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When Is A SP Map "big Enough"?
I�ve been thinking about this questions for a few days now and thought I'd turn to this board and #tf for ideas. As some of you might know, I am working on a SP map for Quake (1). And the question I have is when is a SP map "big enough"? What amount of time should it take to beat and/or what amount of enemies should it hold? This question obviously applies to most 3D games we (mappers) map for.

make them as long as you can! my philosophy is to map for as long as i can until i get bored, then i wrap up whatever i have done. ^_^

it's not the best way to do it, but it works for me! 
It's The Lower Limit That Matters... 
The game engine will pretty much limit how big your map can be but knowing the smallest appropriate size is more subjective. With the exception of skill-setting, start or transitional maps, IMHO, E1M1 from Quake would be at the smaller end of a 'full size' single player map.

I think that most speed maps or 100 brush contest maps would be small snack size maps and not have enough meat to be considered full size.

I would also rather play a smaller well made map then a huge one lacking detail or quality. 
I would also rather play a smaller well made map then a huge one lacking detail or quality.

well, when i made my comment on size, i obviously intended for the map to be of good quality regardless of size...
i'm not advocating crappy hugeness here. ;) 
I find in Quake, the game engine puts some pretty big restrictions on how big my map can get. You can "cheat" by using nifty QC spawning tricks to work around edict limits to some extent (like I did in Bastion), but architectural complexity is pretty limited. Bastion was very basic room-corridor-room type gameplay, so I could chop whole sections out without damaging the flow too much. My current map is a lot more tightly designed however, and I'm having trouble working out which bits should be simplified or chopped out altogether :P 
Subjective To Each Map Really 
on one tip of the scale, you have Spog1 which personally took me over three hours to completely play and was a very satisfying experience, and then you have something like Haunted Halls the secret level for episode 3 which only has forty odd monsters on normal but is also a satisfying experience in and of its self.

Personally, I don't like to drive something to the point of exhaustion. My first release, I can't even stand to look at it in an editor anymore as I nitpicked on it way too long.

Short answer, the appropriate size is whatever completely represents the maps theme. 
Well, Vaguely... 
2. The level should contain an entrance and an exit:
That is, you should enter the level at a specific point, preferabley marked as an entrance, and ideally realistic (like a teleporter, door, canyon, tunnel, for example), and you should exit at a specific point, usually a different point to the entrance, and again marked as an exit, again realistic if possible. The level should require some travelling and/or task accomplishment to progress from the entrance to the exit.

3. The level should attain a degree of complexity, and require progression through it:
This expands on 2., and means that the level should contain some (i.e. more than one) areas (i.e. rooms, corridors, outdoor or underwater sections), connected together, that you must progress through to complete the map. Although there are a few maps that consist of single, tall, and multi-leveled rooms, these do have some (but not much) complexity in the room design. In general, the map should achieve complexity via multiple areas and complex area designs, and should require the player to visit a majority of those areas to progress from start to exit. Further, the areas and their layout should be distinct and varied, i.e. not just a series of identical rooms placed in a line.

4. The level should contain a "reasonable" number of monsters:
Where "reasonable" is errr, ummm... Okay, I personally would say a bare minimum of 20 medieval monsters, or 30 base/small monsters. The latter would include Rottweilers, Grunts, Enforcers, Fish, and possibly Zombies, and the former would include everything else. This is to ensure there is some worthwhile and continuous single player combat, which is of course the essence of Quake =). Also, these monsters should be used and positioned throughout the level, and not just dumped together in one room - this is all part of the level being reasonably complex and requiring progress through it. It may be possible to make a proper and even worthwhile level with less monsters, but they would have to be chosen and placed almost perfectly to be effective.

....hope that helps =) 
Personally I'm a fan of large maps that take you >20-30 minutes to run thru it and what contain >100-120 monsters. But medium-sized maps can be also enjoyable.

Gameplay is important here. I mean you may make a small map but with a very complex layout and such monster placement that makes player to play it for a longer time.

