CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

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CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby fudgonaut » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:55 pm

Work in progress:
_994_CTF-Acrophobia.zip
(520.34 KiB) Downloaded 22 times

(Message me if it won't load in the editor... I'm still very new at this. Thank you for your patience.)

INTRO
I have been tinkering with my first attempt at a CTF map for a couple months now. Thanks to encouragement from forum members here, I’ve decided to start this thread. I’ve already done a lot of work on the map geometry.

to-date.jpg


But the for the purposes of this thread I’m going to rebuild it from scratch, in order to share my process of making a map from the very start. While I’d like this thread to produce some tutorial-like elements, this won’t be a strict tutorial because:

  • I’m a map n00b, in no position to instruct anyone in the ways of UnrealEd.
  • There is already a massive amount of knowledge available about mapmaking – most of it on this very forum.

GOAL OF THIS THREAD
I am hoping this thread will provide enough info to encourage others aspiring mapmakers. I will try to talk about both the technical (nuts & bolts editor stuff) and the philosophical (design choices, project methodology, etc). I will try to add lots of screenshots to keep it the thread from getting stale.

As I start to make progress, I'd like experienced mapmakers to add their input and insight along the way. With luck, this crowd-sourcing will produce things like:

  • Interesting design discussions
  • Pro-tips (e.g., brush techniques)
  • Dos and don’ts
And maybe feedback from the community will improve the quality of the final product.

However, there is a chance – through no fault of the community – that the final product will be a complete disaster… or possibly unachievable altogether. I have no illusions that this first map attempt of mine is overly-ambitious. I’m the kind of idiot who tries to run before he can walk. To extend this metaphor further, I’m sure I will stumble along the way.

ORGANIZED APPROACH
Today they are entire development teams dedicated to working on a single FPS level, so talking about organization for a building a map with an 18-year-old engine may seem like overkill.

But as a former project manager, I think discussing organization and methodology will help provide a blueprint / roadmap for other would-be mappers. This is my initial approach to creating the map:

  • Conceptualization
  • Geometry
  • Movers, special brushes, meshes, etc.
  • Triggers, pickup placement, etc
  • Bot pathing
  • Zoning
  • Texturing
  • Lighting
  • Audio and music

This is probably not a complete list and I’m sure I’ll wander off it, but I’ll try to keep to this organizational framework as best I can. So let’s get started.

CONCEPTUALIZATION
DESIGN GOAL
To create a CTF map that feels like an environment which had a specific purpose (before being re-purposed by the Liandri Corporation). That is, I want to create a space that feels convincing and immersive, and not just two arbitrary bases for the sake of CTF.

If I have to make choices between gameplay and immersive environment, I am going to choose environment. For this project, anyway.

CONCEPT
A structure (maybe a communications array, or power plant, etc.) perched high on a tower above a desolate landscape. On either side of the structure is a docking bay where ships (the red and blue bases) are moored to deliver equipment. Here’s a screenshot of the docking bay with temp textures. The white background texture would be open/skybox (revealing the ground far below):

screencap-3.jpg


While there are only a few rooms where falling off the arena is possible, I want the player to always feel the threat/presence of altitude. Hence the map name CTF-Acrophobia.

Before I get into building the first room for this…

IMPROVISING AND ISSUES DISCOVERED
I started by building rooms as I went, and quickly realized that improvising wasn’t going to work. It needed better planning, so I started sketching.

sketch03.jpg


I tried to wrap paths around each other in interesting ways. On testing, I realized this idea quickly broke down with the use of the translocator. So I reconfigured the geometry of the paths so that they were viewable but inaccessible to each other, specifically in the central chamber. There are certainly places to translocate, but in a more restricted way than many maps.

Also, by making the routes viewable, it maybe makes it easier for the player to grasp the layout better (I was awestruck by the scope of CTF maps like Hyperfrag and Eternal Gateways, but I was also perpetually getting lost in them. Beautiful maps, but maybe a too little busy for my tastes).

