Power Tower

CTF intensified

A capture the flag map made in Unreal Development Kit that focuses on vertical space, close quarters combat and fast movement. Players climb to the top of a tower to reach the flags, and are then dropped back down to the bottom; requiring them to scale the tower again with the flag to score.

Production notes

  • Engine: Unreal Development Kit
  • Development Time: 6 weeks
  • Solo Project
  • Notes:
    • Unique, balanced, and fun!
    • Good use of existing assets and tools
    • Crash course in building maps

Key Design Features

  • Strong Vertical Elements
    • Players spawn at the bottom of the map, but both flags are located at the top
    • Provided equipment becomes more powerful with increased height
    • Height differences even at ground level
  • Multiple Routes to the top
    • Central tower provides fast but dangerous route
    • Alternative route is slower but safer with more equipment
  • Short and intense battles
    • Close quarters combat
    • Race to acquire weapons

Design Elements


Original Intention
Most capture the flag maps tend to feature a lot of horizontal running because flags are placed at opposite ends of the map. I wanted to do something distinctly different, so I focused on vertical elements and tight spaces that forced combat. Much of my inspiration for the gameplay came from gladiator battles where two teams fight to the death in a public arena.

The Tower
Climbing the central tower is the fastest way to go from the spawn to the flags. The sections of the tower include the first floor, the second floor, the roof and the flag chambers. At each section, players are given increasingly powerful weapons, making the climb increasingly dangerous as it progresses. The tower itself is visually transparent all the way through, allowing players to quickly see the position of both enemies and allies. The walls of the flag chamber can also be shot through, meaning that they are particularly vulnerable to fire from outside the tower or the roof.

Vertical Elements and Jump-pads
Power Tower uses verticality as an indication of progress and power. Players constantly move upward, gaining more powerful weapons as they climb. Jump-pads separate the main sections of the map, which are the ground floor, the central tower area, and the tower roof. Jump-pads are simply pads the player steps on that sends them flying toward a given target. Jump-pads were used because unlike stairs they provide a clear division between areas, and because they send the player through the air are more exciting and feel faster than elevators.

Tight Spaces
Power Tower is a pretty small map to begin with, but given that there are only a few paths leading from the spawn to the flags, the gameplay space is smaller than in appears at first. The tower is has four distinct areas, none of which allow any space for players to run from conflict. This forces short and intense battles between players, as teams battle it out in their race to the top.

The alternate paths along the outside of the map are also quite tight, and due to the transparency of the tower, allow players to see the position of enemies and allies quickly. Long range weapons on the alternate path provide an opportunity for sniping,

Multiple Routes
Given that the central tower was a fast but dangerous route to the top, I built an alternate route that was slower but much safer to traverse. This path also had much more armor and weapons for the player to pick up, meaning that when they did reach the top they would be in much better condition than players that climbed the tower. Finally, this path led out to the highest point in the map, providing them an excellent position from which to control roof of the tower.

The proof is in the pudding

Built for UDK
Power Tower uniquely takes advantage of the fact that the starting weapon in UDK (the Link Gun) includes both a slow moving bullet as well as a close range energy beam. Because teams are in such close proximity, this makes the energy beam particularly powerful, even giving newly spawned players a chance against an enemy with a mighty Rocket Launcher.

Loving the Tower
The tower was incredibly successful, with all play-testers thoroughly enjoying the chaotic fun the close quarters combat the tower provided. This element was left untouched for the final build.

The Road Never Traveled
The alternate route was rarely used by testers primarily due to how much more fun the tower route was. In order fix this, I added walkways allowing players to travel between the tower and alternate route fluidly. Due to the entrances to the alternate route, it is extremely likely that players traveling along this path will not encounter enemies, making it safe, but also boring. Further improvements would move the entrances and bring teams into contact more powerfully to encourage more conflict.

Map Evolution

On the left are images take from the first playtest of the map and the images on the right show the final product.

   

Notice that there are no walkways connecting corner structures in the older image, nor are there the top vantage points.

   

The spawn areas became much more protected as a result of griefing. The red barriers shown here block bullets and enemies but let the red team leave their own spawn easily.

   

Two Cutaway shots showing the different levels of the tower.

   

The first and second stories of the tower. With only one weapon spawn on each floor, players must race each other for superior weapons

   

The roof of the tower can be both seen and shot through, giving little cover to people there. The vantage points on top of the map offer a vantage point from which to attack enemies that are guarding the roof. Also, the flag chambers offer health and armor as a reward to anyone who successfully climbs the tower.

   

In key locations, there are red and blue colored indicators to help keep players oriented. Players get turned around a lot when fighting up the tower, so clues to guide them were essential. The colored particles next to the jump pad, and colored rims around the holes in the roof were essential so players didn’t accidentally drop down the wrong hole by mistake.

 

Post Mortem

Overall, Power Tower is a very solid map, though with a few problems. The alternate path is simply not used because it is too safe and players are bored when traveling on it. That being said, it is balanced well in that players taking the alternate route will certainly be better equipped than players that climb straight up the tower, and there are several places where players can jump between routes. The flag chambers are also prone to camping due to the ready availability of health and armor pickups. This can be easily fixed however by moving these upgrades to the chute that brings players back down to the ground floor.

This project taught me the importance of play testing, and how players will take advantage of any griefing opportunity they are presented with. I also learned just how long it takes to fully dress up a level in terms of art assets. Getting this map to the level it is now took far longer than anticipated, but was a rewarding experience nonetheless.