News | Forum | People | FAQ | Links | Search | Register | Log in
Mapping Do's & Don'ts
I searched the discussion archive and see this hasn't been discussed before, so I thought it'd be a good idea for people to pitch in advice for DM and SP mapping: what to do, what not to do.
Good Advice 
I remember Aardappel saying never to make any room's walls the same -- make each area different to avoid monotony. (Or something similar) 
TeamShambler Has A Bunch Of Articles About 
mapping "correctly." I read em all, but I don't remember any of it. 
SP Mapping! [random Stuff] 
[1] dont have largish or long empty areas devoid of monsters.

[2] dont have small boxy rooms with low ceilings.

[3]vary textures and have detailing in the textures, not just large bland walls.

[4]Interconnect your map so it feels like a real place.

[5] Think what type of mosters work best in what type of setting.

[6]if in doubt make gameplay harder rather than easier.

and lots of other stuff too. =)

hey go easy on me... this is a long post for me. :o 
# 7 Break Every Rule, But Make It Work 
As for #3, you have to be careful about the textures used in the sense that the majority of textures are there to hide the simple geometry underneath and help maintain the illusion of real objects.

There is an ugly trend that texture artist have been doing with the advent of high resolution textures and that is to dress up the textures in lovely and curvy scratch marks that call too much attention to themselves. You see this big time in the Quake retexture project, but it exist in a lot of current sets for Quake Arena and Unreal Tournament.

Gamers have come to expect it and one team, Eidos Invisible War crew that purposively avoided it for a more subdued look has come under heavy criticism by Dues Ex fans because they think they want their beautific squiggleys. Art movements have always been susceptable to ugly little mannerisms like this, like garish coloured lights in Quake II levels, but I think even the public will grow in accepting better defined artistic standards.

Rant aside, IMHO, best use of texturing EVER in a Quake map, Xenon's 100 Hours 'til Dawn. 

Those are quite old i.e. late 98 / early 99, but if you haven't got the intelligence to judge what might be outdated or what might need to be interpreted in a modern way, you shouldn't be mapping. 
[1] dont have largish or long empty areas devoid of monsters

Zer1m6 - True Love Waits

Headthump: Best use of texturing ever? Come again? Hehe... how many maps have you actually ever played? :-) 
A Few More: 
DO keep your major architecture brushes aligned on a size 32 grid where possible. Preferably 64 for outlining walls/floors.

DO keep connecting corridors at lesat 128 units high & wide if you plan to have monsters in them.

DON'T use custom textures which you haven't seen in a map before (unless a.> you know what you're doing, or b.> they really are the dogs bollocks.. if in doubt post screenshots to hear what people think).

DO get people to betatest your map!

DO try & make lighting look interesting.

DO play other highly rated maps before starting your own, and learn from them; what makes them good, architecture, texture usage, layout, gameplay... etc. 
...use Quoole 
Ah, But... 
...zer1m6 doesn't really count. It was a huge, moody, tense, long, empty area that was devoid of monsters UNTIL you get to the very "end" and suddenly it's a huge, moody, tense, long area full of monsters and items and you have to fight your way through all the way back to the beginning. A rule-breaking masterpiece IMHO.

So maybe "Don't have largish or long empty areas devoid of monsters unless you effectively create a very tense atmosphere, or it's a DM map." :-)

BTW. I'm suprised (and a little disappointed) that Shambler or Vondur hasn't posted some advice along the line of "Don't waste your time and mapping talent doing stupid, pointless speedmaps." ;-) 
How Many Maps Do You Need? 
1. Play all the maps for the game and make sure yours is in the same style as a popular map, otherwise there's a good chance no one will play it.

2. Make sure your map is not of the same style as anything that exists already, what's the point? 
Don't: listen to Speedy/Mapist

Do: flame him

Don't: hold back

Do: call him a trolling moron who can't map his way out a box or add in anyway to any discussion. 
most of these do and don'ts are stupid...

all you need is DO make good, interesting maps with cool architecture and good gameplay, and DON'T get lazy and make sloppy brushwork that only increases r_speeds and saves you nil time. 
he he -- You should know by now that whenever I use superlatives I am kidding, but 100 Hours is a handsome little map. The texture usuage and lighting make it appear there is more to the map than is actually there.. 
Scamp's Got A Point 
I think people are being too general in their advice. I was expecting this to be more "small tricks of the trade learned from hours of painful mistakes". Xen's "don't make a corridor less than 128 units wide" and stuff like that rather than "make interesting maps, not boring ones".

Necros (I think) once told MadFox (I think) in another thread "don't make water on the same level as the surrounding solids as it's totally ghay". That's useful.

