How to come up with a decent layout?

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Lord Ned, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. Lord Ned

    Lord Ned L7: Fancy Member

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    I've tried drawing my map out in advance on paper, a top down. This usually results in failure. (Horrible scale, Sightlines, boring play, etc)

    I've tried letting Hammer let my map flow and make a layout. That ended in disaster. (Horrible gameplay, boring gameplay, etc)

    So how the hell do I make a decent layout that doesn't suck? Is there any tips or tricks to it?


    Anything? D:
     
  2. BrokenTripod

    BrokenTripod L5: Dapper Member

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    Oh, it's Matt.

    I've already told you multiple times how I do it, and that's basically the same thing Tom does to make his maps, so I've really got no additional advice for you.

    You can try the random boxes again, since that seemed to work. I think you can probably use that stuff you made for your rctf map, since the problem with that map was 100% the gametype, I think. (Though I never played it)
     
  3. Garner

    Garner L4: Comfortable Member

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    Elaborate :D


    Anyway, all i do is think of something iv seen that looks decent and build my idea around that, but most of my ideas are random. I once co-made a map for css, which changed significantly in each alpha test release between a few friends. Its pretty much trial and error really, i tend to look at what other people have done to gain influence in terms of design (no stealing obviously) or look at other games like UT, Quake ect to gain ideas.

    I draw influence from many places, irl and online.
    The worst thing is to over-think about your layout cause you'll get a mind block :/
     
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  4. UKCS-Alias

    aa UKCS-Alias Mann vs Machine... or... Mapper vs Meta?

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    Try to look at other maps and see how they made their areas. Pick your most favorite area and try to remake such area from scratch in your own way (dont copy the layout of the map). If you do it well you will end up with an area that plays diffirent but often gives some fun gameplay.

    Some factors that often couse fun gameplay:
    - Hills, slopes, anything that gives some vertical battles, if you look at all maps that reached valve status you notice that many times the height varies at least 512 units.
    - Tight routes, avoid them. they often couse advantages for the spam classes and slow down gameplay. For later stages in multistage maps these often are fine because of that reason.
    - Not alot of bends in the map overal, straight gameplay often is better. Still, make sure that the maximum lenght to attack is somewhat the max sniping length. If the map is too long without bends those will become too strong. Often cover already couses this to be stopped though.
    - Cover, this is very important for all classes. If your map lacks some props for cover people often get anoyed because of that. Even a window already gives some cover and that could do enough. Dont overdo it because then youll end up with narrow routes again.
    - Class aimed areas. This is something you never should do unless you know what you are doing and that class had a major downside in your map. Ofcourse, you can do it for the scout or soldier from the start as those are some basic classes but any other class is often bad.
    - Start with a CTF or arena/koth map and use some of the factors mentioned above and make your map based on that. keep it too simple block maps in the dev look to get more comments on the map gameplay (textured maps often dont get alot of comments as many people dont like to turn down complete areas in good looking maps). Comments are your best friend in improving a map. ITs all about trial and error.
    - Walk arround in your own map and check what areas do have some anoying parts. Allways fix those unless it was by design. And if it was by design be sure that its NEVER the main route for them. A few examples of an anoying part being used:
    > in steel, at E when coming from the 2nd red spawn: You can walk on a pipe below E in case you want to take a shortcut to C from an other side, but as its narrow you cant focus on the battle for a short moment giving a downside. And anyone camping below there can take you out in 1 hit. Same if you want to place a sentry at that low platform. getting away from that platform forces you to ignore the battle or youll fall down.
    > in dustbowl stage 2. at the left there is a route where you have to climb your way up. Even though you can focus on the battle you are still quite easy to be taken out.

    Never start with saying what gametype its going to be unless you already made a part and walk arround in your map often to know how it plays. Youll also find out scaling problems fast.
     
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  5. Waif

    Waif L7: Fancy Member

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    Play your favourite maps, think about their best and most fun areas, then think what could be done to improve them and design a map that implements these ideas.
    Don't always scrap a map just because something is wrong with it, continue building up upon your design fixing the flaws- think of an artist painting a portrait, they start off with a messy rough peice of crap but then refine it into something wonderful:p
     
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  6. BrokenTripod

    BrokenTripod L5: Dapper Member

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    YES, Mashpotatoe understands how the design process works.

    Matt: Don't just give up when something shows the slightest chance of not working. I think this is why your maps always fail. You don't give it time and refinement.

