Carney's Crash Course: Map Design 101

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Carney's Crash Course: Map Design 101

GodlyPerfection
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This post was updated on .

Carney's Crash Course: Map Design 101 (Halo)


Most forgers have seen this, but it is important to bring up. I wanted to keep things easy since I missed yesterday due to getting busy with my own Halo 4 map. And yes I know it technically wasn't posted on the 11st, but I could totally change the post date on it. :P The article delves into the initial design process as well as four key elements to creating play spaces; Simplicity, Orientation, Navigation, and Flow. Carney then goes through to discuss his thought process and workflow behind the Cage.

Here are some questions that can help get your reply started:

- What do these four concepts mean to you and what are your experience with them?
- Was his discussion on his process helpful?
- Many people disapprove of The Cage and Uncaged... is there anything you can appreciate from a design perspective?



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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Nitro
When I first found out that Carney was the creator of Lockout, I was kind of disappointed in him as The Cage was definitely not his best map. But onward to the points of this article.

The concepts are definitely every forger needs to instill in their forging ways. The main one I truly try to focus on every map that I forge is "Flow". Without that map is broken. A broken map means unhappy players. Unhappy players mean you lose a seat at the football game. By not focusing on flow in a map caused you to lose a seat at the football game, so never forget "FLOW". (sorry to many Directv commercials :)) Trust me, broken map is not very fun to play on, especially if its something you worked hours upon hours on, then first test session ends before the game really starts because a jump can't be made or object that blocks a heavily used pathway. I could go on for hours about Flow. As one forger (Xzamplez) told me, always have minimum of 3 routes in an out of a room, it will cure a lot of your "flow" problems. After I realized that, my maps seemed to flourish.

I really like him discussing the design process. In all honestly the process is really not that much different than us forgers, except they have these awesome computer skills to create their maps. But from pre-production, to design, to testing, to fixing issues, to testing, and so forth; a map takes time to develop. So as GP is giving us the skills behind becoming a better forger/level designer overall by instilling these principals and I thank him for that.

Cage was mediocre at best. The map was broken especially with Jet packs going sky high, to far for a DMR to reach. But I never based any of my maps off of the Cage for many reasons. My main reason was the map was to open. You as the player if you were on low side, had little to no cover. Which should be the other way around. I think of it this way, remember Gladiator the show. When the Gladiator was in a tennis ball turret and the opponent was running from cover to cover towards the top. The closer he got to the top the less cover he had. Here is what I mean, At the top of the map I could camp for the most part of the match because 1. I had the most cover 2. My LOS were a lot better than some running bottom mid 3. It was very hard to break a good team from this position, meaning overpowered.

Overall the Cage, if I could avoid I did. But in Snipers, good luck hiding from me at top :)
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Brucer42O
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Wow, so the pro's use crayon's too.  Legit.

I really enjoyed this article, I must have overlooked it back in the forgtacular day.  I try to apply many of these same principles when creating a map, it's nice to see them clearly spelled out and articulated for me. I'll definitely be keeping this advice close to mind, specifically designing a map with a "Flow" in mind.  In the past I leaned towards vehicular maps, so I kinda always thought more about creating desired "hotspots" of activity by creating interesting aritecture and placing power weapons. Other than that, generally I let the map be more of a free roam playspace. This is something I will try to improve upon in the future.

I guess I struggle a bit with predicting where people will go on my map, I've been playing Halo a long time,but I'm not much of a Slayer;  It's hard stepping into a super competitive players shoes, when I generally just get drunk and play multiplayer to have a good time.  

He mentioned how designing a vehicular map is more difficult because you had to take into account players who may not be using a vehicular.  I tended to just assume everyone will naturally jump in a hog or godforbid a Banshee and go to work, but that is not always the case. I'll try to put more of an emphasis on foot combat as well as vehical combat in designing BTB maps, maybe just play a few games strictly on foot and see how it feels.

