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Continuity In Structure Design
I know it's getting a lot better with regards to how levels look and playnowadays, but I know there are a few out there who might be a bit new to thinking about the various details of level design, and that's especially when it comes to making structures.

When making a building, it's incredibly important to consider its purpose. This helps make it believable, and this helps make the world believable to the player.

Everything has a history. Everything from the broken corner of the brick in the wall to the newly added protection roof and the blocked-up doorway. They don't happen without a reason. They happen because of a development over time. Styles and technology develop over time too so some buildings might do mechanical contraptions different from others, but it all comes back to their place in history.

What you want to avoid:

- Independent box rooms connected by long maze-like corridors that look nothing alike that's supposed to be above ground.

- Nonsensical placement of pillars, crates, artefacts, staircases, elevators, and so forth that make you irritatingly wonder how did they get there in the first place, and why.

- Suffocating ventilation because of no windows and there are too many lit candles/torches and all the huge, heavy doors around are consistently closed unless you walk up to them.

What you want to have:

- A reason for why the rooms are where they are and why they are connected like they are.

- A reason for why everything looks like it does to show a development over time.

- A believable atmosphere in line with the suspension of disbelief.

- Efficiency in design to prove the purpose of structure.

Now, if you have a long corridor between two small rooms, what would the outside of that corridor look like, or the outside of the two rooms? Everything has an inside and an outside, and everything is dependant on the materials used. So for a structure built into a mountain there would be more corridors than for a building built above ground due to the differences in engineering techniques.

Think how the building came to be. Put yourself in the position of the master architect that planned this structure. Now put yourself in the commissioner's position, and then put yourself in the guard's position. Attack the design from every angle.

Crates all over but no opening big enough to efficiently get them in or out? Start over and rethink what you are doing.

A temple-like structure that's just a collection of maze-like corridors and no room of prayer, or any rooms of importance that complement the outside facade? Study architecture. (Which is why I like Quake 2 because it is based on Brutalism which is the ugliest and most disastrous building style in the history of architecture.)

The list goes on, but the principles are the same. You have to give reasons to what you are creating. It doesn't matter how cartoony or unrealistic it's supposed to be, if it doesn't fit in you better rethink what you are doing.

Now, everything shouldn't be straight forward to the player if you want to guide the player around the map. That's why you have locked doors. That's why you have areas blocked by rocks, that's why you have broken parts, that's why you have environmental hazards. But, it all comes together for a reason. Don't make anything blindingly obvious to the player, but make it subtle and hint instead.

A funny example is the wet floor in Half-Life which if you slide on it leads straight to an empty elevator shaft that if you fall down will kill you. The reason to have a wet floor there was because while the resonance cascade happened, the janitor was cleaning the floors. The floor was also smooth (linoleum/marble/some sort of smooth rock maybe) and most likely water-resistant, so that the pubble would be around for a while before it could evaporate. Maybe the janitor used the open elevator shaft to mop the water into, but got interrupted by soldiers and thrown into it himself?

This wouldn't have happened if the floor was lava or wood. It would also be terribly out of place. This shows how you can make those kinds of neaet little details lend themselves to the continuity of the structure design (in this case Black Mesa's research facility). The fishing Ogre is another good example of something that would only be possible if water was present and the water able to support Rotfish.

Also, to address this: There are examples of maps where the player lose their sense of direction (I'm guilty of that myself), but there's been enough guides about using landmarks to guide the player that I'm not going to add to it except to say it's important that the player becomes aware of where they are in their surroundings in relation to where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do.

So remember that all the things you do to create a structure in the map comes together in the end.

And with that, I hope you learned something today. :3
Cool Story, Bro 
Imo you should create some blog, where you put this as an article with images and create one thread where you post new articles. I guess you'll do more threads like this and they will be lost in spam, like tears in rain. Blog won't.
1 blog, 1 thread = win. 
Your "what you want to avoid" list sounds a lot like Quake e4. Now, I won't argue that e4 is anything other than an acquired taste, but once you've acquired that taste it can be the best of the original Quake episodes.

