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Hello, I am currently working on an FPS and my chosen job is too physically design the levels (their shape/paths and objects that are in them) not the visual style. I have read many articles on what I need to look out for and try to correct as I attempt a level but wonder if anybody could help me out with any tips for the physical build of one. In short-"physically" whats makes a good level? What do I need to look out for-I here simplicity is one of the best things as I can already see how things can get clutered.

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It would help if you could describe the game in more depth than just a FPS
-what type of enviorments, open or dungeon style(I ask beoucse they will have specil game engine requrements)
-it it a run in shooting or stealth and stratagy bases
-any wepon types in mind
-any general game mechanics

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It is a survival horror in an historical town (Zombies/acient soliders and what-not)-I can't mention the engine we our using.

Our unique game mechnics-that will probably be emphasizing on the combat have not been inplemented yet as we are at the very start of development.

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Go for cool areas, and don't get too cliche. The things that make an interesting and memorable level are the unique situations. For example, if you have the same visual style and type of level throughout the whole game, people wil get bored pretty quick. Remember Half-Life? The whole game was interesting. There were unique places, scripted events, and interesting locations and characters scattered around everywhere. Just try to think up tons of cool stuff to do. Stuff that will make people remember the level, and say "Man, that was cool!"

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hard to tell, normall id recomend doing level desighn last since you want to inlude thing like cover, hiding, sniping(attack from beyond enemy activation range), your game will most likly have some limitaions but the trick is to give out as much gameplay as possible with going over your limits.
Ex the idea of being able to perch on a hill to get a good view might seem like a good idea now but then all your sprites and terrain might be messed up and lagggy from that distance

other than that i just guess
1)never put enemys at area transition points, dont even let them go there(unless you have a smooth transisiton system(half-life did this well)
2)provide cover in open areas
3)read the article on fair spawning
4)dont create objects that your collision detection cant accurate cover, EX(bullets going through solid object or having a ring that bullets bounce of even if they went through the center,generally dont have round object with rectangular collison boxes)

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I understand all the importance of keeping people on their toes/wanting more and not frustrated by limitations/repeated scenery but the game is going to have start and stops-it will initialy be three levels so "map wise" (in the physical sence) what makes a good one for a game where the player will be going down roads/routes-not big chuncks of area like OOT on the N64 but more like Metroid Prime-which is actually alaways praised for it's "amazing" level design-both visual and physical.

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There are a number of different approaches that people use... the following is just my own opinion [smile]

The first and most important thing is that you understand the gameplay that will take place within your level. If your game is about close-quarters combat, don't make a huge open level with lots of snipers in. If your game has stealth elements, ensure they can be played out. If the player can stick mines to walls and detonate them remotely, try and give them the opportunity to do that. And so on.

With that in mind - and with some preliminary information about the level itself (like the setting - alien base? ancient temple?) - you can start putting together a list of 'landmarks' in your level. That's both key locations (computer core, throne room, mystic shrine) and 'set pieces' that you could imagine the player defeating in cool and interesting ways (like the sentry gun next to an air vent - find a way to crawl through the air vent and disarm the gun by hand, throw a grenade, or just run from cover to cover and try and make it past?). Sketch some ideas on paper if it helps you.

Then work your way through the list, modelling each of them.

Then try and fill up the spaces inbetween with interesting things. A level that goes from interesting-thing to interesting-thing via dull-and-boring corridor is usually not a good thing. Naturally, it'll be impossible to make *everything* interesting to play through - and constant action can overwhelm the player - but you shouldn't ever have them thinking "man, I wish I could move faster to get past this bit quicker." A prime example of how not to do this is Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. You should be able to find it in the bargain bin; I recommend playing it so you know what to guard against.

