What to look for in maps

Hello, I am new here, and new to using custom maps and mods in quake. I was just wondering what you look for in a good map. What makes a good map in your opinion? I have been playing a lot of smaller maps, which kind of fit with my shorter attention span, but i want to broaden my horizons,

Good question, I would also like to know an answer to that.

What I really admire in a quake map is a feeling of a place I could live in. With a structure that comes over as an excitent sculpure. In that way that it doesn’t have a logic pathway, but more an genius way of closing in together. It’s hard to say how this is brought together, but it comes in on the moment the normal architecture starts to invade the player with a wonderful interconnection, that feels sensitive.
It’s much more than putting two rooms together.
The fighting has to be tough. Not extremely, more in the way like a place you need to earn to be into.
Take care for enough ammu and health, and take care to surprise the player with traps, that are made in a corresponding way to change the environment.
Making an unique map takes time, much time. Screw and wriggle as much as you can, and try to remember what’s so attractive in other maps you played.
In the past I made maps in a few weeks. Nowadays it can cost me months.
Never, but never make a map for the audience. Always make it because you like it yourself.
Show others your work, let it beta tested. But make it because you love mapping, no show off.

In the map (model) you need to see the soul of the author (for example, the map “Sepulcher” for AD), and not a set of geometry with textures. If the author did it as if he was playing a song to win the girl’s heart then it will be immediately visible. But if the author has put the creation of the map on the pipeline then it will be immediately noticeable (the exception is novice mappers). A real artist first presents the whole picture in his head (animation, map, model) and only then proceeds to real creativity.

P.S.: Using my own example, I will say that when I don’t like any animation of the model, then I will fix it very carefully first of all for myself. And if I am satisfied with the result, then only then can I afford to put my work on public display (I just don’t know how to make maps). Don’t judge me strictly for my comment. :slight_smile:

My guess, based on observation, is that appropriate maps are made by appropriate people. Not that personally I do know anyone in the ‘Quake’ mapping scene or whether I play only maps from certain authors. What I mean by saying “appropriate people”, is: you probably need mapmakers who have other talents in visual arts - such as painting or sculpting - in order to achieve the best outcome of a product.

Perhaps one can create a map basing solely on technics and engineering mindset, but it will soon show, that the inspiration source, has come to an end; becoming repetitive with the same pattern. Artists - if they are in their proper niche - will keep evolving and they will first and foremost, stick to what they do. Passion is own reward. Without appropriate reward - which is non-monetary or non-quantifiable - people become demotivated and they leave. The greatest reward, is a sense of personal achievement, is it not?

Answering your question - in maps, I look for great mappers.

Some people, through mapping, may discover certain hidden talents of own, but ultimately it is the question of, whether the hobby, does survive the test of time, showing improvement?

(This is copied and edited from a reply I made to a Reddit post on the same topic, from a mapper’s perspective rather than a player’s)

That’s a very complicated question, but I’ll try and answer it.

First, it’s a good idea to get an understanding for yourself of what you like in maps. Mapping is a creative pursuit, meaning that “good” is largely subjective, so you might want to play some existing custom maps (as well as, of course, the original campaign) to get a feel for what you like to see in a map and what you want to do with your own maps.

Now, in no particular order, onto some other things you should consider:

Scale. You can very easily end up making your paths and doorways either too small or far too big. It’s a good idea to have a run around your map early on (even when you only have a few brushes down) to make sure it feels about right. If a shambler can comfortably run around most of your map, you’re probably not too small. Quake has a very limited number of bounding box sizes, meaning that despite looking small, a dog actually needs at least as much space as a shambler.

Loops. In a well designed map, you will find yourself revisiting earlier areas, often multiple times, not just by backtracking but because the mapper has led you back there around a looping path, recontextualising it with the keys, weapons or switches you find along the way. It can sometimes feel like magic to suddenly realise that you’ve ended up in a familiar place from a new perspective. It can also be disorienting, so make sure the player understands where to go. I’ll go into this in more detail later. Markie has a good https://youtu.be/G4tWWiuaF7g with all this in mind.

Pacing. A good map isn’t non-stop action. You want some areas to be tense and others to be less so, but you also don’t want the difficulty to be spiking all over the place. This can be tricky, so just think about splitting it into combat and exploration sections, and consider how you want the player to be feeling at any given point, using the presence or absence of items and monsters to influence this, obviously with the difficulty generally rising as new weapons and enemies are introduced.

Linking that point onto the next one, you should generally be thinking about your map from the perspective of the player. For layout and combat, thinking about what they think and feel, what they want to do instead of what you want them to (or rather, making sure what you want them to do is what they actually want to do). For visuals, thinking about what they see; you should make your map look best from inside, where the player will see it, not from out of bounds or some impossible perspective, and not from a top-down 2D representation of the layout. If you do a cool thing, you want the player to notice it. You definitely don’t want the “cool” thing you did to make the map confusing or annoying for the player without them even noticing it.

