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Orientation

If a map looks nearly identical from each end, then a player could have trouble establishing their orientation to the map itself, their base, and where they had just been (where they died in a fire fight) upon spawning. The solution is to provide overwhelmingly obvious visual cues to help orient the player. I have seen numerous maps try various techniques, but the most successful have always been to provide a massive object or terrain that is so large that a player cannot miss it if they are looking in its general direction.

Enclosed Maps Are Difficult

I have seen maps that are fully enclosed that rely upon color coding the various sections of the map. This doesn’t work well, because it takes a lot more processing on the part of the player to establish orientation. The colors of one end of the map may be the only thing they see and only when they are at that end of the map. They may have trouble identifying how the colors of that section relate to the other sections.

Publisher maps can rely upon techniques using skins, such as Adrift’s door numbering system. Again, it becomes irrelevant if you do not know how the numbers are laid out in the first place.
Other examples include Citadel, Assembly, Zealot, and Haven.

The Weenie

Putting what I just shared into contrast, that regardless of where players may be on a map, if a central structure is towering high into the sky, they can use it as a known location on the map and learn their relative position from there. In level design lexicon, this structure is referred to as the weenie (no joke!).

Examples of publisher maps that leverage a weenie include Sandtrap, Last Resort, and Spire.

Massive Terrain Off The Side Of The Map

An even better approach is the use of terrain at one end of the map. Take for example The Cage on Forge World. It was literally attached to the side of a cliff, and the cliff itself was the source of orientation as it towered along one side of the map. It was in essence a weenie that was towering on one end of the map. This is one of the best examples of using terrain as a source of orientation, because The Cage was very open and the cliff was very massive in both vertical and horizontal directions.

If you were looking away you would know it because you couldn’t see any of the cliff wall. If you saw any of the cliff wall in your view, you knew what direction you were looking in. The terrain on The Cage was essentially a weenie to an asymmetrical map attached to the side rather than being in the center of the map.

This concept of a weenie attached to the side of a symmetrical map has greater value, because unlike a weenie in the center of a symmetrical map, the distance from the weenie can be used to help orientate the player’s location on the map as to which side of the map they’re on. If the weenie were in the center of a fully symmetrical map, in the absence of any other unique aspects between the two sides, the player can only determine their distance to the center, but not which side of the map they are on.

Other examples of towering terrain being unique to one end of the map include Valhalla, Abandon (to a point), Solace, Avalanche, Construct, and Last Resort.

Spawning

I recommend against enclosed maps for the reason that they never seem to be as beautiful as those with at least some view of the Canvas. However, if your map is enclosed, the orientation of your spawn points need to be optimized for player orientation – they likely already suffer for a lack of weenie in the center of the map or massive terrain along one side, so you need to make up for it in some way.

If your map uses a weenie, then orient the spawn point so that the weenie is at least partially in the field of view. This should give immediate orientation to the center of the map upon spawn.
If the terrain provides a massive wall along one side of the map, then the spawn point is free to orientate in nearly any direction, since the absence of the terrain wall in the spawn field of view can be just as orientating as its presence is.

Summary

Maps that rely on skins and colors for identifying where you are located are the most difficult to process orientation, because those markers are local to those sections of the maps.

Weenies provide immediate orientation to the center of the map, allowing other aspects of the map to fill in the orientation to the map itself – e.g., which side of the weenie the player is on.

Massive towering walls of terrain on one side of the map provide instant orientation in direction and distance from that end of the map.

Spawn points have different needs based upon the approach you choose for your map.

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