Feedback and input very welcomeUpdated 12th November, 2007First off a note. I'm writing this document because I think it's important that NS' competitive scene has a better selection of maps specifically designed for matchplay. It's also because I'm tired of competitive players coming into the mapping forum and complaining about the official maps. In NS you can't kill two birds with one stone as far as mapping is concerned, that's just my opinion. So I'd prefer to see mappers designing competitive maps that will appease this section of the NS forums, and since you guys rarely give us any constructive criticism I've brought this thread here so that you can finally help yourselves out and get your hands dirty, instead of sitting in your bubble whining about something that you're too lazy to have a positive impact on!
This thread is the place to air your gripes... constructively - CrispyI N T R O D U C T I O N
This document is the culmination of combined efforts made by both members of the NS Mapping and Competitive communities. Its aim is to provide the former with a set of guidelines designed to make maps specifically for matchplay.
It is by no means a standalone set of guidelines for Competitive NS Mapping, but is intended as more of an addendum to the Official Mapping Guidelines
(OMGs). If you are intending on making an NS Map for matchplay and haven't already done so, you should take a look at the the OMGs before reading further. I intend to mark clearly cases where there are are notable exceptions to the suggestions found in the OMGs in order to avoid confusion and to highlight these differences (they are important).
There are two typical types of NS player: the player who usually plays recreationally, and the player who usually plays competitively, and they each have very different expectations for the maps they like to play. For me the two types of NS player (or two types of mentality if you will) dictate to a mapper how his map will be received. It is no coincidence that certain maps, while being praised by casual gamers across the NS community, are loathed by the competitive scene and enjoy very little play by this collective.
I would like to point out that it is by no means the fault of the mapper, who is constantly pandering to the respective needs of two very different sides of the same coin. In my opinion jack-of-all trades maps are the the most difficult to map, which is why it would be better to concentrate on one or the other. We need to change the way we think about this.
We need to imagine that we're designing clothes for the sport-star and the fashionable businessman. One wants superb performance, 100% of the time. The other wants his suit to fit well and look the part. Certain sports apparel companies may make attempts at breaking into the fashion market and on almost every occasion they fail. On the other hand when was the last time you saw a tennis star wearing Lacrosse
A mapper must be very clear on what he is going to make before he starts making it. He must ask himself if it will be a Combat or a Classic map; a normal or a funmap? I propose that he asks himself one more question: will it be for pubplay
A I M S
The aim of this document is to provide the NS Mapper with a set of guidelines written specifically with competitive play in mind. To achieve this aim you must understand how matchplay is different from pubplay and, furthermore, how these differences will affect your approach to mapping for the competitive scene.
Competitive play in Natural Selection places greater emphasis on equality between the teams from the start of the round. In practise the teams will never be equal, but our task when mapping for matchplay is to minimise any deviations from the equilibrium which unfairly
bias the teams and their players. Veil is considered a great competitive map. It is a great competition map, but it is slightly imbalanced in Marines favour. When the best teams play eachother on this map, it is not unusual for it to draw out two Marine wins.
So how can we minimise these deviations from the equilibrium? We can do this by focussing our attentions on two key areas:- Tailoring a map for Competitive Gameplay
- Minimising Team Bias
Tailoring a map for Competitive Gameplay[Work In Progress, but for your information this section will deal with creating the optimum gaming experience to minimise server and client-side performance discrepencies. Input so far from Zephor (clanned) and Lt. Gravity (mapper). - Ed]
Despite what you may have heard, the NS competitive scene is in a perpetual state of growth. This growth is perpetuated by a continuous influx of new players to the game, some of whom will later decide to take their game to the next level.
It's become so popular that there are teams from all over the globe, but typically they are polarised in two regions: Europe and the USA. But with this international fame arise problems for the competitive scene, the most notable of which is latency discrepancy. In a game as fast-paced as Natural Selection seconds count, but milliseconds count more. Milliseconds mean the difference between a Fade escaping with under 10% of his hit points or a Fade not escaping at all.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to close the gap between the home and away team? To make that latency gap not so prominant? To provide more stable matchplay? Enter the humble NS mapper. Exit r_speeds, stage left, followed by a bear.