TIP:
Sketch your map first. Try lots of sketches and variations, until it feels workable. It’s quicker to work out geometry this way than in the editor. It’s also important to creating a starting point – looking at an empty grid can be intimidating and discouraging. So having something to guide your first pieces of geometry is helpful. Even if you end up changing it later, at least you’ve got the ball rolling.

It's okay to go back to sketching after you've started geometry. I had to do this several times... drawing on paper, then making geometry, then back to drawing... until things started to fit together more nicely.

MORE PROBLEMS, NEW (MODULAR) APPROACH
With more sketches and more ideas in hand, I started iterating the map once again, and discovered I was making too many random one-off pieces of geometry. My solution to this was to make and export brushes for re-use. At this point I have enough brushes made that I can actually remake the map (such as it is) from scratch in a day or two.

TIP:
Create a ‘warehouse’ map for prototyping brushes. You can even have two instances of UnrealEd open – one for creating and exporting pieces of geometry, and the other your actual map where you can import the brushes to see how they fit. If you're lucky enough to own dual computer monitors, they'll come in really handy here.

The Import/Export brush feature is your friend. Save the all the brush shapes you build. If you end up using lots of brushes (.t3d) and shapes (.2ds) name the files in a way that keeps them organized, and store them in folders that will keep them organized.

brushes.jpg


OKAY
In the next post, I will attempt cover building geometry for the first room (the base).
Last edited by fudgonaut on Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:33 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby Terraniux » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:57 pm

I think you are taking this way too formal. Its good thing being professional, but.... from my own experiences , maybe others as well ..... try to be less formal.


Edit: Please remove :A n00b’s map from start to finish . Change this into: [WIP] --- work in progess. Or just your project name.
But if this suits your way, don' let me stop you.
In my MH tutorial I explained a certain way to do things, you might wanna look at it. If not, it cool too.

If I may hand out a tip to you, this may not fall in place in current time, but learn from this :
If it’s okay with moderators I’d like to add posts as I go, instead of re-editing this starting post. Otherwise, this initial post runs the risk of getting long and unwieldy. But not to worry, I don’t plan on making micro-updates. My plan is for each new post to have a significant amount of content (if this initial post is any indication). Moderators, is this okay with you?


Less talk( READ: less typing - more mapping, fixing and playing your map ), more pictures ( READ: when able to do so) , and updates scattered over time. Its that simple.

This is an UT community, not a skyscraper with a commercial business! We wanna meet UT. READ: U.
Post your interests with FUN, AND Intention, only stuff we should know!

Less formal, more "YOU".
Make us wanna know!


Looking good so far, keep on going! :thuup:

Edit 3, show us your progress with pictures with a SMALL AMOUNT OF TEXT NEXT TIME! :thuup: 8) 8) 8)
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby OjitroC » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:09 am

Terraniux wrote: Edit 3, show us your progress with pictures with a SMALL AMOUNT OF TEXT NEXT TIME! :thuup: 8) 8) 8)

The purpose of this thread is actually to describe the OP's approach to making a map rather than simply presenting progress illustrated by screenshots - in the OP's own words, "to document the making of a (overly-ambitious) map, from soup to nuts. In a way it would be half WIP, half tutorial, half discussion. Yes, that's three halves". I find this interesting and informative in part because it has seldom been done. The formality of the presentation reflects the highly structured and organized nature of the OP's map making process (as well as the project management background) and it is provides an ordered and logical framework within which to document that process. Personally, I don't find this formality or the length of the post off-putting.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby Carbon » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:26 am

Well done fudgonaut.

I think you are presenting a good, formal approach as an example that was not only intended to illustrate the process to others, but to avoid the type of thing that has already begun: nitpicking about the presentation. If you aren't organized and have a clear goal, you get jumped, if you are too formal and organized, you get jumped. Can't win for trying around here sometimes.

