So, yeah. I know, it's been a while - there's a good reason, too!
I won't bore you with the details, but I took a brief hiatus from doing games-related stuff, and currently working at a Café for income and for newer experiences.
Now that's all out of the road, I can unveil (so pretentious...) that I will be starting work on a new project in Fallout 4. As I was looking over my old Skyrim project I noticed more and more how I could improve upon it and what I can learn from it, and instead of just recreating the Skyrim project I thought I'd start a Fallout 4 Quest with the knowledge I now have.
It's a... simple idea, a think. The concept is that a new type of ammunition has been circulating around the Boston wasteland, notably being used by well-established Raider groups. It is the Lone Wanderers (LW) mission to find the source of this new explosive ammunition. (May or may not be inspired by Luke Cage's 'Judas' bullet *coughs*) This will take the LW investigating across the wasteland talking to new and old characters alike, until eventually locating the source of the arms deals, Vault 42 (this is subject to change of course). I'd like to mix a bit of arms deal conflict as an arms race, notably touched upon in Deus Ex games. I feel it would be a great opportunity to get the different Boston factions involved (maybe a little too much for just me, but we'll see).
So what have I done? Not that much. I work five days a week and I am usually quite busy. Today however, I wrote up some more notes and drew some really quick first pass sketches of the Raider stronghold guarding Vault 42's entrance.
A moat surrounds the stronghold leaving two ways in - through the front or through the sewage pathways. A wide road claims the centre of the stronghold, as it would be the main route to and from the vault. The stronghold is pretty symmetrical, with two guard towers either side of the entrance, and a turret each side. A longhouse is on the right-hand-side for the raiders to sleep in, and on the left a small armoury and prison for their captives.
Although it's not much, it's a start, and most of my time I have for this is planning and forming my ideas into designs and making sure the tasks are doable with a certain span of time.
Thank-you for reading. More to come at a later date.
Testing Wave #3
Over the last four weeks I have conducted three testing sessions involving my four Unreal Tournament multiplayer maps; CTF-Void, CTF-Redemption, DM-Midnight, and DM-Peon. I averaged at around 10 testers per session, and they were able to test each map multiple times, including with changes.
Each week I asked them to fill out a form, asking them what they would rate specific attributes of the maps (Gameplay, Navigation, Weapon Placement / Use, and Map Size). Over the four weeks I was able to receive over 35 replies.
This blog, as well as detailing this quantitative data, will discuss and reflect on my map designs to their creation and testing. After which I will be choosing one map to further develop and test in the future with the inclusion of certain testing tools / skills such as heat-maps and the use of meshes to flesh out the level.
I noticed that most of my maps had difficulty complimenting Unreal Tournament 4's gameplay. As I designed and developed the blockouts without sufficient research / playtesting, the design were flawed before I had even started. The differences between Unreal Tournament 3 and Unreal Tournament, though subtle at times, change certain gameplay elements drastically, meaning the maps I designed were more built for UT3's gameplay. As already explained in an earlier post, I favour close-quarters combat over long-range skirmishes, or open-planned maps. By testing, it has made it abundantly clear that most people have their own ideas of how they want to play the map and their own methods; it's improbable to suit them all.
Digressing back to the testing, as I will make a larger reflection post later in the semester, out of all the testing and feedback I am confident which map I am going to focus on, but first, the data.
The first question on the form is 'what would you rate the gameplay of this map out of 5?'. This covers how fun the map was to play.
Redemption scored the lowest at an average of 2/5 with a slight curve dropping from 2-4 respectively.
Out of both of the CTF maps Void averaged a higher score with an average of 3, with the addition of quite a few 4/5's and even a single 5/5 score. It follows quite an average curve with 3 being the highest point.
Both Deathmatch maps scored greater than the ctf maps for their gameplay. Starting with DM-Peon: at an average score of 3, with 4 being the second greatest number, comes quite close to CTF-Void's scoring, the difference is DM-Peon doesn't have a score of 1, and boasts far more 5/5's than Void
DM-Midnight, however, trumps all of the maps with an average of 4/5 and a considerable amount of 5/5's making it the highest scored map for its gameplay.
