Mad Studio map layout design guidebook

The map layout guidebook

By loleris, lead developer of Mad Studio


A map layout design is...

A collection of minimalistic 2D / 3D sketches, appearance suggestions (materials, colors, shapes) and game mechanics ideas (e.g. deadly pits, automatic doors, lines of sight, choke points, etc.) which can prove that this map has to be fully graphically designed and will be great to play on.

The prerequisites

Your experience as a gamer plays a huge role in understanding what will make players feel the tingle!

  • Understand our game play mechanics, characters, lore, existing content
  • Have experience playing several other currently popular games of the same
    genre within and outside Roblox
  • Be aware of the game’s codebase capabilities and how they could help improve the map experience and game play (The possibility of interactive buttons / doors / traps; Throwing characters into the air with jump pads / pushing characters off something / into something within the map; Damaging the character; Allowing the character to damage map elements)

The workflow cycle

The goal of the map layout workflow cycle is to isolate the layout design process from map visual design so these jobs could be split among more people more easily.

chart

  • Theme idea - define the “location” (e.g. medieval, urban, seashore) and possible unique map quirk(s) that could make the map stand out from existing maps (e.g. Long line of sight spots with the disadvantage of possible ambush from behind; Game objective is surrounded by obstacles or hazards)

  • Flat sketch - Whole map in top-down view and optionally some structures in side-view, explicitly defining locations for spawns and objectives. A finalized flat sketch must have precise positioning of opaque structures and be clear enough about important details (No confusion by another person when trying to distinguish objects in the sketch like a tree, pool of water, fence, etc.); Include a brief description of how the map layout idea satisfies all the abilities players could use in this map.

  • 3D sketch - A minimalistic Roblox studio map structure which almost entirely replaces the approved flat sketch and brings all the previously mentioned ideas into the 3D space where height and structural intricacies can be highlighted. Build using regular parts, freely available prefabs from the Roblox library and triangle terrain while being very precise in structural measurements, but with the intention of most of it being replaced in the production stage.

  • Approval - The stage where a great 3D sketch is corrected in collaboration with the project leader and finally pushed to production to become a fully designed map.

What makes a good map

The TF2 Design Theory article summarizes the qualities of a good map like this:

  • A good map is fast and fun to play on. The best maps can be played 24/7 without getting boring.
  • A good map accommodates every class. If a class is useless on a map, players who prefer that class are liable to disconnect when your work comes up in a server’s rotation.
  • A good map is designed, not simply constructed. If all you are doing is re-creating the surface appearance of another map, you’re highly unlikely to create something worth playing in its own right.

It’s much easier said than done, but these points might lead you in the right direction. Regardless, your work is experimental - it’s going to be two steps forward and one step back; Don’t be afraid to try new shapes.

It might help to make a brief story for the map, like a digsite for uranium, alien concealment area 52, a forest of lost souls with trees that have faces (trees that can scream at you or attack you :scream:), etc. A great idea can make the design process that much more interesting for everyone involved!

Size

Size reference for common map types in studs; These sizes assume average occupancy of 16 players; These are bounding box numbers (a rectangle stretched across whatever map shape you’ve got) - the most import dimension is the longest length between objectives / spawns / points of interest in your map which these numbers account for.

  • Lobby (Waiting area / central space) - From 80x80 to 120x120 of primary area; Aim for high player density to create a graphically and socially lively space.
  • City (Area with multiple points of interest) - Chunks of up to 200x200 - a city may be made out of one or several chunks which contain a “category” of features (e.g. A bazaar; City centre with surrounded by important shops;).
  • Deathmatch / Free For All map (No non-combat objective) - 180x180 to 240x240 / 180x350 can work for team-based deathmatch - Since the whole point of deathmatch is to win as many fights as possible, the map should be just big enough to support long range classes while keeping the action super fast.
  • Capture The Flag - 250x450 (usually rectangular shape) - players need a bit more map space to feel the impact of participating in sieges or defending against them.
  • King Of The Hill - 200x320 - Additional space is needed to isolate team spawns from the hill arena.

From my personal experience, maps sticking to average 200x200 map area per 16 players is the “magic number” for most game genres. You should always think about going smaller if the game does not require longer distances.

Three-dimensional design

Roblox characters can jump and climb - make use of this:

  • Gaps, debris, roofs, hills, ladders can occupy the player walking to the objective as opposed to crossing a flat field.
  • Elevations (human-built / natural) control lines of sight in interesting ways for shooter games - they’re essential both for balancing classes and creating more tactical opportunities.
  • Jump and speed powerups - If the game supports movement power-ups, then maps should integrate them into their design (e.g. static jump pads, gaps / elevations that can only be crossed with power-ups)

Action-oriented design

Maps for combat games have to involve plans for:

  • Lines of sight - Long-range classes must have dedicated areas they can control; Alternative passages should be provided for short-range classes which could help them get closer to their damage range. Sniper spots can be nerfed with “ambush corners” from the sides or behind helping the short range classes close in instantly via alternative routes to the sniper controlled area.
  • Cover - Controls line of sight, allows safe reloading or retreating after receiving damage, helps players strategize ambushes. Anything starting from 3 stud height acts as a cover - trees, boxes, rocks, vehicles, signs, cardboard cows, weapons of mass destruction.
  • Spawns - Players should spawn facing the direction they’re advised to be going and, preferably, having their backs safe from threats (no spawning in the middle of an active arena).
  • Objectives - Team flags should be placed a moderate distance from the team’s spawn and this distance will scale relative to the game mode’s respawn cycle time; Deathmatch maps will naturally need more cover to gauge the pace of the game.

Some links


This document can be expanded in the future when necessary.
Happy designing!
46 Likes

This is going to come in handy when refurbishing my level design strategies, especially with that simplified workflow cycle, cheers.

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