And also if you want to make a large map you should always remember about engine's limits. It may cause lots of problems when you are close to finishing it. 
Good Topic... 
One disturbing trend i've noticed over the last few years (more like the last 5 years actually, yikes!) is that custom SP maps have been getting bigger and bigger. It seems like an id-sized map would get complaints about being short, becuase everyone excpects these necros sized releases with 100-200 monsters. And most of the quality maps coming out are that big, right up to the recent vondur maps and kinn's debut.

This is just personal preference, but i'd rather see maps that were more like two or three times the size of id maps, rather than five or six times. Plus, development hassle is much less when you're not constantly pushing the MAX_WHATEVER boundaries with your map, or spending all day to vis is. If you want to do something grand, how about a mini-episode of reasonable-sized maps? 
i understand what you're saying.
for me, it's a personal challenge to make the biggest pieces of mapping i possibly can. when i sit back at the end of a long dev and zoom out and see the thousands of brushes i've laid down, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
i think it's one of the main reasons i map, actually... so i can look at the sucker at the end and say "holy shit."

i wasn't saying that big maps are the only thing worth making nowadays, because that's absolutly not true. i've played some really good medium sized maps and i myself have made a few.

making a medium sized map takes a lot off your mind because you know that you probably won't have any major problems with it, and won't have to do any serious detail culling.

i think, really, map size is best left up to the mapper's discretion. 
also, on the topic of making episodes instead of one large map:

i think the reason i never did it is because of how i feel when i think: "ok, this is going well." then i move on to the next map and you're back to square one with nothing there...

when it's one map, you just keep adding on, and when you loose that drive, you simply turn off regions and look at everything you've done until then, and you get like an extra urge to go on...

maybe that's just me. ;) 
maybe that's just me. ;)

I rather think it is ;) 
Aye, I don't mind small maps at all. A good map is a good map whether it's 30 monsters or 300 monsters.

I really like the idea of really small, like 30 monsters or less, maps, smaller scale, but with loads of detail and really careful monster usage, to maximise each fight (as a contrast to Necrosplay(tm)). 
(as a contrast to Necrosplay(tm))

yeah yeah yeah... ;) 
I just get a kind of "more than the sum of it's parts" feeling when building a large map, as opposed to several smaller ones. Also, I finding it's very cool revisiting an area near the end of the level that you last saw ages ago. >:D 
This Is Becoming 
a lets pick on Necros thread.

I can't do it, he's my bud.

But I agree, in the grand scheme of things, I would like to see an episode of medium sized maps that top Beyond Belief. I have enough in the way pf scraps to pull something together, but the will power?!? 
If large = brushcount, then I must confess a tendency to detail my maps until I break something.
If large = monstercount then really, I have a hard time getting above 70. I ain't no horde maniac.

And necros will own you all yet... 
And necros will own you all yet...

He's making a PainKiller killer isn't he? 
well i think when there are three main things in the map:

1. plot
2. action
3. conclusion 
It doesn't have to be as long as ^^^ that guy's last map, but it has to be long enough that you've felt like you've really accomplished something by playing it all the way through.

Some maps do get repetitive if you have to keep trekking over the same areas several times, so I don't necesarily think that time of play is a determining factor.

You should make it as long as possible, without boring the player too much. 
...large map need to contains at least 100-150 monsters, and you have to play it for at least 30 minutes... in normal skill ... Well, all these feels depends on the player, and what is the game played (Q1/2/3, D1/2/3, RF1/2, RTCW, MOH, HL, HL2, etc...)... 
My Opinion 
I like the trend towards large maps. What I really like are maps that are basically one coherent, huge design, like Glassman's latest. That was a great piece of work. Huge maps that are just huge, without a coherent layout that makes sense (ie, they aren't well planned or planned at all) aren't nearly as cool, for me at least. But I still prefer massive levels with ridiculous amounts of monsters over less ambitious maps, so let's say I'm a necros fan. In fact, the beta of my map that I'm currently vising, obviously custom engine only, contains over 400 monsters on hard. Of course it is possible to go too far and I may have done that.

All of my new levels, I've noticed, are at least 2-3 times the size of any of my previous ones. They also take me way, way longer to create, compilation time and difficulties being part but not all of the reason for that. 
400 monsters
:D that's worth using a custom engine. :D 
An Example 
I think some of the maps in Serious Sam SE are too big, I think one took me three sessions over three days. And of course that size is mainly waves and waves of monsters. All normally a good thing, but here somewhat lacking variation and subtlety, as well as sort of defeating the purpose of a large map.

