[Guidelines] Mapping Ground Rules

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Resources' started by TyeZenneth, Jul 27, 2015.

  1. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    If you're a novice mapper (like myself) you probably feel kind of awkward sitting there struggling with your maps. Well, struggle no more. Here are some basic, loose, formulaic-as-all-get-out rules to put you on the right(?) track towards making a decent, albeit slightly uninspired, map.

    Please keep in mind that these are by no means the 'laws' or 'commandments' of TF2 mapping. These are just generalized ideas to help with the early stages of the map-making process. If you feel like you don't need or want to follow them, don't. Experimentation is the first step towards enlightenment.

    If you feel the need to contradict any of these guidelines, or if you have more ideas to contribute, please, feel free to drop me a line.

    Spawn Rooms
    Since players will be seeing them so often, spawn rooms are one of the most important parts of your map to get right ,and also one of the easiest to get wrong. Thankfully though, the ideas behind them are kind of obvious, such as:
    • exits. Most spawn rooms should have multiple exits, to prevent camping. Smaller spawn rooms should have at least two exits, although three is not uncommon. The exceptions to this rule are arena spawn rooms, for obvious reasons, as well as most forward spawns, for reasons I have yet to determine. These spawn rooms tend to only have one exit.
    • room size. This may seem kind of obvious, but if your spawn rooms are even a little bit over-sized your players will start feeling it very quickly. Spawn rooms are the most-oft visited rooms of your map, so it'd be best not to make people dislike them.

    The Roads
    Layouts in a game with as many different game modes and map types as TF2 can be difficult, but there are a few basic ideas that most follow. Foremost among these is the idea of the three routes, three separate but closely related paths which, to avoid accusations of plagiarism[1], I will call:
    • The High Road - the high road is eponymously, the highest part of a map. This is the balconies where snipers like to hide out at, or the rooves from which soldiers and demomen will lay death upon the lower classes. The high road is oftentimes more powerful than the other two, and as such is usually the longest and most out-of-the-way.
    • The Side Road - the side road is the flanking route of most maps. This is where scouts, spies, and pyros like to hang out, and also where engineers like to set up. This is usually away from the main action , but not by much: usually a mere trench or room away.
    • The Main Road - and now we get to the meat and potatoes of a map. This is the main route, the big honking obvious conflict zone that most members of both teams will funnel through. This is the area within which capture points lie, payloads trundle along, and battles are fought and won.