Little gems of advice. As someone who's never made a map but might one day these are things that can save you days of dicking about. 
add enough details into the map, but DON'T make the map uberdetailed. there are reasons: uberdetailed map might look synthetic. you'll see all these brushes here and there. if you're skilled enough you can make detailed maps with some reasonable limits. the main point of this paragraph is that your brushes shouldn't be distinct. they should be as the part of architecture, so one won't be able to see the brushes in it. bleh, hope that was clear ;)

hmm, fuck with lighting till you drop. yes, this means you should fuck with lighting. there are no excuses. this is the part of mapping. tune it till death...

don't release maps like that dude, how's his name...ah, heretic and other similar individuals. such maps are betas or rather, they aren't maps but some tests. you'll be tortured by others here if you release such crap...

indeed, don't participate in speedmapping, you'll waste your time. better waste your time making longplay levels rather than making these crappy singles.

choose textures wisely. if you're not satisfied with selected set, try to find another, if that another won't do, then select next. if everything fails anyway - use id texes...

try avoiding sharp edges between lit face and black one, smooth lighting (hm, i'd bring this into the 'fuck with lighting' bit)

wot else...
play the best maps to understand what's quality map. just to avoid releasing some crap. this applies only if you cannot distinguish your levels from the other ones, you should learn then what's quality map.

and of course let the others (close circle of faithful betatesters) to fuck with your map. they'll tell you things you never expected to hear... your map could say another fucker things it won't tell you, believe me...

hmmmm, seems that's it 
RE: Don't And 2 Real Ones 
I was going to say don't map too. It is a tremendous amount of work that should not be underestimated. It can be rewarding. It shouldn't need to be said, don't do it with expectation of praise or reward.

What I didn't expect is that when few or none like your map, you start questioning your own judgement and may even start believing them -- even when you *know* your map is good or at least successful in reaching your goals.

Anyway, 2 tips, mainly SP only:

1. Avoid the majority of the gameplay being greatly aided by backing up. The ability to navigate backwards while firing (or just turn and run) is perhaps part of skill, but not primary; also maps that constantly require such techniques are tedious.

2. More a rule of SF/fantasy writing: putting lots of apostrophes in your made-up words does not automatically give them a fantasy or alien essence. Actually, the practice is rather stupid as soon as you realize aliens, etc. don't use our alphabet anyway. 
also, I agree with Scampie, although I consider the term "architecture" overly specific and limiting. 
yeah, i did say that morfans :)

also, keep minlight very low as well as sunlight. minlight is pretty obvious, but i've seen some maps with bright sunlight values... these maps tend to look very plain in their exteriors because there's no room for contrast.

also, on lighting: negative lights are your friend. they add a lot of depth to otherwise bland areas, and because sometimes, too much light is bad.
use them to accentuate terrain, especially if there are flatter parts.

if you are working on rock faces, don't just randomly stretch brushes into odd shapes... these tend to look very strange and not very "rock-like". instead, try using 128x128 faces and to stretch the vertices around, but to make sure the adjacent brush vertices match up, this will give it a nice smooth apperance, but also make it look natural. in general, it pays to spend time on your rocks than just stretching brushes everywhere.

stay away from thin brushes which are part of an integral wall in the map. besides not making sense structurally (because supporting walls have to be thick -- and don't come up with stupid excuses like "but this is magical metal and it's superstrong!") it will look very strange, especially in the quake engine, which tends to favour thick, bulky brushwork.

this one is purely technical and has no bearing on what the player sees but if more for the mapper himself.
it has actually been proven that making thick (like 64 or more) outer brushes can actually decrease compile time by considerable amounts. (the test map was only a few dozen brushes -- imagine what it would be like on a 3000 brush one)
not only does it decrease compiling time, but it also looks much neater in the editor

if you're using quark, don't plan on loading your maps into another editor.

and the last one, that i'm surprised no one mentioned: MAP ON THE GRID! NEVER EVER DISABLE THE GRID! NEVER! 
Oh, One More Thing... 
[5] Think what type of mosters work best in what type of setting.

you know, i really don't like this rule. there are plenty of times where mixing monsters is completly acceptable.

in fact, i would rather rewrite it to something more like:
having base monsters in medieval or runic maps are fine (and vice versa).
i think it starts to look wierd when the two types are mixed together in a group in one attack... i mean, if you have two seperate attacks, on made of base, and one made of demonic ones, make them seperate ones, don't have grunts standing alongside fiends or whatever...
also, dogs suck... i find they don't really fit in with anything... plus they are annoying. 
My Interpretation 
[5] Think what type of mosters work best in what type of setting.

I interpreted this rule to mean you should place monsters in an effective mannor, not use monster sets that go with the visual theme. For example, don't place ogres below the player, because they won't be able to hit the player with their grenades. 
An Exception, R P G 
to the under lying Ogre is one who fires rockets. This can be a sweet suprise when the player is expecting an easy kill. 
DON'T map for Quake if you expect praise or reward other than personal rewards... other rewards may come but its not to be counted on. If you want praise go map for CounterStrike, or go submit just about anything pretentious to Deviant Art.

on the positive side of things...

DO learn all the keyboard shortcuts for the editor, its a lot faster that using the mouse to switch tools, etc. This applies to Photoshop and other apps as well. Know your enemy! (i guess WC isn't technically your enemy but it sure feels like it.)

DO build your curves using a variant of the czg technique wherever possible.

