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I’m doing an analysis of the map I’m currently working on and have been showing pictures from. It has a few significant failures that are becoming more apparent to me as I continue, and I’ll be discussing some of them in depth here.

A big general problem is that I had originally conceived of this map as representing a snapshot of a major city immediately after the zombie outbreak occurred, and that is not really supported by the resources and materials that come with the package. I had envisioned a pristine environment that was about to be destroyed, but the resources available are for already-destroyed, apocalyptic scenes. As one simple example, there are only two models for curtains, and one are hospital curtains. Most normal pre-zombie-apocalypse houses have intact curtains, but that is not really supported by the package, and it is beyond the scope of what I’m doing at the moment to go model curtains and import them. So I’d have been better off trying to create a scenario that is more in line with the assets that are available.

I am reworking a lot of the environments to be more wrecked, as I can’t support my vision of them being pristine with the assets I have.

In terms of just plain bad design though, there is a messy critical path situation right at the very beginning of the map that could have been done better. I have the survivors emerge from a Depanneur (convenience store), and they are immediately presented with a choice between an apartment building and a park, both of which lead to a back alley. I included the park because I thought it would look very nice, but the actual upshot of it being that players can easily skip past the whole apartment building by going through the park. Why is this a problem? Because the apartment buidling required about 40 times the work as the park, and in my finished product they are both equally viable paths. In game, many players are likely to skip the apartment buidling every time and run through the park, essentially nullifying all the work I’ve put into it.

Furthermore, as the apartment building is made of four apartments, this creates a total of five possible paths to the back alley, the next segment of the critical path. In some situations I would say this is a good thing, for instance in my sewers segment there are two paths, and I think it works better in that scenario. In the spot in question though, as the amount of work required for each path differs dramatically, this is not so good.

At the bottom of my heart, I’m a diehard proponent of open-world games. This is not an open-world game though, and without severe modifications, it could never be. The typical L4D player wants a pretty linear experience.

For this reason, I’ve decided to delete the park altogether and force the player to go through the apartment building. Also, there will only be one path through, perhaps two at most, and it will be based on blocked paths and alternate paths created by holes in the wall and the floor. Rather than four equally accessible apartments, there will be one or two paths through that require a cross-over into other apartments. This will make the critical path more interesting and less confusing at the same time, and will add more value to the same amount of physical space (more effficient).

I feel like the long “straightaway” portions of the public roads are too long and become boring. This is likely to be completely rectified though by the deletion of the park alone.

More commentary to follow. In the meantime, I’m messing around with a completely different level design concept, which I’ll discuss shortly.

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