I felt bored. Yeah. I’m not exactly the best levelmaker, but I feel like offering some tips for multiplayer levels nonetheless. Due to there being dozens of different online gamemodes, most of this will be based on battle and ctf (with some treasure and race), and maybe a paragraph or two on usercreated game modes near the end.
Here goes: GENERAL
Whatever level you’re making, layout is an important factor. I’ve seen many levels (and some of them were even made by me) where everything was good, EXCEPT the layout. This is especially important in Capture the Flag (CTF) because its good to make sure that the layout allows each team a fair chance to win. For CTF levels, try starting with a nice, solid, nearly symmetrical/symmetrical layout with the bases at around the same y coordinates. Yes, this doesn’t help the originality for the level, but it’s a good start (imo) to getting the hang of layouts. Vertical/diagonal based layouts in CTF tend to lead to some problems unless you have a lot of experience in JCS and know what you’re doing. Once you got the hang of making unbiased layouts for capture the flag matches, you should try making them unique, because playing in the same type of layout over and over gets boring. One particular thing to avoid (especially when making Capture the Flag levels and battle levels) are dead ends. Why? Well, to put it simply, they mostly suck. Nobody likes running down a long hallway into a brick wall or getting chased by someone into a dead end and roasted. Try to have the routes link to each other in some way. Even if it means putting in a sucker tube at the end of a hall or a warp or any of that, as long as the player doesn’t run into a wall and have to backtrack. Some people like dead ends because they can lead to more thinking and strategy, but most of the time they won’t up your rating by much. As for battle levels, you can make large chaotic levels with a lot of open spaces for battling or strategic levels which require hunting down your opponent through a lot of passages. Just remember that a large factor of battle (or at least public battle) is to try to get as much action as you can, with a bit of strategy involved as well. A lot of the times you play through online levels you see people staying at certain points (usually near a certain powerup, presumably the most powerful one in the level, or next to a carrot). This is called camping. Intended or not, chances are your level will have some camping whether you like it or not. Although camping isn’t necessarily bad, it can get a bit evil in places like a coin warp room or if there is only one full energy/carrot in the level. Ways to eliminate camping would be to put in more important parts into the level. Depending on the size of it, you may want to put in an extra carrot farther from the first, or perhaps make the coin warp (if you have one) reward aquired through a sucker tube (this can be done for powerups too by just placing a sucker leading down, then a ceiling spring, regenerating powerup, and then warp back). Places where a warp target is can also lead to people camping there, and unless you want to get ‘juggled’ when you go through a warp (i.e shot up into the air and unable to touch the ground, like in the seeker area in b1 where people just keep getting seekered in air and can’t do anything about it) you should place your warp targ closer to the ground (and not next to any vines, either, if possible). For race levels, try to have the layout fairly straightforward, and if you want to put in any secret routes make sure they are at least partly visible so that anyone playing in your level can find them in a few tries, otherwise you’ll have a big advantage. A variety of obstacles in a race level is also good, but don’t overdo it too much. For treasure, same thing as battle mostly, and try putting in the exit somewhere visible and easily accesible (unless you want your players to take time to get to the exit, but either way it should be visible unless you want people complaining). Also, having a strategic layout for a battle or CTF (especially CTF) level is a good idea. By ‘strategic’ I mean several multiple routes, some faster then others, possibly warps, and possibly some important part in the level (i.e. where lots of passages intersect and where there is an important powerup or something). Thinking is good. “But how do I know if my layout design is good or not?”. The best way to determine this is GETTING BETATESTERS. This is very important, since they can spot flaws and bugs in your level where you do not. You might think your level is amazing and worthy of a really high rating. Other people might think its buggy and flawed. The more betatesters, the better, and make sure you pick ones that have at least a decent amount of experience in levelmaking and can actually give out good advice.
I’m not going to put in multiple sections for this because it doesn’t really need any. Basically, make sure your levels ‘flows’ well. Meaning, you don’t crash into many (if any) walls, your springs actually bounce you the right way and not into a wall, you dont crash into the ceiling when running of a platform, and you dont run into any jagged stuff/solid tiles and stuff. Good things for better flow are float ups (Check some levels like Deep in the Jungle by Super Saiyan and Jagged Ectoplasm by LRK). Also, one ways are good for things (like thin platforms), but test your level carefully because there tend to be one way bugs that can leave you stuck in a wall. Ramps are a must include, too. If you want you could come up with nice spring combinations and stuff (Once again Jagged Ectoplasm by LRK, part of DarknessTower by me ;D). Also, dont overdo the flow. People like to move around a lot themselves, not get constantely bounced around by springs. Just find the happy medium.
