's user interviews - Issue 2

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Shaar, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. Shaar

    Shaar L3: Junior Member<BR>toboruin

    Positive Ratings:
    This time the interview is with Shmitz

    1) Having worked on and released several maps, what made you think you were ready to come to the point of releasing the map? what do you recommend for beginners who feel that their map is near to completion?

    Have I achieved what I set out to do with this map? Are its purposes fulfilled? I generally go into any map with a personal reason for making it. CP_Science was an experiment with non-linear 5CP. TC_Meridian was to prove TC and CTF could both be fun in TF2. But there are certainly also less map-specific things: Do people have fun playing it? Does the map look good? Are all the bugs gone? Does anyone have performance problems?

    Eventually all these questions get answered. This is true even for something like CTF_Revolution, which was an experiment in creating a map that would work tactically with 32 players and not be a super-kill-happy-chaotic-spamfest like 32 player 2fort. It worked decently, but it didn't have an audience, because most TF2 players don't join a 32 player server to have to think about what they're doing. I still released it, because its purposes had been fulfilled.

    I don't subscribe to the philosophy that you shouldn't release your first maps, particularly if they're multiplayer. You'll never know how other people will react to them if you don't. On the other hand, beginners should keep in mind that they will probably not be creating god's gift to maps, and they really need to have an open mind towards what other people will say. The trick is to know when to keep going and when to scrap what you've got and try something else. When there's nowhere left to go and nothing left to scrap, then hey, may as well call it complete.

    2) What was it that inspired you to map for team fortress 2? was this the first time you did any mapping work? How did you initially find it and how did you learn the functions of the stuff?

    I've been making maps for a really long time, starting back in the Doom days. I kind of got out of the habit after Q3A though, so when TF2 hit I decided it was a good time to pick things up again (I actually started my first TF2 map during the open beta). I was always a lot better with multiplayer maps than single player. It wasn't difficult to adjust to the source engine, though it did take some time to figure out scaling and detailing.

    3) Looking back on your previous maps, do you feel that there is more you can add; which you may not have been able to do back then? have you ever wanted to go back and work on these maps?

    Yes and yes. CP_Science continued to have problems after release with players just going straight to the middle point and never defending points 2/4, so I went back and adjusted the final areas so that players would naturally move towards the second point from spawn, but still had the option of taking a shorter route to the middle if they knew the layout. I had also picked up a little bit of modeling by then, so I replaced the blocky brushwork lasers with something more interesting. Thus, cp_science2 was born.

    CP_Roswell also has a bug or two that needs to be fixed. I've also gained a substantially better understanding of modeling since then, so I've made all the props in roswell a bit less noobish. I'll be releasing a cp_roswell2 sometime after I've finished tc_meridian.

    4) TC_meridian features heavily on custom textures and models, what initially made you decide to use these? aside from the file size increase, what other problems did you attain from this, if any?

    The very first decision made with Meridian was the theme, which would be a tropical island. This kind of mandated having to create assets for the theme, since TF2 didn't have them. The file size increase has been an issue, but really everything has been done to keep it as small as possible without getting pixelated materials. It's around 90mb now. In anyone else's hands, it'd probably be 150 easy.

    5) Territorial control is one of the harder game modes to set up with entities; How did you find set up the entities, especially when you changed system from valve's? do you still have problems navigating the entities?

    I basically just dissected Hydro and took all of its entities. Once I had it working at the most basic level, I modified it to use flags. All things considered, it still wouldn't be quite so complicated if it weren't for the flag return system, which added over a hundred entities. Even with all that, it's not hard to navigate if something needs to be changed, because each round has one visgroup for each team, so if I need to fiddle with the red intel for the temple/village round, I just uncheck everything but AB_Red.

    6) Why did you choose territorial control for meridian over other game modes? in hindsight, do you feel that it was a good idea?

    I'd long wanted to make a TC map that didn't have stalemate issues. And I'd also wanted to make a CTF map with no stagnation issues. When I was first thinking about what game mode meridian would use, it suddenly occurred to me that I might be able to achieve both goals by just combining the game modes. I think the gameplay has turned out quite well as a result.

