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Thread: Great Maps/Levels?

  1. #1
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Dublin

    Great Maps/Levels?

    This Has probably been done, but my connection is being a bastard and I can't afford the time to search, so sorry in advance.

    Anyways, I've always been interested in level design, but stopped short of actually making my own maps, recently my interest has been growing.

    So, I was reading through the Design resource section a Gamasutra and it inspired the following query:

    What do people think are the Greatest levels/maps ever?

    This is not a question on theory, I actually want to know what levels/maps you think are the best you've played, which maps have done what they were supposed to do most efficiently and enjoyably?

    They can be single player, multiplayer, old, new, sequences of maps that make up play area, any genre, from "bad" games that managed to have golden nuggets of good space in them...

    You get the idea, I'm just looking for a list here, a discussion of why certain maps work and others don't is another discussion.

  2. #2
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Liverpool. It's as bad as they say.

    Right then, top of head stuff.

    Good- Level where you have to raid a house, arrest two people and confiscate some explosives. Works fucking well, because it *is* one of those terrible US reality shows. Feels like a police level, rather than the later Rainbow 6 style stuff. Also allows you to arrest both suspects with minimal violence, which is sort of the point of SWAT.

    Bad- Level where you have to clear a huge great criminal gang out of some sewers where they are planting explosives. Large maze of sewer tunnels, with no map facility, and no bastard ever surrenders, so you have to kill them all. Level where you have to rescue the Russian president. Would be good if you didn't have to clear the ground floor and the stairs afterwards, which are huge, crawling with terrorists, and laid out so that you can't cover each other very well.

    Good-Lord Baffords Manor. Introduces the Thief thing to the world, alternates fear and a terrible sense of power (nothing in the gaming world makes you feel more lethal than *oozing* around a shadowy corner to thump some unsuspecting guard).

    Bad- Return To The Cathedral. Too scary. The Horn Of Quintus, fucking stupid layout.

    Thunderforce 4- (old MegaDrive side scroller) The BioBase, has great music, wierd enemies (one guardian is a giant anteater thing on a long spring arm) and crawling blue/purple floors.

    Hostile Waters- All the early levels, later ones take *ages* and are pretty mechanical. Oh, and the ending is destructive but not great.

    Operation Flashpoint
    Good- Tank and infantry levels, great sense of atmosphere, easy command system, good objectives (most of the time)

    Bad- Helicopter and especially aircaft levels. Engine/control system struggles with aicraft, spotting targets from the A10 is impossible, and it's far too hard to stay in the air. Helicopter levels much better, but still rubbish compared to flight sims. Nice to have them though.

    Space Channel 5- The first level. I can't *quite* do the second one. Grrr.

    Silent Scope 2-The level where you go into a hall full of soldiers, then a tank crashes through the wall, and a bloke in all over leather climbs out and starts shouting like Alvin the chipmunk on speed. "I'm sorry, the opera is closed *insane laughter*, why not buy a ticket to the theatre instead?". Then you have to shoot down the barrel of a moving tank. The level after that, where you find out what the fuck he was talking about and have to shoot a boss who's being the Phantom of the Opera, in a purple cape, on a stage filled with hostages. Oh, and the last level, where you have to shoot big-boss man (the opera guy, somehow recovered from being shot through the head) as he waltzes around the top of Big Ben with the main female hostage to the tune of "The Blue Danube"

    Bad- Having to shoot a sniper rifle from a moving snowmobile.

    System Shock 2
    Good- The ship levels, even the horrible cargo deck ones that are infested with exploding droids and zombies.

    Bad- The Body Of The Many. Hours trekking around identical looking tunnels that make horrible squishing noises.

    Bubble Bobble
    Good- The level where you have to drop flaming lava into a pit full of bad guys. And the levels where you get umbrellas or diamons five times your size.

    Bad- The levels where you can get stuck at the bottom of pits and can't get out.

    *is dragged away by doctors*

  3. #3

    Wan Chai Market (DX), Surface Tension(HL), the second level of Gunstar Heroes, Norfair (Super Metroid), Hyrule Field (Ocarina of Time).

  4. #4
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: The North, UK

    Deus Ex.

    Good. Hong Kong
    Bad. Silo

    Half Life.

    Good. Surface Tension. Apprehension.
    Bad. Xen, natch. And residue processing wasnt really up my street.


    Good. Facing worlds, Most of the Assault maps.
    Bad. Erm, cant think of any of the names.

