Advanced Design Tutorial

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Oblique.
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Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Oblique. » Sun Jul 31, 2016 4:43 am

Advanced Design Tutorial
written by Oblique

Introduction
Designing is annoying. Designing other peoples' maps is even more annoying. Playing a badly designed map is also annoying. Actually that's not true, since most people just play with entities and don't care. But having a well designed map will make people take your map a little more seriously. So you really should always design your own maps and do it well.

Since many people seem to be a little unclear on concept, design is not about the gameplay or flow or layout of the map. It's about the appearance. Above all, design should not be unclear or confusing. Though this is of course important, it is not the focus of this tutorial. Here, I'm going to talk about attractiveness.

For this tutorial, I'm going to assume that you're familiar with most of the editor's functionalities, so that we can focus less on technique and more on concepts.

One important note before you start reading: when I show a screenshot and say "this is a good example," I do not mean that it is the only way to do it. Every map should have a unique style. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what looks right and what doesn't.

General Advice
Choose a theme. Then choose a color palette. Is your map going to be dark or light? What colors are you going to use? How many colors?

Usually it's better to have no more than two colors for your map, with a maximum of three. When I refer to colors, I am not referring to the colors of the individual itty-bitty pixels. I am referring to the overall colorization of layers. For example, I might say that the color of jungle_doodads is green, even though the treasure chest and the tee-hut are different colors.

Another important thing to mention is that shades of grey (includes white and black) are not usually counted as colors. So your freeze layer is not going to be counted as a color (unless you colorize it, which I will talk more about later). With some experience, you'll realize that fewer is better when it comes to colors. In the end, it's the maps with a sense of atmosphere that become known for their design (e.g. Justice 2).

Note: Maps with all black tilesets generally are bad. They can be confusing and they're usually ugly. Unless your map is Mud.

Colors
Let's start with an example first.
Colorization3.png
Colorization3.png (304.37 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Do you see the big tee-hut in the background? It's supposed to be part of the background, but it's the exact same color as the doodads in the foreground. The same thing applies to the other jungle bushes in the background. With that, you have a both a confusing and pretty ugly background. A good solution would be to colorize the background to be darker. However, in this case, I might just use a different background since it's so distracting and odd looking.
This brings me to a pretty important point. If you're going to use a specific color theme, your tilesets should be colorized that way. Sure, contrast is sometimes good, but having too much is prone to destroy any sense of atmosphere.

Another example:
BadBlack.png
BadBlack.png (196.36 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Please do not ever use large swaths of straight black in your map, ever. Nothing in real life is ever 100% black, so it doesn't make much sense to have it in your map either. If you do have something that you think should be black, just make it a dark grey or make it slightly transparent (or both).
  • Another thing you'll notice about this map is that the black background city silhouette looks completely out of place when it's placed against such a light blue sky. In fact, if you look at the map holistically, you might think that the sky is more out of place than the city silhouette, especially when considering the darkly colorized unhookables.

Freeze, Tele, and Other Blobs
For your freeze, tele, and other blobs (hopefully you know what I mean), there are a large number of techniques that can be used. This image should look familiar to many of you:
Freezies.png
Freezies.png (14.6 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • I personally greatly prefer the method on the left, because it's makes more sense and looks prettier in almost every way. The basic_freeze tileset has this a bit bugged, so I use the ddnet_tiles tileset instead, though my version is slightly edited.
You can get it here:
ddnet_tiles_more_freeze8.png
ddnet_tiles_more_freeze8.png (136.34 KiB) Viewed 1787 times
These round freeze tiles also look decent:
ddmaxfreezealpha4whitmsywe.png
ddmaxfreezealpha4whitmsywe.png (40.78 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
Though this is obvious, keep the design of your freeze (tele, and other blobs) consistent throughout the map. Also, you should always use proper corners.

