In this post, I want to share my personal philosophy of map-making, and some practical tips I’ve learned along the way, which has served me very well.
I was compelled to make this post after I felt I had to give a map-makers some direct criticisms. I don’t like to do that, I’d rather have map-makers read an article meant for everyone.
I have five simple rules which I will explain in detail:
- It’s you against yourself
- Complex map or simple map?
- Don’t force it
- Who are you making this for?
- Get the ball rolling
#1 It’s you against yourself
This is my most dear, precious and helpful guiding principle which I’ve applied from day1 of my PB2-mapmaking career. Whenever I followed this principle, my maps would succeed. Whenever I discarded it, my maps would fail.
For each map, you make, make something uniquely different with each one.
Don’t be pressured to come up with something completely unique to the PB2 world. Just compete against yourself. For each map you make, think, how can I add some kind of twist to my new map?
For instance, my very first map was a 4v4 where players were equipped with rifles, and there were guns in the middle. My second map was different, in that each player had different sets of equipment, like squads in a battlefield game. My third map was a 2v2v2v2 instead of a classical 4v4. I continued doing small types of twists when I eventually made a map with a teleporter, which was my first map with a trigger. Gradually I became better with triggers, and after a couple of updates, and now my recent maps have been a chatbot AI, a parkour race with a leaderboard and my own system of a progression system, with exp and money, in multiplayer.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. Focus on making something unique to your own arsenal of maps. And eventually, you might end up making actually something completely unique which nobody has seen before, just out of the habit of making unique maps compared to your own.
Don’t have high standards for these twists, just take one small step at the time.
Eventually, after 20, or 30 maps, you will notice that finding a unique twist is becoming increasingly difficult. That’s a good sign! Map making is supposed to be hard. This is where you might expect a “hit” map at any time. Your creativity is working full-time, combined with an ever so growing experience with making-maps. You’re basically increasing the standard of uniqueness for every map, gradually and slowly.
“What about updates, with new guns, for instance?”
Updates with new guns are like holidays for map-makers, where we all get to cheat and get a simple go at making a unique map in our own list, but also in the community. It’s all part of nature, enjoy.
#2 Complex or a simple map?
A good question is, why should I even bother making maps with unique, complex mechanics when it seems like all the popular maps are so simple?
It doesn’t matter if a map is complex in its mechanics and trigger work & hard work.
What matters is if a map is complex to understand and use. If it is when it will never be popular. Period.
The holy “Will the map be popular?” diagram
Take Max teabag-dodge for instance. The map has 300 ratings with a 4.88 average. It was very complicated and took a lot of effort to make, but the complicated mechanics seemed simple for the user.
It seems as if only simple/dumb maps get popular, but that’s because It’s just so much easier to make a simple map that’s easy to understand. It’s hard to make a map with complex mechanics easy and intuitive for the user, that’s why it’s such a common trap to fall into the “nope” section of the holy diagram.
#2.5 A little philosophical rant:
You might have spotted a slight contradiction in how I described you should make your map unique in its mechanics, yet easy to understand. Generic, not-unique maps are naturally easy to understand because people have played maps like these before. You risk the player being comfortable and bored. Unique maps is naturally going to harder to understand since the concept is new. You risk the player being overwhelmed and confused.
You need to mix the two aspects to find the right balance.
Think of it like dancing to music. Nobody wants to dance to a song where the beat is constantly the same, 100% predictable all the time, but you can’t dance to a song where everything is too chaotic, everything is unpredictable.
Same thing with humor. If the joke is predictable, It’s not funny. If it’s too unrelatable, It’s not funny either. The sweet spot of humor is something relatable and familiar, with an unexpected twist.
In my MMO maps series, I have decided to deliberately make the “Feel” of the maps familiar, keep most of the gun’s behavior standard, so that players will not be overwhelmed, but appreciate the twist, and so that it feels like the same old game.
#3 Don’t force it
A common problem is that when map-makers isn’t interested challenging themselves in creating a new twist, and they’re failing to make a complex/unique map with simple usage, some will attempt to “force” their maps for popularity.
People often confuse map depth and complexity with the number of objects. They try to force their map quality by spending more time than anyone else, making the map more detailed, more walls, more decorations, more features, etc etc..
There’s a misconception that Quantity of objects = Quality of map
It’s directly misleading. Whenever you increase the number of objects in your map, you will increase loading time, and make the map slower for players, increasing lag, which is a big turn off.
The best maps are those which has the best content to objects ratio. Details certainly have its place, but finding an elegant solution to combine content with detail is the way to go.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” -Leonardo Da Vinci
PS: I’m not saying you shouldn’t decorate your map. Beautiful maps are awesome, pure-art-maps too, but attempting to compensate the lack of originality by lot’s of details won’t do anything. However, decorations may be original in themselves. Oh shit, Max is contradicting himself!
#4 Who are you making this for?
Is it yourself, or is it the players?
No seriously. It’s a legit question.
I have a couple maps where I made them purely for myself. My own pleasure. I don’t care what people think, I enjoyed making it. Screw the uniqueness, I’m just going to let loose. Big surprise, these maps have barely any ratings. Since this is a post on how to make your map popular, I will say it, make your map for the players!
It’s fine to make a map for your own pleasure, but don’t expect it to be popular.
The best way to get legit information whether or not people like and understand your map, just play it with other people, and witness. It’s easy to be quick to blame the stupid players for not understanding or reading your very eloquent texts displayed. However, who are you really trying to please, the majority of the audience or your ego?
#5 Getting the ball rolling
After you’ve mastered your creativity, complexity, elegance, uniqueness and It’s perfectly suited for the mass bulk of players, you have the perfect map. You’re holding it your hands, like your own baby, It’s beautiful.
So… what now? Should I just wait or…?
Even the best map can be forgotten about. Remember how I said, “Don’t force it?” Well, this is the exception. If your map is truly great, it WILL catch on, but it needs a “gentle” push. Think of it as putting training-wheels when the kid is trying to learn to ride the bike.
So… go in multiplayer, host the map, exit, re-host, exit, re-host, exit. Your map will eventually be filled in the servers. This might be really annoying if you map sucks, and your reputation will suffer. However, this behavior will serve the good people of PB2, not annoy them, if you have followed rule #1 #2 #3 and #4.
Other than this, I’d recommend my post I made a year ago called “Inside Max’s heart” which describes in detail how you should listen to players, and general tips for designing MP/SP maps.