Eyecandy: Yes. Eyecandy is an extremely important factor. For people like me, one of the most importants. Your level might play great, but not many people will love it if it looks horrid. For starters, try at least using 3 other layers aside from 4 and 8, if not more. Try to place stuff and make it look nice. If there is a lot of eyecandy but most of it looks awkward and ugly, it won’t get you a very high rating. It’s a good idea to try to not have any tiles you would originally place in layer 4 in the backround, because then people get confused about whats solid and whats not. Select tiles that you would use for eyecandy, and tiles you would use for ground and stuff. Also, don’t neglect that translucent option on some tiles. Take a look at levels like Apocalyptic Afterworld, Tinted Titanium (both by magoo), The Gumball Machine (Another shameless plug, in the Candy Wars pack ;o (by me if you havent guessed)), Green Beret (by Bluez, in the jj1 battle bash thing), where those use translucent (or transparent, whatever) tiles. Some tiles, in some sets, obviosly, are meant to be transparent. If you’re planning to have any of the layers move at an autospeed, try not to have it move at an incredibly fast rate (stuff like backrounds and backround stuff dashing across the sky look ugly). Another thing, layer 6 and 7 eyecandy is a must if you want good looking stuff, unless you’ve got enough foreground/layer 5 to cover it up. If you’re doing stuff like mountains, make it look realistic and have the back layer move slower then the front one. Lots of eyecandy IS good, but too much of it is just ugh. Especially if it covers a lot of the arena. I don’t reccomend going any further (or maybe even as far) as Carrotus to the Max (by Jman), because then too much eyecandy gets in the way and you can barely see. If you feel like it, you can also create some nifty stuff with the Lighting event (Heavenly Havoc by Scizor CT is a great example of this, except that it causes lag for slower computers). If you’re too lazy to read all of the previous paragraph, to summarize it: Include lots of eyecandy, try using layer 6 and 7 for backround stuff, as well as at least one or two foreground layers (Foreground layers don’t necessarily have to be at a different speed then layer 4, a lot of people typically use layers 2, 3, and 5 along with 4.). Some good ideas might be transparent tiles, stuff that looks fairly realistic, STUFF THAT TILE!!!!!!! (<-important). Dont include stuff that moves too fast, stuff that blends in with layer 4, too much eyecandy, eyecandy that blocks a lot of the screen (unless maybe for secret passages and stuff), eyecandy that rapidly flashes a lot (use Lightning with caution). Oh, and a few more things. Try to have your eyecandy be original, and not look too similar to another level’s eyecandy. If the set you are using is too limited on eyecandy, or you can’t think up of anything original for it, then I reccomend you use another tileset.
Placement of Stuff: Ok. This will be evil to write. I’ll try to divide it into several sections.CTF – AMMO: A lot of this depends on your level size. For an average size of around 120×60 or so (even that might be a bit big in some cases), try to have at least 4 different ammo variations. Usually, bouncer and toaster are good ideas. RF can be too. Some people think seeker is too cheap because its too strong and all, so if you’re planning to use seekers use them sparingly. Electro Blasters are good especially if you want to place powerups in walls and stuff. Pepper Spray is good for long passages, but is known to cause a wall spring bug (causing it to switch directions), so if you’re planning to use any “Hor Spring” event, make sure you don’t have any pepper spray in your level. If you do, then you’ll have to take one of them out or face bug problems. Ice is generally not reccomended because it’s next to useless in CTF, and you cant kill much with it (unless you’re an uber ice d00d or something). Same with TNT, but TNT could be used like EB’s with the wall stuff. I generally don’t reccomend putting in freezer and TNT (unless you have stuff planned for the TNT). Fastfires (I should’ve filed them under powerups but whatever) should be used sparingly, since they can be pretty powerful. I wouldn’t reccomend more then 3 fastfires in one place (even 3 might be too much, consider fastfires somewhere inbetween normal ammo and powerups). CTF – POWERUPS: Again, depends a lot on your level size. Unless your level is humongous, I don’t reccomend more then 3 powerups, and make the powerup placement ‘fair’. I.E, if you place a powerup closer to one base, the other base should have a powerup of fairly equal strenght close to them. Generally, Seeker powerups are usually the strongest (homing +2h damage + hard to avoid), so it would be a good idea (if you’re planning to use them) to place them in the middle of the level (or even in a wall in the middle, so they take more effort to get). Blaster powerups are used sparingly, and I consider them a bit better then the rest (aside for seeker) because blaster never runs out of ammo, and they become EVIL with a lot of fastfires. I think you should use Blaster with caution (especially if you’re planning to have fastfires). Bouncer, Toaster and RF are nice powerups to use (except RF causes fake health), so if you’re planning a 3 powerup level, they’d be good to have next to bases (bouncer powerup close to one base, toaster close to the other) or something. Pepper and EB powerup kinda suck since they do only 1 damage, but you could come up with something creative with them. I generally just consider them a way to get 50 ammo fast. CTF – Carrots: There are lots of basic ways to have carrots in the levels. Either have one full energy somewhere in the middle and and accesible by both teams at an equal time (not biased to either team), One full energy and one +1 carrot (generally both in the middle, but one lower and one higher), or one Full Energy and two +1s (generally full energy in the middle and the two carrots in team based routes and stuff). There are lots of ‘unique’ ways of placing carrots as well, and balancing them out (see Moree Mines by FireSworD), but I reccomend the basics unless you’re skilled enough and know what you’re doing.