I believe the title of the thread is fine: it clearly reflects the purpose and goal of the thread and hey....it's your thread. You aren't breaking any rules so carry on, I say.

Again, I think its great to see the planning and forward thinking that should go on before making a map. We have all seen the results of just sitting down and being too spontaneous; a lack of overall coherence and unpreparedness for issues that will arise. The great maps undoubtedly began as you have with panning and forethought, with spontaneity being reserved for the concept stage. After the idea and initial design has been conceived and sketched out, the real formal work begins, as you have illustrated. Well done. It looks exciting (I love the concept) and I'm looking forward to seeing the progress and I hope you stay as on-point and focused as you are currently.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby fudgonaut » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:17 am

Thank you all for your feedback! Onward and upward...

GEOMETRY
My strategy is to start with the base and work towards the center of the map. Later, I’ll work on the textures, lighting, etc. Once all that’s done, the plan is to duplicate everything and rotate the duplication by 180 degrees to create the other half of the map.

The fundamentals of the flag base are simple: The room, the catwalks, and the ship itself (this is where the flag will go). Later if I want to get fancy I will add lighting sconces, an overhead crane, etc. These will probably be semisolids or meshes (thanks to Higor’s BrushToMesh button).

BUILDING THE BASE
In the early versions of the flag base, I subtracted a cube and added a couple flat walkways around the edge. Kinda boring. So how to make it a little more interesting?

First, at the far end of the catwalks, I subtracted a column on either side. This creates alcoves that are good for weapons placement and it provides cover spots for defending the inner base. I also added bevels to the top of the room.

Next, I added two levels of catwalks. The lower catwalk is where gangplanks connect to the ship. The walkways were also bland, so I went to my ‘warehouse,’ and made smaller catwalk segments - then I used vertex editing to add ups-and-downs to the catwalks.

00-base-00.jpg


Better, but it needed a little extra. I created just catwalk borders, then created invisible collision hulls inside those edges.

UEd-6.jpg


Above those, I placed sheets with masked textures. Now you can look through the catwalks to see the open space below.

00-base-09.jpg


Yeah, way cooler. But notice the walls? Blech. That repeating texture offends me.

A SOLUTION, BUT PROBABLY A GREAT BIG NO-NO
How do I get rid of that repeating texture? My solution (and probably a terrible one): segmentation. I rebuilt the shape of the room out of 512x512 blocks.

00-base-01.jpg


Then I made a giant cube brush and used the Intersect button. The resulting brush is identical to the initial room, but has many more polys/nodes, allowing granular control over texture variation along the wall.
Now I can do this:

before-after.jpg


Looks better, no? I’m sure people will be screaming at me – the whole goal in mapmaking is to reduce polys, not add them!!!

For now it’s just a proof-of-concept technique, which I’ll probably have to sacrifice later, once the map polycount spins out of control. :mrgreen:
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby papercoffee » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:56 am

What's the width of those catwalks? they seem to be very slim.
Always keep in mind that UT punishes play styles where you won't or can't evade an opponent. Going in strait lines because of a hallway or a catwalk without a chance to dodge is the equivalent to a sitting duck in UT. The player movement is top priority in mapping.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby fudgonaut » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:24 am

papercoffee wrote:Always keep in mind that UT punishes play styles where you won't or can't evade an opponent. Going in strait lines because of a hallway or a catwalk without a chance to dodge is the equivalent to a sitting duck in UT. The player movement is top priority in mapping.

That's a good observation, and something that's been in the back of my mind because there are many hallways and bottlenecks in this map. Rebuilding this thing from scratch might help me address some of those problem areas.

I might widen those catwalks, but not too much. How many units does a player travel when they dodge?
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby Hellkeeper » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:27 pm

fudgonaut wrote:Yeah, way cooler. But notice the walls? Blech. That repeating texture offends me.


