What do YOU do to start a new map?

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Sebi, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Sebi

    Sebi L2: Junior Member

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    Taking part in the 72 hour mapping contest reminded me that I find starting a map from scratch extremely difficult :blushing:. I work faster if I already have something there to change, at least I think it is that way.

    What do you do / recommend doing when starting an entirely new map? Like:
    -What does your paper layout show, and what doesn't it show? Do you include precise measurements or more vague ones? Do you make multiple papers?
    -Do you include models into the first minutes of mapping or is it entirely brush-orientated? I'm less talking about placing the occasional CP-plate or info_player_teamspawn by ABS for scale; I mean models placed in an early stage of the mapping to stay there. Same question goes for displacements, as i find them very tedious to shape.
    -Do you include detail while the map is not yet playable?
    -How do you optimize as you go?
    -Do you prefer to have the map playable first and foremost or do you make more or less finished areas, to make a more finished looking a1 for the map's first gameday?
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  2. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

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    I get an idea into my head, and then just roll with it. Block it out and populate it with props and such. From there, I build off. If i get stuck on what to do for an area, I just do whatever comes first, and (again) roll with it. if I don't like it, but can't think of anything better, I just leave what I have, and continue on to the next area.

    Basically the analogy of my through process: I have a ball of clay, I keep poking it until something that I think will work/play well comes out, while still maintaining the map image that I had in my head. This usually means my Alpha's are really rough and not-so-pretty.

    For optimization, layouts should lend themselves to that and make it easier overall. I don't optimize til beta. (If you don't like that - BITE ME)
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  3. phi

    aa phi Let Pain Be Your Guide

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    Normally I start by sketching a layout on graph paper, then transferring it 2d into Rhinocerous (a CAD program) and print it for future reference.
    This is Montane when it started:
    From there I make the level in Hammer normally starting at one spawn and working to the other.
    Dev testures are used, never actual ones until alpha 5 or so.
    I don't optimize much in alpha, but when I do it's with areaportals.

    But hey, that's just me. Others will do it much differently.
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  4. Mr. Happy

    Mr. Happy L6: Sharp Member

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    I start with an idea, ususally about a specific feature, and that's usually about a core game area.
    Then work on developing that core area. Draw a layout or if it's a super simple idea build it in Hammer and then work on layout.

    I usually start in nodraw unless I am unsure about the scale, or the idea isn't well developed, because then I need to get in game faster to feel it out and see problems. In those cases I start in dev texture.

    I use dev textures usually but will sometimes just use a couple wood and nature textures. I don't have one specific process, working on that, but I ALWAYS use simple texturing in the beginning and ALWAYS use different textures for floor vs. wall vs. nature vs. ceiling so it is easier to tell what is going on.

    I will use some models like rocks and fences. Those models exist already, so if you plan on using them, you might as well from the beginning since their shape is gameplay right? Like, if you just use a square brush instead you will do more work to make that brush match the rock than just popping in the rock.

    I optimize the map as I build it, to some extent. I try to keep areas/walls on the same planes, try to clip funky shapes off of square shapes and make the funky part a detail. I use funky shapes for nature so I don't have to sculpt displacements but can still make more interesting stuff than just squares. After awhile I will use lots of areaportals but always try to use as few as possible, and fewer than would in single player.

    I prefer to have the map playable but, very unrefined and ignoring major issues for a1...but that does not work well for testing on gamedays. Gamedays are scheduled and people expect more. I think gamedays, it is like showing the map off rather than quickly testing a quick idea with a few friends so the map needs to be slightly more refined. But not detailed or perfected, but "clean" and well built with proper signs and whatnot.
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    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  5. Ravidge

    aa Ravidge Grand Vizier

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    I never make any paper sketches. Never have, and probably never will, as long as I work alone. I think about layouts a lot though, and construct them in my head, if there is anything particularly complex that I need to remember I type something down on a post-it, and then whenever I look at that note again I remember the thing I was imagining.
    I should note though that what I end up with is usually very far away from my initial 'vision' of the layout. While building in hammer I find issues with the layout and have to make adjustments, some adjustments can fundamentally change the original plan but I will not allow myself to knowingly keep a 'problem' in the design, and pretend I didn't see it. If I saw it I will attempt to fix it. Which sometimes is impossible and I scrap the whole thing/area.

    I do put models/props out very early. They help me finalize the scaling I want for the "idea" I have. Any prop that I've seen ingame often enough to "feel" its size as a gameplay element will do.

    For displacements I don't find it anymore tedious than regular walls. Especially now with the sculpt tool which didn't exist a few years back.
    I do most of the displacement shaping before I even turn the brushes into actual displacement faces. Vertex edit those rockwalls into a roughly natural shape (in the top view) and then use sculpting to make the surfaces less flat and more natural.

    I don't detail my maps unless I see a point in doing so. Detailing is not something I particularly enjoy for extended periods of time, and for early alphas I tend to stick to dev textures.

    I guess you could say I optimize as a I go? Once you've built a few maps and know how vvis works you kinda start incorporating optimization as a key factor in the basic layout you come up with automatically.
    As far as early alphas go I will always put down areaportals (it takes just a few minutes) and in some cases 1 or 2 hints that I know will work and be significant, I probably wont spend time looking for places to put more hints that early, just adding those handfuls that I instinctively realized was needed while making the layout.

    When it comes to the first test, I try to make sure that there is as little to complain about as possible. If I can run through the map locally and comment on the bad lighting and bad clipping by myself, I will go and fix that, recompile and repeat. Until the issues I find myself are so minor that the time it takes to compile outweighs the severity of the issue.

