1. Lesson 46: Active Engagement

      written by Ray Benefield
      Did you know that we have forums? If you want to get to know some like minded level designers then jump into our forums headfirst and start getting to know people. Remember that lesson about Reputation? Go make a name for yourself. Btw, for those that were unaware I just released Affinity v3 to the public. Download, like, recommend, and spread the word folks. Hopefully we will see it pushed to the community objective and community BTB playlists. I can only hope. So this site is going to start growing a bit as I spread out some delegation and work on a visual change and a couple of new programs to increase activity. From user submitted advertisements to random contests for MS Points to a new playtesting system to benefit everyone. Keep an eye on RP as I take some time to make it explode all over your face. Figuratively of course. Anyways, enjoy today's lesson. And come back tomorrow so we can talk about this new visual change and the day after so we can talk about this new playtesting system.

      I cannot tell you how many times I have played a map where I spend half of the time walking instead of doing something. These maps are the first ones that I lose interest in and I’m sure you have played your fair share of maps that do this to you as well. There is one simple word that can describe maps like that; boring. So as designers how do we avoid this terrible feeling? We keep our players actively engaged at all times.

      Doing things

      Keeping a player engaged involves just making sure they have their mind occupied at all times. Combat is the most obvious example, but sometimes on a larger map constant combat is not really an option. Introducing path decisions to a player’s path map can keep them analyzing what is their best route, as long as it isn’t completely obvious. Incentives can help keep players analyzing how this can improve their combat prowess and where best to use it. Deterrents can keep players considering ways to mitigate the effect of the deterrent. Whatever you do, don’t just have your player walking down long narrow paths. At the very least give your players some dance floor and some cover for them to move around and at least pretend that they are doing something. Clever use of eye catchers can keep a player looking around and studying his environment instead of just staring and one slowly changing perspective. Even curved paths and corners can change up a player’s perspective enough to keep things interesting.


      Sure we want our players to be doing things, but there is such thing as offering them too many options. For example, combat can keep a player’s mind busy. However if you offer too much combat congestion it can result in chaos and repetitive monotonous actions. Repetitive monotonous actions are boring. Too many incentives can leave players just randomly picking one of the incentives instead of analyzing each because he doesn’t have the time to spend deciding. Too many deterrents can leave your player feeling helpless and just giving up entirely. Too much dance floor and cover can result in a player just walking straight through not considering the advantage of each piece of cover. Too many eye catchers can create aesthetic noise, leaving players just blindly staring through their perspective, making your eye catchers useless. And too many corners will just have your player expecting another corner and leaving them not excited to move around the next one to see what there is.

      Applying engagement

      So how do we ensure that our players aren’t going to get bored? Just walk around your map and think to yourself, if you were the player and not the designer what would you be doing at each particular point. Is there a particular bridge that is just a little too long and could use a little something to engage your player? Will there not be enough action in this area for players here to be interested and if so what can I do to add action or something to keep my players engaged? Engagement is a broad topic, but an important one that cannot be forgotten. Sure you have this great map that you are proud of, but if players are just going to keep walking in straight lines then they are not going to enjoy it. Let’s face it, walking is boring… we love action and analysis.


      Alimoha said...

      Mr. Ray,
      I have spent a solid amount of time on my map Exile. It contains many elements seen by the Halo community to be classic, including medium scale combat, it is completely symmetrical. It resides on the same side of the cliff that the Cage is built on. Its 12 to 16 players, with no sniper (yet) and Falcons and Hogs. Please take a look at my map, i would really enjoy some solid feedback. Maybe if you guys are doing map testing I would love to have my shown. Its solid with CTF!
      Thanks Alot, you will enjoy it. It also has plenty of dance floor.

      Nikatorus said...

      @Alimiha: We have a dedicated forum that can help buou in your design endeavors. I suggest joining it, and sharing in the growth and benefits.

      @Mr.Ray: I hope your loyal admins will get a heads up about what's going down with these upcoming features. Or you can surprise us. Your choice.

      Alimoha said...

      okay will do.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      @Alimoha you can wait til I announce this new playtesting system. :P

      And Nik since the changes don't really have an affect on the forum you are going to have to wait like everyone else :P.

      Alimoha said...

      Hopefully the younger forgers are also invited

      Dj7291993 said...

      Just curious, was this inspired by that map yesterday? Good lesson though. Something that can be hard to consider when you are the designer, as you are looking at the details of the map as you walk. However, it is something immediately evident to the player. In the map yesterday, about half-way through, I couldn't find action anymore, so I just started exploring. When you're in a custom, that's ok. I'm matchmaking, most people would just quit.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      It was inspired by tons of different maps. The biggest culprits are BTB and Invasion maps though because of their size.

      Alimoha said...

      Check Out My Idea
      PlayStart-Map Testing At It's Best
      First in your new website display you will have a box called "Playstart"
      In that Box there will be the following information
      11 pm Wednesday November 29, 2011-Date & Time
      BTB/Invasion - Gametypes
      Exile-11 mins left
      Boneyard-11 minutes
      Affinity-15 minutes
      -Maps, should be a list of like on itunes like a playlist
      Also make it so there is a dot that display when its open (green-10/16 players) Yellow (Closing Fast 14/16) Red (to late buddy, now get back to that physics hw)
      At the bottom of the screen there should be the now play bar
      Displaying what map your playing and awesome stats about the map,
      it would be to hard to update the score auto so i will leave that badboy out.

      I think this is a solid feature for you website and it will let players no when YOU are map testing and when THEY can map test.
      I think this would make your website better, i understand it would be quite hard to maintain while also dealing with the playtesting itsself, but your a smart guy you could handle it.
      --One more thing--Since it's been a long time can i ask how Warrant Officer Grade 3 was, I heard it was quite difficult for you!?!

      Dark Halcyon said...

      I love how all of these lessons apply to map design in Halo: Custom Edition as well as forge.

      LJ (SPFT) said...

      Excellent advanced tips. The stuff folks should be thinking about when designing and Forging.