    Anyway, for the general public/Garner, here's how I personally do/did it for my maps:

    Design something from the top down, use basic shapes and figure out how to make it so a single sentry can't cover all the openings using either cover or walls. After this, start mapping. Ignore the pencil drawing, except for the most basic structure. If a path doesn't work, put it somewhere else and drag your room into another place. Don't be afraid of 45 degree hallways!

    After testing, find out what everyone liked and what they hated. What happened to me is, I had 1 playtest, people liked the first point and hated the second. They told me WHY they didn't like the second one (Lots of open space, followed by 2 really narrow spaces that were easily defendable by a single sentry, and 3 sentries appeared lolol)

    So I scrapped the second point and looked at the area surrounding it. Then I scrapped the narrow paths leading to the point. At this point, I scrapped everything BUT the first point. Taking people's advice, I've made 2 stages of an A/D CTF map so far, and I'm hoping for the best. Sometimes you really need some people who are GOOD at telling you what to do and a rough start so you can get some momentum going!

    Yeah, so I made a few more sketches throughout this process and the capture points and the general locations of the rooms are the only similar things. The pathways are completely different. Pathways can be changed quite easily, so as long as you don't restrict yourself by saying: Oh, this prop HAS to be here because it HAS to.

    Generally, nothing in your map HAS to be somewhere. I've found a lot of times that the paths were too long, and if you look hard enough, it's easy to find spots that don't need to be as long as you want. Same goes for making pathways wider. There's almost always room to move! Don't be afraid to completely rearrange/demolish an area, too!

    Yeah, I'm done.
     
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  7. eerieone

    aa eerieone

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    Try to imagine the gameflow, make up in your head where you would want the battle to happen and lay out the buildings according to that.
    it´s hard to say "do this" than "do that", its about understanding how tf2 works

    most important about that is knowing how every class plays, which means that you should be a halfway decent player with all classes. being a pro-sniper will result in having to long sightlines, being an engi will give you too strong sentrypositions... unless you are aware of that and use it to implement weaknesses these classes have to fight with

    when i´ve build a new part in my map i run around with every class, test out several angles and check if they are not too strong, pathways not too spammy, sniperlanes not too long
    choose slow classes and try to run to the imaginary battlelines, if you need too long to get there, your map will unbalance easily

    my rule of thumb is to give every class something to do. once you achieved that, you can further adjust the map/gameflow, because nobody likes to run into a sentryhell

    oh, almost forgot, let´s say you do an A/D Dustbowl-ish map, you need to give Blu a Safehaven where they can build ubers etc.
     
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  8. Fraz

    aa Fraz Blu Hatte, Greyscale Backdrop.

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    Everybody is all like oh yes, think of the gameplay, make things similar to other maps, but improve on them. To me this is utter crap...

    If you try to combat something some other map does, you may end up losing potential to refine the gameplay on your map. This seems to come out in ctf maps and tc maps. Yes, hydro has flaws of being stalemate-y but how the hell do you know your layout will? If I made a tc map, it would be mine, and it wouldnt be some lame excuse to fix what hydro did, I'd make it my own, unique map. Don't try to combat something that isn't a problem in your map. Gameplay will improve the more you go through the process of alpha.

    All this however, means nothing because your problem seems to be in the actual design of the map, no problems in specific. What I generally do is put on some tunes that I enjoy (I have a playlist for all my favourite mapping songs) This generally keeps a flow of work going. I never use paper, to draw or anything, I find it confines me too much. Start off with a building, a concept. What do you want in your map? A certain landmark, a building. It's what I do, now you're thinking "oh you've never finished a map, blarg blarg" No, but I'm getting better at the whole developing stage, and hoping to get armagosa's new release as a 5cp map instead of a dustbowl cp. Now, I've spent the past two or 3 days working on the last point alone, and what have I done? Not alot. I've compiled every 5 or 6 changes, making sure it can be as good as an alpha should.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It's not alot, but I'm happy with it. Don't feel pressured to continue to work work work work work. Take a break for a day or two, come back to it, and see if you have an epiphany. Remember, mapping is a hobby, don't get frustrated, annoyed, and pissed off. Yeah, you'll come to problems, but it's not something you should lose sleep over. Have fun, that's all that matters.

    I get my ideas when I am not in hammer, I get them at school, in bed, in my dreams, going to the toilet. It's that break, that I seem to figure out what I wanna do. I'm not saying this happens to everybody, but it's a start. If you ever need advice, on a building, a room, lighting, an idea, I'm always ready to help. It seems I've become zpqrei's "bounce off ideas" guy :p I'm happy to talk to you, or anybody, as long as they are willing to take some honest feedback, harsh or not.