Anyways, great read- thanks for sharing Godly

=]
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

InnerSandman
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
For me, I've always tried to make my maps easy to understand and make sure they're easy to navigate, but I've struggled with the flow of the map and orientation. I found this helpful because I've wanted to understand how to make my maps better. The map excelled in having an easy navigation and flow to it.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

AtlasisShruggin
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I do remember this article. I really loved that he did this for forgers.

Reading over it again I really concentrated on the section about Hard Points. It's a method of thinking about a map that I believe I will find very useful as a forger moving forward, especially now considering possible changes to Simulacra.

Bookmarked this one for future reference, though that should have been done ages ago. This and the article on Modular design have been the most interesting and useful to me so far.
"This dread born of risk is not the opposite of joy, or even of quiet activity and calm enjoyment. It transcends such oppositions and lives in secret communion with the serene and gentle yearnings of creativity."
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Der Flatulator
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
The best thing to pull out of this article is the "4 ancient principles"

Simplicity

If a map is not simple, people will not like to play it. Players want to feel like they own the map, not spending hours trying to figure out the layout.

Orientation

Being able to identify where you are at any given time with reference to the map around you is crucial to all of the three other points.

Flow

The way the map plays is also very important, if players are spending all their time in one place then the map is not doing it's job.

Navigation

This ties in with the other three points too. If a map is to flow well, then it must be easy to navigate. If you cannot orient yourself, then it makes the map more difficult to navigate. However there is more to navigation. If a player wants to get from A to B, he/she should instinctively know one of the shortest routes, just by the environment.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Solo XIII
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I've read this a few times before, and there are some great points in it. The background and idea creation process is really interesting, and his "Four Ancient Elements" is excellent. I won't write them over here, since Der Flatulation has already done that for us, but I entirely agree that this is what level design boils down to at its most basic elements. However, I have trouble taking the rest of the article seriously.

If anything, I believe that this article proves that there is a great disconnect between what makes a good level designer and what makes a good forger. Carney is undoubtedly a great level designer -- some of his work in H2 and H3 are damn-right iconic. But this skill did not transfer over at all in the creation of The Cage.

There is nothing redeeming in that map. Period.

When I look at his sketches for the design, I can't see where he went wrong. The overheads look completely feasible: there's good connectivity and it's got a distinct layout that could have worked. But when he threw it onto Forge World... My God. I don't see how these sketches translate to the addition of Ascension's Tower in the corner of the map. Where in these sketches is there a dead-end at the bottom of the map with a Rocket Launcher? In fact, where is the entire lower half of the map in this sketch?

I think we could seriously take this layout and turn out a great map. But when Carney hopped into Forge, I feel like he must have gotten distracted by the objects and lost his own vision for the design. There was a lot of "amateurism" in his forging that simply goes against the "Needs more Dancefloor" philosophy that was in older Bungie articles. The Cage feels like bridges connecting more bridges. There are very few "rooms," and even fewer walls.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

GodlyPerfection
Administrator
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I think for me the biggest thing is the fact that Carney went out of his way to provide this for the community. I wrote a comparison of his concepts and similar concepts in the Forge Lessons that I wrote. To me the biggest concept is Simplicity. Most forgers go out of their way to make a map too complex. It needs to be complex, with a simple overlay. In my eyes a player needs to get the "jist" of a map very early on in playing it and use that "jist" to guide them around the map while learning the more subtle details. Chateau was an approach towards this for me. The map was simple in the larger aspect of there are two buildings, a courtyard and two streets. There are a lot of connections here and there, but in general the map's layout was relatively simple. And I think more maps should try to accomplish this to help players accustom themselves to your map.


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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

ForgedExodus
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Simplicity is not something I lack, nor Orientation. Flow and the overall Navigation however, That is another issue. While I have become better at placing power weapons in spread out places and therefore balancing the maps basic flow, I typically find the DMR users sitting in the main bridge, firing at one another like the DMR is going out of style.

