Outpost Mars | Design Process: Part 2

Continuing my series of posts that record the design process of a game’s level design.  These are visual representations of some basic design principles implemented within my deathmatch map.  Above is an explanation of the basic concept of the map.  The information band on the left will explain in more detail, but the basic tiered layering of the map is seen to carry on from the initial sketch in my previous post.

  1. Spawn points exist in the outermost, safest layer, where each one feeds into a possible 2 different intermediate conflict rooms.  This guarantees intersecting the path of at least one other player within 5 to 8 seconds.
  2. Each of the intermediary conflict rooms are fed by 2 different spawn points and 2 other intermediary rooms, promoting more conflict.
  3. The single core arena is fed by the 6 intermediary rooms.  having more funnels feed this room and having a higher reward [the only instance of the best weapon for example] within turns this into the highest risk/reward room and completes the hierarchical layout.

The architecture and weapon/ammo/health drops are informed by this basic principle in terms of size of rooms, walls, drop sizes, and weapon tier.  At this stage, while the above layout and the following below appear to be a flat plan representation, a vertical relationship of space begins to form in my head and appears during the actual blocking in of the layout in UDK.

This sheet highlights the design intention explained above and acts as a guide to understand the basic idea.  While a designer may never really show such diagrams to others as these are just visual representations of level design principles that should be innately understood by the designer, they may be indicative of just how game designers within a studio may explain more elaborate designs for intricate multi-player game modes or single player modes.  Its an application of a design tool taught to us at the Gaming Academy, that breaks down the various layers of level design into “molecules” or molecular looking diagrams that represent nodes and edges in the traditional understanding of metrics.

As you can see above each of the 3 room types have increase levels of compression.  The higher the funnelling, the higher the compression, the higher the intensity.

The diagram above, while appearing to regurgitate the same principles above, actually shows the looped paths a player has within the map.  Loops and figure-8 paths allow a player to navigate around an enemy player, giving a chance for the hunted to become the hunter.  It basically promotes circulation and circulation is good.  The more circulation the more probability of bumping into each other.

The diagram above represents the basic steiner and spanning paths within the map.  The most desired and direct path, is red, while secondary desire paths are in blue.  At this point a third path is seen but ha been since dropped.  It was a dangerous high risk/reward path that would take a player straight from spawn to core.

The last board showed two simple plans at this early stage: the ground floor plan and the first floor plan.  A vertical section cutting from spawn 1 to spawn 4 shows the height hierarchy of the rooms as well as the now abandoned underground tunnel.  I just felt the tunnel would break the careful “feeding” system I had in place above by allowing players to slip out.  Some players above might not have their guaranteed first brawl.  That may however, allow those players to continue on to the core and therefore meet up with those that slipped below. Hmm… Writing this post just may have changed my mind on this.  We’ll have to test it out and see how much the travel times differ.

The other thing of note is that you can see I played with the idea of taking out one of the spawn paths to the intermediary zones.  This would have taken away the guaranteed first brawl, but also given players a strategic choice of whether to brave on into the core or slip into a neighbouring intermediary room.

Come back for more on the design process in subsequent posts within the level design category of my blog!

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