DO fix everything you can see that is wrong and you are able to fix. Sounds obvious, but a lot of new mappers release maps with flaws so obvious, they must have spotted them and ignored them. You can always get people to test your maps for you, and they will most likely spot problems you overlook...

DO use different attenuations and wait keys for your light entities. Try different combinations of multiple lights for a single general source....experiment!

maybe more later 
Do... for yourself because you may find it harder then you can imagine to make a big impression on the scene. The bar is very high for SPQ1 and most new mappers will not come close on a first try.

Take some risks and be creative. Getting too boxed in by rules may prevent discovery of some interesting visual or gameplay ideas. If you are short on ideas - well, just produce another decent map of at least id quality - the raves may not follow but we all like to play some new maps.

Have fun. It is all about fun, right? 
its all about the benjamins 
Study all of the existing levels you can get your hands on. I recommend the 100 Brush competition. It comes with source maps. I called attention to it one of the maps from it earlier.

Find the things in the source maps that appeal to you as a player, isolate those things even to the point of getting rid of all other unrelated brushes, and recreate the effect or brush work from hand as an excercise.

For example, on the map I have laboured on over the past few weeks I wanted to create a set of doors that appeared to be contolled by hydralic pipes.

Looking back on my experience as a gamer, I recalled there was a similar effect in a map by Rick Lipsey called the Well of Wishes.
I did exactly as I recomended, I isolated the effect than I recreated it.

There are plenty of map file sources you can find on CZG's and DaMaul's personal sites that you can spend days of gruitful research taking a part as well. 
You can also get the source files for all of my maps at 
Honey, Don't..... 
don't make water on the same level as the surrounding solids as it is totaly ghay

don't argue about things you didn't cheque out(i think)
with all respect, I finnished this first 6pack of maps, but I haven't had much feedback to this experiment.

If you like, you can look at the betalevel, but it was one of the faint irragularities necros tried to tell me (i think).

read all this above and stop believing ever to make a map that widthstands id standards (i think) 
Id Standards 
id's maps may look dated visually, but their gameplay and map flow is excellent. that is what we should study. 
I agree that that is the most rational starting point. A few months ago I redid e1m6 from scratch in the same vein and it was a decent learning experience (releasing it would be about as rational as making a scene by scene and nearly frame by frame remake of Psycho). 
Here's a link I just found, it has some bits from Tim Willits and others: 
DON'T make tunnel/hall corners that the player
can't walk past.
the oblique brush junction bug, if you do make a corner with oblique brushes, clip it, or
better still make the inside of the corner out of one brush.

DO clip around stuff the player will get stuck on (clip little stuff, leave big stuff to run into).

DON'T make brushes that overlap edges/vertexes should touch, but not overlap, this is important, I didn't know this when I started and had to scrap alot of maps before I figured it out/was told, the compiler will be your enemy after several hundred brushes. 
Re: . 
DON'T make brushes that overlap edges/vertexes should touch, but not overlap, this is important, I didn't know this when I started and had to scrap alot of maps before I figured it out/was told, the compiler will be your enemy after several hundred brushes.

Bah, I disagree 
Some Points 
Don't place ammo or health on the player's path, forcing them to pick it up unless you don't want to allow them to save it for later.

Don't put monster spawn teleporters (used for monster traps) too close to the player space. I've been replaying old SP maps and I get annoyed if I hear a teleport and it turns out to be nothing that I can use. This is more of a nuisance for players like me who might assume the sound is coming from a secret teleport. Place your trap teleporters out of audible range.

If you have a long path in your map that loops back and over/upon itself, take into account the possibility that if the player falls from a height onto a previously visited area, they need to get back without too much retracing. Doors, steps, lifts or teleports that create shortcuts only after the player has made the journey once are nice courtesies. 
'This is more of a nuisance for players like me who might assume the sound is coming from a secret teleport. Place your trap teleporters out of audible range.'

That is just too delicate for words. Since you are describing a factor that exist in most maps and a situation you are certainly familiar with what are you doing making assumptions about the nature of the teleport? A simple rule, if Marcus Dromowicz did it, it is not really a bad practice; if Matt Sefton never touched on it as a problem in his reviews, we are beginning to split too many hairs. 
I'm not trying to pick a fight. You are good peeps in my book, I just happen to disagree with that point. 
Were You Attempting 
to change your name from Scragbait to Scragbiatch, and just didn't finish? Oh yeah Don't make your maps too dark. Was that mentioned already? I'm sure I saw something about lighting... 
Hm... Scragbiatch... Interesting... 
Don't put monster spawn teleporters (used for monster traps) too close to the player space. I've been replaying old SP maps and I get annoyed if I hear a teleport and it turns out to be nothing that I can use. This is more of a nuisance for players like me who might assume the sound is coming from a secret teleport. Place your trap teleporters out of audible range.

alternativly, just give those triggers the "silent" flag, so they don't make the noise... 
Post A Reply:
Website copyright © 2002-2017 John Fitzgibbons. All posts are copyright their respective authors.