Quake3World.com Forums
     Level Editing & Modeling
        Fundamentals of Gameplay Part I by Pat Howard


Post new topicReply to topic
Login | Profile | | FAQ | Search | IRC




Print view Previous topic | Next topic 
Topic Starter Topic: Fundamentals of Gameplay Part I by Pat Howard

Insane Quaker
Insane Quaker
Joined: 31 Mar 2009
Posts: 489
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 12:08 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Hey, everyone. This article is about my level design process for creating competitive gameplay. It's geared toward beginner level designers and anyone who's interested in how and why maps work or fail. For more experienced mappers, these concepts might be intuitive. But I think everyone can benefit from being reminded of them from time to time. I hope you enjoy it.

---

Fundamentals of Gameplay Part I
by Pat Howard

What is “good” gameplay, and what makes good gameplay happen? Level designers mull over these difficult questions all the time. They are tough ones to answer because, like most art forms, level design barely has any laws about what makes a map successful. Whenever some kind of law gets proposed, you can be sure it will only be a matter of time before a level designer goes in direct opposition to it and still comes out with a great map. Blanket statements about mapping almost always fail.

So look at the advice I'm about to give you simply as one mapper's best practice, not rules or laws. This is simply the stuff I keep in mind when I am designing the gameplay prototypes for my maps. With all my experience in level design, these guidelines are the closest I can come to offering a “formula” for gameplay success.

So back to the first question: what makes good gameplay? Personally, I think good gameplay is balanced, yet varied. The best games are the ones that keep us guessing. We keep playing them because we haven't quite figured them out yet. There are many possible strategies, but no one strategy is the best. So in this article I am going to give you a few ways to create interesting structural balance in your maps. The concepts are simple and the first one is familiar to everybody.

Height

For the purposes of Quake III Arena, I tend to think about maps in terms of height. This is probably because at some point I observed that fun maps tend to make good use of height, the third dimension. Two-dimensional maps with no change in height are often so boring that it is basically torture to play them more than a few times.

Look at it this way: With every new dimension you add to your map, you get more directions that you can fight your enemy from. In a one-dimensional map (that would be a straight line), the enemy can be either in front of you or behind you. Add a second dimension and your enemy can now be to the left or to the right as well. Add a third dimension, and your enemy can be above or below you in addition to all the other directions. That's a lot of options, and more options usually means more replay value.

Height is usually integrated into a map in levels. There is no rule for how many levels a map should have. Toxicity does very well in its gameplay with only two distinct levels. Campgrounds has three levels and Blood Run has four. These are all classic maps, but in general authors tend to stick with two distinct levels for CTF maps and three levels for the other game types.

The discrepancy in height between levels can also vary quite a bit. Toxicity is an example of small height discrepancy. Campgrounds and Blood Run are examples of large height discrepancy. Notice that you don't lose health when you fall down in Toxicity, but you often crater in the latter two maps. I usually start by placing my levels 192 units apart. This is almost the maximum distance you can jump off of without losing health. I then move them closer or farther apart based on what I think fits the map's needs.

Height advantages are really powerful in Q3A. When your opponent is positioned below you, it's a lot easier to hit him and also to dodge his fire. Therefore, using height incorrectly can quickly lead to huge imbalances in your map's gameplay. So, when you're building levels onto your map, there are two key relationships you should keep in mind in order to maintain balanced gameplay.

Relationship 1: Height and center point

A second type of positional advantage is how close you are to the center of the map. The more centralized you are, the easier it is to control the whole arena. Not only can you see more areas from the center, but you can also get to them faster too.

We now have two positional advantages that we can work with. This is a lot better for creating balance than only having one. It's kind of like having two fat kids on the block instead of just one. If you can pit the two of them against each other, neither one will have all the power on the playground and harmony will be restored.

So, in order for all the areas of a map to stay balanced, the highest areas of the map should be the ones that are furthest away from the center. If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be that! To illustrate this point, let's take a look at my map, Q, which is a very simple example.



Figure 1: Top-down view of Q by me. Sorry if you are color blind.

The map is kept balanced by following the key relationship between height and center point. The lower level is the most mobile. A player can reach almost every area from the lower level directly without traveling a large distance. However, it's not good for attacking. The upper level has the greatest vantage points for fighting, but the entire span of the map has to be traveled in order to get to some areas. The middle level is a nice mix between the two. It's not quite centralized, but it does have some height advantages over the lower level.

Transition points between levels are exempt from the height and center point relationship. As long as the transition points are all equally useful, they will be sought after pretty much no matter where they are. It's often convenient to place them around the perimeter of the map, even on the ground level.

