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Location: Home  Blogs  Map Design Advice - Architecture & Design 
More Posts by dreadofmondays
Map Design Advice - Architecture & Design
Map Design Advice - Architecture & Design24 Jul, 2012
  dreadofmondays (2 comments, 1212 views)  
This post is inspired by Lexino's excellent posts on this subject (which you can read here). However, it is about something that he has yet to touch on - the role of architecture and traditional design in mapping. 50% of the work mapping is done in design, and there are important things to keep in mind, because a badly designed map can be very confusing or disorienting for players, and they can become very frustrated. This is something you want to avoid at all costs.

When designing a map, you need to make sure that the player can easily identify and understand the space in which he is playing in. He needs to be able to quickly recognise where he is in the world, where all the important points in the map are, and where other players are likely to come from. There are several tools in achieving this.

Firstly, the control points in the map should be easily visible, no matter where the player is. Of course there are exceptions; the player might be underground, or behind a wall. But if the space is not confusing, they will be able to remember where the point was and head towards it. What is particularly important is making sure the point, or a route to it, can be seen from the spawn point, because otherwise the players will simply have no clue where to go and may wander around frustrated until they happen upon it by chance.

To prevent players becoming confused or disoriented, they must be able to easily recognise where they are. The easiest and most effective way of doing this is to provide landmarks. Structures or objects that are distinct from the rest of the map are used as reference points by players (even if the players don't consciously realise it ;) ) Generally these can be tall structures like castles or cliffs, but you can also use trees, water, or creative building to create memorable objects. In particular, they work very well when integrated with control points - the thinking time for the player is simplified, as all they need to do is head for the structure.
When a map does not have any clear reference point, it gets very confusing for players as they have to make a conscious (and frustrating) effort to remember where they are. This is a particular problem in maps which feature heavy use of concrete blocks, and in some symmetrical maps (and recently I had the misfortune of playing on one that was both!). If your map begins to look all the same, add some colour!

A very useful tool for telling players where to go is simple prompting. Add roads or power rails to a map, and players will choose to follow them. In a battle map, for example, adding a clear and obvious path between the control points will ease new players into the map.Once players become comfortable with where the control points are, they can start searching for alternate routes (which, if you are a good mapper, you will have remembered to provide;) ) A map with several routes to the control point and no obvious way to go can cause players to get frustrated as they blindly stumble around trying to locate the point.
You do not have to strictly use roads; holes in a wall, tunnels, channels between structures - almost anything will do, as long as it is a clear route that relates to the control points. A very easy and simple way to indicate the route is simply to make sure players can see the tops of the control points, but this may not be an option in some situations (such as underground).

Finally, a player's eye naturally follows lines and colours - for an aesthetically pleasing map, include leading lines and framing. You can use walls or rows of objects to create lines, and things like tunnels or portcullises to frame objects in the background. Anything within reason. Players' eyes will be drawn to where the frame or leading lines converge, and they will then notice what you want them to see, be it a spot of cover, a sniper deck, a tunnel entrance, or a pole-less control point.

A good aid when building with design in mind is to keep an idea of priority. What objects are most important in the map? In a royal map, for example, arguably the most important object would be the single control point. The next important after that would be the route between the spawn points and the control point. When you need to make a trade-off between calling attention to one object or another, you can judge which object is more important and favour that one.

Keep these tips in mind when you build your own maps, and you will see the difference. :) Happy mapping!
2 comment(s).
  SpikeX writes ... 29, Jan, 2013  
Cool article!! I personally also think environment and design should be well combined with each other.. Alone with ur buildings, walls and structures you can easely show a rough sketch off where the player should head to next.. And when that is all been build, why not make a sweet building or monument of the structure/wall?? Its sad to see bad build maps who show no route or carefull build environment at all.. Take some time next when you build a map and you will see something really cool can come up from it :)
  Lexino writes ... 24, Jul, 2012  
Excellent article, I believe this covers Layout, Placement and Navigation that I listed in the introduction, thanks for doing this:)
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