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Mappers block - how do you overcome it?

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    Mappers block - how do you overcome it?

    (crossposted in both UT editing forums as I think it's a discussion pertinent to both communities)

    I'm a relative newcomer to the mapping scene (first picked up UED a couple of years ago but mainly just mucked around in it, followed a few tutorials, that kind of thing) and haven't ever released anything. I have a half completed UT2004 remake of E1M1 from Doom somewhere, but that's about it.

    Anyway, after a year or so of not having touched the editor, I think it's time to pick it up again - it helps that I've got a school project to create a UT map! Only... I have no ideas for layouts. At all. I've got no shortage of ideas for themes, some architecture, but when it comes to planning a layout I am completely stumped. Trawling the internet I found that Hourences started off making maps based on other maps, which might be the route I eventually go down.

    I could make a map based on my school or whatever, but it'd be lacking z-axis and good flow - something which I never really cared about until coming back to UED after a year hiatus. Now I have trouble figuring out where to start, to be honest.

    I've tried coming up with basic BSP plans of what I want to do, and I come up with stuff like this (scr1 scr2). And then I get totally lost and overwhelmed as to what to do next. I try sketching out what I want to do and fail even harder. Finding a layout that flows - hell, coming up with any type of layout at all - to me is the hardest part of a map.

    I've noticed one of my problems with layouts is that my ones usually consist mainly of corridors and some rooms, then some more corridors, nothing that flows well like my favorite dm maps, deck16/17 and rankin. Even if I try to make a map like DM-Spacenoxx (only on a larger less arena-ish scale) which focuses more on casual good fun than hardcore fun (I may lean towards the casual style to start with, but that's really hard for me to do for some reason) I end up getting stuck.

    I'm making this thread not for input on my current layout (because I'll probably go "screw it" and delete it at some point in the very near future) but to ask you guys, as a community, what you do to come up with good layouts? How do you figure out where to start, what do you do when you're completely stuck? I've been looking at images of abandoned buildings and so on, looking for inspiration, but that doesn't really help me come up a with a fun layout that plays well in DM. Would I perhaps be better by starting off with trying to design a CTF map? (if I have a goal to plan routes to maybe I'd fare a little better?)

    How do I start the process of coming up with great layouts?

    #2
    I've had this problem too. Just a few nights without sleep fixed it - seems that I can only be creative at night. Therefore I have a piece of paper and a pencil on the table next to my bed, so as not to forget what I have thought up - falling asleep can erase the best ideas... Also, it is good to have some sort of purpose for maps - some mod or something that you make them for... And paintings - I got many new ideas after visiting a museum.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by BalticSailor
      [snip]Therefore I have a piece of paper and a pencil on the table next to my bed, so as not to forget what I have thought up [snip]
      Same here although, never knowing when inspiration will hit, I tend to have something to write on all the time, even if it's just a scribble in the back of my day planner.

      I tend to go into a level with one idea that I think will work but after that, it never seems to feel or flow right and I tend to end up with 6 or 8 levels with this one idea in it.

      As for over coming block, I'd suggest 3 possible solutions:
      1. Look at other maps and see what works (and what doesn't) in them.
      2. Look at things to inspire. Baltic uses museums but I've been inspired after visiting a laser shooting arena.
      3. Stop trying. It's kinda like looking for something lost. If you stop looking, it'll just turn up.


      Hope I was of help.

      Steve

      Comment


        #4
        in terms of getting overwhelmed I find just writing a list of things and crossing things off gives me a bit of motivation...I recently made a level for fear and kinda came up with a concept of phases where I make a list of things that must get complete first before I do anything else...stuff like layout and theme and mark those as primary objectives...then I make another list of things I'll have to do soon like lighting...texture and object placement and so on...stuff that I might also work on if I get bored doing primary objectives...from there I mark those as secondary objectives...and then file both primary and secondary objectives as phase 1...once primary objectives are complete I mark the seconday objectives as primary and make a list of smaller details like adding trim or modeling stuff and label those secondary...then call the new set of primary/secondary objectives phase 2...and eventually keep working smaller and smaller until I literally can't think of anything to write down...

        it helped me out a lot because I would focus on the smallest details before I even completed the layout which took a lot out of me...

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          #5
          When I first started, I just began Subtracting cubes varying things here and there(height, size, etc). After awhile I'd looked at what I had then decided the Gametype and even Setting that it was going to be. Later on I discovered I couldn't complete it as desired because I wanted an Outside space and creating one around my Inside space was too complex. I abandoned that Map, but am planning on going back and doing it again, correctly.

