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Musings on level design and quality control at TWP

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I'd like to preface this by saying that I'm not the average gamer; I'm a game developer, I've been making games for a long time, and I have long since lost the ability to not look at games critically. A chef analyzes every meal he eats. An architect studies every building he enters. I examine every game, every map, every puzzle I play. But more than that, I'm the type of person who views games as more than just trivial entertainment. I'm not going to go off on a huge tangent on "games as art", but my point is that games (and custom maps) can and should be given the type of importance that you would a painting, a sculpture, a play, or a piece of music.

I recognize the disconnect that exists between myself as the site administrator and the chief forward thrust for what I want and work towards the culture here being, and the fact that many new map designers don't have the background that I do and don't have the same goals and drive that I do (even if I wish they did). When I give tough criticism to a map by someone new to the tools, new to the engine, probably new to 3D design in the first place, I feel like I really have to go out of my way not to make myself feel bad. Not because I'm worried about hurting someone's feelings, but because I genuinely, legitimately want to see everyone who does post maps to do their absolute best work for their own sake... And it's hard to articulate that to someone who doesn't have a firm understanding of what it means to really examine something critically.

The problem with this is that very frequently, I see new people "giving their best shot" and I know that isn't the case. The best artists all started out somewhere, so while I don't expect everyone who learns Hammer for the first time ever to produce something like this, I can't help but feel like you are just giving up if you're doing this in your map and say "This is the best I could possibly do." I don't really know what would drive someone to make that and decide it's good enough to show to the public. My guess is that you assume either that because you don't have a high standard or care about your map then others probably don't care about quality either.

Or, what I'm afraid of, is that the mapping and modding scene - really gaming in general - is such that people feel entitled to encouragement and praise simply for putting forth effort, regardless of the amount or quality of that effort. And I feel this is sadly the case when someone says "you should cut me slack because I'm new." That shouldn't matter, and here it doesn't. I can't even come up with a list of great maps made by people who were new to the tools or the engine. Unfamiliarity with the toolset does not mean that you as an artist - and that's what you are when you make a map, you're a 3D artist - have the right to totally forgo receiving criticism when you refuse to look at your own work critically.

Over the years, I've found that there are two very different types of bad maps made by new designers. There is the map made by someone who has put in the minimal effort required to get their map to work (despite lamenting that they put in "their best attempt"); these maps usually have single texture surfaces, very little or very poorly executed lighting or detail, and really just the bare minimum to get something that can be - and there isn't enough quotes in the universe to put around this - "played".

And then there is the type of map that has all of the right elements of a map there at play - diverse world detailing, props, varied lighting, attempts at interesting game elements, and so on - but unfortunately gets most if not all of these things totally wrong. This is the person who has the potential to make something really great, even if they didn't do it on their first try. This is what I'm okay with seeing put up here, because it shows genuine and honest effort. These are the people I like giving feedback and criticism to, because I know that they give a shit about what they're doing, they just need to know how to do it right.

This is why I have worked for years to develop the "quality culture" here. Why great works are praised, why mediocre works are given the criticism they deserve, and why maps that proclaim "I made this in 3 hours it is fun map I am new to Hammer pleace rate 5 stars" get panned and laughed off stage. If you don't care, then we don't care. If you don't try to make the best thing you can, if you decide your map is "good enough" and upload it when you know that there are plenty of things you could spend more time working on, then we're not going to try to make you feel good.

I don't expect everyone who shows up here to be perfect. What I do expect is that everyone who uploads a map, regardless of skill or ability, will put forth their honest best effort. If you don't then, really, why are you even wasting your time making something in the first place?

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Would a map with raining errors or other similar problems be deleted, or just badly rated?

Big Mood

Is it too much to ask for both.

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npc_msleeper_boss wrote:
Is it too much to ask for both.

I guess not...

Big Mood

Msleeper, I only wanted to share with you my feelings after reading your sincere musings and founded worries, if I may.

First of all you can't know how much I share that drive or thrust for improving yourself and everything you make each day to the very end of your possibilities. I do. Really. With regards to my work, my girlfriend or relatives... and of course when it comes to mapping. I have mentioned several times in your site that I'm a newbie who is still learning hammer, and never shared a single picture of my many tries to get something genuine and worth-being-shared, until I really felt I had someting polished. Yeah, I know, I haven't ever released a map yet, so I'm not really sharing a thing yet, and a game (or a custom map) is not a deployment of good looking pictures and such; a game is much more than that, it's a feeling, an atmosphere, a challenge... moreover when it's a puzzle game.

Just because I am a complete perfectionist I'm taking care of each single detail, not only when it comes to visuals but also regarding the puzzles. I love challenging maps and to find the so called "a-ha moment", very well known by all of us that like puzzle games, and God knows I'm trying my best to develop a good quality puzzle compilation, trying to use creative solutions with the given puzzle elements.

