1. [Analysis] Aspirocity

      written by Ray Benefield
      Welcome to the first of many analyses. Today I will be covering Aspirocity. This map added to the Community Slayer playlist on January 4th, 2011. This is my first analysis... just bear with me. As I get the hang of this over time, I will eventually develop a style and procedure and order to things. Until then, things may be a bit unorganized, just try to keep up and give me some feedback on what you liked, didn't like, and possible suggestions for future analyses. So why read these? You can learn a lot from other people's mistakes and successes. Trust me, it will be worth it.





      By: Impact Strafe

      Welcome to Aspirocity the first alphabetically in the first batch of nine community maps added to matchmaking. Below is a quick overview of the map.


      I want to start with the fact that the center structure, made of the dishes and the walkway, larges is very well built and flows together nicely. To put it in forge lesson terms, the center structure is very cohesive. The columns on green side of the center are a bit questionable though and we wondered why they were only on one side of the center and not on the other. We assumed it may have been for balancing threat zones on the green side. For a first impression, the map didn't play too badly. The dishes as ramps drew in our attention the first time we ran through this and it did serve as an innovative pull to the map. Something else we noted on this map was the heavy use of prefabricated buildings. Firs things first, try to avoid using prefabricated buildings in typical ways. They don't stand out very well because everyone has access to them. Also because they are prefabricated they force you to adhere to their restrictions and can cause problems later on. Sometimes it is best just to build your own version of the building. Trust me folks. ;) Moving on...


      Back of the bases



      So as we played on the map there were some very interesting areas to fight in. The backs of the bases actually played very nicely and served as a great dance floor for action. Above you will see a glimpse of what it is like back there. I would probably added a column under the base just to allow for a little more dancing and to lesson the sight lines a little. The 1x4 block columns around the ramp served as very good threat blockers and grounded the structure of the base fairly well giving a nice bit of cohesion to the area. We did have several issues. The weapon placement being one. The sniper is lying on the floor and a bit difficult to see, even in the screenshot. I would definitely lean it up against the column instead. When weapons are at eye level they bring more attention to themselves because they don't just appear to be a weapon that was just dropped. It also takes up more of a players perspective when they are around that area. There is also a BR sitting on that ramp that is really difficult to see. Many of us just walked right by it. It could use better eye catching or be put against a better back drop to enhance color contrast. Another issue I had was that spawn point right next to the sniper rifle. Below you will see a very slightly modified back of the base.


      The sniper rifle is now leaning up against the column and the spawn next to it was moved back and the angle was modified. Now this is just a sample fix, because the other spawns could use some work as well. I already explained why the sniper was moved, it improves eye catching and helps players find it easier. It also puts it against the glass of the column giving it MUCH better color contrast to make it stand out a bit more. As for the spawn point, it was moved due to issues in smooth spawning and spawn perspective. Below I put the spawn perspective of the original spawn first and the spawn perspective of the new spawn second. I approximated those so they aren't exact, but they are close. Click on both to full size it and compare the two. Notice how in the original the ramp and column take up most of your screen and when you spawn there you would start the match by walking straight into the ramp. You also don't see the sniper from that spawn. By looking at the new one you can see the true contrast of the sniper to the column and you have a nice 3 seconds of space in front of you to walk and orient yourself on the map. No need to stop and walk around the ramp at all. Keep these kinds of things in mind when working on your own map.



      Tops of the bases


      Enough of the backs of the bases let's move on to the tops of the bases. This is where Impact has decided to spawn you when you start the game. While this isn't necessarily a bad idea, it could be SOOO much better. The main issue I have with the initial spawn is that you have no idea that there is a sniper in your base. Typically showing what power weapons are in your base can be good practice as they are very powerful incentives and by not showing them you make it frustrating for players that get dominated by the sniper and yet don't know where it spawns in their own base. Also the health pack that is placed at the top of the base is in a low traffic area. Not only is that health pack in low traffic, but it is also very hard to see because as you turn around to go up the ramp to the top area it isn't in your perspective direction. Take note that he is also using a prefabricated building and because of that he is restricted in what he can do with the base, it also looks like every other map that uses that same piece as a base.


      Another thing to note is that there is only one path up to the top of the base. This makes it really easy to control as it gives the players that are camping up there a low degree of focus that they have to watch over. Even though there is a low degree of focus, the threat zone that you get at the tops of the bases are extremely limited because of the way the tower is turned. It cuts off a lot of the center of the map and only shows you one side at a time. While this could be fine for balancing the low degree of focus, it just feels awkward at times and could definitely easily be addressed if Impact custom made his own base.

