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GRiNET

Heidel WIP and Design explanations

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Hello everyone!

I am sorry I am late to the party. I've had some busy weeks making this blog very postponed.
I was thinking of updating this as I was working on the map, but now I will do it in bulk instead. 
In this post I am going to talk about my map and the design choices I've made for it at this time.

A little bit about myself. I'm a Level Design student at The Game Assembly in Malmö, Sweden.
When I saw that the people over at NWI had this competition in cooperation with Mapcore and Gamebanana I was very happy.
I really like the source engine, and I found this to be a great opportunity to make a complete map from scratch
and work on my personal pipeline as well as getting to know the engine, contribute to an awesome game and compete against you guy's awesome maps!
When I first began making my map I was really tempted to just jump right into the engine and produce the most awesome map ever made.
But I decided to play it cool and do some planning, paperwork and research first.

I've played Insurgency since it was only a mod, I wanted to replicate it's excellent gameplay in a game like DOI.
I love what they did with DOI but what I do not love as much is that I find the maps to big, making the player run a bit too much and less focused on fighting.
In Insurgency the maps were big, but they felt more combat-oriented which I loved.
So my idea was to make a map inspired by the gameplay in Insurgency but make it a tad bigger to get the feel of the large scale battles from WWII.
The final result is a medium sized map with both plenty of props and cover, but also some open areas with high visibility.

THE LEVEL OVERVIEW


JZYMF9n.png


RESEARCH
First off, I looked up some things about WWII and looked at all kinds of photos.
I also watched movies such as: Saving private Harambe and Band of Brothers.
This inspired me and when I randomly stumbled on the german village Heidelberg, I knew I wanted to make a map with a bridge as a centerpiece.
I gathered a couple of images from the web and sat down and tried to sketch out a rough draft of the level and its key areas. 
During this stage I wanted to find a look and feel of the map that I would find interesting. 

I settled down with these two designs. 
http://i.imgur.com/nITtXn3.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/OocJuB9.jpg

FIRST BLOCKOUT
When I was satisfied with the sketches I began the first blockout pass in the engine.
Here I quickly encountered some problems. I had no acutal knowledge of how to build a city and make it feel real.
Therefore everything I threw into the level felt stale and unrealistic.
The distances and street sizes either felt too broad or to narrow of just plainly wrong.

I solved this problem by choosing a scale and size of the streets that I was happy with. 
This opened up the possibilty to lay down the foundations of the city and then construct buildings on top of that. 
After the streets were placed, everything went smoothly and I was speeding through the blockout phase. 
After the initial greybox were put down, I started detailing the buildings. 
I wanted to see how they turned out and how I could design them to both feel realistic and provide good gameplay possibilites.

http://i.imgur.com/O58hZHo.png
http://i.imgur.com/JbWBMRG.png
http://i.imgur.com/fum5bVu.png
http://i.imgur.com/t1dB9N5.png

Soon enough I encountered some problems again. The visibility was too great, the line of sight was outrageous across the map and everything felt to big and distant.
This led me to make the decision to start redesigning the buildings and shorten the width of the streets. This solved most of the problems and it felt very good.
Yes, I know one pictures is a screenshot of a screenshot.. 

http://i.imgur.com/aHY5Kp1.png
http://i.imgur.com/ETyYAAv.png
http://i.imgur.com/W2MM1gj.png


But even though I had cut down the distances of the map it still felt too big and the streets were taking up most of the space.
The bridge was enormous too, making it feel very out of place. Most of it had to be reworked and redesigned once again.
This took a lot of time.
It is very important for me to have an idea in mind when designing the level. 
In my level I wanted to have tight corridors with limited visibility, open areas with great line of sight and flanking opportunities. 
I want the player to feel both enclosed and exposed depending on the areas. 

Since the bridge is my centerpiece and middlepoint, for the liberation game mode, I wanted it to be no man's land.
This to make it very hard to take for both teams and a highly valued point.
On the bridge you are exposed and even though there are a lot of cover on the bridge itself, because the bridge is surrounded by highground positions located in the buildings surrounding it.

http://i.imgur.com/0WnshYZ.png
http://i.imgur.com/3lpkC6N.png
http://i.imgur.com/3QOV40U.png

GAMEPLAY DESIGN
The concept of this level is something I call rubberband gameplay. 
Rubberband gameplay is a dynamic form of gameplay, in this case it is to push the frontline forward and back.
Much like the tides of the sea. 