What I'm saying is that part of the magic of Quake is that it's stuffed full of things that aren't supposed to work - but yet in that particular combination, they do.

I'm not inclined to over-analyze this, so I'll just leave it by saying that if you stick rigidly to things you should avoid, part of the danger is that you could end up with a dull, generic design. 
You Should Read It Again 
Suspension of disbelief allows it to work in Episode 4. The universe has already been built to allow it, however it's still within reasonable limits. 
You have some great points and they all make sense, but I will construct my levels any fucking way I see fit.

If the level is fun - that is all that matters. Think about Ziggurat Vertigo... it breaks pretty much every rule you have here. And so does E4 as mh states. If everyone made levels your way, Quake would suck as bad as Quake 2 does. :P

Thank about any Super Mario side-scroller and re-think your position here. Fun is all that matters in a game. I think Q3DM17: The Longest Yard is the greatest MP map of any game I have ever played and it makes zero sense. It's fun tho.

Go play jam9 and check out Kell's level or PuSLaR's. They are beautiful and fun. That's really all that matters. My level makes no sense architecturally and started as a remake of a Doom level that made no sense. 
Did You Read My Post? 
I used Half-Life and Quake as my examples. This wasn't directly oriented at Quake 2.

Besides in my comment before yours and in my first post I stated that as long as the suspension of disbelief allows it, it's fine. 
Had to break my weeks (months?) long posting hiatus to just say that you are wholly wrong.

This is Quake, and bugger all makes sense in Quake, and I'd say the game is better off for it. 
Read The Fucking Post! 
Generic level design tips 101. Most people here have probably heard the same shit parroted 20 times over. Heated debate none the less. Good show 
Baby Bugger Boasts Building Brainyness But Bricks Briefs Brown Because Brilliant Ben Bypasses Banishment Before Bringing Bueno Banter 
0931 ~ LEGO 
There is a reasonable sense to give a map a sense of reality. It goes without saying, that the mapper needs a lot more time to make the map, than it is necessary to play.
Therefore, it is understandable that making a good card can take a long time.
If I can get an acceptable insight at that time, I would like to work on it.

There must be elements that attract me to it, a kind of witz, an architectural rarity,
Unexpected fight.

While I read your statements, I can largely agree with it, but the medieval character.., the unintentional.., does not match my imaginary fantasy.
As soon as I try to "get straight" and
make something reasonable, it turns out flat.
So most really good maps occur when I do not have the slightest idea what I am doing.
More in a state of co├»nsedence. 
The Problem Is Still... 
Most people half-arse what they are doing.

Either they're too focused on one thing to forget the other, or they simply don't care enough to put in 100% of the effort needed, and it shows.

Most of the maps in Quake-games are centered around structures of varying sorts, so why not make the most out of it?

What makes a map look good to you, and how do your own maps compare to that definition? If the maps by Simon/Arcane Dimensions is the goal, then I'm afraid many of you have a long way to go. I see many talk about improvement of overall map quality, but I'd like to see more going the extra mile to incorporate this heightened quality into their own work. I'm not perfect either, but I want to do my best to improve, and when I see I did something wrong I will address it.

And I did go all the way to the bottom of the history of the threads on this place before I posted this. If someone had posted this already I'd probably just bump that thread instead. 
Just wait and be patient, there will be coming couple episodes in the future that will cover many of those aspects. But remember there is whole list of talented/creative people doing their best, for free. Maybe it is better to look other things than ad all the time, just because it is most talked now doesn't make it perfect for your taste. 
I'm mapping in my spare time only, and I would assume that's what mostly everyone's coming to this place would do or is doing too. 
You Might Want To Apologize For This Shit Ass Comment. 
"... then I'm afraid many of you have a long way to go." 
Your posts are getting more condescending as the hours go by. I hope that's not what you are intending. But comments like: Most people half-arse what they are doing are extremely insulting. If you're hoping to be welcomed here, I'd cut this shit out right now and be more cordial.