    7) Being a mapper, modeller and texturer; do you find it is hard to juggle between all three? especially seeing as you have several mapping projects on at the same time?

    To me, they're all part of the same process. I'm not an expert in modelling or texturing, but I don't always have an expert in my pocket. So I learn what I have to learn and do what I have to do to see what I've envisioned become a reality.

    8) Your maps take place in unique areas, different to that of the standard TF2 realms, is it hard to come up with new ideas for areas? and is it difficult to keep the art style similar to the original tf2?

    I got bored with the desert theme pretty quickly. I wanted to do something different and greener. It's not easy keeping things consistent with the TF2 art style, because it requires a lot of thought and analysis of TF2's art direction. But it's definitely worth the effort.

    9) what do you think made your maps popular with players? what would you recommend for beginner mappers to make there maps popular?

    I really don't know what makes my maps popular with players. My best guess would be that they're fun to play. But really, I come up with some kind of experience I think people would enjoy, I make it, and then I put it out there and hope I got it right. I generally think I make awesome stuff, but I'm never sure what to expect in terms of other people sharing my opinion. It makes me pretty happy when they do.

    10) How did you plan for both meridian, and cauldron? did you stick closely to what you planned? what would you recommend for beginners planning maps?

    I didn't have all that much of a plan when I started blocking out both maps. With Meridian, I knew what each of the six areas were going to be thematically, and I knew there would be a ravine with bridges, but the rest I really pieced together as I went along. Cauldron has a similar history. Points 2/4 was for the intel room mini-contest that I didn't finish, and the middle point was for the center CP contest that I didn't finish.

    Having a basic plan is great, but I think excessively detailed plans will hinder you more than they help you. Rather than have a plan, have a goal. Know what you're trying to achieve, and you'll find a path there, even if it starts to deviate from the path you originally thought you were going to take.

    11) Making both cp_science and arena_science; How easy was changing the game mode? how did you decide where to shrink the map? would you recommend beginner mappers one of there finished maps and turning it into an arena map?

    Shrinking the map was based on the areas that people used when they were fighting over the center point in cp_science. There wasn't anything particularly difficult about it. On the other hand, I wasn't really challenging myself to make the best arena map possible. I had recieved a couple requests from others for permission to turn science into an arena map, so my main goal was just to get it done in a way that I approved of, rather than letting someone else do it.

    I really don't recommend game mode conversion for beginning mappers. If you want to make a map for a game mode, start from scratch and figure out what the mode needs. Converting a map isn't the best task for learning how to analyze gameplay.

    12) which areas do you find in mapping still give you problems? what solutions would you put forth to these problems?

    My mapping background comes from early FPSs like Doom and Quake, where detailing was more or less a matter of picking a texture, and architecture was futuristic and fantastic. So with that in mind, the thing that challenges me the most is coming up with fine tuned realistic details and making something look like a scene you might find in the real world. Research is part of being a designer though, so I find having a lot of reference photos and art helps a lot. It's just easy to get so concerned with making something look good such that you forget to also make sure the visuals work with game flow and player direction, rather than against them.

    13) How did you find working on a map on the scale of meridian? does it cause problems for you? what solutions do you have for this? what would you suggest for beginners who have firmly decided to make a large map?

    It does cause my computer to choke a bit when I'm working on it in hammer, but that's what the Cordon tool is for. It's indespensable.

    14) How much has your work rate changed as maps like meridian progressed towards there final release? do you think that is normal? what would you recommend for beginners who reach this stage to do?

    It's gotten really, really slow. There aren't really any general public servers running the map regularly these days, so testing has been something that only happened on gamedays. And because meridian is a complicated, asymmetrical map, it requires a lot of testing to make sure all play scenarios get test time. It might not be so bad if it was popular enough to be able to open the server browser and find a server running it, but the filesize and my own inability to advertise has hurt me here.

    Even on a smaller scale though, the testing phase can be boring if you're waiting a while for people to give you useful feedback on a map. This is one of the reasons I started making cp_cauldron. It gives me something to do to keep me mapping while I wait.

    15) what programs are you using to model and create textures? what are the pro's and cons to these programs? are they beginner friendly?