Another thing that causes many people trouble is when to use freeze inside of walls. In many maps, I see this:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-34.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-34.png (47.47 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
  • You can see the gaps between the unhookables and the freeze.
Here is an example of how I fix this issue:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-40.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-40.png (47.1 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
And now with lower alpha to show you the freeze:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-49.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-02-49.png (43.12 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
I use the half-filled freeze tile (index 126 on the ddnet_tiles tileset) in anticipation of this situation:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-06-17.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-06-17.png (47.5 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
  • Here, instead of seeing gaps, you see the freeze "bleeding through" the unhookables.
  • I realize that this is largely a matter of personal preference, since a lot of people think this is fine.
This is my "fixed" version:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-03-37.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-03-37.png (48.17 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
And now with lower alpha:
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-03-43.png
screenshot_2016-08-09_11-03-43.png (45.6 KiB) Viewed 1687 times
Here we move into a slightly more advanced topic. Freeze can be laid in mainly two styles, which I like to call "straight" and "organic."

This is a good example of a map with straight style freeze:
Straight.png
Straight.png (287.75 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Notice that this map uses the rounded tileset of freeze.
Here is a map with an organic style of freeze:
Organic.png
Organic.png (278.8 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Almost all gores maps can be considered as having an organic style of freeze.
  • Notice that this map uses the angled tileset of freeze (ddnet_tiles).
Both styles of freeze are as good as the other, so use whichever you want. However, if you plan on relying on "main" tilesets such as grass, jungle, winter, or desert, it's more likely that the organic style will fit better. If you plan on using a blocky tileset (like generic_unhookable) for the majority of your tilesets, then you might rather use a straight style instead.

Angled tilesets for freeze are suited for either organic or straight styles. However, rounded tilesets look absolutely horrible on organic styles. For example, take at look at these two examples from the map Naufrage:
BadOrganic1.png
BadOrganic1.png (707.03 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
BadOrganic2.png
BadOrganic2.png (479.9 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
Of course, if you really want to have both a round tileset and an organic style, the best solution is to use a combination of the rounded and angled tilesets. Take a look at this example from the map Naufrage 2:
RoundAngleCombo1.png
RoundAngleCombo1.png (473.06 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Notice that the freeze around the edge is angled, instead of rounded.
A final important note: colorized freeze almost always looks bad. Please just stick to grey, white, or black, with transparency.

Unhookables
This is one of the most important determining factors of whether your design is considered decent or not. Please do not do this (referring to the unhookables):
Unhook1.png
Unhook1.png (119.66 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
This next example is ok, but not great.
Unhook2.png
Unhook2.png (132.15 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • This was made using the automapper.
Here is an example of why you shouldn't overuse automapper:
UnhookAutomapBadMarked.png
UnhookAutomapBadMarked.png (101.51 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • The marked areas show the ugly repeated tiles.
This is a good example of properly designed unhookables.
Unhook3.png
Unhook3.png (144.06 KiB) Viewed 1951 times

Jungle Midground
Here's an example of how it should NOT be done:
BadMidground.PNG
BadMidground.PNG (280.11 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • The color is completely out of place and the shape of the bushes is just weird (and reminiscent of a Rorschach test, come to think of it).
Here is a good example of jungle midground:
GoodMidground.png
GoodMidground.png (222.47 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • The lighter midground is made with the tileset and the darker midground below is made with the quad. I have no preference for either. The tileset takes longer but gives you more variety, but the quad is much faster and has about the same results when it is done right. One downside of using quads is its tendency to murder your fps, especially when it's used in multiple layers.
  • Notice how the midground is "separate" from the main tiles. Personally, I think this is the way it should be done. By definition, the midground is between the background and the foreground. Though it should serve to complement the foreground, it should not be completely attached to it, as shown in the first example. Looking at classic maps like ctf4 and ctf_tantum, you can tell that they were done in the same manner as in the latter example.
One useful thing to keep in mind: if you use the midground as a quad, apply an empty color envelope to ALL of them. Doing that will allow you to recolorize all of the bushes whenever you need to without having to go to each one individually, which is a huge pain. This technique is also useful to do with stars and clouds.

Doodads
Use multiple layers, maybe even colorize them differently. Here is a decent example:
GoodDoodads.png
GoodDoodads.png (174.08 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
The problems in this next example are very common:
BadDoodads.png
BadDoodads.png (218.74 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • Because of the red theme of the map, the color of the doodads are colorized red as well. This looks fine on the bushes. However, doodads such as the tee-hut and the dangling ropes look very odd because of this. The solution is to simply add a differently colorized layer on top.