All I want you to know with these reflections is just that you are not alone. I like to help here, and I like to help ppl to improve their maps, overall when I see there's something interesting that is showing some potential in any of their maps. I remember Neco, when he released a WIP version of Momentum: I instantly felt something deep was going on there and I started to hlp him in depth, testing each new version of the map... and I was completely right after all, it turned out that he is an awesome mapper and person who pays attention to each detail, and really cares about what he releases and its quality.

What I would like to finally say is that your words kind of moved me. Truly. I perceived some sorrow or maybe tiredness into them, a very open-hearted msleeper, and I must admit that those words made me think back about my own replies in the forum, when I was able to help out, when I couldn't, when I fired a joke instead of focusing in the topic, when I really was constructive and helpful with my criticism over a map or a mapper... And on the other hand, your words also made me revise in my mind my own work, rethink about if I'm being autocritical enough, what could I improve here and there (there is ALWAYS somthing!), what am I still lacking as mapper in order to search more information about... and indeed, in order to be finally more helpful to others, apart from me...

Seriously, and without a single inch of will of flattering you boss, thank you for that... It really comes handy to hear something like that every once in a while :thumbup:

jose

ImageImageImageImageImageuseful tools and stuff here on TWP :thumbup:
[spoiler]ImageImageImageImageImage[/spoiler]

I don't think that there's much that I can say that hasn't already been said by these fine people. In fact, anything I do say will seem petty and trivial - like if I said "hey, my first map did get retroactively community spotlighted!".

So I can only assume that the reason that few people have commented on this thread is that they too, feel the same but that their agreement would feel token in comparison to the essays here.

Current Community Contributor status: not a community contributor. Lost it. :(

Firstly: Wtf are those errors supposed to even be...?

Second: Why the hell was that released? Did the maker even test whatever fucked up thing he tried to do with P-body and turrets? (clearly not)

Thirdly: That guy is better at Hammer than I am (well, almost everybody is), but even I wouldn't make a spray of errors... (spray of prop_exploding_futbols though? Hell yes)

Thank you for visiting Thinking With Portals!
Alexander Bell wrote:
Firstly: Wtf are those errors supposed to even be...?

Second: Why the hell was that released? Did the maker even test whatever fucked up thing he tried to do with P-body and turrets? (clearly not)

Thirdly: That guy is better at Hammer than I am (well, almost everybody is), but even I wouldn't make a spray of errors... (spray of prop_exploding_futbols though? Hell yes)

:shrug:

Altough I'm very new to the community and mapping in general I'd like to share my thoughts with you. I'm not a native English-speaker and I may not always express myself in the best of ways, but I really want to give it "my best".

The greatest parts of this community I experienced when I first visited was the over all friendly atmosphere, people were so open minded, spoke freely and expressed ?their thoughts without hesitation. All the regular people who took time and effort to write very well written comments on people's uploads and the happy sharing of knowledge?that was going on. It inspired me and it still do. It makes it worthwhile to give that little extra when working on a map, even though I may not be the most pedantic person I truly want to do a good job for the sake of the community. I do not understand the people who do a half-arsed job on their map just to have hundreds of people spending time downloading, installing and running it. Do they really perceive their own map as well made and fun? How do they live with themselves knowing that they didn't do a job well done and maybe wasted many peoples time?

?I really like how many talented and intelligent?people here come together and cooperate to increase the standard of maps and knowledge. To give eachother help and feedback, without getting anything but a thankful comment and a smiley in return. Reading the comments people made on others maps helped me to understand the importance of self-criticism and to look to what other people liked and disliked rather than only my own personal view of what's fun when making a map. To get that genuine feel that this could actually been in reality, to create a great and believeable atmosphere and to fill it with entertaining puzzles and whatnot is no easy task - at least not for me - and?maybe we shouldn't make so many maps and chambers at once but rather try to polish the ones that we really think are good, fun and well made.

Lastly also I want to thank you - msleeper - for your passion and your love towards mapping. Reading your post moved me aswell and it made me feel more a part of this culture, I wanna help out, I wanna do well and I'll be looking on my maps more critically then ever after this .Without people like you, Jose and all you others sharing the same passion for map making there would be no forum here worth mentioning, and with that a great loss of inspiration, knowledge and creativity.?

I think this message should be shouted at everyone who has the intentions to upload their??map here on TWP. To put it where people can see it, saying something like "Community Policy, read before uploading" or anything of the kind. Removing those basic thoughts you expressed would take the point away from TWP leaving us with nothing more than another PTI, without puzzles or diversity and shrinking the possibilities of many excellent maps yet to be made.

Jesper

Jepp wrote:
I think this message should be shouted at everyone who has the intentions to upload their??map here on TWP. To put it where people can see it, saying something like "Community Policy, read before uploading" or anything of the kind. Removing those basic thoughts you expressed would take the point away from TWP leaving us with nothing more than another PTI, without puzzles or diversity and shrinking the possibilities of many excellent maps yet to be made.

I've thought about writing a "mission statement" and linking it on the download page.

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Please do not Private Message me for assistance. Post a thread if you have questions or concerns.
If you need to contact the staff privately, contact the Global Moderators via Discord.
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