There's nothing religious in UnrealEd, if your method works, it's good. This is not something I would recommend though as it may result in many problems later in the project.
You should use (or make) a new larger texture to cover your walls. It would give you the same amount of control without making the geometry too complex and without adding nodes.

As a matter of fact, the problem of this repeating texture is entirely caused by the gigantic flat surfaces you have right now. I'm sure (I definitely hope) you plan on breaking the walls of these docking bays with beams, pillars or supports of some kind, because if you leave them like that, no amount of texture control will make things interesting to look at and the repetition will show even if each 512² square has a different texture.

As you'be been told already, these endless catwalks will also make the game an incredible sniper and shockrifle playground with no cover, no escape. This is not very fun. Escaping with a flag in a map like this will also prove extremely hard as the flag carrier will have to take roundabout paths on these catwalks when everybody else will be translocating from catwalk to catwalk.

fudgonaut wrote:I might widen those catwalks, but not too much. How many units does a player travel when they dodge?

Even with 512 wide catwalks (which will look strange), a volley of 6 rockets will make sure nobody goes through. And dodging right and left won't save you from a shock combo. You would need parts of these catwalks to have roofs, walls and bends for someone running on these to escape.
Last edited by Hellkeeper on Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
You must construct additional pylons.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby OjitroC » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:57 pm

@fudgonaut
I know you've said you want to give creating an immersive environment priority over gameplay in making this map but, in the light of the comments thus far, perhaps you should revise your Design Goal? Or, more particularly, consider having two Goals, one related to design and the other to gameplay. In this way, each relevant design decision can be tested to see if it aids in achieving the gameplay goal. Achieving an immersive environment and providing interesting, challenging and balanced gameplay are not mutually exclusive.

So, in thinking about how to link the ships to the central area, you can consider the effect of narrow catwalks on gameplay (what kind of gameplay will this design approach produce?). On a more narrow and arcane note, would the catwalks as they now are actually be practicable for their stated purpose of moving equipment and materials to and from the ships? Can the links to the ships be designed in such a way that they do give a feeling of altitude yet provide some cover and escape as suggested by Hellkeeper?

What you are doing here is an excellent way of generating perceptive and constructive feedback and makes for an informative and entertaining thread.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby fudgonaut » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:12 pm

Again thanks everyone for the feedback, this all great stuff to be discussing!
Hellkeeper wrote:I'm sure (I definitely hope) you plan on breaking the walls of these docking bays with beams, pillars or supports of some kind

Yes - I definitely have plans to add stuff like that. But these details won't be added until later - I don't want to build details to layouts until the layouts are closer to being finalized. So I ask everyone bear that in mind when considering room geometry.

Hellkeeper wrote:the flag carrier will have to take roundabout pathes on these catwalks when everybody else will be translocating from catwalk to catwalk.

This was part of the goal for this layout - my hopes is that it would encourage the invading team to strategize & collaborate. But I get what you're saying here, and I think I can come up with some tweaks that will mitigate the flag carrier having to take a roundabout route to get out.

I've been thinking about this since reading papercoffee's comment last night, and I believe I have an idea that
  • gives players more space along the sides (to dodge, e.g.)
  • breaks up the room geometry to make it a little more interesting
  • keeps the narrowness of the catwalks for aesthetic/acrophobic purposes

OjitroC wrote:would the catwalks as they now are actually be practicable for their stated purpose of moving equipment and materials to and from the ships?

No, the cargo is much larger - and would be moved by an overhead gantry into the adjacent room. The catwalks are for (un)boarding and maintenance... things like fuel hoses (etc.) would be part of the detail added once room geometry is locked down.

OjitroC wrote:Or, more particularly, consider having two Goals, one related to design and the other to gameplay.

I definitely don't intend to ignore gameplay/playability, but prefaced this thread so people understand I might make choices that favor aesthetics.


