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Teamplay, Textures, Tango - A MM8BDM team mapping competition!

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Mendez:
I want maps for competitive teamplay because I think teamplay is fun and could use tailor-made maps. So, allow me to introduce the first-ever (and potentially Best-Ever) mapping competition for teamplay:
TEAMPLAY, TEXTURES, TANGO
 
(Image graciously provided by myself)

TTT Discord: https://discord.gg/qY66gUQkuX
TTT ruleset: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5np7m469zg861fz/TTT_Ruleset.docx?dl=0
Please read the rules first. By signing up, you agree to all rules listed in the document.

This is basically a mapping competition where teams of 2 will make the best map possible for teamplay. Teamplay here means 2v2 vanilla TDM or 3v3 classes TLMS. The winning team will get a top prize of $100 each, while 2nd place will get $60 each and 3rd place will get $20 each. Please read the ruleset below before joining since it also contains information about how the map is supposed to be made and submitted.
TTT ruleset: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5np7m469zg861fz/TTT_Ruleset.docx?dl=0

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DEADLINE FOR MAP SUBMISSIONS IS OCTOBER 17th AT 11:59:59 PM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME.
EXPECT THE TTT MAP PACK TO BE RELEASED ON OCTOBER 19th. JUDGES WILL SCORE EACH MAP BY OCTOBER 31st. MAY THE BEST MAPPERS WIN.

Mendez:
Teamplay Textures Tango V1A has been released!
https://allfearthesentinel.net/zandronum/download.php?file=teamplaytexturestango_v1a.pk3

I want to give a huge thanks to all 7 teams that submitted a map, I'm really happy with the amount of work and polish put into every map and think that everyone will enjoy it too. There should be a server up now where people can play vanilla TDM, I'll work on getting the classes servers up in a bit. Judges have been notified and will start working on judging the maps for both vanilla TDM and Classes TLMS, and we should expect scores to be submitted by October 31. In the meantime, please hop in and try the maps out for yourself, and don't be afraid to give your own honest feedback so that the mappers can continue to learn and grow.

TDM server name: [TSPG] MM8BDM Teamplay Textures Tango [TDM]
TDM server address: 104.128.49.2:10755

Mendez:
After over two months of mapping and almost two weeks of judging, the final scores for Teamplay Textures Tango are finally in! Again, I want to say that Im really happy with the maps that were submitted and enjoyed playing on them. The creativity, the themes, the distinct styles and layouts, all of it was very nice to go through. With all that said, its time to announce the winners
https://www.dropbox.com/s/6ynkuy344km0ik4/TTT_Scoresheet_FINAL.xlsx?dl=0
With 275/300 points given by the judges, the map that best represents teamplay, texturing, and tango is
TTT05 - Spectral Echo by LlamaHombre and Thunderono ! Congratulations to both mappers, I think this was a great map as always.
With 257/300 points , the silver medal of TTT goes to
TTT04 - Dagenet Dungeon by Razgriz-S  and Zeke! You two made a very fun and interesting map, so this prize is well deserved.
There are two maps that got 247/300 points, but only one map can get third prize. With a higher layout score (118 to 113), the bronze medal goes too
TTT01 - Cleaning Robot Bathwater by FTX6004 and OrangeMario! Im incredibly happy to see these two mappers getting recognition for their hard work, this was definitely a map deserving of a prize.
Once again, Id like to all TTT Mappers for submitting their maps. Id also like to thank the TTT Judges for taking the time play through these and provide excellent feedback. Im planning to release V1B of this map pack where all mappers will be given an extra month to polish their maps based on the feedback. Im proud of every mapper who had the  courage, determination, and perseverance to build the best maps they could. With V6B of MM8BDM expected to provide more modding tools, I hope that this enthusiasm for mapping continues into 2022. Until next time, this Mendez signing off for now.

Thunderono:
Thank you to the judges, to everyone who got a map in, and to Llama for being awesome!  This was a bucket of fun to work on, and while I personally don't touch competitive scenes all that much, there were some maps here that I was dying to get some games on when I saw them submitted.  Congrats to the other winners!

I had written up some dev notes the other day that I'd like to expand on some in response to what the judges had to say.  I had originally written these in the context of the scoring sheet, but I think a more cohesive essay makes more sense:

(click to show/hide)While this was a popular sentiment across all of TTT, Llama and I wanted to avoid making a symmetrical map even though symmetry would guarantee equality with the teams.  At least in my opinion, pure symmetry can get boring pretty quickly.  Instead, we opted to provide both teams with different but valuable resources-- light has immediate access to a low-cost power weapon and varied routes across the map, but wily gets very fast access to mid and the high ground, as well as a sight line to the big health.  I personally wanted to place a big focus on varied sight lines and flanking routes, which led to decisions like the long sight line leading from ruins into falls and the glass flanking the big health in mid.

