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  1. I've decided that we need to take a more scientific approach to designing the maps in Xenonauts. There's a variety of reasons for this; we're in a good place to do it with Aaron joining full-time, we've put together all of the buildings we plan to use in the game and can start on the props properly now, extended experience with the new XCOM has taught me a lot of lessons about map design, etc. This thread will contain some spoilers about the tech tree for humans and the abilities of a couple of alien races. It's nothing particularly different to the original Enemy Unknown, but if you really don't want to know then you should stop reading now. Firstly, the current situation. Our maps in Xenonauts are currently designed with no particular rhyme or reason beyond what I personally think looks good. I've tried to create realistic looking buildings and the new level designer has tried to emphasise more tight and claustrophobic maps where there is scope for aliens to sneak up and get the jump on you. However, there's a few problems - the lack of props can leave maps quite devoid of cover in various areas (like the roads), and the buildings are probably too crammed together in the other areas. It's a bit weird, and it doesn't scale well as the maps get larger. I want to put together a series of principles that I and other users can use when generating maps for Xenonauts which will ensure our maps are visually coherent, tactically interesting and fun to play. I think the result of this would be more spacious maps overall; the towns etc in things like Day-Z / Arma 2 (or here) have more space between the buildings and look a lot more natural for it. I'm open to suggestions on new things we should consider for design rules, or suggestions for how we can apply these rules to our existing maps. Basically, comments of all kinds welcome - I'm grappling with the theory of level design for the first time! HIGH-LEVEL: - Purpose: I guess the different mission types need to have a different feel. This is partly drawn from the AI behaviour but the level design would affect this a lot: Crash Site: A cautious search-and-destroy mission where you are hunting a limited number of aliens. Maps should be relatively open with fewer buildings (only one or two), with less dense waist-high cover but various walls / hedges to to block LOS (so the map is divided into "sections" that you comb through). Aliens generally skulk about and attack your troops when they get into firing range. Terror Mission: Much more like open warfare in feel, with the aliens being highly aggressive and destructive. There should be more buildings than on the Crash Sites, with relatively flimsy waist-high cover filling the space between them and inside them. Line of sight is only really blocked by buildings. Alien Base Attack: Intended to be frightening and claustrophobic in feel. Narrow (3 tile) corridors connect larger rooms together; walls of rooms / corridors are made of earth and are invulnerable. Lots of strange / exotic machinery in the rooms, hopefully the props can tell part of the story of the aliens and their intentions visually. Take place in darkness, with the corridors being lit but the actual rooms only lit when they have glowing equipment. Naturally, lights will be destructible so using explosives will throw an area in darkness afterwards too. Aliens will be both scattered through the map and clustered in the command room and mostly just skulk about. Xenonaut Base Defence: Should feel familiar so you want to be careful not to blow things up (it's your base) and also tense about losing the base. Base should look lived in, and objects should look like they've been abandoned in a hurry. Rooms should be small but densely packed with props, so the mission should be a case of sweeping your base to find the wall breaches and then fierce short-range fighting in the rooms around the breaches. Cover should be designed to be easily flanked from adjacent rooms; it should provide protection only to one direction. Aliens should be relatively few in number but aggressive and well equipped, and should stick together (the number of wall breaches will increase as the UFOs get larger). - Map Size: This should be fixed based on the UFO type, irrespective of tileset. We want a progression from early in the game in two ways; firstly in raw size the maps should increase to take into account the larger Xenonaut squads and greater numbers of aliens, then secondly we want a visual progression from rural settings to more grandiose maps for terror missions and the larger UFOs. - Civilians / Friendly AI units: This should be updated so it is set for each individual level. Civilians and Friendly AI troops should be set to spawn in logical areas, generally around buildings. MAP-SPECIFIC: -Logical: The map should look authentic and have an internal logic to it. Buildings from other tilesets should not be used and the buildings / props used should be authentic. For example, if you are doing a rural Soviet Town map, don't put lamp-posts beside the road. If you fill a house with props, it should not have a bed in the living room or multiple televisions in one room etc. If you're doing an Arctic map, you only want one building or a small group of buildings on the map, no matter how large it is, etc. - Line of sight: All maps should use full-height walls or barriers to break up LOS (though it is harder in the Arctic / Desert tilesets). Having the map open and visible makes it dull and turns it into a sniping match, so you want plenty of opportunity to come face-to-face with an alien (not present in the current Farmyard maps, for example). Hedgerows, buildings, tall walls - just make sure you've got enough in there that there's plenty of potential places for aliens to hide. Those areas can be quite open and spacious; they just shouldn't be visible until you round the corner. - Open Areas: Once you enter an area of the map, you should be able to see most of it at a glance. Exploring lots of small rooms or nooks and crannies behind shelves etc is time consuming and boring. One or two walls or large items that block LOS should be used strategically if the space needs to be subdivided, the other items should offer cover but not block LOS. This means tall props should be placed around the outside of building interiors, with half-height cover in the middle of rooms. - Vehicles / Heavy: Vehicles and "Heavy" units are able to crush cover and walk through structural walls, so use thick barriers marked as uncrushable (hedgerows, rock formations, large props etc) in strategic to stop vehicles having a completely free rein across the map. Similarly, remember to include places where tactical use of a vehicle could be helpful (breaching a chain link fence etc). - Verticality: There are no ladders or sloped terrain in Xenonauts beyond stairs, but verticality is an important part of maps as height confers bonus sight distance and shot accuracy. Buildings should have stairs to their roofs where practical (ie. flat roof buildings) and there should also be otherwise-inaccessible spots where jetpack-equipped units can move to. The jetpack should be a major tactical advantage. -Building Levels: No buildings should have more than two levels (ie, no more than one extra floor beyond the ground floor and roof). Ideally, buildings that are more than one level tall should not have floors above the ground floor and should just be empty space on the the second level. This stops buildings taking too long to search and creating camera issues. - Destructibility: Most items on the battlefield will be destructible. Maps should allow players to use this to their advantage. Explosive props are a good example, or places where vehicles can destroy terrain blocking the movement of your infantry. There are a lot of ways that we could explore destructibility, but I don't think we've really found many of them yet. If you've got any ideas, then please post them in this thread. Those are the design rules and ideas I've come up with as I've been thinking about it for the last hour or two, so if anyone has suggestions for other things I should be considering or feedback I'd be interested in reading them.
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