Being a former competitive CS player, I wanted the different sites to feel unique, play fun and promote different tactics.
The sites should be different but in the same time design to promote map balance.

THE BRIDGE
http://i.imgur.com/ZeWU7py.png
The bridge is an excellent piece to promote this kind of gameplay. For now, this is the only way to cross over the other teams site. 
By forcing this movement, all players will naturally gravitate towards the bridge point. 
This promotes intense firefights and strategic thinking and cooperation to take the bridge. 

To take the bridge both teams will have to take up good positions, smoke, grenade and assault and cover at the same time, otherwise they will just add to the bodypile.
The bridge is a valuable target because the team taking the bridge first will have a wave advantage and at the same time push the frontline forward. 
It takes both of the teams the same time to reach the foot of the bridge from their spawns. This promotes more-combat-less-running gameplay.
And here is the design philosophy behind this design.

  • The team taking the bridge first will have a wave advantage - meaning more reinforcements.
  • The attacking team will controll the frontline, therefore deciding where the firefights will take place.
  • The team taking the bridge WILL take heavy casualties no matter what.

By this design the team taking the bridge will have certain options.

  • If they play aggressively they can attack the other teams natural site and try to capture it fast - this is risky since they probably are few in number.
  • If they fail the push the defending team will easily retake the bridge - turning the tides.
  • If they opt to play defesively to allow themselves to gather their respawned team mates they will give the defending team time to do the same and set up good defensive positions.

ALLIED NATURAL SITE
http://i.imgur.com/HLUm7Eq.png
http://i.imgur.com/bYzaINp.png
http://i.imgur.com/tVe9t73.png

The allied natural site is a tight site revolving around a destroyed half-track with a mounted AA-gun. Adding to the setting of the level. 
The site is full of good defensive MG-nests and holdout spots. It is also connected by tight corridors and alleys, making it tough to defend if you want to cover all the spots.
The MG-nests are good to defend the corridors but exposed to certain sniper angles in the surrounding buildings.
This is to promote the axis team to coordinate multi-pronged attacks to the sites and take the surrounding buildings to help their assaulting teammates. 
Because of the superior sniping angles in the surrounding angles the allied team will try to defend the buildings as long as possible even if the bridge falls. 

AXIS NATURAL SITE
http://i.imgur.com/L6OiXuy.png
http://i.imgur.com/zeglDXy.png

The axis natural site is more open than the allied site but more exposed to flanking manouvers performed by the allied team. 
The site is a big mounted AA-gun, once again showing the significance of air control in the area for the story of the level.
The team holding the AA-guns will hold the skies. The axis site is more open but the same as the allied team the site is more deeply designed.
The surrounding buildings are important. They provide high ground for their assualting/defending teammates, they provide cover from artillery fire and they open up paths to the objective.

THEME
I wanted the level to feel like there had been battle but not full out war. Therefor a lot of things are destroyed but there are still things that are whole.
I wanted to show the struggle of winning and losing the bridge making it very exposed and chaotic while the different buildings in the city weel more strategically used.

Edited by GRiNET
Added an overview picture in the start of the post. Changed some spelling errors.

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Thank you!

3 hours ago, clankill3r said:

no pics no clicks

I've added an overview image based on your feedback.

Thank you!

2 hours ago, 'RZL said:

There are pics, though they aren't embedded in here.

@GRiNET The progress pics you shared with us look pretty promising, keep it up mate!

Thank you!

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Hello again everyone!

Time for post number 2 with some talk about the skybox, lighting, fog and choic of material.

Also, as an added extra I will touch on the criticism recieved from playtesting and how I've approached that feedback.

 

Since my map is inspired by the german town "Heidelberg" I wanted the buildings to represent some kind of german city with buildings looking like the ones from around 1920-1950. I constructed these simple buildings seen below.

During testing I found out that when everything was brown bricks it was very boring to look at and it all looked the same. I tried to switch things up by adding some plaster to the sidewalls. But that didn't quite do it either so I had to chose from a pool of materials. I settled down with some orange brick, stone and yellowish plaster to make some buildings pop out more and catch the eye.

With that finished for now I went on to the lighting. Before my map was very bright, almost like a clear summersday. I didn't want everything to look so clean and happy so I chose a skybox with a sun that represents the afternoon and I was instanly more comfortable with the map. I also added a thin amount of fog to reduce field of view around parts of the map and to set the mood.