A little over an hour is good, but harder to make sure you won't be interrupted. 
Long Enough To Satisfy 
A map should be long enough to satisfy the player, but not long enough to bore him. Obviously this is based largely on the situations in the map (diversity and challenge in gameplay and aesthetics). These days I get bored pretty easily, regardless of gameplay and aesthetics, so I much prefer medium sized maps over bigger maps.

People have said my two previous Q1SP maps are too short (RPGSP1 and Could.bsp). I'm really not sure if this is good or not. Obviously it could be seen as bad because maybe the maps weren't long enough to satisfy people's cravings, but on the other hand it could be good because that means they didn't get bored before the map concluded. I think a good middle-ground solution might be to make a large-size map that has medium-size gameplay. What I mean is that you can complete the map in the time it takes to finish a regular medium-size map, but if you want to take the time and fully exhaust all of the gameplay features (secrets, non-linear areas, route choices) then it will take the time of a regular large-size map.

Okay last time I tried to explain an idea, czg didn't understand me at all. So you better understand me or else I'm going to ship you to Snoreway! 
good point. But I still more enjoy large maps. I usually don't get bored if monsters pop up all the play time and they do it in a different way.

Medium-sized map can be more detailed without any pain for mapper IMO (comparing to large maps). So, in terms of aesthetics medium-sized maps may be a better variant for mapper.

Personally I feel something like Necros said, even if I want to make a small (not large) map rooms suddenly turn out larger and larger and therefore the size of the whole map is getting larger too.

Long Enough To Satisfy
When the map becomes long enough to satisfy me I realise that it is at least medium-to-large sized. 
Your maps were well sized and not too short! No complaints for me (and if you dig up any quotes where I do complain, they're lies). The only overall design issue was the seperateness of the end arenas.

I think the idea you put forward is a good and interesting one - I think most players will go for the "explore everywhere" option but even so giving them the choice is good. 
"Long Enough To Satisfy" 
Snickering aside, i think this is only related to the problem i was talking about -- most significant map releases are these big maps (100-200 monsters) i was complaining about, which changes player expectations, which means they won't be satisfied with what used to be considered a normal sized map (40-60 monsters.) 
Lol Penile Devastation 
For me, the bigger the map, the better. 300 monsters is a good start. When one single map takes longer to complete it feels much more epic. CZG07 wouldn't have felt as cool had it been the same length but across 8 maps instead of 3. 
RPG Is Correct! Sir! 
I think a good middle-ground solution might be to make a large-size map that has medium-size gameplay.

Bingo. Game play that is highly reminiscent of the original Id maps and Hypno/Rouge, but done in a larger more awe inspiring settings is an ideal worth exploring. 
I Agree 
I am easily bored, with a low attention span.
I thought rpgsp1 and could were the perfect length 
I also thought your maps were a good length, RPG, and not too short at all. 
a mapper's maps are never short -- they are exactly as long as they are meant to be.

So Tell Me, Necros... 
...are you trying to compensate for some size deficiencies elsewhere in your life??

P.S. Hipnotic maps....weren't some of those great?? The Mines one and Tor Torment...mmmm might have to dig that out again....after D3 of course. 
<--- Flattered 
Thank you all for your gushing compliments regarding RPGSP1 and Could.bsp.

What I meant was that some people felt the maps were too short. But others didn't comment specificly on length, and so they probably felt the length was pretty good. Thus, a good compromise may have been additional optional exploration. (Additional exploration probably would have been good anyway, since neither map had much exploration or non-linearity aside from secret areas.) 
...are you trying to compensate for some size deficiencies elsewhere in your life??

lol, i saw that one coming from a mile away, dude! ;) i was surprised it took this long, actually. hehe 
Title Shall Never Be Empty 
i was surprised it took this long, actually. hehe

that's what your mom said

I know some people have mentioned that they'd like big maps with average gameplay. I agree with that, if the largeness means 'possible exploration' but the map has a fairly simple route, or selection of routes. As well as being easily bored, i'm also easily lost. 
Greenhorn's Attitude 
If you want to do something grand, how about a mini-episode of reasonable-sized maps?