          Long story short: Just wing it if you have to, some good ideas are born from the Map talking to you, not you planning the Map. Or something.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Zygar
            I've got no shortage of ideas for themes, some architecture, but when it comes to planning a layout I am completely stumped.
            I am exactly the same once I start a map I am like uuuuuuhhhmmmm *what do I do....?*

            I just started an assault race map and I basically got 256x1024x2048 blocks and laid them out at random then I went back and used windows calculator to work out the sizes (3 blocks 2048x3=6144) delete those 3 blocks and add nice flush 1 block but I know where you're coming from give it about 4 hours from the start of your map then you'll be rolling

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              #7
              im the opposite (well the same more or less as the guy above me now that i actually looked at it)

              i have lots of ideas. plenty of ideas for strange or new or never been done before maps. but i never attempt them b/c, just like when i used to play iwth legos, i will think of something pretty and majestic, and ittll come out as a box and a square with random doodads hanging off.

              tis a curse i tell you

              Comment


                #8
                Insperation

                I have just purchased Mastering Unreal Technology and to kick things of, a few days prior to receiving it, I was joting down nearly everything that would either make a good map, voice pack, and I even had a go at sketching down ideas for characters and weapons. I found insparations in everyday life sayings from movies or tv, scense that could be photographed, and because I work at a factory I started observing the movement of machinery and anything associated with machines, sounds, effects etc. I have used both my working environment and tools at work like scanners, camers, copy and paste. I started make a collage to collect and record my Ideas, I have many map ideas sketched onto graph paper.

                I can't wait to begin learning how to make up levels in Unreal ED and Maya.:up:

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by UToliax
                  I just started an assault race map and I basically got 256x1024x2048 blocks and laid them out at random then I went back and used windows calculator to work out the sizes (3 blocks 2048x3=6144) delete those 3 blocks and add nice flush 1 block
                  Umm... Why use calculator? you can enter the numbers like 2048*3 in editor, and it calculates the size.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I think everyone has their own methods, but here's what tends to work for me:
                    • Read gameplay tutorials. This may seem stupid, but sometimes you find really nice tips in them, which in turn can lead to inspiration. Off the top of my head I'd say have a look at Hourences' Redkin and Sae tutorials.
                    • Check out maps that you think have good gameplay. That being said, Deck17 sucks, but if you like it, have a look at it, both in-game and in-ed. find out why you like the map.


                    Also, I often have a lot of loose layout ideas, and then try to puzzle them together into a single map.

                    One more thing that many (including myself) tend to forget, is to take your theme into account when making a layout. Say your planned theme is a church/cathedral kind of thing, remember to allow for tall pillars and some big, bombastic areas. This not only ensures that you'll be able to apply your theme, it can also inspire your layout.

                    And, last but not least, don't forget about scale. So many maps go to waste because the mapper's scale was off, and he didn't realize it until it was too late.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I have so many map ideas that it will take me years to build them all...
                      I just need more time (even though I do mapping almost full-time).
                      I almost never sketch. I usually have the entire map in full 3D in my head, complete with layout, pathing, everything.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I usually have the entire map in full 3D in my head, complete with layout, pathing, everything.
                        Did that come naturally to you when you first started mapping, or it developed as you became more experienced?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by o_0
                          Did that come naturally to you when you first started mapping, or it developed as you became more experienced?
                          It came naturally.
                          Although that doesn't mean that my map designs will necessarily be good or fun for all gamers, even though many do like my maps. I tend to lean towards realism over gameplay.

                          I currently have four maps in beta, two in final-beta ready for release in the next week or so, plus design/concept for another four after these, and ideas written down for many more.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by DGUnreal
                            I have so many map ideas that it will take me years to build them all...
                            I just need more time (even though I do mapping almost full-time).
                            I almost never sketch. I usually have the entire map in full 3D in my head, complete with layout, pathing, everything.
                            Haha, woah, I wish I was like that.

                            Everyone, thanks for the suggestions so far. I've tried out the whole loose layout ideas thing, taking inspiration from DM-Codex (from UT99) and Deck17, and I'm constructing a bunker/military base map in the vein of Crossfire from Half-Life. I'm finding it easier to let the map evolve as I make it - once I get some vague ideas made the map starts to make itself. I find it impossible to sketch a layout though - my planning skills aren't the greatest it would seem.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I work exacly the same way. First I have a very basic idea wich contains a tactical thing. For my map it was the terrain wich I created in an S shape (mountaints are forcing a route for the non airborn vehicles). Later on I thought of a shortcut that makes it possible to get from A to B much faster (though is more dangerous route) and after that started to create everything around it and got nice ideas all the time. I wonder if I'll ever finish my map. So if you wan't to make a new map you only need to have a vage idea...like you said the rest will come by itself

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