Maps have been around for a long time. At first, people only mapped what they knew, and replaced the places they didn't know with strange and horrific monsters. But we are passed that now. We map with computers using satellite images and aerial photographs. There is little unknown these days.

Maps are sometimes used to illustrate physical features. Maps can be real or virtual. Examples of real maps are road maps, radar and satellite photos. An example of a virtual map is a mental map or image, it can't been seen physically but you reference it to get where you are going. A digital map is also a virtual map since coordinate points are stored digitally.

When I made my first map, it had streets and a north arrow. It spoke of direction to some nearby destination. My most recent map was of contour elevations of southeast florida. I raised the ocean levels and watched the area I grew up in quickly disappear under a sea of blue. Just a 25 foot increase and we begin to sea the worlds largest man-made coral reef. Mercedes Benz-sized brain coral...

A map is the technical name for a level for a FPS game like Quake.

Maps in Doom

The term "map" comes originally comes from DooM where the levels were represented as 2D sectors as viewed from above with floor and ceiling heights to define the 3rd dimension. When drawn as a line diagram in this way, a level can be displayed as a map and was done in the game (by hitting the TAB key). This gave rise to the naming of DooM levels as "maps" and was further enforced in DooM2 by the actual naming of the levels as MAP01, MAP02... etc.

In DooM, a map is represented by a number of vertexes (sp), linedefs, and sectors:

  • A vertex is a single point in 2D space, or if you want to think in 3 dimensions, an infinitely tall vertical line passing through an x/y coordinate in the horizontal plain. And yes vertexes are spelt incorrectly.
  • A linedef is a line between two vertexes which can either be a wall (single sided), a step (double sided), or just a boundary to a sector (double sided). Each linedef is assigned one or two sidedefs, depending on whether it is single or double sided. Each sidedef has a texture and texture offset properties which define which texture should be rendered and at which x/y position.
  • A sector is an area which a player can walk in. It is definded as a number of linedefs which form a closed area. This area (sector) has floor and ceiling heights, floor and ceiling textures, a light level, and an effect (flashing light, hurts player, etc).

This data is then processed by a BSP processor to generate compiled data which is used in game for collision detection and hidden surface removal.

  • A thing is everything that isn't part of the levels structure, ie: weapons, monsters, etc. They are not processed by the BSP processor and is read directly by the game, as such things can be edited in a map without having to re-compile the level (for reference, sidedef and sector properties can also be changed without requiring a re-compile).

All this data is stored in a .wad file which is a zero compression archive format which defines each of the above pieces of data as a "lump". All data (even pre-compiled data which is not used by the game) is stored in the WAD file, thus allowing anyone access to the pre-compiled level and thus the ability to edit them.

Maps in Quake

With the release of Quake, the term "map" was again further enforced by the console command "map xxx" which loads a particular level and by the file extension given to pre-compiled level data files (.map files).

In Quake, a map is definded by a number of brushes which are placed together to build the structural objects in the game world.

  • A brush is a 3D convex hull made up of any number of sides. Brushes are placed together in 3D space to form walls, floors, pillars, etc. Everything which is solid in the game (apart from non-brush entities) are built out of brushes.
  • An entity is similar to a thing in DooM. Entities are all things in the game world which are not part of the structure, ie: the player, monsters, lights, items, etc.

In the original Quake, there are two types of brush. Structural as described above, and entity. There are also two types of entity, point as described above, and brush (aka solid-entity).

A brush-entity is a brush/entity hybrid. It has the properties of an entity but the structural nature of a brush. Basically a brush-entity is some game world structure which moves... doors, lifts, and buttons are all brush-entities.

Level structure is defined in .map files. These files are ASCII text files which define all the brushes and entities needed to make up the level. This data is then passed through a BSP processor (QBSP) to generate a compiled level which can be run in the game (a .bsp file).

Two other processing passes can be applied to the .bsp file:

  • LIGHT - The light processor uses the light entity definitions to generate the lightmap for the level.
  • VIS - The VIS processor generates the visibility tree which is used for hidden surface removal.

Quake "maps" do not resemble maps at all. They are 3 dimensional and cannot be easily viewed as a plan view, and there is no map view in Quake (unlike in DooM). So really the only reason they are called "maps" is due to the naming of levels in DooM.

Other Games

There are of course lots of other FPS style games, many based on 3D engines other than the Quake engine. However, the term "map" is used across engines to mean a single level in the game world.

In C++, a map is an STL associative container that holds a varying-length sequence of elements. The template class is std::map, and because this is a template class keys and values can be of any type. Elements in a map are ordered by the function Pred, which you can access via the key_comp() method. In a map, each key is unique.

Multimaps are just the same as maps, but they allow duplicate keys. They are created through use of the template class std::multimap.

