The design of VIA Pinball Arena has been inspired my 2 greatest loves of gaming - First Person Shooters and Pinball. The layout is a symetrical design, which makes it fairly easy to learn and navigate. There are quite a few bounce pads that have been incorporated to push players around the map - this is where part of the pinball inspiration comes in. They have been used to semi-simulate pop bumpers (although are not at all random in the way they push players around, unlike pop bumers in pinball) and vertical upright kicker scoops. These are all located fairly obviously and it doesn't take long to figure out where they are intended to send you. Be careful though - they can make railslug bait out of you :-)
The first of my Quake 4 mapping projects is complete and after a few stops and starts influenced by playtest sessions, is now ready for human consumption. By no means is this map an attempt at catering to the serious pro gaming tourney crowd, but more so as an alternatively styled map that can be a lot of fun for 2 - 5 player DM skirmishes. That said, Railgun enthusiasts of any ilk will probably appreciate this level, which gives lots of opportunities for aiming practice. It is a fairly ambitious map in that it asks a lot of the engine because of it's size and number of light sources in view, but has been optimized to take advantage of the r_lightdetaillevel command and can easily be adjusted by the player for higher performance if required (keep reading for information on how to do that). Gameplay specifics: The design of VIA Pinball Arena has been inspired my 2 greatest loves of gaming - First Person Shooters and Pinball. The layout is a symetrical design, which makes it fairly easy to learn and navigate. There are quite a few bounce pads that have been incorporated to push players around the map - this is where part of the pinball inspiration comes in. They have been used to semi-simulate pop bumpers (although are not at all random in the way they push players around, unlike pop bumers in pinball) and vertical upright kicker scoops. These are all located fairly obviously and it doesn't take long to figure out where they are intended to send you. Be careful though - they can make railslug bait out of you :-) There is a moving platform that moves left and right at the top of the arena. It can be accessed several ways (by the pop bumpers below, or the scoops on each side) and will deliver the player to the red armors on the north and south ends of the top level. All powerups, Quad, Regen, Invisibility and Haste can be accessed from the top level. Teleporters on this level will take you back to the base level. All weapons except for the Dark Matter Gun are included. There is 2 of every weapon (except for the Railgun, of which there are 3) and are generally pretty easy to find. Ammo is scattered across the map and ammo stashes can be found in 'secret' rooms at each corner on the mid level. VIA Pinball Arena can be played in Tourney, Deathmatch and Team deathmatch modes, and suits 2 - 5 players nicely. Bright skins mod can be useful, as player models can be hard to see over long distances. Performance: An important consideration about VIA Pinball Arena is that because of it's large open design, there are a lot of lights in view from many areas of the map. Obviously, this has quite an impact on performance. However, I have manually adjusted the light detail settings for each light source, which allows you to set light detail settings for increased performance. Experimenting with these settings can have a huge impact on frame rates. The console command to do this is: r_lightdetaillevel # Default is 0, which turns every light on. If you wish to improve performance, experiment with the r_lightdetaillevel console command. The following is a bit of a guide on how it will effect performance in VIA Pinball Arena: r_lightdetaillevel 2 (turns off a few minor light sources, no noticable loss of visual quality, noticable performance gain) r_lightdetaillevel 3 (as above, turns off more light sources that you probably won't notice - significant performance gain) r_lightdetaillevel 4 (as above, and turns off various other light sources, such as jump pads, flashers and ceiling lights - big performance increase) r_lightdetaillevel 6 (as above, and turns off several light sources in corridors and tunnels - huge performance increase) r_lightdetaillevel 9 (turns off all but ambient lighting. This will provide the maximum FPS your system is capable of) Notes: VIA Pinball Arena was an experiement of sorts, to see what features of the DOOM 3 engine and editor had been modified for Quake 4, what methods of optimization could be used and to see just what it could handle in terms of lighting and rendering. The end result is a map that is fairly demanding on most gaming systems and it will make for a pretty good benchmarking level (for both CPU and GPU). We will be recording and releasing a benchmark level within the next few weeks. Fortunately, the r_lightdetaillevel commands make a huge difference to performance, which makes it playable over a wide range of system configurations. Ambient lighting covers the entire map, so even with every other light source turned off, it's still illuminated well enough to see whats going on. Subsequent maps that I make will draw from the lessons I've learned on this experiment and will all be designed for performance and gameplay over visual appeal. In closing, I have a few credits to mention. A big thanks goes out to Steve Walton of Legion Hardware, who helped me playtest the map over a couple of sessions and also helped me rebuild my system (which improved the performance of both the game and editor. Thanks also to Goliath and Method from the Doom 3 World forums who helped guide me in the right direction on a few features I had trouble implimenting. John and Fiona from VIA Arena, whom have both been big fans of the original q3_via_arena map that influenced the design of VIA Pinball Arena and have been very helpful in numerous ways, as well as VIA Technologies, who have continually supported my map making endeavors over the past few years.
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