Generally Unsatisfied with my Results

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Lockhart, Mar 23, 2010.

  1. Lockhart

    Lockhart L2: Junior Member

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    I've been mapping quite a while now and I recently just got back into it to try out another idea I had. And there are many things I like about mapping and I really don't want to stop, but I can't help but be bothered that every time I work on a map for a long period of time I find something so basically wrong with the map that I have to either rework the entire map and do major editing, or start over.

    I'll give a brief overview of my maps up to know I suppose and try to explain my dissatisfaction with the methods I use and how they really put me at a stand-still.

    pl_dive (my first map)
    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=9470
    Problems that made it impossible:
    -My scale was huge, I would have had to reduce the size of every brush
    -Most of my brushes extended through multiple rooms and were largely simplistic making texturing difficult and painstaking
    -I tried too many ideas out in one map and I was in way over my head

    koth_pier
    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=10656
    Problems that made it unfavorable to continue:
    -Again, overly simplistic brushes
    -Layout was very ... square
    -Incorporating water to a major extent, which I hadn't tried yet

    koth_waterdome
    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=12349
    I'm currently working on this map, but maybe not much longer after tonight...
    The same problems:
    -The basic layout is wonderful I think, but the rooms themselves are very square
    -Large, basic brushes that have made texturing near impossible without major revision

    Overall I feel like I've made little progress in terms of using hammer to its full potential, and I'm very frustrated to have very good ideas for maps and not be able to utilize the tools in hammer effectively enough to produce them in ... manageable periods of time.

    TL;DR / Concluding Questions
    Is there a secret to making maps that will be successful later in the building process that I'm missing?

    Should I be building my map in full detail outwards instead of focusing on layout first?

    I'm not asking whether there is a "best" way to use hammer, but I keep running into these impassable barriers when I can still fully visualize what I'd like my map to look like.
     
  2. Icarus

    aa Icarus

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    Looks like you need some time alone with the ol' Pencil on Paper.

    Pre-planning is crucial, and I don't mean as just a means to collect your thoughts. You need to actually take a long hard look; Everything should be deliberate and meaningful.

    Don't even touch hammer until you are absolutely certain what you want it to look like.

    P.S. All rooms look boring until you detail them. Don't beat yourself up trying to make it look interesting on your first drafts.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  3. grazr

    aa grazr Old Man Mutant Ninja Turtle

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    Well, it takes time to release a map. Months of work, and many play tests. Most peoples first maps will be pretty horrid.

    If scale is a problem use familiar props as reference. Such as placing player models around your map. Also, use the sentry model and set its fade distance to 1100 (this displays its sight range). occasionally i have taken the 2fort bridge to judge nomans land scales. Also be sure to plan on paper first, work to a methodical scale (i use 128) when blocking out, keep structures simple allows you to make changes a lot more easily later down the road.

    In open areas, scales can vary (on official maps) between 1,000 hammer units to 3,000. Just to give you a starting point. It always helps to reference the sdk_prefix_mapname.vmf* provided by valve in your sdk_content folder (tf/maps).

    You'll want to test scales and gameplay mechanics in your first several alpha releases and then move onto detail in your beta's when your map is confirmed enjoyable. Sticking to dev textures and basic structures/shapes helps to reduce wasting time when revising areas as a lot of work can get deleted in this process.

    Maps generally start looking awesome when you start to apply lighting and HDR settings, figuring out an light_environment angle that compliments your scenario, making sure it gets enough sunlight etc. When you start making out of bound detail areas and eventually your 3dskybox.

    I imagine that it would take up to 3 months to produce a nice koth map into it's beta detail pass, maybe 6 months for a payload as there are more gameplay variables and generally larger in size. Give or take life commitments and motivation/inspiration.

    Hopefully that helps somewhat. It's a time consuming process and a lot of effort involved so there will be highs and lows.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  4. Vincent

    aa Vincent 🔨 Grandmaster Lizard Wizard Jedi 🔨

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    That was nicely said.

    I always plan on paper, even if I don't follow through with the map idea I'm always jotting something down. Planning really really helps as the top two posters have said.

    And a nice clean map is a lot easier to work with then something congested with 'detail'. It won't look pretty till well after your alpha phase.
     