The second question in the form was 'what would you rate the navigation of the map?' this covers the map flow, pickups and accessibility of the map.
Again starting with ctf-redemption, scoring the lowest again at an average of 3 with a steep curve from 1-3 with a single score for both 4/5 and 5/5.
ctf-void has a rather simple curve with its metrics; with an average of 3/5 it curves with similar scores between 1/5 & 5/5 and 2/5 & 4/5.
dm-peon has a lot easier chart to read as it looks like a generic 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place podium with 3/5 as the average score for its navigation.
dm-midnight again averages at 4/5 with a considerable amount of 5/5's as a sharp curve over the chart.
The third question in the form was 'what would you rate the map size?' this covers distances to the flags in ctf, and how easy it is to traverse the map to find and engage in combat.
ctf-redemption averages at 2/5 for its map size with quite a few 1/5's and 3/5's to balance it out.
ctf-void follows a similar curve to its other charts and averages at 3/5 with a few 2/5's and even fewer 4/5's and 1/5's
dm-peon just barely scrapes an average of 3/5 for its map size, with a very close amount of 2/5's and the rest being 4/5's.
dm-midnight is very close between the most amount of votes for 4/5 and 5/5. The considerable amount of 3/5's put the average at 4/5
Weapon Placements / Use
The fourth question in the form was 'what would you rate the weapon placements / use?' this covers the placement of weapons, and which weapons are used within the level; do they compliment the map?
ctf-redemption has a simple curve with a steep change between 1/5 and 2/5, with 2/5 as the average with quite a few 3/5 scores.
ctf-void follows suit with yet another simple curve with a steady increase between 1/5 - 3/5
dm-peon's chart is very similar to its navigation score, difference is, for the weapons it scores much more 4/5's.
dm-midnight has a strong 4/5 average with only a few amount of votes for 2/5 and 3/5
Now that I have presented the metrics of the form's data, I will now cover the analytics of the information given. This section will detail why I think the scores were given to each map for each section, and compare them.
Each of the maps were rated out of 5 for their gameplay; how fun was the map? Overall dm-midnight was the highest rated with an average of 4-5/5, whereas, ctf-void and dm-peon averaged a 3/5, and ctf-redemption averaging 2/5.
I see this due to how the maps were designed. CTF-void was designed using inspiration from ctf-facingworlds, a simple two base, open-planned map with long to short range skirmishes. Although fun, it still had the problem of players constantly falling off the map. Where most people testing ctf-void enjoyed this feature as they thought it was riskier and more rewarding, other players were constantly annoyed at their progress being stunted by a simple shock rifle hit.
CTF-redemption is the complete opposite of ctf-void and was rated very low, I see this because the map was too small, despite the designs and vision in my head the map being much larger. When blocked out, the map was very claustrophobic and tight, and although it did gain a few generous votes, it was still clear that this map was weak and not that fun. I personally believe that the flow was disrupted by the bridge and ramp in the middle, there was no other incentive to traverse the side routes, as this route was a lot quicker and provided enough cover for the flag runner to return the enemy's flag easily.
Comparing the ctf maps to the deathmatch maps it is clear that I did a better job designing deathmatch maps and executing them. DM-midnight did amazingly well and received critical acclaim from peers and testers. DM-midnight is a small close-quarters map, whereas dm-peon was designed more around open-scaled Halo maps. The problem here is that Unreal Tournament 4 relies a lot of Z-fights (multiple floors rather than open-planned), and dm-peon was just too open, lots to run around on and seemed quite flat. Surprisingly, it still did well, however, the main complaints were running around finding people, and not a lot to maneuver on due to the flat design. DM-midnight is designed a lot more around a Unreal Tournament 3 style map, but at the time I didn’t realise how different UT3 was to UT4.
