Good FPS Map Design

What do you think constitues good map design in a multiplayer Fps game? I hear the term “this is a good map” but very few people go in depth as to what that actually means.

That’s not totally my forte, but I’ll give it a shot.


Here’s a picture from Robert Yang, which I think is a good depiction of FPS level design in a nutshell.

Apart from that, a big concept in FPS level design is “Loops”. In FPS, your position determines your line of sight to other people. Line of sight is a connection to other people, a capability to attack them. In this way, use of cover is like blocking or dodging in a fighting game, so the ability to block or dodge enemy shots is dependent on level design. In a hallway, you don’t have many options for approaching an opponent, there’s only one line of sight. To make a level where both people can choose to move around one another and position effectively versus one another, you need to introduce loops.

Take a look at de_dust2, the best known FPS map of all time. Draw a line along all the central paths through the level. There’s a number of loops created. Only one path crosses over another path on the Z-axis, and it tastefully adds another way to access


Now compare that to de_dust. This has loops too, but they’re much smaller, and more detached from one another, the middle area of the map is more like a chokepoint, while dust2 doesn’t have any absolute chokepoints.


Good maps are very conscious of how they control line of sight, and how they allow players to move through the level, as well as where they offer cover. Given how important positioning is in FPS games, it’s important to give the player many different possible paths they can take through the level. A trend to notice with popular Counter Strike maps is, they’re usually 3 big circular loops overlaid on each other, with a few smaller loops inbetween.

Stealth games rely on this principle of loops too, you can’t have stealth in a single hallway.

And on the opposite extreme, if you offer too many paths, then you end up with maps that the Quake community call, “Guess maps” where someone could pop up from any angle and there’s too many options to reasonably predict any particular one. This is why the 3 circles pattern tends to work pretty well in CS.

Other effective paradigms and tricks are out there too, such as in classic maps like Halo’s Blood Gulch, which has a curving hilly landscape to obscure far-off combatants, and high-up side-paths that people can try to sneak along. This blog post has further elaboration and its own ideas for how to design FPS maps.

When you encounter a good map, think about how games tend to play out on it, and whether the layout of the map contributes to fun sessions or not.

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