Tutorial: Greyboxing for gameplay.

KasharicKasharic Hull, EnglandMembers, NS2 Playtester, NS2 Map Tester, NS2 Community Developer Join Date: 2013-03-27 Member: 184473Posts: 694 Advanced user
edited August 2019 in Mapping
Okay, after giving advice to a few people that have either just started mapping, or just started a new map and receiving similar reactions from them all, regardless of how long they have been mapping for, I decided to write up a very basic “how to greybox for gameplay” guide… or “cheatsheet” if you will.

Don’t be fooled by any of the following and think this all needs to look pretty in any way. It doesn’t, this is very early stage building, don't make it look good, make it function. If you spend time making things look beautiful this early on, you will feel worse when you need to delete it. The less time you spend building beauty, the faster your changes will happen so testing will be way more useful.

So, a common mistake I see with new greyboxes often results in the same feedback, but the feedback is often mis-worded and gives the wrong impression, which leads to over-correction of something that wasn’t really a problem to begin with… Yes, i’m talking about the infamous “its too big” situation. To be clear, "its too big" isn't ALWAYS worded badly, its just the most common feedback I hear that comes with good intentions, but leads to bad changes.

Now, to be clear, i’m not saying that your hallways/rooms are NOT too big, but when you look at official maps with rooms like Cargo (veil), Hub/Warehouse (Tram), Every room on biodome etc… Size of the room is less important than what you do with the space.

When people say “its too big”, often what they actually mean is “its empty”, there is too much negative space, not enough cover, not enough options for combat etc… so this quick guide will hopefully help people deal with that common issue before it arises.

So, here are a couple of things that you NEED in a greybox to make them even remotely playable/enjoyable.

1. Routing/Telegraphing (will explain below)
2. Cover (ceiling, wall and floor cover are all different kinds of cover that can be linked in different ways, or not linked at all, I will explain this below)

Both of those things are present in all official maps and you will know of them, but when you play a greybox, it’s incredibly common for them to either not be present, or not used enough.

Routing/Telegraphing -
Routing and Telegraphing are 2 sides of the same coin.

Routing can be done in many different ways, its purpose is to help guide a marine from place to place, especially when you don’t have direct line of sight to the exits of a room, having pipes/catwalk props/shaped geometry, lighting or many other things on the floor/ceiling connecting from entrance to exit will help subconsciously guide marines from point A to Point B.
Ventilation on Summit is a good example of this, you step in from the southern entrance (sub sector side) and you can’t see the exit, but the texture in the floor and the handrails curving around with the geo both immediately signal to the marine that if he/she follows it, he/she is going in the correct direction.

Here is an image to demonstrate in the most basic way, what the above is saying -

Telegraphing is in essence the same thing, but for aliens, predominantly skulks… You NEED to telegraph wallhoping… every single official map does this, whether its with pipes, beams, scaffolds, boxes, crates, geometry or whatever else, you need to provide this.
Without it, aliens will need to use flat walls, making their movements both limited and incredibly predictable, with it, you fill up some of that annoying open space, give partial cover, allow skulks to hit/maintain higher momentum and move more unpredictably.
I cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to have consistent wallhop telegraphing.

Here is an image to demonstrate in the most basic way, what the above is saying -

Cover -
Cover sounds obvious and it should, but simply throwing down a stack of 3 - 5 boxes isn’t always enough… especially in rooms with higher ceilings.

There are four kinds of cover. Ceiling, Wall, Floor and Partial. (3 of those 4 can commonly be used as ambush spots too)

Ceiling cover connects directly to… you guessed it… the ceiling!... No gaps etc, it can be varying heights from the ceiling, or indents into the ceiling, partially closed doors, pipes in the ceiling, scaffolding etc, Computer Labs on Summit has some indents/cut outs that are easy to implement into a greybox, Topographical on Veil has some interesting Geo cover in the ceiling also.

Very basic ceiling cover -

Wall Cover can often be used to telegraph wallhopping also.
Wall cover can either be indents into the walls, or extrusions from the walls, they could be pipes or props of any kind resting against the wall etc. Bio Reactors on Biodome has some great wall cover.

Very basic wall cover -

Floor cover as i’m sure you’ve guessed is things long the lines of boxes, fork lifts, pipes etc, but using height variation can also provide floor cover, like in Ventilation on Summit, you have the lower part of the platform with the RT, if a skulk is there and a marine enters the room, he cannot see the skulk, so the skulk is in cover.

Very basic floor cover -

Partial cover is thinner pipes, beams, railings etc, anything that will block some bullets, but not all of them, something where the alien cannot gain 100% cover behind it.

All official maps make really nice use of all of these. If you want your map to play well, you should be using all of them in some way, shape or form… But to avoid aliens having too much advantage, you should limit the use in some areas.

I’ve found that a nice balance is to have 2 options in hallways… don’t use all 4 types in a hallway unless you really want aliens to have an easy time in there… But most rooms should have some of all of them.

Here is a pic example of a commonly seen greybox corridor -

Here is the exact same corridor but with most of the principles shown above -

I will say that i'm by no means the best person to explain some of these concepts, i'm no expert, I'm sure others can expand on them or explain them more efficiently etc.

I do want to say that this guide is intended for the earliest stages of greybox testing (Layout testing)... once you know your layout is something that can/will work, you still need to use these ideas, but rooms start to become themed and need far more TLC when putting these techniques into practice.
Post edited by Kasharic on
Meph isn't an NSL admin anymore!

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