    It's important to keep in mind the play-styles and interactions of the classes when designing the different areas of your map, but we'll discuss that more later. For now, let's focus on general layout.
    Map Design
    TF2's different game modes lends itself to different world spaces, and this is no more obvious than in the overall structure of a map. A KotH map is different than a PLR map is different than a CTF map, and in more ways than just the logic entities they house. This is especially obvious when you look at maps that were designed for one game mode but were then ported to another. *cough* Harvest. *cough* The general design for each game mode is as follows:
    • 5CP - 5CP games are sort of like tug-of-war, but with more guns. With that in mind, 5CP maps are almost always symmetrical, and are made up of five major areas, one for each capture point. Starting spawns are usually behind the last point, and once the middle point has been capped, forward spawns will open up for the winning team. These sorts of maps can get rather long, so to avoid reaching the limits of the Hammer editor (and the limits of your boredom) the maps tend to twist and turn around.
    • A/D CP - A/D CP is an asymmetric game mode, and as such, maps made for it are inherently asymmetrical. One team must defend, and the other, attack. Most A/D maps have only two or three points, as any more can make solely attacking or defending tiring.
    • 3CP - 3CP is like 5CP but smaller. Considering I've only seen a handful of them in all my years of playing TF2, that's about all I can say on the matter.
    • CTF - CTF is the odd duck of TF2 game modes. Official CTF maps like to put the intel, the objective of the respective teams, behind the enemy spawn, practically forcing you to spawncamp, and encouraging heavy turtling on either side. Once you have the enemy intel, you're required to hoof it all the way back to where you're defending your own intel to cap the enemy's and gain a point. Unofficial maps take some lengths to make this all better, but few of them have really caught on. If you are doing a CTF map, just keep in mind what not to do.
    • Arena - Arena is another odd gamemode. Players don't respawn, and as such, spawn rooms are almost completely non-existent in arena maps. The general layout of arena maps tends to be roughly circular, to facilitate the deathmatch-style combat seen in other games. Arena maps also tend to be incredibly small, owing to the shortness of arena matches.
    • KotH - King of the Hill is like arena, but not. Players respawn, and maps tend to be more goal-oriented, linear instead of circular, to promote head-to-head conflict on top of, well, the hill.
    • PL - Payload is a really interesting and unique aspect of TF2. Instead of focusing on static capture points, the focal point of the map is the cart, which one team must push and the other must defend against. As such, Combat needs to be facilitated at any given part along the track, and things like choke points are rarely seen except around checkpoints. The overall layout of Payload maps tends to be a spiral, to reduce space and optimize the map.
    • PLR - Payload Race is like payload but with two symmetrical payloads. Players must defend as well as attack, and so both tracks tend to be close together, even passing over one another at times.
    • SD - If CTF is the odd duck of TF2, Special Delivery is the black sheep. Nobody really likes SD, which is a shame, because the ideas behind it are solid. SD is Valve's attempt at fixing CTF: both teams must fight over a single neutral flag and bring it to a single, neutral capture zone. If one team takes possession of the flag, the other must defend against them capping it until the flag is reset, at which point the process starts all over. SD maps are split into three zones: where the flag starts, where the flag is brought, and a nice big open battlefield in between the two.
    • TC - TC is weird and I've not really played much Hydro to be able to explain it properly. Each round of TC pits the teams as owning two random points out of a selection of them, and fighting until one team controls both. The process continues until one team has all the points. I think. TC maps are really big, just look at Hydro. I would not recommend doing one.
    • RD & Mannpower - both upcoming game modes that are still in development so I won't say much. Both are attempts to fix the problems encountered in CTF and SD maps, so they both have things like flags and the like, but seeing as they've both only got a few in-development maps to their name, I can't really say I know much about how to design one.
    • Medieval Mode - don't map for medieval mode. Just don't.

    Class-based Design
    A healthy knowledge of the various classes can get you a long way, after all, this is Team Fortress 2 we're talking about. I won't go on for long about them, seeing as other people already have[2], but I will make a few general observations that might not be obvious to people who don't ever really play certain classes.

    • Scout - scouts really enjoy two things: running and jumping. With that in mind, they don't really enjoy wide-open spaces, and are perfectly happy to ambush people inside small tunnels or air-vents. Scouts are at their best when they can get in and out of conflict before the enemy even knows they're there.
    • Soldier - soldiers enjoy high ground, alot. Moreso than even demomen or engineers, you'll find soldiers perched on every unclipped roof in the game. And in the hands of a good player, their mobility is almost second to none. If someone's going to find that 1-hu-thick outcropping you left in, there's at least a 60% chance it's a soldier.
    • Pyro - pyros enjoy ambushing people and throwing them off cliffs. This might seem unfair or unbalanced, but keep in mind that the pyro is the only class who's put at an acute disadvantage by something as mundane as water in your map. Sure, Mufasa-ing someone is kind of a one-hit KO, but so is stabbing someone in the back or shooting their head clean off.
    • Demoman - demomen love slopes. Slopes allow them to be very effective in spamming at the enemy, be they downward or upward. Just be careful not to have slopes that are too step, unless you really like watching charging Scotsmen fly off into the sunset.
    • Heavy - there's not really a lot to say about heavies, in terms of game design. They're big, fat, and lumbering, and they like jumping around corners to do damage before jumping back out to heal it. I guess I can say that, more than any other class, they enjoy good cover.
    • Engineer - engineers love a good sentry nest, and if you ever want to receive glowing reviews from them, then just build the most impenetrable CTF map imaginable. But that's not fun for everyone else, and half the challenge of engineer is support and upkeep. Give them spots to build, but don't make them too powerful, too impenetrable. And watch out for the sentry-jumpers.
    • Medic - medics don't really have a preference when it comes to map design. They go where their patients need them. Just keep in mind not to let the teams get too far spread-out, as that can get frustrating for them.
    • Sniper - Snipers enjoy sight-lines. They also enjoy other snipers, perhaps even a little too much, so try not to let them get too bunched up, and if you can, try to keep both teams' snipers facing their enemies and not just the other snipers.
    • Spy - spies enjoy cool, dark places where they can sit and grow spores. Also, they love ammo. A lot. Don't ask me why an invisibility watch uses bullets for ammo. I don't know the answer to that.
    Hammer Editor
    Hammer is an incredibly complex and obtuse map-making program, if I do say so myself, so much so that I highly recommend that any beginner to the program watch at least a few hours' worth of video tutorials, of which I'll have some links below. That said, here is some basic advice I can give in regards to various elements of the Hammer editor.