Lighting/composition/detailing. I’ve grouped these together because they work together to improve the look and feel of a map and make it nicer to navigate. Don’t neglect lighting; it’s important! This is also a broad category, so I’ve put some more general ideas here too. At the most basic level, you want to light up points of interest, especially the critical path, so that people are naturally aware of and drawn to them. Contrast (in lighting and other aspects of the map) can be used to draw interest and generally make the map more visually or otherwise appealing. You can also use leading lines and colour to move the player’s attention. Monsters are another good way of indicating which way there’s more to explore, especially if you have a big map with lots of reused space. You get a lot of very detailed maps, but you need to be careful to have a generally consistent level of detail throughout the map, and to not have random background details that deceptively look important. For those things, having them darker and with less contrast can be helpful. Background movement in your map is a nice thing to have, as are ambient sounds, and they can give your map a better sense of space. Also on the topic of composition, you usually want to avoid a branching path where the player feels like they’re missing out on something unknown by committing to a path. You can do so by building trust with them using looping paths before such a junction, or by clearly indicating to them which is the main path and which is optional/secret, using techniques discussed. If two paths are equally important (such as if you want to player to find two keys or buttons in a nonlinear fashion,) then it’s good to communicate this clearly using symmetry.

Verticality. You want to play to the strengths of Quake in general, and among the greatest of those strengths is that it allows you to add a lot of verticality to your layouts, unlike, for example, Doom, which could not have one walkable area directly above another. This allows you to create some really interesting layouts, where you return to the same area but from higher up, or where an area or item is inaccessible early on because it is too high for you to reach. This is one of the main reasons I love this game and its mapping scene so much. Just remember that many players of most games have a tendency to almost never look up, so it might be necessary to encourage them to do so in creative ways. Similar to what I said above, I consider a layout of mine a failure if you can get a complete understanding of it from a simple top-down perspective.

Balance. The main difference between the difficulty levels in Quake is up to the mapper. You can select on which difficulties individual enemies, items, weapons and even doors, lights and more technical things spawn, which really gives you a lot of power to balance for different difficulty levels in creative ways besides just adding or removing some monsters. You can change the amount of resources the player gets, how early weapons are introduced, the angles monsters come from and more. E2M2 for instance has a path at the end which requires you to jump some gaps only on hard difficulty. Lunaran made https://www.celephais.net/board/view_thread.php?id=4&start=19937&end=19944 with some ideas for creative and effective difficulty balancing. Keep in mind that, having played through every encounter countless times while creating them, you will often have an easier time with your map than other people. Make sure you get playtesters involved at multiple stages in development to get the balance right, as well as to find and resolve any issues. Use the Screenshots & Betas thread on the func_msgboard forum or the #playtesting channel in the Quake Mapping Discord to find testers and get feedback. Avoid being too precious about your maps, and try and use the feedback to make changes to and improve your work. Also don’t be afraid to iterate on or redo areas of your map.

That’s all I can think of for now, so there you go I guess.

Speaking from a player’s perspective, things are quite similar but I could add some ideas. I still want the scale to be appropriate (this is the number one thing that new mappers get wrong in my opinion, and separates even the most talented newcomers from experienced mappers), I definitely want the layout to surprise and engage me with loops, I want it to look pretty to some extent, but more importatly to immerse me in the environment through the atmosphere and the layout. This is partly a visual consideration, but it goes beyond just elaborate brushwork and neat texturing.

Maybe this is uncommon, but I like to be a little bit lost in the maps that I play. I don’t want the layout to be perfectly straightforward and for the way forwards to always be directly in front of me, I want to have to engage with the level design and have to remember things about the map. This does not mean that layouts should be intentionally confusing, rather that they should be as memorable as possible and then test the player’s memory and understanding, instead of making a layout that can be navigated start to finish without ever thinking. Admittedly, I do frequently find myself forgetting about the location of key doors once I get the key, and I can’t entirely blame this on the map.

Combat is also an important consideration. I find that although I prefer to think of myself as a “gameplay over visuals” kind of player, I don’t mind a map with relatively uninteresting combat if the atmosphere, layout and exploratory gameplay are good. That said, a lot of maps don’t do enough with Quake’s potential for great combat encounters. It seems like people who create tightly-crafted encounters such as Fairweather, Juzley and Markie are thinking of mapping completely differently to those who focus instead on creating a distinctive place such as czg, Bal and mfx, even if all agree that “gameplay is more important than visuals”. I want to be engaged by the difficulty, but it’s more important that encounters are surprising, memorable and interesting than simply difficult. All of those sound like buzzwords without any substance, so I’ll explain what I mean in more detail. Quake has a limited number of enemy types, but they can be combined in a near-endless number of ways to create novel gameplay scenarios, especially when moving elements, environmental hazards, teleports and monster jump triggers are considered. A great encounter often limits your options and changes the way you play instead of allowing you to do the same thing every time. This can be done by restricting movement, forcing you to move, changing the resources available, or just combining enemies in fun ways.