    And damn you for not letting us discuss the theory, thats not a natural thing on this forum you know. I shall deliver my lecture on Spatial Narrative in Half Life as Demonstrated by Surface Tension another day.
    The Narcissus Entity

  5. #5
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Dublin


    Basically I want to figure out what makes a good map and makes a good map into a good level ("is that all?" he asks), by trying to spot common elements in "good" maps.

    I have my own opinions, but I haven't played all the games out there, and most of those that I have I wasn't looking for structural details along the way. So, rather than replay every game in the world with a more critical eye, I thought I'd identify some key maps, open them in an editor (obviously easiest to do in games that have editors) and poke around (and play them repeatedly, obviously).

    So far the sum total of my knowledge of level design is "Design the space to fit the action, not the other way round", so I don't really feel qualified to get into a discussion on the technical quality of any maps just yet.

  6. #6
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: The North, UK

    Generally speaking, 'design the space to fit the action' is how level design has been done up to now. And where you have an enclosed, linear, scripted path through the game, it works well.
    But I would argue that starting with Deus Ex, there is a new approach to level design, which allows the action to emerge from the space, in the same way that a simulation engine like thief allows action to emerge from AI. Hence the buzzword, emergent gameplay.

    For example, instead of deciding on the gameplay beforehand, and designing a space to accomodate it, you get an idea of roughly what sort of place it is, derived from the narrative, and then allow ideas about the action to emerge from the nature of the space. But I think this approach only really works in a game like Deus Ex where there are multiple paths and approaches that can be accomodated. This keeps the action flexible and prevents you from forcing a specific action type. In factm thinking about itm the action in Deus Ex is so diverse, depending on player type, that it would be impossible to design the space entirely around the action, rather you can only design small bits of it for a particular kind of action.
    The Narcissus Entity

  7. #7
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Oxford, England

    Well this is the design theory I am using for my latest attempt at a Deus Ex level. You plonk an objective somewhere on the level and your player start. Then around that you try to build a level that looks as realistic as possible.

    In half-life, a lot of the actual architecture did not make much sense cos you always had to be pushed on through a fairly limited path. In Deus Ex, if you have a building you can just use realistic architecture to create a more open level. Most real buiding are not linear you see. So, this buiding as well as having a normal entrance can have a fire escape. It can have a lift as well as stairs (I cant do lifts so it is out of order). I am also gonna stick in a tunnel (connected from a sewer system). Not sure if that realistic actually. Then all you have to do is stick in obstacle along each route so that each one presents a different set of challenges that can be tackled in different ways. It is quite a bit harder than other level design.
    'An anarchist is a liberal with a bomb'


  8. #8
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: St. John's, NF, Can

    Originally posted by colcobb:
    Generally speaking, 'design the space to fit the action' is how level design has been done up to now. And where you have an enclosed, linear, scripted path through the game, it works well.
    But I would argue that starting with Deus Ex, there is a new approach to level design, which allows the action to emerge from the space, in the same way that a simulation engine like thief allows action to emerge from AI. Hence the buzzword, emergent gameplay.
    There's another buzzword at work here: Data-driven. If you provide the right set of data to a player, they can practically make up their own game. See The Sims for a good example. Don't worry; this isn't something that should go away anytime soon. Everything from the Windows Installer to Deus Ex is moving into this paradigm of software design, simply because it's a hell of a lot easier to design a system to handle rich data than to script huge amounts of proprietary action. If your data is rich enough, the player isn't even going to care that those ultra-special bits that emerge from custom code aren't around.

    All IMHO, of course


  9. #9

    At some level scripting is always necessary, depending on how you define it.

    Silly example: baddy animations. AI hasn't developed to the point that we can give them a full range of muscle movements and then tie them to certain moods and actions. So instead we have "walk" animations, "shoot" animations and so on.

    Better example: anything other than puzzle-solving and combat doesn't really work emergently. For example (AI again), in DX, Alex only talks to you when he's supposed to, according to the mission script. Without massive improvements in AI (and I'm talking about research, not programmers with uber-machines) this will not be improved on any time in the future.

  10. #10
    Registered: Aug 2000
    Location: Leeds, UK

    Truly great:

    Quake - Ziggurat Vertigo
    1st low gravity map ever!

    Quake II - Factory
    I've got the fear.

    Half-Life - Cliff Face
    Don't look down. The best vertical map.

    SWAT 3: CQB - Tigertail Road Home Invasion, St Dimitris, LA Hospital
    Total immersion

    KingPin - Factory
    A real factory

    UT - Deck 16, Facing Worlds, Hall of Giants
    Pure flow. Q3A can kiss my...

  11. #11
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Oxford, England

    Nah Curse][ and Dreary are the best from UT.
    'An anarchist is a liberal with a bomb'


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