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Good Layouts?
Ok, its been discussed some years ago Im sure...

What makes a good layout from PLAYER view?

I tend to think that complex non linear layouts and too much backtracking without a clear limited route just confuse the player.
Such was the conclusion after playtesting the game I was on. Chances are the testers were a bit lame at navigating 3d environments... but cant expect much from the target audience really (teens). The only good thing about backtracking - if done right, it allows to see the structure from different angles and creates a better sense of place.
In my opinion, its better having linear route through the map, but with bits were you can see the other areas (either already visited or better those you need to reach) and at some point present the view of the whole structure/building - also for creating the sense of place and just cause huge structures look impressive.
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Backtracking Is Good 
if it allows you to go back and investigate a previously uneneterable area. Of course, yo dont want to trek half a map to check out a new airvent or something but in general, I think backtracking is good.

I also like seeing other bits of the map from somewhere else in the map, the different angels make for a good view. 
backtracking is confusing - players get lost and frustrated 
I've heard Scampie likes a bit of backtrack'n 
Things I Enjoy: 
Some backtracking, provided the area you go through is repopulated or changed slightly in some way. This includes revisiting the same area from a different angle, kind of like a hallway has 4 doors, you only get 2 at the start, but go through the other 2 later on.

Foreshadowing - seeing some area early but not getting to it, then coming to it later and going "Oh yeah that's totally that one area."

I also REALLY enjoy MC Escher-esque layouts. If that SoE pack ever gets released, you'll see what I mean. For example, the level is really huge, but there's so many layers of stairs and walkways and pillars it seems much more confusing and maze-ish, and you can see some areas way on the other side of the level and possibly the path to get there but you can't be sure - I really dig stuff like that.

Also, lots of twists and turns. I don't like too many straight paths, I like stuff to constantly turn in on itself, similar to my Egypt-Tech turtlemap.

I feel a layout like that offers a lot - interesting gameplay situations while being non-linear and providing just awesome options for secrets and alternate paths. Twisty is the way to go. 
1) never let the player get lost unless he has someplace to go that he has not yet been to. Making a level too twisty will almost make it a certainty that this will happen. Not arguing against twisty; it is just something you have to watch out for in a twisty design.

2) Fuck with the players expectations every chance you get.

3) If you can't do the 2nd, and the player is fallowing a predetermined path, or backtracking -- add a cool, soothing sound track. This was used many times in Dues Ex, and as stupid as it sounds, it worked.

(Dues Ex icon please, it gets more references on the board than Unreal which has an icon). 
This is a pleasant surprise, I was expecting this to be another anally retentively narrow-minded thread like "Good layouts......for Quakeworld 1on1 maps that use Idbase textures" or something equally sterile for discussion.

But it isn't, hurrah. Could have a snappier title though.

Anyway, I like single player layouts that allow you to see the same areas of a map from different perspectives, e.g. at some point you see a structure, and later you are inside it, looking out. It has to be in the same map though, it's not as much fun if you change map and you know what what you are seeing is just a "prop".

I also like exploration and side-areas. But complete non-linearity can result in a lot of to-and-froing as one doesn't know which is the best way to go, as well as being hard to balance well. 
Hey Shambler 
If you go sign up for an account at slashdot they have their own page where you can metamoderate what other people moderated other people's posts as. I think it would be a nice hangout for you. 
czg: heh, great
But how about presenting some ideas on the topic, as you pretty good at making interesting layouts. Could you share some tips or even describe your way of thinking when you are planning a map

good mantion about 'same map', because nothing breaks up the world like a level change ;/
too bad when you just have to do it, cause of the tech requirments 
Amazing comedy, you can tell that by the sort of audience it appeals to ~_~ 
descent1/2 levels are still the best so i vote for lots of alternative, non neccessary routes. the routes themselves dont have to be too nonlinear or complicated, just that i like doing 'extra work' for some goodies.

also, descent used LOTS of backtracking and it almost all the time is fun. (keys, anyone?). the important thing to keep in mind is that the PLAYER HAS TO KNOW WHERE TO GO NEXT ALL THE FUCKING TIME. see descent: backtracking always occured after you picked up a key - you immediately recognized 'ah, blue key -> blue door' and flew in that direction (which doesn't necessarily mean you knew how to get there, -> descent's decent automap).

Also, a mixture between cramped, very difficult to remember and relatively simple / easy architecture can work great. I remember this one descent 2 level where i just always got lost in that one room in the middle, no matter how often and how concious i flew thorugh it - but the automap saved me all the time. could be annoying in, say, quake.

Don't block my way back once i get somewhere else. im a player that saves ammo and medpacks - and i want to have the opportunity to pick em up later. of course once in a while blocking my path back isnt much of a problem.

