Insurgency Gameplay Design
This is part of the series of guides being written for the Razer and Gamebanana sponsored mapping contest for Insurgency. Each week, we will explain a stage in the creative process of designing and building a map for the game.
For more details about the contest itself, including deadlines and prizing, check out the contest page.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4: Comming Soon
We are striving to create an experience you can only find with Insurgency. Hence, we have some original game modes, but also some others that are classic design principles with an Insurgency spin on them.
This guide will explain layout theory for the objectives in each mode, drawing upon examples from maps in game and explaining how and why their layout works. This will get you thinking about which modes you would like to design your map to support. While we mention some entity information, this is more of a broad overview of the game design. The next guide will delve into step-by-step information on how to set up your map from a technical standpoint.
Territorial objectives in the game are defined by the trigger_capture_zone entity and a corresponding point_controlpoint entity. A capture zone could be relatively small or quite large, depending on your intention. Larger capture zones generally allow players to be protected in areas inside of the objective, often leading to captures being contested, and requiring each corner of the zone to be cleared. Smaller capture zones generally have less of this, but are easier to clearly define (e.g. within a contained space).
In our experience, we’ve discovered that larger capture zones are ideal as long as the space they cover is clearly defined. What we mean by this is that it is clear to the player that they are about to cross into the capture area before doing so, because of how the area is laid out.
Weapon cache objectives in the game are defined within the map’s script file (e.g. “district.txt”). We define them in the map script instead of in the map so that they can be dynamically added in or removed depending on which game mode is being played. Weapon caches function as supply zones for their associated team, and can be destroyed by the enemy.
Since longer range explosive weapons (e.g. RPG, AT4, and grenade launchers in the future) can blow up a weapon cache, we generally try to place caches in well protected areas where they can’t be easily reached by these weapons. Approaching a cache should require stealth and require clever maneuvering.
The “Infiltrate” game mode functions very similarly to Capture the Flag, except instead of each team attempting to steal an actual flag, they are attempting to steal intelligence data from the enemy’s base while protecting their own sensitive data. Currently “Infiltrate” is the only game mode in the game that utilizes Intel.
The “Ambush” game mode, which functions as a VIP escort scenario, has extraction points that the escorting team must bring their VIP to in order to win the game. Extraction objectives are captured instantly, and simply require the escorting team’s VIP to be present in order to do so.
In the game we use the ins_spawnzone entity to designate spawn areas and the ins_spawnpoint entity to designate actual spawn points within a spawn zone. It is important that the spawn points are inside the spawn zone, and that the origin of each spawn point (generally by the player’s feet) is above the ground.
Static vs. Moving Spawns
In many of our game modes, a team’s spawn remains static in one place. In other game modes (Push and Checkpoint), as one team captures objectives in linear sequence, both teams’ spawn areas move as well, to simulate a dynamic front line experience. In either case, it is important to protect these spawn areas from enemies that wish to trap players exiting them.
In addition to protecting spawns with the map itself, restricted areas (using the ins_blockzone entity) allows you to prevent players from using their weapon if they cross into certain areas. These are very useful for adding extra spawn protection to areas, and also as area denial to discourage players going into certain parts of the map where they should not be. They also are useful in Checkpoint mode to ensure players don't go where the bots spawn.
Multiplayer Game Modes
There are both symmetrical and asymmetrical (attack vs. defend, escort vs. ambush, etc.) game modes. We will start with the symmetrical modes.
This is the staple gameplay and one of the most unique modes in the game. Teams only respawn when they capture an objective. Rounds can be over quickly, or prolonged by several objective captures. In either case, it’s very intense, often with thrilling comebacks.
There are three objectives: one for each team, and one in the middle that begins neutral. In any layout, the centre objective must be balanced perfectly so each team reaches it simultaneously. The positioning of the peripheral objectives can vary, and are defined as follows:
Balanced Objectives: Using Ministry as an example, all three objectives are balanced to be equal distance from both teams’ spawns.
Staggered Objectives: Using Heights as an example, the peripheral objectives are close to the centre, but positioned slightly towards the team that controls them at the start. So, if you reach your controlled objective from the start, you might already be within line of sight of the enemy.
Linear Objectives: Using District as an example, each peripheral objective is located closer to each team’s spawn area. The centre of the map might need to be passed through to reach those further objectives. Nevertheless, as a player, you can reach your controlled objective with enough time to set up defensive positions, or maneuver to a chokepoint en route to the objective and stop their approach.