On that note, and I'd lake to say this explicitly - not to you specifically, OjitroC - but to anyone who may read or comment on this thread:

I am likely to make decisions that people may not agree with. I may receive good advice which I choose not to follow. While it's not my goal to make a map that people dislike, I just want it to be clear to everyone that I am not making this map to meet everyone's expectations - I am making this map as part of a learning process, that process will be include me making mistakes.

I meant to say that at the beginning of this thread. I ask that you not get irritated or overly argumentative if (when) I do something stupid.
Henry V: Act 5, Scene 2 wrote:In your fair minds let this acceptance take



OjitroC wrote:What you are doing here is an excellent way of generating perceptive and constructive feedback and makes for an informative and entertaining thread.

Thanks, that is definitely one of the goals of the thread!


EDIT: BTW, per this article, it looks like dodging distance is 237 UU

UPDATE: This is what I'm considering to address the narrow catwalks.
  • Widen the catwalks
  • Create a mirrored inset into the wall.

00-redux.jpg


These changes increase the playable surface by 120%, with space for adding objects that can provide cover for the flag carrier. Visually it breaks up the large wall surface, and still retains the overhang where I can use a masked floor texture to convey the sense of acrophobia. I could make the wall insets a little deeper, but I don't want to dig too far into the wall.

Does this seem like a reasonable solution? Thoughts?
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby Terraniux » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:41 pm

Looking good fudge!

But reading this topic and seeing this made, it got me thinking. Shouldn't your actual concept not be better off with AS gametype?
With every room to be attacked or defended? Space ships, docking bay, rooms with adventure and danger.....

With CTF and such you achieve a nice target, but wouldn't your well worked out concept gain more effectiveness on AS? (Assault)

But don't let this ruin your strategy, just a suggestion. :wink:
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby papercoffee » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:49 pm

fudgonaut wrote:Does this seem like a reasonable solution? Thoughts?

It would be certainly better.
But also plan some cover for the flag carrier. and an alternate route for a surprise ambush of the attackers.
I made this mistake myself in the Northern Lights map where the attackers had nearly no cover ...it turned into a sniper frag feast. :(
The attackers have to create too much oppression fire to get even close to the flag. Let alone leaving the base with the flag again.
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby fudgonaut » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:32 am

I've widened the approaches along the sides, and gave them some bevels for visual interest. I believe there is now enough room for dodging and enough room for placing objects to provide player cover.

999_1_CTF-Acrophobia.jpg

I added a temp skybox to give a feel for altitude.
The surfaces with bright green textures are where players enter / exit the base.
Above the exits is a catwalk and a cargo bay door - which will be open a crack (the green slit in the pictures), to provide a sniper roost into the next room.
Running around the space, I wonder if it needs another point of entry. Possibly from the side (1) or maybe dropping through a hole above upper catwalk (2):

999_2_CTF-Acrophobia.jpg

Or maybe something sneaky from underneath. Still haven't decided. Feels like it needs one or two things to make the space a little more compelling.

I gave the map file a prefix of "_999_", the next version will be "_998_"
The underscore keeps it at the top of the list when I'm opening maps in the editor.
The decreasing number keeps my latest working version at the top of that (Ideally, I'll have completed this before I reach "_000_").

EDIT: I removed the map file from the thread for now. I broke the map somehow, I'll re-add it once I figure out what went wrong.
QUESTION: Is there an effective way to debug why a map loads blank in the editor?
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby OjitroC » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:16 am

fudgonaut wrote: QUESTION: Is there an effective way to debug why a map loads blank in the editor?

Often because of missing file(s) - the starting point to finding the reason is what does the Editor log say?
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Re: CTF-Acrophobia: A n00b’s map from start to finish

Postby papercoffee » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:04 pm

OjitroC wrote:
fudgonaut wrote: QUESTION: Is there an effective way to debug why a map loads blank in the editor?

Often because of missing file(s) - the starting point to finding the reason is what does the Editor log say?

logggg.png
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