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Level Design Lesson 20: Safe Spawning

Today's lesson talks about the importance of keeping your players safe as the spawn into your map.

[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.]

Have you ever spawned into a map and were instantly being fired upon when you spawned in? Do you remember how frustrating that is? How about when you spawn and walk a couple of steps and instantly fall victim to a grenade due to all of the combat nearby? Have you ever spawned at the same time as someone else facing each other only to run at each other spraying and praying that you will be the one that lives? Remember not having any time to react or strategize? Not a fun feeling, is it?

Flat-footedness

Flat-footed is an adjective that refers to someone as being “unprepared” or “unable to react quickly”. Being flat-footed is not an enjoyable experience for most of those who enjoy fighting. Most fighters love being able to strategically prepare for each incoming attack while removing every possible disadvantage that they may have. Flat-footedness is one of those disadvantages and as a designer you too should do your best to remove this uncomfortable feeling from your maps. No player enjoys being caught off guard unable to use their skill to the best of their advantage. It is one thing for the player to put themselves in that position, at that point they blame themselves and you have nothing to worry about. However if they are caught flat-footed when they spawn that is the fault of the designer and you will be blamed for your poor design skills. Don’t let the player blame you. If you do you have given your player a bad first impression and that isn’t something that we want.

Avoiding the “unfun”

So how do you avoid making your players miserable? First thing you want to do is observe high traffic areas with high combat congestion. The more traffic an area is receiving, the higher chance that a player is going to get thrown into the middle of it. Another thing to take a look at is how your map’s path manipulation is moving player’s around the map. Observe where you have placed your incentives and if nearby player’s are going to follow the objective path of their path map towards a nearby spawning player to obtain that incentive. Even more so if the player has the knowledge of the map to know that there is a sniper that spawns around there at certain intervals. Spawn players in low eye catching areas of popular perspectives. If you know that a player on the sniper tower is always looking down at a certain spot in his threat zone, don’t spawn a player near the eye catching portions of his perspective. It will just result in a very sad spawning player. And a sad player is a player not playing or sharing your map.

Spawning is important

Spawning is one of the most important parts of level design that can make or break a map. You’ve already seen how important spawning is through spawn perspectives and smooth spawning. This is just another thing that you need to look out for. Remember that a player’s first impression is everything when they play your map and that spawning is the first few seconds of that experience. If you disappoint them in those first few seconds then you have failed your player and they may not come back. Think about all of the things that you have stopped after experiencing the first few seconds, minutes, or hours. Don’t make that kind of stuff. Trust me.

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