Brushwork and Architectural Economics
- how to connect brushes so you don't stick on corners
- using clipping brushes
- which details should be avoided, clipped or made illusionaries
- using nodraw to delete faces
Textures: Downsizing ftl
(Input from Lt. Gravity, author of ns_source)
- don't squash textures below their native size, try to enlarge in multiples of 2
Sound files: What's better left unsaid
- where sound is acceptable
Particle Systems: The real res****s of NS
- don't use expensive 'atmospheric' details
Balancing Team Bias
A perfectly balanced NS map could look something like this:
Resource Nodes = 10
MS-HiveA = MS-HiveB = MS-HiveC = x seconds
HiveA-HiveB = HiveA-HiveC = HiveB-HiveC = y seconds
Gameplay = boring
You'll notice that as long as you follow the arrows you will always take the same time to reach Marine Start regardless of which Hive you begin your journey at. Additionally, the distance between any two Hives is always the same, and the distances to the nearest RTs from each Hive are identical.
As mappers we have to understand that like writers of a novel we must, to some degree, influence how our work is interpreted by the reader, or player. If we released the above map, it would by all means be balanced, but would it receive good feedback? My answer would be "no", as it doesn't allow for many different strategies. The map described above does not cater for different strategies, nor does it provide a demand for them.
At the time of drawing up a layout, keep it basic. Put the Hives roughly equidistant from eachother and roughly equidistant from the MS. It doesn't matter if the time taken to travel between the Hives and between the Hives and the MS aren't exactly equal because a lot can be done to aid and abet the team or unit type that takes too long to complete this journey.
As is mentioned in the OMGs, a strong and original theme will help players remember locations in your map. While some may argue that this isn't overly important to the competitive player, who may put in hundreds of game hours on a popular competition map. As mappers, however, we have the power to help new players learn the map quickly, which in turn may encourage more players to make the jump from pubbing to scrimming. The less time new players spend on learning a map layout, the more time they will be spending on learning gameplay specific to that map. They'll be spending less time staring at the map screen and paying more attention to the examples set by the more experienced players around them.
Think of some interesting room types/themes and then sketch them out. At first glance, the degree of Alien/Marine bias in this room can determine where you position it in the map. You can visualise this process by taking Tanith as an example, and more specificly Atmospheric Processing. A double res location must be placed within easy reach from all spawning areas; all three Hives and the MarineStart. This process is not dissimilar when you analyse your own potential map locations in terms of their res placement. At this point we are only concerned with res placement because if you run into problems with any map location they can always
be fixed at a later stage of development when you come to looking at landscaping (multiple tiers, ramps/stairs/lifts/ladders), entrance design and placement (including vents), location design features (including visblockers) and the vertical componant.
When mapping for the NS competitive scene, mappers shouldn't be looking to eliminate gameplay problems, but instead at providing solutions. If your map has a central relocation spot that can easily be held by Marines -don't make it smaller to stop them from relocating there- add decision and movement entropy. For example: high vent exits with cover in or immediately outside of the room will allow for an Alien counter. The more options you provide each team with, the more playability the competitive community will get out of your map.
With this in mind I will go through all of the elements of a map that can be tweaked to achieve a 'general' balance between the teams throughout the map, while also giving some general pointers about specific map locations that need special attention to detail.Key Map Areas
- Marine Start - [Done] OMGs
(input from Zephor)
- Hive Rooms - [Done] OMGs
- Siege Rooms - [Done]
- Hive Corridors - [Done]
- Resource Locations - [Done] OMGs- High Traffic/Lockdown Rooms - OMGsGeneral Map Features
- Size Matters - [Done]
- General Corridor and Room Structure - [Done]- Lighting -
- Sound -
- Water -
- Vents - [Done] OMGs - Weldables - OMGs[Please feel free to add your personal views on any of these areas: what they need/definitely don't need etc. I already have a fairly good idea of what I'm going to write but the more input this document receives (especially from the competitive community), the better the guidelines will be - Ed]------
The MarineStart is the hub of Marine activity. With relocation a cost-ineffective and risk-ineffective strategy, this location will source Marine reinforcements and all their crucial game-winning technologies for the duration of the round. Our main concern here is understanding the needs of a Commander when he lays out his base of operations. In general we don't dictate where any of the structures go with the exception of the CC, and a good Commander will have a very adaptive character so will always get the best out of any MarineStart. However, there are a general rules that suit competitive play that (imho) need to be followed:
- There should be unobstructed line of sight throughout and to the entrances (i.e. no bullet-blocking pillars).
