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Aesthetics and attention to detail
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serpens
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 6:07 pm
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I didn't find any similar topic in Mapping or Advanced Mappers forums, so... I have two questions for you.
First, how important do you consider aesthetics and decoration to be in your maps? As for me, from my very first levels I thought that a good map must be well decorated, especially beacuse I played many addons which featured just rectangular rooms with no objects (other than guards and pick-ups). The more I mapped, the more effort I put into making my levels look pretty and well designed. I love symmetry, so there are a lot of symmetrical elements in my levels, and I equally love it when an area I created is pleasant to the eye, whether it's a brown marble hall or cave with purple walls and blood splattered around with bones lying on the floor. Aesthetics is extremely important for me, because I think a level might be really interesting and good only when it's at least a bit pretty and realistic.

Now, to what extent do you pay attention to detail? I admit, at the very beginning of my mapping experience it wasn't the most important thing to me, and so sometimes it resulted in some unevenly decorated rooms, completely unrealistic areas etc. With time, I learned to put more effort into this, just to make my maps more realistic and, well, nice. Now, I find myself adding a few more type 2 walls to make my levels more realistic, and which nobody will probably ever notice.

What about you?

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:47 pm
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Well, if you remember that T-shaped hall I did in Retro Shapes, and then play the level Paths Of Peril, you'll realize I add more objects to my maps than I used to. This is something I really need to focus on doing more often. *But* ... you shouldn't add so many objects to one single room or hall that the room seems over-decorated.

And theme is just as important to me as decoration. You shouldn't have a slime-covered wall with hanging skeletons and broken bodies in one corner of the room, and then a Table With Chairs, bed, floor lamp, and bookcase in another. You should at least attempt to make the theme of each room somewhat consistent from one end to the other. Besides, who wants to exhaust all the themes possible in the first five or six rooms? It leaves the mapper and player little incentive to continue on with the rest of the level.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 12:14 am
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This is an interesting topic, and something that's pretty difficult to define. Aesthetics are important to me, but too much symmetry can be boring and predictable. Just because a map looks good laid out in the editor doesn't mean it's going to play well and vice versa. What I mean is that you don't want to make something aesthetically neat just for the sake of convenience or because you're running out of ideas. You want the aesthetics to have some sense of realism and leave an impact on the player.

One really obvious rule in terms of layout is that it depends on the theme. It makes sense to have more symmetrical areas for a castle level than for a cave level. And obviously decoration/lack of decoration comes in there too - if you have caves you can get away with less detail, depending on what you feel like and what your restrictions are. But even with this, I think there are some exceptions.

I'm being kind of vague here, I know, but I really think this is something that depends on the person. My rule is basically just to avoid monotony. I try to take the role of a player and see how my level makes visual impact in the game. If something looks odd or out of place in the game, I might rearrange it around and see what looks less jarring and stays more with the logic of my level. But if it looks stupid on the map editor I really don't care. If something looks fine but not really fitting with my theme I might either change the theme slightly or rearrange some things so the basic idea is intact. If I feel like I'm repeating one design idea too much, I'll try to change it around, even if it's just slight detail changes, so it's less predictable. Maybe in reality, a castle layout would be more monotonous, but I'm not concerned with making things super-realistic as long as the level is fun and interesting while still being somewhat feasible.

It's really a feel kind of thing, and I know that probably doesn't appeal to many people, but by doing things that way I feel like I'm keeping things fresh and interesting.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 1:42 pm
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Well, you have a point here Adhesive_Boy, and I don't use symmetry all the time. Generally, I treat it as a rule in ornate areas, but I keep looking for opportunities to make exceptions from this rule. In my cave-like, underground levels, symmetry is quite rare and I prefer weirdly shaped caverns and tunnels there. I always strive for realism, so I don't put too many decorative objects where they wouldn't be too numerous in reality.
And when I'm out of ideas, I don't map at all. Smile

About realism - I like it when my levels are realistic, well, at least to some extent. Lately though, I've been experimenting with some layouts which would barely be possible in reality and I must say that I like it.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:34 pm
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serpens wrote:
About realism - I like it when my levels are realistic, well, at least to some extent. Lately though, I've been experimenting with some layouts which would barely be possible in reality and I must say that I like it.
Heh, that's me 100%, and it has been for a while. Doing realistic-type levels for SonderKommando Revolt hasn't been easy for me, I must say.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:40 pm
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Tricob wrote:
serpens wrote:
About realism - I like it when my levels are realistic, well, at least to some extent. Lately though, I've been experimenting with some layouts which would barely be possible in reality and I must say that I like it.
Heh, that's me 100%, and it has been for a while. Doing realistic-type levels for SonderKommando Revolt hasn't been easy for me, I must say.

