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Rapid Map Development
I would like to hear what approaches other people take to speed up the development of their maps so that they actually see the day of release and whether that comes naturally or whether you end up having to focus on the issue of development speed.

Back when I first started mapping in 1997-1998, my first few maps took about 3-5 weeks to make each. Now obviosly since they were first maps, they were also really shit. Over time, I learned to understand what actually made any given map good, started paying attention to polish and detail and this has caused the development times to balloon completely out of control.

Apinaraivo / Monkey Rage, the Q1SP I released a few years ago took 6 months of active development time, mapping 2-4 hours pretty much every single day. Right now I also have an UT3 DM map in the works and while I admittedly have been quite lazy, that alone can't really quite explain the numbers: I take a new backup of a map file every new day I am working on the map, judging by the amount of backup files, I have worked on this map on 35 different days so far amd while it does have some interesting things, it not even remotely close to a beta.

At least in part, the problem seems to be that I am not easily satisfied with the quality of my work, random XYZ thing has to be just right before I can move on to something else and this often results in me rebuilding a small section of a map 10+ times, making tiny adjustments, moving things around, etc etc so that at the end of the day, a lot of work has been done, but I have very few things I can actually point my finger at and say that "this is new stuff I've added today", so the progress feels very slow.

And then I see some people making absolutely jawdropping releases using new, modern engines that they have not only made the map itself, but also had to build all the meshes and create quite a few materials, test, polish and release into the wild, all done in a timeframe of 3-4 weeks.

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For Detailing 
I like to make a separate map and just put junk detail ideas in their. Fully textured, detailed, etc, and even make entire prop scenes that I think look cool.

Then I like to make func_statics out of them (not possible in Quake, but you can make func_walls instead although I wouldn't recommend it unless necessary) and then populate my world with detail where I've designed for it. I find that can also save a lot of time and helps you nail down your look early without having to spend time in your map working solely on one area.

If you do this early on, this also lets you build with an eye for details later while still balancing for gameplay.

But that's just what I do. 
Just Make An Algorithm 
2 do it for you, using those textures. 
By "it" I Mean "the Brushwork" 
looks like a sequel to White Room.... Blue Room? 
You know this actually makes me wonder if there is an exercise that wouldn't be too bad trying out, something similar to a speedmap. I think something more focused on the discipline of the process of map building, done over the course of several hours instead of just doing whatever jumps into your mind.

It needs some refinement, but how about this for a process-oriented exercise:

1 hour of just doing basic layout, do as much basic layout as you can, start wrapping everything up 10 minutes before the time is up.

1-2 hours of gameplay, enemies, traps, secrets, balance

1/2 hour to an hour of detail playground in a separate map

1-2 hours of detailing the actual map, texture alignment

1 hour of lighting

The idea being that the preparation of drawing your layout or thinking about it isn't important, but just working within the framework of this bottom up kind of approach is. The time limits might need to be refined, it might turn out that basic layout only needs 30 minutes or something, etc.

Any thoughts on that? I would imagine getting used to this kind of exercise would allow some mappers to speed up their map-building process a bit. 
I need a kick up the proverbial arse anyway.
We should do an event for this.

Monday - Layout
Tuesday - Gameplay
Wednesday - Messing with details of another map (what Zwiff??!)
Thursday - Detail map, texture alignment etc.
Friday - Lighting.

Give any potentially busy participants until the following Friday or something, and there could even be some participation. 
You forgot this step...

6) Get hot chicks!

or possibly

6a) Get Zwiffle's steamy ringer.

P.S. Good plan, looking cool so far. 
"Huh? I don't think he said that anywhere. Willem talked about doing detailing/texturing as one step. Unless I'm misunderstanding you. "

Right, the first step isn't necessarily detailed, it just implies the shape of the level. It shows where arches go, where detail trims go, etc. It doesn't really dictate anything other than a medium level overview. The texturing/detailing stage comes later.

"looks like a sequel to White Room.... Blue Room?"

Haha, believe me, I was tempted. But I'm going to follow it through and texture this thing up properly.

"You forgot this step...

6) Get hot chicks!"

Damn it, I always forget something! 
Or 6a) 
Ricky, I basically like to open a separate map and just do pure detail stuff, like how doors might look, etc so that I have a playground if details that share a theme for reference.

That step can be skipped if you don't do it that way. 
That's a cool idea, Zwiffle. It gives you a way to scratch the visuals itch if you get restless while working on the layout. 
Sounds Like 
A prefab library. 
Well it sort of is. I explained upwards somewhere that in other games you can just make these things into func_statics or func_details or what have you, but you don't have that ability in Quake. But it's still a good visual reference.

The post is up there somewhere, I swear. 
lots of good ideas.

maybe I'll give the outline on post 41 a try. 
you guys map strangely. i start on 1 area/room, and do that room completely until it's done. including the structure, detailing and lighting. then i move to the next area.

for me the most fun part is the detailing and texturing, so if you spend a month building your level without any detail, just doing the layout, FUCK that would be boring. there's no point mapping if your not having fun. and besides, the textures dictate your architecture so god knows how the guys at hl2 built the entire game without textures first.

then, once the entire level is finished, i go back through and do all the gameplay. this is the really boring part for me!. actually, if i could just build the levels and then someone else did all the gameplay, i probably would have built a lot more levels.

jago it sounds like your wanking around for far too long on 1 section rebuilding it over and over. just do it once, then if you can think of a better way to do it, move on to the next area and use your new idea there.