What happens if you put your highest levels in the center of your map? Generally, the two positional advantages will compound and the area will become a giant camping site. Sometimes though, this is done in moderation for a very nice effect. How do some maps have centralized high points that become fought over for positional advantage without being a drain on the gameplay? This is where the second key relationship comes in.

Relationship 2: Height and footprint

Footprint is how big and “chunky” the floor space is for each level. Much like the proximity to the center point, the footprint of an area is closely related to its mobility. The larger the surface you are on, the easier it will be to get around on that surface. In Quake, your ability to fight your opponent has a lot to do with how effectively you can jump around. That makes surface area another convenient way to balance positional advantages in your map.

The highest areas of a map should have the smallest footprint. This will allow you to balance the most dominant vantage points in your map by impairing the players' ability to move on them. This relationship is more subtle than the first, but still quite powerful. This time, let's take a look at how Campgrounds makes use of height and footprint for balanced yet competitive vantage points.



Figure 2: Campgrounds by id Software broken down into three regions for analysis. Isn't that some sexy photoshopzz? I nearly killed myself six times while making these.



Figure 3: An isolated view of the lower and middle levels.

As you can see in Campgrounds, the lower level of the map will generally have the largest footprint since it's the base, or the foundation. Moving up to the middle level, the footprint in Region 1 is only slightly smaller than the ground level footprint, but these openings allow players opportunities to jump down in some areas. In Region 2, the middle footprint is only about half the size of the ground level due to the exposed central floor which leads to a lot of vertical battles. In Region 3, the middle level has been removed almost completely.

The upper level has the smallest footprint of all. It has been reduced to slim paths and exposed bridges. In Region 2, the footprint is limited to the small area around the central bouncer. This is key for balance because it's the most powerful vantage point in the map. In Region 3, the player actually has to jump across pillars to get from one side of the upper level to the other, making him very vulnerable here as well.

What happens if you give your higher levels the largest footprint? The higher levels will remain imbalanced and overused for camping, and the lower levels will be mostly inaccessible from above. This will lead to repetitive gameplay and poor connectivity, and your map will weep silently as it collects dust on long-forgotten hard drives. Oh the shame.

A final thought on item placement

By now you might have wondered aloud, “OMG, when are you going to mention item placement? Pat?? Pat!” I think item placement is an extremely important consideration for any map's gameplay, but it's one that should be worked on last, after all the structural components have been nailed down.

When designing the floor plan of any area, it's certainly okay to have a general idea of where the power items will go, but anything more than that will usually end up in you spinning your wheels. You should be flexible about item placement in the early stages of your map or you will be too stubborn to make important and necessary structural changes. Remember that when you just can't seem to get a room to work right and you are about to trash the whole thing. Structure comes first, item placement is the final touch. Don't get confused.

When you're ready to move on to proper item placement, check out Joel McDonald's Competitive Level Design Guide for some great strategies and tips.

---

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts to add. Always keep in mind that there is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to gameplay. These are just a few of my opinions on a really complex subject. I think just about any idea can work if it is balanced effectively.

Click here when you're ready to continue on to Fundamentals of Gameplay Part II.

Pat




Last edited by Pat Howard on 10-14-2014 11:11 AM, edited 3 times in total.

Top
                 

The hell good boy
The hell good boy
Joined: 22 Jun 2011
Posts: 1622
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 03:12 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Well, this is really great article and if you give me rights to copy and translation to czech, I will place it any time on my websites. Of course I will include you as author of that minitutorial :) I will make also archive version of tutorials to be downloaded from websites and shown offline :)



_________________
[ Quake III Arena by CZghost | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ ]
While you feel the worst ever, turn around facing to Sun and all shadows will pass behind you.” - John Lennon


Top
                 

surfaceparm nomarks
surfaceparm nomarks
Joined: 10 Aug 2009
Posts: 1005
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 08:59 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


It's great that you are making the effort to write this Pat. The discussion about the theory of map making is something that happened way too little in the past 15 years (yes I'm serious, there are only about 2 guides to gameplay).

I wrote a reply here: http://www.quakelive.com/forum/showthre ... post298353



_________________
Portfolio
Twitter


Top
                 

I'm the dude!
I'm the dude!
Joined: 04 Feb 2002
Posts: 12239
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 09:31 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Great job Pat! :up:


Other Q3 specific gameplay guides by...

PJW
Lunaran
wviperw

There are of course others but most have fallen off the edge of the Internet by now. There are also many other generic non-game specific guides, or guides for other games out there that apply to Q3 as well.



