Archive for February, 2011

February 24, 2011

koth_notsureyet – Preliminary Design

Good morning to one and all!

I’ve finished with my research (i.e. I couldn’t stand it anymore) and put the proverbial pen to paper on my initial design for my KOTH TF2 map. I went with the prison concept because I felt it was much more original and had the potential for something really exciting. The central control point will actually be pretty awesome too, a maximum security cell will be the visual landmark, my initial idea is to be able to look inside the cell… but we’ll see if it’s technically possible to stick a dude in there before I get too excited about it.

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February 23, 2011

TF2 Map – King of the What?

Hi everyone,

This is going to be a sort of ‘off-the-top-of-my-head’ post, as I process some thoughts about my TF2 map design. Later this week, I’ll probably come up with a proper problem statement (like I did for my LoL tank design).

I’ve been playing KOTH maps on TF2 for the past few days, although not that much. As I said last time, I don’t like the mode. Fighting over one point is pretty much just a deathmatch but with an objective to funnel players into a conflict zone. Of course, designating a main area means that you can add other paths and routes on the map to promote strategies like flanking, pincer attacks and sabotage.

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No more KOTH map research, please!

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February 22, 2011

LoL Tank Update – Draft Concept Art

Thought I’d update people on the status of my LoL tank design. Been quite busy, especially as Riot just released a new tank and I wanted to see if anything has improved! Unfortunately, I had to earn 6300IP (and you get about 100 per win, and each game lasts around 40 mins) and Maokai is rather underwhelming after 3-4 days playing him. So a pain in the ass on both counts, and creating my LoL tank aesthetic has suffered.

I drew my champion on paper and then scanned it into the computer. I was going to colour and shade it using a graphics package. It’s taken a while, and it’s criminally boring! In case anyone is following this project, I thought I should include the original drawing while I finish up the sexy coloured version.

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My first drawing and draft of my female champion's aesthetic.

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February 17, 2011

OK, OK… hear me out. Changing my TF2 map.

Right,

I’ve been slowly making my TF2 map, pl_extraction, and learning the Hammer Editor at the same time. I’ve been reading tutorials, trying new things, failing new things and talking to mappers in the TF2 Mappers Group on Steam. The group chat has grazr in it! The guy who wrote all the tutorials I’ve been plagurizing errr quoting!

After trying to figure out why my map wasn’t compiling, I was explaining what I was doing with a curved corner in my mountain tunnel. Apparently I was doing it all wrong. I should just be using hard corners until I get some tests done. That’s how I should be thinking. It doesn’t matter how pretty my map is, I need to get something functional, balanced, fun and small… test it to oblivion and go for pretty and big. I was also advised that Payload is a really difficult mode to start with, and that I should try something much simpler for learning purposes.

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This is what Valve says about King of the Hill maps…

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February 14, 2011

pl_extraction – Stage 1, Update 1

Hi everyone,

My TF2 map; pl_extraction, is underway. It’s been a slow start, since I’ve been learning how to use Displacements to create my hilly environment. I’ve started, restarted and re-restarted a few times now, but I think I can now say that this version is coming along quite well.

If you recall from last time, I had to create a hill with a watchtower on top. This would act thematically as a vanguard post for the past RED defence and as the primary objective for the BLU team in the current attack. The whole map is intended to have duality in its narrative, showing both the past battle (before the game started) and the current one.

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Beginnings of my hill and watchtower

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Currently it’s not finished. What I began with doing was ensuring the hill brush displacement was properly sealed on all sides (so it doesn’t leak into the void) and that the edges were unpassable (people can’t walk or jump up from the side). What I need to do now, is to add a path and to colour the texture so that it blends into the mountain on the western wall and so that it looks more natural.

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February 12, 2011

LoL Tank: Aesthetic checklist and skill concept

Finished with researching both fictional and non-fictional warrior women, it’s now time to recap on the features I thought were cool. I can use these in my designs to help create a sweet back story for my champion.