2-3 hours a day for 6 months? that's 500+ hours on 1 level?????? i could make a whole episode in that time lol 

Everyone works differently. I currently work on Quake stuff the way you're describing - what I'm interested in finding out is if this other way will work better. It's all about growth, man. :) 
Kona You Map Like Me 
cool. I dont exactly do it like that. Ill do the brushwork for an area, pretty detailed, than after it gets to a certain size Ill fill it with entities, than I expand out from there.

I tend to do all of the gameplay related entity work (triggers, monster positioning, ammo etc) after I have made most of the level, because I figure you cant really tell how the gameplay is gonna work out (generally) until all of the layout is done. I pretty much imagine my maps/area in my head and then build em. I sorta plan as I go.

And for the first couple of years it was great fun! :)

I think thats the difference in ethoses - it can be fun to do 1 map, or even 1 area while the idea is fresh and you're being openly creative. And it gives you satisfaction! But when that gets boring where do you go?
The answer: you start thinking about making something more substantial. Like an episode! The satisfaction must be greater. But it takes a lot more patience.

If doing it professinally I would guess that you have to work as a team, everthing must be delegated and broken down into phases, even the overall design stuff is probably done by a team of people, i.e. the brief.....
Because you HAVE to get it done. Or else you arent being productive enough to support you organisation.

How to make an interesting layout for a comprehensive progression:
First you make the layout. I like to make a huge environment and then figure out how the player will be guided round it. You might start with an area which seems like it could be the start, but ends up being the middle, or part fo the middle. Whats more important is creating an immersive semi believable environment and then bringing it to life with gameplay. So getting stuck in the rut of room of badguys - corridor - room of bad guys - corridor (over-simplifying here) is just bland and boring.
Being patient enough to finish the environment before being able to play your creation always worked better for me.

Just my own thoughts/opinions....... 
I've never done much SP mapping but my thoughts about it has been that it seems like a good idea to first think though (and perhaps write down) what you want the player to experience both in terms of ideas going through their head and feelings. Then use your architecture/lighting/audio/whatever vocabulary to try to induce that. Play the player.

For MP I think it's better to do many finished maps that has gone through the whole process than to get stuck at trying to make the perfect level and just rebuilding the low detail phase over and over. 
"For MP I think it's better to do many finished maps that has gone through the whole process than to get stuck at trying to make the perfect level and just rebuilding the low detail phase over and over."

I assume you're saying here, "It's better to get some levels done so you can see the whole process than to get caught up trying to create the perfect layout the first time you make a map". That, I agree with. Get your "my first map" levels done and out the door (figuratively speaking). That experience is worth it's weight in gold. 
Blueprint Experiment - Day 2 
It depends on the map size. It's always better to have as few people working on a map as possible to avoid bad merges and corrupt data.

In a prototyping phase there'll be the full design team on the map or else making the plug in entities (monsters, props - template stuff) one in charge of the environment (layout) who gets his or her stuff from art (chunks or tiles) which they first passed to them as simple boxes from a 3D package.

That's how we do it anyway. 
That looks pretty cool.

Does Toetag have a texture replace feature a la worldcraft? You just select one texture and then it can be automatically replaced across the whole map. Obviously can cause some headaches for sub-themes, but very useful.

Although what you've got there looks like a castle format in theory there's quite a few different themes that could be applied. Giant reactor structures? 
Yeah, ToeTag will let me select a face and then select all other faces that match that texture.


Yeah, a typical Gears of War MP level goes like this:

- An LD makes a simple shell that can be played (has cover, collision, etc)
- That shell is iterated on like crazy until it is deemed "fun"

- An LD/artist does an initial visual pass on the level, adding meshes and lighting and establishing the theme for reals

- An LD does a gameplay pass, making sure that all of the cover is still in place and no collision got borked during the visuals pass

- An artist will typically then do a final visual polish pass where they add as much as memory/framerate will allow to make the level look as good as it can

The "LD" mentioned in the various steps above doesn't always end up being the same LD. A level generally passes through many hands before going into the game box. 
Reflecting back on my previous work I am wondering if one of my main problems is that I nearly always end up creating gameplay around existing map layout and design features instead of doing it the other way around. It's very easy to get caught up in long flow of brain-to-editor creativity process and design a lot of stuff which does look good but then you try building some gameplay around the things you've built and you realize it's very clunky and end up having to rework the layout and visual features A LOT (often having to throw away and completely rework large chunks) until you are satisfied with both.

This is actually even more true for engines which have editors with proper lighting preview (read: UnrealED) because you don't feel the pressure to test the level inside the game too often. Actually, I just realised that my UT3DM map with 35+ different saves... I haven't yet launched it inside the game even once, I only used the "Play the map from here" feature of the editor which lets you run/jump around the map. This actually makes me quite scared of how many things might be out of whack "in reality" and will have to be reworked because I've neglected proper in-game testing. 
"Reflecting back on my previous work I am wondering if one of my main problems is that I nearly always end up creating gameplay around existing map layout and design features instead of doing it the other way around. "

Good point. I suffer from this as well. I don't dream up combat scenarios and then build the level around them - I fit the combat into the map after I build it. That always felt more natural to me but maybe I should consider at least planning out a few show piece fights and working the geometry to fit them ahead of time... 
I Think You Have To 
mix both together. Like build the map using brushwork first but as you are building it think of gameplay scenarious for each area, like "Shambler ambush would be good here" or "there will be a couple of ogres up there, but as the player notices them a bunch of knights will come out of here" or "this would be a great room for a vore attack" or "I could really envisage the player getting chased back out by a hoard of feinds here, that would look cool" kindofthing. 
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