The Evolution of a Quake Map, by Caitiri — featuring Samurai Castles / Japanese Castles, by Mike g1zm0 Burbidge

Samurai Castles by g1zm0 was part of the original Q2CTF L-Fire Map Pak beta release, but was removed from the final release after g1zm0 decided it needed a lot more work before he would be satisfied with it as a map. It ended up taking another 8 months before making its final entrance in the Q2 world, just before Q3 appeared on shelves. Out of all the L-Fire maps, it is the only one that has been ported to Q3, and by the original author. It is also the #1 played custom CTF map, and has just been voted into OGL’s map pak (only one of three to make the cut). You can download the final Q2 version and the Q3 verions at Team 3’s website (and be sure to go vote for the Q3 incarnation over at Lvl).

I decided to take a look at all three versions in a comparison to see just how a quake map evolved in Q2, then made the transition into Q3. Thankfully the author himself was around, and graciously took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about mapping for me.

caitiri: the q3 and q2 versions of samurai are nearly identical; is there some way you were able to “move” the structure of the map into a q3 mapping program, or did you have to recreate it from scratch?

g1zm0: I just loaded the q2 .map file into the quake3 editor, q3radiant, and retextured it all, changed a few things, and tuned lots of things up too. But its not as easy as it sounds, heh.

caitiri: Comparing the screenshots I’d have to say the final result is very impressive :)

g1zm0: thank you =)

caitiri: Why did you decide to port a q2 map into q3, instead of designing a new one?

g1zm0: because samurai castles for q2 was only released a very short time before q3 hit the stores, and I though the map would get more play in q3, and it was a good layout for ctf, and q3actf. I had already though about how I would implement jump pads into it and make it a non grapple map. Besides, I love japanese architecure =)

The outside of the base received extensive work. Originally, there was a third level to the pagoda containing the red armor. When the quad was removed, it was deemed unnecessary (and too time-consuming to reach); the final release of the map reduced the pagoda to just two levels. The sky texture was redone using one of the sky textures from the RA2 pak, fitting in better with the Japanese theme than the orange sunset. The beta map only had one base entrance, just opposite the main door; in the final release, a hallway was added a little behind and to the left of the base, which linked up with the back base courtyard. B

ecause of the lack of a grapple, the Q3 version added a bounce pad to allow players in through the second floor window, retexturing, and two new windows on the base facade.

caitiri: When you release a map for beta testing, what kind of feedback do you look for, or is most helpful for you?

g1zm0: Feedback, I like to hear about texture problems, or look, entity placement, and any overall comments. I had a ton of feedback on this map, some that I didnt implement. The end result, lfire and i agreed on =) and thats a tough thing to please him =) hehe, just ask geezer :P we are tempered now =)

The original flag room had its main entrance “screened off” by a Japanese screen opposite the flag; the room to the left of the flag was a dead-end with mega. In the final release, the stairs were moved to the dead-end room spot, and the screen removed (as was the hyperblaster); the water pool was switched from above ground with a high wall to recessed into the floor. The screen to the right of the flag was moved forward, putting the entrance out of direct line-of-sight with the flag (which people thought made it too easy to grab the flag and slingshot out of the room).

The Q3 version flag room kept the same structure, just received an awesome new texture job (complete with tatami mats).

caitiri: so where did you get the original inspiration for samurai castles?

g1zm0: I wanted to make an original map design waaay back in quake1 =) I actually started japanese gardens in q1 near the end right b4 q2 came out. L-Fire contacted me about making it into a ctf map, that’s where it all started from. But, I guess that question means where did I get my ideas and what prompted me to go with a japanese style… Well i usually look thru books, magazines and I saw some nice japanese stuff in a national geographic.

The back courtyard had one original entrace, a rather straight path to it, and a small pagoda “statue”. The final release saw a second side entrace added (that linked up to the front of the base), and the machine gun replaced with a rocket launcher. The spawn pads were also moved around a bit so they weren’t in the middle of the walkway in a straight line. The balcony (from which these shots were taken) originally had a grenade launcher; it was replaced by the railgun in the final release.

The Q3 release added a little “bridge” with health paks next to the ground walkway (leaving you to decide if you should risk being confined in a narrow path just for that extra health). It also added a bounce pad to allow players to reach the railgun balcony from the courtyard.

caitiri: do you have an idea beforehand for the map design?

g1zm0: yes. I started out with a few ideas, built the castle first, then went into the rocks. In a standard map (straight walls etc.) you can move pretty fast, but making open rocky areas, it’s very slow. You also have to look out for areas bleeding thru the sky into other areas. I just built it as I went along. Sometimes I scratch down stuff, layouts.