    Summary
    • Don't try to think ahead to affect gameplay, who knows how your map will play, until you actually test it.
    • Don't try to combat flaws in other maps, that might not even occur in your map.
    • Don't remake areas and try to improve them, I'm sure the authors of the maps have had feedback as well.
    • Listen to music you enjoy, to get a flow going.
    • Map an area, a building a landmark.
    • Compile frequently and run around. Helps with scale, something I seem to have had trouble with in the past.
    • Mapping is a hobby, don't lose sleep over it, have fun, get creative.
    • Take breaks, it's these breaks when I realise what I need to do.
    • Talk to people, build a rapport with somebody who is reliable to look at screenshots, or run around a bsp for you, and give their honest opinion.
    • Be able to take feedback, it generally helps.

    I just realised this wall of text, but, well, it's my ideas on the subject.
     
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  9. Lord Ned

    Lord Ned L7: Fancy Member

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    Nice idea but it still ends up a duplicate of the layout and then everyone's like "Zomfg copied" :(

    Thanks!

    That seems kinda backwards. Wouldn't you want to know what gamemode it's gonna be (CP/CTF/Koth/etc) before you design the layout?

    See above at the 'copy the layout on accident' part :/

    And the fixing the flaws... There's so many flaws there's no point to start from in fixing it to isolate the issue... unless everyone wants to tend to 300 alpha's just to get a basic layout. And that's for every map I start :U.

    No one ever gives me proper feedback. I've always gotten "This sucks" and "Blah" and "Unfun to play".



    Thanks to everyone else who posted. I'll post my latest layouts when I get home in a bit.
     
  10. Terr

    aa Terr Cranky Coder

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    I'd like to propose one:

    Until you hit Beta and stop laying out the major bits, check and re-check the scaling of your map, and never do it as a Scout. A lot of first-time maps seem to be created with 5-story-high buildings and football-field-sized areas for ten-foot-giants.

    I think part of it is that the "feel" for map size in hammer is very different from the feel when you're actually playing, and the other part is a lot of walking through is done as the Scout for time reasons, but this makes everything feel smaller than it is because you move faster.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2009
  11. Lord Ned

    Lord Ned L7: Fancy Member

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    [​IMG]
    (Bad)

    [​IMG]
    (Played like crap, couldn't get any feedback except "What not to do with Reverse CTF" "Crap" "Let's change maps" etc)

    [​IMG]
    A couple people like it... It's layout is so simple compared to every other map i hate it.

    [​IMG]
    Something I like... No gameplay value what soever.

    [​IMG]
    Some detail area thingy I stole from Chrono. No gameplay value whatsoever.
     
  12. potatocubed

    potatocubed L1: Registered

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    Another part of it is that the scale for TF2 is a giant mess anyway. Rooms on Valve maps are often twice (or more) the height of the people in them, which leads to giant buildings if viewed from the outside. An oil drum is almost as tall as a man. A tractor tire is taller. (Imagine the size of a tractor with heavy-size wheels.)

    On the helpful hints front, since my last map was universally derided as way too huge for my next one I've limited myself to a playable area no bigger than that used by Valve maps in the same game type (koth - which is a playable area of about 3000 x 4000 Hammer units). Perhaps that might be a good start?
     
  13. n30n

    n30n L4: Comfortable Member

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    What i learned hard way is that people absolutely hate snipers. Getting killed without their fault( or so they think) is very frustrating. So cover. A lot of cover. And no big open areas. First think what i did before making my map, was to go to valve maps and measure how much time it takes to get to each point. 10-15 seconds for cp maps for scout. Scales accordingly with classes.
     
  14. Sgt Frag

    Sgt Frag L14: Epic Member

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    I tend to try all classes here and there when laying out a map. And I cross reference times to Valve maps.
    scout time intel>intel. Maybe I don't stick exactly to that, but it's a good starting factor.

    Also look at Valve maps for area sizes. Not the entire map but segemnets. Like dustbowl, each cap point is somewhere between 1900 and 2500 units apart (approx). So any further than that can seem like a pretty long run.
    Also, their pathways in DB tend to be 128-320 (approx) units wide. (that includes the raised stair area that attackers use right before the corner to last point.) Any wider starts to be too open. Tighter paths are used in some spots like tunnel below 3rd, but not too tight, a pyro can still lock that down good but players can pass each other too.

    Site lines of 1024 are pretty good for a sniper. 2048 is getting a bit too long.

