What makes a successful RP map?

So I was looking at the map pimpage thread today and I saw that people were talking about rp_downtown. This has been a personal project of mine for some time, as every time I hear or see the name rp_downtown I cringe a little. Why? Because that name brings images of blocky, uninteresting, brick built apartments, massive blocked off warehouses and large swaths of the map that just are not used on normal pop servers (so about 40-50 payers)

My friend and I are looking to make a rp_downtown killer. I know what you’re probably thinking; “Good fucking luck”, but we have spent a considerable amount of time looking at every single rp map we could get our hands on trying to get to the heart of what makes the quintessential darkrp map.

I have always viewed RP level design is like designing a social up in an MMO or just a social game like Second life; you want a nice centralized design that has the basic ulility of condensing everything that you may need into a nice package, and providing ample line of sight to other players to provide a sense of a living environment.

I believe the rp_downtowns have only achieved a fraction of what could be possible. They have the town square, directly adjoining spawn, and one side street that is actively used. For some reason, that’s where everyone congregates most of the time, and everywhere else is either a dead zone, or the sight of infrequent skirmishes where people know they can get away with attacking one another due to a heavily reduced police/admin presence. People don’t use the apartments in these areas with much less frequency than in other maps as well because the design encourages you to just take over the large warehouses people rarely venture to.

rp_city 17 is much more successful in its design because it’s town center is much more centralized and better feeds into other areas of interest that facilitate RP and had seen a fair amount of action in the past, and there is plenty to explore.

So without writing an entire thesis here, I will list the things we have come up with that should make a good rp map. I am interested in seeing what you guys think of this, or if I have missed anything:

A Good RP map should:

1: Have a centralized layout to facilitate player interaction
2: Offer enough incentive in apartments/housing to facilitate RP (special access? secret areas)
3: Have a clear delineation between public areas that are generally safe, and the more dangerous parts of the map as well as having multiple means of getting to and from them
4: Offer themed buildings for use by various jobs/distinct building identity
5: Be lightweight in terms of file size and custom content
6: Be aesthetically pleasing
7: Have landmarks that serve to attract attention and evenly distribute server population

I’m probably missing a couple more points, but that’s the general jist of it. While rp_downtown may cover some of those points reasonably well, it grazes or completely fails in others. Personally, outside of the spawn/town square and the first road that branches off of it, it feels like a cobbled together mess that just keeps getting more and more bloated with every version.

The suburb portion of the map behind the spawn is almost always a ghost town despite its proximity to spawn and the hustle and bustle of the main square.

Why? Because, for starters the player spawns facing away from it. There is no indication of anything behind you for first time players, and the space itself is so close to the spawn and the police station that no one wants to set up there because of potential raids or the police, or just other people in general. In dark RP, attracting attention inevitably also attracts violence. This is inevitability is brought all the sooner if you find yourself in a part of the map rarely frequented, because people assume you are there to raid them or do them harm, or simply feel like they can get away with it. This naturally makes things like the center of town or other high density area a safe haven because of police or admins, or at the very least the fact that if you shoot someone in a crowded space, you will probably be shot at or killed within the next half second.

So what is the point of the suburb behind spawn in downtown? It is this weird paradox. Firstly, it lacks the anything interesting to draw activity. This lack of activity means that it will draw in less new players. The lack of players would seem to make it a good place to set up shop for criminals, right? Wrong, because it is close to spawn and town center so it both makes it a difficult place to defend, and a difficult place to attack because people will make a beeline for it once they appear. The lack of activity and lack of any interesting landmark also mean that it’s too dangerous and too boring to buy a house/apartment there because while criminals may not set up their main base of operations there, the lone thief or gangster will still have a free lunch because they can break in, shoot you and leave without any real expectation being arrested or killed in turn.

The result is that noone uses that part of the map in any real capacity because it is too dangerous to use seriously and too impractical to stay there long term. I saw that space used a grand total of once recently on a 100 player server. Some homeless people set up camp in the parking lot immediately outside of the tunnel. Every single building was unused. Even the gamemode’s NPC wasn’t visited because there were better, more convenient NPCs in town.

I’m nitpicking this one area because there are a good 2 or 3 other major regions in the map that have the same problems. The other end of the spectrum is that you get areas that are clearly designed for criminals, but are totally unused because they fall outside of the sweet spot where the raidable building is either too far or too close to spawn to warrant using.

TLDR; My friend and I are working on an RP map to kill off or at least put a serious dent in the… availability of rp_downtown maps on practically every single rp server ever and discuss the core design principles of what makes a good rp map.

