- Lines of sight
- Level of detail
- Play testing
In the past few months there have been quite a few shooters in development by top developers on Roblox. Maps play a huge role in the shooter genre and it is therefore important to get map design right. Unfortunately, map design is not the easiest topic and not something you can easily teach yourself. Just because you can build pretty maps often does not mean the maps are actually fun to play on. I am therefore going to take this opportunity to talk about map design for shooters specific to Roblox.
I have split this tutorial into two parts; Map design and building process. In 'Map design' I will talk about how you can make your map balanced and fun to play on. In 'Building process' I will talk about things you should keep an eye on while building. I will also use a few shooters on Roblox as an example of good and bad design to better illustrate things. This will also be a good opportunity for those developers to bring some improvements to their games.
This part is basically just me summarizing a video on flow design I watched a few months ago but can't find anymore (Edit: Wsly posted it below!). Anyways, when you build a map for a shooter on Roblox it is important to guide your players to the enemy team so they do not have to actively look for enemies. If your game is about shooting people, then it might be frustrating for people if they keep walking around in circles and do not find any enemies. If that is the case for your game, you will want to implement a map design which subtly guides players to certain areas. To make this happen there are a lot of simple techniques you can use:
This one is probably the most effective one. If you have a hallway which splits into two seperate paths, players are more likely to pick the path most in front of them or the widest one because it's more logical and more visible. Here are a few sketches of different situations and the paths players are more likely to take (the player always starts at the bottom in these sketches):
If there are two equally viable paths for a player to take but one of them is easier to reach, a player is more likely to take that path. Why bother taking the effort to move through one hallway filled with obstacles when the one next to it does not have any obstacles?
Note, this might slightly backfire because paths with more obstacles also generally provide more cover which people might like.
If one path is bright whereas another one is really dark, people are more likely to pick the path with more lighting because
A) It is easier to navigate and
B) It is easier to notice a bright path than it is to notice a dark one.
What better way to guide players to a certain area than to use arrows and landmarks, right? If you put arrows or other landmarks in your map which players will easily notice (so not on a wall behind them) then players might use those to navigate themselves through a map. You can also use a more subtle approach and use other less obvious assets are decals to achieve this. One example is using pipes with a lot of contrast so they are easy to notice or lines on a wall or on the floor.
When I played Twisted Paintball a few weeks ago, I noticed that the maps in that game had a really poor flow. Let's take a look at a few pictures and see what could be improved (take notes @taymaster).
The picture above is the spawn area for the blue team in one of the maps. As you can see, a player has just spawned on the left in the spawn room. You might also notice that the player is facing my direction. The way out, however, is either the door in the middle picture, the staircase to the right or a small door in that spawn room behind the player (which you cannot see in the picture). What does this mean? It means the player spawns facing a wall and is encouraged to walk away from the red base, make two 90 degree turns to the left and then approach the enemy team outside. A better design would be to move the spawn room over to where I am standing in the picture. That way it is not only easier to notice the small door to the left - which again, you cannot see in the picture - but also more clear which paths you can take right when you spawn.
Here is another example from another map in Twisted Paintball.
The enemy base is somewhere in the back but you cannot see it in this picture. To the left is a way up a hill. The icy path in front is one of the paths players from the enemy might take. Something you might notice is that this design does not encourage the enemy team to climb the hill at the left at all. In fact, when I first played the game I did not even know that path existed because it was so tucked away. A batter design would be to maybe add a ladder in the back or some other more obvious way up the hill.
If your shooter has symmetrical game modes (e.g. Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and so on) then maps should also be slightly symmetrical. This does not mean all paths should be exactly the same, but it does mean that both teams should have access to similar options. If one team has a tower in which snipers can safely overlook an area, then the other team should also have such options for snipers. As an example, let's take a look at a map I made for Mad Paintball more than 2 years ago. Here is a top down view:
As you can see, the map is split into two halves; a red half and a blue half. Both halves have access to two paths (orange) for players with close-ranged weapons to reach the enemy base without being too exposed to snipers. It also takes both teams about as much time to reach the middle of the map (green lines) and both teams have access to multiple sniping spots (blue boxes) which are all about the same distance away from the base. So even though the map does not look symmetrical at all and in fact does not have any symmetry at all, the map is quite balanced (in my opinion) because both teams have access to the same options.
