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CS:GO Vertical maps


Michael Greenwood
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I've been working on a second project based on a mall for a defusal map and have been having a concern as I build it out.

 

Most malls are built on having multiple floors (most are probably 2) with the upper level being wider with walkways on both sides of the main path. The problem with this in my map creation is a) it causes a need for many stairs and b) creates lots of angles where people on the upper floor can shoot the lower floor revealing very little of themselves.

What I mean by this is shown here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Mall_at_Short_Hills_interior.jpg 

Like the main hall area of the aquarium of de_zoo

 

I'm not really sure of how much of an issue this is, but I'm under the impression most players like to minimize the amount of dominance getting the high ground gives. My main thoughts to fix this issue are:

1) Use the walkways very sparingly to add strategic depth rather than make the lower paths super risky to be in.

2) Have the mall be in a state of disrepair/destruction to clip off many sections of walkway with debris.

3) Find a new theme.

Thoughts? 

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I would try minimising the angles from higher up i.e. you have the hight advantage but you can only watch one angle or small area. This will mean that it is less overpowered a place to play.

Also maybe make the upper area something both teams have to fight for at the round start so that neither team gets the advantage for free like upper is in some ways on de_zoo.

P.S: Try looking at the mall level in Left 4 Dead 2. I wad converting it into an arms race map a while ago and it may give you some ideas and props you could use.

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I've read it a few times, as part of an interview with valve and can't find it now for reference, but one of the things they were saying is that in the making of half life, they could not get players to look up.

You could minimise angles by making the upper levels more narrow, but malls by nature are very open, flat places which in counter strike would primarily lend themselves to long range only.

The theme doesn't need to change, just your approach to it. Maybe base more of the map in the service areas around/behind the mall with a brief stint in the typical mall structure as a mid feature? You wouldn't even need to use both floors.

I wouldn't look at L4D for the mall level. It might help you build it, but the intended gameplay is entirely different.

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What others said, and maybe try to look at European malls. In my french city, each malls don't have much areas where there is two level simultaneously, and mainly these areas are connector between two shopping paths on a different level, and it the only place they see each other. I'll search some examples and I'll edit this post with links!

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Minimize the higher accessible areas.
Have the lower path perpendicular to where a higher path will be, like a T junction, with a high ceiling (see cs_agency).
Have both team access raised levels at the same time (see cs_agency).
Study smoke techniques so that your design accommodates this important counter-measure.

Yeah a lot of sources talk about limiting the Z axis, especially for competitive maps. See for example Fmpone's talk at GDC.
I'm not arguing at all that looking up and creating multi-levels increases the difficulty of play (as well as map design), but this practice irritates me so so much. You would expect players to be more skilled after ages of playing. Especially pro players! Instead, thanks to shit COD and playing with a pad, we have been going through a flatter and flatter design of maps. I remember hating Quake 4 because with the sci-fi environments, the fact that platforms/walkways above ground were limited was very apparent.
I like maps with substantial verticality: I always liked Piranesi a lot for this reason, I like having height changes because I'm a rusher and I like to jump around. As long as a map is balanced, ledges and perches are fair game. Is not like you'll ever play a map in a pro tournament without having ever practiced on it, so just deal with it.

Geez if this topic winds me up so much!

Edited by blackdog
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The problem I see is that CS has very limited movement compared to other games that utilise big hightdifferences. In Quake you can easily Rocketjump and use jumppads,, in L4D there are ladders for infected everwhere and the hunter can jump whereever he wants anyway, while in counterstrike you can only (couch)jump. The fact that screens are usually wider than high doesnt help either. Additionally vertical angles can be abused to peak while only exposing very litle of yourself.

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I don't think I am an expert, or am really saying anything ground breaking I'll chime in anyways since I was facing a similar problem to yours in the early stages of a map I am making.

There was one place in my map that was shaping up to be like your mall example, multiple level, with high probability of fighting someone from either level, if not both. It presented problems which I would later remove by reworking the area entirely and changing timings.. The biggest problem was multiple floors meant a lot more angles. Since you used zoo as an example, I'll show you what I mean.

9X1xQuk.jpg

Those are 10 angles you can be shot from by going 1 way as T. Some angles I am not even considering in this example. The mouse movement needed to hit every angle is large, and the entire thing is very scary to approach as a T side player. They solved this by having B long, and a smart mid connector worth battling for, that gives you access to both lower and upper bomb site B. One section that incorporates the mall like environment, and they had to really work the map just so it wouldn't become a jumble mess.

Now we can consider another part of the map that looks at vertical fights differently. Very important part of the map again, but handled differently.

tyxeqhn.jpg

 

4 levels, but non of them overlap, visual paths leading upwards to help inform the player someone could be up there, and gradual change in the height of the platforms. When you consider were CT are coming from, there are really only 2-3 angles to be worried about, and the entire scene is easily readable from the players perspective. Of course this isn't a bomb site, and maybe a bomb site needs to be a little more complex but this example, I think, is still worth thinking about.

So if you made the entire map with multiple floors that overlapped I think it would fail, it would create to many angles and would become overly complicated. However if you can find a good balance, be smart of who has control over what, and really think about your architectural choices, it's do-able I think. Maybe think about something like an outside mall?

Hongyuan_outdoor_mall_in_Shanghai.JPG

and really work the main ground level architecture?

Again no expert or anything, just my thought process when I was faced with a similar dilemma. 

Goodluck!

