As I sat on the train home yesterday out of Waterloo station, scaring my fellow passengers by snapping photos through the window of derelict industrial buildings as they whizzed by and making frantic drawings on a pad of paper, I wondered how one would actually draw the layout of those locations. How are places like that really designed? Can some of the principles be transferred to level design planning?

After a quick search this morning I concluded: no idea. I couldn’t find any diagrams or drawings that described how such a place would be designed on paper first. Blueprints are typically reserved for the details of a particular building, rather than how a building sits on a piece of land. Map sketches (in my case anyways) tend to consist of an overview of the area detailing buildings and landscape, with a variey of dotted/dashed lines to indicate height, plus an assortment of rough 3D sketches.

I’m sure there must be some set of rules and principles that describe best how to plan out a map in 2D, including symbols and style guides, probably inspired by another profession, but I can’t find them.

I think everyone who plans out maps first has their own style and approach, but there are almost certainly some traits common to all for expressing particular features. One example is describing change of height (a ramp or something) by drawing 4 or 5 parallel lines with the longest line at the highest point and the shortest line at the lowest point, perpendicular to the direction of the slope (creating a triangular shape). Another common tool is drawing hatching patterns through areas that block the player, which can then be extended to crosshatching for even more expression. I wish I knew specifically where these came from, but I’m clueless.

Maybe some sort of general guide is needed on the VDC…