      Take note of the two weapons that are at the base right on spawn as well. The base plasma pistol is on the ground and not at eye level, players will walk over this, stop and realize that it is there, then move back, pick it up, and then continue forward. This creates a hiccup in gameplay that could easily be avoided. The plasma pistol ahead of it on the ramp on the center dish is placed much better and is slightly elevated, a good distance away, and also has strong color contrast to make it stand out a bit more. The distance allows the plasma pistol to stay in the perspective for a long period of time... we call this low perspective variance and it gives the players a chance to notice that it exists. Honestly I would just delete the plasma pistol on the ground as two plasma pistols that close together is a bit pointless and a little incentive heavy when considering incentive weighting. The DMR at the base is a little bit out of the way and possibly being hidden from most of the spawn perspectives of the initial spawns. Either move it to the column on your way to the center platform or make it more obvious from where it is now, probably still moving it. If this was a custom made base Impact could easily make a bit of a bigger floor for initial spawning and easily expose the DMR for pickup. And the weapons should be probably a full second farther away from spawn just to smooth out the spawning and allow players to realize the weapon is there AFTER they orient themselves.


      Green Side



      On to the sides now. First things first is green side. In the corners of the map where green side and the bases meet there are several ways to get up, you can jump up off the bank, walk up the ramp, or you can jump up from the column against the wall. Those jumps ups don't really save you time at all since the ramp is short and easy to access. For simplicity sake, I would remove the additional jump ups, or at least the column one. The bank gives some sort of cohesion and sort of grounds the corner, but other than that its useless. The column isn't cohesive at all and is just kind of there. Also instead of facing the ramp from the center to the back of the bases, I would rotate it 90 degrees and have it go from the base to the side instead. The reason for this is because players will typically be traveling to that corner from the bases. most players won't cross directly from the center to that corner, so what ends up happening is a break in continuity as players transfer from the base to the green corner because they will try to take the shortest path, which is to jump onto the ramp and then jump onto the side. You could make this easier just simply by turning it to improve your continuity.


      Speaking of continuity, the above is just ridiculous. You should never force your players to jump in such an easy to access area that is part of the main path map. It just frustrates players. The best way to think about continuity is imagine being a player that likes to sneak around with camo and by crouching. Anytime the player has to stop crouching or hiding when trying to get to main areas is a sign of break in continuity. This can be found through areas where you have to crouch around a long ramp that just goes from one side to the other. Smooth your map out and make it flow better by facing ramps in the right direction and removing tedious jumps like what you see above.

      Now we move to the center of the green side where the grenade launcher spawns. It sits on a wall corner. This presents it more at eye level and makes it stand out from the rest of the geometry with a nice set of color contrast. However the presentation of it takes up the whole center of the green side. The green side already has a small amount of dance floor, and now by adding an obstruction you just make it really difficult to traverse and fight on that area. In this situation you can actually keep all of the pros of the wall corner under the grenade launcher while not obstructing dance floor by just sliding the wall in. You can see the before and after results below.


      Oh and there is Z-fighting up top as well with the brace larges. In order to remove it without causing a bump in your map you have to use what we call pixel editing. First of all some of you already know about holding in the left thumbstick to allow yourself to move abnormally slow to make very fine tuned movements. This works great to get rid of Z fighting on walls, but what about on floors? When you even tap the left or right bumper it moves too much up or down. GunnerGrunt came up with a solution; hold in the left thumbstick, press left or right bumper, and almost simultaneously tap the A buttom to let go of the object in mid movement. It will take some practice, but after you get used to it you can move objects by the pixel up or down to remove Z fighting without creating an obnoxious bump.


      Let's move on to the bottom portion of green side. If you look closely the red strut closest to us has a neutral bottom in the picture. That is because for some reason there is a second strut underneath that one that isn't colored. It is there for no reason and really needs to be removed... same with blue side. The extra object just hinders performance.

      Now take a look at the spawns. All of them are perfectly straight. This is a good sign that spawns are not properly thought out. The single one against the red strut is not only pretty much in the center of the map in a high traffic area, but it is also facing the opposite direction of all of the action. Imagine spawning there for a second and walking back to the base, only to realize that you need to turn around. While the spawn does have some synergy with the badly placed ramp, the spawn suffers from unsafe spawning. The five spawns next to the tunnel are also unsafe because they suffer from being in a largely threatened area by each team. Even if they were safe, the spawns on the edge are running into the the struts ahead of them and when they walk forward, there is nothing really to orient themselves on spawn because all they see is the bottom of the center ramp and nothing else. They have no defined path ahead of them making players take a second to look around and pick a direction, make it easy for them and give them at least one obvious path so they can at least focus on combat if they need to. The spawn underneath the green bridge isn't that bad, but I would move it back a little towards the corner and face it outward to help the player smooth themselves back into combat. The spawns around the window are a little awkward. The one closest to the center is unsafe, while the one behind the windows is facing away from the action and a little too close to the ramp. Remember you want around 2-3 seconds of orientation time before giving an important decision to your player.

      Speaking of those windows, they are extremely in-cohesive and awkward. They do not fit on the map at all. Even if you were to put just a column there it may fit a little better, but since it is just kind of sitting there alone it is separated from the rest of the map and we want to avoid that to avoid breaking immersion. That place does need cover, but just throwing in an object for a final version of a map isn't going to work out very well. Try having the cover come out of the green side some how and connect it to the rest of the map. Before moving on I want to quickly mention that the plasma grenade placement underneath the center platform is awesome. It has great color contrast, and is out of the way enough to where you may not accidentally pick them up and they are in an area that gets a lot of attention so your player's perspective direction will typically have them in it. Good job on that.