_________________
GtkRadiant | Q3Map2 | Shader Manual


Top
                 

Theftbot
Theftbot
Joined: 07 Oct 2009
Posts: 468
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 03:00 PM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


I swear Method had a comprehensive MP gameplay guide.




Top
                 

I'm the dude!
I'm the dude!
Joined: 04 Feb 2002
Posts: 12239
PostPosted: 07-22-2014 07:00 PM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Yeah, but I don't think his website is anywhere in sight.



_________________
GtkRadiant | Q3Map2 | Shader Manual


Top
                 

The hell good boy
The hell good boy
Joined: 22 Jun 2011
Posts: 1622
PostPosted: 07-23-2014 03:29 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Well, I post reply again: I read what cityy has written in QL forums and I must say he's pretty right that also item placement defines the map flow and what type it should be. Not only construction. I'll try to correct him: let's take the item placement and construction together and think about the map as sections, not only levels. Thus you finish a section construction, you can think about the section flow and place here some less valuable items (if ti is supposed to high valuable item(s), then think about what item you would like to place here). It needs a plan, what type of gameplay it will focus on, what size that map will have, what theme you would like to give the map. Then you can start mapping.

And pat, will you give me permissions to copy, edit and translate your tutorial, of course with you as author? I will make also series of tutorial to Radiant, which will take some time, I need to prepare all the things...



_________________
[ Quake III Arena by CZghost | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ ]
While you feel the worst ever, turn around facing to Sun and all shadows will pass behind you.” - John Lennon


Top
                 

Insane Quaker
Insane Quaker
Joined: 05 Mar 2010
Posts: 352
PostPosted: 07-23-2014 06:39 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote





Top
                 

Insane Quaker
Insane Quaker
Joined: 31 Mar 2009
Posts: 489
PostPosted: 07-23-2014 09:14 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


thanks, everyone.

@CZGhost: sure, you can translate it. just try to stay as close in meaning to the original text as you can. including a link to the English version would also be cool. thanks.




Top
                 

The hell good boy
The hell good boy
Joined: 22 Jun 2011
Posts: 1622
PostPosted: 07-23-2014 10:08 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Of course :) I will list it in advacend tips along with basic Radiant tutorials. The series will be made as static pages on my WordPress sites and HTML document packed in ZIP archive for download and view offline. Hope you won't be angry for that :)



_________________
[ Quake III Arena by CZghost | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ ]
While you feel the worst ever, turn around facing to Sun and all shadows will pass behind you.” - John Lennon


Top
                 

The hell good boy
The hell good boy
Joined: 22 Jun 2011
Posts: 1622
PostPosted: 07-24-2014 05:57 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Well, your tutorial is prepared on my hard drive in a form of Word Document, I will convert it to the HTML format later.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
EDIT: Well, I did some more minor edits in original english text as well as in translated text in czech language. Have downloaded the original figures and made new, translated versions (for keep translated article in effect).



_________________
[ Quake III Arena by CZghost | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ ]
While you feel the worst ever, turn around facing to Sun and all shadows will pass behind you.” - John Lennon


Top
                 

Insane Quaker
Insane Quaker
Joined: 31 Mar 2009
Posts: 489
PostPosted: 08-04-2014 08:37 PM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


I've created a couple more diagrams of two classic maps, Lost World and Blood Run. Visualizing maps as a whole in this way helps me recognize patterns between them and appreciate the designs overall.



Figure 4: Lost World by id Software. This map is largely consists of two levels, but has an extra two levels under the main atrium for vertical action around the low red armor.



Figure 5: An isolated view of the lower and middle levels of Lost World.



Figure 6: Blood Run by ztn. This classic map is a great example of a four-level design.



Figure 7: An isolated view of the lower and middle levels of Blood Run.




Top
                 

The hell good boy
The hell good boy
Joined: 22 Jun 2011
Posts: 1622
PostPosted: 08-05-2014 12:06 AM           Profile Send private message  E-mail  Edit post Reply with quote


Nice, will check it out and download after I run my desktop without issues. I bought new CPU, which I need to install and make ready for running. Also I must check in BIOS it has been installed and prepared properly, must check it doesn't overheat.



_________________
[ Quake III Arena by CZghost | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ ]
While you feel the worst ever, turn around facing to Sun and all shadows will pass behind you.” - John Lennon


Top
                 
Quake3World.com | Forum Index | Level Editing & Modeling


Post new topic Reply to topic


cron
Quake3World.com
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group