Throughout the development of Twin Switch, our level has gone through many iterations. We knew early on that the map design would require a lot of attention, as the quality of the level would play a big part in demonstrating the mechanics and dynamics of Twin Switch. The development of the map’s design took roughly 4 months, while the final geometry and art for the map, which is currently still in progress, will have taken more than 2 months by the time it is complete.
Deciding on the right size and layout for the map was difficult. It was important to us that the map complimented the players’ abilities well and thus required some use of Mobility Mode for navigation, yet the map also had to be small enough to foster frequent engagements in a 2v2 scenario. As a result, the map was designed to be larger than you may expect of a 2v2 combat space to allow for players to make use of their movement abilities to chase, evade, or flank their enemies. However, given the size of the map, players often found themselves wandering around aimlessly looking for enemies or wondering where their teammate was engaged. We mitigated this problem by creating Points of Interest, increasing Line of Sight, and implementing Respawn Zones.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest create areas for players to naturally gather in. In the map’s current state, the most powerful pickups are placed in the middle of the map, encouraging players to control that area. Some additional pickups are found on the edges of the map, encouraging and rewarding movement through those areas while directing flow toward the center of the map. By including clear points of interest, players will begin to learn which areas of the map are more likely to contain an enemy, and can choose whether to avoid or engage in those areas.
Line of Sight
During an earlier iteration of the map, limited line-of-sight greatly inhibited players’ ability to find each other. In Twin Switch, we can afford to include more open sightlines, as weapons have limited effective range and players can make use of the sightlines to quickly locate and navigate toward the action without being able to easily hit enemies from across the map. However, it is necessary to include some line-of-sight blockers for pathing purposes and to allow for players to flank or take cover. There were a few instances where we wanted to block a player’s movement with level geometry while providing vision to an area. Our solution was to create level geometry with gaps in it, further opening up sightlines while maintaining function as a movement blocker.
With the above approaches taken into consideration, we still found that players occasionally experienced a longer than ideal break in the action. At this point, more modifications to the level would likely have little impact on the issue without compromising the flow or structure of the map. Thus, we decided it would be a good time to implement some basic respawn logic to focus the 2 vs. 2 action and encourage better overall usage of the map. Our implementation is a simple system that splits the map into 8 “Spawn Zones” which are connected to each other. Friendly players add influence to the zone they are in, as well as some minor influence to each zone adjacent to them. Enemy players have a large negative influence on the zone they are in, and have some minor negative influence on each zone adjacent to them. When a player is respawning, the game will choose to spawn them in one of the zones with the highest influence. This has the effect of spawning the player away from immediate danger while trying to spawn the player close to a teammate – unless they are in immediate danger. However, players should generally not respawn too far from the action.
It was also important that the map include some key features to demonstrate the game mechanics well. When designing the map, I took into account Ground Pound Hotzones, Ramp Interactions, and Elevation to give players sufficient opportunity to make full use of the tools available to them.
Ground Pound Hotzones
Ground Pound Hotzones are areas which have intentionally been made vulnerable to ground pounds from a higher elevation nearby. This creates opportunity for players to make use of one of our key game mechanics, and creates clear areas of risk for the player. Areas which contain powerful items, like power weapons or health, tend to be ground pound hotzones – to add risk when collecting a powerful item or controlling its spawn area.
The interaction that projectiles have with ramps in our game is unique in that projectiles will follow the slope. I made sure to frequently use ramps in my design so that players will frequently encounter this interaction and come to understand it quickly. The map also contains a couple instances which leverage the projectile behaviours to create power positions, such as the center platform: which enables a player to shoot at enemies atop nearby ramps without being vulnerable to return fire.
Twin Switch is a Competitive Twin-Stick Shooter in a 3D Environment; it was important to make full use of the 3-dimensional space we opened the genre up to by creating clear separations in elevation, requiring the player to traverse the map in 3D space. Differences in elevation also work to split up the areas of engagement, as players cannot shoot between two different elevations without the assistance of a ramp.
Overall, I’m very happy with the way our first map in Twin Switch turned out. It showcases the mechanics well and provides players with ample opportunity to flank and move creatively while encouraging combat engagements in key areas. I think this map serves as a great introduction to the game, and we can afford to deviate from this well-rounded design in future map designs with, for example, less ground pound hotzones or more extreme differences in elevation.