My names Jim and I've been building maps for FPS games for about 10 years.
Currently I'm mapping for Left 4 Dead. Why only the first game?
Well mainly because my hardware isn't up to scratch for the second one and also there's still a huge player base who are in the same position and still lap up new Left 4 Dead content.
This blog is my effort to document the mapping process in hopes of educating others who are starting out or looking for some inspiration.
So where to begin?
I could tell you my history of mapping or what inspires me ( rather arrogantly expecting you to be interested) but I wont . I'll start with the single basic key to everything involved in mapping....
If you're reading this I'll assume you have an interest in mapping, which means at some point you've played a game, been inspired by the content and felt a need to remake that content into something you'd like to see or experience.
Here's where your first challenge appears and it's fundamental to the whole ethos of mapping.
Who are you mapping for?
If you are mapping for yourself, this can be a bit of a non-starter I find. The fact that you've slaved over the editor and put together each element of the map and built it up from scratch, tends to leave you in the rather akward position of knowing what will occur round every corner. It's no fun because there no surprises. You may be able to build in a little randomness and certainly the A.I. of enemies in games like Half Life 2 help a great deal but at the end of the day it's just not going to deliver the kind of player experience you'll get from unknown content made by someone else. Ces la vie my friends... tough titties!
So having dived into some tutorials you discover the active forums and suddenly there's a whole bunch of folks whom you can map for. Ahh but they're a fickle bunch and highly critical, expecting nothing less than professional game quality content from a lone mapper with big ideas.
It's the eternal challenge of mapping. Are you happy to create content for yourself and live with no surprises or suffer the slings and arrows of you fellow gamers?
I'd suggest there's a middle ground. You can create fun, playable maps that others will enjoy but you wanted to create. You may have to make some sacrifices along the way but always remember... its the IDEA that will see you through. Never compromise the original idea to please your audience!
Here's a little secret I've learned on the way.
People don't know what they want until it's given to them!
It's the one universal truth in life. People, for the most part, cannot concieve of an idea that is outside their history of experience. Go read, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and or check out the overview here... you'll get the point.
Let's take, the still amazingly playable, Half Life 1 as an example.
It used a first person narrative the entire way through. This is still pretty unique to the Half Life games actually. No cut scenes, at all. Prior to the point of release gamers we're used to being ripped out of their own bodies, sailed around in a free floating camera to be told the story of what they were about to play through. We were spoon fed the story and our perspective was jammed into each story scene at just the right angles.
Not so with Half Life.
Valve decided they would run the narrative around you as you played. If you were looking in the wrong direction or not paying attention, tough luck buddy. It was a wonderful idea and allowed the player to never be broken from their own reality. As a result the experience was so involving that you're every nerve was shredded by the end of a playing session.
Before Half Life's release many gamers would have been appalled at the idea of only seeing important content if you cared to look. Any surveyed customer focus group would have given a massive negative response to this.
Half Life was voted PC game of the year and set the standard for FPS games for the following 10 years. I still don't think it's been beaten even by Half Life 2 as a player experience.
So make your map!
Ram it down their throats!
To hell with the focus groups and player feedback (within reason!).
If the idea is original and fun you'll always come out a winner and who knows... you might even change some perceptions while you're at it!