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Executor's advanced mapping tips
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Executor
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 1:23 pm
   Subject: Executor's advanced mapping tips
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Hey guys, I thought I might occasionally share some tips and tricks I've picked up over my years of mapping. This is not a "how to map" tutorial, it's more geared to people who already know how to map pretty decently but want to put a little extra zing in their maps.

Tip #1: Advanced Guard Choreography

Have you ever been frustrated with guards not going where you want them to go? Do they seem to get lost, run around in circles, clump together in an isolated room like a clot in the arteries of somebody with high cholesterol, pass through locked doors and spoil your progression, vomit forth through an easily defended checkpoint in a massive but utterly boring wave of guardmeat, or go around alerting everyone in the map and turning your level into a chaotic mess? If so, then you may want to bone up on your choreography--the art of understanding how guards behave and designing your map to herd guards in the directions you want them to go.

The first thing to understand is that guards have no sense of direction, at all. They do not understand the logic behind your map layouts and will not consider the most efficient way to reach their targets. The way they work is that they consider their position relative to yours, and then try to move in a straight line directly towards you, no matter how many walls or obstacles are in the way. They will not plan ahead, they will not take detours, they will grind against walls and bunch into corners to stay as close to the ideal vector to reach you in an empty, open space as they can. This can make placing guards in a complex layout infuriating at times, but it can also give you the ability to use the geometry and floor codes to constrain and control their behavior, directing them like chess pieces.

Let's examine a level with not a lot of thought put into guard choreography. This is E3M2 of my old mod Wolfenstein Sextilogy, "Administration". It was made in 2007 and it has problems, especially with the huge number of guards (209) I packed into it.



As soon as you leave the elevator, you are under attack, and firing a shot will lead to guards entering nearly all of the doors marked by green circles within the first few seconds. So right off the bat, you have dozens of guards coming after you, and you have to run for it. As you frantically scramble around the level looking for a place to hide, the vectors the guards want to follow to reach you constantly change, so they start to circulate through the level unpredictably, and with doors absolutely everywhere, there is almost nowhere they can't reach. Almost inevitably, you will end up in a space in the far north or south where some guards' desired paths will take them through the silver key doors, and all hell breaks loose as they enter the densely packed, mazelike marble area. There are many paths into, out of, and through this area, and now you've got at least a hundred guards riled up and thirsting for blood. After you clear the initial flood of guards that pour into whatever hidey-hole you've wedged yourself into, now you get to experience hair-pulling frustration and rage as you wander through a map where nearly all the main corridors and large rooms are empty, only to be blindsided and slaughtered by hordes of Nazis that pour out of side rooms and closets with no warning, over and over and over. It's not fun.

Let's contrast with Wolfenstein Missions MAP05, "Yellow Brick Road", created this year:


The opening fight features a guard who walks into line of sight just after the map starts, a machine gun directly in front of you, and SS who will try and probably succeed in preventing you from going north. Your only choice is south, with guards and SS in hot pursuit. Note how I keep the guards away from the side doors, and the only locked door in the main area faces north, where no guards will ever go. The tunnels and dividing walls in this area slow down the rate at which the guards come through, allowing them to "drip feed" into the southern chamber and possibly surprise the player when he thinks it's finally clear. Past the silver door, you get another choreographed fight where deaf guards block their comrades from getting into the side rooms and waking everybody up (but when you kill them and go into one of those rooms, watch out!).

Although sometimes you want guards to not all come out at once, so you can use partition walls and room layouts to make guards stay where they are until the player wanders in front of them. MAP31, "Purpura" from Wolfenstein Missions has an example:



This area has three little rooms off the main room, each with a rifleman in it. When you open the door to this room and fire a shot, all of the non-deaf guards in the main area plus the guy in room #3 will come out to get you. Once they're all dead, you might think this room is safe. However, a few seconds after you enter, a rifleman will pop out of room #2. While you're dealing with him, a second rifleman will emerge from room #1, directly behind you, and, if you're not prepared, probably nail you in the back for massive damage. The reason this happens is because when #3 tries to make a beeline for you, his line takes him straight out of the room he's in, and from there he hugs the north wall until he reaches a door. However, #1 and #2's paths take them straight into the northern walls of their rooms, and they'll just dry-hump the stonework until you go south into the main room. Then the straight lines they want to follow take them due east/west, so they'll barge through the doors and take a shot at you.

Note that this is an art as much as a science, you have to practice it a bit and get to know guard behavior intuitively, and then you'll be able to subtly manipulate guards to create more engaging and suspenseful combat scenarios (and also do a lot more with a lot fewer guards).

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 1:54 pm
   Subject: Re: Executor's advanced mapping tips
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Thanks for posting this!

I have been considering a lot of this stuff recently myself as I have been working to improve my levels. This aspect of mapping in "Passage to Hollenteufel" was a huge step up from "Armageddon" and "The Road to Neuschwanstein", but I still could do much better. Wolfenstein Missions and also Treasure Hunt both did this perfectly in my opinion. I was very impressed by the way the layouts controlled where the enemies went.

This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of level design to get right in my opinion.

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