Although Realm of Steel Rats is another popular level that is sure to please clans and team deathmatchers, its layout, texturing and lighting are all fairly average. The overall theme is of a small industrial base with pools of slime on the ground floors and some rather odd catwalk style features on its upper levels. There are actually two versions of the original level, CPM4 and CPM4a. The first uses a high-tech sci-fi theme whereas the second version (from which the Quake Live conversion derives) is in a rusted industrial style. The majority of the new Quake Live maps (whether ported or newly designed) such as Black Cathedral, Cold War, Stonekeep or Dismemberment/Aerowalk, have distinctive and striking themes, but Realm could perhaps have done with a third overhaul.
You can read some comments on the design of the map (from OxEye games) and how it came about below:
When Quake 3 Arena was released, almost ten years ago, I was still playing QuakeWorld with my clan “Underscore.” I didn’t really like Q3A, I thought it was slow and the player movement was bulky. I started working on a mod to get some more QW-like flow, which I called “QWFix.” It was a fun experiment, but I had some severe bugs which made it unplayable for some people (Q3A’s movement code was FPS dependant, a fact that caused some controversy when people discovered the “125 FPS sweet spot” a year later or so).
My dedication to the mod led me to another project called Challenge Pro Mode. It was a mod intended to be used by professional Q3A players and was created by a group of people from the Challenge Network (all sites in the network are now either porn sites or spyware search engines). I joined the team as a programmer, and worked mainly on improving the HUD and adding customizable player colors (a feature that seems to be default in the latest patch of Q3A). I also enjoyed making maps to test some ideas.
One of the maps I made was called “Realm of Steel Rats.” I made it during two weeks more or less spending every wake [sic] moment in front of the computer. I got severe pains in my shoulder and missed an exam due to that, but it was clearly worth it. The map turned out really well and is still played actively to this day! The map has received a face-lift by Swelt (sorry, but I do not know who that is), so the official version is now called “CPM4a.” You find both the original and the new version at Challenge-TV.
Now... the reason why I’m writing this [...] post is because there are a few things I recall that I thought about when I designed the map. These ideas are mainly focused on deathmatch maps, a game mode that has fallen out of fashion over the years, but may still be applicable to other design areas:
1. Imbalance means Interesting – Maps should have one good and one not so good area. Making all areas too balanced will make gameplay “unstable.” Put several important items relatively close to each other, but it must be possible to break the siege.
2. Symmetry for teh Loes – Simply avoid symmetry, it’s uninteresting. These days most people are making teamplay maps (CTF, King of the Hill etc), which makes it more important to have balanced maps. To make these maps more varied, rotated symmetry is better than mirrored symmetry.
3. Important Stuff should be Easy to Get – Place important items, such as powerups, in hot-spot areas that are easy to get to. It allows for much more intense battles. I really don’t like it when people places the Quad or Battlesuit out of reach, such as down in water pools or high up on a pillar etc.
As well as being a level designer, Jens was one of the chief programmers on the Challenge Pro Mode project, and created a number of other QuakeWorld teamplay levels in the past.
The map has been a popular Challenge Pro Mode level that has seen thousands of clan battles over the years, both in official competitions and friendly matches, and aesthetic gripes aside, the real reason this level has made it into the Quake Live set is its gameplay, which more than compensates for any other other shortcomings and has made it a favourite in team games and free for alls for a number of years. It doesn't make premium account privileges worth paying for alone, but is good for occasional matches.
There are no secrets in this level.