Groping The Map: Book 1.

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Raised by 43 people in 62 months
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Groping The Map: Book 1, will be a continuation of the Groping The Map series of articles I started in 2010.

Groping The Map is a series of in-depth examinations of a single level. Each article will feature a detailed look at a game level from the past several years. I will look at structure, encounter placement, aesthetics, layout and related design issues; screenshots will be used throughout to highlight particularly notable aspects of the design.

The aim is to research and write a collection of four 10,000 word articles on specific video game levels. These four articles will be collected together to be released freely as a .PDF ebook, with the possibility of colour print copies if there is sufficient demand.

What experience do you have?
In addition to the three previous instalments of Groping The Map I am currently I am working on a series of articles focusing specifically on the level design in Thief II: The Metal Age for Sneaky Bastards. I have also written approximately 15,000 words on the level design in Dishonored for Issue 1 of the Sneaky Bastards magazine which is due for publication within the month.

Why are you asking for money?
Long form, critical analysis of level design is an aspect of games criticism I feel there is a need for, one that few other people are attempting to fill. I feel it's important to look at a range of levels from a variety of different games, however other commitments on my time mean I cannot always give my Groping The Map work the attention I feel is warranted. My last instalment on the Life Of The Party level, from Thief II: The Metal Age took over a year to complete and I feel with enough money to focus exclusively on writing of this kind I can write more articles, of a better quality, at a faster pace.

What will Book 1 consist of?
The current plan is for Book 1 to consist of four articles, of approximately 10,000 words each, on the following levels:

- The Omega Ranch - Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
- Nova Prospekt - Half Life 2.
- The Silent Cartographer - Halo: Combat Evolved.
- Jacknife - Mirror's Edge.

Why are all the levels from first person games?
I have experience designing and developing levels for first person games using UnrealED and Hammer and this has proven useful in my analysis. I also have a personal preference for this particular style of game. That is not to say that I am only interested in writing about first person games just that for Book 1 that is the best way to leverage my skills.

What will you do with any extra money?
If I am fortunate enough to exceed my target I will add an additional article to Book 1, Rescue Attempt - The Operative: No One Lives Forever. Further funds will be put towards Book 2, which will contain another four to five articles of similar length.

When will Book 1 be finished?
Researching each article require that I play the game up to the start of the specific level and then play and replay the level itself taking different approaches where possible. All notes and screenshots collected in this phase will then be used to produce the finished article. On average this has been shown to require nearly 100 hours per level. These numbers vary depending on the complexity of the game and the level so I am wary of putting a specific time frame on the creation of Book 1, however I hope to be completed within less than six months.

If I have questions or suggestions where can I contact you?
I can be found on Twitter @GTElephant, additional contact information can be found on my website:
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I had, naively, hoped to have completed work on Groping The Map: Book 1 by now, unfortunately that is not the case. As I've worked through my notes the scale of the project has changed and it has become clear there is more to say about certain levels and games than others.

For example the section on Nova Prospekt for Half-Life 2 has turned out significantly above the 10,000 word target I had originally intended; currently it is a little over 31,000 words There's still a lot of editing to do but I don't see myself being able to say what I feel is necessary in much less than 30,000 words.

A secondary factor that impacted my work on Book 1 was the release of a new Thief sequel, for which I produced a series for Sneaky Bastards. (Which can be found here:

As donations are now about 75% I'm going to have to make a decision regarding including an analysis of Rescue Attempt from The Operative: No One Lives Forever. In an ideal world it would have been included anyway, however as I've already had to delay Book 1 significantly I'm not certain I can justify adding more work. My current plan is to start work on my analysis of Rescue Attempt once Book 1 is closer to completion and in essence release it as DLC. Again note that both Book 1 and this DLC will be released free, likely under the some form of the Creative Common License.
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I've now produced most of the notes I'll work from, and taken a couple hundred screenshots of each level.

The majority of book is now there is a very raw form, though I have managed to wrangle a few sections of the Nova Prospekt chapter into a form that if not final, then I'm at least happy enough will to release publicly. That sample can be found here:

Feel free to download it and share with anybody you think might be interested in the project. Though again, this is not the final form of these sections but it's close to it.

Had a few problems, with this update, unfortunately GoFundMe doesn't allow you to edit updates once they've been posted, so I'm sorry for that. Hopefully I've not spammed anybody's inbox with multiple slightly different versions.
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The frequency of donations started to slow a few weeks ago, so I took a break from promoting the campaign to get started on writing the book itself.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who donated, work is moving along though further donations would be appreciated as the easier it makes it to focus on the work and the more time I can devote directly to it. To that end I'm really appreciate it if you would be able to mention this project to anybody you feel might be interested. Thank you again.

Now a word on some minor changes I've made to the initial plan.

After playing through Mirror's Edge again I've decided that in order to do the level design in that game justice I'm going to look at two levels instead of one. It comes down to the fact that the quality of the level design of Mirror's Edge is much more varied than that of the other games. The level I had initially selected, Jacknife, is one of the better levels and focusing primarily on that presents an inaccurate picture of the level design of the game as a whole.

None of the games selected for Book 1 are without flaws, and I've tried to focus on levels that offer a representative cross section of their level design successes and failures. From Halo's reliance on backtracking and repetition, to Human Revolution's streaming enforced segmentation and boss fights, to the often confusing switchbacks and loops of Half-Life 2; each game has flaws that deserve examination and in order to do that most effectively for Mirror's Edge I will need to focus on more than one level.

Therefore alongside Jacknife I will also be examining The Boat, which is possibly an example of the level design in Mirror's Edge at its worst, with enforced combat encounters and a two stage boss fight.

To clear up something else about the levels from Half-Life 2 I'm going to be looking at. I have decided to treat Nova Prospekt as a location and that means I am going to be looking at two and a half levels, from the beach assault at the end of Sandtraps, through Nova Prospekt itself to the escape from the facility in the "very slow teleport" at the end of Entanglement.

So if I'm being strictly accurate Groping The Map: Book 1 will examine the level design of six and a half levels.
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~66% in just over two weeks, that's great.

I recently wrote something for Unwinnable detailing some of the reasons why I started the Groping The Map series. That article can be found here:

Some clarification regarding my plans for including a level from The Operative: No One Lives Forever (I have a strange quirk where I have to write out the full title, I'll try and get past that for the Book). As work is already progressing I've determined that if I am to get everything I've committed to done I'm going to have to say that I can't include the extra (fifth) level analysis until I reach at least 75%. As it stands the original schedule is going to have to change anyway if I don't meet my target so even at 75% committing to five levels would be slightly foolish. However I think No One Lives Forever is great and the work Monolith Productions put in deserves more credit than it gets, so I'm inclined to talk about it if I can. So as of right now 75% is the goal to get everything I'd like included, 100% means I can actually get it out in a reasonable timeframe and anything more I can use to start work on Book 2.

Progress Update:
I've just finished my playthrough of Halo: Combat Evolved and have five to six pages of notes on The Silent Cartographer. This will form the basis of the article with each note expanded into one or more paragraphs and hammered into a coherent order. I have also taken brief notes on the other levels as each article will include a subsection comparing the level under analysis to the rest of the game.
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£844 of £1,000 goal

Raised by 43 people in 62 months
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Created May 8, 2013
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