Towards the end, something that is always nice is to have a 'functional' level. If your level is meant to be a derelict space-port, think about how it will have worked when it was functioning - where did ships dock? Where did cargo get taken? Where did people wait? There's nothing cooler than playing in a factory level and actually being able to trace along the conveyor belts from beginning to end [smile]

In short:

  • Good environment for the gameplay to be executed in
  • Variation
  • Attention to detail

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The levels are going to be surrounded by Zombies so the player will be able to understand why they are forced to go down the "seemingly choice" multiple paths. I feel there is potential for Zombies to be the enemy-these ones will be slow, In which case I do not want big open area's so they can play there unispiring role of "target practice". Nor do I want to just make the area's cramped/claustrophobic so you have little time to react ala "house of the Dead" "Doom 3" and make you jump (it's kinda cheap)I want to create a setting that is genually going to unnerve the player. Presenation/execution is the key to engage the player so you have got him firmly in the seat of your rollercoaster.

With a town I geuss I have allot to play around with-use of street lights at night time could be vital for the player to watch one of the undead walk under and prepare him/her for combat (sort of force the player/make them learn to be observant but unlike say Doom3 where there is not much space you could try and find well lit area's or area's in the shadow and camp to get the upper hand), You could lead the Zombies into a trap as they follow you (weather it's locking them into a derelict house or thorwing human flesh over the area (as bait) where you have put gasoline) and there could be Zombie outbreaks where they use numbers to break through the perimiter of the level and you have to eliminate a cetian ammount withen a given time otherwise the town will be over run/game over.

I am just trying to bounce some idea's around-if anyone has somthing to suggest that they feel could complement the the setting of a drak/morbib Zombie filled town-let me hear your thoughts.

I appreciate all input.

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Quote:
Original post by JimmyShimmy
In short-"physically" whats makes a good level?


Variety.

Change it up. Give the player a new kind of challenge with every level. That keeps things interesting.

Don't fall into the Halo pit: Copying and pasting the same room over and over again does not make good level design. Halo's single player was too damned tedious.

Also: Remember to avoid the anime fan-fiction pitfall that basically goes: "Bigger is better." Avoid long, linear hallways, meaninglessly large rooms.

Also: Flavor is handy. Try to ask yourself: "If I were designing a fortress or science lab (or wherever the game takes place in), what kind of structures would I need?" Duke Nukem 3D was cool because the levels were made to look like normal cities. Descent's levels did a decent job of representing the clostrophobic mining tunnels wherein the game took place.

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Original post by ishpeck
Don't fall into the Halo pit: Copying and pasting the same room over and over again does not make good level design. Halo's single player was too damned tedious.


It certianly did not show any kind of cleverness or imagination but the open area's where put there specifically to allow plenty of space for how you were going to engage the advanced enemy's or hide and re-group when spotted.

There was reason for the physical design of Halo's levels but I concur with your comment about the whole ordeal being tedious-it was good at what it did but that is all it did and for long streches at a time.

While analysing/critiquing a game "visually tedious" is not somthing that is going to hamper the score/experience (whatever method you use to summarise/conclude your opinion of the game in hand), if it implements new ways to play in a comprehensive/large world with few (if any) flaws, but it is certianly somthing that is picked up by many of the public who (often I have heard) refer to the Halo franchise as "boring".

Clearly, constantly stimulating the player with new things to do/being able to do things your own way is very important.

I fully agree with variety-HL2 is a FPS that lets you do just about everything(throughout the whole game) and evokes many different emotions (that are key to other genre's like Surviaval horror/platforming) due to change with what you do and what you are looking at all the time.

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Original post by JimmyShimmy
I feel there is potential for Zombies to be the enemy-these ones will be slow, In which case I do not want big open area's so they can play there unispiring role of "target practice". Nor do I want to just make the area's cramped/claustrophobic so you have little time to react ala "house of the Dead" "Doom 3" and make you jump (it's kinda cheap)I want to create a setting that is genually going to unnerve the player. Presenation/execution is the key to engage the player so you have got him firmly in the seat of your rollercoaster.
If you haven't already (and I'm guessing you probably have), play through the "Ravenholm" chapter of Half-Life 2. I'd call it vital viewing for anyone who is making this kind of game.