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@blackdog As much as I dislike CoD, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say it has more "verticality" than counter strike does but you have to look at how the game play mechanics effect it. Every game has a unique signature playstyle and due to counter strike's "eyes on top of head, spewing bullets out of face" mechanism, steep angles can be abused very easily which is part of the problem with massive height differences.

In CoD for instance, you can take a hard fall and scamper off and hide until your legs magically heal themselves, but in CS you're fucked (unless you can abuse a slightly angled surface). You don't want to put people in the situation where they risk large portions of their relatively fragile health system all the time, just like you don't want gimmicky situations where you have to jump across a gap (which you would die in if you miss), to get to an essential objective.

It's just about how you use it. Agency as you mentioned uses height well because it's not easily abusable. The upper route is narrow so there are no useful angles you can duck and hide in to get too much of an advantage over people on the lower level. The room itself is wider than it is long so each half of the room has it's own engagement rather than it being one large crossfire clusterfuck. There are crossfire points, but with restricted line of sight.

We could definitely see more use of height, but mappers need to try it out. You need to understand the rules to know how to bend them.

@TheOnLY also makes some good points.

However, I do think piranesi would be awful if I played it now (I didn't really enjoy it at the time, everywhere was so snipey and head peaky), sorry man :D

TLDR: It's down to mappers to experiment with effective use of verticality, leave Piranesi in css :P

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Also I learned that with my flawed attempt at verticality that if you want some, you can, but only when it is useful, and you have to make defined paths, so that the eye see clearly where they can be, and what I think is working, is limiting angles. Meaning that if you can have an angle at the upper level, then the only angles the lower level guy has to have are either on the same level, or like in Zoo, they should be on top of the other, so that you can see both clearly. This allows verticality, with a gameplay similar to a flat level since you still have very angles to check :)

usually this leads to middle range engagement, so that you don't have to move up your head to much, and still seeing what's below :)

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I understand and agree with what you say @jackophant, of course gameplay is very different, main modes there are TDM so you're not much concerned… what I mean when referring to COD is that on average windows or accessible upper levels are in the 128/256 units above ground, from what I've seen in video (I don't play multiplayer COD since Modern Warfare).

Also I'm not asking/proposing to have deadly cliffs and platforming areas or bombsites littered of perches, just saying that there's so much talk about not creating too much height change that even a terrace 256 from the ground like old Inferno's T sniper perch seems a no-no. Of course creating certain areas is a delicate balance matter, but it's doable. I'm not trying to sell the map as perfect, far from it (I hated it until I got to know it a bit) but Piranesi for example had such a height difference that people on top of the wall had to expose themselves quite a lot if they were checking the path dead below. Also the above position had to be earned, often while people were fighting to control the above ground a bomb carrier could slip on the lower path.

The fact that to play best you have to be an aim-bot, maybe even lowering the v-sensibility to keep you aim more steady is fundamentally wrong from my point of view. And the fact that this sort of push comes from the competitive players winds me up incredibly, because a true sport player embraces new challenges… think that if the NBA was to raise the height of the basket players would say "ok I'll go play in Europe"? CS pro players have amazing skills but I get the impression they have to much say in what's affecting them and frankly makes me consider them pussies, if you allow me a bit of an hyperbole.

Edited by blackdog
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I understand and agree with what you say @jackophant, of course gameplay is very different, main modes there are TDM so you're not much concerned… what I mean when referring to COD is that on average windows or accessible upper levels are in the 128/256 units above ground, from what I've seen in video (I don't play multiplayer COD since Modern Warfare).

Also in not asking to have cliffs and platforming, in just saying that there's so much talk about not creating too much height change that even a terrace 256 from the ground like old Inferno's T sniper perch seems a no-no.

The fact that to play best you have to be an aim-bot, maybe even lowering the v-sensibility to keep you aim more steady is fundamentally wrong from my point of view. And the fact that this sort of push comes from the competitive players winds me up incredibly, because a true sport player embraces new challenges… think that if the NBA was to raise the height of the basket players would say "ok I'll go play in Europe"? CS pro players have amazing skills but I get the impression they have to much say in what's affecting them and frankly makes me consider them pussies.

To embrace the nba comparison, 3 points line in Europe is way closer to the basket than it is in nba, but lots of players from all over the world come there and adapt to this new rule, because with their talent, they can. The real issue is that many are censuring maps, because pro don't like them.. which leads to them deciding how it is supposed to play.

Fortunately, people here do not seem to give a damn about them and see if they like or not the map they are testing, so there is still a chance it can work :)

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But luckily Valve have the bargaining power to force a map pool for their sponsored events which allows them to try things like cobblestone and overpass.

I don't think it's the pros so much as it is the "pros". The average toxic league player who thinks he should replace someone on a pro team.

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The best CS maps are the ones with predicable gameplay:- if my team holds this point and this point then the other team is limited to X and Y.

Vertical gameplay can often screw this up and make it much harder for the defending team to accurately pinpoint the enemy players even when an abundance of information is supplied - sound/visual etc etc so can REALLY frustrate players.

 

Makes more sense in my head than it probably does typed out :P

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I'd say only add something to your map if it add something to the gameplay. Verticality for the sake of verticality only makes things more confusing, especially in CS with the whole radar, 3D sounds and gimbal lock issues. I still can't wrap my head around Mist.

Dust2 is a good exemple, is the verticality really needed here?. You would be able to peek B from A long if there was no ramp, lower/middle/cat wouldn't be the same at all. If T-Spawn wasn't elevated you wouldn't be able to snipe CT crossing so easily. It's the geometry of the map that makes it interesting.

Edited by Klems
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