1. Lesson 41: Consistency

      written by Ray Benefield
      It's been a couple days as per usual. It has been a busy weekend. I have been prepping my new map for its release as a public beta tomorrow. Can't wait until tomorrow? Feel free to go ahead and download the public beta version on my fileshare. The map is called Affinity. It plays FFA and Team gametypes very well, from 4v4 to 8v8. Works for all gametypes except Invasion and Race. You will get more info tomorrow. I promise... oh and a fancy little video too. If you don't want to forget remember that you can use your favorite RSS Reader to subscribe to the sites RSS feed so you don't miss a single post. Or just sign up for email updates in the side menu. As for the Community Map Analyses, I had to take a little break for the weekend and I will admit I was a bit distracted with Affinity. No worries the series will resume after tomorrow. I have until the 18th when they pull out the current maps. If you haven't read the first one on Aspirocity then I highly suggest you go read it because it uses the forge lessons to analyze the map and it could help you learn quite a bit. On to today's lesson though folks. See you tomorrow for Affinity's big public beta debut. ;)

      EDIT: Apparently the subscribe by email has not worked in the past. Well I went through and fixed it so it is working now. So type in your email to the left and you will get updates everytime something new is posted... sorry for the original inconvenience. Enjoy that feature to the fullest folks ;).

      Let’s face it. Humans are fans of patterns. Why? Because people are all about knowing what is ahead of them and what to expect. Many of us fear the unknown, and are frustrated by the unexpected. Remember that your players are human, and when you break a pattern that they are used to it can completely throw them off balance. That’s not something that we want to do because it breaks your experience... it breaks the immersion.

      Recognizing a pattern

      Have you ever found something that didn’t work the same way as you are used to when playing on a map? For example, let’s say all of the teleporters on a map or in a game all look the exact same way and all function the exact same way. So you would expect all teleporters to always act the same if they look the same... this is the pattern that you see as a human. Then you play on a custom map with the exact same looking teleporters. The difference with these is that they don’t function at all like the ones you are used to. Instead they are just there for looks, or they launch you fifty feet into the air, or they heal you while you are inside them. While some of these are good things, they can definitely throw you off balance and create a hiccup in gameplay. We are here to give a single fluid experience that players enjoy. If they are used to something in particular then it is probably a good idea to follow the pattern and the standard.


      So why worry about consistency? Isn’t it important to have innovation when doing things? Yes, but only to a certain extent. Your goal is not to create ambiguity. Ambiguity causes confusion and a confused player is a player that isn’t playing the game. When the same object does two different things the player can never know which outcome to expect next. This doesn’t just happen from map to map like the previous teleporter example. This concept can be existent within a single map as well. Imagine a row of pillars. In between each pillar is a wall that connects the pillars allowing you not to pass. One would expect that as the row continues the pattern will continue and there will be a wall in between each pair of pillars. What if you didn’t have a wall in between two of the pillars in order to make a doorway to the next area? Chances are your player isn’t going to even try to look for that entryway if all he/she sees is more and more pillars. That makes your door unnoticeable and useless. And we don’t like that at all.

      Breaking the pattern

      So how do architects and level designers handle that situation? They create an archway or something similar… a break in the pattern to show that something changes at that break and to show that maybe there is something different at that point. Learning to create a pattern and break a pattern is a delicate skill to learn like everything else in this world. By creating a pattern and breaking it, you can make things stand out such as doorways, incentives, deterrents, and anything else you want to draw attention to. That is a powerful tool to have in our arsenal as level designers trying to create a unique and fun experience for our players. So do me a favor and learn when it is a good time to be consistent and when it is a good time to break the trend. You never know when the power of consistency can make or break your beautiful creation.


      BadCompany Brik said...

      "it's also a good idea to give players a clue that they function as a lift..." I had the same problem, I just put a grav lift under it, which serves no gameplay purpose whatsoever. But now people know it's a lift.

      Kittenpaste Company said...

      Heh, my mother picked that up in the service as well (though not in the Marines).

      Schnitzel said...

      @Brik, but the gravlift does serve a purpose... It alerts players in the immediate area when some one uses the lift. That can impact game play significantly, especially if some one is camping the lift's landing as they now have a warning when a player is approaching.