So I'll keep this (beautifully done) article favorite'd for future use. Though honestly, He should have made The Cage better. While I respect the creativity of the map, its Lower section is so easily taken over by cross map DMRs from the top. Horrific.
Breaking the Limits, Without Breaking the Rules.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

A 3 Legged Goat
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Carney definitely knows his stuff and I did like his crash course back then. However, I think he violated several of those key elements with The Cage and it's a shame it made it past the drawing board.

Firstly, simplicity. There is so much random geometry on The Cage that makes no sense and often either impedes movement or distract combat. There's very few structures built on it that assist in gameplay, and this affects its flow as well. I often feel like I'm fighting the map and there's no where for me to go to get good sightlines that I feel safe. And this isn't even delving into the fact that Jetpack just negates all of the paths on the map.

It just isn't a map that I've had any fun experiences on. This isn't about uncaged though, but rather what 'not' to do on a map. Avoid overcrowding it with random or awkward geometry that doesn't contribute anything to match.


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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Dr D04K
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I definitely remember that article, and its a good one.  I'll second the sentiment of several of the previous posts pointing out the irony of a map design lecture using The Cage as an exemplar.  Its pretty clear that Carney didn't have the patience and energy to really see his original design through using the limited palette of forge, it comes across as all function (though not entirely successful function at that), no form.  While he is largely focused on the geometry and gameplay design of maps, its pretty clear that his aesthetic finishing touch has atrophied.  A successful forger needs to be part architect, part interior designer, part gameplay analyst.  I also find it instructive that someone as accomplished as Carney would also underestimate how destructive jetpack is to map flow.  In general, armor abilities make our jobs much more difficult.  When players have unequal abilities, your map needs to accommodate those differences.
Gamer tag: "Dr D04K" (thats a zero and a four)
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

external memory
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Whoa, blast from the past.

I won't pile on Cage as everyone knows what's wrong with it and what they tried to fix with Uncaged (getting rid of the one-way drop to snipe street, adding the lift to high street).

What I really dig though is the process idea, of making little card stencils of different sized rectangles and circles to quickly "mass out" a floorplan on any sort of sketch or notepad. Such a low-tech but powerful toolset. If you measured those cutout shapes to grid unit sizes with some sort of notation it would be even easier to quickly visualize and build from that.
Plus, if you use them as edges to outline the contours, then rub back over each shape  the side of a crayon, the sketch is pretty neat looking and eye-catching, a definite plus if you're sharing your process on an in-progress map that you want people to remember and pay attention to.

I know it's already been covered here before, but I'd extend the importance of first impressions to the clarity and craft involved in sketches as well. I think finding a process and method that is not only efficient for you to design a space; but one that communicates well and in a way that's visually stimulating is one sub-goal to consider.

Of course until you're in the thing, until you have the POV's, it's not the best for imagining LOS or FOV. You can definitely sketch those out, whether in isometric or distorted projections (1 point, 2 point etc perspective) to get something to aim for, but there simply is no fast way to really have a correctly proportional perspective drawing the way you can with orthographic projection sketches. Obviously, orthographics don't give you the best idea of positive or negative LOS space, or the picture plane in a player's FOV, which is where Sketchup, etc. really comes in handy I suppose.
EXEM
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Gnappy As5A5sin
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Definitely remember this one, and it is curious to see how many things he played with in regard to those same basic concepts. I don't think the simplicity he was referring to and the simplicity of the geometry are one in the same. The difference here is more simple like a quake map versus a CoD map. While that is still a matter of available resources, I think it captures what he was saying. A player should be able to turn off the navigation portion of their brain and still get where they need to go. Curious still to see how the waypoint is going to play with people's navigational expectations...
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Valiant Outcast
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I have found that one of the biggest factors in flow is spawning. The first thing to consider is how much cover the spawn points have. If people spawn only to be sniped out immediately, the rest of the flow aspect is irrelevant. Nor do you want players ruining your flow by spawning in a spot that an enemy was in only a moment before. Few things are more frustrating than being assassinated be a player that came from a spot that you just checked two seconds previous.
I am neither the Judge or His jury; only His witness.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Randy 355
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
This one is new to me, and I must say, this is a great little guide on basic map design. Very informative for something so simple.

