for the record, 3D Gamers' Edge is a not a site devoted to reviewing levels based solely on professional quality, or their likelihood/ability to work within the confines of a commercial product. the purpose of this site is to review levels based upon less definable factors, such as -fun-. Yes, I realize that fun is highly subjective, but it's my stance. for example, levels with a high fun factor, and a smattering of errors, quirks, or bugs, will still have the chance to rate quite well. a level with odd, peculiar, or unique design techniques can still rate highly if the gameplay is enjoyable, despite it's somewhat unorthadox, or unprofessional visual qualities.
that said, lets get down to the business of describing just what I feel is a 'fun' level.
since what machine you play your games on has an affect on the gameplay, i'll include the stats for my box here:*note: as of 2000 all maps are played on: P3 600MHz, 256MB RAM, geforce 2, sb live!
P166mmx (oc'd to 200), 64MB RAM, Hercules Stingray 128/3D VoodooRush, Creative Lab's 8 MEG 3D Blaster Voodoo2, Sound Blaster 16, Diamond Monster Sound
*note: as of 2005 all maps are played on: P4 3.2 GHz, 1GB RAM, geforce 6800gt, sb audigy2
What do I look for in a level?
This is a multifaceted quality. Gameplay consists of three sub-categories.
This is a biggie. If the level cannot provide a challenge it will not excite me. There's no excuse to not have challenge. There are three difficulty levels available for the author, and they're there for a reason. Challenge can come in a variety of guises. Huge waves of Strogg attacking, sparse weapons and ammo, great enemy placement, puzzles or difficult to find items. These are all examples of providing the player with a challenge. Also, the difficulty setting should be used for more than just adding more Strogg. How about less health, ammo, weapons, and power-ups?
Action is the real fun of the level. We play Quake for the battle between us and the Strogg. I love a good fight. I don't want to have 30 slugs in my Railgun, and end up facing solitary Enforcers. Face it, most Spq2 fans have a strategy for each Strogg they face. We know the strengths and weaknesses of each enemy, and need a cluster attack. I'm not afraid of any of the Strogg in a one on one fight, but throw me in a room with a few Guards, a couple Enforcers, a Gladiator and a Gunner, and I'm pumped!! If I've got the ammo, make me use it. Good action can also occur when assulted by 3 Shotgun Guards, and the only weapon is a shotgun with 10 shells. Use the Strogg wisely, and consider what ammo the player will have.
This is a hard one to define properly. The action element of the game should have a certain consistant flow of play. It's no fun to feel underwhelmed, or wondering when the next fight is going to manifest. It's also no fun to be under constant bombardment of Strogg. Gameplay should flow nicely, with deviations occuring for added effect. For example: lulling a player into a stupor, then having a Gladiator pop up is fun. Placement of Strogg is the key to success in this category.
We want our game of Quake to look good, right? Here's what I look for.
This is the big one for aethetics. How did you build the room? Is it a square room, full of crates? Are all of the rooms square and full of crates? Visual excitement can add a lot to the game. Large hallways, pillared on each side, notched with windows... Dome ceilings, arched hallways, fans, elevators, stairs. Not just having these elements, but they way they are constructed. It's easy to tell when an author has spent time making their level look good, and when it's been slapped together. Detail work can pay off nicely, first impressions count. However, don't expect a beautiful level to rank high on looks alone... everything is taken into consideration.
This effect, used properly, can have quite an affect on a level. It can be used to create a moody feel, or add beauty. It is a powerful tool that can affect the way entire sections of the map feel and look. A subtle touch, and creative placement can really take a level up a notch.
There are a multitude of texture choices available to Quake2 level authors. Textures are the wallpaper that decorates each surface we see in the game. Obviously, texture choice holds weight. I like creativity, and risk taking - within reason. I love a unique look, but don't go for gaudy eye-candy. Textures should make me feel like I know what I'm looking at, and if possible, make it attractive as well.
This feature can affect every aspect of a map. Used properly, it can improve action, enhance immersive qualities, and set the stage for the architecture. A good map gives one a feeling of moving form area to area, and a sense of progress. Variety is the key here. What fun is a level where all areas look alike? Adding hallways, indoor and outdoor areas, elevators, crawl-spaces, and a variety of different styles of 'rooms' gives one a sense of being in a real place.
A good level will give the player items when they are needed. It's no fun have so much of any particular item that there's no need to worry about it. By rationing items, the map makes the player think, plan, and create strategy. I'm not going to be picking off Guards with a Hyperblaster in a map with good item placement, I'm saving it for the big guys. Too much of anything forces it to become unappreciated. Isn't it great to get health when you're below 25? This is the feeling I like when playing a Q2 map. The creative placement of items also can add to enjoyment. Putting that HyperBlaster behind a few crates in a dark corner can make it easy to overlook, and therefore rewarding to discover.
Secrets add that easter-egg hunt fun to a map. It's always very satisfying to uncover all the secrets in a map, or to discover a particularly tricky one. Secret areas are also an excellent treat which I in particular enjoy VERY much. It's a great feeling to know that clever detective work on the part of the player can reveal whole new sections of map. Hard work should always have it's rewards.
Starting June 15thm 1998, I'll be awarding the 3D Gamers Edge Gold Seal of Approval to any map that I feel offers an exceptional gameplay experience. A map that I would recommend unreservedly to anyone as a quality product.
As we all know, there are exceptions to every rule. A map need not strictly adhere to all the above categories to rate well. I always judge each map on it's own merits. I have an equal love for maps that stick to what works, and do it well, and those authors who add their own personal style and uniqueness to their maps. Reviewing is a tricky business, and I'm sometimes surprised by a level that I like, and other times I play a level that seems like it should be great, but for some reason I just don't fall in love with it. Each and every review is a matter of opinion. There a many Spq2 review sites out there, and if you hate me and my reviews, maybe someone else can please you. My goal is to get the levels posted as quickly as I can, and provide what I feel to be an accurate, fair appraisal of each map. Reviews are open to debate. Feel free to mail me your opinions and I will consider each intelligent mail I receive. Should a letter point out things to me that I have missed, ratings may even change. The main focus of this site is to help people get Spq2 levels, and help authors gain the exposure they deserve. This guide was posted on April 20th, 1998. Any reviews made before this posting may not adhere to the guidelines provided above.