It seems that ctf-redemption relied too heavily on ignoring the weapons completely and running straight forward, whereas a defender had easy access to a rocket launcher, making it debatably easy to ward off attackers due to the limited small access points to the map. CTF-void also includes rocket launchers, but due to the open-scale of the map it was easy to use the lock-on feature, adding more ways for a player to be sent off the side of the map. DM-midnight also had issues with the rocket launcher, as it was very versatile wherever the player was on the map, removing it created a much better flow, and made them fight for the armour in the middle creating a constant flow.
Due to the metrics of the testing over the last few weeks, I feel like I can make an informed decision of what one map I can focus on to further develop. So I believe, due to the data received, that I should focus on working on dm-midnight. Next week and thereon I am doing to focus on testing this map and provide more level design testing skills such as heat maps, etc.
Testing Wave #2
For my second wave of testing I invited friends to come along and recorded the register using Google Forms.
The testing was held at the university, and I was able to setup nine pc's with my maps on, separating them into two groups. This testing was to get a better understanding on how player's move around the map, and which weapons were used the most, and how. To get a better reading on the Rocket Launcher's power, I took away the cooldown, so I get a firm understanding on how it balances in the particular map. The next blog post will detail any changes made to the maps.
Additionally to verbal feedback during the testing, I asked the participants to fill in a feedback form using Google Forms.
The first map to be tested was DM-Midnight.
Overall the map testing went well. The main feedback I received was to maybe add a Flakk Cannon in for a variety of weapons. So I switched the Shock Rifle and Link Gun in the middle, and then replaced the Shock Rifle with a Flakk Cannon on a small cooldown and limited ammo.
On a personal deduction I feel that this map went rather well, and nothing really needs to be changed with the BSP blockout elements of the map. The only elements I need to balance now are pickup placements.
Google Form Feedback:
Gameplay Score: 4/5
Navigation Score: 4/5
Averagely, DM-Midnight scored highly in the first two questions, already onto a good start.
"What you liked"
1) "One Missile Launcher made for more dynamic gameplay"
2) "I liked the way most corridors and walkways funneled you into a main area where a majority of fights were taking place"
3) "Multiple layers"
Maps also need to funnel players, to some degree, into preset paths. I am a big fan of being able to choose how you fight the enemy and I like to go where I want. However, you need to make players go in the general direction you want them to or the game will turn to chaos or lots of frustrating waiting. (Slothy, 2004) 
As DM-Midnight quite a small map, chaotic problems do not usually occur. Lots of fighting around specific "hot spots" happen frequently due to the pickups and line of sights. Although, Geoffrey's point has always been highly considered when designing my maps. The flow and paths that my maps provide must always compliment what area the player is going into. This is why, in Midnight, I place short range / quick firing weapons in the middle of the map in the smaller areas, and shock rifles in the large areas, to draw attention to the different players. Do you risk your position by running in with a shock rifle? Or run out with a flakk cannon to meet a distant foe? These risk and reward scenarios add a lot of variation and complex fighting that provides fun gameplay.
"What you didn't like"
1) "Placement of pickups"
2) "The weapon variation and balancing, rockets were far too easy to obtain and regular, needed more variation of weapons as it ended as a fusion rifle and rocket fest."
Given this feedback, I switched around some of the weapon placements to fully compliment the area they are in; for example, I switched out the rocket launcher for a sniper rifle in the tower, where it seems more balanced. In addition, I swapped the shock rifle in the middle for a link gun, and the link gun below that I swapped for a flakk cannon, as it is obtainable by going through the smaller area.
Additionally, I swapped the large health container in the hard-to-reach area with U Damage, this is because the main line of sight on the health was through the top level of the middle room, where two medium health containers are, so instead of a line of health, it is finished with a damage boost, if the player takes the time to make it up there. Lastly, I removed the armour pickup as it served no purpose now that the wall is down.
Gameplay Score: 4/5
Navigation Score: 4/5
"What you liked"
1) "The size of the map feels right for a 6 person deathmatch, and the building structure works for a close to mid range gunfight."
2) "I love that you never feel boxed in or forced to go down one specific way, the map allows for many paths and that's a good feature (avoids chokepoints)."