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  • War Paint/Markings – from Boudicca
  • Broken Bonds – from Zenobia
  • Heavy Armor – from Joan of Arc (probably a single piece, rather than a full set)
  • Some form of long, gown-like clothing – from Boudicca, Zenobia and Joan of Arc
  • Elaborate Girdle – from Hippolyte
  • Animal Skin Cloak – from Freyja (falcon feathers) or Atalanta (boar)
  • Some hella long legs – from Atalanta

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It’s a pretty long list of items. I will try to use them all in moderation, to prevent the design being some garish mess! My champion also needs a weapon. My weapon of choice could be singular, Jean Hachette’s hatchet would be pretty sweet. It would also suit a general Norse styling. However, I also have a skill concept in my head which would impact her aesthetic, and back story, quite heavily.

My champion is going to be stance based, but to an extent much greater than Udyr. Currently, Udyr switches stances which activates a short term effect, and then he gains a passive effect while that stance is active. His passive ability gives him a buff every time he switches stances, which encourages him to stance dance. When I reviewed Udyr last year, I commented that the auras and effects do not linger after changing stances. I thought this was a missed opportunity, since discovering optimum switching patterns and combos is very tactical and challenging.

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February 11, 2011

pl_extraction: Stage 1 concept, plan and other nonsense

In my last post, I explained the premise behind my TF2 map. It would be like a reverse payload. BLU have fought their way through RED’s defensive fortifications and into their weapons research building, my map starts after they’ve grabbed their intelligence and have to fight their way back to get to the extraction point.

When working on the first stage, I was thinking of a short battle story that could have taken place. The whole map will have a grassy mountain theme, a hidden research base on a mountain plateau. Stage one will the battle from the Research Centre to the Main Defensive Fort. Between these two buildings, there is a vanguard watchtower (used to warn RED of incoming threats and make a last stand against attackers, like what actually happened).

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Of course, there has already been a battle. BLU have already bested the RED defences and overcome the watchtower. Therefore, there’s a story to tell, which assists with creating my map layout.

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February 11, 2011

The Female Tank Pt.II – Mythological female badasses and an honourable mention

Last time we had a look at Boudicca, Zenobia and Joan of Arc, examples of some real life female warriors. If you haven’t been following, I’m designing a new champion for League of Legends. So far, I have decided that it will be a female tank. This is the second part of my research into the stories and aesthetics of history’s female tanks. This time I’ll be taking a look at some depictions female badassery in mythology.

But first, there was one badass I left out last time; Jeanne Hachette. While Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was invading various towns in France he came across the small town of Beauvais. Of course, Charles wanted to invade that too! With around 300 men, the militia of Beauvais held their ground but were losing the battle. The rest is eloquently explained by BadassOfTheWeek.com;

“Eventually, the champion of the Burgundy army pulled himself on top of the wall, planted the flag of Charles the Bold high above the town, and shouted a bunch of asinine insults about how he was going to have his way with everybody’s mothers.

That was the final straw.  Jeanne wasn’t going just going to stand there and let some jackoff stick his gay-ass flag on the walls of her town.  She got super pissed off, grabbed the closest thing to her – which just so happened to be a gleaming fucking hatchet – sprinted across the wall like a homicidal Olympian and lunged at the stupid asshole.

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February 10, 2011

TF2 Map – pl_extraction

When I went to bed last night, I was thinking of what I would do today with my on ‘paper’ TF2 map layout design. I put paper in inverted commas since I don’t have grid paper and will just do it on Adobe Fireworks (my nooby but personal choice of image creation software!). As I drifted into slumber, I was thinking more and more something I don’t often care about when I’m playing a TF2 map; story/narrative.

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arena_nucleus - Now that's something cool to fight for!

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The other day I read another excellent article from TF2Maps.net (which I can’t find anymore!) that discussed the narrative of TF2 maps. While it’s not 100% necessary, there should be a reason for what you’re attacking/defending. A lot of articles on TF2Maps use Fastlane as an example of a map with no theme or narrative, hence it’s boring to play. Most narratives in TF2 are the standard ‘Blow up/Capture this resource facility’. It’s basic but at least there’s a purpose to the battle. These objectives also determine the type of theme you can apply to your map. The bomb cart is a classic example, at the end of most payload maps there is a collection of explosive materials which the bomb can ‘ignite’ when the attackers reach the final objective. Therefore the final part of the map has to be a valuable structure with a bunch of explosive ordinance in the vicinity.

