Old Advice Made New Again

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Stormcaller3801, Jul 6, 2009.

  1. Stormcaller3801

    Stormcaller3801 L5: Dapper Member

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    This is derivative from my first map-making software: City of Heroes, back when they let you play with the base design system in the test server and gave you a bazillion points to spend on making your dream lair.

    If you take a look at any given map made professionally and then compare it against one made by a fan, you're going to notice a few things. Some of these have been amply illustrated or discussed elsewhere, such as ambient lighting or making sure it's all easy to pick up on, or just making it look like more than a toddler's set of blocks gone rogue with the growth ray. Unless that's what you're after.

    What can be very important is detail. But not just any detail- real details. Things that make sense and seem familiar. That's not as easy to do given that TF2 is stuck in a rather cartoonish version of the 1970's but if I can expound on the virtues of where to put the copy machine in a game full of spandex-clad heroes, we can figure out where to put the overhead lighting in TF2.

    Stop and take a look around you, and you should quickly notice a few things both with regards to architecture, and the various bits and pieces that we keep with us.

    Doors, Windows, and Lighting
    Doors all tend to be the same height and width- at least with regards to any you are intended to walk through. Closets can be a different shape, but even with double doors you're going to do exactly that: two doors of identical size to the other ones around you. Obviously with props that's not as much of an issue since you can't change them- but keep it in mind when picking doors, or setting up doorways.

    Windows will similarly tend to be aligned with one another. Most commonly the tops of the windows will all be at the same level, while the bottoms might vary. Windows will also tend to be set up symmetrically, setting up any unusually wide windows between pairs that are identical, or otherwise keeping a pattern. If there is a change, it tends to be accompanied with an alteration to the wall- in effect, putting the window in a separate section by bracketing it with pillars, extending the room outwards, or otherwise indicating that it is divided from the others.

    Lighting is another area with patterns- you have lights set up evenly through a room, dividing it up with each light covering the same area as the others. The rare case where this doesn't happen is in drop ceilings that extend over the tops of walls- but I don't know of any textures for that in TF2 so it's a non-issue. Another thing to consider: incandescent bulbs are almost universally warm light- i.e., a very pale orangish-yellow, or amber. This makes them work very well with RED areas. Flourescent lights tend to come in either warm or cool variants- orangish or bluish-purple, but also very pale. Flourescent lighting gives you an excuse for a slightly cooler light, which will work well with BLU. It doesn't hurt that the switchover to flourescent bulbs gives incandescents an 'older' feel, which fits better with RED's wooden architecture, whereas flourescent light feels more modern & industrial, which is perfect for BLU.

    It's also worth noting that most places don't mix flourescent with incandescent lights.

    Oh yes- and use windows. They're not just for Snipers. The only buildings you'll find without windows are ones that people aren't meant to be inside for long intervals, such as warehouses and barns. If people are expected to be in them, there will be windows.

    Widths, Depths, and Flow
    Generally speaking, you'll find rooms are laid out with a distinct path for travel through them. This includes with regards to furniture. If a piece of furniture blocks the most direct route it's typically used to denote a line separating two rooms that have no dividing wall between them. Again, not something you're likely to see in TF2, but it's worth keeping in mind if you want to start populating the place with furniture. This division can also be done with flooring changes and wall colors.

    Most, if not all, hallways, doorways, and paths across rooms are set up to let two people pass one another in opposite directions without contacting one another. This works out to roughly 100 Hammer units wide in game terms. Narrower hallways will feel confined or cramped. The closer you get to the minimum width for a single person, the more cramped it will get. You don't need to shrink things down to the point that you have to get it exactly right to fit in the hallway for it to feel cramped. Just drop it down to one and a half or one and a quarter person-widths and it will feel narrow. For added 'closed in' feel, bring the ceiling in low enough to see the joins with the walls while facing straight ahead- this emphasizes just how tight things are while not overdoing it. You can also drop the lighting a few degrees to darken it up and make the walls seem closer.

    Doorways tend to be clustered together. If you have two doors leading to adjacent rooms, they will tend to be next to each other, abutting the joining wall. Think of it as akin to your arms- when both doors are closed, you're forming a T. When they're open, they're flat against your sides. This also illustrates the tendency for doors to open the same direction.

    Actually, interior doors all tend to open into a room. A person walking from the front door into any point in the house should never have to step backwards to open a door, unless it's a closet. If you're walking out of the house, you'll likely have doors swinging to you as you make your way out. Again, TF2 architecture tends to forego doors that actually swing as opposed to slide. So this isn't terribly important. But remember it if you decide to add opened doors and the like.

    Plumbing, Electrical Wiring, and Use
    There's a distinct lack of bathrooms in TF2. This has been brought up elsewhere as Valve has generally been very aware of the bodily functions their bitmapped heroes don't actually possess. You can wander through bathrooms, fling toilets at people, and so on. But TF2 has ignored this with the exception of Jarate. Which... well that doesn't really count for concerns of plumbing, does it?

    Plumbing in buildings tends to be clustered. Bathrooms on different floors are above one another. Kitchens and washrooms (or bathrooms) tend to be on opposite sides of walls. If they aren't, they're usually laid out linearly: the pipes run down a central path, branching off into rooms along the adjoining wall or center line. I don't know why, that's just something that got drilled into my head in drafting class. If you're going to play around with water pipes, this might be useful information.

    Wiring and Plumbing share something else that's worth keeping in mind: depth. If a building was put up without electricity or indoor plumbing, these aren't in the walls. They might run under the building, or they might run through attics. But if you want that old school feeling, try running these along walls and ceilings. Put them at the joins of walls and ceilings, then stretch them in a straight line out to any object in the room they're connected to. If you do this with pipes, consider changing the color to match the walls. People tend to paint over them.

    HVAC is something else while we're at it: if you've got thick walls or an attic, or just want to play around with vents and so forth, put vents on walls and ceilings. Cold air tends to come out of high vents, warm air comes out of floor vents. Or just hang some HVAC equipment from the ceiling and add vent overlays to them. Has a nice industrial feel.

    Finally- use. People put things together based on usefulness. If something requires water (such as a coffee maker), people will find a place to plug it in that's near a faucet. If they're working with paper (such as a copy machine or typewriter) they'll want a wastebin nearby. If there's a library, there's going to be a place to sit down and read. If it's an office, there's likely a telephone. If something's intended to be looked at, such as a poster or sign, it'll be at eye-level. Unless you're intended to see it from further away, in which case it might be higher up so that perspective puts it at eye level at that distance.
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  2. Laggy

    Laggy L2: Junior Member

    Positive Ratings:
    Thing I am putting in my spawn now: A bathroom door.
  3. Dr. ROCKZO

    Dr. ROCKZO L8: Fancy Shmancy Member

    Positive Ratings:
    Realism in an Unrealistic Game. Real Interesting, Great Read.