Sit down with your favorite beverage and get comfy for this week’s super detailed chat with EpicEwok… lots of fantastic nuggets in here for new mappers or people interested in getting into mapping!
Q. What inspired you to start mapping?
A. Back when Beat Saber was announced, seeing the 100$ bill video really made me wanna get VR. It wouldn’t be until 1 and a half months after Beat Saber’s launch that on my birthday I would finally have enough through Amazon gift cards, plus savings, to buy an Oculus Rift+Touch (a CV1) and a copy of the game. Shortly after playing the base game, I naturally discovered the BSMG and the modding community. While still small, as the game had only been out for a month, there were resources constantly being made to mess around with the game. I always had an admiration of custom songs in other video games through Stepmania and Clone Hero, so I wanted to jump on board the mapping community in Beat Saber and just add my favourite songs to the list of available songs to download and play.
Q. Which music genres do you prefer to map?
A. Trance, House (almost all types), Hard Dance & Big Room.
Q. If there was an Amazon.com-style “Recommended Mappers” section, who would your name show up next to?
A. Saut, AaltopahWi, CyanSnow, and Yun0 are the ones who all pop into my mind first. They’re all mappers with really unique mapping styles that all like to push the boundaries of normalcy in mapping by just experimenting, trying cool stuff, and sometimes just doing something for the hell of it! (all within reason of course)
Q. Are there other things you’re involved with in the Beat Saber community besides mapping?
A. I’ve kinda dipped my toes into everything at some point- but never stayed long enough to fully have a role develop out of it. I’ve done modding work for the rank, some odd end mod development work, but most of my stuff is related to mapping/lighting.
Q. What does your mapping process look like?
A. I always map from the ground up, no timing notes; I go from start to finish. I generally structure sections with bookmarks, but I can picture the setups for the moves I want just then and there. So in my case, timing notes would be more a waste of time than they would be worth. As for starting with lighting or mapping first, it depends on the song. Some songs have a bigger “feel” towards whether they would look good to light or they would play a certain way. Usually the more powerful of the two will be how I start a map personally.
Q. Which of your maps are you most proud of?
a. At this point, it would have to be Be in the Moment by Armin van Buuren. It was a map I made for the Chartathon back in 2019. I think the map shows off the largest variety of my mapping skills in lighting, plus my skills in techy, dance, stream styles with the song having many different elements that work together to create something unique. Not to mention, the chroma lighting I did for the map was the first time I had dove into extensive testing and refining for just the right intensities and hues to get the look that I wanted (which is actually based on the IRL lighting show at ASOT 850 Live in Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, NL) Even given the relative simplicity of the lightshow compared to other more complex ones, I truly do have a special place in my heart for this map. I feel it served as a turning point as both my mapping style changed, but also my change as a lighter as well.
Q. So let’s talk about lighting for a minute… what would you say to players (outside of the uber competitive space) who are playing with static lights and might not even realize it, nevermind seeing the wonders of Chroma? What’s your pitch to them to let the light shine?
A. For those who do not even know what Chroma is, it’s basically a mod that lighters can use that enables full RGB usage of lights. Nowadays though, Chroma has evolved into a very powerful visual mod that has capabilities that can even surpass Mapping extensions! (but not quite Noodle Extensions. However, they are complementary to each other being written by the same mapper/lighter/mod author, so just get both and make Aero happy :P) Chroma at its root was made to showcase a world of colour that lighters could spend in excess of many hours tinkering with adding a whole extra level of emphasis and creativity to maps. So in essence, by turning on static lights or not having Chroma installed, you are only playing 50% of the map. Sometimes, the map will even be made lights first, with the map made second because a lighter “saw” what it would play like vs “how” it would play like.
While there is a valid argument about lights that flash so much that it hurts to even see, I feel like there is a safe list of lighters out there that you can discover for yourself that having static lights on is just not worth it. Good lighters put their heart and soul into their lights, and having a lightshow that reflects the song is just as important as having a good map that reflects the song. My last comment on the matter is a PSA for all the rainbow light mod users: don’t use them please. Did you know that Chroma has a nifty feature in it called technicolour? You turn it on and you get complimentary rainbow lights that you can edit yourself! It also turns itself off once it detects Chroma events in the map so you can view the map the way the lighter designed it to be viewed.
