Mapping Methodology?

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Scotland Tom, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. Scotland Tom

    Scotland Tom L6: Sharp Member

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    As some of you are aware I began working on a map a number of months back that I never finished. I learned a lot and actually impressed myself a fair bit on the overall quality of what I created.

    There was something, however, that I found frustrating and was probably one of the motivations I had for stopping work on the project. I don't think my method, my process, was particularly well structured. I lacked a final vision and I was a little scatterbrained as far as what areas I decided to work on. So, while the results were pretty good, I really couldn't keep things together to the end.

    This brings me to my point, which is actually a question for those of you more wise in the ways of map making than I. What is your process? Some of you out there have created some really phenomenal maps and while there are plenty of tutorials and resources that will help me to learn skill and technique I'm curious what steps you take to create your maps. When you first get an idea, what do you do? Do you block out your first design on paper or in Hammer? What do you focus on first? What do you focus on last? When do you decide a map is ready for beta, or for release? Overall, what is the process you go through?

    I'm hoping a little insight into this area of mapping will help me to understand or formulate a methodology that will keep me on track when mapping, and perhaps it will do the same for other would-be mappers out there.
     
  2. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    well I've done a variety of ways but I think although it was a struggle at times the way I did hoodoo worked best for me.
    I did nearing a dozen alpha versions: dev textures, blocky geometry, bare minimum props etc, each new version focused on further gameplay enhancement so within a month the gameplay was at its apex and everyone was pleased with it, then I simply dissapeared into hiding and detailed the whole lot in one mamouth chunk (well, three mamouth chunks but basicly in one chunk) then once it was completely detailed you start beta releases, more like a full month in between releases you're now tweaking game imbalances, improving performance and improving any detailing you missed.
     
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  3. luxatile

    aa luxatile deer

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    Agreed with Youme, and I'm sure lots of others do as well. It's obviously nice to have a plan first. Either way, releasing a bunch of alphas with the bare minimum of prettyness, and then adding new stuff constantly until you're confident in your gameplay, is definitely the best way to do it. It's a process that I'm in the middle of - currently I'm makig a map that'll be ready for alpha in not terribly long. I've only used developer textures (and a few others to break up monotony and make it easy to see what's what), very basic structures, simple lighting and only props that are relevant to gameplay, and I plan to keep it that way until a1 is finished...and well beyond, most likely.
     
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  4. Armadillo of Doom

    aa Armadillo of Doom Group Founder, Lover of Pie

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    Seconded. Although admittedly all I've had time for is a few alpha releases, you should always try to visualize what you hope to accomplish before opening Hammer. First thing I do before starting any map is make some sketches in my doodle notebook. Just a basic outline, notes on the mood/environment, plus a few locations for major props and landmarks. I would almost say it's akin to daydreaming. Actually doing the work is infinitely easier once you've taken the ideas in your head and made some visual references.
     
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  5. Scotland Tom

    Scotland Tom L6: Sharp Member

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    This is something I've had trouble with before. I am a huge daydreamer, but I kind of skimmed over that prep period and dove into the actual map construction on my previous mapping projects. That's good for building skills, bad for developing a vision and creating goals.

    I hadn't thought about it, but your point about major props and landmarks is a fantastic one. It's an excellent idea to have something of a symbol that people can associate with your map - a building, a geological formation, something unique that's easy to remember. It's kind of like having a mascot for your map.
     
  6. Armadillo of Doom

    aa Armadillo of Doom Group Founder, Lover of Pie

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    Pretty much. You don't even need to know exactly what those items are going to be yet. Just take the layout as a whole and say 'a major building to enter and fight in goes here', or 'this capture point gets surrounded by a specific type of environment'. As you construct the major items, little details begin to fill in, and you get a better sense of the design.
     
  7. 3DRyan

    3DRyan L2: Junior Member

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    For my map, I basically picked an overall theme, such as an oil rig or castle or whatever. Then, I blocked in the map with cubes to determine gameplay, while keeping in mind that it has to make sense with the theme on top of being well mapped out. Now, I'm finalizing where everything will be in the map which makes me have to go back and change a few minor things, mostly just scenery. I've been documenting everything lately, which I think is a good way of keeping your ideas together. Nothing is worse than having a great idea, and going to work on it in a month and forgetting what it was. Once, i'm done with that, I'm going to roughly block in props, create screenshots, and work off of them to create concept paintings. Once that's done, It's onto full production.
     
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  8. Icarus

    aa Icarus

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    I like to do things the other way.

    Map out the layout first, then do the theme.

    I somewhat fear compromising the gameplay with a visual aspect that I may become too stubborn with.
     
  9. Brandished

    Brandished L5: Dapper Member

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    Found this a while ago looking for info about warpath on Google. It's from an (OLD) interview GamersEd did with Valve's Jeff Lane.

    GamersEd.com went down a good while ago, but you can still find the full interview on archive.org:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20010424051005/http://gamersed.com/article.php3?sid=20000808172351

    There's also a great interview on Game-Artist.net with Ed Byrne (Splinter Cell, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs - Fireteam Bravo and three Harry Potter titles) on mapping / level design:
    http://www.game-artist.net/forums/spotlight-articles/41-interview-ed-byrne-level-designer.html
     
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    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  10. Scotland Tom

    Scotland Tom L6: Sharp Member

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    Thanks, Brandished! The first answer you quoted (#5) contained a lot of what I was interested in. How does one get started? That bit about brainstorming with words on paper and deciding what kind of gameplay aspects to incorporate was especially helpful. I tend to focus on the overall thematic location of a map and let that dictate some of the gameplay and design. Instead of letting a theme dictate gameplay I should force myself to think about gameplay elements and incorporate them into the theme I've chosen.

    Only yesterday I experienced how helpful this kind of thinking can be to map design. I've been working on creating a map layout on grid paper and could not for the life of me figure out how I wanted to design the last point of my payload map. It wasn't until I thought of some gameplay elements from other maps I liked and designed around them that I finally came up with a concept I was happy with.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  11. Brandished

    Brandished L5: Dapper Member

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    Your welcome, I found the interview a while ago and this thread gave me an excuse to post it.

    Another article I'd like to add (that I forgot to include this in my original post), is Gamespots "Behind The Game" series.

    "Behind The Game" is (was?) a recurring series Gamespot runs where they do in-depth interviews with game dev teams regarding the development process behind the games they put out, following up with a studio over a period of days/weeks/etc. They covered both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 in their final few days before shipping among other games. Even for those not too interested in the development journals, the Half-Life 2 segment features some of Valve's map sketches and early prototype maps in the slideshow, which are worth a look even if the article doesn't interest you.

    The Final Hours of Half-Life 2
    http://www.gamespot.com/features/6112889/index.html

    The Final Hours of Half-Life
    http://www.gamespot.com/features/halflife_final/index.html

    Behind The Game Index
    http://www.gamespot.com/features/btg/index.html