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Level design for multiplayer arena

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Hey guys


As part of a team working on multiplayer third-person shooter I would like to ask for your opinions, experiences and tips about level design for pvp arenas. Through I would like to discuss level design for multiplayer arenas in general, here are the outlines of our project:


Our game is a third-person shooter with a deathmatch (free-for-all) game mode. You are an avatar of an animal spirit and fighting for domination in the spirit world. By killing your opponents with a rather slowly moving energy ball you can acquire their animal skill, which could be something like invisibility, protection, attack buff, healing, stun, movement speed and so on. Although you can accumulate superior power through this, you will loose all your gathered animal skills on death.


Your only way to attack is the energy ball, which is inspired by the Guild Wars Dragon Arena or the Warcraft 3 Warlock Mod.


So on to my level design thoughts: Due to the rather slowly moving shot I think cover will be the key issue in level design. Also it is easier to hit if you are standing close to your target. So ways to approach your target without him noticing would be interesting.


In addition we would like to encourage different play styles so people will build different skill sets which would keep the game interesting. And this I think is the crux of the matter. How can we encourage different play styles through level design? Is it even possible?

How do you guys design your arenas? Do you have any tips on that? I've been working on that for some weeks now and I feel pretty stuck, so I really would appreciate your opinions.



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How can we encourage different play styles through level design? Is it even possible?


Different play styles and level design are usually not so directly related i think.

Maybe look at it this way:
Level-design facilitates (different) play styles.

In your game, level design also facilitates different skill-sets(because they have to be viable/good to pick)

and skill-sets facilitate play-styles.

So that's realy what 's priority, making sure there is "room" to use many different play styles.

For the diversity you wanted, you just have to make sure a particular play-style can be good counters to another play-style,

this way, whether you have completely balanced your game out or not, when a play-style becomes the metagame(basically dominant) the counter-playstyles

will be used(and learned) a lot more and they become the metagame.

Off course there 's usually a more complicated meta-game than this, but you get how it works.

Metagame usually refers to skills/classes/equipment btw, or basically anything that's chosen prior to the match instead of something that can be altered during the match.


What you do have to look out for is that different skills/styles can be better in different levels, i suggest to make sure every different style/skill has at least one level in which it is "always" a good pick,

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 It would depend on your other mechanics as well. I believe that game designers who mistake that level design is not intimately linked to the game's core design end up making boring maps, or simply maps that do not "fit" the game.


 If your game facilitates jumping you could integrate high platforms or peak-like structures that give a bird's eye view of the terrain. Then if your mechanics support fall or terrain-type damages you could measure the high of each zone to give a tradeoff for its bonus. For example a really high position might be a good way to check out your enemies and maybe even "snipe", but, accessible on only a narrow path, the drawback would be high fall damage if the player chooses to jump down rather than climb back down.


 If your mechanics facilitate some sort of stealth gameplay, in the sense that the main hassle is finding your enemy first so you can shoot first, I'd suggest using a lot of cover, labyrinth-like areas and many intersections/corners. A nice touch would also be bushes, or waterfalls that actually hide enemy players from sight.


 If your mechanics do not facilitate the above mentioned stealth system, I'd recommend  large, open areas, more or else rounded, ornate with only a couple of rocks or small trees, maybe a large tower-like structure dead in the middle. If you do not have a stealth mechanism and provide lots of cover, you might end up creating a boring game of peak-out the cover-shoot, then hide back in.


 Lastly, provide variation. If you are limited to one map only, divide it into different area types, and make each area's position relevant to another's. Put a tall tower next to a labyrinth to scout it first before venturing in. If your gameplay facilitates team death-matches, these will automatically become interest points, or even "capture points" without the need to physically implement them, or put a big black flag in the middle that reads " Capture me".

Edited by traghera

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