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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.

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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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