Last one! (Note to self: add confirmation for ‘delete post’ button…)
Lighting means shadows too
Lighting is not about making sure everything is perfectly clear and visible - if it were, we could make everything bright to start with.
Lighting is about making the environment look convincing, and changing how the player perceives different areas of the world. It’s about portraying danger or opportunity, or simply to make the world look good. Lighting can completely change how a player plays the game, so embrace it and spend time on it.
Adding is easier than changing
If something isn’t working, delete it and try again. You’ll have a good, clean sheet to start work with, the advantage of knowing what went wrong, and will be open to different ideas. If an idea really isn’t working, screw it up and throw it away before it haunts you.
If something works, keep it if you can. Just remove the bad bits.
Listen to feedback
While it’s nice to be told “ooh that looks pritty!”, it’s not very useful. Feedback like “I couldn’t do X” or “how do I get to Y” are very useful. Listen to it and act upon it where necessary. No one will know your map as well as you do, which puts you at a disadvantage.
Watch people as they play. Look for the unexpected nuances that they take advantage of and anything that throws them off-course.
A note on screenshots
You can convince someone to play your map with a single screenshot. You can also convince them to ignore it with a single screenshot.
A good screenshot will be: clean, neat and look good. Turn off the HUD and view-weapon. Try a different camera spot and field-of-view. If you can, get players or bots in-view to show some action. Cropping to widescreen can also help, as does minimal post-processing (although sometimes it’s easy to go a bit overboard.)
It’s harder/easier than it looks (delete as appropriate)
Making a map can be easy and relaxing as often as difficult and aggrevating, but the aim is always the same - to make a map that other people can play. Once you’ve done that, you can forget about it and start work on the next one. But if you never finish, you may as well have never started.
Never stop thinking about your aim. If you can picture in your head what your finished map will be like, then finishing it will be all the easier.