and it helps me compare my style to someone who already has the job that I want. It isn't easy to sit down and write a guide or write the forge lessons, so thank you good sir for putting the time into writing it. Also a lot of what Carney talks about are things that I have already written about, things that I teach to many already, things that I had already planned to talk about, and things that made me think. If you haven't read it yet then go do it. TRUST me. It is a great read. However it is just a very simple overview of a lot of level design topics, but it applies the principles by showing how he used them when building The Cage. You know... that lockout wannabe map. ;) lol... let's move on shall we.


      In his first section (after urk introduces what is going on), Carney makes a very good point that I hadn't planned on writing about for the lessons but now I will be. Every designer out there has their own methods of accomplishing things. There is no one true way to follow to be the best out there. Some of us draw rough drafts, some of us just plow ahead spontaneously. Some of us look at line of sight while others look at threat zones. Some of us enjoy symmetrical designs while others enjoy asymmetric designs. Every designer has their own approach and ultimately that is what is going to make your stuff perfect. Don't try to copy someone piece by piece, reason by reason. Do things your way. When learning theory instead of taking it word for word, instead apply it to your current design style and understand how you can tweak your design style to incorporate the new concept into the way YOU do things. Never feel like you need to be exactly like someone else. Instead just look to improve on your own terms and in your own way. As Carney states, "Ultimately, no one approach is perfect and experience is the critical guide."


      The next lesson of Carney's crash course is deciding what you are going to do. For those of you who have read the forge lessons this section is almost directly comparable to Essence and Purpose. Basically, take the time to decide what you are building. What gametypes are you designing for. Sure you can cover all gametypes at the end, but pick something that your map is going to excel in. Are you making a killer Slayer map? Or how about an ingenious CTF design? As I state in the lessons... prioritize your goals of the map. So that way when you need to make a crucial design decision you can pick the choice that meets your goals better. If you have to decide if a window should be on the base or not, think about what you are building for. A window may be great for slayer so people can traverse and shoot through it. However a window may not be good for CTF as it may provide an unwanted shortcut. If you are building for CTF then you choose no window and if you are building for Slayer you choose a window. Laying out your goals will definitely help you while designing your map. Carney spends a lot of the guide talking about his goals for The Cage and you will notice that as he changes his design he takes into account his goals for the map and modifies it until it meets his goals.

      "Paper Design"

      After deciding the intent of the map, Carney suggests you move on to "paper design". Basically you want to sit down and flesh out a general idea of your map. Take the time to draw it out, model it, and think it throughly through before you go on to actually build the map. You can use anything to do this. Get some paper and start drawing. Download Google Sketchup and start modeling. Get on forge and start throwing down pieces to get a good idea. Even get some clay, building blocks, legos, kinects, or whatever suits your fancy for planning out your design. I typically use sketchup or start throwing down things on forge. I've always wanted to use legos, but the wife says that's ridiculous... lol. I'll do it one day. ;) Below are some good examples of "paper design".

      The Initial Elements

      After paper design, Carney talks about seven base elements of design that he follows. The first four that he covers is Simplicity, Orientation, Navigation, and Flow.

      Simplicity is a concept that I have not written about yet, but had recently planned to write about. It is all about not overcomplicating a map and making it difficult to learn. After someone plays your map they should be able to have a good grasp on your concept. If you throw them into a complex labyrinth of hallways and rooms then they will have a hard time figuring out what is going on. Simplicity works great when trying to work towards good First Impressions or improving a player's ability to learn the map [Lesson 2: Knowledge is Power].

      Orientation is something that I have been wanting to write about, but just never got around to fully covering it. I slightly touch on the topic when talking about Spawn Perspectives and having the player be able to figure out where they are. I teach this VERY regularly when I help people out so expect the lesson on it soon.

      Navigation is another word for our Path Manipulation. Eye catching, incentives, deterrents, path maps, etc, can all be covered under Navigation and learning to direct your players around. Another thing that it can relate to is Cerberus Beast's theory on Perspective Induction. This is a topic that I have taken some time exploring on my own and I will be covering it soon in the lessons. Basically it is understanding how a player perceives the perspective before them... what assumptions they make of it based on what is in the scene. By placing a huge tower in front of them we "induce" the thought of a sniper possibly being perched in the tower.

      Flow is something that we have recently dived into. Continuity can be a HUGE thing for Flow and being able to move across your map smoothly and effectively. Another thing that can be considered for flow is Combat Congestion and Traffic. Path maps are considered as well as you want to understand how players are going to be moving from place to place on your map. In essence, Flow can also be seen as a part of Path Manipulation.