As far as AD. Did you know sock (is or was) a professional developer? He's used idtech for a good portion of his career. So he has quite a vast body of work under his belt. (I played the hell out of quite a few of his "Territory" maps!)

As a paid professional he has a lot more experience than hobbyists here on func could hope to have. Like 12+ hour days for years of his life. That's a lot of time to hone your abilities. Sock has my respect for his talents but you certainly can't compare hobbyists against him - it's simply not fair or realistic.

That said there are some massively talented people on this board. Excellence comes with time and dedication. So friend, go map and stop telling us all we have to do better. Many of us know that already! 
@Demented Quake 2 Fanatic 
Do you know that John Romero described Quake as "the best example of abstract level design..." Quake maps are beyond explanation, absurd, and fantastical. How many Quake 1 maps have you made that you would come here and post your twisted, snide insinuations and presume to tell this community how to map for Quake?

You want more realism in your maps, such as crates being able to realistically fit into a room? I think this gardening simulator is more the game for you:

Perhaps you should use your time more constructively and go create a forum for insane Quake 2 zealots to post their self-righteous ramblings on... 
It would be unfair to compare people to the Sock and the AD team. Sock is a pro game designer and specifically cherry picked some of the best designers in the community to make AD a high quality mod.

Also, people making maps and content are of hugely varying degrees of ability. So you may get someone who has only been mapping for 6 months being compared to someone mapping for years.

I'd say focus on your own work and if you have anything to say then make it constructive and helpful to the content creator in the respective threads.

Also just chill out in general. 
Have A Vision And Go For It 
How did Sock come to where he is if he didn't work for it? Do you think he was born a professional?

I'm not pro either, but I am damn well trying to be better at what I am doing. 
He literally WORKED for it.

We all just do this in between our day jobs.

If sock didnt "git gud" hed be working the assembly line with the rest of us. 
I Get What You Are Trying To Say But... 
I dont think this is something people struggle with. At least in quake mapping.

I struggle with monster placement and encounters. With naming conventions when you work a few hours per week or after one month of not touching the editor.

I struggle with architectural consistency, which is what i thought you meant with that title.

I don't really struggle with what you say.
Also, that thing that you say about ventilation reminds me of retrojam6. No ventilation can build an atmosphere some maps feel suffocating indeed. 
It doesn't bother me big boxes. Boxes can be assembled in situ.
But doors that move and disappear into a solid brush bug me.
Or a sky box in an enclosed room deep in a building. Although this can be done right, specially in quake.
But these aren't concerns about realism but things that are just wrong.

Some things are ok if they feel ok to most people even if they're BS in reality. Who cares? 
Gremlin's Keep 
Had a courtyard with large windows...2 secs later you go thru a hallway that's right behind them.

But I agree with topher. 
is gloom's keep what you mean?

yeah, but it's a room above ground. i have more of a problem with the placement of windows. near the yellow armor secret there is a window in a wall 32 unit thick that doesn't go to the other room (the silver door elevator room). that bugged me a little even in 1997. unless you think that stained glass as a mural decoration.. but i can't.

the skyboxes it's something that you don't notice while you are playing, so it's wrong but it doesn't matter.

that thing about windows, ventilation and atmosphere wich the OP says it's true. but it's not something that you want to avoid. it's something that you can use.

the retrojam6 maps that i was talking about are pulsar's and breezep's maps. i replayed them and i was slightly disapointed that breezep's map have sky brushes, but oh well. the suffocating atmosphere is there nonetheless, and the messagges that pop up help, and that's why i really liked that map 
Skimmed the first 1/3 of the topic, good thoughts, good topic :) 
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