    I like to run around with a sentry toolbox out too. It lets you see where a sentry can aim/hit and where players could stand out of range and shoot at it.

    I like to have a general layout in mind, sometimes sketch ideas on paper but not stick too close to them. Then start layout out a few paths with blocks.
    put some rises in along the paths, whatever.Get basic sitelines down, then maybe add some raised platforms where it would be good for a team to have a hieght advantage for attcking or defending.

    Like your pics show, players tend to like simpler layouts, easier to learn, easier to remember, hard to get lost. Running circles isn't fun.
     
  15. Lord Ned

    Lord Ned L7: Fancy Member

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    Hmmn good ideas. I probably won't have time to try any of it tonight but my Chemistry teacher keeps changing what homework we have to do. :O
     
  16. Altaco

    Altaco L7: Fancy Member

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    What I do is draw out a VERY rough layout - basic flow of the map, major areas, some of the paths.

    I build that in hammer, putting extra things in where they're needed - sidepaths, vertical differences, etc. Often I'll make a perspective/isometric sketch of some significant building to get an idea for the visual look of the map.

    For scale, I just use props_farm/doorframe001a.mdl for doorways and props_2fort/window004.mdl or 004b for windows. This allows me to map fairly freely while maintaining at least a decent scale.

    I can't give you advice on sightlines, because I still have a major problem with them :p
     
  17. StoneFrog

    StoneFrog L6: Sharp Member

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    My biggest problem is tarnsferring my ideas from my head onto paper. :facepalm:

    You see, lots of people are all, "ololololol think of da layout GAMEPLAAAAAAAAY!11oneone!!1", but to me, that's not enough. Gameplay does not solely define a map - iconic features, unique placement of "firefight" areas, and visuals also make a map.

    If you just draw a layout then slap an environment on it, you get cp_broma. I hate that map. It's fun but uninspired and nothing distinguishes it in the least from any other map. Me, I don't feel the map's environment should cater to the gameplay, I think they should go hand-in-hand. There's no point in adding elevated platforms and then trying to come up with a good visual excuse as to what they are, when in reality they're just for the gameplay.

    I envision beautiful fully-detailed environments, with their own unique features such as pinnacles and winding tunnels, and then I think to myself, "how can I come up with some unique gameplay to cater to this layout?"

    Now, that's my problem. I don't start randomly drawing on paper, I need to have an amazing idea in my head first. This is usually a still, fully-detailed image of one area of the map. These images come to me in my sleep, in school, whenever. I get enthusiastic and start mapping it, and then I stop.

    Why? Because it's just one area. On its own it may look great and play very well, bu tI have no idea how to supplement it with other areas. Those of you who know me better know my specific example of constantly asking what would go well with a watermill in a map, what would be a good spytech weapon to be powered by a watermill, etc.

    I have the ideal image of the watermill and its layout painted in my head. But that's just it. I have ideas for the watermill, but I have no idea what to do with the rest of my map. I have images in my head of exactly how I want the watermill to turn out, but nothing beyond that. If I try to force myself to add on the additional areas, it comes out uninspired and inconsistent.

    What on Earth could I do, then? To me, consistency is key, and I'd rather not be tossing around random ideas, desperately hoping the map comes together. I can make tons of constructive suggestions to others' maps, and I can come up with themes just fine. I just can't for the life of me start a work of my own! :(

    IT MAKES ME RAAAAAAEG!
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2009
  18. MrAlBobo

    MrAlBobo L13: Stunning Member

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    yep, I pretty much have the same problem, and ive reached the point where ive pretty much stopped mapping due to being completely unable to think of a good layout
    But...at one point about a month back I was talking to someone and reached the conclusion that I am terrible at coming up with layouts, though im quite good at figuring out the problem with maps and finding ways to fix that. About an hour later something occurred to me, that the best method for me would be to make something incredibly basic, then enter the map, look around and decide what needs to be fixed.

    And when I say basic I don't mean to block it out, I mean to draw out a rough idea of where your "borders" will be mark where your spawns will enter into the battle and where your cp (screw other gametypes, I haven't thought that far :p) will be, nothing else.

    At this point compile the map, wander around in horror at this barren void you've created, and from that perspective decide how you want to change it.

    Personally I think this might work for me...not sure about other people...
     
  19. Dance

    Dance L1: Registered

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    Good layouts generally come from good architecture.

    On Flickr, there's a pool of photos of industrial decay. Check it out, it helped me.
     
  20. Terr

    aa Terr Cranky Coder

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