I am still trying. But my mappings are poor, and I realize there is more in a map than brushes, light and monsters.
Hard cases as gameflow, plotting and essentail logic beat my imagination.

I think the id of making an episode is a rather frivolous matter. I am already glad a can finish an average map. And trying to make one is something what only succeeds in terms of years. Or you should throw the maps to this board and make a contest what other mappers would make of it. But I am affraid they have enough other things to do.

But I must admit, Beyond Believe was the one that started me up. 
Big levels usually have a huge problem with gameplay, at least for me. I like the progress from weaker monsters to big ones, and I really don't like large horde fights, especially if end has nothing else. After a certain point, shoving more, stronger monster's at the player's face just becomes tiring. 
No, no it doesn't!

I think continual upgrades, both to the player's arsenal and the amount/type of monsters, leads to a suitably "climatic" feeling map, especially if the end is completely over the top (like many of Kona's maps). My 2 cents.

Now go finish JJSQP4 
I Disagree With You, Tronyn 
After a certain point, you're just throwing lots of monsters at the player. Tense hoard combat is often repetitive and draining on the player's psyche. And besides, it's a lot easier to make creative and interesting combat situations with fewer monsters. Look at Menk; there are lots of creative uses of monsters, but the only hoard combat is at the end--and that is the weakest area of the map, IMO. 
"Tense hoard combat is often repetitive and draining on the player's psyche. "

1. Relax!
2. That's why it's (usually) at the end.
3. I don't find it too draining, in fact I tend to start yelling "you bastards! You're goin' down THIS time!" or whatever.

In the Serious Sam case I mentioned, though, one starts to ask "what else is there?" 
I Think 
that I would prefer more focused combat than horde combat. Many areas in Doom3 were more focused than horde-based, and it can be a great experience. More thought put into combat situations can be rewarding for the player and can be more of a challenge on smaller levels. Overall, more focus is a good thing (though I'm not saying horde combat can't be focused.) On bigger levels however, it can be difficult keeping the higher number of combat situations fresh, and an occasional horde fight can change the tempo. 
Hordes, Eh? 
do you mind if i worship you for a bit? 
As Long As You Do It Discreetly. 
so cute!! look how little they are! with their little swords!! 
I Give That Map 
I Hope That Map 
comes with a nuclear detonator. Jeez -- imagine having only an axe to handle them! 
It's just a box I put together to test the extreme limits of monster spawning. There's 2000 knights coming after me in that shot. 
I've Played Through 
this map (especially with those knights) so many times it haunts me in my dreams ...

Yesterday I also increased sound capacity in my engines and it seems to help a bit also when dealing with this knight horde. The Kinn Gib Sound gets a lot of playing time here ... 
That ... 
...tetris map was too big for me 
Does That Mean You Need To Use Trash Bags, Blackpope? 
But seriously, I agree that map (Pajitnov) was too long. 
10 Year Resurrection! 
With BSP2 and other limit extending changes in the engine we now get highly detailed, huge and well made maps. So let's discuss when is a SP map "too big"? 
Any Map With More Than 100 Enemies 
When playing rrp I felt fatigued at times because of the sheer amount of detail mixed with huge complex maps. telefragged.bsp to me almost felt like 1/4th of Quake 4 crammed into one map and I would have had (even) more fun if it was split into 3-4 maps.

Details are nice, but they are not what defines a fun Quake map to me. 
Epic Maps Are Nice 
But I also like clever small maps with a central theme to them. Kind of like in Portal every map deals with a specific problem to solve.

There's probably a ton of them, but two that come to mind are Negke's Castle Madfox and Ijed's speedmap with the Rising Lava. 
For the mapper whe he gets bored of it. For the player, in between on when he is craving for more and when he feels satisfied with it.

Huge maps tend to be more epic and have more probabilities of being repetitive, small-medium sized gives more time for a breather, even more considering we usually play them in one go, and harder to make something unforgeteable, except when maps are focusing on ambience or on new gameplay ideas.

