[This was originally posted on my personal blog www.reachingperfection.com]
[Forge Lessons is a level design series that I have written for the halo forge (the simplistic in-game level editor) communities. While it is tailored towards Halo multiplayer map design I feel that it covers general level design very well. I would love everyone's opinions on how these lessons can translate into other games and genres like the Call of Duty series, the Unreal Series, RTS games, platformer games, etc.]
So you know how to make a good map right? How the hell do you get it noticed? There are thousands of maps out there, what is going to get people to notice your map and want to take their time out of the day to play your map above all others? The trick… you’ve got to have a little pizzazz and give people that WOW factor. You’ve got to do something that is unique and powerful. Otherwise you’re just another fish in the sea. It is time for you to be the whales of the sea. Who could miss an animal that large? ;)
The power of jaw dropping
I’ve seen the power of innovation cause crazy things to happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people register for a site and post just so they can comment on how crazy and innovative something is. That wow factor is a very powerful thing. Have your maps ever caused someone to just pause and look around instead of play? Innovation is defined as something newly introduced, such as a new method or device. Think about something that your audience has never seen before and do it. Whether it is remaking the Titanic or making a game out of betraying your friends. Look through all the competition. What is everyone else doing? Now do the opposite. If people are making maps with lots of cover and hallways make a map that has lots of open areas. If people are utilizing blue and red lights everywhere then use the yellow and green ones. Be different. Stand out. Profit.
Judging by a book’s cover
Your best way of creating shock and awe is using aesthetics. Players normally see a map before they actually play it. So make them see something crazy. Make a statue that is as tall as a building (cue Statue of Liberty). How about making a map that is based around dark alleys? Maybe base the map around the sun and utilize those burning visuals. Build the map completely underwater like in Bioshock. Maybe you can recreate a popular symbol in the world. Have you ever thought of a yin yang shaped map? How about one to resemble a lizard or something and capture a player’s attention with the map overview? Looks are the easiest way to attract attention, but that isn’t the only way to do it.
Break the rules
I have found great success in going against gameplay standards and practices. It is common practice to create multiple paths and what not around a map in order to address the issue of Combat Congestion and Traffic. Well what if you intentionally didn’t have multiple paths and only had one linear path? Surely that is unique (cue Conquest). What about the standard of having multiple paths into a base? Could you make a successful map with only one path into the base? Is there something that people tell you not to do ever at all? Find the exception to that rule. Take every challenge that people present to you. There is no such thing as impossible in your mind. If people are saying it can’t be done you tell them that it can and you show them. If you are the first to break the rules you will be the innovator. The rest will then just be posers, and while they are being posers you can go try another challenge. Try something else new. Never say never. Be that person to break the trend and do what they say can’t be done. Anything is possible.