Quake Map Jam 3 Post-Mortem

Note: This post was written before the pack was released, so I’m far more embarrassed as to the map’s quality now than I was when this was written.

I’ve been rather quiet for a number of reasons, but a big one was my participation in the Quake community map jam. This is the third like it, and it used a Zerstorer theme. Being so inexperienced in the ways of mapping, and a huge fan of the mod Zerstorer, this appealed to me as there is room for brutalist architecture in a Zerstorer theme.

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By brutalist architecture, I mean low skill. So I pounced on it. I am rather proud of the fact that despite its numerous problems, the small scale, the features cut, and having ~1/4th the detail level I would like, that I still completed it. It is a titled level which you can play from start to finish, with themes, traps, secrets, and little bits to it. So this is kind of a post-mortem, but since I mostly did things wrong, it functions more as a list of things I need to do next time. I probably won’t do another map jam because though the deadline kept me motivated, it also put some stress on my family life. Sure a Quake map was part of my “bucket list” (or backpack list for Quake), so we pushed through knowing the deadline, but in the future any mapping will be likely on my own timeline. I.e., over months, rather than weeks.

So all that being said,

  • Planning¬†– I need to work out a plan. Define themes, major features, an arc to the development, and at least a rough layout. What is the golden path, and what are the additional areas, alternate paths, or shortcuts. My map jam map was completely improvised.
  • Scale – Establishing a scale on the outset, this is more of general mapping knowledge. I made areas way too big early on and found myself filling spaces much larger than I anticipated, as I had no appreciation for the size, and didn’t have the time to redo much work. In the future I would like to identify open and closed forms of cramped, normal, and combat sized forms of hallways, rooms, atriums, and vestibules. Perhaps with some monsters for reference.

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  • Testing – Scale happened because I insufficiently tested. Funny, because I’ve done a lot of game testing, but I actually started mapping before setting up a compiler, so I put off testing. As a result I was over-committed to certain designs or shapes. Testing more regularly would allow for course correction.
  • Prefabs – I spent a lot of time making the same general shapes, when I could’ve on the outset created many of them first, and also established a more coherent theme.
  • Tracking – I kept recalling things I meant to do, bugs to fix, especially after I submitted the map. I’d like to try taking a few pages out of my project management book in my head and creating a tracking document of features, polish, and bugs so as to maintain better awareness of scope, and how much work there is to be functionally done, and public release worthy done.
  • Tools – I don’t know Radiant very well, as in, not even the Clipper tool. Everything in my map was made with Scale, Rotate, Drag, and Edge Manipulation. I don’t know the compiling tools either, I used full.bat which came with hmap. I also have heard great things about both Trenchbroom and Jackhammer, I should investigate these more seriously. I didn’t have the time to do so for the jam, so I don’t consider this a failure point, but it does seem like the quality of Quake content has stepped up a bit since SleepwalkR released Trenchbroom, and I would like to get in on that.

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So there we have it. A lazy post-mortem on how to not be lazy with my next map. I am hoping that participating in the jam got me past my psychological blocks of taking mapping too seriously and thus never really doing it. (6 years ago I made 60% of a Quake themed remake of q3dm2 in 8 hours – I believe it needs some patching up, one room, and a sky – it has been waiting for 6 years). My mind is filled with Quake maps that have never been made, largely inspired by Matthias Worch’s Beyond Belief, and pretty much everything on Matt Sefton’s SPQ Level Heaven. It is time to really contribute to the Quake community, a community for which I can partially credit for many of the major positive events in my life.

You can download the map pack and the Zerstorer mod here.