    These things do not apply to my 72h maps..
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  6. tyler

    aa tyler snail prince, master of a ruined tower

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  7. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

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    I make a tremendously huge brush and then clip away everything that doesn't look like the finished map.


    Sketch, sketch, sketch, conceptualize. Sometimes weeks.

    Then hammer. Throw away or redo stuff that obviously doesn't work. Check scales and distance. Use instances. Check sightlines. Make heavy use of visgroups.

    From the start, I'm thinking of optimization and where I'll be putting in areaportals.

    I put in enough props to give me a feel for the final theme. Often I'll fully detail spawns since only exit size/location will change. I'll use non-dev textures to remind myself of what I intended in that area.

    Constantly assess and re-assess everything. Redo more stuff that won't work, or didn't translate from sketch-to-hammer.

    Put in lights and compile. Walk around and note problems. Walk around and time how long it takes classes to reach key points. See if I can traverse the map while invisible from ammo pack to ammo pack. Check if placement of health works with the obvious soldier/demo jumps. Make sure there are spots that scouts can jump to.

    Back to Hammer, refine and assess and re-assess.

    Then release A1 and let other people start beating on it.
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  8. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    1) Open hammer
    2) Brush tool
    3) Make brushes
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  9. Kill_the_Bug

    aa Kill_the_Bug

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    I turn on my computer then proceed to load the insanity module so I can deal with hammer issues then start with and idea of sketch it out if encounter problem areas.
  10. Sergis

    aa Sergis L666: ])oo]v[

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    i plug my spinal cord into the computer and go to sleep. when i wake up, i have a new map created by my subconciousness.
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  11. Leminnes

    aa Leminnes

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    It depends for me. If I want to make something quick, just for fun, I just mash something out in hammer and see how it plays. (PL_crag for instance.)

    If I want to to make something actually GOOD, I plan it out on paper. Like, PL_Corrode, I started planning it out on paper while waiting in an airport for a flight. I eventually scanned them and remade them in Photoshop with color coding for elevations and exteriors/interiors. Also plan out distances.


    Corrode was actually the first map I did this way. I actually think it helps A LOT with constructing the map, as it's basically foolproof once you start building. You just do it by the plan. Of course, you need to trust your instincts as well. If something looks weird, fix it. As nice as planning might be, you never really know what it'll look like until you slap it out in hammer. And it may look like shit.
  12. Bermuda Cake

    Bermuda Cake L9: Fashionable Member

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    I made a post about the design of my 72 hour map here.

    Mainly I start with what I want from the map, if that isn't too vague: in the case of this capture the flag map I wanted a map that focused more on retrieving the flag than getting it in the first place. So I thought, how do I give an advantage to people approaching the flag but not retreating with it? Height advantage seemed the best way, drop onto the flag and then hard to get out with it.

    Then I figured sentries can't be too powerful, so I thought of weaknesses for sentries and then weaknesses for the weaknesses, and it evolved from there.

    tl;dr I tend to think of maps in terms of points with advantages and weaknesses. Which might explain why the mid in my map was so crap.
  13. Mr. Happy

    Mr. Happy L6: Sharp Member

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    Making the map is the key.
    This makes me want to add something.

    I rarely make brushes anymore, only the first few, preferring to clone drag brushes. Sometimes I will actually hollow an early brush giving me several brushes at right angles. I can then clone-drag (shift+drag or shift+arrow key with nudge turned on) those brushes to create new ones, or I will clone drag other brushes that are near the area I work on.

    The only problem with this is the way Hammer handles brushes (they are stored as plane sides not as vertices, its complicated, but the point is...) means that the more you clone and edit and clone and edit the more messed up the brush can get "on the inside" of the computer/data/files/whatever...i.e. it looks right but eventually it may start throwing errors and getting vertices off grid.
  14. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Oh yeah sorry I make one brush using the brush tool then just copy it as I go, usually I end up with 90% of the early alphas being all one brush colour because they're all copied. Never run into problems with them throwing errors though.
  15. thaumiel

    thaumiel L1: Registered

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    I am definitely going to try this sometime
  16. Pocket

    aa Pocket func_croc

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    I see what you did there.
  17. Tarry H Sruman

    Tarry H Sruman Large Orphanage Proprietor

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    I consult the Oracle extensively and isolate myself on a mountaintop for a year of silent meditation and fasting. Then I come down to my village and construct a 1:1 replica of my layout out of precious Himalayan pine. If I have something good, I burn the whole thing down as a sacrifice to the Gods and start blocking it out in Hammer.
  18. ForbiddenDonut

    aa ForbiddenDonut

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    Makes me want to play Civ 5: Gods and Kings.

    Damn, I really have to stop playing that so obsessively.

    EDIT: Should probably actually contribute to the thread:

    I spend a good deal of time sketching - both layouts and conceptual ideas. Even after blocking, if I get stuck with an area, I'll try to go back and sketch out a particular scene or idea. I burn through sketchbooks on a monthly basis. I also have a whiteboard in my college dorm that I've decimated because of the many map layouts/designs I've done on it.

    I also build a folder for each project and save anything that could be of influence - pictures of other maps, general artwork, photographs, pictures from other games. Just anything that might help guide an idea or style.

    And finally, in preparation for blocking, I will jump into successful/official maps of the same game-mode and time myself as multiple classes using multiple routes to get to pivotal objectives. I will also, if possible, find a decompile of that map and take Hammer unit measures to ensure my scale is not either too large or too small.

    Imagination and research. That is how I start. :p
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  19. Jeremy

    Jeremy L11: Posh Member

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    I always start with a spawnroom. From there I go wherever the work takes me and see how far I can get before realising the whole thing is utter shite.

    Okay, I did actually have a plan last time, but the same thing happened there, too.