New to TF2 Mapping - Pitfalls and other things to avoid?

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Bubbles95, Feb 7, 2015.

  1. Bubbles95

    Bubbles95 L1: Registered

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    Hey everyone! I'm fairly new to TF2 mapping and your forum, although I have lurked in the past, studying various threads on the design theory of TF2 and peoples maps ( you guys got some great mappers here ) and generally just trying to take in whatever I can. I have played around a bit in Hammer with TF2 in the past, but not for very long. I've been mapping for about 6 or so years, so I do have a bit of experience with various engines ( including Source ) and other games, just not TF2 itself.

    That being said, I've also been playing TF2 since the beta. I'm not a pro, but I know my way around the maps and classes, as well as some of the do's and dont's. There is a lot of subjective appeal in what makes a map enjoyable, but I'm here to ask everyone for their thoughts on what common problems and mistakes you see people make that are are objectively unacceptable. Things like extreme sightlines, overpowered vantage points, a lack of cover ( or too much for that matter ) and all that sort of stuff. To me, TF2 is a very intimidating game to map for. You got 9 classes to think about. Will Sniper have too long of a sightline from this room? Will a Sentry shut down an entire team from this section? Will Soldiers dominate from on top of this hill? etc.

    I know play-testing is key. You gotta have people play your map and discover any unbalanced places in it for you. But I'm here to see if anyone has any useful tips or advice for balancing a map from the get go. I'd love to hear what you guys think.

    Thanks!

    Oh I forgot to mention. I'm planning on building a map in the style of Dustbowl - that is, stage based CP. I forget what this is called exactly. So tips about this gamemode specifically would be much appreciated.
     
  2. killohurtz

    aa killohurtz Distinction in Applied Carving

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    You may find this thread to be a good read while you're considering each class in your layout, and this for general things to avoid.
     
  3. Bubbles95

    Bubbles95 L1: Registered

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    Thanks! I'll give them a read.
     
  4. Doktor Richter

    Doktor Richter L3: Member

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    If I could go back in time to when I was totally new to mapping and give myself some pointers, I'd say something along these lines:

    - Don't make a flat map. A flat map with a few buildings and an underground tunnel is still a flat map, and players will get bored with it pretty quickly. Players shouldn't spend 80% of their time at the same elevation. Add ramps, high ground, and low ground. Make areas natural and interesting to play in. Even small changes to elevation, like on granary mid, can make a significant difference in keeping your map from feeling stale and artificial.

    - No map is good on its first version. You need to playtest and iterate. Be prepared to completely cut and redesign entire areas of your map. There will almost certainly be issues you do not forsee.

    - Every gameplay test on our official servers is recorded for you to download and watch. You should absolutely definitely watch these recordings, because they are, without a doubt, your best form of feedback. Players will use the site's feedback plugin to air their grievances or maybe give an opinion, but there is still a ton of useful information in the gameplay recording.
     
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  5. Zed

    aa Zed Certified Most Crunk™

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    The gamemode in Dustbowl and Egypt is 3 stage Attack and Defend, by the way.

    Don't design your map like either of those.
     
  6. RubbishyUser

    RubbishyUser L7: Fancy Member

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    This. I would also add that your first map will never be good, regardless of how many times you reiterate it or rebuild from the ground up. You might think I'm being super harsh, but the truth is that during that roller coaster ride of getting out that first alpha you will make many, many terrible decisions until your map is made exclusively made out of poor ideas. Make it, release it, scrap it when you realize that it was really poorly designed.

    On that note, I would recommend making your first map an arena or koth map. Even if you don't have any ideas for such a map, just start making it, even if you have more ideas for a different gamemode. These maps take significantly less time to reach a1 (we're talking about a third of the time for a first time mapper).

    But the number one biggest trap new people fall into? GIVING UP! Don't give up after you get nowhere with four iterations of your map and people are still complaining it's awful. Don't give up after you realise that your map is 50% too large/too small and you have to remake it completely from the ground up. Don't give up after you enter your first playtest all wide-eyed and optimistic and get crushed by the terrible feedback people leave. Don't give up after you've spent days working in your map and you're just sick of the sight of Hammer. Don't give up after your map-ruining bug that you cannot comprehend how to solve. Don't give up after you lose three hours of work when Hammer crashes or your save is corrupted. Don't give up when you first open Hammer and nothing works like the tutorial said it would. Don't give up when you see that 20-strong playlist of 30 minute tutorials made by a nasally guy with a trashy microphone.

    And definitely don't give up because some guy on the internet told you it would be hard and said your map will be shit.
     
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  7. iiboharz

    aa iiboharz Meme Queen

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    A simple tip I can give to you is to try and nail scaling on the head as quickly as you can. Bad scaling will almost always mean your map doesn't play well.

    While mapping use a player/heavy.mdl (or any class of your choosing, though I prefer the heavy) to help determine the scale of the space.
     
  8. Bubbles95

    Bubbles95 L1: Registered

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    Thanks guys, I appreciate the advice - and not to sound rude, but I think some of you missed the part where I said I've been mapping for years and know my way around Hammer, as well as having a general grasp on level design and map flow. I made this thread looking for advice specific to gameplay balance in TF2 mapping. For the most part though, it sounds like it boils down to testing and getting a different perspective on the map to help find problems you overlook.

    Why is that? I'll agree that there are some pretty bad spots in both maps, but I thoroughly enjoy them otherwise, and have had countless fun games playing them. To be fair, I've never seen either maps played from a competitive standpoint so I don't know how truly balanced they are, but I've never felt frustrated or like either of those maps are unfair until I've gotten to the last point on the last stage, but even then, it's still winnable from either side.
     
  9. Bubbles95

    Bubbles95 L1: Registered

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    This is an excellent tip. I frequently use these models to see if something feels unnaturally large.
     
  10. Zed

    aa Zed Certified Most Crunk™

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    To be brief, Egypt has absolutely massive height disparities that make it hell for any class without advanced mobility, and Dustbowl is a narrow map with tiny buildings and bottlenecks that are impossible to avoid, which lends itself to defenses that are nigh impossible to break.
     
  11. Bubbles95

    Bubbles95 L1: Registered

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    Good points. I have always noticed these problems but never minded them too much, but you're definitely right about them not doing the maps any favors.
     
  12. Moonfixer

    Moonfixer L5: Dapper Member

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    A tip that i found out to be helpful is when you go to test your map in game I would say pick a class other than scout because his movement speed may make your map seem smaller than it really is.
     
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  13. ExtraCheesyPie

    ExtraCheesyPie L7: Fancy Member

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    Alright then, what was your first map?
     
  14. RubbishyUser

    RubbishyUser L7: Fancy Member

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    pl_octagon

    Number one rule I broke: payload, the most time-consuming of gamemodes. a1 took me 120 hours to make (off and on - I started it for the summer 72hour mapping contest last year, and started counting the hours after the contest had already finished). a1 was already a small map, and it took me till a4 to actually do a rebuild. Note that rebuilding was the only thing I did that drastically improved the map: no prop fiddling will help.

    Truth is, the map wasn't a complete failure; no map is. First and last point was interesting, and the rebuilt first point in a4 is something I want to come back to some other time. The theming was absolutely spot on as well: map promised octagons, I gave octagons. It had a definitive style and was memorable.

    That's the point of my comment: you learn a huge amount from your first map, regardless of gamemode. When I remade the map for a4 it took me a fifth of the time, and that was from the ground up. So the smart thing to do is make your first map a simple one - make it koth or arena. Learn the same amount, but faster.

    And then my friend, inspired by what I had done, did exactly the same thing. Poor sod hasn't given up yet.