This mode grows from the principles of Firefight, but with added reinforcement waves, so the same objective layouts as above still apply. The difference is that each team has a weapons cache located between their spawn area and the other objectives. The cache needs to be located in a spot that is easily accessible to its team, with multiple approach routes for the other team.
Generally a map that is designed to work well for Skirmish will also work well for Firefight. As such, every map in the game that supports one mode also supports the other. We encourage community mappers to support both as well if they are already thinking about focusing on a Firefight or Skirmish map.
This mode functions as King of the Hill, with a single territorial objective in the middle. The team that controls the middle will have unlimited reinforcement waves.
Market is a good example, with its central area around a downed helicopter has plenty of cover and verticality with bridges that overlook. There are intense firefights around the middle, but also plenty of flanking routes that can be utilized for both offensive or defensive play. Peak is another good example, since from a layout perspective everything revolves around a high ground in the center of the map. This makes for an ideal king of the hill experience.
It’s important to aggressively use restricted areas in Occupy, since once a team is controlling the center players tend to move up further towards their enemy’s spawn area. Spawn trapping enemies in Occupy is an effective way to win, so it’s important the level designer takes measures to prevent it.
This is a capture-the-intel mode, so similar principles of CTF apply. The intel is placed relatively close to the team’s spawn - like the cache in Skirmish. The idea is to encourage each team to infiltrate the enemy’s base while protecting their own.
Similar to Skirmish in layout, but closer to Firefight in gameplay dynamic. Only one territorial objective in the centre, and the rest are weapons caches that must be blown up. Teams only respawn when they capture/destroy an objective.
Next, we have asymmetrical modes that are based upon attack and defend gameplay:
This is the most popular game mode; pioneered by the original mod. One team is attacking and must capture three objectives in sequential order. There are two distinct types of layouts for a Push map:
Linear Objectives: Using Buhriz as an example, the objectives far enough apart that it creates a front-line feel with defenders moving up to the objective and holding. The attackers must penetrate the line of defense.
Open Objectives: Using Sinjar as an example, the objectives have plenty of room to maneuver around and flanking is often an essential strategy.
This game mode utilizes moving spawn zones, which makes the technical side a little more complex. Each objective requires their own pair of spawn zones, spawn points and block zones. While in a fixed spawn zone game mode there would only need to be two spawn zones, in Push there needs to be at least six (if it’s a 3 objective Push map). Therefore, layouts generally need to be much larger.
This is a one-life search and destroy style mode. A weapons cache location is chosen at random, and the attacking team must locate it (from two possible locations) and destroy it.
This is a VIP style mode, where one player is a high value target trying to reach an extraction point before the enemy can take them out. There is only one extraction point when there are fewer than 12 players in game (server variable).
Cooperative Game Modes
Checkpoint works similarly to Push, except the defending team are AI and placed in a larger area than the confined spawns of Push. Checkpoint can support as many objectives as the mapper wishes. The primary constraint you must work within as a designer is Source Engine’s entity limits, since placing many spawn areas with numerous spawn points increases the entity count significantly. Another important consideration is the placement of AI spawn locations that are out of sight from the players, and this is where Restricted Areas come in handy.
Hunt functions similarly to Rainbow Six’s classic “Terrorist Hunt” game mode. There are a fixed number of enemy AI placed randomly throughout the map. It’s your job as a designer to strategically place their spawn points and confine the play space so it’s not too large. In contrast to Checkpoint, this mode is non-linear and should be relatively open in allowing different potential paths.
New Map Design
For our new map, the layout is going to be symmetrical and foremost created for Skirmish and Firefight, with balanced objective layouts. As we playtest the layout, we will determine other modes that work well. We also want to keep Cooperative gameplay in mind, as that is a popular component of the game.
To achieve balanced objectives in Firefight and linear objectives in Skirmish, the layout design is simply arranged in a diamond. Spawn locations are in the corners of the map. Caches are along the side with a defensive route leading from the spawn area. We’re also considering testing a layout of objectives in Skirmish identical to Firefight, with the cache locations in the center area, located in the compounds closest to spawn.
Scale of the layout is also important, as we want to promote close quarters combat amongst the objectives, and more open medium-range firefights in between. The verticality is also an important factor, with rooftop and second-story access from each objective area and the spawn areas. There is also a trench-like canal cutting through the center of the map from each spawn area to provide some cover and concealed approaches.
As we playtest the map, we will reshape the map's layout according to how it plays.
We will have a more thorough technical explanation of just how to set up a map's entities and any other requirements to get your level working with Insurgency.