When I joined the PVK team, back in 1999, I had been making levels for about a year. I'd never released anything "publicly" on the web, and the main reason it caught my young teenage eyes was the fact it had medieval knights in, with the bonus of pirates, I owned both teams in lego sets. (Viking lego was only a recent addition in 2005!) and had grown up with lego since the age of 4.
Anyhow, combining a love of creating levels, Pirates, Vikings, and Knights, it was a match made in heaven. Off I went, and made my first level. pvk_shores.
A month or two after that, and I had created pvk_island.
This however, was not the level that you have come to love today, in fact it was very different in layout design, and if you dig about fileplanet for the very first release of pvk (1.0) you'll find it in there. Suffice to say, that after its release, I'd lost interest in it, and went on to make another map, based on...yep, an island! I liked it much better than the previous level, and released it as a replacement. This was the map that became a lot of peoples favourite, and come 8 or so years later, I decided to remake it for PVKII.
And man! Did it take me forever! I've tweaked it yet again for beta 2.1 as well. In hindsight, the key factor that made remaking pvk_island for PVKII take so long, was that I didn't plan it. I built it on a whim, knowing the basic layout from the old map. I was still learning the new tools of the source engine, and so didn't make it as well as would've been desired. A number of areas in the level have since been remade (without anyone knowing the difference) giving slight increases in FPS (frames per second). Players reported many factors of imbalance, and since as you have witnessed, had major changes applied.
Sick to death of Island now, I was determined to make the next level I created in a totally different way.
Going back to pvk1, the third and final map that I created for the mod, was a level called pvk_pinegrove. Like island, and shores, it was made on a whim, me having fun in hammer (the level editor), and releasing the fruits of my labor to the pvk team. They like it, and release it with the next release.
8 years later, and miraculously, it, like pvk_island turned out to be a number of peoples favorite pvk map.
Having remade island, Yeehaa, a fellow pvkii team member, asked if he could make a remake of the level. I agreed, with the only request that he keep the same layout as the original.
Yeehaa, then set off, decompiled the old pvk1 map, and traced it in hammer until he had a complete layout replica of the map, and proceeded to start texturing it, as well as set some basic displacement terrain (method used in creating the source engines terrain).
Unfortunately, due to other maps needing changes for PVKII 1.1, Yeehaa lost interest in the map, and so it sat in the development folder of the mod.
Fast forward to before the release of PVKII 2.0, and now I've worked on pvk_island for such a long time, I want to set it all on fire, never to see it again. However, to refrain from such actions, I had a poke about the developer map directory, and fell upon Yeehaa's efforts of pvk_pinegrove.
A quick IRC conversation later, and Yeehaa doesn't mind if I take up the helm on my old maps remake. We're in business!
Ok, so theres a whole load of waffle, and if you have read all the above, I salute you! Sorry about that, a nice history lesson at least
Now that island only needs tweaks here and there, I took Yeehaa's source map, and removed all of the textures it was using. Good textures, but not ones I personally felt fitted pvkii.
Once all the textures (bar a small few) were replaced with Valves Orange and Grey development textures, it was time to work on the layout, and focus on making it look pretty later.
Here is what the original layout looks like, followed by another overview, this time of Yeehaa's re-textured version:
Note: The red lines are to show tunnels as they are very dark. Also note, I have made the center area (the pirate spawn) a cave opposed to the old version, where its open. As well as expanding the top area slightly.
In the original map, pirates spawn in the middle of the map, with Knights and Vikings spawning randomly.
I tried re-imagining what the level would look like, and from this making some basic adjustments of the overall terrain (making part a cave for example). I also decided, due to the popularity of booty maps, to make pinegrove, from what was originally a team deathmatch map, into a booty map, with a twist.
In previous maps, at least one team have started with chests in their zone, this time, however, I'm trying it whereby there a 4 chests, each in a different location outside zones. They must be scouted, and returned to your teams base.
With this in mind, Knights now spawn on the left side of the map, whilst Vikings spawn on the right side.
Having had so many issues with Islands balance, I wanted to make sure that this map was going to be balanced from the get go. So my first port of call, was Grogbots! Currently grogbots are development only, as they are still in the process of being made by Akz. Grogbots are essentially bots for PVKII.
I ran about the level so far, laying waypoints for the bots, telling them where they could run, and where chests and ladders were located about the map.
Unfortunately, the bots are yet to navigate ladders, and so to counter this, I made some very steep stair cases for a temporary fix.
I added 3 bots to each team, and watched them from spectator view for around 5 games, analyzing their movements, and which team was winning. After that, I took it to 4 and then 5 per team.
The results were quite satisfactory, however they was one major flaw. The bots couldn't use ranged weapons! Whatever the class of bot was, they resorted to their basic melee weapons.
Given the bot watching, I made some adjustments to the map.
Note I've now removed the buildings, and added the stair/ladders as well as placed booty capture zones (grey squares). There is also the addition on the tower, bottom left. It is important in level design to teach the player where they are in the map, and the tower serves as a key landmark.
The next stage was to show it to Blade, our lead tester, having helped me immensely on the refinement and balance on island, I trusted his judgment on this new level. He pointed out a number of flaws in positioning of both spawn areas, and chest zones. Suggesting that I move the spawns a distance away from the chestzones to allow attackers a chance of escaping with a chest.
As with making all changes to level work (mainly displacements (terrain)) its a bit of a pain, but I knew he was right. So with the information he had given me, I moved the location of the chestzone for the pirates, as well as carving out some extra caves for the pirates to spawn in.
I also replaced the church building on the left side of the map, and placed knight spawns.
The viking area, the right side of the map was then opened up. There are now cliffs along the bottom of the map down to an ocean, rather than a beach in the previous version. I also opened up the top, and the top left of the map. Allowing for some 3d sky views and more interesting scenery, rather than having the whole level enclosed in cliffs, which is rather boring.
Heres what the level was looking like:
Again, I showed it to Blade, and we had a run about in it. We decided to see what the balance was like layout wise, and timed each other running as the same class, from one chest zone to another. What we found let me make decisions on the layout of the level. Our research told us that Knights could get to the pirates base in 17 seconds going the top route, and 22 seconds going to bottom route. Knowing this showed that the lower route would never get used, as players (and bots) would always take the top route unless getting chests in the lower region.
Vikings however, took 20 seconds to reach the pirates, using either the top route, or the bottom. Vikings were balanced, Knights were not. A fix was needed.
Off I went again, and made some changes given our findings.
Here is the result. The major changes were to the bottom left of the map, I have radically shrunk the amount of cliffs and changed the direction of the tunnel out to the tower. The Knights chest zone is now lower down nearer the church, and the other building in the knights area, is now higher up. This offers attacking teams to climb up on the roof and fire down at the knights, or ambush them and run off with a chest.
To counter this for Vikings, the addition of a treehouse was built. Offering opposing teams an alternate route to attack from. The pathway up to the treehouse has since moved closer to the top of that area, so that its harder to chase an enemy going up.
The Pirate spawns have been shifted slightly, with the upper cave now sporting an upper deck to prevent campers dropping kegs into their chestzone, without the enemy reaching them.
Lastly the green path has now been changed, allowing a more interesting route, as well as better optimization map wise.I hope thats been a somewhat interesting read, sorry if it was a bit long, but I wanted to share it all with you Please let me know if you enjoyed this dev journal and what you thought of it.
Thats the layout covered. Next time, I'll try and show you the progression of the map visually. But for all those of you picture hungry, here are some very WIP
(Work in progress (not finished!)) screen shots of the level, old version followed by new version.