Quote:
With a town I geuss I have allot to play around with-use of street lights at night time could be vital for the player to watch one of the undead walk under and prepare him/her for combat (sort of force the player/make them learn to be observant but unlike say Doom3 where there is not much space you could try and find well lit area's or area's in the shadow and camp to get the upper hand), You could lead the Zombies into a trap as they follow you (weather it's locking them into a derelict house or thorwing human flesh over the area (as bait) where you have put gasoline) and there could be Zombie outbreaks where they use numbers to break through the perimiter of the level and you have to eliminate a cetian ammount withen a given time otherwise the town will be over run/game over.
Right, so the gameplay puts an emphasis on thinking about what you do, rather than just trying to shoot things when they pop up at you. Fair enough. As such you want to think about some key traps that your level will contain, and some things that can be used in interesting ways (i.e. machines/devices - like HL2's gas/fire traps).

You've got a lot of scope to be functional, too. To put in things that you'd expect to find in a town - shops, roads, houses, etc. Think about how people would have used the town when it was populated.

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While people are quick to bash Doom3's level design and gameplay, there are some key things in there that are overlooked, and should be learned from:

-traps shouldn't be lethal, but still require you to react fast.
-If you're gonna allow spawning in visible spots, have a reason for it (demons, teleporters, etc) and make it plausible (you use the same teleporter at some point)
-allow Player to see whats chasing him, even if you fake it (trough CC monitors, windows, etc.). This is used a lot troughout Half-Life 2 as well.
-player conditioning: set the same trap for the player about 3 times, then start changing it. Player will expect it to be the same, and get surprised when its not (unless player decides to stop playing and complain in forums instead ;) )

variation examples:
a) trap does not trigger in the same place but deeper/farther away. This way the player goes in very carefully, then goes 'huh, nothing happened', feels safe and gets careless, then BAM!
b) trap does not trigger at all (makes you uneasy for a bit, gives doubt to next identical trap)
c) trap triggers a completely different event (even a bonus)
d) trap opens a closet full of monsters (just kidding)

d) brings me to the big error in Doom3: if you're going to spawn off-screen, make the spawn areas believable. Even a locked/broken door works.

I enjoyed that game. Good stuff. Unnerved every single person i showed it to.

"they took my baby"

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Original post by superpig
If you haven't already (and I'm guessing you probably have), play through the "Ravenholm" chapter of Half-Life 2. I'd call it vital viewing for anyone who is making this kind of game.


Yes, it is a very well done town and (for me) really nails the mood with the aliens/dark setting.

Quote:
Original post by superpig
As such you want to think about some key traps that your level will contain, and some things that can be used in interesting ways (i.e. machines/devices - like HL2's gas/fire traps).


Both HL's had many interesting intereactive peices of kit (that had somthing to do with helping to kill your opposing force in a creative way), but I had two cripes with HL/HL2:

1) The loading sections of the levels (to cut up the memory intake and keep a flow to the game with the contantly changing environments) was kind of an annoying pause and going back was not an option because not only waiting for a new area to load frustrating (actaully induced a trapped feel) but you could not as the game pushed you along (actually not so much trapped anymore/just pushed along).

2)With such a design and flow all the unique things you did in the game where only done once (make a ramp bouyant/make a ledge accessible by weighing down a peice of wood balancing with cinder blocks)-all this stuff is fun but it hardly ever happens and I can't go back to play! With reagrds to the trap's they were only useful once! You arrive in a new area, you see the aliens advancing you drop the car on them and then that wonderful peice of creative/machinery carnage is just left there never to be used again...

HL2 was great because of the all the stuff you did/experienced but (like many) I really enjoyed certian parts of the game and would have loved to have been able to played round with themm all the time/or at least on a constant basis.

Even great have simple flaws. It would seem perfect is an improbability.

