Many people, authors and players alike, have been wondering just how I decide what to post here and why so here are some answerers to my most asked questions about rating levels.
Who is this guy and why does he think he knows everything?
I'm just a player who is hopelessly hooked on first person shooters.
I have played thousands of single player levels in Doom, Doom2, Ultimate doom, any doom, Duke3d, Hexen, Hexen2, Quake, and now Quake2. I started reviewing levels when Quake came out as a tribute to all those level authors which spend countless hours of their time just so lazy slobs like myself can have some more fun.
I don't and will never know everything about levels but do have a pretty good feeling for them and pretty much know if they are any good or not. At this time I have a fine machine to play on. It's a Dell xpsM200s with 64 Megs of screaming sdram and a Diamond monster 3dfx card for great gl performance.
I have even made some attempts with WorldCraft and Qoole at level editing myself but my maps are so ugly I wouldn't even give them to my ex-mother-in-law so I will just stick to playing and reviewing them.
Why wont you give these levels a numerical rating?
I would really rather spend my time playing levels and putting them up on this site for your enjoyment instead of spending countless hours of my time writing e-mail about why a level got a 4 instead of a 5. If the authors wish for more input on their levels they only have to send an e-mail about it and I will be more than happy to tell them.
As long as I can post great levels for the majority of people to play and be happy with, it should be good enough. This is one of the key factors for me not to get burned out on this job and to be able to provide you with a place to get great levels you know you will enjoy.
How do you rate these levels? What criteria do you use? I am not an English major so please bare with me for a few minutes while I try to explain my thoughts about the following things which can make a level great to me.
Architecture and textures
I really like good, well constructed levels. If there are a lot of eye appealing things to look at while playing it makes the overall game experience much better for me.
I look at most of the textures used and will notice just about any flaw in the texture alignment. Texture alignment is one of the things that will make or break the level for me. Here are some questions that run through my mind while evaluating the level.
Does everything look right?
Do the buttons and other small things look like they are all there?
When you change from one texture to another does it look right?
Do the textures change in all of the areas of this level so I feel I know where I am at all times?
Too much of one texture can be pretty hard on my eyes and contribute to me getting lost in a level.
Gameflow and design
Good gameflow will really add to a levels greatness. I know there is good gameflow when I always know what or where to do or go next and I can get there in a reasonable amount of time and there aren't any noticeable slowdowns in the game. One of the most frustrating things to me is to be in the heat of battle and your whole world slows down and becomes choppy. When I play a level where there are dead ends and doors that wont open I really get frustrated.
I prefer levels that make you go from a-b-c-d- the end.
I can stand some backtracking but really would rather discover different places to go in the level.
Another important thing is in the design of the level. If the player is especially adventurous, can he get stuck somewhere in the level with no option but to noclip out? Some of the levels I have played made the player bounce back and forth so many times he or she could get dizzy and disorientated!
Lighting and ambience
Lighting can kill a good level or make it great. What good is great architecture if the level is too dark to see it? I hate being in the dark most of the time. Dark corners and such are good things for hiding weapons and powerups and even a monster. But having most of the level in the dark can be disastrous.
The whole point of lighting the level is to make the player feel he is really there. If the level is all lit up there is no sense of reality either. Here are some questions I ask my self about the lighting while playing.
Are these the right kind of lights for this kind of area?
Does the lighting look pleasing or could it be lighter or darker in spots?
Would things look better if there were different colors of lighting?
One thing which really bugs me about some levels is when there are no skill settings implemented. This to me means the author is just too lazy to finish his level. They like to say lame things to cover their own laziness like this level is meant to be hard or who needs them or if you cant beat it you need more practice... how lame!
I have found I can get more interested in a map if I get to beat it on all skill settings. It also shows off the authors abilities to place all the right items in the right places for the different situations. So you can be sure 99% of the levels I post here will have more than one skill setting.
I am an adventurous player who loves to find the authors secrets and gets rewarded for it. I think all good single player levels should have at least a couple of well placed secrets with some helpful items which will reward the player and help him to get through the level. I don't like so called secrets in obvious places. After all, its supposed to be a secret, isn't it?
Monster, weapons, ammo, and powerup placement
I am always amazed when a monster can scare me out of my chair! Sometimes it can be a creepy but good feeling. Good monster placement can do just that. For a level to be truly challenging, the author must place the monsters in strategic places throughout the level.
The monsters should be placed where they have the advantage over the player and it will take some skill to defeat them. Having the right weapons at the right time is just as important and so is having the right powerups.
It's a bad thing to be out of ammo, health, and only have a shotgun after defeating 60 enemies and then having to face 20 more. On the other side of that coin its pretty unbelievable to have too much ammo and all of your weapons inventory at your disposal during most of the level making the player nearly indestructible and facing nearly no challenges at all.
Another great feeling is when you play a level which is different from all the rest with cool homemade textures and a different themes and even different monsters and weapons. Some of the new ideas authors come up with really stun me. They can expand the game into a different experience all together. I give levels like this a special amount of attention.
On the other hand, I really get bummed out when I see copycat levels. A great example of these type are the base style levels in Quake. All the same textures and all the same ideas...very boring to me and unless I find something exceptional about them they simply don't get reviewed.
The fun factor usually will win over most everything above. It will take a good mixture of the above criteria to make the level fun but sometimes I will overlook some of the flaws in a level if its very fun to play. It is the most single important thing about playing. If it weren't fun, I wouldn't be playing it... would you?
So there you are, a too short of an explanation of what I do to rate levels for this website. There is more to it than this but you should get the general idea of my thought process when rating levels. It is my hope to continue to provide you with great levels to play.