Show me where to go next (if that isnt already implied in your gameplay, see descent reactor/red/blue/yellow doors).

Design fighting areas in a way so i can finish it in several different ways (that is the reason why fixed guns in ww2 games are so boring); dont let me get the feeling im just trying to guess what the designer thought how to handle this situation (rts: commandos).

Don't ever let me wait but for one thing: things i did (like: its ok to wait for a plat when i pressed a button(hl1), its not ok to wait for some stupid scripted scene for minutes
which i cannot cancel(hl2).

Jumping puzzles are evil on the main route, ok/good for secrets. Reward me when i get somewhere special via 1337 movement (like a roof of a building or somthing, of course that depends on what kind of game were talking. i dont expect the ssg on a roof in hl2)
vertical fighting. i cant emphasize how boring horizontal only fighting is (see: d3). don't overdo it, but always keep in mind that vertical fighting is important. that is true for floors too - i want to strafe on stairs, jump over them to that small ledge - quake3 maps (not stock ones, silly) often show some good vertical scaling, tho the count of vertical fights probably has to be reduced for singleplayer.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the more realistic the environment the more important is nonlinearity, see hl2(and d3). totally sucks ass cause i walk on rails through all these wide environments(not d3). i dont have a problem with a sewer not being exactly complicated, but atmosphere does get destroyed when every door or hallway but one is sealed (also hl2,end: if the enemy has super power that can stop me completely from going somewhere, dont make him look stupid by letting him forget to secure one path all the time).

dont unrealistically spawn enemies, whether you do a scifi or a realism game. if enemies can teleport, let me teleport occasionally, too (see: Q) - or just explain why enemies can teleport. no rule without exception: if you do a game that wants to imply the 'bad dungeon master set some tricks&traps for you' image, almost everything is allowed (see daikatana, quake).

wuuaaah, so long suckers! 
What About Puzzles? 
i mean, minor ones, nothing overly complicated...

what is your opinions on minor puzzles in first person shooters? 
Jumping puzzles are evil on the main route, ok/good for secrets.

Jumping puzzles on the main root may be ok if they are done fine. I almost always use some jumping puzzles on the main root to add something different to the usual gameplay style.

Also ambushes are very fun in gameplay if they are properly made. 
Jumping puzzles on the main route shpould be either very short or very easy/fluid 
What's A 2 Level? 
Also, If You Are Playing Quake 
I figure you have suspended your disbelief on the matter of mass teleportation many maps ago before you ever get to one of mine, so it is just another trick in the bag AFAIC. 
Forgot To Say 
all that shit above is just my opinion (and the base for discussion, hopefully..!), im just too lazy and evil to formulate it nicer/less offending in case of disagreement. 
Jumping puzzles on the main route shpould be either very short or very easy/fluid

Of course jumping puzzles should be rather easy, much easier than the ones that lead to secrets.
It's sometimes more interesting to make some platforms instead of plain bridge. 
I Don't Care 
I would bring up descent2 as an example of badly puzzling map layouts. Quite complex 3d mazes, same texture allover the place - it was very easy to get lost. The 3D map didnt help much, the only true help was the little guide bot. Developers pretty much realized it would be frustrating for a player to navigate such levels and garecefully included AI helper.

Doom had some really annoying backtracking - I often found myself walking the empty corridors just using the 2d map. Contrasting to this quake almost always provided you with a teleporter to the door when you found a key, or just had a map planned in the way that lead you back trough another route. I was very noticeable and pleasant change from doom.

Jumping puzzles in fps are really bad, cause u hardly see where exactly you landing - the view is limited and you see no legs, also in quake you slide a bit (jumping works much better in third person view) 
This is a pleasant surprise, I was expecting this to be another anally retentively narrow-minded thread like "Good layouts......for Quakeworld 1on1 maps that use Idbase textures" or something equally sterile for discussion.

Lol, you're an asshole 
But I'm right about the myopic blandness of some topics people insist on posting.

Wasn't a dig at you, BTW, just a general comment. But to make up for that, you're a professional cockgobbler who's out of work from using his teeth too much. 
mostly sucks. I get lost a lot, even if the mapper has placed monsters to show the way.

Bordering acceptable: clearly marked key doors so the player remembers where they were and can go back to them after getting the key. 
Backtracking Is Good 
if done right 
i think it's misleading to say "backtracking is bad" becuase sometimes it isn't. A better way to say what we really mean is "the player should always know where to go next" and "the player should never be bored." And the first of those two rules is only true for action games like quake -- puzzle or adventure games might actually force the player to figure out what to do next. In quake, that isn't part of the gameplay, so it just frustrates player's expectations. 
Metl pretty much nailed it there. As long as you know what to do and where to go, and you're entertained, its largely irrelevant whether you're exploring new areas, or backtracking, or whatever else you might want to do. 
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