Like you said, Good luck. Every server uses some kind of RP_downtown. I think the best luck people have on making a better rp map is just changing and making your own rp_downtown.

Has anyone here ever approached the larger rp communities with a new map before? One thing we may try is to build some sort of presence in one of the big ones. BYB seemed to be alright.

Also, I see two people dumbvoted my post. Can you explain why? I know ratings are ratings, but if you disagree with something I said, or if something I said was just flat out wrong, I would appreciate you saying so even in a single sentence rather than lazily slapping the rating button.

I wish you luck. It will be great seeing another rp_ map out there that is different for the generic downtown or bangclaw. I’d try making one myself but I have too much stuff to do.

Also, if you want to make a different map I recommend using some Left 4 Dead content and packaging it with the map (Like headattacity).

Also, also, despite what Vryex said: Never make a downtown remix. There is to many of them. To many. I think it’s up-to rp_downtown_v7 or something.

Yeah, thanks! We intend to stay well clear of just making another downtown. One thing idea we have tossed around is using a small town or suburb theme because I think there is a lot of identity in the architecture of those places, but we are trying to figure out a way of doing that without creating hyper isolated areas of the map like those in Evocity where you need a car to get around, or other maps where there are just these weird ‘boxes’ of spaces that have a cabin and some type of wooded area in them.

And of course playing around with some thematic ideas like having such locations in the middle of some sort of disaster/post disaster/immediately pre disaster. To help rationalize some of the spontaneous violence that often erupts in darkrp.

Things I’ve noticed

people like lots of paths and hidden/ secret areas
people like large jails to be nazis with
people like open maps that you can explore
people like simple maps. (aka paths go where you think they will go and don’t take roundabouts)
people like dedicated shops, like a thing with security built in and cabinets and the like
people like simple lighting, and clean visuals
people like volume in their maps, which is why evocity is so popular, and downtown edits are so popular because it adds a ton of buildings.

Few mapping tips, instead of roads that make you think the map is larger than it really is, it’s okay to do dead ends. Out of sight out of mind. Keeps things cleaner, and prevents people from thinking that the map could be larger.

Make multiple routes to an objective, and make sure that main routes do not have doors that can be locked. (to prevent spawn blocking, camping, and prop block)

Make sure main routes go EXACTLY where you think it does. a path goes north, it had better get you north, not take a u-turn and go south. (this confuses players and makes things more annoying to get around.)

Lighting needs to be simple, and clean. say too much orange can get tiring after a long time. and dark to bright lighting messes with some people.

One-way paths are typically annoying, unless there’s a way to get back up fairly easily.

People really don’t care too much on how detailed a map is, as long as it’s not atrocious, but it doesn’t have to be extremely detailed.

Also, people generally like a lot of freedom, so allow people to get to all sorts of nooks and crannies to build bases in, or preform a hit.

And that’s my advice.

I’m working on a new RP map after I made RP_HeadattackCity_V1.
I tried other maps but I lost my interest in them.

[img_thumb] http://cloud-4.steampowered.com/ugc/795188804671954905/B4D95D59F0DF4B29F997BB1985096E68B050B5F0/[/img_thumb]

I’m trying to make custom content this time and I need to get the better gameplay results, no spots which are never used.

my opinion is.
Good fps
good gameplay
good map size not to big
what buildings? how many apartments/houses
good graphics/a lot of detail

Thanks for the advice! I forgot to mention that the little hidden panels and such were also really important to rp design, and I agree with the other things you said. I do have a couple questions though:

Regarding secret spaces, would you say something a little more mundane like cabinets or maybe the odd hidden wall/floor/ceiling panel would be more or less sought after than some of the more… bizzarre trapdoors and things found in downtown?

Something like the subway base in my opinion, while providing a lot of space was extremely obvious and was not very defensible. Something with that much room and ‘complexity’ I figured could be its own structure entirely, attracting attention to the structure, but making hidden compartments that large harder to find.

My second question relates to the complexity of structures; while it is certainly true that most rp maps thrive on their utility rather than aesthetics, could they still have some influence on how players act? Have you ever noticed people going for buildings again and again just because they looked cool?

Thanks for your help so far.

also @ soldierrob: what method did you use to alpha paint that terrain? Is there something better than the shitty vertex painter?

Whats the point in having secret compartments?

It will result in 1 of the following:

People using map secrets to gain an unfair advantage over new players.
People Hogging the best “secret” compartment property.
People meta gaming knowing that such a thing exists.

