DM-Jazz - Unreal Tournament 4 Map (May - July 2020, UE4)

Designer

Deathmatch map for Unreal Tournament 4. Perfect for Duel mode or two to four players. 

 

DM-Jazz is available for download at UTCC.

What started as a simple venture into Unreal Tournament led to three deathmatch maps. I deemed DM-Jazz the strongest and brought it to completion.

 

DM-Jazz was born out of improv. I designed previous levels with my old methods: staring down a piece of lined paper, sketching endless layouts in endless configurations, trying to find the perfect formula for each level before committing to the editor. This time I started with the idea for a curved bridge, stretched into a 'U' shape and partitioned by pillars. I moved straight into whiteboxing without a complete layout in mind. The basic layout was built in an hour and by hour four the outdoor area was finished, including lighting and pickups. I already felt good about it. I attribute the success of this process to building on concepts from the previous maps. There's the drop to the armor, the thin walkways for sniping, and the cramped downstairs rocket launcher.

With Jazz I wanted a simple style reminiscent of the HOLP maps for UT3. I limited the use of complex static meshes per area to make them stand out, and went with a white and grey texture palette with decal trim to pop and signify the edges of walkways. But I wanted the map to feel colourful and memorable, while straying from the 'blorange' that plagues many games (including my own HL2 map). I went with a rosy sundown for the skybox and filled much of the level with natural light. Basking the neutral textures in this light turns the walls and floors a bright pink, with a nice indoor/outdoor contrast. All three levels were roughed with Unreal’s BaseModular model set, but because of their rigidity the level was rebuilt with BSP and then converted to meshes.

Through playtests, aspects of the map evolved: a medium armor was added to the cylinder room to offer players an easy to access powerup with little risk but less reward. I added Ammo for the minigun and removed a spawn by the sniper, as the weapon is too powerful for a player to start with. Right before release, a playtester suggested changing the weapon and armor locations. I was hesitant as the map had been built with a weapon set in mind and for each location, but to humor him we went through the level and rearranged everything. It did wonders for the flow and pacing, and player spawns didn't even need to be adjusted.

On beta release, a player offered suggestions for alternate health placements. Previously the pickups were spaced out throughout the arena, requiring players to move around constantly to refuel. But mobility is rarely an issue in an arena shooter, so it proved better to group health together and near--but not in--conflict points, letting players refuel quickly and return to focus on the battle.

I wanted to spend a couple weeks at most on a UT map--something small to reacquaint myself with Unreal Engine. But three months later I had three maps, and DM-Jazz is the first multiplayer map of mine that I’m quite proud of. Jazz challenged conventions of my previous levels: it’s not twisting and claustrophobic, the visuals stand out in contrast to other common mods, I started in editor rather than on paper, and I wasn’t afraid to test any player’s concept and work it in somewhere. I’m not sure when I’ll next take on a level design project of this size again, as my attention turns to finishing Cyberjustice. So I’d like to keep tweaking Jazz. If you play it, please let me know what you think.

© 2020 by Ian Colquhoun.

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