*Spiney, those are good options, and like a lot when speedmapping goes that way, the mapper can focus better on the map itself instead of thinking of brushwork, and churn out more interesting speedmaps no matter the time spent on them. 
10-15 minutes of gameplay I think is a happy length. Shorter than that there's no real meat to the level. Too much longer, and much of it becomes a forgettable blur, even if all of it was high quality blur. 
I agree with Scampie.

I prefer maps of medium size, because huge levels often start to feel like a chore after a while. They delay the sense or feeling of accomplishment that one gets from completing a map. The intermission screen as a rewarding reminder of it and well-deserved break after or in-between the action. Killing 5*100 enemies feels more satisfying than killing 1*500. Not to mention smaller maps make for more flexible play sessions (much like smaller chapters in a book are more managable than if the whole thing is in one piece). 
Cross-post From Warpspasm Thread: 
#67 posted by metlslime [] on 2007/05/16 21:32:37 spam

I have to admit that maps of this size (400-500 monsters) are too big for my taste. I think each map could have been split into two-three maps (except the snowy one of course.) I think part of it is a pacing issue, and part of it is an issue of the amount of physical space players have to traverse and remember. An intermission screen not only functions to help establish the tempo of the episode and give a sense of progress, but it also is a point where players can flush their mental-map-bulding process and start anew. It's easier to remember the layout of 5 small shopping malls than one huge shopping mall.

I still agree with this. I appreciate the quality and creativity of packs such as warpspasm, RRP, inidian summer, and other massive maps/packs, but as a player I don't enjoy them as much as smaller maps that I can complete in 20-30 minutes. 
Professionally, I never, ever make or approve a level which i s large or even medium in size. Everything should be as small as possible as allowed by the parameters of the game design.

The pros of doing small levels is overwhelming for both the creator and player.

When mapping for Quake, I ignore all the benefits of small maps and go for megamap format. I always have a grand plan, and have followed through on whatever it was for all released maps, usually to above the 50% marker, which I count as... resilience I suppose.

Or high boredom threshold.

Really, what you guys see of my game dev is like what my subconscious dumps while my forebrain is otherwise engaged. 
on the other hand, after playing some of those Citizen Abel Quake 2 maps, I find it really disappointing to hit map triggers so often. I think one of the maps lasted only a couple of minutes before I moved to the next one.
So too short can be detrimental too. 
It's why I mentioned as within the parameters of the game design. When you're selling an experience though, there is something to be said for leaving them wanting more...

Was I right about the Abel maps? Or is it my rose-tinted memory playing tricks on me again? 
I... haven't the urge to try the last 2. The first two are definitely a case of rose-tinted glasses though... Maybe back when Q2 was new it was awesome (but maybe only cool because of the unique gimmicks), but they are just very unpolished and have annoying gameplay. 
I definitely remember the 4th as the best. There was a major learning curve. Not sure when the Lazarus mod was introduced either - it was basically a massive mapper toolkit.

The closest Q1 has to it... Doesn't really exist. You'd need to combine and polish the crap out of several extra entity sets.

And add no monsters. 
Huge maps tend to be more epic

"Epic" is an empty word.

Every game or movie or huge level that makes you want to say that it's "epic" did something else well and "epic" is just a shallow way of describing it. You might as well say "awesome."

A big level makes you want to call it "epic" because (if done well) it feels like you went on more of a journey to complete it, like you overcame more. If the level art and pacing of the design doesn't give you a clear idea of what you're overcoming, it just feels like an endurance test with no end. There's an extra burden placed on maintaining the player's sense of his goals and direction when you scale up a level that much. You no longer have the inbuilt rhythm of silver/gold/exit to rely on, and just replacing that with lots of buttons and fromitz board hunts grows very wearisome.

The RRP maps I've played so far all suffer from a lack of providing any sense of progress toward a goal. There's a warren of small rooms and large rooms and constant errands to run, and there's no sense at all of the scale of the thing until you finish it. You (almost) always know where you're going next, but never more than that, so you still spend the whole map feeling lost. 
Good Point Lun 
I agree that the special thing that big maps offer better than episode of small maps is this sort of large-in-scope journey from beginning to end. Part of that experience comes from the player "feeling" where they are in the arc of that journey.