A huge let down was your newly powered gravity gun "Yes! Look at this! I want to go outside now and trash Stirders by picking up car's!"-and you remain picking up the soliders and fight one strider with those power orbs-cool but hardly kind to you like Metroid Prime 2 :Echoes (which gives you ample time/opportunity's to give your newly aquired piece of kit a good workout).

Unlike HL/HL2 our levels will be cut up. Different routes of the town will distingush the levels. In a level that is your area of play with no being pushed along (save first level) and plenty of opportunity to try out your aresnal/succsefully carry out a trap in the form of multiple wave's of enemy's which differ ate in speed/durability/numbers with regards to how well you do/did previously (dynamic level structure).

Quote:
Original post by superpig
You've got a lot of scope to be functional, too. To put in things that you'd expect to find in a town - shops, roads, houses, etc. Think about how people would have used the town when it was populated.


Visually we know what we need-not just the obvious objects that come with a town but the style-weather we would want Zombies driving car's/being behind the cash till's is somthing I doubt would flaot well with the team-although I myself I am fully behind the idea of exploiting the comedy that Zombies bring with them (the fact that they are slow/can be pushed over/have limbs falling off/make bizarre sounds) and I love Geroge A Romero's take on the Zombies-that they can recognize things and go to places were they used to as living beings-they act like the Chassis of a ghost.

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Original post by Madster
-traps shouldn't be lethal, but still require you to react fast.


I assert that traps shouldn't exist unless they're an element of the core mecahnics of the game. They were okay in Prince of Persia because it was a game about acrobatics: dodging, jumping, ducking, etc.. They were nothing but an excuse to abuse the "Save Game" feature in all the id software games.

Game designers call it "arbitrary complexity." And it's a bad thing.

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Quote:
Original post by JimmyShimmy
Both HL's had many interesting intereactive peices of kit (that had somthing to do with helping to kill your opposing force in a creative way), but I had two cripes with HL/HL2:

1) The loading sections of the levels (to cut up the memory intake and keep a flow to the game with the contantly changing environments) was kind of an annoying pause and going back was not an option because not only waiting for a new area to load frustrating (actaully induced a trapped feel) but you could not as the game pushed you along (actually not so much trapped anymore/just pushed along).
I agree, but that's a technical issue rather than a level design one. If you know upfront that you want to make a large, seamless environment with zero loading times between sections (i.e. streaming data in moments before you need it), then you can plan for that in your engine's technical design - but beyond that it shouldn't have much to do with the level design.

Quote:
2)With such a design and flow all the unique things you did in the game where only done once (make a ramp bouyant/make a ledge accessible by weighing down a peice of wood balancing with cinder blocks)-all this stuff is fun but it hardly ever happens and I can't go back to play! With reagrds to the trap's they were only useful once! You arrive in a new area, you see the aliens advancing you drop the car on them and then that wonderful peice of creative/machinery carnage is just left there never to be used again...
Yes - some bits managed to be used more than once (like the car that you drop on some zombies and then use to ascend to Father Gregory's walkways), but you could never 'take it with you.' Unless your game is going to allow the player to stay in one place using the same thing over and over - and to be honest, while it would have been nice to use it more than a couple of times, more than five or six is likely to get boring - it's going to need to allow the player to move things around on a substantial basis. If you can't carry it and you can't attract more zombies to it, it's one-shot, simple as.

I don't think that moving machines around any substantial amount is much of a gameplan - HL2 let you carry sawblades and so on around a lot but nothing big. So I'd recommend focusing your efforts on simply putting in so many cool setups that it doesn't *matter* that you had to leave something behind - because you always know there'll be something cool around the corner. In truth, Valve did do a fair amount of this; try playing through Ravenholm using nothing but the gravity gun and you'll see just how much they've provided in the environment for you to use. It's going to place a massive burden on you as the level designer though; coming up with a large and varied set of traps to lay is difficult. (After playing Ravenholm for a while, you may begin to feel that Valve only really reused two of their things - sawblades and exploding canisters - but they reused them a lot to fill up the space).