    • Cordons - the cordon tool is a lifesaver, and you don't want to know how long I spent not knowing it existed. With it, you can easily and quite quickly test in-development maps or areas down the size of a single room (or smaller) as well as use it to clear up some unnecessary clutter on the editing screens when you're trying to make changes to dense areas. Learn it, use it, love it.
    • Displacments - these are polygon-based terrain brushes. The easiest advice I can give you is twofold, keep them consistent, and keep them simple. Use something like 256 or 512 hu brushes for them, keep the density at either 2 or 3 and never at 4, and only turn the faces of brushes you want to be seen into displacements.
    • Carving - never use carve. Ever. Professionals seldom use carve, and novices use it not at all. It's a lot of hassle for very little payoff, but I'll elaborate just so you know exactly why not to use it. Hammer and Source are slightly different in how they round numbers, so really small brushes can exist in the editor and not in-game, and vice versa. Carving has a nasty habit of making such brushes, which, if they're invisible in the editor, are incredibly hard to get rid of. SO DON'T CARVE, YOU NINNY.

    Footnotes


    Anyway, that's it for now, but please, stay tuned, as I'm sure I'll have more really obvious stuff to mention in the near future.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  2. MikeHasPie

    MikeHasPie L1: Registered

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  3. Nioxed

    Nioxed L2: Junior Member

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    Yes, good!
     
  4. Anreol

    Anreol L6: Sharp Member

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    You missed Robot Destruction
     
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  5. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

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    It's good to have a summary that's easily digestable for newbies. I think a lot of the best tutorials and discussions we have here are aimed at experienced mappers, and delve into researching why these things are how they are, and talk about why Valve made the choices they did in maps. That can be overwhelming for a new mapper.

    I think to make this summary perfect, you can add a "for further reading" section and link to some other discussions on the site. For example: http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=10518 -- this would fit in nicely with your portion about routes and goes into a deeper discussion which a newbie wouldn't necessarily need to learn.
     
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  6. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    Yeah, I've heard the three route things a few times before and I'm pretty sure it started with grazr's guides. I'm definitely going to link to quite a few more advanced materials, including stuff like the thread on class experiences and what people like in their maps when they play as the various classes.
     
  7. Crash

    aa Crash func_nerd

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    Thanks for this, it's going to help me get organized for my next chapter of map tutorials.
     
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  8. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    Slightly updated because I couldn't stand a simple spelling mistake. Added everything everyone wanted so far and I'll probably write up something about classes some time later tonight.
     
  9. LeNitrous

    LeNitrous L2: Junior Member

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    Any coverage for domination CP? Like Snakewater.
    [Edit]
    Sorry, didn't check 3CP.
     
  10. Zed

    aa Zed Certified Most Crunk™

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    You mean Standin?

