Lunaran.com Matthew Breit Level Designer | Texture Artist
This also covers directing player movement through a map, and probably could have been merged easily with Connectivity since they're largely the same concept anyway.
Jan 30, 1999
A map with good flow keeps the action going and the players moving. A player is never in an area where he's unlikely to be firing at one point or another. This does not mean overcrowding a map and filling a bunch of small rooms with guns.
When designing your map, there are several things to remember to do. Above all else, avoid waits. If the player has to wait a real long time for the lift to come down so he can get on and ride up real slowly, he's going to get aggravated with it and run elsewhere. If he has to ride a boring train for eight hours to get around the map, he'll get impatient and avoid the train altogether. If he needs to get from one area to another, and has to run down anextremely long hall to do it, he'll get pissed off. While he's using his precious time going somewhere, everyone else is racking up frags. What's he doing?
In your map's layout, look for lifts, train rides, or halls that span long distances. The solution for the lifts and trains is, obviously, make sure they go fast enough once you start laying brushes. For long halls, just make them shorter. Vary somehow, whether it's by adding a room in the middle, taking whatever's at the two ends and bringing them closer together, or removing the hall altogether and adding something else instead. One creative approach to long halls was used in one of Half-Life's deathmatch maps, Undertow. The author put speedy conveyor belts running both ways along the hall. Now, granted, they look odd and out of place, but they get you where you need to go.
Another gameflow problem is stairs. Don't worry about your 8-10 stair cases off to the side. If the player's going up more than 36 stairs in one run, and he isn't passing a lot of doors and landings, something's wrong. Either replace it with a lift, a ladder, or make it a spiral staircase instead of one long one. The latter should only be used if there are several stops along the way. An example is the stairwell in Fragmaster's "Gore Chasm," or the spiraling stairs in "Closed Particle Loop" for Q2 by Brent "Drizzt" McLoed.
Yet another thing to consider when making your map is that at one point or another, every area of the map will be used for fighting. Make sure every area's ready. Make everything a little interesting. If it's just a low stairway up to a 64-unit-high platform or a ladder or a few big pillars, it goes a long way towards helping things flow.
In combat, having a few obstacles to hide behind, use as cover, or lose a pursuer amongst is a great help. BUT! They shouldn't get in the way. Take Stalkyards, a Half-Life DM map. The southern (or is it northern?) room is just filled with crates to hide in. But, to get from one doorway to another, circumventing the crates is easy. They're all piled against the wall. The little alley at the other end is another example. There's a couple crates stacked in here, but they don't get in the way. There's still room to run straight through with minimal bobbin' and weavin'.
When you're throwing down items, simply keep the players moving. If you put a chaingun there, put some boxes of bullets nearby, maybe even visible, but not right next to the chaingun. This'll draw the player down this or that hall to grab 'em, and from there, more deathmatching instincts take over. "Hey, from here, I can go up there and get a Quad!" Or something. If all the bullets are piled next to the chaingun, and some armor shards and a medkit are only a grenades' throw away, the player's not going to want to move when he can stand right there and totally own.
I mentioned making good and potentially unbalancing items hard-to-reach in the Item Balance section. Here's another note: once the player has done all the jumps/whatever, he should be able to get back into the action again fairly soon. If he has to make a few jumps up to the top of a crate, he should be able to just drop off the side once he's attained his goal.
In summary, bad flow is illustrated in the following ways:
- Extremely long halls, slow lifts, high ladders, or large rooms that take the player out of the game for long periods of time or are awkward to fight in
- Making the player wait a long time for something that won't reward him for his wait (like a good weapon or powerup)
- Normal halls and rooms that are difficult to move through/navigate, like hang-ups or lots of decorative crap on the floor
- Random or maze-like construction that takes a long time to learn or navigate
Good flow, on the other hand, is illustrated in other ways:
- Item placement that forces a player to keep moving, making dominating an area difficult
- A tight map that keeps the player in the action wherever he goes, with no lulls in the game
- An item that's hard to reach, but once reached, spits the player right back into the action
- As many areas of a map suited for fighting as possible (no long halls or wide stairs that make combat difficult)