Secrets are a huge factor in my enjoyment of a map that I don’t think is talked about enough. I think the ideal amount of secrets is roughly 10% of the hard mode monster count, although the standard seems to be closer to 5%. Quantity isn’t the only factor though, of course. Well-designed secrets require some kind of investigation as well as an understanding or awareness of the space, and ideally will be cleverly hidden and placed - basically I like it when they make me say “huh, that’s neat”. It works well to first see an inaccessible item or area and then have to figure out how to get to it, so that figuring out how to get to the secret is as much a part of it as knowing that it’s there. A wide range of difficulty in secrets is always good, so you have some that reward you just for exploring and paying attention, and some extremely obscure puzzles or map-spanning odesseys for dedicated secret hunters and repeat playthroughs. I prefer to think of secrets as a reward for players who think a little more, rather than something hidden so it won’t be found. I could talk for ages about secrets, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Since you mentioned length, I also had trouble with longer maps when I first started playing custom Quake maps. I found them difficult to navigate and remember where I had to go. I find larger maps get easier and more enjoyable with time and experience, so don’t worry too much, though I think I personally do still enjoy smaller maps in general. It’s just easier to make a smaller map that remains enjoyable for its whole length. That said, some of my favorite maps are absolutely huge, such as The Forgotten Sepulcher, Tears of the False God, and basically anything by Mazu.

Sorry for making two long posts, guess I’ve just got a lot to say about this.

That is one neat article, @‘h4724’!

We all agree that “gameplay is important” – but I think we disagree on what that gameplay is.

I’m personally not very interested in encounter design; I mean I’ll do the minimum to fit in with everyone, and I admire mappers who can invest in scripting some nice fights… but to me, combat is just an excuse to dance, and dancing is about time and mood and place.

Therefore, combat is a cherry on top of a cake?

Excerpt from a ‘func_msgboard’ discussion, **https://www.quaddicted.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=6666#p6666**:

[quote=“Lunaran”]

[quote]Total all the ammo you provide in the map (…) and that’s the max amount of hit point damage you are giving the player to deal. Total the starting health of all the monsters, and compare the two numbers.

Researching id maps and popular custom maps reveals an average “custom” of about ~3:1 on Easy, ~2.2:1 on Medium and ~1.7:1 on Hard. The ‘id’ maps are generally above that curve (4/3/2:1), and custom maps tend to fall below it(2.5/2.0/1.5:1).[/quote]

[quote]There are lots of outliers to these curves, though, because so much of it comes down to how the level design enables the player to use the weapons, as well as exploit infighting, choke points, etc. Do rockets get spent one at a time on individual zombies or can they be used to gib crowds of knights for maximum ROI? or are they useless against herds of shamblers?

It also matters when the player gets the ammo. Ammo the player doesn’t pick up or can’t use, is effectively not present in the map at all. Does it come too late to be used when it was really needed? Does it come too early and get skipped? Or partially wasted when picked up by a player who’s already nearly maxed and getting too much at the wrong times? How much of that ammo is in secret areas?[/quote]

While in my opinion, such numbers and statistics could be of some use, they need to be used with reason and a good deal of common sense, which means that in the end, you still need to know how to make a fine map, to further boost the effect with certain optimum proportions of certain goods. Therefore, an attempt to practically apply data like this, is like putting oneself in a place, which could be described as: who already has, will have more and who does not have, will loose what they might have had otherwise.

@‘bardofbravil’, in my opinion, a good map is like a good work of art - whether or not it does have the “wow” effect of audio-visual sort. Good maps are made by people who somehow intuitively know how to make a good map, which is reinforced through first-hand game experience, then knowledge of the tools and awareness of what does one want to achieve, which is having a vision. I see how this answer is nothing short of tautology: good maps are created by people who make good maps, while people who make good maps are those who make good maps - but in the end, it all boils down to practice. There is no theoretical explanation of what makes a good map and how to make a masterpiece, if the explanation, is to be turned into an instruction. Therefore, a program is also unlikely to be the answer. I believe a map, is a way of communication between a human and a human and this element of communication, becomes less effective, the less of a human there is on either side of the deal.

Likewise, people asking similar question of what to look for in games - games of certain genre, for example - even if they do get a lot of various answers, it helps them little - presumably - in terms of actually making a hit. Why do some indie games, become so popular, in spite of competition, if the big industry, has all the tools and the manpower? How come as well it is so hard to repeat the good thing, even if to know the functional pattern? We have become pretty savvy about video games, as an audience, but apparently, it does not help us much enjoy the games better. Because in the end, things just happen and we cannot “fake” our way into finding success, expecting it to be genuine. That is also a reason, why I do not particularly like procedural generation and other rogue-like flavor solutions - it makes me believe less in the product quality; like there was less genius behind it.

Do not get me wrong, I do not say the question, is wrong - the question, is excellent, but what I am trying to prove, is that the answer to this question, is paradoxical and deeply humanistic.