- The res node should be located within the MarineStart room.
- The CC should never be placed in a corner alcove (like in Origin), as it seriously limits the choices available for IP and Armoury placement, to the point where the Commander is dictated to by the mapper.
- The CC should be placed against a wall, so attackers cannot use it for cover or to hide.
- There should be interior corners close to the CC where key structures can be placed (to minimise the amount of angles they can be attacked from, to force attackers to turn their back on the centre and entrances of the room, and to maximise distance to the structure and the room entrance).
- There needs to be sufficient space for:
- an Armoury, with space around it to drop equipment bundles
- 2-3 IPs, spaced far apart but close to an Armoury
- an Observatory
- an Arms Lab
- a Proto Lab
- a Phase Gate, close to an Armoury, but not too close to any IPs
- The first 6 spawn points should be close to the CC to allow the designated Commander to get in quickly (meaning the first 6 Marine spawns entities you create; you can engineer this by deleting all Marine spawns and creating 6 new entities, placing them around the CC, and then adding the rest of the Marine spawns at a greater distance).
- Spawn points (also used for beacons) should not be in or very close to an entrance. Having a Marine respawn in front of a retreating Fade takes the skill out of the kill.
- There should be absolutely no open-close doors in the Marine Start
- Entrances to the Marine Start should be at least 2 Marines wide but small enough to allow a single Marine to effectively (but not necessarily totally) block an entrance.
Hive rooms could be described as the most important room-type to perfect when mapping for NS. Unlike the Marine Start, they represent more than a mere spawn point with res node and space for structures, and you must bear this in mind when planning them.
In addition to representing one of three possible starting points for the Alien team, the Hive room also allows the Alien team access to more branches of their tech-tree. Conversely the Marine team can place their upgrade buildings in any buildable location on the map and so Natural Selection, certainly at the competitive level, effectively revolves around both teams vying for control of each of the three Hive rooms. Since they will always be defended/attacked by either team, the Hive rooms together should promote the necessity for different strategy for the would-be attackers/defenders.
Before going into the requirements of the latter, there are several general rules that Hive rooms should abide by:
- There should be absolutely no open-close doors in the Hive.
- Where possible, all Hive spawn points should be in cover or at a sheer angle of fire from the entrance to make solo Marine spawncamping from an entrance hard (but not impossible). Basically a Marine standing at a Hive entrance should not be able to spot 90% of spawn points.
- There should be two Onos-friendly entrances, with a route inside the room that connects the two and allows two Oni to pass by freely.
- There should be a res node inside the Hive room so that Aliens have the advantage defending it.
- The Hive should only be visable -and therefore a viable target for Marine fire- from the doorway or from within the Hive Room. Occasionally the distance fom the doorway to the Hive is too great, and we can get around this by putting a visblocker in front of the Hive which forces the Marines to come closer before opening fire.
- Entering, exiting or traversing a Hive room should NEVER require the use of a ladder.
- There must be sufficient -and reasonably flat- floorspace for a Phase Gate and Observatory.
- The Hive room should have vent access that leads to a 'safe' corridor (this is a personal opinion, feel free to ignore)
- Not all Hives should be easily siegable. Different Hives should cater for different types of play in order to take or protect them. Promote the use of HAs, JPs and Sieges for different Hives. The commander should not be able to take a research branch without opening himself up to a sensible counter-play from the Aliens.
- Hive Rooms should have features that complement the Aliens' main advantage: mobility. Try to make it, or the surrounding rooms multi-tiered to restrict Marine movement but aid the Aliens. It always works best if the Aliens have the 'upper' hand (attack from above) when defending the Hive. Hives of this design will make it easier for the Alien team to defend their Hives but, conversely, harder for them to attack them. One could say this might lead to a more likely 2nd Hive with a struggle for Aliens to secure the 3rd. With Natural Selection's gameplay pivoted on the defence/denial of the all-important 2nd Hive, this would seem a sensible hypothesis to put into practice.
There's not too much to think about when designing corridors into and out of the Hive room, it mostly comes down to a few simple rules:
- Like Hive entrances, they must be wide enough for two Onoses to pass freely side by side. See Mother Hive in ns_nancy for a perfect example of how not to design your Hive corridors.
- On the other hand, don't make them too spacious. If the commander decides to siege from here he shouldn't have the space to lay down a mass of turrets without it comprimising the manouvrability of his Marines.