I'm betting that creating a level which is both ultrarealistic and has good gameplay is a very difficult thing, of course unless there are some new means to create interesting situations. I'm certain that it would be damn difficult in pure Wolfenstein 3D (and that's the only engine I made levels for so far, not counting the Map of the Month Contest and some tinkering with EoD editor's version)

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:22 pm
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Ack - I think you're forgetting RonWolf. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:57 pm
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How about he missed himself in the list....

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 8:55 pm
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Yes, but he might have considered it unseemly to boast about himself in that list.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:47 pm
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Very true Executor... but I was actually pointing out to Tricob's post that while suggesting that his choice was another person, he didn't state the obvious - Ack. While Tricob's choice was interesting, I haven't played something of RonWolf's "specifically" (in which he did all the mapping - ie: it was his baby completely) that I could say puts him in that list.

Anyone can make a map... And make it difficult. It's easy to keep a player busy with all kinds of ambushes and a boatload of enemies.... And I'm not infering anything about anyone person when I say that.... But I think the thing that Ack was pointing out is that there is a very small list of people making extreme maps that are so well designed that it's not about boatloads of enemies... The people he listed (and yes his name should be in that list) are people that have found the way to create levels using very little, yet achieve an almost perfect balance between realism and gameplay. The true key is "Balance" and the masters of it are as he said:

Gary Ragland, BJ Rowan, AReyeP, Ack (and Ariel & Brian who have almost acheived the same "cult" like status as the first 4).... I know many people have varying opinions as to who is a "Master"....

I personally think the definition for these people is this:


A Wolfenstein Game Master:

A game maker (not just a map maker) that constantly produces high quality products that are enjoyed by just about everyone, and played repeatedly.



I can honestly say that these people have made games (even if it's called a mapset) that are of such high quality that the games themselves become classics that transend the life of Wolf3d. And it's not just a one time shot... These people do it each time... If you played one of any one of their games... you want to play it over and over along with the rest of the games they've made. But it's also not just 1 or two people saying it / playing it... It's just about everyone (people wise) that plays one of those named above games, that feel this way.

They have a great and fantastic sense of balance all around. The decoration of each level, along with the map design and enemy placement - constantly evoke an atmosphere that grips your adrenal gland. They find the balance that truely makes the game Classic (and you know it will be) from the very first time you play it.

Even in the original game it isn't a constant.... There are certain map makers that you can immediately know and say "J.R." made that map or "T.H." made that one... It's obvious overall that the original game had many maps with different peoples influences in them... But the game itself is a Classic because it was the first real FPS that captured and created the gaming arena that we now enjoy... Not all of the original maps are classics.. But there are some that everyone says "Yeah... love that one"....

The difference with these people that we call masters, is that they have created games that have so many good things about them, that almost everyone that plays them wants to play them over and over and over... The game never grows old... And just for the record... Chokage - even with all of it's crazyness is one of the games that if someone said to me you could take say only 10 games with you because you are going to be stuck on an island for years... There would be at least 1 game from all of those authors, probably 2... from the first 4... that I would personally want.

These people have that certain something that they know proportion... challenge... gameplay... and the use of esthetics, to balance maps on so many levels that grab our attention and make us want more...

So when you want to study and learn about the use of floor/ceiling colours... placement of everything... creating the atmosphere and the use of asthetics... it's the attention to detail that creates the perfect balance that make their games classics...

But that's just my humble opinion... lol.. Pay attention to detail... Pay attention to balance..

Greg
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PS: Chemical Warfare by Jack is another one of those games...
I'm not saying that any of the other games that I have played were bad (and I've played almost everything up to the last year or so that have been released)... but these people created games that are constantly in my play list (of the over 700+ games in my collection) when I want to play a game from my collection...
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:34 pm
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Interesting topic this one. Are all these people under the 'Mapping master' status on the forum.

My question is what is the difference between someone that makes really great games that are loved and someone thats in this 'Master' level? There are people making mods here that I would put as in a kind of level just below those you mentioned Greg but the real question is have we set the bar too high for anyone else to join these 'Master' level people? There are talented mod makers and mappers in the community but those people you all mentioned as 'Masters' have been around the community for a long time and over the years that their mods have been released many people have had the chance to play their mods. People that have released mods this year could also have been of the same quality but maybe enough people haven't played their mods to be able to get enough feedback to elevate them to that level.

