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The Pyramid of the Magician started life as a test map experimenting with different terrain floor blend styles. I showed the test map to a friend and he suggested turning the test into a map with game play! and so the journey began ...

The original test map was made up of the canyon area and a few holes in the steep walls for cave entrances. Once it was decided game play was needed, the rest of the map was constructed from caulk walls to test layout and flow. The footprint of the map is two arenas connecting together via cave like corridors. At opposite corners of the map are small hub/rooms which are used mainly for route switching and item focus.

In order for the map to be a memorable experience a theme or focal point was required. Its always a good idea to have a visual hook or central object in a map so that even if people forget the name of the map, they will always remember the one special scene or feature.

Over the years I have collected various types of architectural books on different building styles throughout history and one period which I always wanted to do a texture set for was Mayan. The obvious visual hook had to be a Mayan temple as it had not been done before and would be something cool to build.

Finding the right kind of photo to use was not going to be easy as a lot of the mayan temples are totally overgrown or ruined. One particular temple which I really liked the look of was the Pyramid of the Magician. With its steep step design and transversal corbel-vaulted archways, it had all the characteristics of mayan architecture written all over it.

Next I needed to find a second temple because I did not want to create an exact copy of something. So I blended the above temple with another famous temple called The Pyramid of Edzná. This five-storey structure combines the principles of the pyramid and a multi-level palace.

 Digital photography
The textures had to be photo sourced as the map architecture was going to be natural organic structures. I spent a good couple of weeks driving around to various locations taking pictures and I certainly got my fair share of dodgy looks! Taking close up pictures of plants and mud tracks does look extremely odd to the general public.

On several occasions I had to go back to some locations because of lighting conditions and the fact I was wearing a dark coloured T-shirt! A lot of the leafs were taken extremely close up and often the colour of my T-shirt would wash out or tint the digital image.

All of the leafs and plant objects for the map required alpha layers and would need to be cut out so they look right. A classic method for this is to use a blue cloth screen behind objects so that the screen can be selected quickly and easily in a paint package and deleted. Something I forget about out from my biology class is that most organic objects are slightly translucent and will be affected by the colour of the screen behind them.

The best advice I can give after all my ventures into digital photography is, wear a grey t-shirt and use a white cloth screen. Otherwise you will end with a lot of tinted images and blue coloured leaves.

 The Caves
The most interesting part of the map for me was the caves and floor blending. Trying to create organic structures is time consuming but ultimately more rewarding than duplicating man made designs. I spent several days creating different designs but the best results always came from contour lines arranged to match the height of the landscape.

For game play and visual reasons the terrain landscape had to be smooth, because most games don't have suspension physics applied to the player. In all the tests I did, bumpy landscapes just felt like the player was stuck on a plank and rolling across a bumpy field at speed. For visual reason the bumpy terrain landscape just looked too low resolution and felt awkward.

When designing the caves I wanted to create something which was cramped, dark and very spooky. But this is not a good recipe for game play and drop down points had to be added to all the intersection points. I spent ages thinking of ways to create convincing looking ledges and holes in the ceiling space. None of the designs really felt right but luckily while out walking one day I discovered a very cool design. There was this section of the ground which had suffered from huge subsidence and looked perfect for what I wanted.

Most collapsed sections are usually made up from separate chunks which subside at different speeds and directions. By filling up the ceiling holes with spiral brushwork designs and then sinking each section by a different amount the final design looked more natural. It also offered interesting game play as it caught players tearing along like a safely net and stopped them falling down the hole so quickly.

 Special Effects
A certain amount of SFX is always needed for any kind of Q3 map like for example jump pads, weapon markers and player spawn locations. All of these structures needed to be themed correctly and something mayan had to be found. Probably the most popular god of the mayan culture was the god of rain, Chac. This is mainly based on the excessive amount of relief's built in his image.

The god of rain, Chac has a long nose in the form of an upturned trunk, spiral eyes and the rest of his face is similar in human characteristics. The spiral eyes seemed the perfect choice for the Q3 SFX as it fitted with the correct shapes needed. With a little bit of Photoshop work the spirals were created and merged with some cloud layers from the original Q3 artwork.

The teleporters are based upon a Norse/Viking design and inspired by my constant watch of the Conan the Barbarian films. I wanted to create something which felt mystical/magical and certainly not tech or man made. With the help of the ASE model format the teleporters were given a nice twist and look like they had sunken from age into the ground.

Once the map theme had been decided it was time to squash the silence and finally add the flesh to the bones. In order for the environment to be believable and atmospheric a certain level of ambience was needed. The outdoor areas needed to be alive with a wide spectrum of animal sounds and the caves needed to feel cold, dark and lonely.

Each environment in the map had a certain role to play and the right combination of sounds was needed to bring each section of the map to life. Each key area was given a primary background ambience sound with additional random triggered sounds on top for added variety.

All physical map objects like torches and teleporters were setup with subtle sound loops so that the background ambience gradually changed when passing them by. Unfortunately some objects had to have their ambient sound removed because Q3 can multiple volume levels based on entity proximity and portal space.

At certain points in the caves constant wind loops were added to compliment the architectural style. Long corridors and various junctions with open skylights were perfect wind traps and constant samples with random quick gusts fitted these locations well. At certain points of the caves low frequency rumbles were added to help increase the feelings of cold and fear.

The final icing on the cake was really long sounds of a distant thunderstorm approaching. This initially starts with distant rumbling and then develops into the odd crack of thunder in the distance. These samples are played infrequently and add great depth to the overall sound landscape.

 Landmarks and Vegetation
Something which needed to be consistent was the architectural style and mayans did have a certain way of building things. They did not build huge column or curved archway designs until very late on in their history. Their bread and butter of design was the transversal corbel-vaulted archway. This is usually very tall and narrow at the top and often used to remove pressure from very high steep staircases. it was also used with some success at creating large indoor areas.

Some people during testing felt the caves were confusing and landmarks had to be placed so that people could gather their bearings quickly. One idea which worked well with the cave design was the vaulted archways as they nicely fitted into a cave passageway. It gave the impression of a gateway leading to something and nicely marked most routes to the temple.

All of the organic plant life was manually placed because it needed to naturally fit together and into lot of weird locations. Using a better rotation tool certainly would have sped up the process but ultimately it felt satisfying to know that I grew/placed every plant myself.

-ID for creating Quake 3 Arena.
-Ydnar for the Q3map2 compiler and constant technical support, advice and testing. This map would not be possible without this compiler.
-Marauder for support, feedback and all the custom sounds.
-Lloyd Morris for giving me access to Tempest Utopia and letting me re-work the models into another project.
-Shallow, Furious George, Roper and the rest of the Crew for amazing game play feedback, testing and support.
-MrElusive for all your support, feedback and extensive testing.
-PJW for all your support, feedback and gameplay suggestions.
-Kat for all your support and feedback, and putting up with my constant stream of progress screenshots! Special thanks for the use of your rock texture as a colour mask.
-Raven, Fjoggs, Mindlink and Zombie for support and feedback.
-Wviperw for the ProMode 1v1 Mapping guide.

 Map Information
Development10 weeks, ver. 43(aq)
Item Balance2xYA, 2xRL, 1xPG, 1xGL, 1xSG, 1v1 (+MH), FFA (+regen)
SkyboxBy Ydnar.
SoundAll custom sounds by marauder.
TexturesThe majority of textures taken with a digital camera by me.
ModelsPlant and tree models were original made by Lloyd Morris and then re-textured by me.

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