- High ceilings are advisable. This will allow most lifeforms to jump over allies and enemies when retreating and not have to rely on going round obstacles that block their path. They don't have to be phenomenally high, but there should be enough room for a Fade to leapfrog an Onos 'with ease'. For an extreme, see Computer Core in ns_eclipse, but bear in mind this also makes jetpacking easier, and it also makes it easier to spot the Hive, so it's a double-edged sword.
- Try not to throw too many obstacles in the Hive corridors. They will be used for PGs, they will be used to siege from. What's one man's cover is another man's deathtrap. If you do add objects in, make them clearly visible and give them fairly bold and robust shapes and colours so you can clearly define how much space they take up and their dimensions. Sharp, jagged geometry that you can get stuck in or on and coloured to camouflage against the surroundings will not win you over many friends in the competitive community.
When tweaking the balance in siege rooms (SRs), the following areas of thought offer examples of what you can alter to tip the scales:Location
- How far is the SR from the Hive?
- What is the travel time for different Alien classes?
- How many entrances are there (for Aliens? for Marines?) and from how many directions?Structure
- How much 2D space is there? (Marine movement, structure placement, Onos movement)
- How much 3D space is there? (Lerk movement, Fade escape routes, supporting JPs)
- How much cover is there in the SR? (for structures, for attacking Aliens, for defending Marines)
- What is the design of the corridors connecting to the SR? (do they promote bunny-hopping? do they adjoin from an increased/reduced elevation?)------
The location of a particular res node in an ns_map will heavily influence how much attention it will draw from either team. If a res node is inside a Hive Room or the Marine Start it will naturally be periodically attacked, but the placement of the remaining nodes will determine how much attention each respectively receives in a round. Res nodes located in peripheral corridors promote less conflict than those positioned in thoroughfares (high traffic areas - refer to Draconis' stickied article in the Mapping Forum).
For competitive play your map should perpetuate confrontation between the teams in order to ensure frantic and relentlessly demanding games for players on either team. The first and most effective step towards doing this is choosing your res node placement with precision. This is yet more proof of the importance of planning your map carefully.
Firstly the res nodes should be spread evenly throughout the map in terms of distance (or to be more accurate - travel time) and bias. In the event that there are two nodes too close together you will balance the map yourself (see creating bias). If you must have a double res, push the remaining nodes further away from this point in the map, forcing the occupying team to make a trek to the nearest node, Hive or lockdown room. Double res nodes should always be positioned in the intersection of many routes in order to make them a more risky investment. This will ensure that they are difficult to hold for either team; the Marines having to split fire between multiple angles of attack and the Aliens having to keep an eye on numerous Siege locations.
Secondly you should try to place nodes in areas of high-traffic (typically routes that connect the Marine Start to a Hive or Hive-to-Hive routes). This will ensure that they are fought over regularly, and also that the majority of Alien-Marine confrontation is not too heavily concentrated around the spawn points, siege rooms and relocation points.------
(it is about how big it is and it is about what you do with it)
One thing that should be kept in the forefront of your mind when you are planning the layout and testing a map for matchplay is that the teams are smaller. With only five Marines on the field and six Aliens on the opposing side, your map should not overstretch Human/Alien resources during the game. Players should not be isolated or cut off from their team when capturing res nodes. Ideally they should be able to drop the node and return to the front line with minimal distance to cover and low travel time.
In accordance with the opinions of several competitive players, I would advise the following min
unassisted Marine travel times (in seconds):
MS to Hive - 25
Hive to Hive - 15?
Although these travel times are heavily dependant on your layout, those stated are suitable for a Kite
layout. The main thing to ensure is that no one Hive is significantly further to the MS than another.
Furthermore, your map should not have too many routes. The original layout of Altair received very negative feedback from the competitive community for its high entropy. This resulted in few key areas that could be held and fought over by either side and there being too many strategies to guard against. Try to create key areas of your map that fall between the MS and the Hives themselves and keep the layout simple so you can tweak the rooms accordingly.------
General Corridor and Room Structure
The goal here is to keep a general team balance while promoting a varied gameplay throughout.
A mapper must know and fully understand the units of each team: their roles and abilities; in order for his map to be well-suited to matchplay. He must in turn provide opportunities where the usage of different units to change a team's tactics will earn them the upper hand. They say that variety is the spice of life, it is also an essential ingredient to every great competitive map.