There are people like WLHack, RonWolf and Thomas that are consistantly producing high quality work but how much work and after what amount of time can they start to be included in that group? I agree with you Greg about Chemical Warfare, it's only a mod I've discovered recently but I'm already giving it my 2nd runthrough but Jack has only released 1 mod so does that mean that he's not good enough to get to the 'Master' level either?

And where does WSJ fit into all this? I think that a new mod from him would have a lot of people in a frenzy of excitement, isn't he included in this list, if not then what list and to what capacity?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:12 pm
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BT - Your statements about Ack are dead on. The first levels I played by him were from the Mapping Melee set (if I have the name right), and I've been a longtime fan ever since. He's done such impressive work, it's little wonder that Adam Biser selected him alone to do almost all the maps for Orb Of Dilaaria single-handedly. Smile
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 7:30 pm
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Dean wrote:
Interesting topic this one. Are all these people under the 'Mapping master' status on the forum.


I really don't know.. to be honest... It's been a long time since I played around with any of the ranking stuff (other than to add some new ones based on posting levels)...

Dean wrote:
My question is what is the difference between someone that makes really great games that are loved and someone thats in this 'Master' level?


I think (and again to me, it's my personal opinion) that the difference is something in the detain that transends time and overall response over that time.

Dean wrote:
There are people making mods here that I would put as in a kind of level just below those you mentioned Greg but the real question is have we set the bar too high for anyone else to join these 'Master' level people?


To be honest, again, I don't think that we set that bar... I think the Masters did. I guess it's like in anything in life, there will be many that do great things... and there will be a very limited group that where things are just that little bit better.

Dean wrote:
There are talented mod makers and mappers in the community but those people you all mentioned as 'Masters' have been around the community for a long time and over the years that their mods have been released many people have had the chance to play their mods. People that have released mods this year could also have been of the same quality but maybe enough people haven't played their mods to be able to get enough feedback to elevate them to that level.


Very true.. and that was why I said I wasn't trying to infer anything about any one person in making my statements. While I did say above that time was part of the equation, but I do know that even at the time of the games they released.... When you played them... You just knew instantly that this game would be a Classic... There was just something about them that stood out above most others.

I think the name of this topic says it all... It's asthetics and attention to detail.

Dean wrote:
There are people like WLHack, RonWolf and Thomas that are consistantly producing high quality work but how much work and after what amount of time can they start to be included in that group?


I really don't know what to say as to time... I agree that these people are very tallented and do produce high quality work.. Again, there are so many factors, but even by your next statement that I've quoted, you agree about a game that not many (and I'll call them newbies) have played. By that I mean that there is such a large library of games that have been made over the years, but from that list there is a certain group that stand out above the rest. Now most people becomming aware of the community at this present time (or over the last say 2.5 years) are just starting to learn about these great games of the past. They haven't played them because not too many of us are asked about the archives. But when they do play those games, they immediately say Wow... that's a game...

Dean wrote:
I agree with you Greg about Chemical Warfare, it's only a mod I've discovered recently but I'm already giving it my 2nd runthrough but Jack has only released 1 mod so does that mean that he's not good enough to get to the 'Master' level either?


In my personal opinion... yes Jack is in that list. I would love to play more games by him as I'm sure more people would as well. He also achieved that balance... that certain something that makes his game stand out with the others. I didn't put him in the list because I was responding to Ack's list, Tricob's response, and my agreement ... but I did add him and even Chris's Chokage because those games also stand out. Chris's is more for the crazyness and the fact that if you enter this word you go this way... enter that and you go another.. his game is just so random that you could probably play it many times and never really play (except for the opening levels) the same game twice...

Dean wrote:
And where does WSJ fit into all this? I think that a new mod from him would have a lot of people in a frenzy of excitement, isn't he included in this list, if not then what list and to what capacity?


It's true... WSJ does have a great following as well. I personally think he falls into the Areil/Schabbs rating... I mean he's good... really good, but there is something about those other games that really make them stand out just above those in this sort of secondary masters list.

I think that there are many great map makers in the community..
I think there are many great game makers in the community...
I don't think that it's about a "following" where an author has a certain group of people who actively talk about the games of that author and the want for more releases. As a matter of fact, there aren't many threads about the games that are masters or classics in the full library archive that has been built since the release of Wolfstein back in 92.