3) "Lots of central combat."
4) "Pickup in the middle compliments central combat"
From the positive feedback, I feel like I had a large victory with Peon. I was quite worried that it would be too big, or too awkward to navigate. I feel like using the 'Figure 8' implementation in this map.
Figure 8 is a better implementation of the same spatial molecule. This example treats each node as a "play space" and uses the edges of the molecule to define how these play spaces can interact with each other (GAMASUTRA, 2013) 
his article by Luke McMillan and Nassib Azar details and discusses the Figure 8 model of spatial level flow. Peon uses this to direct players to the middle of the map by making all of the pathways and rooms circle back to the middle of the map, and setting the player up for the fight in the middle with weaponry scattered around the map at specific locations. Additionally, the use of a pickup in the center of the map adds even incentive to dominate the center to pickup the UDamage and be king of the hill.
"What you didn't like"
1) "It felt a little maze-like, partly because a lack of texture made it hard to identify any structures to remember. There are also some pillars that seem out of place, seemingly only there to make a space not feel empty."
2) "Needs more large health pickups."
From this feedback, I have made the map smaller, so there is more skirmishes around the center of the map, and when I chose my maps and continue to work on them I can use more materials and assets to make the level look different so players can identify where they are going. I have also added more health pickups with more wall running elements to make the map more interesting.
1) "Right now lag is really your worst enemy. Do whatever you can to try and fix that because It will make playtesting a whole lot easier."
1) "You may want to consider making more spawn points or moving some; as at the start of the game someone spawned next to me.
1) SLOTHY., (2004), Multiplayer Level Design., Smith, Geoffrey., [Online], Available from:www.slothy.com/composite/MP_101.doc.[Accessed 21st February 2015]
2) GAMASUTRA., (2013), The Metrics of Space: Molecule Design., McMillan, Luke. Azar, Nassib., [Online], Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1 ... php?page=2. [Accessed 21st February 2015]
Student ID: m006214c
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:18 pm
My Portfolio project is the investigation and development of a single-player level using the Skyrim Engine. I will be creating a Dwarven Ruin based on an armory / war factory. This level will focus on my single-player level design skills using a game engine.
I will start by researching single-player level design theory and playtesting vanilla and modded Skyrim Dwarven Ruins.
Secondly, I will produce floor plans, first on paper, then digitally, then with added notes / puzzle walkthroughs.
Thirdly, I will create a blockout for the level to showcase its gameplay and level flow - this won't include enemies, or puzzles.
When the blockout is done I will get the level tested and apply changes accordingly.
Lastly, I will add-in more gameplay elements inc. enemies and puzzles. Followed by post-process actors such as lighting, and more art assets to add life into the level. And finally release the map on steam.
1) GDC VAULT, (2014), ITERATIVE LEVEL DESIGN PROCESS., Burgess, Joel., [Online], Available from: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020171/Le ... n-in-a-Day, [Accessed 19th November 2015]
2) GAMASUTRA, (1999), Beggining Level Design., Ryan, Tim., [Online] Available from:http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1 ... part_1.php, [Accessed 19th November 2015]
3) World Of Level Design, (2012), How to Have the Best Level Design and Game Environment Year., [Online], Available from: http://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categ ... t-year.php, [Accessed 19th November 2015]
4) GAMASUTRA, (2013), Skyrim's Modular Approach to Level Design., Burgess, Joel., [Online], Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JoelBurg ... Design.php, [Accessed 19th November 2015]
5) GAMASUTRA, Learning From The Masters: Level Design in The Legend Of Zelda., Stout, Mike., [Online], Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6 ... hp?print=1, [Accessed 19th November 2015]
Testing - Wave #1
During the first wave of testing, I had two of my four maps tested by close peers. They each tested one or two maps, and gave written feedback using my original feedback form. The maps tested were ctf-redemption, and ctf-void. I will cover each of the map's feedback and relate them to industry research.
"What you liked:"
1) "As a Rocket Launcher CTF sort of gametype, this map works very well"
2) "Good idea."