This is one of my favorite item layouts I've ever placed, by the way-- in testing, playing around that middle big health led to a lot of fun skirmishes.  The weapons also feel just right, with Magic Card being my personal favorite fit.  You can do some pretty nutty stuff with that weapon here due to how interlaced our routes are.  I also put down the Chill Spike/Water Shield combo pretty much entirely for myself, as I think that's pretty fun to play with.  I was very happy to see that the judges responded well to my choice of weapons, and that going lower on the amount of weapons was the right call to make.

Something I tried to focus on was avoiding spawncamps.  The TTT ruleset is a team deathmatch setting with team spawns on, so in vanilla, that's a very real threat.  In smaller maps it can be difficult to avoid putting team spawns in sight lines, but there is definitely some geometry here that pretty much only exists to stop mid from having a shot on the spawns.  Each team also spawns with a powerful weapon to give them a fighting chance if they're pushed that far back.

If anyone is wondering why there's such a drought for health and ammo, by the way, this is actually reactive to a conversation I had with King Dumb around the time v6 dropped.  He had mentioned that due to the increased efficacy of health and the way you need less ammo to kill now, it would be more important than ever to keep the pickups for both lower than usual.  I tend to agree with that sentiment, and especially with how low our unit scale is on this map, I wanted to keep our pickups spread out while still having something to grab in each room.

On to the visuals, which is something I was happy to see we got high marks for.  Before we even had a concept for the layout, we were planning our callouts.  Our singular focus with this map's visual design was to give every room its own visual identity, and we did such a good job with this (if I do say so myself) that I was inclined to look into adding a SECTINFO lump.  For the uninitiated, SECTINFO assigns a name to sectors you specify, which allows $location in chat and the locations in coop info to actually work.  This is not a feature that GZDB/UDB support, and I had to ask Russel for the method he used when making his jam maps that use it.  I would up needing to code my own console application to support that workflow, and I'm proud to have joined the single digit number of 8BDM maps that use this feature.  Don't expect this to be a common thing, though-- SECTINFO isn't really scalable at all, and it's a really specific method to set it up.

Llama is entirely responsible for demaking all of the sprites and tiles, and he set up all of the cosmetic actors.  He absolutely knocked it out of the park with these-- our ambitious idea to bring these Super Metroid areas to life paid off so well that we've been spitballing even crazier ideas for our joint pack, REAL.  My personal favorite detail is Phantoon himself-- little fun fact, he has a small chance to just pop in without fading like he does in the game.

Fun fact about me: I hate Decorate.  This map really rubbed that in.  The amount of hours I spent de-janking those Kzans... *shudder*  For eagle-eyed Slade Spelunkers, you may notice an obituary in the Kzan's code.  They originally did do damage, but while summoning the elder gods to try and make them actually take a frag, we realized that them dealing damage really didn't add anything.  At most, they'd annoy people in mid.  They are what gave me the original idea for putting Chill Spike on the map, since freezing people under the Kzans sounded pretty silly at the time; in retrospect, I'm glad this situation didn't actually make it into the map.

While two of our target game types involved classes, this map's construction actually didn't place too much focus on it.  Like Llama said in his dev notes for his CMCP map, good maps made for vanilla tend to stay good for other modes.  Personally, the stuff I built for this map was entirely focused on vanilla, and any considerations made for classes were more of a flourish on top of that design mentality than any real focus.  And really, the only change we made to explicitly accommodate classes was an adjustment to our sight line breaks in mid so flying classes could move around easier.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, we spent a LOT of time on this map.  From day 2 of this competition starting we would just spend hours and hours and hours pouring all the love we could into this map, and it's great that it paid off!  Our finishing a few days early was not a result of it being a quick dev cycle-- we had just hit a point where there was nothing else we could think of to do.

If any of the other mappers want some feedback on how they might be able to improve their maps, feel free to hit me up!  I had originally filled out a score sheet myself, but felt that the kind of feedback I like to give is more of an active conversation than a wall of critiques.  I like constructive criticism; if there's a problem with a map, I always want to at least have an idea on how to fix it to contribute.

Thanks again to the judges, to Mendez for hosting, to Llama for being an incredible partner and friend and to everyone else who contributed a map to this!  Hopefully, I'll be seeing some of you in Jam!

