After five or so months of development, and things have started to get fascinating. The planning phase is over, and it is now that elements begin to come to life. As you all know, the first map which we’re developing is called “The Lost Research,” an abandoned research facility located somewhere in the Amazon, substantially before the war began to roar. This map, in particular, was chosen to be developed first as it is the most diverse –from the environment’s perspective- of all of the levels. It shares elements from distinct maps and sections due to the nature of the operations and the importance of them in the game’s story, which I introduced in the previous article.
The map is very influential as it blends nature with man’s working hand to create a varied location. Its background story origins from 2017 A.C., when the American scouts were in search of optimal locations to establish military facilities after its ties to the Latin-American Union fell apart. Nevertheless, this area had something in particular in its core: a volcanic area with radioactivity. What they found would –or, at least, they thought so- change the world forever, so the government instructed a base to be built, both a laboratory and a military operation unit for the war that seemed right around the corner.
By the time the war started, however, this base had been long abandoned. Speculations suggested a radioactive laboratory explosion wiped the population in the area. It is unclear what happened to the scientists and soldiers who inhabited that area. Furthermore, it is still a mystery what was what they found in the first place. The only thing that’s known is that apparently none of the enlisted made it back.
Neat storytelling, isn’t it? Well, this is what the map’s origins are. Let’s talk a bit more about the design and composition of this map, and how we’re working to get that story across players who explore it. First, following up on the previous article, let’s discuss its initial layout.
The map has four main interest points, each having their approach and combat style. It possesses fast combat areas and more open areas, where each faction (dinosaur or human) can exploit different things depending on the strategy that they use. One important factor that is mandatory to keep in mind is the fact that we have to be very careful with the scale of the map, as it's easily forgettable that we're employing differently-sized players in it. A highly detailed map for humans will be great, but think about how big the scenarios are going to be so that Rotbrute –as mentioned before, an Allosaurus, can walk around comfortably would end up rendering an enormous amount of things with a lot of "unnecessary details." Now, some areas will need a greater level of detail than others. However, these areas are done this way for a reason. You want to either make it a map spotlight (gameplay wise, as it leads players to inhabit this zone more frequently) or what we call a "Rendering beauty;" an area with no real gameplay perks, but one to stand out and help players appreciate what you do. Be careful with these regions, as they can backfire significantly from the player's point of view, arising comments such as "why isn't all the level like this?" Among others. Of course optimization, highlights, and many other reasons are behind this happening, but of course, for design reasons, this cannot be a reality. Not only that but the amount of time required to get those right would be enormous. Food for thought.
Following up with how design varies in the previous article, the map has three types of areas: Ambush, Claustrophobia, and Middle-Range (we started running out of dazzling names to nickname standard details), each having a different spot in the Overpowered Balance. Let me share with you how each of those areas look, for example, in our map The Lost Research as I walk you through our process of thoughts and methods of execution. Please note that the following pictures represent a work in progress. :)
(Update March 2016: Please note these screenshots have been updated to this month's milestone.)
The back-place area in the headquarter section, as you can see, is dedicated for close range combat. This section has the potential to be considered both as an Ambush and Claustrophobia since it has four (4) access points. From here, there is a transition to middle-Range, this happening in all connections to this area. Three (3) of these waypoints lead their way to the Parking lot, a Middle-Range location. This type of site is special due to that even though it majorly favors the human faction, it also shows great dangers to them, such as reduced cover and visibility waypoints. Nevertheless, this section is particularly dangerous to dinosaurs because:
- Extended profiling: staying out of the point of sight is a lot more challenging as well as making them easy targets from multiple points.
- Longer movements: with the cover and viewing obstacles reduced, every movement from one location to another is greater, putting a double risk to make any of them sudden.
Without keeping it out of the equation, we find ourselves with the Ambush areas, where it shares elements of both types mentioned above. For example, a spot between the rock ring and tank-over, a critical discrete path to avoid entering the parking area. However, it contains a significant risk. Any player that finds themselves in this area and is a target has little to no chance of immediate escaping, not to mention, for survival.
Blending these locations within the map provides a diverse level, giving the players many choices of taking their game to the next step. Now, it is also important to leave room for a multi-side approach. This meaning, allowing the players to reach a particular location in many different manners. Something important to keep in mind with this, though: remember that you're making an interactive level, not a labyrinth (for the most cases).
To wrap things up, remember that a level can be as beautiful as can be, but that practicality is more important because, at the end of the day, players will enjoy a well designed and diverse level rather than an ultimately beautiful one. Nevertheless, each location has its background story and adding details to tell a story (not only to break the monotony) will result in a much more immersive as well as satisfying experience.
All the best.
- Mario Funderburk