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Common elements of popular competitive DM maps

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    Common elements of popular competitive DM maps

    The purpose of this thread is identify the common elements of popular competitive DM maps from previous versions of UT. It seems to me that an understanding of these features will help development of DM levels, particularly in the early stages.

    Please base your comments on the features of maps, not opinion. This will helps us to identify evidence of what made certain DM maps successful for competitive play.

    Please note:
    • This thread is focussed on level design. To help it remain focussed, please post comments about weapon design, movement design, stats etc in their respective threads elsewhere in the forums.
    • Variation is likely as the three UT games (four if you include UT2003) are quite different.
    • I don't think proscriptive rules are helpful as UT has always been and should always be about variety.


    So, based on previous maps, what are the common elements of successful competitive DM maps? Or to state it another way: what do we know about what works?
    Last edited by Plutonic; 07-09-2014, 07:37 PM.

    #2
    Based on a review of UT2004 maps and some online threads, the following list is a synthesis of what I have found so far.

    Gameplay space design
    Flow
    - Interconnected areas with multiple entrances/exits
    - Verticality for z-axis gameplay with easy movement across z-axis
    - Vertical walls; nothing to catch player if they side along them
    Distinctive areas (more in the form of the space than the decoration)
    Not too open
    No dead zones; every area is part of the gameplay space

    Weapon distribution
    Placed in the centre of gameplay area
    Powerful weapons not near each other
    Pickup distribution
    Powerful pickups in either hard to get to or very exposed places

    Health and adrenaline pickups
    In connecting pathways

    Spawn points
    Near a weapon pickup

    Decoration
    More stylized thematic than location thematic
    - decoration of the level is more commonly BSP walls and floors with SMs over top or as pillars
    Less visually complex
    Walls are more plan, typically textures on BSP
    Textures are relatively simple, and used repeatedly
    All edges of horizontal surfaces have trim, particularly on platforms and ledges
    Clean lighting, no overly dark nor bright spots
    Last edited by Plutonic; 07-10-2014, 06:20 AM.

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      #3
      Properly executed level development: blocking volumes, proper LODing, sensible graphics (that promote gameplay), etc.
      Also known as musilowski.
      UE user since 1998.

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        #4
        I think the major element of success for the mood of the most remembered original maps was that they were not aiming for realistic environments (something UT3 maps had a lot). They would take some crazy idea and execute it. You could believe that the maps were spectacular venues for the Grand Tournament: small Castle on a floating rock, Monastery at the peak of the mountain, two towers on an asteroid, galleon, speeding train, towers in a stratosphere, etc.
        "Yeah. _Lynx can fire the lightning gun, have the lightning bolt turn a 90 degree corner, stop and ask the closest teammate for directions, confuse the directions and get lost, realize it went the wrong way, make a U-Turn, and get a headshot on the intended target."
        - RenegadeRetard

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          #5
          Ask DavidM (if he's still alive )
          http://i.imgur.com/6dJ1rdc.jpg

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            #6
            Originally posted by Plutonic View Post
            Gameplay space design
            Flow
            - Interconnected areas with multiple entrances/exits
            - Verticality for z-axis gameplay with easy movement across z-axis
            - Vertical walls; nothing to catch player if they side along them
            Distinctive areas (more in the form of the space than the decoration)
            Not too open
            No dead zones; every area is part of the gameplay space
            These are good, but at the same time many fun maps included some kind of central mosh pit where almost every part of the level looped back to - either one, like in Phobos (the bottom floor with he RL) or in Liandri or only a few like in Tempest (the UDamage room, and adjacent the shield belt room and/or flak room) and in Turbine (minigun room and thigh pad room).

            If there are too many different rooms then it becomes really difficult to navigate, at least for the first few times and most players will end up unintentionally avoiding each other like in DM-Conveyor.
            Dueling Flak Cannons
            We see the shells falling
            Together, we die

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              #7
              Opportunities to read an opponents intentions, and react. Build as much of this into your levels as possible. I personally refer to this as trapping gameplay.

              This could be seeing your opponent go a direction that you know leads to a place where you can get the drop on them. You need to build these possibilities into your map flow.
              It could also mean hearing them do something, and reacting based on the information that gives you. Example: lift sounds each being different, placement of vials in different quantities, distances, or clumping. Water on the floor in certain areas that tells you where they are.
              At the same time, make sure there are some opportunities for players to counter a trap or feign their intentions if they are crafty. Allow them the opportunity to be the prey that tricks the hunter. This could mean strategic placement of objects that can be used to shield them in an area that you would normally be trapped in. Alternatively, let smart players find platforming opportunities that allow them to wriggle their way out of danger (in this case, make sure these opportunities also have a tell, so that they can be trapped again).

              Build connectivity of synergistic elements into your map. Jump boots in one room, a place to use them in another. Shock rifle in one room, a perfect place to use it nearby. You lose this if you put all of the related goodies right next to each other.
              David Spalinski
              @spazinski
              Epic Games

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                #8
                Originally posted by David Spalinski View Post
                Build connectivity of synergistic elements into your map. Jump boots in one room, a place to use them in another. Shock rifle in one room, a perfect place to use it nearby. You lose this if you put all of the related goodies right next to each other.
                I also remember CliffyB saying how valuable powerups are better to be placed somewhere that requires the player to risk to get them (e.g. 100 Shield in DM-1on1-Roughinery or DM-Rankin or Shieldbelt on DM-Diesel).
                "Yeah. _Lynx can fire the lightning gun, have the lightning bolt turn a 90 degree corner, stop and ask the closest teammate for directions, confuse the directions and get lost, realize it went the wrong way, make a U-Turn, and get a headshot on the intended target."
                - RenegadeRetard

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by David Spalinski View Post
                  Opportunities to read an opponents intentions, and react. Build as much of this into your levels as possible. I personally refer to this as trapping gameplay.