Stars
Do NOT do this:
BadStars.png
BadStars.png (50.36 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
  • First of all, read the quad scaling and cutting tutorial.
  • Second of all, don't be lazy.
Lady Saavik made some nice stars for you to steal:
SaavikStars.png
SaavikStars.png (29.97 KiB) Viewed 1951 times
stars1.map
(4 KiB) Downloaded 36 times
  • Also here's a link to the original thread, in you case you haven't seen it.
  • If you want to make your own, make sure the stars have different opacities and be sure to rotate them. Also, have several layers of them with different amounts of parallax.
As I said earlier, in the jungle midground section, be sure to apply an empty color envelope to your stars for future convenience. Or you could make your stars twinkle, like in the map Supernova.

Logos
Here is a nice quote from a resident gfx pro:
Soreu wrote: I'd suggest you to wait until the map is finished before creating a logo.
Not only because you don't want to waste time making a great logo for a map that eventually won't be released, but more importantly, because logo should fit the map & often is (or, well, should be) created based on how the map actually looks. Colors, fonts, effects, and additional elements should depend on "character" & style of the design - and imagination of design and "character" of the map often tends to change few times during creating it.
And please, do not use Cool Text online logo generator - if you really have to, I beg you, at least stay away from "Skate", "Muddy" and "Epic Stone" styles - these are overused already, and have actually never looked good (maybe eventually except for the first time they were used, since then it was "new")
I personally use and can recommend Inkscape for doing them.

"Stealing" Designs
Do it if you really want. But that's boring. Also, please stop trying to make crappy ripoffs of Naufrage. And don't you dare use this moon:
NO.png
NO.png (225.4 KiB) Viewed 1951 times

Conclusion
There are two kinds of designs that impress me: the first is one that stringently follows the guidelines above and the second is one that does something completely new, but still somehow looks gorgeous. You'll find plenty of maps that satisfy the former (well, not that many), but I can barely think of more than a couple in the latter category.
Above all, I think the best advice I can give you is to always maintain a critical, artistic eye, especially for your own maps. Don't go easy on yourself.
Last edited by Oblique. on Mon Aug 15, 2016 2:45 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Index
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Index » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:21 am

Good tutorial, thanks for your work :)

I added the headline and linked it in the tutorial list.
You might want to put all the images in spoilers, it would be even better to read then and more user-friendly. But that's just a suggestion.

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Soreu
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Soreu » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:32 am

GJ, didn't expect that until end of the month I will find post that I would actually enjoy to read - and yet you wrote one it in the last day.

If I would ever manage to write tutorial about designs of maps that often annoy me a lot - that's probably how it would look like, though wouldn't sound/look so good :P

But aside from that, I'd like to add this:
  • I'd suggest to wait with the logo until the map is finished.
    Not only for the not-wasting-time on creating great logo for map that eventually won't be released, but more likely, because logo should fit the map & often is (or, well, should be) created based on how the map actually looks. Colors, fonts, effects, additional elements, should depend on "character" & style of the design - and imagination of design and "character" of the map often tend to change few times during creating it.
And please, do not use Cool Text online logo generator - if you really have to, I beg you, at least stay away from "Skate", "Muddy" and "Epic Stone" styles - these are overused already, and have actually never looked good (maybe eventually except for the first time they were used, since then it was "new")
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Lady Saavik
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Lady Saavik » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:09 am

Some things sound like your own opinion, but +++ for last sentence about sun/moon :D

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forsaken
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by forsaken » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:53 am

Pretty detailed and well written tutorial, Good job Oblique. :)

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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Oblique. » Sun Jul 31, 2016 5:37 pm

@Index: Thanks! I personally don't like it when there are a ton of spoiler tags, since that means I have to keep clicking on them, but I'll think about it.
@Soreu: Thanks, added.
@Lady Saavik: Yeah, I didn't want to name the thread "My Supreme Opinion on Design" though. Also, thanks for the stars, hopefully that's ok with you.
@forsaken HELLO.

Cleaned up some grammar and layout issues.
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by gdin » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:10 am

I disagree with a lot of the "correct" design choices shown, but very nice and detailed tutorial hehe.

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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Oblique. » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:27 pm

I changed the sub-section of freeze in walls, after I realized that dinner is actually really ugly delicious.
Last edited by Oblique. on Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advanced Design Tutorial

Post by Oblique. » Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:57 am

Added a conclusion because guilt.
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