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Community Mapping Tips n Tricks

Making SRB2 Levels.

It's fun.

But, y'know, ya gotta make sure that other people have fun with your level too. :<

This is a guide that gives you various mapping tips n tricks given by various community members.
If you would like to submit a tip of your own, do it in the linked megathread within this paragraph, and hopefully I'll be able to do a part 2

without further ado, let's showcase some mapping tips.

Ramble about Sonic Level Design
- Twins'R'Okay


To me: Sonic levels are made up of 5 parts.

SPEED
PLATFORMING
PACING/FLOW
EXPLORATION
GIMMICKS

SPEED:
This should be self-explanatory, as this is the defining characteristic of your typical Sonic game.
You go fest, and that's cool!
However, going fest in a straight line is kinda boring.
So, the games often spice things up by adding vertigo or spectacle to each speed section in a Sonic game.

This isn't so easy to achieve in SRB2. Slopes and ramps do often work well when it comes to fitting that role, hell, maybe it's all you need when it comes to satisfying a player's sense of vertigo. But, I'm sure we can do better, not to toot my horn too much in this post, but I *did* make a """""functioning""""" loop-de-loop in my map using zoom tubes and I'm sure some people here can come up with more creative solutions.

PLATFORMING:
Despite the defining characteristic of your average Sonic game, this is still a platformer, so, at some point, you should be jumping from platform to platform.
Sonic games tend to have varying approaches to incorporating platforming into the game. Some feature barely any platforming, while others tend to feature entirely *too much* of it.

Due to SRB2s' more precise controls, platforming is not only agiven, but expected in nearly every level of the game. When it comes to the individual platforms, you probably shouldn't make them too small as landing on tiny objects tends to be annoying. On top of that, while your platforming sections should have verticality, it shouldn't have *too much* verticality, due to either SRB2's default renderer distorting the view the further I look up/down or SRB2's camera keeping me *from* looking up or down. I should be able to see the next platform at default camera settings within my FOV.

PACING/FLOW:
I find this harder to pin down and explain. It's also something that not every Sonic game gets down pat. Think of it like driving a racecar. If you wanna slow down, you have to gradually put your foot on the brakes to slow yourself down, and if you wanna speed up, you have to do the same for the acceleration pedal. You don't wanna jerk the player to a sudden stop or start, you should gradually slow them down first. Ramps and springs, I find, do a decent job at this (ramps more than springs). After all, if you suddenly stop the player with a wall when you want them go fast, it'll feel like a metaphorical kick to the nuts for the player.

EXPLORATION:
This is a common theme across all of the Sonic games for the most part. There is some degree of exploration. The first thing that Sonic games do when it comes to exploration are multiple paths. Since this is a platformer, you're often going from A to B. However, some Sonic levels give you a million different ways to get to point B.

While having a branching path in terms of level design is uhhhhhh fine(?), replicating the high-low road dichotomy of level design is better. What is the high-low road dichotomy. Basically a level design theory that has a high road and a low road. The low road is easier to access, easier to get through, and provides more vertigo, but you don't get much out of it afterwards. Meanwhile, The high road is significantly more difficult to access, as well as get through, but the rewards are far more worth it. When making your level, you should probably find ways to replicate that dichotomy.

On top of having branching paths, Sonic levels have secrets. Often as rewards to those who are curious enough to check something they haven't seen before, or notice something that's a little off. Your level can have this too! Breakable walls with cracks in them are one of the most common ways to hide secrets, but I'm sure you can do better. So long as it isn't bullshit, like a fake wall that looks like all the other walls, for example.

On top of that, I feel there are multiple levels of secrecy when it comes to items in SRB2.
Regular shields don't need to be hidden at all.
More (contextually) valuable shields can be hidden in cheeky or hard to reach places.
Same goes for Invincibility or an Extra Life, except those should be hidden in slightly more hard to reach places than valuable shields.
Chaos Tokens should probably be hidden well, but not *too* well.
And finally, emblems sit at the top of the pyramid of secrecy; They should be hidden *very well*, with their hints well uh, hinting to their location without downright revealing it.

GIMMICKS:
Sometimes, making a good level just isn't enough. Sometimes, you need something to stand it out. That's where gimmicks come into play. Your typical Sonic game has loads of gimmicks, and nearly all of them change up the gameplay a bit to make them more interesting (for the most part). A good gimmick can elevate a level from good to great, as well as make it memorable to those who play.

As a rule of thumb, gimmicks should be simple and easy to understand. You should teach the gimmick in a safe environment first. The next few rooms should include that gimmick, but with a *low difficulty*, just to make sure the player can ease into the mechanic. Once the player is eased in, you gradually remove the safety net and find different ways to challenge them on it. At the end, make sure the player is tested on that gimmick and how it works, the difficulty should be *high* at this point. If you plan on doing something different with the gimmick, teach the player what is different and lower the difficulty curve so the player can get used to what's different before ramping things back up again.


Checkpoint tip
- The Real Inferno



In most cases, you should ALWAYS have spare rings near checkpoints! This is to allow players to easily protect themselves after respawning!



Fair Difficulty Design

- time gear



I'm not really much of a level designer myself, but I still feel like this bit of advice is important: It's okay to want to make a hard level, but always remember that there's a difference between difficulty and just spamming enemies and obstacles. Ideally, the player should always feel like their deaths are their own fault, not the fault of cheap design. It can be tricky to find the right balance to pull this off, but doing so can be the difference between a hard but fun level, and a fustercluck of infuriating design elements.



Various Tips
- Dead



Having an outdoor level with sector brightness by default to, let's say 240 may add depth for your level, don't go 255 unless the section itself is meant to be that bright.

Please oh please, if you somehow have a gimmick for your level, make 100% sure that you have a section where it is safe to teach players that gimmick, don't just throw the gimmick into the player's face when there are threats around you.
Do those gimmicks in a safe environment twice for a better measurement to understand what they have to do, then later in your level you can reuse that same gimmick but make it more challenging.

Try your hardest to use textures or rings (You can also use objects if you can) accordingly to make certain paths much more readable, It's key to let players know if the path they take is the correct one.
Try your hardest to not make everything look so blended, having contrast is key so they can see what's going on better. (The same could be made not making your levels very dark)
Different Sector Elevation may also help to improve level readability, It's also a bonus to make your level having more substance.

For the love of God, DON'T, SPAM, ENEMIES, EVER. I won't list of how you should do enemies proper within the Vanilla roster, I do think the wiki link on OP's post already covers it pretty well, in terms of Enemy Placement

An important Golden Rule when it comes to level designing, always, DARE I say, ALWAYS, Test Your Levels, try your hardest not to look into your own perspective but try to look into other's perspective, even if you did playtest it multiple times, you could always ask someone else to test it for you.
Often times their feedbacks may help find what you couldn't find.



Varying linedef types
- yfyfyfyfyfy



Don't forget to use different types of Linedef. You can diversify the level and make very interesting tricks, but very few people use this, because people don't know about the existence of these linedefs / they could not figure out how it works. Using only Linedef 300/301/302 you can make your level more "alive".

Come on, almost every page has an example that you can download and consider more closely. Did I create these examples in vain?


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Twins'R'Okay
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I have to echo the judges' sentiments here, this guide could really use some screenshots to better explain some of the points in this article. I also think stuff like the tangent about working loops isn't really necessary.
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I suggest that you explain that the lower route is meant to catch you if you fail the upper route. I agree it needs images, but I think everything in here is a valuable piece of information for mappers to know.
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Pretty informative! Though a purely text based guide is pretty hard to swallow. You should try to add some images or gifs.
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