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In the screenshots above you can clearly see that a lot of the buildings are just plain cubes, some with a window inserted into them. That is because I wanted to block out the map before I settled down with the details. So instead of building houses directly in the map, I created a new file which I call "PrefabFactory". This allowed me to make new buildings in all kinds of designs and materials and align them correctly  to the grid. "ALWAYS WORK ON BIG GRID SIZES AND STAY ON THE GRID" I cannot stress this enough for everyone out there, proffesional or amateur. This house building method proved efficient since I could simply copy and paste the new buildings into my original level.

I noticed a big problem with my map when I inserted the new buildings. I had been sloppy and I hadn't built everything on the grid. Sadly enough, I took the decision to rebuild the whole map with the new time given to us mapmakers in the competition. Since I am not only creating this map for the sole purpose of winning the competition but also master the source engine and up my level designing skills, I found the remaking of my map a good choice. Do it again and do it right! 

A lot of feedback from testing was that the water was a cool idea but it wasn't working as expected. Water physics and playermovement are no good combo, atleast not in the source engine. However, I didn't want to remove the bridge from my level considering I early on decided that it was going to be my centerpiece. I instead opted to go another route. I decided to remove the water and instead make it a railway going under the bridge, more like my first drawings and original concept. 

This rework is however a big risk since it probably will alter all the gameplay in the map. But I guess that's whats make you a designer, to make decisions that affects someone, for better or worse is hard to say.

20161114214115_1.jpg20161114214119_1.jpg20161114214135_1.jpg20161114214209_1.jpg20161114214222_1.jpg20161115192754_1.jpg  

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Hello everyone! 

Next big update is here after a big break off the grid. I've had quite a lot to do and I am proud to say that Heidel will be going Gold this following week. The struggle is coming to and end and I am proud to see my product take shape. No matter how it goes in the competition, I can say that I now have completed constructing a map from the planning phase to final production. It has not been easy but it's been great fun and I have learned so much. That alone is worth a lot to me. Well, enough with the pats on the shoulder and on the the post!

Since the last update I have made a couple of big changes. In the previous post I told you guys about the remake of the map. I hadn't stayed very well on the grid and it hurt me pretty bad after constructing my final buildings. I had to remake the map and in the same process I decided to tweak it with the feedback and input I got from playtesting as well as my own thoughts. A designer is never completely satisfied but they should never be afraid to test new things. 

20161211152144_1.jpg

This is how the map is looking right now. The general layout have stayed true even though the massive rework. The only thing that is heavily modified is the center point that before was on the bridge in the middle. Now there is no water at all and a second bridge has been added. I am greatly satisfied with this change since it has opened up a lot more gameplay possibilites and added to a more dynamic gameplay than I had before. Now there are more flanking possibilities and the point in the middle is both harder and easier to take than before and I'll explain why later. 

20161211144929_1.jpg

The spawns have been added and timed correctly to be equally fast for both teams to reach the point in the middle. This is the current Axis spawn, it's final all except a possible 3D skybox behind them to remove the horizon-line and add to the city-feel and mood. 

20161211145707_1.jpg

This is the final Allied spawn. Here we can see the temporary point of advancement for the allied team trying to retake the crucial anti-air gun positions located in this part of the town.

20161211144956_1.jpg

This is the Axis natural point at the final stage. I've added a bit more cover change the strategic possibilities for the defenders as well as the attackers on this site. Overall I am pretty satisfied with this one and it plays pretty well. 

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This is the Allied natural point at the final stage. Added quite a lot of debris and other graphical flavor things such as a burning flame in the destroyed vehicle, cable lines and overlays to convey the feeling of a battle. Cover wise there have been minor tweaks to the site to equalize the advantage for the defending team and the attacking team from different perspectives. 

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This is the current middlepoint in its final stage. It has plenty more cover and its playing quite a lot with verticality. I've put up sandbag covers for both team so they can flank and outmaneuver each other. A grenade thrown with the right speed at the right angle can reach behind the other teams' sandbag without hassle, taking out plenty of players or providing good smoke to disorient the enemies or cover for a rush down the hill to capture the objective.This point requires good team composition and cooperation to capture. Players are always out in the open also so they have to quickly pull back, get inside the houses or rush down under the bridges when the artillery is firing, but to use the binoculars to call down artillery is dangerous as the officer will be greatly exposed. When designing this map I wanted to make use of all the different loadout classes. I have noticed that during some of the maps I've played, but fan made and official machinegun and sniper is seldom used. At least not to that extent which I would like to see. So in my map I was aiming to bring all those classes together and not just the standard, officer, assault and rifleman/enginneer class. 