/me Strolls casually over to the corner of the room
/me seems a door seam in the ceiling with some greasey stains on the edge of it
/me mutters
“looks like a trap door chief”
Chief xXH3aDsh0tXx runs over to the corner deagle in hand jumping over the furniture and proceeds to battering ram down the trap door
Suspect tries to escape, xXH3aDsh0tXx tries to shoot the suspect but ricochets from the “realistic” weapon pack kills both himself and myself.

IF you have such secret things they either need to be randomised on map opening to only use a certain “set” of them or have so many people can never find all of them.
Hiding stuff might work better with a script.

eg takes first item in pocket at “hides it” inside a prop. Only searching the prop will reveal the item or something.

[editline]7th March 2014[/editline]

As for bases and stopping basing. On a darkrp server I used to co-own we went round placing permanent props in most of the buildings. Some people complained, these were generally people who build metallic forts, didn’t rp and should have been banned.

Most players I regarded as “good roleplayers” were either neutral or positive toward these changes.

While building can really enhance your server most people will use it to make glowing forts in the middle of the street with gun dispensers and rope signs, building in the street should be an “ask admin for privilage to do so” type thing. With this in mind you need lots of easily accessible, relatively secure shop locations dotted round places of interest in the map.

A note on breakable surface windows. They must regenerate, ideally with some kind of button (admin only) or timer. Otherwise you will get some kid police officer going round vandalising you town. People use shooting and jumping through a window as an easy alternative to opening a door (downtown apartments)
So maybe add bars to ground floor glass windows which have a door next to them.

[editline]7th March 2014[/editline]

I believe the town should be divided into zones, each with a different level of control. As an example from downtown: (I genuinely believe downtown is a good map, overplayed but well designed, proved by its popularity, people enjoy it.)

The main square is usually well patrolled by police so is secure.
The back alley is usually insecure, nobody goes there so there are no cops.
The warehouses are insecure since it is a prime building location for gangsters, but the ease of access for police makes the main road part secure.
The sewers are insecure.

With this in mind try to split you map in such a way that you manipulate players into doing “criminal” stuff in criminal areas and to have police patrol a police area more often. Either through ease of access of tailoring the buildings to that application.

You could even have it as a choice. Spawn in the “middle” of the map then walk to where you want to play.
Secure part of town to be a pro combine/government informer.
Insecure part of town to be tat shop owner who secretly sells weapons for the mob.

The architecture/aesthetic could reflect this also.

Police controlled zone should have easy access to police station and police vantage points/checkpoints.
Criminal zone should have easy access to none shop large buildings and lots of back alleys/places to hide.

i just painted a displacement and copied them but I will change it later :stuck_out_tongue:

I think an important question to ask is whether or not your map would work as a town or city IRL. Start planning in a hierarchy fashion with broad questions. Answer those questions and present new questions for those answers. Keep doing this until you have no need to go further. Here is a somewhat brief example.

What is the geography?
-Insert location
–Most likely weather?
Insert weather
–Likely vegetation?
Insert vegetation

What type of society/government?
-Insert government

Main source of prosperity?
-Often relates to geography

Where did it expand to accommodate growth?

Infrastructure to move, store, import, and export resources?
–What does a seaport need to function?
–What does an airport need to function?

Sources of power?
- Nuclear
–How is it distributed?

How do people commute?
-On foot
-By car
----How do they work?
----How do they work?
–Where do they park?

What public services do people need?
–What do they need to function?
-Town Hall?
–What do they need to function?
-Police Station?
–What do they need to function?
-Fire Station?
–What do they need to function?
–What do they need to function?
–What do they need to function?

Commercial locations?
—What do they need to function?
–Movie Theater
—What do they need to function?
—What do they need to function?

This is all sort of a mess here, but I think you understand what I’m doing. It’s a fantastic way of building a map to be seemingly less random. More questions means more answers, and that means you work faster. If you get good enough at it, even the little details will be placed logically and with purpose. Some of these questions may need researching. Look up layouts of types of buildings. Google street view is your best friend.

I disagree with the above post.

Realisitic is not always fun
not fun => not popular

A map should be fun first and foremost. A beautiful map which isn’t fun will not be played.

Making it believable will help immerse people but you don’t need to build something one or one or give everything an exact function or make sure every room is in a building etc.

having more dynamic and less flat maps would be nice

I should add that my approach isn’t explicit. I’m mainly addressing maps like rp_downtown_v4c which are fuck ugly and make not a bit of sense. I suppose people use the map because it’s fun, but you can be damn sure that a better map can be made using some logic. So many mappers don’t see what they can do with the tools they have. Most just associate decals with making an environment have more grudge. What about using decals to put light switches and electrical outlets in a room?