Personally, there are certain games that I love for other reasons and those games would never appear on the "Master" list. I love playing the original "xmas" release during the holiday season. There's something about the use of the Homer Simpson "Doh" and the overall play that makes it fun... I would love to get a great graphics artist and make a fantastic set of Christmas and other Seasonal enemies that we could say do something like a true "Halloween" or a "Valentines Day" or say "Easter" as in hunt the Rabbit or the Rabbit gets even... Who knows... I really enjoy going back and playing Mapsets like say the Engima series... Where it's not new features, but rather new and interesting ideas on map creation...

But, in the end... Those that are masters have achieved something that once you played the game, you immediately think Classic.. and so do almost everyone else that plays that game or set of maps... I really believe it's something in the balance of everything in the game that makes it stand out so much. I think maybe if we study more of those games by really disecting them (which will take some time and many many opinions) there might be things that constantly appear and stand out... Whether it be guard levels, placement, static object placement, walls chosen... blending between room types... maybe one of the things is something Ack said to me recently about a map I made:

Ack wrote:
I liked/loved the overall aesthetics and feel. Game play was pretty good too. Decent amount of ammo and health. Just enough out in the open for people who play lower skill levels and adequate amounts for people who play on IADI (balance is very important to me). The big thing I liked was the guard ratios. Using 97 skill one guards is nice to see. All too often we see people use 33%/33%/34% when it comes to placing guards based on skill. Using 97 skill one guards forces the novice player into a reasonable challenge. Whenever I make a set, I always try to include a couple of maps with large amounts of skill one guards. This gets a big thumbs up from me. Overall this is a really nice level and is good enough that I will replay it (I don't do that very often).


But when these Masters make games and maps sets, they do the things that I'm sure we could disect - that make people say something like this for each and every level they make. So... when you finish the game you don't say feel cheated or disappointed in certain sections of the game... From start to finish there was this certain something that grabbed you... made you want to play the game... gave you a rush... and then you play other new games, new releases and say.. yep... good game... but when you want to play something and you look at your own personal library.. those specific games just keep calling you back, time after time...

Greg
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PS: .... Think of it in terms of say a rollercoaster... because it's really the same thing... maybe that's it... that's the feeling... it's like they start to get you excited... and you go down the first hill... and then they build slowly... and then the next big transition... that grabs you again... and so on and so on.. It's that thrill... Maybe that's a better way of explaining the sensation...
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 3:35 pm
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Interesting - I only just popped into this thread for the first time to see if there were any discussions on mapping with various floor/ceiling textures - the type of thing that Mapedit can't handle but Adam Biser's editor can.

It's flattering to see people regard my mapping so highly, but imo, the best mapping work I have ever seen in any mod was in Orb of Dilaaria. Ack put the new features to use in such a way that this "mod" was almost a new game in it's own right. The new features weren't thrown at the player, but were gradually introduced as you played through the game, and each level built on the intricate storyline. The story unfolded as you played the game in a brilliant fashion.

Attention to detail is the key to good mapping - object placement (important not only for aesthetics but for how it affects player/enemy movement), enemy placement, how an enemy will likely move given the room design and the object placement, and subsequent strategies the player can adopt based on these factors (even better if you can give the player more than one strategy or option). Making use of "roaming" enemies is a big thing too - not just an enemy marching back and forth in a room, but moving from area to area, room to room, and around in such a way as to effect gameplay depending on timing. Unpredictability is another good thing to throw into a level - if a player doesn't know where an enemy is (but knows he's active) then it adds to the gameplay.

It's amazing how little things make a difference too. For example, a large potplant or a flag placed in front of a picture of Hitler is something I'd never do - I think Adolf would have been upset at his soldiers trying to cover his image Smile Yet I've noticed this kind of thing in many mods.

Adhesive Boy makes an excellent point about theme too - I've seen some castle like wall textures used in rooms that meander all over the place like a cave. What architect would design such a room?

There are some excellent mappers on the scene, and only little things may seperate them from the top bracket - minor errors that many may not notice. If I look at a map in the MMC and see a floor coding error, or a pushwall that slides back so that you can see it from side on as it slides, I know immediately that the level wasn't made by Ack or Ariel, as these guys never make these mistakes (although the pushwall thing is more an aesthetic thing than a mistake, Ariel is dynamite when it comes to aesthetics, one of the reasons his levels look so damned good). One thing I've noticed though with the MMC is that people's mapping skills have improved to the point where good mappers have become excellent mappers.

I will add at this point that there's one mapper whom I have great respect for - Poet. His work may not be as popular with many as his levels can be difficult, but he has a knack of making a level very intricate - sometimes it seems as if a level is absolutely huge as he has a knack of making some levels seem so tight with a puzzle element thrown in - it's obvious a lot of thought goes into so many of his designs.

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