    Also, a tip for BLU spawns in asymmetrical gamemodes: make them interesting. BLU is stuck waiting in there for the duration of setup time, so make it interesting. Make them fun to run around! Give them some stuff to jump around on, give them ways to view what's being set up outside, and most of all, try to make them visually appealing. Players don't like feeling bored waiting for the round to start. Give them a way to waste time. The official Payload maps are good examples of this.
     
  11. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    pssssh everyone should be doing TC maps.
     
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  12. iiboharz

    aa iiboharz Meme Queen

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    If my 72hr map doesn't turn out great I sure will do one.
     
  13. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Please add colour coding of health and ammo pickups.

    Every pickup should have a patch overlay under it. Red for ammo, White for health. Please don't use a single patch for two pickups, and please don't use a single colour for each.
    This convention has been going in Valve maps for years and we should be following it too because it's easy as heck to do and tells you exactly what kind of pickup will be respawning before you have to wait for it.
     
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  14. Tumbolisu

    aa Tumbolisu  I ⌄ I 

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    I was under the impression that red is ammo, blue is health, and white is either both at once or just health. So it's kinda fucked up.
    Lemme check out some maps. Note: I'm looking at decompiles, so maybe they are outdated.
    Coldfront - Red patches on red side, blue patches on blu side. Snowy woodplanks on mid.
    Mountainlab - It's all red patches. Nothing else but that.
    Standin - No patches at all. Yet it's mostly marked with props.
    Well - Red patches on both sides. No markings at mid.
    Hightower - Red patches on red side, blu patches on blu side. Partaily red patches on mid, otherwise no marking.
    Harvest - It's all red patches except for a single blue colored one on blu side.
    Doomsday Event - This one's interesting! All health is marked white. Ammo is color coded depending on base color. One ammo pack on mid is using a red patch.

    So as we can see, what used to be a "whatever" thing is becoming something that people for some reason care about? I don't know.
     
  15. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Shall I go cherry pick some maps that all support my side of the argument? Yes, I'll go do that.

    Maps added in reverse chronological order:
    • Powerhouse - single red for both
    • Snowplow - red for ammo, white for health
    • Borneo - single red for both (sometimes omitted)
    • Suijin* - red for ammo, blue for health
    • Cactus Canyon - red for ammo, white for health
    • Asteroid - single white for both (but most have nothing)
    • Snakewater - single team coloured
    • Manhattan - blue for ammo, white for health
    • Rottenburg - red for ammo, white for health
    • Process - single team coloured
    • Standin - single team coloured
    • Bigrock - red for ammo, white for health
    • Coaltown - red for ammo, white for health
    • Decoy - red for ammo, white for health
    • Mannworks - red for ammo, white for health
    • Kong King - individual white patches for each
    • Doomsday - team coloured for ammo, white for health
    • Foundry - individual white patches for each
    • Gullywash - single team coloured
    • BarnBlitz - red for ammo, white for health

    11 of the 20 most recent maps follow the colour-ammo, white-health convention.
    6 of the maps that don't were made by community members.

    Either we recognise this trend and continue it, or we stubbornly decide to ignore it and continue with messy patches and unnecessary confusion

    *Of all of those, Suijin is the only that uses blue for health when colour coding (If you're going to update suijin Frejya... would be cool of you to change your blue ones)
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  16. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

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    Should note that while Snowplow does follow this convention, I am not associating myself with that convention, I am neutral on the stance of patches/colour/etc. We only used patches like that on snowplow because YM annoyingly (sorry) insisted on doing so.

    Infact, I think that it's such a ridiculous argument, I made purple patches. #purplepatchmasterace
     
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  17. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    I personally would have preferred red for health, blue for ammo, and white for both, seeing as white is the addition of all colours and red and ammo are both health and blue, respectively.

    EDIT: I added footnotes and a section on designing with classes in mind.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  18. Turbo Lover

    aa Turbo Lover Fight me under Glasgow Central Station

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  19. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    Oh, you're quite right!
     
  20. Turbo Lover

    aa Turbo Lover Fight me under Glasgow Central Station

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    I take issue with this guideline.