Having meaning in a TF2 map sets it apart from the rest, it makes something about it memorable. It contributes to a cohesive theme and builds immersion. I have decided upon a basic theme, which I will probably reiterate and refine as I work on my paper design.

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pl_extraction

The map starts with the BLU (attacking) team inside a RED research facility. Once BLU leaves the spawn room, they see tons of explosives set up behind them. They look out of the window and see that RED reinforcements have arrived. BLU’s job is to push a cart full of intelligence (valuable weapons research) and, once they reach the extraction point, the explosives in the RED research facility will be detonated..


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February 9, 2011

TF2 Map: Messing about with the Hammer Editor

Yesterday I spent a few hours playing with the Hammer Editor, playing with brushes (the building blocks), textures and lights. If I’m going to make a proper TF2 map, I need to learn how to use everything at my disposal and it’s going to be a long and arduous process!

I first wanted to test out some of the heights mentioned in my last post, referencing a tutorial from TF2Maps.net. I created a few simple items, just to help me get to grips with the software. Here is my finished article;

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Gotta love them textures!

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First, I created some stairs. Without any guidance I just created layer upon layer of long flat brushes which all built up to create a stairway.

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Immediately, I had an inkling that this was not the proper, nor efficient, way to produce stairs in a map. It just seemed to take up so many extra resources, all that space and all those layers… completely unnecessary. Still, that’s how I did them! Each step is 8 units tall, which is recommended by all the tutorials I’ve read. After I’d completed my mapping for the day, I actually checked out stairs to see how wrong I really was. This is an example of what a proper stairway looks like in Hammer;

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From Stairs and your map on TF2Maps.net

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As you can see, the steps don’t have all that needless brush underneath them. They’re created with a solid ramp back, and the steps are sort of stuck out of the ramp. There is something called a  ‘player clip’ which stops the view of the user bobbing up and down as they run up the steps. Grazr, the original poster, also shows that most Valve stairways have a trim. This is something I’ll need to add to my steps. Lots to learn with just the simple creation of a stairway!

The second feature I added to my map were some thin ledges for jumping on. Only the scout can reach these ledges, with his double jump, and they lead to a small vent-like opening which bypasses the next room. I actually really like the idea of this shortcut system for a weaker class to escape the mayhem that will be in the next area, although limiting it solely to the Scout means it won’t have a real meaningful contribution to the map balance (unless I make a CTF map or something). Here it is…

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Players jump from ledges on opposing walls to reach this secret entrance

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On the left side of the screen, you’ll notice a small construction. I won’t call it a building because it’s absolutely crap! However, it was my first attempt at a sort of pillbox structure.

Initially, I decided to make it like a Gears of War style ‘chest high wall’. When you stand, you can shoot, when you crouch, you’re in cover. It did work to that effect, but it looked terrible and a sentry gun could not shoot over the wall. While I had no real objective for this test map, I did like the idea of the shortcut and having a defensive area in the main combat room which the Scout could bypass. That was the ‘theme’, I suppose. The pillbox is now more of a sentry position. The sentry gun placement itself will act as cover (like the chest high wall would have done), so it still performs that function. There is also an opening at the top, which skillful Demomen can launch grenades through, giving the attackers an advantage in what is a very strong defensive chokepoint.

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The pillbox structure. Covers the main entrance and the entirety of the room.

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The final things I played around with were textures and lighting. As you can see, I didn’t do a great job! I need to work with some props to create actual hanging lights, although I was just testing various colours and intensities. The map definitely looks better with any mood lighting than full bright light (see below), and it makes my horrendous texture choices much less fugly. That’s the final part, and what I think might be surprisingly difficult. Finding appropriate textures and applying them to create a consistent and cohesive aesthetic is going to be very tough! I’ll need to read a lot more on this, since I really can’t figure out how to make anything look good so far!

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Full brightness look at my simple map. It ain't pretty!

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Overall it was a surprisingly enlightening day. On the one hand, it felt extremely natural and easy to create a simple map layout and place objects in it. On the other, it feels like creating a gorgeous looking community map contender is going to be very tough! Today I will work on a floor plan for the first stage of my map (I’m going to do a CP map in the style of Dustbowl), then I can start putting the pieces together.

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Sam