A good, hard look at Crysis mapping

Checked my Crysis level, Insertion, for the first time in months…

Boy, is there ugly stuff in it. I played a lot of Crysis in the meantime and I got a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in a Crysis map as a result. At its core, Crysis (1) is a terrain and hunting game. You’re the predator; you’re using the terrain to get the drop on enemies. There is a lot of moving from cover to cover, some sniping, and getting into a good position from which to ambush your enemy. In short, it’s about movement, positions, creating situations. At its best, it uses natural terrain full of rocks and trees to give you the equivalent of an outdoor paintball game. Everything else is a bonus.

I thought my self criticism might be entertaining to others, so here’s the list of horrible stuff:

1. I put too many buildings in the same place. This is overkill; for a hotspot, i.e. a place where there is some combat (or a stockpile or objective), one building is actually enough. Two or three are plenty. Much space should be left between them that should contain cover and general clutter.

2. I didn’t put enough cover around my buildings / hotspots. I used fences and rocks for decoration, instead of viewing them as gameplay objects. Taking cover is vitally important in Crysis, hence I need to place fences, rocks, dumpsters etc. in addition to trees and bushes.

3. I put too many vehicles in, despite the island being pretty small and not having a lot of roads. The player can easily cover the entire map on foot, so why have vehicles? One jeep would be generous in such a case. Again overkill.

4. I tried to cram too many different objectives and gimmicks into the map. Less is more. There doesn’t need to be an anti-aircraft emplacement every 150 meters. I now think that a level should only have one or two main objectives. The major part of Crysis is moving around terrain, trying to get the drop on enemies, not doing loads of objectives.

5. My terrain was not smooth enough (smooth looks better and more natural than ragged) and not big enough, either. I should use broad strokes when creating terrain, not small cliffs everywhere. Where a ragged look is desired, I can use model rocks (precipice & co).

6. I didn’t paint the terrain well enough. In general, the colours are too bright and the paint job isn’t bold enough. I also didn’t use enough different surface textures.

7. I used too many different kinds of trees from various community asset packs. I should use mainly Crytek assets and put the other stuff in as spice. The placement of trees is also pretty unnatural in some cases. Where there is one tree, there should usually be a lot of them.

8. The overall pacing is probably bad. Ideally I should have several hotspots with long stretches of terrain between them. It was probably a bad idea to have a map layout consist of relatively small islands. It’s a waste of playing space. It is also hard to lead the player; once they have a boat, and you will eventually have to give them a boat, they are basically out of control since the water allows unlimited movement.

9. I gave too many different weapons; I also used too many different enemy types in quick succession. New enemies and new weapons need to be introduced slowly. An assault rifle gets you through 95% of a Crysis level. Everything else is a bonus.

10. I tried to be different and unique. In fact there is usually a reason why something is done a certain way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m pretty sure it’s possible to make a great Crysis level with just the standard stuff. Some of the Crysis Wars multiplayer maps use standard assets in very creative ways.

A couple of these problems are really easy to solve, ironically. Less is usually more, and overkill is usually bad. Knowing what the strength of the game is, and then basing your level around that, is probably smart, too.

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