Have you ever considered how long it takes a player to get to a certain weapon? What about the timing behind how long it takes to get from one objective to the other? Or maybe the amount of time it takes for both teams to reach the closest “power position?” Time and speed is a big deal in many games and as a result both play a huge role in the world of level design. Not taking it into consideration can leave your map with imbalances that you never considered before.
Time and Speed
Pacing is defined as many things. It can be the rate at which you are moving, the number of “paces” away, or even just the general momentum of the situation at hand. As stated earlier, understanding the pacing of your map can bring to light a ton of information that can help you balance your level for all players to make a fair and enjoyable experience. In team based games the easiest way to understand pacing is to look at asymmetrical maps. A designer can roughly place the rockets in the center, but the only way he can know if it is placed fairly is if he times how long it takes to get to the rockets in the center from each team’s initial spawn or from every spawn area around it. This is just one obvious instance of using pacing as a tool for level design.
The not so obvious
Equal distances for both teams for symmetrical gameplay, even in asymmetrical environments, is the most obvious way to utilize the concept of pacing. What other ways can you use pacing to in your level design? Well have you considered anything that can change the speed at which players travel throughout your map? Vehicles, powerups, and equipment are just a few examples of things that a designer needs to consider in his maps. Sure it takes 10 seconds to get to the rockets, but if a player sprints he will make it in half the time. How do you balance that against players that can’t sprint to the rockets? Typically that isn’t a problem in balance because sprint is made to give players a pacing advantage over others, but it is always something to consider. Also consider that there are some paths that are faster for those in a vehicle, while there are other paths that are faster for those on foot.
Tying it in
Pacing has a huge role when considering a player’s path map at various locations. Remember that player’s have a tendency to take the shortest route possible to where they want to go as per path manipulation, that shortest route may be different based on their current means of travel. Also keep in mind that even if there are two incentives in view to a player, even if one has a greater incentive weighting than the other a player may go for the lower weighted one first if it takes less time to get to so that he may have an improved chance of survival. Pacing can play a huge role in a player’s decision making process when traversing around a map. As a designer it is important to take in every little piece of information possible, even if the information seems a bit superficial. Each little bit of information can help you make decisions on how you want your map to be perceived and it can help you craft the experience you want. I’m not saying that you have to know the timing to every single incentive on your map from every single spawn, but I am saying that it helps to know. And knowing is half the battle. ;)