      The Final Elements

      After going over some designs of The Cage, Carney moves on to talk about the final three elements. Hard Points, Game Objects, and Iteration.

      Hard Points are basically key areas of your map. Areas where people are going to spend most of their time. This is definitely something I have not covered yet. Noklu, one of the regular commentors here, actually wrote a lesson on Points of Interest that can cover this topic as well as Game Objects (I'll be posting his theory soon). I am actually planning on writing a lesson on Landmarks, which is the term I use for noticeable key areas. Taking the time to understand how each hard point, point of interest, or landmark interact is important during design. Taking the time to observe Threat Zones between them and understanding how each flows into each other is a very powerful skill indeed. Keeping a hard point's degree of focus in mind helps as well. ;)

      Game Objects are important pieces that you place around the map. For us, Game Objects refer to Incentives and Deterrents mainly. They are the pieces that encourage and discourage movement. They are what lead players to success and failure. Learning to use Game Objects to encourage movement of players is a skill that I cover in almost every lesson. Most of you are familiar with the powers of incentives.

      Iteration is just playtesting. In the forge lesson terms... it is application. You never know how something is going to do until you've actually tried it. Then you go back and you redesign and playtest it again. This is one of the most important parts of design. You can't build just purely off of theory and release it. Well you could, but it will probably end badly. Playtest, playtest, and playtest some more.

      And finally the end

      So today's post is freaking enormous and if you actually read the whole thing then congrats. I was really happy to see Carney's guide. It basically told me that I am on the right track and I must know something about level design lol. Who knows... I may get that level design position at Bungie. Everyone wish me luck ;). Before tomorrow's post let's take the time to discuss what other connections we can draw between the forge lessons and Carney's crash course. Tomorrow I will be back with a lesson. I'll see you guys online. I've got some things to make... lol.


      Anonymous said...

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      GodlyPerfection said...

      You should only use one at a time to always have something to talk about. Pick when you post wisely. Think about when people get online and are more likely to see the thread. ;) This will be good practice in advertising.

      And the experiment will do more than just give us super powers. It will help us fly... hopefully. lol...

      SmartAlec13 said...

      Ohk. I know of a few guides I can always link and discuss.

      And okay. This experiment better not be like mutating us or anything. Unless we get superpowers, that would be cool.

      SmartAlec13 said...

      When will this special suprise thing be? Cause I cant be here at like 4-10 pm Central.

      RAG3 ON3 said...

      I really liked the read, even if I disagree on some things with the design of The Cage. On top of that, it was interesting to see how exactly The Cage came to be how it was, from start to finish, which is something I rarely get to see in maps other than my own.

      Also, Teaching Perfection, it has a nice ring to it.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      For you guys with Forgehub accounts, there is a guy that has directly linked back to the forge lessons. How about showing the site some love and putting up your testimony folks? Here's the link:


      Also remember to be back tomorrow for my little "Social Experiment". All of you need to be here for that... I think you regulars will enjoy what the experiment entails... lol. ;) And it may make some of the readers out there come out and chill with the rest of us.

      The_Ardly374 said...

      Nice Sounds Ray, Nice sounds.

      I just finished the Bulk of my Blog's Update. You and the crew should check out the new organization. Not much really has changed besides that, but I've put in quite a few place-holders for when I finish the articles I'm working on. The chat box is up and fully functional at this point and the redundant site-faq is there, ready for questions to be added, when they're asked.

      I'm still looking for authors for the Game Type Design Articles as well.


      Shameless plug, over.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      You are really trying to get these lessons re-named to Teaching Perfection, huh? rofl... btw guys I'm working on quite the surprise that you regulars are going to enjoy. ;)

      SmartAlec13 said...

      When I read Carney's thing I was like "Hey theres Lesson#! Oh and thats from Lesson##" and so on :P It was a very simple guide, which is good. It more so just takes you through the process of making a map, whereas Teaching Perfection is full of lessons that do not necessarily follow an order.

      Noklu said...

      Damn, my computer coughed up a double post.

      Noklu said...

      Woot! Got a mention!

      Anyway, I read both your's and Carney's walls of text :P Good luck on your aspirations for that position. Do you think a combined referral from the RP community would help?

      Oh, and I won't be able to get on this weekend. :(
      I'm really itching to test the edited version of The Looking Glass. It actually has glass windows, corners and health packs!

      Phaazoid said...

      Glad you appreciated his guide too GP. This was a good comparison. I remember seeing your "paper design" not too long ago :P

      BadCompany Brik said...

      I like this, it's basically a recap of what's been taught so far. :)

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