                  This could be seeing your opponent go a direction that you know leads to a place where you can get the drop on them. You need to build these possibilities into your map flow.
                  I like this being emphasized since in my own level designs I always struggle with the impulse to add just-one-more-route. A lot of the times too much connectivity can be worse than too little. Too little can be boring gameplay wise, but too much leads to gameplay that just seems random with you getting shot in the back all the time from enemies and little clue how they got there. Sometimes as a level designer you have to have the courage and conviction to say, "Nope, you got caught in a poor position. Play better."

                  Of course having some kind of data-gathering / heatmap tool is really ideal for determining whether areas of your map are really problematic or just seemingly so.
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                    #10
                    i find CTF is actually a brilliant way to study map design for DM
                    If you consider purely symmetrical CTF maps from Unreal over the years then 50% is not needed [for study purposes]
                    - Thus the 50% remaining has to be completely solid for both teams to fit inside and have good gameplay. - and the majority are completely solid base to base with wider Mid regions.
                    - it seems apparent that when one designs a CTF map these aspects David mentions are inherent, like mappers naturally make maps with thes eopportunites for prediction and counter-predictions
                    ....because its CTF
                    - Much the same as when a VCTF player completely ignores basic fundamentals of map control and pick-ups because the open space and vehicles in maps throws them off their game.
                    • it is interesting to see how the prefix of a map can influence its design before its even a concept - is it not?



                    Playing like a dueller in VCTF makes a hardcore flag runner or defender.
                    Mapping like a CTF mapper for DM i would assume should have the same benefits, variety, choices combat zones, pickup control points
                    so maybe keep the idea of CTF in your mind to help create these opportunites/ choke points/ escape routes etc

                    edit:
                    never place Weapons next to their corresponding ammo.
                    e.g. Rocket Launcher with Bio ammo next to it is better than RL ammo
                    - same for others, sniper with sniper ammo = no good, forces camping
                    Last edited by TKBS; 07-18-2014, 11:50 PM.
                    Internet BlackOut in <2 weeks,last chance to request 4 years of Unreal Development(something from every Unreal Engine 50+ maps, chars, weapons, mods, mutators and more).

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by Wail View Post
                      I like this being emphasized since in my own level designs I always struggle with the impulse to add just-one-more-route. A lot of the times too much connectivity can be worse than too little. Too little can be boring gameplay wise, but too much leads to gameplay that just seems random with you getting shot in the back all the time from enemies and little clue how they got there. Sometimes as a level designer you have to have the courage and conviction to say, "Nope, you got caught in a poor position. Play better."

                      Of course having some kind of data-gathering / heatmap tool is really ideal for determining whether areas of your map are really problematic or just seemingly so.
                      This is really the part that I struggle with. And I'm currently struggling with (knowing when to stop adding routes and focus on improving the ones already there)

                      Certainly, DM maps are very tricky to get right I've found.
                      Good points by everyone.
                      MyArtstation
                      @jayoplus

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                        #12
                        Originally posted by TKBS View Post
                        it is interesting to see how the prefix of a map can influence its design before its even a concept - is it not?
                        Very much so, and this is how it should be, probably most-likely. Form follows function, and all that jazz.
                        Dueling Flak Cannons
                        We see the shells falling
                        Together, we die

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Wail View Post
                          Of course having some kind of data-gathering / heatmap tool is really ideal for determining whether areas of your map are really problematic or just seemingly so.
                          *cough*

                          Working on that. Though, it's still in an early stage and data gathering is restricted to UT2004 at the moment.
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                            #14
                            I was a huge UT99 fan in the past and spent a lot of time making DM levels (with a pure BSP, there was almost no meshes in UE1).
                            The most of a popular maps offers two main features: simplicity (easy to learn) and the feeling of "safety": when players (especially new) feels that they can run away in any moment yet an opportunity to engage opponents from a safe distance.
                            In contrast, "bad" (unpopular) maps are made of too many small rooms and tight passes, areas are not well defined and looks monotonous.
                            In 2K4 and especially UT3 - most of the maps suffered from too many visual noise: enormous amount of static meshes works against the gameplay. IMHO, now is the point to turn around and stop using too much details in the environment. Maps should looks clean and use additional geometry or\and power of new engine wisely.

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                              #15
                              Originally posted by ShurikMur View Post
                              I was a huge UT99 fan in the past and spent a lot of time making DM levels (with a pure BSP, there was almost no meshes in UE1).
                              The most of a popular maps offers two main features: simplicity (easy to learn) and the feeling of "safety": when players (especially new) feels that they can run away in any moment yet an opportunity to engage opponents from a safe distance.
                              In contrast, "bad" (unpopular) maps are made of too many small rooms and tight passes, areas are not well defined and looks monotonous.
                              In 2K4 and especially UT3 - most of the maps suffered from too many visual noise: enormous amount of static meshes works against the gameplay. IMHO, now is the point to turn around and stop using too much details in the environment. Maps should looks clean and use additional geometry or\and power of new engine wisely.
                              I agree. I think this is the main reason I have not been able to get into a AAA shooter in the last 5 years. Team Fortress 2 and CouterStrike GO are the only games that Im aware of that seem to make the best use of this.
                              Joseph Frederick
                              FoeJred@Gmail.com
                              www.FoeJred.com

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