Here are some lessons learned from years of hanging about on mapping boards, mostly for Quake 3 stuff. All of this stuff is just my opinion, but it's based on years of watching what annoys people or makes them happy.
Have you beta tested?
No? Chances are your map is not ready for release, even if you have years of experience. Get people to test it, and not just your friends or your mum, they will probably just be polite and say they liked it even if they thought it sucked. Get players to test it for flow and balance issues, get other mappers to test it and tell you about technical errors. Repeat until most people seem to be happy. Then you're ready.
- this is important. Forums can have mind-boggling numbers of threads but proper descriptive thread titles makes finding stuff a breeze. It's a lot easier for people to go come back to your map's thread and say how great it was if it's actually named after the map. Your thread title should certainly contain your map's name
and maybe one of the key features. The gametype thing will become quite important once the deathmatch mode is released.
Good thread titles:
arena_cleavage - Giant Elexis in this map's skybox!
dm_edge - The Quake 2 classic ruined for Sin: Episodes
Blade vs The Teletubbies (single player)
Bad thread titles:
ZOMG new map!!!!1
I AM WRITING MY THREAD TITLE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I AM A UNIQUE AND SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE
L@@K! Cheap generic vi@gr4!!!
(It would be a great idea for people to apply this to their beta map threads in the main editing forum too, Arena_goonrush beta 1 - stairs in this thread
is a better title than My new map like beta or somethin
- for a lot of people no screenshots means no download. There are plenty of free image hosts now, many of which don't even require you to register so there's no excuse! Ideally, use your own hosting, because you can be sure the images will stay up for as long as you want them to.
Save your screenshots as jpg and use a fair amount of compression - honestly, there's no need to save at maximum quality, unless someone decides to zoom right in it it's going to look pretty much the same at 50% as it does at 90% quality. Remember these are screenshots not fine-art photography, your map is the art, the screens are just advertising.
If your screenshots are too wide for the forum you're posting them on then link them. Different forums may have different conventions for what sizes are acceptable so try to be aware of these before you post if you aren't a regular.
A lot of people make the mistake of posting too many shots of their map, most releases don't benefit from posting more than three or four. More than that can get as tedious as watching your boring Uncle Morris' holiday slide show, "And here's a grunt at the front of that crate, and here's a grunt at the side of that crate, and here's a grunt at the back of that crate..." At the most, post just one picture of each major area of interest in your map. If you really want to post more than that use text or thumbnail links.
The obvious exception to this is singleplayer releases that span multiple levels. The best way to present those is probably to post just a few shots, but also make up an full web page with descriptions and link to it.
Package your maps
- don't just shove the .bsp on your hosting, compress it into a zip or better a rar. Compiled maps compress really well so it makes downloads a LOT smaller which is better for everyone - people get the download quicker and the bandwidth used will be less. I've also come across wacky configuration problems with clicking links to file types which either Windows, the browser or the download server doesn't recognise. This can lead to the browser opening the file as text, so you are left staring at a screen full of gibberish without even a new map to console you! Also say how big the download is
, theres nothing worse than blind-clicking a link, especially for the poor guys stuck on 56k.
Also, if you use custom content (extra textures, models, sounds etc.) don't forget to include it.
Slap in a readme file.
It's your chance to say thanks to the people you helped you test and taught you how to do things, the people whose custom content you've used, etc. and pimp your website, other maps you've released, your favourite boards and IRC channels and so on. Snippets of technical information are often found in these as well which can be of interest to other mappers. Name it after your map, not just readme.txt though!
Be prepared to accept feedback
- good and bad. A pat on the head can be nice but in truth you'll discover people find it easier to pick out mistakes. This can be the most difficult part of a release because the map is your baby, but if you release a map and it has flaws, people will tell you them. No-one on map forums should be just posting flames and insults because they are mostly mappers themselves and know the effort went into your map, but be prepared for people politely and coherently explaining how your map could have been better. This is a good thing because it helps you develop and mature as a designer, but if you think this might upset you, you should probably stay off the internet
What not to do.
Just a couple of examples.
The second worst map post I can remember had a guy posting a half-dozen GIF format images, each over a meg in size. The actual map download was only about 600k. They were also on his photobucket account. For those of you who don't know, photobucket has fairly stingy bandwidth rationing for their hosted images, so the first half dozen replies were, "Dude those images are really grainy," before it went onto, "Dude I can't see the images." Don't be that guy, never save as GIF and don't use photobucket!
In the worst release post I can remember right now, the guy posted a link to a huge PDF file with his screenshots in, a week before he actually posted the map. He got flamed. A lot. I don't know how many people actually downloaded the file, but I do know he got very few comments when the actual map was released, and all of the poor guys threads get treated as a joke now, even when he makes useful posts. The internet is cruel, do not incite its wrath!
So there we go, I hope that was helpful. It turned out longer than I expected so I hope I didn't send you to sleep.