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How Are the Maps in Video Games Created?

November 20, 2020 Lifestyle News No Comments

Excluding slot machines and casino games, we can say that all games played on the computer have at least one map. Maps determine what the playgrounds will be and what they will contain. In other words, they’re extremely important for a dynamic and enjoyable game experience. Nobody wants to play a game that takes place on a boring map. So how do video game developers design maps? What do they consider during this process? Below, we share the basics you need to know about video game map designs.

It Depends on the Game Engine

When it comes to video game map design, technical constraints get ahead of the imagination. Even if you have great creativity, you are limited by the technical capabilities of the game engine used. Therefore, we first need to talk about game engines and how they affect map designs. We will use two examples for this: FPS games from the 90s and modern FPS games.

In the FPS games of the 90s, a feature called corridor-design was used. This meant that the player always had to go through a series of corridors turning in different directions when moving from one large area to another. There was a simple reason for this. In those years, computer hardware and game engines had limited capabilities, and it was not possible to view multiple wide areas at the same time. Even if they could do this, they were experiencing serious performance issues. Because of this, map designers had to add multiple corridors to each map.

The game engine was starting to load the other large area while the player was in the hallway, and since the number of things displayed on the screen at the same time was limited because of this design, there was no performance problem. This is why legendary games like Doom, Quake, and Half Life have countless corridors. In fact, this is a trick game designers use even today. The Vanilla version of World of Warcraft has huge empty open spaces. With the new expansion packages, however, you will no longer see such areas. Many map items are used that restrict your field of view, and the number of things you can see on the screen at once is reduced. The increase in graphics quality has led to the abandonment of open spaces, as otherwise, there would be serious performance problems.

In modern FPS games, there are no such problems anymore. Maps can now contain many large areas and no corridors are required to connect them. There are even realistic FPS games such as ARMA set in a fully open world. In these games, for example, when entering a house on the map, you will not see a loading screen. Advances in both game engines and hardware allow much more to be shown on the screen simultaneously. But maps still have certain limits, and no matter how large they may be, they cannot be truly unlimited.

The good news is that in a few years we will also be free from this restriction. Most modern video games are developed with 5-6-year-old game engines and are subject to the technical constraints of 5-6 years ago. Since new generation game engines such as Unreal 5 can use innovative technologies such as DirectX 12, we will have truly unlimited maps with no loading screens in a short time. This means that we will be completely free of technical hurdles in video game map design.

But It Depends on Creativity Too

A creative designer can make even the simplest map interesting, no matter how constrained. But if you think they just sat down at a computer and start designing, you are wrong. Map design is a very long process and requires more than one person to work together. In general, it is possible to say that this process runs as follows:

  • An artist makes concept drawings. These drawings give an idea of ​​what the aesthetics and theme of the map will be. All of these concept drawings must be approved at numerous meetings. Sometimes this process continues for weeks, and new concept drawings are requested.
  • When a consensus is reached on the concept, a two-dimensional version of the map is prepared. This map is very similar to classical topographic maps. The location of certain buildings and items is shown on it. For example, a city can be placed at the north end, a town at the south end, and a forest at the east end.
  • After this stage, a three-dimensional draft of the map is prepared. This is how designers understand the true size of the map and begin to fill it. However, they do not create every little thing that will be displayed on the entire map such as trees, rocks, and sand. There are programs that automatically create and place all of these on the map according to predetermined parameters. For example, the Speed Tree program automatically takes care of where the trees and other vegetation on the map will be and what they will look like.
  • The designers mainly focus on key points on the map, such as cities or rooms where the player will spend a long time. Everything in these areas is determined manually and multiple drafts are prepared. Which draft to use is decided again on the meetings.

Ultimately, the first playable version of the map emerges. Modern game engines have made it very easy to create and place map elements, but designers still decide where and how they should be used. This gives different results depending on how good their imagination and creativity are. This is why some games look impressive and others boring. Every element of a map should be designed in such a way that it doesn’t disrupt the gameplay experience. You can create a room that looks very impressive, but if the player can’t figure out what to do to get out of it, it makes no sense. So in the final phase, QA experts step in and navigate the maps to see just how smooth the experience is. Based on QA feedback, a design may change completely, or some of its elements may be changed.

In short, video game maps are not dependent on the performance and creativity of a single person. A large team is working while creating a map, and each takes on a different task. More importantly, the creative team and the technical team must always stay in touch, because only the technical team can determine how a map element will affect performance. A designer might want to design a 20-story building and fill it with countless items, but if the technical team doesn’t allow it, he’ll have to settle for just a 5-story building. If you get creative enough and know what the technical constraints are, you can design incredibly impressive worlds.

Here we have covered the basics of video game map design, and if you are really interested in this job, you need an education. Game design is now one of the courses taught at universities, and the game industry prefers people who have received this training. The profession of game designer is also very popular in the casino industry. Judging from the recent astonishing free pokies games releases, the designers should be very skilled. So don’t try to be a one-man-army. If you want to design video games or casino games, you need to get training and work in a large team.

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