Thursday, September 12, 2013

My maps vs. The rest of the world

There's something I've been wondering for some time now. Why is it that I like my maps so much? I mean, it's pretty normal if a talented mapper starts to like his own maps, but I feel I've gone way past that... like, I don't like maps other than my own. Is it some kind of ego deep inside myself? Or is it a consequence of holing myself with only working for my maps?

This is a complicated question; let's break it down to understand it. Starting with a more basic question: why is it that people map?
That answer cannot be objective, everyone maps for different reasons. Some people, believe it or not, map because of the recognition, some map for the feeling of "contribution" to the community, and true mappers, those who truly enjoy their works, map because of the songs.
It sometimes infuriates me to hear someone say "man, I have nothing else to map, someone give me something". Besides having such poor music taste, there's something else to worry about: are you mapping for the songs, for people to have a good time with your maps, or are you mapping simply just because? I am not exactly sure, but that just tells me you're not mapping the songs you like, so you're not mapping for the songs.

Sure, everyone likes recognition. Everyone likes to be told "you did an amazing job"... everyone likes to believe they're doing something awesome. Some people like searching for this kind of praise, including the people who try too hard. But as a true mapper, you don't really care about those things. The joy of mapping, for those people who get it, isn't about getting your maps played by others, it's about creating them and playing them yourself.

Mapping is a form of art. Using metaphors: a child that likes to draw, that spends most of his free time drawing, does he go around the street showing a certain drawing to everyone passing by? Does he print it and put it on the newspaper, or tries to publish it on the internet? No, a child doesn't do that. True, he may show it to his parents and asks them what they think, but if he really likes drawing, despite the possible answer, that kid is going to keep drawing. Most of his drawings, he may not show around; he just draws anything, anywhere. Because he just likes it, he just enjoys it. Mapping, I believe, works exactly the same way as any other form of art.

Those who enjoy mapping, they do it because they can picture a map while listening to a certain song, and they do it without thinking it. It comes naturally. They imagine the way it would be, and think "this would make for an amazing beatmap!"... in other words, they get inspired to do it. Inspiration, it's what it's all about. It allows you to catch the unique feeling of the song. Of course, there's people who map without any inspiration, just like there are painters, and composers; keep in mind that, just because I say there are, doesn't mean it's right.
There's a certain satisfaction, a certain pleasure, you can't obtain anywhere else when mapping. I'm talking about, getting all inspired to create a map and being able to do it successfully, catching the true essence of the song. It's the same as getting inspired for paintings, or getting inspired for composing a song, and being able to do it exactly the way you wanted to. A beginner almost always won't be able to; but after hours and hours of practice you start getting the hang of it. And it feels so nice, because you're proud of what you created.

This is why, my job as beatmapper is never going to end - as I keep expanding my musical tastes, I discover more and more mappable songs. I get inspired a lot, and as a result I have lots of WiPs, works which I've tried to release bit by bit on my other blog. But I can do without online rankings and all that stuff; it doesn't hurt me that my maps almost don't get any views. Just as long as one person discovered them and enjoyed them just like I do, I'm happy.

To answer the original question... I enjoy my own maps so much because I'm experienced enough to place my ideas exactly as they were on my mind, on the screen. Making the "this would make for a very fun map!" idea, reality. Mixing that, with the challenging fun of osu!, and the addictiveness of the song, is everything I truly enjoy about this game.
It is true, I don't like many other maps, but there still are other talented mappers I respect out there. There are other maps, made by other mappers, I enjoy as much as mine.
Something I've noticed is that... most maps I like and enjoy, were for songs I had also discovered at the same time (in osu!, while modding or playing), while many other maps I don't like, were for songs I knew from somewhere else beforehand. You might think it's just because it's not mapped they way I wanted, but this is not true. Once I become familiar with a specific song, and as I take a closer look at the map, it might not look as awesome as it seemed; and for not so great maps, I might realize how awesome it actually is. It's happened a few times before. In the end, it all comes down to how the beatmap is structured.

How does modding affect this perspective?
It affects it greatly. Why is it that people go through this frustrating and time consuming process, only for it to have online rankings? Is it really that important?
People do it because, since online rankings exists, people only play maps which are ranked, and as anyone would, people want their maps to be played. That's why they consider it so important. But is it the right thing? What modding does to maps, is "improve them". Modding is a required thing to pass through if you want your map to get ranked, and it theoretically makes sense; if you're going to make many people play one map, let it be a good one.