  5. Lockhart

    Lockhart L2: Junior Member

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    Is it generally more favorable to start over a map if there are a large number of issues and it becomes messy, or to spend time painstakingly correcting all of the issues you've created?
     
  6. grazr

    aa grazr Old Man Mutant Ninja Turtle

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    Usually if you're new, it's worth starting over.

    Since you're learning pretty fast, it gives you the oppotunity to apply what you have learnt from your last experience, sooner rather than later.

    But it depends what you want from your map, and what sort of state it's in. Some people prefer to truck through it with at least a working release before moving on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  7. megawac

    megawac L4: Comfortable Member

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    Depends if you still think your map layout will work and you think you could fix your mistakes in reasonable time or if you think the result would be better if you simply started over. As grazr said its your choice really.
     
  8. Trotim

    aa Trotim

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    Yep, I also think that the potential is definitely there, you just need to learn to start over (even big parts or even the whole map!) and plan more out beforehand. Making a general layout only using dev-textures (or at least very simple textures and only crucial props) as an a1 is probably something you should consider.

    That said, the a3 of waterdome already looks too sophisticated if you ask me. That early in the process you should probably still be tinkering with basic layout iterations, not detailing like this... arched dome you have. Sure, it doesn't look bad, but as far as I can see it has absolutely no bearing on the gameplay.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  9. x6herbius

    aa x6herbius

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    I'd recommend starting over most of the time. A lot of my initial maps got redone/scrapped (I got up to V7 on one and still wasn't happy), but if you have a good idea and can't quite accomplish it yet, save it for when you're better at mapping. Make some other stuff to try out new meatures/techniques, then when you're happy with them use what you've learned to make a completely revised and updated version of your previous great map idea. You should find that it comes out a whole lot better than before.
     
  10. Terr

    aa Terr Cranky Coder

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    When I read the title I expected the first line to be something like: "Until I found v14gr4 for only $X.99 at onlinepharmacyspam.com" ;)

    Constantly re-writing things is a problem I continue to struggle with, but I think the #1 bang-for-buck suggestion I can give is to deliberately plan so that you can iterate, and design in many small cycles. It's hard, because sometimes the mechanic/area/aesthetic/story etc. which actually excites you is a small part of the picture and you just want to work on that ASAP.

    By sticking to small easy cycles, you can catch problems more quickly and before you've done extra work which you'd need to discard or spend extra-time altering.
     
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  11. xzzy

    aa xzzy

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    I keep my motivation up with frequent releases. Get the map playable as soon as possible, using placeholder textures. Testers seem to be a lot more receptive if they aren't seeing dev textures all over the place.

    Despite what you read here on tf2maps, don't sweat making it a work of art, just get your concept blocked out. Get your friends playing it as soon as possible. Listen to the chatter about the map, make a mental note of every single complaint you hear. Once the test is over, start making changes based on what you heard. Since the map is still early alpha, dramatic layout changes should be easy. Repeat this schedule until you start hearing more compliments than complaints.

    It's my belief that there's no such thing as a bad concept, just bad implementation. The more playtesting you can log the faster your map will converge on something fun. Only once you've found fun should you start detailing the map.

    Months of detailing just to release a gorgeous alpha that everyone hates is the fast way to burn out.
     
  12. Lockhart

    Lockhart L2: Junior Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback. I ended up doing some major editing in one long session that cleared up a lot of the issues and I'm glad I didn't start over.

    It's funny you should say that, when I showed my newest version I got slammed by multiple individuals for having very little detailing and I basically responded saying: when the map is fun without details; then I'll start detailing...

    And yes... the thread title is a bit humorous out of context :rolleyes:
     
  13. Knight-Errant

    Knight-Errant L3: Member

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    Slammed by tf2maps.net people, or people who aren't part of this mapping community?
     
  14. Lockhart

    Lockhart L2: Junior Member

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    Slammed is an overstatement sorry, but yes they were tf2maps.net people... just giving lots of reasons why I should hold off on any releases without detailing.
     
  15. Knight-Errant

    Knight-Errant L3: Member

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    Try not to take it personally, for every one great map out there, there are dozens that make people rage over. TF2 maps are heavily relied upon layout, so its fine to add details, but be sure to only do more to areas that keen on their initial layout.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010