Quote:
HL2 was great because of the all the stuff you did/experienced but (like many) I really enjoyed certian parts of the game and would have loved to have been able to played round with themm all the time/or at least on a constant basis.
Aye.. and to be fair, there was nothing stopping you from hanging back and dropping cars with levers a few more times, or firing the gas traps. The problem was that there were no more zombies to take out. Perhaps you should look at the rate at which new zombies are fed to the player - so that if they want to try new and interesting ways of smashing the crate on a chain into them, they can do?

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Even great have simple flaws. It would seem perfect is an improbability.
Certainly. Though attempting to be perfect is a perfectly noble goal. [smile]

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Unlike HL/HL2 our levels will be cut up. Different routes of the town will distingush the levels. In a level that is your area of play with no being pushed along (save first level) and plenty of opportunity to try out your aresnal/succsefully carry out a trap in the form of multiple wave's of enemy's which differ ate in speed/durability/numbers with regards to how well you do/did previously (dynamic level structure).
Sounds like you beat me to it [wink] Just make sure you give the player the chance to move on if they get bored of playing with one particular thing. Your goal of X kills in the time allotted is an interesting approach - reminds me of Crimsonlands - and I think it's a very wise move because it doesn't push the player to progress (rather, it pushes them to find effective ways of dealing with the zombies and to then keep on hitting that button).

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Visually we know what we need-not just the obvious objects that come with a town but the style
Cool - you definitely need to be keeping that in mind, then. Do you have concept art, renders, style guide videos, etc - from your art lead to help ensure you've always got the kind of thing fresh in your mind?

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weather we would want Zombies driving car's/being behind the cash till's is somthing I doubt would flaot well with the team
I think I'd be wary of that too, if only because it's damn hard to do without scripting, and scripted events kill replayability. If you're going to have wave after wave of zombie coming through, you'll only be able to have the first wave crash a truck through the wall.

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although I myself I am fully behind the idea of exploiting the comedy that Zombies bring with them (the fact that they are slow/can be pushed over/have limbs falling off/make bizarre sounds) and I love Geroge A Romero's take on the Zombies-that they can recognize things and go to places were they used to as living beings-they act like the Chassis of a ghost.
Cool, you've done your research [grin] I agree that exploting some of the comedic aspects of zombies (Romero zombies, at least - when you think about the realities of the zombies in HL it's somewhat more chilling) can be a good plan, but I think that's an issue for your AI programmer more than anything else. The zombies will make silly noises and have their limbs fall off regardless of the level you make for them to do it in.

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Original post by superpig
Unless your game is going to allow the player to stay in one place using the same thing over and over - and to be honest, while it would have been nice to use it more than a couple of times, more than five or six is likely to get boring - it's going to need to allow the player to move things around on a substantial basis. If you can't carry it and you can't attract more zombies to it, it's one-shot, simple as.


Of course, using THAT car in THAT specific area would get tiresome (mainly due to the lack of challenge/predictability) but put a few car's on the end of a line with a controlleble pivot point and then, line them up and drop the cars on a few waves of zombies and you have just enhanced the experience of that area of the game.

The point of our game is to have a big open/multiple routed area that has all sorts of traps/objects to use against the Zombies in the most hassle free way(with regards to your position/state.)

I believe the most differcult task that lies ahead is the spacing of the level. With all you want to put into it you have to make sure it is spaced out and still very different in places.

Many of the first levels of games are the best (as simplicity noramlly makes a polished/unfrustrating level)-"Billy Hatcher and the giant egg"-NGC remains a glaring example of this-too much went into the laters levels and they were crippled by bugs (namely collision detection) and they were a bit, well..."all over the place".

PS I appreciate your responses.

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Original post by JimmyShimmy
The point of our game is to have a big open/multiple routed area that has all sorts of traps/objects to use against the Zombies in the most hassle free way(with regards to your position/state.)

