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Multiplayer Level Design In-Depth, Part 2: The Rules of Map Design
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Multiplayer Level Design In-Depth, Part 2: The Rules of Map Design

November 8, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

In the first part of my series devoted to the design of multiplayer levels, I offered a detailed view of typical design constraints in multiplayer compared to that of a single player level. I would now like to give some suggestions to remedy these problems with intelligent map design.

A good level design for a multiplayer map should respond to three challenges:

  • Durability. A map should withstand thousands of game sessions without letting players feel bored. It must provide continuous tactical challenge.
  • Accessibility. Navigation in a map should be clear. Remember that complex map design is one of the main difficulties a new player is confronted with.
  • Entertainment. This need is obvious, but its rules are difficult to define.

Challenge 1: Durable Maps

Let’s begin by the durability of the map. What are the level design rules that I recommend to respond to this challenge?

1.) My first recommendation, and probably the most important, is to put the third dimension to good use. Use and exploit the vertical dimension in your maps and give the players reasons to use the volume of the map and not only its two-dimensional layout.

The example below is taken from the Museum map, available in both Splinter Cell – Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. This medium sized room perfectly illustrates how a very rich gameplay, based on movement and dissimulation, can be created by applying this rule. Players have several partially overlapping circulation levels at their disposal. They can move vertically by using the stairs, climbing the beams or simply by jumping. Finally, the room includes enough objects to enable players to hide, but also to use these surfaces to make their grenades bounce.

One of the rooms where the third dimension is well used in the Museum map (Splinter Cell – Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory)

This rule may well be applied to exterior settings, too, such as in Battlefield maps, where the players can climb roofs, cranes or towers and can also take flying vehicles.

2.) My second recommendation is to build open maps to enable the creation of an infinite number of paths. The warehouse, plant or building site themes suit this kind of map perfectly.

Take for instance the Deftech map, published in the multiplayer version of Splinter Cell – Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. The inner courtyard, although a very simple design, provides a practically infinite number of movement possibilities. It contains three main levels of movement – the yard, the footbridge and the roof of the containers – as well as two secondary levels: a network of underground tunnels and overhead cables. By combining these different levels of movement, a significant variety of movements -- and therefore of tactical possibilities -- is obtained. It’s not by luck that Deftech yard is one of the most appreciated maps by deathmatch fans.

The yard of the Deftech map (Splinter Cell – Pandora Tomorrow) illustrates how vertical movement is created in an exterior setting

Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

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