My mapping diary

Discussion about mapping and userlevels.
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Postby Sendy » 2016.10.01 (00:27)

If it's OK with everyone I'd like to use this thread to document the maps I make, and hopefully get feedback from you guys if you play them.

How I want it to work is that I'll post a screenshot or video of a map when I make it, and talk about any problems or challenges or what I was trying to achieve. If anyone posts some feedback for me, even if it's to say they hated the map or it was too hard or whatever, I'll check out some of their maps in return. I'm not a huge fan of "one hand washes the other" but without the comments section of NUMA to get valuable feedback (or the ability to see death demos), this is the only way I can see to kickstart a discussion on mapping.

I may even do a "let's play" style video of making a map if things go well. With all the boring stuff edited out of course. I'd encourage everyone else who is passionate about mapping to do the same. I will gladly participate. To be honest I'm not a huge fan of most of what I'm seeing in-game when it comes to user maps. I guess I'm just a snob >:)

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MBTI Type: INFP
Location: South of UK
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Postby Sendy » 2016.10.04 (20:50)

Ok, no objections, so I'm going to continue. They say writing about your thoughts helps sort them out, so even if nobody's listening, it's at least fun for me (plus if there's one thing I love to do, it's talk about my rich internal life. Which definitely is a thing. Wink!)

This was my first attempt at a map, beyond the initial scribble I made to get used to the new controls:

N++ 2016-10-04 21-36-17-69.png
First Attempt at a map


Those of you close to my blue, frosty and hastily patched-up heart will recognize this as a very poor take on this map I made in the glory days of NUMA, called 'the trap laden caverns of khafka':

Image

Basically I was going for a cramped cavern style of map, all solid and diagonal tiles. I noticed quite a few things straight away:

1 - while N++ has very similar physics to Nv1.4, I find it handles tight spaces somewhat differently. It's subtle, but has an impact on enemy placement. In N++ the ninja is a little bit more willing to fly away. He splatters on the celing at lower velocities, and he's much quicker to jump off of jagged edges, whereas in Nv1.4, which I'm just gonna call N from now on, he would tend to stumble and slide down them, allowing a later jump from the slant. As jumping off of points gives you a speed boost, constructing a constricted map with pointy edges needs a lot more thought in N++

2 - to make this worse, I was working from memory and made the tunnel widths even smaller, and was also considerably less inspired, perhaps hampered by still learning all these new controls. I tried to make the "bounceblock ladder" seen in the middle of the N map, but that seemed annoying and gimmicky, so I took it out. Enemy placement in the N++ map was appalling. I honestly was shocked at how bad I had made it. It was much more fiddly and annoying than the original map. Looking back, I can see that the mines in the original map are a lot more sparsely and thoughtfully placed, wheras my recreation map had them slathered on, compounding point 1.

3 - you can't place thwumps inside half-tiles and expect them to leap out like they do in N. This is bad because it means you can't make those compact little traps, but good because it means you can freeze a thwump in place and use it as an electric surface - a novel way to kill the ninja.

Regarding gold placement, you can see that in the original, golds are placed in rows of two or three (with one exception) and are tucked out of the way against walls. In my recreation I was placing gold where I thought it might be fun, for example, coming off of the trajectory of the bounce pads. Firstly, it wasn't fun, as the pads were in too cramped a position to get a reliable line off of them, and secondly, the lack of a good placement scheme makes the gold look messy, and as a result, unappetizing. The food analagy is quite appropriate here, I think. How a meal is presented can influence how much we enjoy eating it - ask any restaurateur. And so as it is with food, it is with gold. Gold is basically food for the ninja as I see it, anyway!

Had I transcribed the map block for block into N++, I think I would have had more luck, but even then I got the impression that my maps from this period just weren't as fun as I remembered them. As I can't play N on this computer at a reasonable framerate, I can't really tell anymore. Either way, I vowed to come back twice as strong and not be defeated by this failiure.

The map was not published and is awaiting deletion.

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Location: South of UK
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Postby Sendy » 2016.10.09 (15:52)

So here's my second map, and my first published map: not so fast..

This was inspired by the fact that if you have a lazorb drone moving past a half-tile slit, you get a deadly laser that turns on and off periodically - a common obstactle in platform and action games. I also liked the variation on this that I used a few times in classic maps, the same setup but with a laser drone. Stepping on the floor turns it deadly for a length of time just shorter than the time it takes to complete a fully blown jump.

This is one of the things about the new objects in N++, I find that we finally have enough freedom with them to pretty much make anything. I could not think of any other types of enemy or object to add to N++ because you can do so much with specific combinations and usages of the existing objects. That's smart game design!

Here's a video of my first completion of the level after submission:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybra7hEJlYk

And here's an annotated image I made.

not so fast annotated.png


Initially I started with the middle floor with the laser creating that timed deadly floor, the wall with the mines slap bang in the middle, and the three vertical normal drones. Then I created the top floor as something fairly easy to build up to the main challenge of scooting under that wall with the laser drone charging up. The part with the mini drones is a miniature version of the main drone layout, to create some theming consistency, and the room on the top left combines both timed lasers with ninja-activated ones in an optional gold challenge on the way to the main room.

Afterwards I added the third level down with the lazorb creating a periodically deadly floor, and put some islands to rest on in safety. I decided to make this bit quite easy as the main challenge was over.

Around about this time I noticed that you could get the switch next to the drones on the main floor without actually touching the right wall. So, I created a big cache of gold, and added switches on that wall, any one of which will block off that gold.

The final stretch to the exit was just something to sign the level off, a last bit of tension with optional gold over the exit.

Now, back to that diagram.

not so fast annotated.png


The lines in the image show how I used local symmetry to make the map look nicer. Originally, the line of symmetry going right down the middle of the level didn't exist, but I found that if I pulled the central features of each floor a tile or two one way or the other, I could line everything up. I find that in non-symmetrical levels, having these areas of limited, local symmetry makes maps look nicer, and easier to parse during gameplay.

The other lines in the diagram show other instances of symmetry that I fashioned, in an attempt to balance the composition.

A1 and A2 are pointing to a problem I have, where I have two different types of mine layouts - the polka-dot "net" variety (A2) and the solidly filled variety (A1). Personally, I wish I had kept A1 to a polka-dot style layout, as all the other mines adopt this fashion. Perhaps I get away with it, as it is the focal point of the entire level, with the exit switch being underneath it, but I think changing the mines wouldn't really reduce that impact.

The part labelled B is an instance of one-ways up against slanted tiles. In N, players would be able to pass the wrong way through here, as the slanted tile would "push" them through, but in N++ this has been fixed. Just something I noted.

Label C - the door. I wish I'd moved it right a tick, so that when open, you can see both door panels. This is a very minor thing.

Label D - look! Floor guards now work on half-tiles! I've found in general that each tile appears to be split into four sub-tiles, each with their own solid/empty state, at least for the smaller enemies like floorguys and micro drones. This is a really awesome addition to the N++ engine.

As a final flourish, I added some useless empty space, a sort of "visual echo" coming off from the exit door, and added the same motif in the upper right. I think it looks pretty neat.

All in all, I was pleased with this as a first publication. It's similar to my old style of maps, but toned down and a bit more readable. Something of a Metanet influence, and a positive one, I think :)

Triforce
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Postby louisallen » 2017.12.14 (14:23)

This map is yours? It is really interesting. I like it. Thanx a lot for it
I like this game!


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