One specific game which has issues with symmetry is Phantom Forces (take notes @litozinnamon and @AxisAngle!). One of the map features a crane which you can climb:
As you can see it provides decent cover so it is a good to snipe people from. One issue though is that the crane is situated near the spawn of one of the teams. This means that the team closer to the crane has an edge. Similar things can also be found in other maps. The maps in Phantom Forces look nice, but from a gameplay perspective I would only use such maps in asymmetric game modes like Free for All to prevent imbalances in symmetric game modes.
Lines of sight
Two weeks ago I saw a specific tweet on Twitter which sparked my attention; it was @loleris showing a remade version of another map I made for his Mad Paintball two years ago (take notes Loleris and let Andrew know). The reason why it sparked my attention was because the map I made had some line of sight issues: there were a few spots from which snipers could easily kill enemies from a great distance. In order to prevent this imbalance and have everyone choose a sniper rifle, I placed down some assets in a few specifc spots to prevent these lines of sight (see picture below).
The lines of sight are indicated with orange and the assets which are blocking these lines are indicated with blue. By placing down these assets I prevented quite a few frustrating situations for many players. Now let's take a look at the picture Loleris posted on this Twitter and compare it with my map from the same angle.
In the new version, you can see players in the city to the left which was previously impossible because there were rocks in the way. Additionally you now also have vision over the cliff area near the waterfall if you are standing in the red base. This was previously also impossible. You can now also even kill people in the enemy base from within your own base:
In general, because hills are now lower and there is more open areas in this new version of my old map, snipers are really favored because there is so much more map you can see from certain areas. This will probably negatively impact the gameplay because less weapons are useful which leads to a decline in variety. Fortunately, Mad Paintball 2 is still in beta so Loleris can take the time to use this feedback and make his game even better!
When you are building a map, it is important to keep the art consistent throughout the map. What exatly do I mean by this? By this I mean that, if you are for example making multiple trees for a map that your trees all have a similar amount of detail and are all made in a similar way so they look like they belong in the same game. There is not much to it other than that, but it does go wrong sometimes. I will take the map I just talked about yet again as an example.
This picture above is one I took off the top of the walls which surround the map. As you can see, not only is the grass in between the rocks connected, but it is also slightly tilted. If you compare this to the grass on top of the rocks in the previous picture, you will see that the grass on top of those rocks are not individually connected. It is an inconsistency and should probably be changed.
Level of detail
This one is also straight forward. If you are building a map, you should keep a consistent level of detail throughout the map except for the areas you cannot reach; those areas should be less detailed because you can only see those areas from a distance (and therefore do not need the same amount of detail). I do not have specific examples for this, but it is something that I have seen done wrong in the past. By maintaining the same level of detail throughout a map, you are also more likely to 'waste' fewer parts on details only few people will notice.
I am surprised I have to mention this, but I see many games with maps which either have gaps in them or gaps in the invisible walls around them allowing you to go out of bounds. Never ever assume that your invisible walls are high enough because players will actively try to get out of bounds. Additionally, take the time after you are done with your map to make sure you left no gaps. There is nothing more silly than a beautiful maps with gaps you can fall through and there is nothing more annoying than people who kill you from the top of a hill you should not be able to climb. I am not going to lie; I have made maps in the past with gaps in both the map itself and in its invisible walls, but it still something which should not be taken with a grain of salt.
This is something I should personally be doing more often, but it is also something which is ignored by many other developers until a map is done. If you make a first 'quick draft' of a map and start testing it, you can find imbalances early on and fix those imbalances early on as well. If you just make a map, put it in the game and only then notice balance issues, it suddenly becomes really hard to fix those issues without rebuilding big chunks of a map.
Something which might also make play testing easier is implementing a system which tracks deaths and movement and visualizes it in some sort of heath map. This might take quite a lot of effort to implement, but if you are trying to make your maps as good as possible it might be worth the consideration as you will immediately see how your map design affects the gameplay.
This is something which most games do right by default, but still something noteworthy. If you are making a map for a shooter, it should be clear which side of the map you are on. Are you close to your own base or are you close to the enemy base? The easiest way to communicate this to the player is to split the map in two halves, each with their own color. If the surrounding area has the same color as the team you are on, you will immediately know that you are closer to your own base. One game in which this is an issue is Phantom Forces. The maps in that game have no clear split so you often end up surrounded by enemies without even realising it.
I mean, this map looks great, but I have no clue where I am supposed to go!
This is pretty much all I have to say. If you think I missed something or made any (spelling) mistakes let me know so I can fix it. If you have some thoughts you want to share feel free to leave a reply. Questions are also always welcome. I hope everyone who has read this (most likely biggest) post (on the forums) will keep these tips in mind. Even if you do not make maps yourself, you can always use these tips to help others with their maps.