As for the fun factor, roleplay maps aren’t a complex formula. They need features, exploration, and immersion. Depending on the style of roleplay, the map will either be large or more compact.

Firstly, thank you guys for contributing to this discussion! I haven’t been here the last couple days because I was working on another project, but let me respond in a couple parts.

To answer the question of the point of secret compartments: When they are not implemented properly, like just randomly found in the occasional apartment or open area, I totally agree. One specific instance comes to mind where my friends and I noticed the secret panel inside the subway station. It leads to a large open space, and has a small tiny detailed bunker in the back corner. Maybe about 10 minutes after we found it a police officer wandered down onto the train platform and stared directly at the compartment we had found. Two minutes after that, the same guy with one of the advanced profession this time broke in and killed us because he had a HL2 Crossbow and we had to use the shitty weapon mechanics of some stupid plugin (5x the recoil, 25% the spread of a 9mm? please…).

Placed improperly, they absolutely can lead to metagaming and generally lame play. The types of secret compartments I was thinking were more of just something subtle as cabinets, or a vent or places real people would hide things in their house. MAYBE putting things in a crawl space under the house or in the gap between a wall. Although I do like the idea of hiding things in larger props, because it captures the burglar feeling more. I feel like the way Downtown places them is improper. They are either so obvious, or so rarely placed that everyone knows where they are and such places are guaranteed to come under spontaneous attack at some point.

But to be more concise: I feel like secret compartments, when used correctly encourage players to buy apartments and use them, because they feel like they have a safe place they can store things and that these secret spaces give them an advantage to being raided. The trick is, as you said, not making each apartment identical so you don’t get people bursting in and saying " YOU! Check the vent, YOU check the trapdoor under the bathtub, ect", so that People who break in don’t automatically have a blueprint of the apartment.

When it comes to what I was describing; either a district or some sort of interesting structure that has a lot of interesting secrets in one place, I feel like it adds to the feel of the level, especially if you put such a structure in either an exposed or dangerous location it becomes a sort of dangerous mission.

Also, your strategy to prevent basing answers a question I forgot to ask: How players feel about the presence of permanent/immovable props. My thinking was that applying the bare minimum of interior decoration would probably be the best option. I REALLY hate it when players totally block up their windows. It looks ugly as shit, and it doesn’t make any sense. I mean I don’t know about you, but unless I was in some sort of active warzone, buying a 6" foot thick steel sheet to put in front of the window of my newly purchased apartment isnt the first thing I would do.

Now, I understand DarkRP does not follow RL rules, but keeping more window space open either through tougher windows or some other incentive to leave the window space open I think is something to strive for, and creates a little more trust between other players. In the more dangerous parts of the map, I wouldn’t mind it as much, but keeping a couple open so that raids aren’t just simply “Storm the front”.

I also agree with your zoning idea and the importance of the spawn, but I don’t agree that the zones should be super defined. I feel like if the invisible border between gangland and civ life were a little more blurred, you would get some interesting scenarios, and a bit more of a trusting faith in the police.

I also don’t think downtown does a good job of the zoning, or rather, the divisions are so black and white that it makes certain roles borderline useless or really hard to take seriously. The police for example, only extremely rarely go anywhere that isn’t outside of the center of town and the adjoining street. I have almost never seen them do anything to help civs that have wandered into trouble, and if you call for help in those locations you will not get it.

I feel this is because the police feel like they are always going to get ambushed if they do, because those areas are so remote and the areas so open.

I don’t think downtown has become as popular as it has largely because of it’s design. I think the fact that it has been around for such a long time is due to habit, its lack of extensive custom content, the fact that it sets the creative bar very low and thus makes it really east to modify by anyone, and the fact that it is extremely familiar and know where everything is. It does do some things right,and the things it does correctly are the reason for it’s popularity, but I really, really don’t think it’s the design alone that has made it so wildly used.

[editline]8th March 2014[/editline]

I agree that if the goal of creating an environment for social purposes, you should look at actual city design and planning, but I don’t think we need to go super deeply into the city infrastructure to create an effective RP map. Things like city economics would actually be pretty interesting to try and implement in the level, sort of like the drug running missions in some RP servers, but unless we choose to create something for Harbor RP (is that even still alive?) it may not be totally necessary.

Overall, I get what you’re saying, and placing important buildings like the hospital or police station in locations where people who choose those jobs have a reason to be there would be really instrumental in the blurring of city zones that I mentioned earlier. Nothing bothers me more than seeing a doctor or laywer constantly running around with a pack of criminals, or seeing a doctor setting up shop in the center of town like the middle ages.