Programming: A higher-order function which, when applied to a function (or a block or expression) and a list (or array), iterates over the list, applies the function to each element, and returnds a list composed of the results. For example, if you map a list containing the numbers 1, 2, and 3, using a function that returned the value of its argument plus 1, then you would get a list containing the numbers 2, 3, and 4. In many programming languages, there is a map function which is either part of the standard library (as in Haskell - map is defined in the Prelude) or defined internally (as in Perl).

map can be defined in Haskell as

map :: (a -> b) -> [a] -> [b]
map f [] = []
map f (item:list) = f item : map f list

In imperative langauges, map is replacing iterative loops as a way of processing lists of data. For example, in Perl, things like

for (my $i = 0; $i < @m; $i++) {
        $usernames[$i] = getpwuid $uids[$i];

which is the way it would be done in C (and is remarkably similar to the corresponding C code), can be written more nicely as

@usernames = map { getpwuid $_ } @uids;

instead. This elegance becomes even more apparent when multiple maps are strung together, as in the Schwartzian transform. Examples of usage:

map (+1) [1, 2, 3]

-- result: [2, 3, 4]

In Perl, array elements are associated to $_ inside the block passed to map. Modifying $_ inside the block will modify the corresponding array element (which is an error if the array is a constant).

map { $_ + 1 } qw(1 2 3);

# result: qw(2 3 4)

A nifty trick is to have the map block return pairs which you then assign to a hash, e.g. creating a hash which maps letters to numbers:

%h = map { $_ => ord($_) - ord('a') + 1 } 'a' .. 'z';
(map (lambda (n) (+ 1 n)) '(1 2 3))

; result: '(2 3 4)

In Ruby, map is a method of the Array class, spelt "collect". You can use the collect! method to modify elements with the result of the block. Both can be used on constant arrays.

[1, 2, 3].collect { |x| x + 1 }

# result: [2, 3, 4]

Also, when discussing code, "map" can be used as a verb, meaning to process some data using the map function, e.g. "The user ids then get mapped to usernames".

The most succinct definition of a map (referring mainly to a topographical map), that has stuck with me for years, is this:

"A map is a 2 dimensional representation of a 3 dimensional shape, showing natural and man made feautres, drawn to scale, at a particular point in time." - Australian Cadet Manual

A little analysis of the components of the quote:

  • 2 dimensional - a map is DEFINED as 2 dimensional, as anything else is a model
  • Representation - a map may not have every detail possible on it. A topographical map will have contours and natural features like rivers and the like, maybe even buildings, power lines, zoning information etc, but will not show every tree, rock or the like. Even photorealistic maps (think Google Earth) miss out information, like readily-available contours. Superimposing maps on to each other in layers can help this to a degree
  • 3 dimensional - a map (in this definition) represents the real world or an object within it, so it tries to convey 3 dimensional concepts on a flat (2d) surface. As a result, cavity shapes and muliple level shapes are difficult to represent, however multiple maps (or colour schemes) can still present a close to complete picture. Think blueprint
  • Shape - the thing being described. Esoteric shapes may be wind currents, tides, weather maps, but still meet all the other requirements for defining a map
  • Natural - maps should try to show ALL natural, theoretically PERMANENT, features. Rivers, mountains etc
  • Man made - again, easily identifiable features made by man should be noted on any map. Rainfall map? Note a dam, to indicate a higher level of evaporation...
  • Drawn to scale - without being accurate scale, it isn't a map, it's a diagram. Scale allows different areas within a map to be compared directly and equally. Two points can be navigated to, comparisons on their surroundings can be made and information compared. Scale is without doubt the most important feature of a map
  • At a point in time - maps by definition are are not dynamic or self-updating. If they were, they would be a feed (yes, that is the term used by the Australian Army). Maps all age from the instant they are completed. As a result, it is inherent that the older the map, the less accurate it is.

Amazing what you can derive from one short definition!

Map (?), n. [From F. mappe, in mappemonde map of the world, fr. L. mappa napkin, signal cloth; -- a Punic word. Cf. Apron, Napkin, Nappe.]


A representation of the surface of the earth, or of some portion of it, showing the relative position of the parts represented; -- usually on a flat surface. Also, such a representation of the celestial sphere, or of some part of it.

⇒ There are five principal kinds of projection used in making maps: the orthographic, the stereographic, the globuar, the conical, and the cylindrical, or Mercator's projection. See Projection.


Anything which represents graphically a succession of events, states, or acts; as, an historical map.

Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn. Shak.

Map lichen Bot., a lichen (Lecidea geographica.) growing on stones in curious maplike figures.

Dr. Prior.


© Webster 1913.

Map, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Mapped (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Mapping (?).]

To represent by a map; -- often with out; as, to survey and map, or map out, a county. Hence, figuratively: To represent or indicate systematically and clearly; to sketch; to plan; as, to map, or map out, a journey; to map out business.

I am near to the place where they should meet, if Pisanio have mapped it truly. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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