Encouraging Map Design Theory Discussion

Discussion in 'Site Discussion' started by BanaFen, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. BanaFen

    BanaFen L1: Registered

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    I am very interested in documenting what makes TF2 maps good or bad. In my opinion, there is much more to say and learn about this topic than what is present on this forum.

    TF2 is a unique game with many game modes and nuanced class options. Let's do the math real quick:
    for asymmetric maps: 9 classes x 2 teams = 18 roles that each map must balance and provide meaningful options for while being mindful of unlockable weapons and unpredictable class composition (and competitive play if the author wishes to cater to it).

    There are over a dozen game modes, each with a unique layout archetype. Generic fps/multiplayer level design theory can only get you so far. There is some level design information on this forum, but it's out of the way. This was the easiest to find, yet it's not specifically for TF2. This thread has some TF2 design info, but it only mentions the absolute basics. It's as if the other side of the map-design coin just doesn't exist.

    New mappers aren't given much direction in these concepts unless they ask for it. Having a subforum dedicated to non-technical discussion and questions would help newbies considerably (and probably mapping veterans to an extent). I don't know if there's an audience as interested as myself, but any quantity of map design theory information wouldn't belong in Mapping Help or General Discussion -> TF2 Talk in my opinion.

    I know I can't make people do anything, especially if they're already busy. However, it's important for everyone to be knowledgeable about TF2 map design. Knowing Hammer is necessary, but it will not tell you how to direct player traffic/flow or make something original -- you'll still lack direction, just like all the new TF2 players who would benefit from real tutorials.

    What do you think? Would you be interested in contributing to a subforum (or alternative format) dedicated to TF2 map design? Is there a better option? Do you think this is an issue worth addressing? Thanks for your time and feedback!
     
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    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  2. Crowbar

    aa Crowbar perfektoberfest

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    You don't quite have 18 roles to balance. You don't separate routes for each class. You rather treat a team like a mass, and control where it flows and how it shapes. But a subforum is, like, an overkill to me.
     
  3. BanaFen

    BanaFen L1: Registered

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    You certainly don't (and shouldn't) need to have a route for each class, but there are maps or portions of maps where a class on one team is much stronger/weaker than the same class on the opposite team. Take Barnblitz for example. Last is in a cramped building, often with a sentry. There is no "behind enemy lines" for Blu's scouts/spies, but there is for Red's. Blu snipers can stand far from the action, shooting anyone on Red who exits the building. Red snipers are considerably close to the payload and cannot go anywhere else.

    Do you think there is an easier way to organize and encourage these sorts of discussions outside of creating a subforum, by the way?
     
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    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  4. ics

    aa ics http://ics-base.net

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    Getting started for the new people is always hard. There is information if they just want to dig it out and learn from their own mistakes too. Nobody is going to hand over every solution to a problem in a plate while some think that it is the way it should be.

    People will dig in and help out, when they have time and interest to do so. Basic forum is OK for these questions, but for example for me, there's time constraints and i can't be in several places at the same time and when i have that time, it's not always here where i spend it. Same goes to other people too.

    We all started from somewhere. Nobody was professional with their first maps (well, except maybe flower shop guy) :)
     
  5. Micnax

    aa Micnax I maek map

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    Isn't that the topic of the forum as a whole? Aside from the models/materials subforum, of course.

    I would like to see more topics on design for each gamemode though. One I can think of off the top of my head is how A/D Control Point maps work, where the attackers have an uphill struggle against the defenders that comes down to how the team plays to succeed or fail, rather than the map deciding (either through bad pickup placement, too difficult to attack/easy to defend (also the other way around), and other aspects).

    That's just an example though.
     
  6. Crowbar

    aa Crowbar perfektoberfest

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    Actually, you never see a noob asking "how do I make this area balanced" - what's questions are about is technical stuff (source is full off, too). One just published their first, not-so-well-playing map (or, in my case, do not), do bad, learn what's bad and do better. That's how it's been and applies to many more creative processes. So, you can't really guide new people to gameplay design, not as effectively as technical.
     
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  7. ibex

    aa ibex

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    A majority of the issue around encouraging and organizing better game theory discussion (and discussions in general) is the site format. TF2maps is driven mostly by the home page that shows the most recent 10 threads. If it's not a current on going discussion or one of those recent threads then it won't get much attention. This is especially easy to see as a US PST contributor, where my late night published maps or updates get little attention and are pushed off the front page relatively fast.

    When the forums originally changed over to xenforo there was talk of having the tutorial forum featured as one of the top bar sections, but was later changed to downloads for reasons I don't remember. I think there was even whispers of awarding forum medals for exceptional contributions. But alas, maybe the resources went elsewhere or the focus of the site changed.

    As for level design in TF2, that's a tricky topic because a lot of design decisions and enjoyment are subjective. And even if you understand the game play of TF2 very well it's extremely hard to implement it in concert with Hammer.