There's the objective improvements: the timing, the folder, technicalities that one should be aware of to make the map playable. You wouldn't have a ranked map with two circles at the same time, because it's not possible. Not very very hard, just not possible. You wouldn't have a ranked mapset with just a very hard difficulty, since there would be many people who wouldn't be able to play. I agree with these kind of fixes, as there's no excuse to not fix them.
But then there's the subjective stuff. The "this jump doesn't make sense", the "add a beat here to make it more playable", the "move this to the right to make it more symmetrical". At the beginning, I thought, this was to avoid potential mistakes, unwanted things the creator didn't intend to keep, and sometimes it works like that. But many other times, the modders want to improve the map from their own perspective. Sadly, this is what happens the most, and it shouldn't be.

When you say "this jump is too sudden, make it closer so it can be more readable", that's because you think it's sudden, but the mapper may not think the same way. Essentially, you are trying to modify someone else's map. More often than not, the mapper is open to suggestions and if the mapper agrees, everyone is happy and the map gets ranked. But is that because the mapper was unsure of what he wanted, or is it because the mapper just wants to get it ranked?
The attitude may vary from mapper to mapper, but mappers with pride do not want other people modifying their maps to their liking. Sure, that jump may not be so intuitive, but you want it to play that way; you're fully aware of it and don't consider it a problem. You like your map as it is; rather than changing it to other people's comfort, you want people to learn to play it the way you wanted to. I don't think there's anything wrong with that; in case a stubborn mapper thinks his map is great but most people don't, let it get ranked and let the ratings prove the point.

Is making the map as readable as possible the solution? Heck no. In fact, I'd incline myself more to the unreadable side, but of course, I'm not talking about impossible-to-read joke maps. By making them readable, you're also making them easier to play and easier to digest, easier to pass by unnoticed.
A talented mapper won't make the map unreadable "just because", however. A talented mapper knows what he's doing, and if he wants a certain jump there, let it be. People can choose by themselves if they want suggestions or not.

What should be the correct approach? Now that the pp system has been in place, there's no more farming, so no more "playing to rank up"; people play the maps they like. People choose them, and stick to them. It's up to the mapper to make something competent, not the modders.
We may think a map"isn't so good". But as modders, is it really our place to change the map to make it "more awesome"? No, it shouldn't be. A beginner mapper may learn one thing or two from the mods he receives, but he won't become an Elite Mapper overnight. I say, stick to technical stuff, and let the ratings, favorites and beatmap charts speak for themselves. Don't try to make it your own map; it's someone else's map, period.
Imagine a visual artist, presenting to you some kind of painting or model, telling you with all his pride "I'm finally done! Please take a look!". What he wants to hear, most probably, is praise. But if he instead receives suggestions, like "I think this is kind of crooked", he's going to take a hit. Sure, we all need to be open to constructive criticism, but there's a difference between saying "Look what I created!" to "What do you think is missing?" or "Any suggestions, anything?". It all depends on what the mapper is asking for, and if you want to get your map ranked, it's become a "take suggestions or get screwed" thing, which I don't entirely agree with.
In my personal case, if I receive constructive criticism from someone unexpectedly, I'd take it all and recognize my mistakes, but still wouldn't like to change the map. I would only consider those suggestions for future maps, which is also perfectly valid. But the work I submitted is a finished one, and I don't intend to keep changing it around.

It may sound drastic that I keep saying we're changing everybody else's maps, but the moment we make a non-technical suggestion, we're doing it. Okay, so it's just a suggestion, and the mapper can agree or disagree; but the very fact you're doing that suggestion is because you want to change it, and that already deviates from the mapper's original perspective and puts him in doubt. There are many times the mapper agrees because of the pressure of getting it ranked, or maybe because he doesn't like to say no, but that shouldn't be the case. The map is perfectly playable as it was created (most of the time anyway), and it should be kept that way.
Yes, I'm saying, don't even make suggestions. If the mapper later realizes something should have been different, it's mostly his fault, and that would only happen for lack of expertise, so he probably wouldn't be an "experienced mapper" yet.

But in any case, I know, I'm not the community manager or anything, I can't enforce all this myself. I know the idea of approving every kind of map isn't very appealing, and on the technical side, not approving so many maps is a benefit, but... the reason why I stopped submitting my maps for approval, is because I don't want my maps to be changed anymore, and the ranking process is way too tedious for me now. With my offline maps scheme, I am happy. Whoever you are, thanks for reading. Yes, seriously considering to rename this to my ranting blog.

(Keep in mind, even though I complain about a lot of things here, I recognize I've committed lots of these mistakes too. I can only try not to incur on them again from now on).

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