I do especially love these Four Ancient Elements.

Simplicity is big. Sometimes it can be easy to get carried away on a design, and as soon as you over-complicate your layout things can get confusing for players. I try to think of Halo CE. It was so fantastic, and partially because it was so simple.

Orientation is always a good thing, and not only do we have lights and weenies for this, but we also now have the inclusion of dynamic shadows for out forge pieces. I feel like I mention this one every damn resource thread. Though, it is a big deal.

Navigation is what separates the good maps from the bad if you ask me. Not only is it useful for finding your way around, but the ways it can be done usually is a big part of your map's personality. Especially when it comes to the use of lights and sight-lines.

Flow... *looks around for P1 Mario*
Well, AHEM... yes. This is kind of a big deal as well. The idea of having fun just running around your map in forge is a great bit of advice. Lots of jumps, fun routes, and even creating your own routine lines to follow are all part of the fun. This leaves room for strategies and unique situations when you actually play on it during a real match. Love it.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

P1 Mario
Randy 355 wrote
Flow... *looks around for P1 Mario*
Well, AHEM... yes. This is kind of a big deal as well. The idea of having fun just running around your map in forge is a great bit of advice. Lots of jumps, fun routes, and even creating your own routine lines to follow are all part of the fun. This leaves room for strategies and unique situations when you actually play on it during a real match. Love it.
Haha, I'm all about the flow, baby.  Thos most helpful bit from this article, however, was Carney's description of the map design process from the very beginning, specifically when he distilled maps down to a basic description (simplicity) to go off of.  My map, though I don't want to term it a "spititual successor" to anything, should have the same sense of flow that some of my favorite H3 and Reach maps did.  So having the concept behind Lockout and Guardian is helpful in that respect.  
In addition,I think the Cage is helpful in another respect.  You see, the Cage has too much flow.  The map itself is not bad, but it didn't take into account the differences between Halo 3 and Halo: Reach.  It didn't take into account how increased player movement would make open sightlines a problem, it didn't take into account how a longer range start weapon (DMR) would increase dominance of the high side of maps, and it didn't take into account how jetpack would so easily ruin its carefully planned flow.

Halo 4 is going to have it's own set of issues, and to avoid another Cage, I've learned that I have to play some competitive matchmaking for at least a week or two so that I am able to understand those issues.
~Ask not why I get to be Player 1.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

SmartAlec13
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
I remember reading this back when it was first posted. I do agree with the elements, but some of his early design pictures are just silly. Especially that first one. I have no idea what he was trying to plan there lol.

 But anyway. I do feel that those 4 elements are the most important when it comes to how a player will get around the map. You need something they can see anywhere (sun, cliff, tower), you need something pointing them in the directions you want them to go, you need the map to flow (as in the whole map is used), etc.

One problem I used to have with my maps was flow. There were places on the map used a lot, but then no one ever went to other parts unless they were completely just exploring. And example is my first Sandbox map, Boxed. It was just a giant floating box (as if you had a cardboard box sitting in front of you). Everyone hung out on the ridge along the outside, or on top of the boxes edges, but no one ever went in because there was no reason to. As soon as you did, you had to work your way back out. So reading this helped a bit, but this was a pretty late article compared to when I started to read more about forging and level design.
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

DarkJediMasterX
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
This was very good information and what we all should do when we start building our maps. I notice a lot of people rushing in and out when making their maps, but if you take the time to really think it out, design it in stages you will see a big difference. I agree 100% with the four elements and I learned something new from reading them. I knew a few of them, but they went into deeper details which opened my eyes more :)
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Re: Resource #6 [10/11]

Spiteful Crow
In reply to this post by GodlyPerfection
Thanks for posting this old chestnut.  A good one as always, even though the Cage was really a pretty awful map.  Part of that is Reach's terrible armor abilities, but then again we will all still have to deal with jetpack in H4 as well.

The lessons, however are still good.  Start on paper, cutout pieces are a big help to rearrange quickly.  Mostly: ITERATE OFTEN.  You won't get it perfect the first try.