Quick Map Ideas Guide
Welcome to this tutorial, outlining basic guidelines on what makes a good map. This tutorial is made for mappers who want to get some ideas on what people like and want in a multi-player or a single-player map.
What the people want (Single-Player)
A hint for making a single-player map is to add lots of detail!, because usually for the first time or even numerous times after, the player will slow down to take in all of the detail the map has to offer if they are available. Details can be best defined as small stories told within the map, for example, a skeleton slumped against a wall with a blood splatter behind him.
A great map will have a story surrounding it. Even a single map can tell a story when it comes down to it, in many different ways, i.e., the Rat Man chambers in Portal, or the Graffiti in Left4Dead. A story in a game is best discovered, not dictated, so speech and text should be used only when it cannot be discovered by the player themselves. Remember not to get too caught up in the story. Some maps can become too story-oriented, and not offer much of a challenge because of that.
- Gameplay Flow and Direction
It is important to give the player a sense of direction as to where he or she needs to go. Why are they going there? Where is it? Otherwise, a player could simply wind up just running around pointlessly because they don't know where to go. Objectives don't need to be obvious, but a player needs to be guided somehow. Things like periods of rest and exploration and then periods of combat are important to a game flow. If a player just had a tough battle, give them time to catch their breath. If they've had time to look around and solve puzzles, throw some enemies at them.
Audio can sometimes be neglected by many mappers, but it is an important aspect of your map, especially if you are creating a map based on creating tension, or horror. Ambient sounds and BGM are your best tools when trying to set a mood in the player.
- NPC's(Friendly and Otherwise)
Swamping a player with enemies, throwing everything you have at them is never a good idea, you can't expect a player to survive through it, let alone enjoy the experience. Gun-wielding NPCs can be tough enemies, and even for the biggest battles, a player shouldn't be presented with more than 10 at once. (That is, if you expect them to fight with ordinary weapons.) Spacing between these enemies is also important. A group of enemies with little to no spacing can present a great challenge to a player. Friendly NPCs should all have something to say, first and foremost, and should add to the overall atmosphere of your map or mod. An NPC that doesn't say or do anything is an NPC that might as well not be there, so use entities in maps to make them more lively.
What the people want (Multi-Player)
Design in Multi-player is very different from single player. It comes down to the game you are designing for, and the gametype that it is intended for play with.
- Counter-Strike: Source
The most important part of a Counter-Strike map is that is balanced between the two teams. Counter Strike maps are also generally non-symmetrical, something that should be taken into account when designing a map to be balanced. Larger maps in Counter Strike should also be avoided. Unless you intend a lot of people to be playing, a map should be completely playable and fun with a smaller group. Players expect their maps to be exciting, where members of the enemy team could be waiting around any corner. Detail, unlike in single player mapping, is less important, but don't let that stop you from making the map realistic, like a working office, or a town where people could live.
- Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
The most important part of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch mapping is including plenty of physics props for people to play around with and use as weapons with the gravity gun. Otherwise, the design principles of Counter-Strike apply here as well.