At first, this map was not intended to be a rocket launcher focused map, however seeing the recorded gameplay it is obvious that a lot of players would use the rocket launcher due to its instant timer refresh and lock-on function. Albeit it did make the map fun, and the testers enjoyed it this way, yet, it does take the focus away from the other weapon spawns.
One discussion in the Unreal Tournament forums caught my eye, as user '_Lynx' replied to 'jackalox's' post discussion unfriendly weapon placements. His argument discussed that weapon placements / spawns "makes the game unfriendly to new players without much reason". Now, I feel that this makes sense considering - as a rookie to Unreal Tournament - I find it difficult to run into weapons on a few maps due to spawn points. Arguably, most maps require map knowledge to master. Unreal Tournament relies on strategy from the players to understand the maps to utilise the mechanics (wall run, lift jump), and the pickup locations.
I feel like keeping the map as a rocket launcher game mode because it makes it quick, and tying in with the ability to fall off the map easily, dangerous.
"What you didn't like:"
1)It feels quite open for a game that can easily access homing missiles, perhaps look into more obstacles to avoid fire or pathways *Ofcourse this could potentially be solved by removing rockets and more testing*
2)Rocket Launcher Overused
As discussed above, this map was not intended to be a rocket launcher game type. However, I understand the feedback due to the open map - mixed with the rocket launcher's homing mode. The feedback was useful as it detailed that I should consider obstacles to block the launchers path. This could work if I create the map as originally intended as if it was in the middle of a valley in a forest. This would take away the chance to fall off the map, add in much more routes and blocked lines of sights, and a more artistic theme.
"The primary metric that alters difficult is player line of sight" - (McKillan, 2012) 
This sentence by Luke argues the advantage and disadvantages of variations of line of sight. This includes the larger amount of tactical options provided by greater lines of sight - as with ctf-void - giving the player time to plan. Limited lines of sight puts players at a disadvantage, giving them less situational awareness, and less time to act. With an open map like Void, the rocket launcher is given much more power over the other weapons, as the players have longer to react to lock-on to their opponents. If I am to use this map, and keep the rocket launchers, I will have to block certain lines of sight using geometry.
1) "The middle lift thingy, pushed us up too far so it was hard to escape."
This feedback was a little too obvious for me, and is something I was worried about, yet wanted to test anyway. A simple change for this would be to make it larger and reduce the length of the matinee.
Gameplay Score (Average) 3/5
Navigation (Average) 4/5
"What you liked:"
1) "Very nice symmetrical feel, even odds for both teams are good The map itself isn't too big, so the players cant get lost, they know where to defend and where to attack"
2) "Nice CQC map for small teams, teams any larger and it may feel crowded (worth testing)"
Overall, the feedback for Redemption was positive. It seems the map works in itself as a Close Quarter Combat game mode well fit for small teams. Larger teams will be a good idea to test so I can update the map to make it larger if needs be. A larger map will provide more pathways to traverse (or at least longer), and add more movement into the map as UT4 has a lot of emphasis on navigation. With the addition of weapon / pickup placements, size and navigation are important as the player must be able to reach these effectively.
"In the case of a Halo title, designers will ask themselves if a map should be large or small, the size influencing the ideal number of players, the engagement distances and the weapons best suited to them, and the suitability of vehicles." (Holloway, 2013) 
In terms of ctf-redemption, there are two weapons in each base, and a biorifle in the middle, including 3 power ups across the map. Holloway details how designers should consider map size due to the engagement disatances and the weapons best suited to them. This is why the biorifle was selected to be included in the middle of the map, as it is a great defensive short-range weapon. The Link Gun and Rocket launcher are included to add variation and the rocket launcher serves as another defensive weapon as the link gun acts as an offensive weapon when running for the flag.