CTF – Bases: Not much to say here. Just make sure the bases are placed so that each team has an equal chance to win (I.E. they both can get to the other base by the quickest route at the same time, they both have access to the same amount of carrots/powerups, etc). A good cheap way for this is a symmetrical layout (like I mentioned before), although that does take from originality a bit. Vertical and diagonal base placements are harder to balance, and I reccomend staying away from them unless you’re completely sure on what you’re doing.
CTF – Other: Er, lets see. Make sure Springs lead where they are suppose to, Warps don’t give any team the advantage (if team 1 should have a warp closer to them, team 2 should too, unless the team 2 has something to balance out the fact that team 1 has a warp next to them. Be careful of where you place warp targets (dont place them next to the left wall or to the ceiling because the player will get stuck, and dont place them in boxes with no exits as well). If you plan to have a warp target lead to somewhere with only one way out, you should have something worthwhile there (like a full energy or a powerup – See Angelic Warfare by CelL and RagE). Poles are generally not reccomended for any online games aside for race because they slow the player down and can cause bugs. If for any reason you’re planning to place a pole in your level, if its one standing from the ground, you should one way the ground beneath it to prevent players from getting stuck. Also, food in levels is a nice idea (especially if you have a food themed level, see Lemon Nightmare (by me,again ;D). Just don’t overuse it. Coins and Coinwarps are nice too, but I dont reccomend placing carrots in coinwwarps unless you plan on doing something like One Silver Penny – by celL). You can also have events for decoration, too. Like fastfeet.
Remember to have your carrots, ammo, powerups, food, coins etc RESPAWN, and give them a nice respawn time. Less needed stuff like food should spawn a bit faster then ammo, which should spawn a bit faster then powerups. HAVE RESPAWN ON WHENEVER YOU HOST STUFFKTHXPLZ.
Battle – Carrots: Step 1: Dont place Full Energies unless you know what you are doing. People have 5 hearts in battle, it takes time to kill stuff. Not very fun when you spend minutes shooting someone and they just get a full energy and get all their health back. Use +1 carrots with caution. I don’t reccomend placing more then 2, and they should be far apart. 3 if your level is really big, and has lots of powerups and stuff. Here you can place carrots in coin warps and stuff (and an exception to the no full energy thing would be a full energy in a coin warp needing around 50 coins or so). Just try to have your coin warp targ be in a sucker tube so people wont camp in the carrot room.
Battle – powerups: Around 3 or 4 powerups are good, here you dont have to worry about them being biased to any team or anything because there are no teams. Just keep in mind that the seeker still remains the strongest powerup. And try having them spread out a bit, too.
Battle – Ammo: Again, at least 3 different types unless your level is really, really small (like Instagib levels). Try to generally have the powerups be for the same types of ammo as the +3 and +15 stuff (USE THE +15 AMMO BOXES WITH CAUTION). Nice, ammo patterns are also welcome, instead of boring square things.
Battle – Other: Coins and food and stuff. Food is a good idea for streetfight (having it fall from the sky – See Candy Wars). Something original perhaps. Dont have much else to say.