Aha.. this explains the ravenholm focus. So, supposedly you're a lone guy roaming around zombie-infested area, zombies who aren't particularly after you.
I guess in order to be helpful i should ask more:
Are they going to be fast or slow? human or demonic? (or both)?

I see you want to emphasize traps and environment combat. Will there be any guns at all? how intelligent will zombies be? can they open doors, crash trough windows? how far can they sense you? how many are you expected to fight at a time?

All that said, if you favor environment, i feel by far the greatest thing i've seen is the gravity gun + buzzsaw. But putting a gravity gun would be rather lame. Grab the concept: makeshift weapons that have special effects on enemies!

For example, let the player near a liquour store, and let him stuff makeshift fuses in the bottles, to light them afterwards and throw them.
let the player impale zombies (with, say, stakes) and let them continue moving with the stake across them. Give the player a lantern and have him scavenge batteries from stores. Let him toss furniture down the stairs, blocking them. Let windows be breakable for both the player and the zombies. Let curtains be closed so you can hide. Let doors and windows be boardable.
Heck, the best of zombie culture, let them take arbitrary limb removal without dying! cut its head off, it goes on moving, stumbling. Cut one leg off, it falls twitching. etc.

If you wanna go crazy you could have ragdoll anim for a section of the body that limps around (have it move the legs and limp the torso with everything else)

Oh okay. those questions. they're important. =)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Madster
Are they going to be fast or slow? human or demonic? (or both)?


All Zombies are a product of getting infected by acient soldiers. Zombies will be slow but unless you are anything less than smooth with your plans/carrying out a trap they will all get alerted and may overwhelm the player.

The Soldiers will arrive in certian parts through the game and be fast/dangerous opponents that you must defeat with a keen eye and good relfexes-all about strafing and jumping.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
I see you want to emphasize traps and environment combat. Will there be any guns at all? how intelligent will zombies be? can they open doors, crash trough windows? how far can they sense you? how many are you expected to fight at a time?


Yes you will have guns-a pistol, machine gun and sniper rifle, when you get them has yet to be confirmed but all will be pretty scarce on ammo and so the player must not get carried away and shoot the Zombies (that come in great numbers and will eat up your bullets) as the traps are there to help save ammo for more dangerous foes and they get rid of the Zombies in big chunks and safely-Gun fire will alert all around quite a big area-so the player has to be observant and weigh up his options.

There will be few places were you are indoors so the Zombies have to be delt with. They will not be intellegent or very quick to react the danger is not alerting a big amount in a failry small area-like I said you will use the street light's and shadows to see and hide against the enmemy.

Perhaps you can access a meat factory and use to meat as bait to spread the Zombies out into a trap or just to make a path because your low on health.

How well you do will depend how tough and nuemerous the Zombies become-"dynamic level structure". Of course the inital options of easy, Normal and Hard will set the benchmarks but change slightly in accordence to how well your doing.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
All that said, if you favor environment, i feel by far the greatest thing i've seen is the gravity gun + buzzsaw. But putting a gravity gun would be rather lame. Grab the concept: makeshift weapons that have special effects on enemies!


I agree-they did allot of flexible stuff in that game-We will have to see what we can come up with.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
For example, let the player near a liquour store, and let him stuff makeshift fuses in the bottles, to light them afterwards and throw them.
let the player impale zombies (with, say, stakes) and let them continue moving with the stake across them. Give the player a lantern and have him scavenge batteries from stores. Let him toss furniture down the stairs, blocking them. Let windows be breakable for both the player and the zombies. Let curtains be closed so you can hide. Let doors and windows be boardable.
Heck, the best of zombie culture, let them take arbitrary limb removal without dying! cut its head off, it goes on moving, stumbling. Cut one leg off, it falls twitching. etc.


We do not aim to do everything like HL2 did-nor do I see us sporting the physics engine they did. Our goal is to create an unerving experience that allows the player different routes and all different ways to fight the undead.

