Mapmaking Tips by Attilitus

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By Attilitus, 2005-06-19 @ 03:15:02

The quest of every mapmaker, whether they'll admit it or not, is to see their game on "The List." To see their game shine in nicely capitalized letters apart from the evil bounds and "Sunken D 3001 way!1!1!"

Unfortunately, only a few games make it past the attention-deficient crowd... only a few catch their eyes and urge them to move their mouse to click on them. Lets take a look at a few very popular maps and map series.

1) Resident Evil: Raccoon City

You are urged to protect Raccoon City from the walking dead Zombies. A city is set up for you and you are left with your teammates and wits to find a way to keep the town safe for an hour and a half.

2) The Hostage Negocation Series

Although most of the maps were rather low in quality, this series lasted a long time, with new games still being sighted on the gamelist daily. In the variants, you take the role of either a hostage, terrorist, or the police, and attempt to fulfill your role.

3) Helms Deep

Helms Deep is one of my personal favorites. A fortress, Helms Deep, is just sitting there with lots of angry Uruk Hai outside and it is up to you to protect it. You can take the roles of the Elves, Rohan, Uruk Hai, or one of the heroes and protect the fortress for as long as possible.

Now... why are these types of maps popular? Well... it probably has something to do with that feeling you get when you are holding back the Zombies behind that line of tanks that suddenly become blockading squad cars in your mind. Perhaps, it is the openness of it... just knowing that if you wanted to you could just kill all the hostages. More likely though, is that it is that feeling you get when holding back the Uruk Hai and yelling out "fall back" when it seems that you have lost ground.

These abstract "things" are difficult to pin down and cannot be triggered into a map.

These maps force you to Role Play without making you pretend to be Dante the fire emblem hero of darkness. In Resident Evil: Raccoon city... you are not put into the characters of the movie. You aren't forced to be anyone more complex than a "Shotgun."

In Helms Deep you are not forced to enter the fortress in the exact fashion that occurred in the books. You can do it anyway... nor are you forced to defend in the same ways.

In Hostage Negociation anything is possible and a very trigger-less game becomes pretty interesting and fun with pure human interaction.

People, honestly, do not always want to be forced into a role... they want to be able to play based on how they feel and what they just want to do. If someone is angry, they want to backstab. If someone is happy they want to joke around and get into their roles. If someone is feeling dramatic and melancholy they want to create stories within the game. Perhaps someone is feeling devious and mysterious, they want to be able to do devious and mysterious things.

The problem with RPGs is that you really don't have that option. Most games in general, don't have those options.

Before I move on, I want to touch on the subject of RPs. Now RPs, or games in which you and your buddies create a world that you act out certain events, are reasonably popular. However, there is one thing that I want to point out. It is that at any moment any player could completely destroy your story built "power" with a whole bunch of invincible units. For example, if in an RP, someone made their town plotting an invasion... the moment that plot is revealed the other player might say "Yes we knew that so we made prepared a trap" then that player goes on to create 100 invincible units to attack and destroy your assault and perhaps counterattack you. Your power over the world is imaginary in an RP because, even though you can "kind-of" do anything, any other player can easily counter even your best thought-out actions with little or no effort.

Now I would like to come to my "point" the long elusive thing that I'm trying to get at.

The Point:

People want to Role Play not be put into a role. (see Resident Evil/Helms Deep)

People want rules. No rules = an RP (See above paragraph regarding RPs)

People want a scene and WILL "play" to adapt to that scene. (Hostage Negociation)

So what is the ideal game that has some "stuff" in it and will gain popularity? Basically it is a game that gives a person a scene and allows them to freely interact with that scene. It is a game that is built around the scene. Most games nowadays are a game with a scene, but the truly successful ones start as a scene and then turn into a game.

If you want to make a game about Ships in outer space, and I am going to allude to one of my current projects, do not simply give each player a battle cruiser and say "go have fun and fight a war." No one will enjoy that.

Instead concentrate on the more human and complicated aspect of war. In my game, I created a scene. A scene of a sudden conflict stemming from simple rivalries that ripped a star system apart into two hostile camps. I thought, what if after this war there were only 6 people left fighting each controlling one very powerful star ship keeping the war alive. I then built the ships and all their functions right then and there without even knowing what the objective of the map was going to be.

This actually leads to another point, when building your map leave your player's options open and work with human impulses. I decided very early on the map to make all triggers universal. It made everything a lot more difficult for me but I did it anyways. Basically, any player could act as a crewman on either ship even if it was a different ship than the one they started on.

I then, very easily, incorporated an explosive system where a player could lay explosives, and I added an escape pod.

In about 5 triggers and a universal trigger system I turned a map about blowing up the other ship into a map of betrayal, trickery, spying, and diplomacy. Of course, the option to just stick together and blow up the other ship is always there.

Another way to make a map interesting is to change the way that you win or lose. Again, I am going to allude to my map, I could have made it so that you lose if your ship is blown up. I could have even taken that one step further and made it if your ship that you now affiliate yourself with is blown up you lose. But I didn't do that. Instead I made a system where only if your "guy" (civilian) is killed do you lose. That little change, shifts the entire gameplay to another level of survival.

Now you have the elements of:

Survivial Role Playing (Aye Aye Captain) Emotionalism (Being able to act on your emotions Betrayal, sticking together, ect.)

To form a dynamic game.

That is all I want to say. Please forgive me for my self-serving attitude towards my map, however, it is really just example that I am most familiar with, it is by no means the "best" example.

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