Your map's room designs will dictate the best type of play for each area, so mix it up a little. Include a few high, Marine inaccessible areas as Alien healing spots and from which Lerks will be able to harass the other team, perhaps prompting the Commander to rush a JP or GL to the scene. Provide opportunities for ambush: alcoves either side (or on top) of doors, long corridors with vent exits at the Marine end, etc. Be sure to have some tight, twisting corridors to allow Aliens to get a bit closer, and to make the SG, GL and HA a viable counter to this. Conversely make sure the majority of corridors are wide enough to cater for the Aliens' 'hit-and-run' tactics; most, if not all, should at least accomodate two Oni passing by.
Ensure that your map has ample opportunity to take cover. Marines waiting for health or to be welded and Aliens who need to evolve upgrades, heal/be healed, gain adrenaline/invisibility should have somewhere out of sight to do so. Remember that any static architecture that blocks line of sight (LoS) can be considered cover (height variation or pipes, for example).------
Vents are an integral part to Natural Selection maps, competitive or not. They serve a dual purpose: Firstly they fit very well with the theme and the genres from which NS takes its inspiration. Secondly, and more importantly as far as the competitive side is concerned, they provide alternative routes which increase gameplay options for both teams
. Never forget that all vents are usable by both teams (Marines via boosts, mine ladders and JPs), as this sort of underestimation can lead to you overlooking less obvious plays that have the potential to totally imbalance a map. They are a valuable addition to your NSMapping toolbox
; a tool that allows the mapper to dictate, to some degree, gameflow by directing both side's unit movement towards or away from map locations. In certain circumstances, and through careful manipulation, we can control the movement speed and direction of particular classes on either team.
Vents can come in many varieties depending on their size and accessibility (or even a mix of the two - see below). Firstly we must think about size and shape, which usually fits in with purpose. This aspect will usually determine manoeuvrebility (especially for the Marine team), so we must ask ourselves a few questions: Is this an air vent or is it a maintenance corridor? Is it designed for easy or frequent use? (by humans?). Is it shaped around the surrounding architecture or designed as the shortest route between two points?
Generally it's a good idea to keep vents small to force Marines to crouch and slow them down which gives skulks a speed advantage. Lerks can also benefit from a speed advantage if the ceiling is high enough to let them flap and glide(X units?)
. You can also turn this principle on its head. For example, if a Lerk spore spot is too Alien biased lower the ceiling to reduce Lerk manoeuvrebility and speed. Lerks may still spore/umbra, but cannot sustain barrages and must be more cautious. The second reason for low ceilings is to negate structure-blocking.
Vents can be used to great effect when you take into account that they have an entrance and
an exit in both directions, a fact that is fairly obvious, but whose implications are often overlooked. You can play around with the vent exits by making one side a low exit and the other inaccessible for on-foot classes. Use this technique where you need to increase the amount of Marines flowing into an area but need to stem those movement possibilities in the other direction. On the other hand you can also create sheer drops in vents to both stop Marines from turning back and also force them to take fall damage as they progress. This can be used in entry points to Alien-biased areas of your map. Depending on where you place your sheer drops in the vent, Aliens may hear the requisite Medpack materialising and have the opportunity to sound the alarm.
- Vent Exits -
Vent exits need to be easily accessible, as they're used as entrances, too. Putting a lip on your vent exit or otherwise having it protrude from the wall or ceiling's surface will not be met with much gratitude from the NS community, as it makes them hell to get into (see ns_nancy as a reference for this).Hives
When Marines are trying to contain the Aliens in the Hive room there should be an alternative route to allow the weaker classes to get within attack range without being easily picked off in the process. Bear in mind that vents with LoS to the Hive should be altered either with a vent cover or a visblocker such as a pillar, crate, pipe or partition of some sort.Siege Rooms
Although not a neccessity a vent exit to a siege room is a possibility if you need to tip the balance in the Aliens favour in an effort to restore equilibrium. Think about the location of the vent; should you be able to spore/umbra/bilebomb the siege room? Should it allow one-way traffic only or should Aliens be allowed to pass eachother in the vent? The answers to these questions will determine how Alien-friendly the vent is, and the same questions can be asked of other vents in your map to further balance areas such as res nodes and choke points.