    I use blender for modeling and photoshop for textures. Blender is a great program that's free and open source, so you can make whatever you want with it and there are no legal issues from trying to sell it (this is something that's come up before with maps obtained by Valve; don't ever use the XSI mod tool). There aren't many downsides. The biggest one I can think of is that it's not really possible to import a decompiled model, modify it, and then export it at exactly the same scale, due to the smd importer and exporter scripts being created by completely different individuals. Another possible issue is that only one exporter allows for animations, and it's a little buggy.

    For creating new static props though, neither of those have ever been a problem for me.

    16) have you ever considered mapping for other source games? have you ever done so? If not what has held you back?

    I've made a couple Portal maps. In fact I'd be bold enough to claim I was the first to use trajectory-based puzzles, which was something lacking in the original game. I've never really been motivated to make maps for HL2 or anything though.

    17) when you find yourself stuck with a problem; be it creativity block, or how to make game-play more flowing, how do you solve it?

    I grab a notebook or just a blank sheet of paper, and I go out to the local burger joint, and I sit down and I think. Sometimes I do a little bit of sketching, sometimes a brainstorming tree, and sometimes I don't write anything down. But it usually only takes me one or two lunches to figure out a good solution.

    18) are there game modes that you have wanted to try out and make a map for? What has limited you from doing so? what would you recommend for those who want to look for new game modes but can't decide?

    PLR and KOTH interest me, but I just don't currently have the time to start any new mapping projects.

    19) How long do you reckon that you have worked on meridian? how long do you reckon you have left on it? what would you suggest for mappers who may not be as willing to give as much time to there map?

    It's been a little short of a year and a half now. About six months of that was waiting for Valve to make the CTF hud accessible once I determined that the absense of the flag radar was the single biggest thing hurting the game mode. Once that was in, my attempts to revive public interest in the map failed horribly, and as mentioned before, it's been slow going on the testing front.

    Still, one of the level designers at Valve had some advice for me that really helped me move forward to try and get this map released. I'd been so caught up with getting data to make sure the map was perfectly balanced, but Greg Cherlin helped me realize that balance is really not the end-all-be-all of a good map. Rather, imbalances are fine as long as everyone still is having fun playing. So I think meridian is at that point. I should be releasing a final version soon.

    20) Anything else you would like to add?

    This has been a pretty exhaustive list of questions. =P

    I'm sure an hour or two after you post these answers I'll think of something else, but right now I think I've said pretty much everything.


    Another good read. hope you guys out there find this useful. Muchos thanks to Shmitz.


    Users interviewed:

    Users yet to be interviewed:
    Da Beatz Project
    Mr Muffin Man
    The Political Gamer
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    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  2. Waif

    Waif L7: Fancy Member

    Positive Ratings:
    Another good read.
    I have to agree it sucks how Meridian isn't that popular, the first time I played it I was absolutely blown away with the visuals and flow, but its not yet too late to promote it like crazy :p
  3. grazr

    aa grazr Old Man Mutant Ninja Turtle

    Positive Ratings:
    I agree, i didn't manage to test it until its later beta's but it played awesomely, everyone enjoyed it, i think it even got an extension.

    It is unfortunate how its momentum slowed.

    A brilliant read. The questions also seemed more appropriate this time around.
  4. The Political Gamer

    aa The Political Gamer

    Positive Ratings:
    Really good read with some much better questions.
  5. Chaopsychochick

    Chaopsychochick L4: Comfortable Member

    Positive Ratings:
    I agree, good read.

    And I do have to say I do really enjoy meridian, I really dislike hydro immensely, so I figured all TC wouldn't be that great, but meridian is good!

    I am really liking these interviews, look forward to the next one! ^^
  6. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

    Positive Ratings:
    Shmitzchamber for portal.. tough map :(
  7. MangyCarface

    aa MangyCarface Mapper

    Positive Ratings:
    <3 shmitz <3
  8. NovaSilisko

    aa NovaSilisko L42: Life, the Universe and Everything

    Positive Ratings:
    Phew, I'm not on the list.
  9. Radaka

    Radaka L7: Fancy Member

    Positive Ratings:
    Local burger joint sounds familiar :)