LlamaHombre:
Thunder did a stunning job with pretty much everything he put into the map, from the general concept to the visual identity to overall direction. I'm on this map, and I'm not downplaying my own contributions to it at all, but this map would be very dramatically different without him. What Spectral Echo ended up being was something extremely special, something one perspective alone cannot get you - we both learned a lot from making this map, and we're pretty much both in agreement with our enthusiasm for MM8BDM mapping going forward.

I don't have much of novel to add from the layout-wise end of things that could be added - Thunder did a pretty good job of summing everything up - so I'm just going to talk a little bit about texturework, texture preparation, and so on. It can be a lot of fun if you devote some time to it, and it's really damn important since most people will notice odd visuals before they notice an odd layout. Some of this may be no-brainer information, but with another Jam on the way I'd like for my posts here and in CMCP to provide valuable information to new mappers or mappers that want to learn some intermediate tricks.

(click to show/hide)- Try to work inside the MM8BDM palette (or at least as much as possible) while preparing textures. It prevents headaches for software obviously, but it allows you to make palette translations as well that can be very useful for saving yourself time if you need to change the feel of a room. For example, if there's a certain texture you like the feel of, but it doesn't fit the feel of your room (if your room is really dark but the texture you chose is bright) find a palette translation that makes that dream a reality. The "WRDXXX##" textures in TTT05 are all just the standard "WRKXXX##" textures with a palette translation applied to them, allowing me to save file space and make the rooms close to Wily Spawn darker. It's cool tech that I'll unevitably be using in my future.

- Remember to use height variation with purpose: if your room is functionally flat (no major height variation, you can run around it omnidirectionally without jumping, etc) you benefit your players more to keep it flat instead of pulling the floor up for small 8 or 16 unit "stairs". It becomes easier for a player to digest at a glance, and it lets floor-hugger weapons like Water Wave, Metal M1, Gyro M1, etc. hit their targets more consistently than what happens if you start raising things just because. Veteran user Shade Guy made a really valuable post some 6 years ago on this topic that I believe still holds largely true today.

- Vary your textures as much as possible. If you're going to require a jump from the floor, make sure the player knows that at a glance! Don't use the floor texture on the linedef (though that's pretty solid advice in general) and when possible try to use a texture with a "lip" on the top or something that's a distinct color from the floor you're standing on. In general, try to de-homogenize your textures as much as possible. Try to prevent the same texture from repeating for too long (say, more than 256-392 map units? not a hard rule). Break it up some with a geometry break like a window or something playable, or change the texture altogether. You can get more mileage out of your textures by deciding on textures to use as "borders", like pillars or columns that are narrow but tall. Use them on corners to make your geometry pop more, and to prevent larger looping wall textures from just ending suddenly.

- SECTINFO was something we adopted for our map, but there's also definitely a whole bunch to learn and perfect in terms of making your individual rooms callout-ready. Color helps first and foremost, but a distinct visual setpiece like waterfalls, sky openings, "hazards" (real or out of bounds doesn't matter), overall brightness of the textures, etc. all go a long way to make a memorable setpiece for the player. What is also useful are props! Find a spot for your prop to occupy, and make sure you only use it in that spot. An otherwise normal corner becomes "hermit crab corner" if you put some hermit crabs on the outside. For Spectral Echo, our callouts are Spectral, Sewers, Balcony, Falls, Mid, Catacombs, Hall, Atomic, Coast, and Ruins. Pretty much all of those are related to the geometry design, but you can just as easily swap those out for "Phantoon" "Turtles" "Gravity Suit" "Atoms" "Light/Wily Spawn" etc.

- This one's a little more subjective, but I'm tossing it out there. I'm not really an opponent to non-255 lighting, but I've yet to see a map wow me with it and sell me on the idea that it needs to be there: it just sorta feels more lazy or different-for-different's sake than anything. Setting "gl_lightmode 4" in console effectively gives you the visual dropoff that comes from non-255 lighting, even on core maps. You are almost certainly better off turning that setting on for yourself and using darker textures, than trying to make non-255 lighting work in a game where most actors don't have the +BRIGHT flag. It muddies vanilla duel, where at-a-glance weapon and pickup information is important, and seems generally antithetical to the nature of visual design in MM8BDM. I have a difficult time imagining a competitive environment where adopting this in a game all about quick, clear callouts and immediate information becomes a good thing.
 
- Don't forget about voxels like I did! They're useful for making some props feel more like part of the geometry, and definitely better for showing off hitboxes. Ask Trillster about voxels for platform actors if you cannot do them yourself LOL I meant to but forgot completely

Thank you to Mendez for hosting, thank you to the judges for the very generous scores, thank you to the other contestants for making some fun maps, and thank you Thunder for being the best!

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