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Quote:
Original post by Madster
Are they going to be fast or slow? human or demonic? (or both)?


All Zombies are a product of getting infected by acient soldiers. Zombies will be slow but unless you are anything less than smooth with your plans/carrying out a trap they will all get alerted and may overwhelm the player.

The Soldiers will arrive in certian parts through the game and be fast/dangerous opponents that you must defeat with a keen eye and good relfexes-all about strafing and jumping.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
I see you want to emphasize traps and environment combat. Will there be any guns at all? how intelligent will zombies be? can they open doors, crash trough windows? how far can they sense you? how many are you expected to fight at a time?


Yes you will have guns-a pistol, machine gun and sniper rifle, when you get them has yet to be confirmed but all will be pretty scarce on ammo and so the player must not get carried away and shoot the Zombies (that come in great numbers and will eat up your bullets) as the traps are there to help save ammo for more dangerous foes and they get rid of the Zombies in big chunks and safely-Gun fire will alert all around quite a big area-so the player has to be observant and weigh up his options.

There will be few places were you are indoors so the Zombies have to be delt with. They will not be intellegent or very quick to react the danger is not alerting a big amount in a failry small area-like I said you will use the street light's and shadows to see and hide against the enmemy.

Perhaps you can access a meat factory and use to meat as bait to spread the Zombies out into a trap or just to make a path because your low on health.

How well you do will depend how tough and nuemerous the Zombies become-"dynamic level structure". Of course the inital options of easy, Normal and Hard will set the benchmarks but change slightly in accordence to how well your doing.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
All that said, if you favor environment, i feel by far the greatest thing i've seen is the gravity gun + buzzsaw. But putting a gravity gun would be rather lame. Grab the concept: makeshift weapons that have special effects on enemies!


I agree-they did allot of flexible stuff in that game-We will have to see what we can come up with.

Quote:
Original post by Madster
For example, let the player near a liquour store, and let him stuff makeshift fuses in the bottles, to light them afterwards and throw them.
let the player impale zombies (with, say, stakes) and let them continue moving with the stake across them. Give the player a lantern and have him scavenge batteries from stores. Let him toss furniture down the stairs, blocking them. Let windows be breakable for both the player and the zombies. Let curtains be closed so you can hide. Let doors and windows be boardable.
Heck, the best of zombie culture, let them take arbitrary limb removal without dying! cut its head off, it goes on moving, stumbling. Cut one leg off, it falls twitching. etc.


We do not aim to do everything like HL2 did-nor do I see us sporting the physics engine they did. Our goal is to create an unerving experience that allows the player different routes and all different ways to fight the undead.

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yes, i got kind of excited. Zombies make me giddy like that.

Still, now i have a picture of what you want.

I'd suggest some maps that 'walk' you trough the basics, like for example that shooting will alert zombies within a certain distance. You could do this by taking a player to a vantage point and giving him a big gun. Player will surely take the oportunity to pick them from far, but after the first shot he'll see every single one of the stumbly zombies turn around facing him. After picking them out, he's now informed that shots are audible.
Some empty corridors afterwards you could have him face a mob, and if you assume the player used most of his ammo on the previous batch, you can bet he'll try to sneak around instead.

Same for the meat you mentioned. For example let the player enter a meat store that is in the corner of a dead-end corridor, and have zombies crowd the 'good' entrance. Then setting meat in the dead-end corridor exit will lead them there, thus leaving the 'good' entrance open to dash trough it.

Also, the Doom3 / System Shock 2 lesson: let the player see the quick soldiers before he has to fight them, so he can begin stocking up on ammo for the encounters.

Still, about that window/door boarding up and destroying, battery scavenging and molotov making.... you don't need a fancy physics engine for that. Just some game logic. Combine items here, tag doorways there. Spice with animations. Serve warm.

Also, walking trough a highway and raiding a little gas pump mini market would be cool, map-wise.

Hope i've been helpful. Luck with all of it.

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