Treasure: Powerups arent really useful here since the goal isnt to kill people. Seekers are still really powerful because they home in, so use with caution. TNT is a tad more effective here, although still sucks. Remember the main focus of placing stuff here is with the gems. Try to have at least 125 gems in here, and not more than 180. So its possible for one person to get 100, and the rest to still have some. Place out gems fairly, and try having patterns with them too. (By fairly I mean you shouldnt clump like 5 blue gems in one area). Keep in mind the worth of each gem (Red and Purple – 1, Green – 5, Blue – 10). So typically, your level should have more red gems then green gems and blue gems. Keep in mind that the game will crash if you shoot ice at a gem ring, so take caution with that. Gem rings are worth about 7 or so gems (too lazy to count and stuff, just around that), so use them like Blue gems or so. Try to put in a few super gems since its strangely fun to shoot those and watch them explode. Don’t overdo the amount of gems in gem barrels. You could try putting in food in your treasure levels, although most of the time I doubt you’d get a sugar rush fast enough.
Race: Here is where TNT and freezer suddenly become useful. When placing ammo in race, I suggest placing some of it along the way so you can easily pick it up, and some of it a bit out of the way so you have to reach for it. If you place most of it out of the way, few people will actually go reaching for it, and thus most people will barely have any ammo. Also, don’t forget about the rest of the ammo types, since they’re important too. Just be careful of that pepper spray bug that causes Hor Springs to flip. Another thing of placing stuff in race is obstacles. Not just lots of springs, since those get boring over time. Try having stuff like belts (if the tileset allows it), destruct blocks to slow the player down (Weapon based ones not really reccomended, because people dont really like getting stuck in front of them with no ammo of that specific type and no TNT), sucker tubes, pinball object, trigger zones + trigger scenery, wind events, float ups, just to name a few. Be creative. Also make sure that the obstacles are fun to play through. Race is meant to be fun, not annoying. (Poles can be placed in race too).
General stuff to keep in mind: Ammo patterns. Place your ammo in creative and easily grabable shapes. Little starts, + signs, along the floor/along ramps, next to a wall etc. Mixed ammo groups are also good, just like ammo mixed in with food or coins.
Crates: Dont place Gun crates in your level. And avoid bomb crates and gem crates. The respawn time of them is bugged, so where you intend one crate to be that respawns at a time of, say, 20, they’ll be like 15 crates there or something. This is a jj2 bug, and the easiest way of avoiding it is to not place them. Besides, there are gun barrels and gem barrels, which dont have that annoying bug.
Originality: This didn’t seem as important before, but it is now. If you ask a lot of people, they won’t give more than an 8, or an 8.2, to a level thats not original. By original, try to have something new, or at least fairly new, in a level. A new concept. A new idea. A new gameplay theory. Anything which hasn’t been used much before. As long as the ‘new things’ fit in your level and improve it, the more the better. (It could be easier to make original things with underused tilesets as well).
Miscellaneous (Sp?): A few things to keep in mind. One: The next level setting. Lots of people (including me) sometimes forget to fill this out. Unless your level is in a pack, it should loop to itself. 2. Music. Levels with good music are funner to play. Make sure the music you choose fits the level and sounds good. Good sites for musics are modarchive.com and http://www.ludd.luth.se/users/jojje/modules.html <-Definite Loud, not sure this is the link to the front page though. Or you could browse through your jj2 folder and use some of the musics from levels you downloaded. 3. I’ve mentioned this before, but make sure that the tiles you place in your level TILE TOGETHER. Nobody likes looking at a cutoff platform or a peice of metal awkwardly sticking out from a peice of ground. If some things just refuse to tile, and you need them in your set, try using layer 3 to cover it up. Tiling is good. 4. BRIDGES. Don’t use them unless you have to. They cause Divide By Zero’s, which crash your jj2. End of story. 5. If you made a change to your level, don’t upload it again. Reupload the file you already uploaded (and if its major, use one of j2ov2’s new functions ;D). So unless you plan to have a new version of that level in a pack or something, take advantage of the reupload function. It’s there for a reason.
Paragraph on other game modes: I don’t have much advice to give on this, except that you should download levels of the specific game mode you are planning to make and compare them to your own. If you are making a new multiplayer game mode, I cannot stress how important it is that you betatest it. Even if you can’t play online, send it to someone you trust and have them host it and tell you what people thought about it and stuff. Levels using underused gamemodes are nice to see, since this game isn’t all about CTF or Battle. They may even help you get a higher rating ;D.
Concluding stuff: This article took me a few hours to write, and it was getting late at night so I had to rush at the end. If I get enough complaints about incorrect statements/errors in this, I’ll make a V2. So enjoy, or not. Whatever.
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.