[GUIDE] Interest Curves and Intentionality

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Resources' started by absurdistof, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. absurdistof

    aa absurdistof

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    Hi guys, it's been a long time since I've been active here, but I've learned a lot at my college and figured I'd try and give some strategies that have helped me a lot.

    In my current semester, a lot of my project classes have been looking at game design as a science, not an art. I've picked up two strategies that I use very often, and I found very helpful for level design. Please keep in mind: I'm still learning a lot of what I talk about here. Both of these are analytic tools to look at your map with. Please take what I say with a grain of salt, and let me know if you think anything is missing.

    (Strategy #1) Intentionality
    Intentionality is incredibly important in any type of development, and can serve as a compass for creative development. The idea is to know what you want, and what your goal is. With everything that you build, you should know why you are building it. I learned this word a few weeks ago, and it describes this notion very well for me.

    When I was making maps a year ago here, I didn't have any particular direction for each maps. I had a visual style that I wanted to get to, but I didn't really know what sort of map I wanted to make. What this meant for me is that I would place things because I felt like it, and I wasn't trying to accomplish an overall goal. It made finding a direction for a map difficult, and often left me unsure of how to approach larger, even systemic, problems in my maps.

    What I suggest is that especially if you're starting out with mapping, or even if you are feeling like you don't know where to go with a map's level design, go back to what you really want to accomplish with the map, and build your layout out from there. Intentionality extends to all parts of a map, starting with the overall progression and fights or play styles you want in the map, and going to each individual section and how it supports your goal.

    The biggest thing I can emphasize here is that everything is designed. Each section of your map should serve a specific purpose, and you should know what that is.

    (Strategy #2) The Interest Curve
    The Interest Curve is a curve that follows the optimal interest of a player through an experience. This isn't a proven curve, but it exists in many forms of media (video, writing, and games). The idea is that you can use the elements of the map, and importantly the game, to create an interest curve, which will create engagement in your maps.


    The second thing about the interest curve is that it is fractal, or that it occurs within itself. For example, look at a match on Badlands.
    • There is an Interest Curve over the entire game (first spike would be the first fight and the outcome, the final spike would be the fight for the final point)
    • There is an interest curve in each fight for a point on a map (starting spike as enemy attacks or is taking the point, final spike as one team wins)
    • There is even an interest curve in attacking with a weapon, (ex: the sniper rifle: starting spike as the opponent is seen/weapon is drawn, final spike as weapon is fired)
    I didn't mention the rising interest in the previous examples, consider that it is given for them.
    Finally, the interest curve isn't perfectly controllable. It's nearly impossible to perfectly craft a player experience, and it's even more difficult when you can't predict what each player is going to do. What is in your power is the ability to craft routes and paths for players to take, places for them to fight, and places for them to retreat to.

    Creating the Interest Curve
    There are many strategies for creating an Interest Curve, but the biggest one in TF2 is probably combat. An important thing to keep in mind is that anything that builds interest in your map is part of a player's interest curve, and is part of their experience.

    The Starting Spike:
    Players shouldn't wait very long before they get to their first fight, and if it's the first of the map, it should be exciting. Structure your map so that players don't have to travel for more than 15s (I don't know an average with most maps, I may be off, but 20s is a really long time). Most A/D maps (or official payload race maps) use spawn gates for this effect. If you have spawn gates, the time to your starting spike should be even shorter.

    Rising Interest and Intermediate Spikes/Bumps:
    After the game has begun, interest should be rising throughout the match. The biggest way to achieve this is progress. As players get closer to their goals, they get more interested and engaged. Payload maps use this well, with a natural progression, as well as CP maps. CTF and KoTH have a more difficult time bringing this around, and Arena probably has the hardest time. This should be mostly taken care of for you if you're making a CTF/Koth/Arena/5CP map, as the game has many systems to build interest in it. However, with Payload and A/D maps, keep in mind that you need to pace the map so that players keep up with rising interest.

    The Final Spike:
    When a team is close to defeating the enemy team, they are ready for a big spike to finish the game. For most gametypes, build your final areas to support large fights, and consider emphasizing use of tactics like ubercharges and team pushes to capture the final area. With payload maps, this is can often make for epic moments in a match. The final area of a map (or the objective area in CTF/Arena/Koth) should get players to feel a rush whenever they complete an objective. With CTF/Arena/Koth, the spike is a little more difficult to produce. You won't have as much control over it, as the progression is not as much in your control. However, with any gametype, you should make sure that completing an objective (capturing a point, grabbing or capturing the flag, capturing the hill, pushing the payload cart to a point) is a spike in an interest curve.

    The Epilogue:
    TF2 takes care of most of the epilogue with the humiliation round. I wouldn't suggest concerning yourself with it too much, unless you notice that it's a problem in your level.

    Other Games to Look At for Interest Curves:
    • Leage of Legends/DOTA (MoBA games) - Games based off of DOTA tend to follow a well crafted intensity curve that spans over the entire match.
    • The beginning section of Mario 1-1 (One of my professors loves this example)
    • The first level of Halo

    I've tried to give an overview with this, a lot of these ideas take some time to learn, and a long time to master. A lot of these concepts are very basic, and I don't mean to say that any of you aren't already familiar with them. They are very useful tools for making your map play how you want it to play, and helping you to find and determine what's stopping it. Finally, apologies for not having many pictures and nice formatting, I wanted to get this out and I didn't feel up to spending an hour or so making images for it.

    Final tips:
    With intentionality, know why you are building everything the way you are in your map. When you test it, measure how the map plays against how you want it to play.
    With Interest Curves, look at how the map plays in a test to see how your interest curve is working.

    EDIT: It's crazy to see where everyone is! (staff, veterans, etc)
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  2. Sergis

    aa Sergis L666: ])oo]v[

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    Intentionality sounds like simply a fancy way to say "have a plan". Interest curve however is an interesting way to formalize pacing.
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  3. absurdistof

    aa absurdistof

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    It basically is, and it basically is. You're pretty much right :p
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  4. grazr

    aa grazr Old Man Mutant Ninja Turtle

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    One of the things you're taught in college/university when doing any design course is how to have a goal and utilise a brief to reach an applicable resolution.

    Pretty much all of my maps have had a purpose.

    CTF sabotage: Try to improve upon CTF mechanics so that more people like it.
    PL_BATT: Use a predefined element of a map to force myself to make layout choices i otherwise wouldn't consider. A personal exercise to free myself of always falling back to the grid.
    CP_axle: Create a cp push map that worked for public play and brought certain over looked classes back into play.
    artpass contest: Create a refreshing farm theme in a non ctf environment.
    cp_avante: another effort to utilise the farm theme in combination with an effort to port a map i felt could be ported with modifications from TFC to TF2. Nostalgia inspired like the CTF project.

    I don't think i've ever made a map for the sake of a map, except in the detail contests where gameplay was irrelavent. So i'd say "intentionality" is just another way of saying "have a goal" or a "purpose".

    As for interest curves, i feel like a lot of the time this happens inadvertantly when people design key factors like progression of difficulty through chokepoints, ammo and finalé aesthetics.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013