The base entrance room didn’t see much structural change between the beta and the final release (other than the entertaining fans from the beta were removed). The power shield was removed (because the quad was removed) and the megahealth put in its place. The biggest change was the moving of the stairs that run down to the flag room; the original map had the stairs directly opposite of the entrance, the final map moved them to the right.

The Q3 version underwent a lot of cosmetic changes, with several windows added (but still only allowing players out the main window by the use of bars over the others). It removed the megahealth and armor on the platform and put health and rocket paks in their place. It also added two bounce pads, one on either side of the main door, to allow players up to the platform without rocket jumping.

caitiri: Why’d you get rid of those fans in the mega/rl room?

g1zm0: well in q3a there was enough detail I just didn’t need them anymore, and I don’t think they woulda had them in medieval japanese castles =)

The front courtyard received several changes, both cosmetic and structural. Originally there was only one entrance through a Torii gate; the final release added a second entrance (because of the extensive changes in the middle). Base colors were also added to distinguish the two apart.

The Q3 version added a bounce pad in the courtyard (to allow players up through the second floor window), brought back the Torii gates, and added a gorgeous dragon image to the wall.

caitiri: how is playstyle different on the q3 version than on the q2 version?

g1zm0: play is much faster in q3a and the jump pads add a whole different feel to it, like jumping thru the window =) ppl will bounce around back and forthe sometimes just shootin at each other

caitiri: can the bounce pads be made to bounce people differing heights? or are all the bounce pads the same?

g1zm0: yes, a bounce pad consists of 2 entities: a trigger_push (the pad itself), and a target_position (the destination). You can make it go anywhere you want when making the map; you target the target_position from the trigger_push.

caitiri: Did you have to test out the front pad a lot to get people into the 2nd floor window? :)

g1zm0: yes !!!! I played with that to get it just right I’d hit the top/bottom of the window a lot till I got it right. Also inside of the main entrance there are 2 pads on either side of that catwalk. if you hit them right you can go out the window from inside

caitiri: ahhh a secret! :P

g1zm0: well it just worked out that way =) hehe I got lucky :P

The middle section was completely removed in the final release, putting the bases right next to each other separated only by a wall. The beta had a large open space, a chasm, a Japanese bridge over it, and quad underneath the bridge in the water. There was only one exit to each base, and getting the quad was always a challenge. It was removed when players thought the map was too large with the extra space. Instead a second hallway was added to the back courtyard and the two bases moved next to each other.

The Q3 release has the same structure as the Q2 map, just with a few added touches, such as the torches on the wall. It also replaced the chaingun in the hallway with a plasma gun.

caitiri: how come you removed the whole middle section with the bridge and quad? I really loved that part of the map

g1zm0: I loved the bridge too, I wanted to keep it in, but when we started beta testing it, we had a lot of feedback about the map being too big, and some ppl got bored. So I took it out, not knowing if the r_speeds would be too high moving the castles/bases so close with open doorways between them. But it worked out with a lot of tuning; made the map faster for q2 and really nice for q3a. ppl didnt get bored anymore =)

caitiri: What exactly are r_speeds anyways?

g1zm0: r_speeds 1 is a setting that lets you see how many polys are rendering from any given spot in a map; its the # of polygon surfaces that are seen

caitiri: so the more there is, the slower it plays?

g1zm0: yes. in q2 we shot for sub 600 polys; in q3a I was shooting for sub 5,000 polys. The q3a engine is much nicer; the max in q2 in some of the iD maps was 1200 I believe, big difference now.

This last area was added to the Q3 map behind the railgun; in the Q2 version, this is solid. This is where the techs spawn, a random regen/quad. It has two exits, one on the path from the flag, and one just behind the railgun.

caitiri: When you ported the map to q3, why did you decide to put the techs in, and why the random regen/quad?

g1zm0: Well, I like the quad in q3a, and the regen is a good thing too, I like that anyone has a chance to get them, and not have some one player or team hoard them. One thing I notice in q3a, very different from q1, or q2: in q1/q2 you would pretty much try to stay clear of a quaded player, in q3a, you go for them =)

caitiri: But you removed the quad in the q2 version, why?

g1zm0: I was trying to make a map that you didnt have to time things in, like cap showdown; it was always nice to play that map in q2, not thinking about when something was going to respawn

caitiri: you have any ideas for a new q3 map? or converting over another q2 map?

g1zm0: I have a few ideas. I also have quite a few started maps that I’m going to finish; I like where they are going. As far as converting some of my old maps, I’ve gotten a lot of email about converting dakyne for q3a and I am also going to convert my 2 maps that I did for the original painkeep for q1 — there is a q3a painkeep being done now, I was asked if I wanted to work on the conversions of my maps for it. So I most likely will convert dakyne for q3a too.

Among other projects, g1zm0 hinted at a brand new DM map in the works that could be released soon. Stay tuned!

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