Thursday, 14 July 2011

Play Area Types

While putting together maps using a modular method I've discovered that most single player map areas can be classified into a variety of types.


An arena is a locked off gaming area that the player cannot leave until a battle is complete. These areas usually have multiple circular paths running through them and can often be very similar to multiplayer deathmatch maps in terms of layout. In fact, back in the Quake 3 engine days it was not uncommon to see arena sections of SP maps cut out and sealed off in order to be used as an MP map.
Like MP maps, arenas should have free flowing gameplay with little obstruction to players movement. I would also recommend that the MP rule of making sure that there is no spot in the arena where the player can not be flanked, be observed. There should be no safe place in an arena map.
My final observation about arenas is that the player has to pass a point of no return into the arena. A locking door or a small drop into the area is usually the best method I find.

The stunning Bespin Carbon Chamber from Jedi Outcast was used as a dueling arena in multiplayer...

Puzzle areas

The player is gated and has to solve a puzzle to progress. NPCs should not be in direct contact with the player at these times. It's best to allow the player to focus on the puzzle. If you want to up the pressure you could add an npc shooting from a distance but definitely no close contact.

No enemy's just a good ole hunting the batteries puzzle from HL2

Progression Battles

The player has to fight their way forward through a section of the map. Full combat NPCs should retreat as the player presses forward and denies them cover points. At no point should an NPC be behind the player, these sections are always about clearing the map ahead.

Nearly the whole game of Farcry was based on progression battle areas.. it got a bit dull after a while, I thought...

Fiddly Bits

This title refers to map sections where the player has to traverse difficult ground that requires them to concentrate on walking and jumping carefully. Put the player off their stride by throwing some minor NPCs at them when it gets to the most tricky point.

Careful there! The toe curling and amazing bridge span in HL2...

Pressure Points

The player is driven forward by some form of deadly force (rising water, rolling boulder etc...) player must traverse tricky ground ahead of them or simply stay ahead of the deadly force in order to reach safety and survive.

Jedi Academy's Giant Mutant Rancor forces you forwards in one map. Shame about the rest of the game...

Hold Outs

The player has to wait for something to happen and in the mean time fight off a slew of bad guys. Endless spawning NPCs, probably better to be melee orientated as opposed to projectile based, this puts pressure on the player to keep them at a distance.
Projectile based can be used too of course, I've just found it to be less fun.

The No Mercy Rooftop... nuff said!

Rest Stops

An area where the player can take a break from the madness. Usually at the start, middle or end of a map. No bad guys here obviously but a good place to add cool effects or impressive mapping work, friendly NPCs to explain whats coming next or some form of overview of the next map section.
Pay special attention to detailing in these areas. The player has all the time in the world to appreciate it.

Chillax! Nothing to do but listen in and take in the details


Connecting halls, alleyways or other pathways between one gameplay area and the next. Try to reserve only minor bad guys for these sections. Small annoyances rather than big foes. Add in minor hazards to slow the players progress a little. Make them fun little mini-puzzles like a gated doorway that needs to be blasted open or a platform that must be raised with a winch or something. Anything the player can interact with. It will improve the overall playtime of your map without diminishing the fun factor.

A HL2 Connector. Completely unnecessary but it all adds to the fun and makes the level last longer.

That's all I've come up with so far... still very useful I think.

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