      Purple side



      First thing we notice about this side is that the majority of the area is made of prefabricated buildings. You can easily pick out the pieces and tell what they are. With such a large area dedicated to these pieces, any other map that uses these same pieces feels just like this one. That takes away from the uniqueness of your map... and standing out is important to create memorable experiences. You don't hear players say "Remember that map with the bunker ramps?". And if you do most people will probably have no idea which map you are talking about. To create personality to the map you have got to be as unique as possible and prefabricated objects need to be used in unique ways in order to stand out. Nothing on this side really feels like it belongs together. The jump ups against the wall don't fit with the aesthetic of the bunker ramps or the pyramid. And the bunker ramps don't fit well with the pyramid at all. Everything feels disjointed. Instead of feeling like a map it ends up feeling like a bunch of objects. Even though making maps in forge is all about sticking objects together, that doesn't mean that you have to make it obvious that your map is made of a bunch of objects stuck together.

      Next thing that we noticed as a group was the in-cohesiveness of the ramp from center to purple side with the needler on it. The braces surround this narrow ramp and it doesn't look to fit at all. A simple and quick fix could have easily been found. The ramps could be doubled up to fit to the size of the braces. We simply put an upside down bridge XL. While the texture doesn't really fit the general aesthetic of the map, it flows better with the braces than the thin ramps do. Also the bridge gives a bit more dance floor for people to dodge shots. Below is a comparison of the old ramp and our quick fix.


      Also take a look at the picture carefully and you will see the needle rifle laying on the pyramid casually. When coming up the sides it is actually fairly difficult to see, so I would probably lean it up against one of the braces or something similar to draw a bit more attention to it. The plasma grenades can be there, but typically I would put them in a less accessible place that isn't in the direct main path and slightly off to the side. The main reason for this is that grenades are auto pickups and if you don't see them before hand then you won't know that you have them. What is the point of a weapon if you don't know that you have it? It serves no use.


      Last thing to look at on this side is the shotgun spawn. The weapon itself has horrible eye catching because it is a black weapon on a black surface. The only reason anyone really noticed it was because they noticed the shadow from the shotgun. You can't always rely on something like that because people don't normally pay attention to shadows. What would I do? Throw down something behind it to change the coloring of the background and strengthen the color contrast. You could also use a piece that has lights on it like the corner 2x2 to brighten the bottom of that pyramid. The spot is also sort of out of the way and enclosed and the only reason anyone would go into there for the shotgun is if they had to take cover there. Otherwise there is nothing that draws a player to the shotgun as it isn't very visible. You could also block off the hole and just place the shotgun on the outside of the pyramid in plain sight to improve the eye catching.


      Final things


      So all that is really left are kill zones and final comments. There needs to be a kill zone on top of the bases, on the platforms on green and purple side, and the kill zone on the top center needs to be slightly increased in size as you can sit on the edge of it. Overall the map has really good side orientation with the purple and green side designation. The gameplay was actually alright. The bottom center was completely useless and the top center felt a little bit open at times. There are also a few continuity issues with the bridge transitions from the bases to the center dish. This map has potential. The bases need a huge overhaul and need to be rebuilt. The green side is alright and you can get away with just tweaks, but I would also rebuild purple side. Try not to use so many prefabricated buildings this time bro. Good luck in the future.


      Review my analysis


      So this analysis took me several hours to throw together. I wrote it with the intention of teaching all of those who read it. If you read the forge lessons this is great support material as it uses the lessons in context and helps you become more acquainted with how to use the theories. Please respond with some feedback for how I can improve future analyses. As a side note, what would you guys think of me opening up this type of analysis to the general public but charging for an analysis. Just curious, would you be willing to pay somewhere around $10 for an analysis like this? Not only will it help improve your map, but it will help your map get exposure and help me make a little money since I'm going to be a father this summer I could use the extra cash for the baby. Also those reading the analyses will learn from them. Everyone wins. So what do you guys think?



      6 comments:

      Schnitzel said...

      That was one of the most extensive write ups I've seen to date. Wow.
      As far as charging a price... Ten bucks is pretty steep for me, but I'd actually pay it for one of my maps tbh. As I'm pushing to get Amalgam implemented in the MLG circuit for V3, the publicity such a write up on here would be a strong push for it in the right direction.

      Noklu said...

      Godly isn't the only person here, y'know. Plenty of other people here can help any newbie out. That makes it worth joining.

      Humble Calamity said...

      Also, Godly you may also want to consider looking at some of the updated maps provided by some of the original mapmakers (i.e. Reverence vs. Heritage) -- that bnet master thread has the link to only Heritage. Discussing the improvements made would not only be beneficial for analysis, but also key in helping the community respond to some of the current mishaps (and realize what's already been fixed).

      <3

      Richie Burke said...

      Amen

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      Anonymous said...

      Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.