An episode could accomplish the same thing but most episodes in quake feel too disconnected from map to map, so it doesn't feel like it's part of a cohesive whole, nor that it's building towards anything.

Part of making it work is the player seeing their goal from the beginning. Marcher does a good job of this, you see the tower at the start, and later in the level you can tell that you are getting closer to the top floor.

Pacing and escalation are other factors, as you progress the level should feel like it's growing towards a climax. This is harder to do in a large map (you have to slow down the escalation or have an even bigger climax) but should still be possible. 
I'm a classic favorite so I'll go for the map limits of the compiler. That way the playtime is fair and more than 100 monsters give me the beat.

Of course you can use bsp2 and create larger maps but at that time mapping skills tend to be more than avarage to make an interesting map.

It takes some time to create a place that feels real but for some reason there's always a lost trace that could be used better. 
Objective Cohesion 
I tried to use the laser gates, keys and revisiting areas to keep the player with a sense of purpose. Revisiting doesn't work so well, like Metl says it's too when you see an area but not pass through it - "I want to get there" whereas retreading ground can have a counterintuitive effect, even if it changes or is repopulated and the chances of this increase the larger the map.

In hindsight, the lasers would have worked much better in my map if I'd had them running throughout the complex inside the wall and linking up into a network, so it would have been constantly obvious what was going on just by glancing at the nearest wall. "Ok, looks like I need to toggle the red lasers for that door" I tried to do this by painting text and arrows on the floors, but the noise of the floor textures meant nobody noticed.

I even wrote things like 'Quad' and 'Secret Room' as well as having a long red /blue /yellow arrow trail when near to one of the laser control areas.

The fromitz boards I just use as short range keys. You always saw the plug in point first and the key was usually within spitting distance, you just had to figure out how to get it it. Multiple key puzzles I avoided with them because it's easy for the player to feel lost if the area they have to explore isn't clearly defined.

As for pacing and escalation, I think I got this done right in tfragged, if I do say so myself :)

Basically, tense at the start, standard gameplay at the middle, continual quad + RL + LG + Hunter towards the end and the end itself being a classic styled escape sequence.

But, big maps are an acquired taste. Like marmite.

Hm, think it's time for an early breakfast. 
as I said in the other thread, Citizen Abel 3 and 4 are very good, 1 and 2 not so much :) 
But, big maps are an acquired taste. Like marmite.

No, they're not. They're harder to do right, but I'm not going to afford them special exception from criticism by 'acquiring a taste for them.' 
Handbags At Dawn 
if you're expecting something else, for example, a regular quake map, then you're going to be pissed off when your expectations are broken. Or very happy, hence the self referential comment.

Lunsp1 can't be considered small. Which is a petty comment, but stands. 
The primary reason I like big maps, is I like seeing large outdoor views and the spatial relationship between different areas. Particularly involving an ascent, ie Breakfast At Twilight, Marcher, etc. If a map is large but doesn't have that panoramic view where you can see much of the layout, then I think it could easily be split into multiple smaller maps without losing much, and maybe even a good thing for the player. The only reason Something Wicked was one map and not two, was that the layout was too interconnected; it could have been the Tyrann-castle front as map 1, the Necros-interior courtyard as map 2, except for that. The last FMB map did kind of succeed that way, in terms of having each separate map centre around 1 large hub, yet all 3 bsps could theoretically have been one. 
Maybe we're conflating two things sometimes, namely how 'full' a map is with it's physical dimensions. You might have a tiny map that takes ages to complete and a huge one that's more of a sight seeing tour.


Size would be the physical dimensions of a map.

Scale would indicate the relation between the dimensions of the map and the dimensions of the playing field, typically expressed in vistas and draw distance versus corridor crawling. So, how spacious the map feels.

Interconnectivity would be how interconnected the spaces are. It ties in with linearity. Some maps might be very linear at first and open up once certain doors are opened. You could make a physically huge map that's simply a linear progression through a lot of rooms but could easily be split into smaller maps.

Pacing would indicate how many objectives need to be completed. A map might have a lot of small objectives or few big ones. The 'pace' between them (travel time and physical dimensions) would dictate how the map feels (from overly chaotic syncopation to boring straightforwardness).

Duration would indicate the time needed for the player to complete the map. 
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