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Traffic Patterns

Players moving around your map will create traffic over the Paths you intentionally or unintentionally forged. The Paths that they take represent choices that they make, either naturally or under coercion – either they wanted to take that Path, or they reluctantly took it feeling they had no choice.  You want to offer choices that the average player would predominately wish to take to give the best possible experience. And you want those Paths to spread the traffic across your map somewhat evenly to reduce congestion at any one location on the map. Observing the traffic pattern – the aggregate analysis of these choices – can help you adjust your map to improve overall traffic flow.


Shortest Path

A player will naturally want to take the shortest Path from where they are at to where they want to be next. One of the things you as a forger should consider is what Path would a player see as the most natural Path to where they want to go? The best way to do this is literally stand at the start location, look toward the destination, and consider what the player sees from that perspective. What Paths look like they move toward the destination and what Paths look like they move away from it? What they see will be the primary driver of their decision.

You don’t want to make your map a maze. If a Path initially looks like it heads toward the destination, then it really should. It can become frustrating to enter a tunnel only to find out it was the long way. Paths that are intuitive tend to promote healthy traffic, or what some people call good flow in a map.

Then consider that they have learned the Paths on the map. Position yourself on the map at the start location again and determine how much if at all the decision of Paths to take would change based upon what they will learn to be the shortest Path to their destination? If their decision has changed a lot, then that is a clue that the Paths were not initially intuitive, or that there were too many surprises along the way.

This is perhaps the only real way to get a sense of what a player will do in forge. Test playing your map and then reviewing the film in theater is another way. Given this information, you can determine which Paths may need to be altered to shape the traffic you desire on your map, and to help reduce and even avoid congestion on your map.

Avoid Congestion

To some extent Spawning will help reduce congestion, so long as the title’s Spawn engine is designed to spawn players away from the enemy. They will wind up spawning away from any location that the enemy is congregating at, which means that it will take time for them to return to the action; but sprint sort of defeats this feature.

The predominate problem with congestion is the feeling of having to endlessly defend yourself from the next guy that you need to fight off. Too many players in one place for any extended period of time starves players of the breather that they need between engagements.

On the other hand, when traffic is spread out evenly, one engagement at one end of the map won’t be prolonged endlessly because the other players are else where. After the engagement, a breather can be taken to setup for the next engagement.

Methods Of Movement

Another aspect you need to look at is how players move about on your map and how that affects overall traffic patterns across your map. The slowest form of movement is walking; the fastest form of movement is the teleporter. All other forms of movement are somewhere in between. And since a player will want to get where they are going as fast as possible, the means of movement are important to consider, not just the Paths you forged on the map.

Vehicles can offer faster than sprint movement, but only if the vehicle is available. If a vehicle has been jacked, destroyed, or is in use by others on the team, then a player is left with walking (for example). You can regulate the amount of vehicular traffic (and thus the faster engagements they offer) by the number of vehicles you forge onto your map and their respawn times.

Man cannons offer fast movement. But it is recommended that this fast movement be balanced with the risks of exposure by allowing the player to fly high in the air in view of players across a good part of the map, or land in an opening with next to no cover. And never allow a man cannon or grav lift permit a player to bypass the efforts necessary of taking a power position, lest the power position becomes cheap. Having all of that in place, consider how the man cannon or grav lift may be used to get to a destination – how likely would someone want to risk using it and what are the alternatives? Are the alternatives true alternatives or coerced and undesirable alternatives?

Incentives

The map you forge should be playable on its own. It should not be forged for any power weapon. Instead the power weapon should support the map. I talk more about the power weapons and what to consider, but for now I just want to emphasize that any power weapon you place on your map should not be necessary, but should be complimentary and supportive by improving the Game Play. For example, and this is the point that I am making in this lesson, power weapons can be used to help players want to take certain Paths.

A Path to a power weapons will be a more natural decision on the part of the player who really wants that weapon. You can use the power weapon as a way to give incentive to alter the traffic pattern in one area of the map. For example, you know that players will move along a specific Path, but would like some of that traffic to divert further toward the edge of the map. Placing a power weapon near the edge will yield that shift of traffic for you to some degree and only when the weapon is available.

Typically the initial rush for a power weapon such as rockets necessitates that the rockets are placed near the center of the map on an elevated platform. Not only do the two teams have to rush forward, but one of them must climb up and get the rockets while his team provides cover fire for him. Such planning can actually drive traffic more in desirable ways for the sake of the initial rush or other common Game Element that is fondly desired.

But it seems to me that the most important reason for using power weapons is to help shift traffic into conflict, to drive conflict, using the power weapon as bait for both teams. This implies that the location of the power weapon will be along a natural and desired Path, but in full view, exposed to both teams on each side. And that this exposure creates risk that in turn reduces congestion itself.

Deterrence

Open areas on the map – areas without cover – is a strong deterrence to choosing a Path. Such a Path, if necessary to get to the intended destination, becomes coerced and can create frustration for the player who doesn’t want to take it but feels they have no choice. This is different than exposing a power weapon in the open. In the latter case, the power weapon can be used as bait – the player doesn’t need to go after it, but can stay back and shoot at those that do.

My point is that there is a big difference between wanting to grab rockets and needing to go steal the enemy flag from their base. The former is not necessary to win the game, the latter is. Given the same open area for both, the latter will result in frustration.

I have heard so many players tell me on so many occasions how an area was way too open that they felt too vulnerable. But they had to cross the open field to be able to score. This is not what you want from your map.

Traffic Direction

In general you will be creating a map that either has base assigned goals or not. In either case, but more so for the latter, you want the direction of traffic to be flowing in generally a singular direction. That is, you don’t want players to have to turn around 180 degrees. The exception is when they grab the flag, and that is about it.

I am not saying that your map should be a doughnut shaped map. I am saying don’t create situations where players are having to turn around as a natural part of the Game Play. Turning around to retreat is normal. Turning around because one finds a Power Weapon at the end of a dead end tunnel is not.

Summary

You want to offer your players intuitive choices of Paths to take where all they might know is what they see in front of them.

Avoid Paths that are misleading or overly complicated to figure out.

Forge your map to reduce congestion, lest players wind up engaging their adversaries too often.

Use power weapons to influence traffic, especially to bait engagements.

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