Mortal's Tips on
How to Give a Level That
Dark Forces Feeling
Most of the custom made levels I have played lack that special Dark Forces feeling. It's like everyone strives to "capture" it but never suceed. Therefore, I will now tell you six things to think about that will make a level be more "Dark Forces-like"!
1. THE GEOMETRY
If you study the geometry in DF you will see that rooms are often very simple. Some shelves, a doorway, a window, a few things sticking out from the walls. The rest of the details are made up with textures. Do not make the rooms to complicated. Details make it hard to navigate the map and multiply the risk of HOM! Besides, that will save walls that can be used for better things if you make a big level! Use stairs where stairs should be used and elevators where elevators are best used!
Textures are probably the most important thing to give that DF feeling. Some textures should not be combined. Learn from the original levels what textures belong to the Empire, Rebellion or civilian! Some textures were made for ships and other for sewers. If you want to use textures in other places than were intended by the designers of the original levels be sure you think about colours and patterns. When you are done with the textures, look at them one more time. Do they REALLY fit in there? Try several textures before you decide.
Sometimes you may need to use double layers of textures. Not possible in DF? I tell you, it is! There are the top, mid and bottom textures. But there is also the one called "SIGN" and it can be used for more than switches! Use it to place details on walls or to get two different textures on the same wall without having to align a zero-height sector.
In the original levels textures, or the walls actually, are split to break down the textures into smaller pieces. This trick can give completely "new" textures, using the the original ones. Split a wall in two and use a texture broader than the two walls. Stitch them from the outside and in and you have a texture that isn't 4,8,16 or 32 DF units wide! This should of course not be used just anywere!
3. THE ENGINE
Dark Forces was made for that engine. And that engine was made for Dark Forces. There just ARE some things that can't be done. Face it! =) Depending on the geometry a room can't be much bigger than 200-250 DF units and the same thing with the height. If bigger, there WILL be homs. Homs can be hidden by the geometry but don't push it to far! Where in DF can you find sectors that NEED to be bigger than they are? Nowhere! If LucasArts could create all the original levels with that engine... so can you!
Don't build on the level unless you are inspired! Let it take some extra months to finish it and get it to look good instead. Play the original levels and look at there solutions. Don't be afraid to take ideas from them! As in real life, there are some standards in the Star Wars universe. The Empire builds in a certain way, often very regular with straight lines while the rebels are slightly more irregular. Why? Well, try to build a base inside an icecube and see how straight you can make it! =)
A lot have been said about changing storyline during the work on custom made levels. My opinion is that the story can be written when the level is completed... more or less! Start with an idea and build the level from that. See where it takes you! As the level develops, ideas will come and the plot will be visible! Create the level and THEN put puzzles into it! Well... that is if you, like me, have a hard time coming up with a story from the start and then stick to it! =)
Don't be afraid to change things along the way!
6. WHAT TO DO
Have you dreamed of all the cool stuff you want to put in the level? All the new textures from that new world never seen before? Well so have most of us! But do you really know how much job that takes? The risk is that when you discover that you are already half-done with the level and all suddenly you don't want to finish it. Don't set too high goals from the beginning. Remember, there are a lot of textures in DF already and they are used to give DF that dark and mysterious feeling it has. Wanna make a custom made level that feels like Dark Forces? Use the original textures!
These are some of the guidelines I use to follow when I work on my levels. All of these things do not apply to some projects, I know. But those projects are often not intended to look like DF anyway! =)
Good luck and keep on editing! You are expanding the Star Wars universe!