    There are a lot of threads buried deep in the website on different theories for a range of TF2 stuff, but you really have to be willing to dig through a smorgasbord of random stuff to find some good articles. As I said it's hard to keep a discussion going, but I can at least try to point you to a few articles I thought were insightful. Excuse my inability to directly link because I'm on my phone, but I'd recommend searching for some of the "Dev Process" articles (use Google to search: "tf2maps dev process"). Another that I thought was useful was "Valeria's guides to competitive mapping". I haven't actually mapped for competitive, but the ideas presented are grounded in creating a compelling environment.

    Maybe it would be worth organizing a thread were I post daily articles from the depths of the tutorial forum. Might be relevant with the steady flow of new people showing up since the jams.

    Edit: Seems that Google search query doesn't dig deep enough, try adding "ido" or "tyler" to the search to turn up their dev logs for quarry and anthem respectively.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  8. killohurtz

    aa killohurtz Distinction in Applied Carving

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    So new mappers should be forced to figure out gameplay design entirely on their own? Yes, they'll still learn that way, but what do we gain from withholding design theory from them - information that could help them learn even faster? This just feels like a gatekeeping attitude to me.

    We may not need a dedicated subforum for these topics, but there is definitely a lot to write about in the gameplay department, like layout elements that cater to specific classes, spawn advantages, and of course gamemode analyses. While all of these things could be learned by personally developing a map, or playing TF2 and thinking critically about it, it'd be silly to assume everyone learns best by doing. I can guarantee you some newbies out there would appreciate and benefit from gameplay discussion.
     
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  9. BanaFen

    BanaFen L1: Registered

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    It seems the general consensus is that a subforum is too much. Perhaps someone could create or add to an existing stickied thread in the Tutorials section regarding "places to look to learn about TF2 map design." Basically just a post listing a few methods to speed up the learning process, such as:
    • ibex mentioned searching for Dev Process articles and Valeria's guide
    • downloading maps from contests and comparing them to judges' criticisms (what I do)
    • any other helpful exercises or links?
    I'm happy to make the fundamentals more accessible to new mappers in any way I can, so hit me up if I can be of use. In the mean time, I have started working on a (breadth-first) map design guide that I plan to release in chapters so it can expand and improve with feedback. My first task is to cover how each class interacts with general environments (e.g. open, close quarters, hazards, indoors, etc). Hopefully I can work faster than Valve.

    Design information will help people regardless of their lack of questions. Lastly, the purpose of feedback is to improve existing layouts in a map. It can't direct you in making a map from scratch. There is no substitute for experience, but I see no reason to make new mappers go in blind because "that's how it's been."
     
  10. Another Bad Pun

    Server Staff Another Bad Pun bird of prey

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    I would be okay with a general sub forum for this personally - or perhaps an expansion of the tutorial subforum could work as well.
     
  11. Idolon

    aa Idolon the worst admin

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    Writing and consuming literature is an essential part of any academic (read: theoretical) field. Practicing, or the act of actually making stuff, is separated because it has to deal with all of the issues of actually making stuff work, and nothing is as cut and dry as the theoretical world.

    I've personally found that, in a small community like ours, theory isn't developed very much because almost everyone is practicing more than they are theorizing, and also most everyone's grasp on theory is fairly loose. There isn't a huge amount of writing on how the game plays probably because nobody is willing to call themselves an authority on it, and it's much easier to just talk with a colleague about a specific map's issues rather than trying to come up with some general theory about how a particular class plays (especially when TF2 is as chaotic as it is [in a pub setting moreso than competitively]).

    That isn't to say that literature on the subject isn't worth trying to provide, as it totally is valuable to learn from. However, I think that almost everything that people have found worth writing about has, well, been written about. We'd probably benefit from a subforum specifically for theory discussion, but I don't think it will generate a lot of new content so much as just organize it a bit more nicely.

    tl;dr: reading stuff can help you learn ideas but making stuff forces you to apply them which is waaaaay more valuable. we should write more stuff but it's not too surprising that there isn't a lot of stuff.



    An aside: I don't think understanding how every class works is an essential thing to understand in layout design (except maybe the sniper just because of how badly they will ruin a map if sightlines are not managed appropriately). Creating chokepoints, providing a variety of paths, creating height advantages, etc. in a map are more or less all you need to get "right" for a map to play well, and understanding how individual classes work is only going to be icing on the cake. It's something worth writing about, but I would recommend trying not to worry yourself about it when making a first map (and I wouldn't recommend writing on a subject unless you've been actively doing research on it).

    (somewhat long and confused post because I can't be bothered revising this, i'm in class right now)
     
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  12. hutty

    aa hutty

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    And then there is the realm of opinion and game-play factions. I have noticed a major dissconect in what maps are considered good by different parts of the community.

    People who play competitive 6s will declare maps like 2fort, turbine, and hightower, to be bad maps. Yet those maps see a large amount of players queuing to play them exclusively. Meanwhile maps that are bestowed the crown of holy-grail perfect design like cp_badlands are scarcely played at lower experience levels.

    And then there are maps like pl_upward that I have yet to find a hater for.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017