20161211145414_1.jpg

Therefore I have added these high-value points for machine gunners on both map to pin down the attacking team that are trying to push and capture the low ground point. This is the view from the axis team if they are trying to push and capture, and sure there are cover to hide between but you are never fully covered. This is purposely made to make the player feel vulnerable and exposed and when there is raining down machinegun fire at you will your teammates are dying both left and right, artillery is firing and grenades are exploding in front of you, this point really captures that moment and feel.

20161211145419_1.jpg

This is the same view for the allied team and they are equally exposed and vulnerable. As level design flavor to implicitly tell the player where there are good MG-nest spots I've laid down a lot of bullet decals beneath the windows as seen in the screenshots below. Of course the spots are mostly obvious to the eye but still, it's a minor detail to emphazise this.20161211145131_1.jpg20161211145453_1.jpg

I've also propped out and dressed my level with decals, props and overlays to sell the environment more. Me personally really love telephone/power lines as I think they are great to tell the player where they should go but also where the boundaries of the map are. In my map I've "sealed" off the middle section with the power lines, building a sort of box where there playable area is. Another thing that isn't obvious at first but as a player you will probably understand it anyway. Here are some pictures with lighting, and props to flesh out the city and environment as a whole. Due to uploading restrictions of 5MB I will continue this post down below. 

Edited by GRiNET

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To integrate all classes I've had certain things in mind when designing my map. I've thought a little bit about rock-paper-scissors and how this combat triangle can influence this map from a gameplay perspective. Let's delve into the classes and see how they can influence gameplay. 

  • Sniper - Strong class with good view distance and the possibility to take out high value targets like mounted machine gunners without being exposed themselves. Cons are low fire rate, low ammo and static movement, meaning you cannot run around and pray and spray, instead you are forced to stay low and really check on your team and help them.
  • Machine gunner - Strong class with decent view distance and the possibility to take down a lot of enemies when in the right spot. Aside from killing machine gunners have the abilities to pin down enemies and suppress them when their own team is pushing forward and going for the capture. Cons are static movement, high reload times and low/medium ammo. 
  • All other classes - Strong because of their mobility and ability to outflank said classes. Cons are never the same for these classes but instead they are depending on how the game is playing out. A rifleman or assault will almost always win against an unmounted machine gunner or a sniper in close distance sniper. Yes there are small arms to give these classes a more fair fight but still it doesn't really matter in the long run.

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This view from the center building in the Axis natural point makes for a great sniping spot since it is safe and it is looking through the middle of the map to this view for the allied team.20161211160112_1.jpg

Both these spots are great for sniper battles and they are great MG-spots for defending the natural points for both teams. Depending on who is pushing back who either team can change the role of sniper/mg, this promotes a fair symmetrical and dynamic gameplay which is always shifting. If axis is getting pushed back this is now an MG spot while on the allied side it is an sniper spot and vice versa.

Regarding the middle point I've told you in the previous post about the MG positions. Those are great to mount up, if possible and will pin down the enemy and once the guns are up they will be hard to take down by normal fire. To counter this I've made attractive spots for snipers to take out the MGs. Of course, there must be a risk involved in having the advantage of taking out high value targets from high range and it in this case it is almost every time the exposure of your body. To deal damage you must wait for the right time and take them out quick before you have been counter sniped. This spots in the following screenshots will explain. 20161211160059_1.jpg20161211160048_1.jpg

For the allied team, these two spots are very exposed but still very deadly if the sniper opts to show up in the right movement and kill the MG. Since the spots are fairly obvious to the players you can perceive that there will be a sniper or an mg since the spots are too valuable to ignore. 

20161211160031_1.jpg

Except for the building above mentioned earlier this is the second really great sniping spot for the axis team. Wide field of view but still not a lot of cover. A simple grenade, stray bullets or another sniper will easily take you down. 

Well, this is all from me. I hope you have had an interesting read and that you've enjoyed my map. I am still looking for feedback and criticizm so don't hesitate to contact me if there is anything you would like me to know. 

Thanks for reading.

GRiNET

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Congratulations for making it this far! I recommend you work on the destruction a bit more as it's quite blocky atm and add warm lights to every building interior to improve readability and create contrast between indoors/outdoors.

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2 minutes ago, Radu said:

Congratulations for making it this far! I recommend you work on the destruction a bit more as it's quite blocky atm and add warm lights to every building interior to improve readability and create contrast between indoors/outdoors.

Thank you! I will look into it!

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