Gregor Smith - Game Designer

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Gears of War - Versus Map Design

This is a hypothetical map design I made for Gears of War. It was built in Maya and exported to Unity for screenshots.

Why Gears?

There were a few things that drew me to making a design of Gears of War in particular. The biggest one was that Gears is one of increasingly few games that still have weapon spawn locations. I’m interested in how respawning weapon locations influence map control in versus game modes so this was a chance to explore that. Secondly, Gears’ versus maps are also built to work with their horde mode, so I was curious to build a map with dual functionality.


The core idea I built off of for this design was a University Campus which led me to start with the lecture building at the top of the sketch. I then added some verticality with the walkway above and lower section beneath it. The platforms that each side of the map sit upon were an extension of this idea and provided for interesting engagement points as players would try to defend and attack the high ground of each team.

The buildings on either side of the lower middle section were built to provide flanking opportunities that bypass the walkway and stairs to get from one side of the map to the other.

Problems & Iteration

One thing I had to iterate upon was the scale of the map. Gears of War’s versus mode has historically had 5 players per team so the map should be appropriately sized to encourage engagements between these players while also allowing quieter moments.
My initial sketch was a little too cramped but I found some minor adjustments made this less of a concern in the actual model. The largest changes were to the buildings on the lower ground, which were entirely adjusted in scale, and in the top corners which were moved further into the corners. I also modified the circular area at the bottom of the sketch.

Weapon Spawns

Regarding weapon spawns I placed two on either team’s side (blue in screenshots) and two directly in the middle, one on top of the walkway and another below it (red in screenshots).
The blue weapon spawns I feel would be appropriate for second tier weapons (e.g. Boltok, Markza, etc) that don’t provide a major advantage but allow the teams to arm up before descending into the lower section. Both teams have equal access to these weapons so at the beginning of a match they are intended to guide players (potentially split them up) more than create engagement spots. Later when they respawn and the flow of combat has moved the engagements around, they may instead be something to fight over.
The red spawns are for power weapons (e.g. Longshot, Boomshot, etc). Specifically, the walkway works best for precision weapons while the lower section is better for something explosive. These are placed in the middle so (ideally) each team has equal chance of getting to them so they will actively create engagements.

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Paths of Engagement

The multiple paths of engagement exist primarily to provide for counters to the actions of the other team. If Team A takes the central power weapon on the walkway then they may lose out on the weapon below. However they are able to exert influence over that area as they have the high ground. Because of this there is no cover in the walkway so firing into from either end is very effective. So Team B has two players put pressure on anyone who goes into the walkway while the other three move in on the lower weapon. Team A can counter this by having someone head into either of the buildings on the low ground where they can put pressure on anyone going for the weapon below the walkway.
Creating these kind of encounters is something I want to encourage so part of my design process when making versus levels is to consider how a competent team could exert influence over the map. This helps me identify any potentially overpowered locations to hold or locations that are unlikely to see any action.

Horde Considerations

When considering how the map works for horde mode I had one main concern. I wanted to make sure it would work functionally. Later Gears of War games allow for huge boss enemies to spawn that don’t fit everywhere. Those boss enemies are often restricted to where they can go so their traversal wasn’t a big problem, I could just restrict them. However they needed to be able to pressure the players even when they couldn’t reach them.
To this end all the interiors have windows that make it possible for a large enemy to fire inside. The only case where players may be too safe is the back end of the lecture building on the right. Other Gears maps exist that have areas as safe as this but they rely on smaller enemies to pressure players out of them. I felt this was satisfactory for my design, especially as the windows make defending this area particularly hard.