"A well-designed level takes into consideration a whole set of requirements, such as user interaction and navigation, which are inherent to the purpose they serve. How will the spaces control and direct the player throughout the explorative and interactive experience? What sort of directional and responsive feedback mechanisms will be provided to assist the process? How will all of the elements tie together to form a cohesive environment that is well understood without compromising aesthetic appeal? The level designer must also consider the impact of particulars such as sound, space, lighting, pace, and scale."
-- Tito Pagán[1]

As it was discussed in the Pre-mapping stage, gameplay can be divided into two classes: Core gameplay (the basic ruleset which players will abide to) and Map gameplay (the environment where the players are able to interact with). In this page, we'll talk about the latter.

Floorplan Edit


Local fights Edit


Defense areas Edit


Balance Edit

"I prefer to think of [balance] in terms of two evenly skilled players (or teams) having equal chances of doing well when matched against each other in ideal conditions"
-- Jim Brown, Epic Games[5]

A good explanation of what balance is comes from Phillp Tasker, from Treyarch:

"Balance in a multiplayer map means symmetry in opportunities to win (not necessarily symmetry in map layout). Map advantages for one team, such as an elevated position, should be offset by similar advantages or opportunities for counter-tactics. Localized “imbalances” can create great tension and encourage players to alter tactics to defeat the other team. The key is to ensure appropriate counter tactics are available and that imbalances are not unevenly distributed in the rest of the map."
-- Phillp Tasker, Treyarch[5]

Balance is an important principle to be aware of in design. It should suggest an awareness of the balance between various elements. The balance of a map refers to the predictable climate the player will find themself in.[6] A perfectly balanced map would ultimately be pretty boring to play. On the other hand, a completely unbalanced map can also make for boring play in that the first player to gain control will keep control easily. The ideal is a map in which there is enough unbalance to make it interesting yet not so much as to make it overwhelmingly controllable.[7]

Gravity, the center of the map, stairs, ramps, platforms, jumppads, all of these environment features and more do play a role regarding a map's balance in different ways. All in all, the more complex and varied the floor plan of a DM map becomes, the harder it is to regulate its balance.[8] Weapon/item placement is another balance upsetter.[9]

Finally, Adam Crist from Certain Affinity suggests to try to ensure that every strong position on the map has a counter to it. If you have a strong sniper location, either create another sniper location that has line of sight to the first, and/or create a back path that is protected from the sniper so players with mid-range and close-range weapons can outflank the sniper. In addition to creating counters to strong locations on a level, also ensure that each team has equal access to these locations. This of course also extends to weapon locations.[5]

Connectivity Edit

[2] [7] [10]

Alternate routes Edit

[7] Level Design Patterns, a paper by Simon Larsen about principles of unified level design.

Collision points Edit


Reference points Edit


Map flow Edit

[13] [14] [7] [15]

Vertical (Z-axis) fighting Edit

[13] [14] [16] [7]

Weapon and item placement Edit

Risk vs. reward Edit

[6] [7] [17]

Scales and sizes in general Edit


Clipping Edit

[7] [18]

Types of layouts Edit

Arena Edit

Also called "Single atrium". It involves one central area where most of the combat takes place. Most of the hallways and passages lead from this central area to it.[19] [18]

Circular Edit

Maps which are circular in design. The player rarely needs to turn around from the main path.[19]

Linear Edit

Maps built with few alternate paths.[19]

Location-Based Edit

Allows players to always know where they are. Have many unique identifiable areas, each with their unique twist. Weapon/item placement is usually done so each area has it's distinctive weapon.[19] This is especially recommended on big maps.[20]

Theme-Centered Edit

Uses something unique to combat and over-exaggerates it all over the map. Good for players looking something unique. Themes need to enhance gameplay, not detract from it.[19]

Multiple atriums Edit

[7] [18]

Level-Walkway Edit


Stack-Overlap Edit


Yard Edit


2-fort Edit


String-Bundle Edit


Room-Corridor-Room Edit


Notes Edit

  1. "Where's the Design in Level Design?" by Tito Pagán
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gameplay basics and multiplayer floorplan introduction by Sjoerd "Hourences" De Jong
  3. Level Design Patterns, a paper by Simon Larsen about principles of unified level design.
  4. Level Design Patterns, a paper by Simon Larsen about principles of unified level design.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 G4TV's "How To Build The Best Multiplayer FPS"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Map Design at UnrealEd Wiki
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 CPMA guide for competitive map design
  8. Map Balance by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
  9. Item placement by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
  10. Connectivity by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
  11. Level Design Patterns, a paper by Simon Larsen about principles of unified level design.
  12. Level Design Patterns, a paper by Simon Larsen about principles of unified level design.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Map Planning on the UnrealEd wiki.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Map Flow on the UnrealEd wiki.
  15. Map Flow by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
  16. Z-Axis on the UnrealEd wiki.
  17. Item Placement
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 Architecture by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Tim Willits' opinions on mapping at Gamasutra's Secrets of the Sages
  20. Paul Jaquays' opinions on mapping at Gamasutra's Secrets of the Sages

External links Edit

<< Previous (Pre-mapping stage) Mapping manual (Choosing an editor) Next >>

OpenArena's Mapping manual
Prologue /// Pre-mapping stage - Map gameplay /// Choosing an editor /// Your first map
Brush manipulation - 2D/3D clipping /// Curve manipulation /// Textures /// Introduction to Entities
Lighting - Advanced lighting /// Weapon/Item placement /// Triggers and movers - Dynamic features
Shaders /// Terrains and liquids /// Mapmodels /// Sounds /// Gametype support
Optimization and Troubleshooting - Hint brushes - Bot play - Troubleshooting
Final touches /// Compilation & packaging
Glossary of terms - Advanced features - Modelling a map - Editor differences - Default assets (Textures/Models/Sounds) - GPL

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