"What you didn't like:"
1) "Lighting was dark in some areas but I assume its a work in progress, wasn't alot of incentive to use the below pathways"
Setting the lighting aside as it is a WIP project, I will focus on the comment about the below pathways. I noticed that the whole section inside the building, the ground floor isn't needed and adds more places for noone to go. The other section adds a quick navigation to the one side of the map and the middle, so it shall be kept. My idea for this level is to open it up and remove the bridge. In addition, have a ramp go down as a quick but dangerous run where it balances out the speed to the flag and the vulnerabilities.
1) "Feels like you need a third level for possible sniper points, you may want to add side paths in the base incase AI trap you in"
As there is one route out of the base it is possible that the players can be trapped in. I will fix this by adding more routes of of the base, leading to alternate routes to run for the flag. As for a sniper level, this could be included when changing the level to add a choke point in the center of the map. By this I may rotate the bridge and underpass to add in a choke point in the center of the map, this way it will balance the route problem and allow snipers - and perhaps more players per team.
"Each map's choke points should support various playing styles - sniping, close quarter combat or stealth." (World of Level Design, 2013) 
Choke points add in combat engagements between players, most game modes like Search and Destroy use this to balance the attacking team vs the defending team. Where as in ctf it adds a way to defenders of each flag to fight as their runners use alternate routes to grab the flag, utilising the map flow, weapon placements, and strategy. As with any map, when the choke point is compromised, it changes the gameplay drastically. In Redemption I will focus closely on playing styles, as with ctf, there's usually one or two runners, then one or two defenders that preferably stay in mid when engaging the enemy. Adding sniper rifles will apply the incentive to stay back, which might slow the game flow with just two people.
Gameplay Score (Average) 4/5
Navigation (Average) 3/
1)GAMASUTRA., The Metrics of Space: Tactical Level Design., McKillan, Luke., [Online], Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1 ... tical_.php . [Accessed: 25th January 2016]
2) GAMASUTRA., Deathmatch Map Design: The Architecture of Flow., Holloway, James., [Online], Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1 ... n_the_.php . [Accessed: 25th January 2016]
3) WORLD OF LEVEL DESIGN., CS:GO 6 Principles of Choke Point Level Design., [Online]., Available from: http://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categ ... esign.php., [Accessed: 25th January 2016]
This has been a massive debate for many multiplayer games that include a CTF game type; is the map too big, and how does this impact the gameplay? 'Captn Caps' on the Unreal Tournament forums argues that "UT4 maps are too large for 5v5"' and comparing these larger maps to UT99 Close-Quarter maps. User 'Payback' approves this theory by stating that they feel that the latest maps are "a translocator spam fest", arguing that this item is being abused for the sake of vast navigation.
On a personal note, I lean more towards Close-Quarters Combat (CQC) due to my personal experiences with Call of Duty, Doom, Medal of Honor, and Team Fortress 2. Although, I am not alien to open-combat having played Battlefield and copious amounts of Planetside 2, however, I favour an up-close fight. This is why my two CTF maps are close-quarter, to add to the constant action, and response of the gameplay whilst also making it enjoyable and the goals achievable to win.
Other users on the forums argue that it's down to variation and current maps such as ctf-pistola, ctf-quick, and ctf-titan pass are all rather small maps that are still fun. 'HenrikRoyos'a later argues that smaller maps can create a "clusterf**k" due to the current movement of the game, soon after 'Payback' interjects with an argument that although larger maps provide a "chase" for the players as a "battle royale", the translocator is still abusable and too effective in the wrong way. An obvious trend in the comment sections both argue that the maps are varied, and perhaps the translocator should be removed from the current game.
'Captn Caps' later comes in to agree that "large maps make the whole game less dynamic", however, the translocator must not be nerfed due to how essential it is to UT's gameplay. To add insight to current and previous UT titles, user '<<MechikTaj>>' argues that UT4 isn't trying to "reinvent the wheel", but with so much more community support, developers are taking advantage of this to provide a "sweet spot" of how large or small maps can be, and as an Alpha, should provide the community and the game with this level of risk.e wheel', but with so much more community support, developers are taking advantage of this to provide a 'sweet spot' of how large or small maps can be, and as an Alpha, should provide the community and the game with this level of risk.