This is the third and last part of my article on designing maps for good item placement. It gives the conclusions and summarizes what we learned from the examples given in part 2. You may want to read part 1 — Introduction and part 2 — Examples first.
So let’s summarize it. What makes a good spot for placing key items? Here are some suggestions. The player who gets an important item gains something, but to get it he has to risk something. A good spot for a major item could be a combination of:
- interesting to fight at: allow for vertical fighting, have different height level than surroundings (or be in an area with many different height levels in general)
- accessible from different routes: non-linear gameplay, flow, opportunity for 2nd player, …
- hard to camp at: It should be dangerous to camp at. Many things can make a spot dangerous, including: tight places (due to splash damage), environmental hazards (like a small ledge above lava), exposed places without cover, little space to move/evade attacks, …
- predictable movement before/after pickup: The player who goes for the item could also be in a place after pickup that makes his next steps predictable, e.g., because there is only one way out. Or because a predictable trick-jump is required to get to the item.
- exposure during/after pickup: The pickup should expose the player who gets the item (at pickup or directly afterwards) to the enemy.
- height drop: Another disadvantage could be that the item is placed on a low level of the map, so that the player who jumps down and gets it has to give up a height advantage for it.
- far away: Some places are simply for away from the rest of the important items, forcing the player who wants them to give up control over the rest (think of the RG on ‘The Edge’). Use this one sparingly, and not more than once per map.
Maybe you can come up with more properties. And certainly, a single place cannot and should not fulfill them all.
Weapon placement and Item dependance
Of course, whether a spot is good for a certain item also depends on the item (and other items which are close-by). This is especially true for weapons and ammo. Weapons have different strengths and weaknesses depending on the situation (distance to other player, line of sight, splash damage, …). An extreme case is the grenade launcher, which is almost exclusively used for blocking paths or spamming from above.
The Quake 2 grenade launcher (GL), a very situational weapon that is weak in many situations, placed where it is useful on ‘Painkiller’ (ztn2dm1, by ztn). The placement encourages grenade spamming into the predictable pathway to the BA, making it more dangerous.
But in most games, especially ones which also have single-player, some weapons are superior to others in many situations. Let’s take Quake 2 as an example. In Quake 2, I would say there are 3 kinds of weapons as far as item placement is considered:
- mostly weak: machine gun (MG), shotgun (SG), grenades (GR). Place them near spawns or in gaps where no other weapons are available, nothing special. Players will not take extra routes to get these. Supply one package of ammo directly next to them (because weapon change times are very long in Quake 2 and the blaster sucks hard).
- normal: hyper blaster (HB), super shotgun (SSG), grenade launcher (GL). The down player needs to get one of these quickly, so they should not be in too dangerous spots. Same goes for their ammo.
- mostly strong: rocket launcher (RL), railgun (RG), chain gun (CG). These are very powerful, and should be discussed one by one. For these, you should NOT place ammo very close to the weapon, make the player move to get it.
- RL: powerful and versatile tool for simple damage dealing, splash damage, blocking paths, predicting enemy movement, movement (rocket jumps), spawn kills. Not having it when your opponent does is a big disadvantage. Many maps offer two RLs to avoid this situation. So useful that players will move a bit to get several packages ammo for it, but one pack close to it does not hurt because it is used so frequently. For the same reason, be sure to add enough ammo for it on the map.
- RG: extremely powerful in Quake 2, especially on open maps. Could be considered a major item on them. Many maps offer this one in a tight place where it is of little use, and to prevent camping at the RG spawn with a RG (which sucks hard). A single package of ammo on the whole map should be enough, very far from the weapon itself, but easier to get than the RG itself. If you do not place the ammo, it gets more dangerous for the player who does not have the RG to grab it (because the up-player needs the weapon again to get ammo)!
- CG: very powerful if you have enough ammo and some health/armor. Less useful if your are low on health, due to the time it takes to start firing, thus an up-player weapon. A place with 2 or 3 packs of ammo for it becomes interesting once you have it. Do not place lots of ammo too close to it. (The CG is even more powerful in deathmatch.)
Which items NOT to place
You should think carefully before placing very powerful (‘over-powered’) items on 1vs1 maps. This includes power-ups like the QUAD (which is great for team-based game modes) but also very powerful weapons, like the BFG in some Quake games. The reason is that they lead to one-sided or random gameplay, or to hide-and-seek. For Quake 2, these items include:
- Adrenaline: I have my doubts on this one. The reason is that it’s very annoying to fight somebody near it, then he takes it and is back to 100. You are not gonna fight for this usually, so it’s a bit random whether a badly hurt player is near it in a fight. It should take him some time to get back, by collecting health packages in more than a single spot imo. Better have 2 different places on the map which offer 2 large health (+25h) each. This is a matter of taste though, go ahead and place it if you like it.
- Quad damage: So powerful that the player who does not have it can only run and hide. Go make a CTF or TDM map if you like the quad!
- Invulnerability: The worst item you could place on any multiplayer map. Go play singleplayer on easy with the god mode cheat if you like invulnerability.
OK, that’s it. I hope this article helped you. It is not the truth, it’s some ideas. You may or may not like them, so feel free to discuss them.