Editors Note: You can grab the Chroma mod in ModAssistant for PC and the Chromalite mod for Quest users.
Q. Do you have a “signature pattern” that you use in all/most of your maps?
A. I try to make every map have its own “signature pattern” of sorts. It keeps every map I make feeling like a fresh experience. However, certain patterns I made – or even other patterns from some of my mapper friends – I sometimes like to throw in more frequently just because they are either tried and true fun patterns, or because I like to throw a subtle homage to that mapper friend of mine. However, there is a pattern that I made over a year ago I use now for a unique dancy flare that looks very unorthodox on paper (and in editor), but in practice can result in a very fun movement to play with the correct timing and corresponding emphasis in the song. Magi affectionately coined them “Moshi Hits” in testplays of the map where they were originally made for. I also took the opportunity to explain the map in further detail:
Q. Is there a mapping practice that most mappers frown upon that you happen to think can be used really well in the right hands?
A. Double directionals and triangles for sure. This kinda grew out of fashion once 2019 hit, but I feel that with actual MEANING and SPACING in a song, they can create a strong movement that doesn’t feel awkward or super forced. There are a few techniques to cheat these moves, but they are kinda advanced. If you wanna try these yourself, I would HIGHLY recommend getting mapping support help as many of the qualified mapping support people (who are good friends of mine) understand how they can work and can help to guide you if you wanna use them.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the single most challenging thing for a new mapper to master in order to be successful?
A. I’m sure plenty of mappers will say flow or parity to this question, and they are definitely not wrong- but I think a lot of new mappers are having difficulty making a name for themselves. Maybe it’s the business side of me, but I strongly believe that once you have a handle on the basics of mapping, you could make all the maps in the world- but if you can’t “market” yourself as a mapper, you are gonna have a hard time building a base. I know that sounds dumb and maybe your goal isn’t to become a well known mapper (although secretly, I would like to believe everyone in this community kinda wants that to happen) but you need to understand how to build connections, market your maps in a non- stupid way, (I’m looking at you stream !bsr’s and DM spammers) and know how to conduct yourself in the community. You may ask, ‘how do I do this effectively then?’. Well, it’s obviously a very complex thing, but there are a few pieces of advice I can give without dragging this out into something of a marketing guide as well.
- Don’t come across as desperate or demanding (honestly, just good human communication skill advice here)
- Build up a “resume” of sorts (practice your basic craft!) before you attempt some larger projects
- Once you have that experience, get into the big projects or new skills—Map packs, learning Chroma or Noodle Extensions, Ranked mapping, etc.
This is a good way to organically market yourself, build up the skills you will need as a good mapper, and reflects on your “portfolio”. I can say confidently that this is a method that almost every “big name” mapper has used.
Q. You’ve been a part of this community for a long time. In your opinion, do you feel that the community has enough solid platforms (like BeastSaber, discord map promotion channels, etc.) to help new mappers get noticed? How does it compare to a couple years ago?
A. Definitely. Compared to the start of Beat Saber, outlets to be noticed have grown exponentially. Just as an aside, I still remember back when bsaber just started, and Elliot was DMing me about it and having me get a profile set up! Back in mid to late 2018, most of the effective methods were limited to posting in the map promotion channel in the BSMG Discord (because mind you, there was only about 15-20k around the time I joined), and throwing your maps at streamers, which as I mentioned before, is not an ideal method… but it is a method. As for late 2019 to now, the community has branched out a lot, and that’s where it kinda goes back to a need to build connections in the community. I know this isn’t going to bode well for the internet introverts, but throwing yourself out there will get you noticed. (of course, your demeanour will ultimately decide how people will notice and perceive you.) So yes, comparing the start of the community to where it is now, the available platforms to promote have only grown and solidified in their effectiveness as a marketing platform for yourself… so to speak. Believe it or not, there is available space to claim for your own. You just gotta be creative, patient and, I will be honest here, sometimes have a bit of luck.
Q. The resources and support available to new mappers today, versus a year ago, must be far more cohesive and thorough. What was it like to start in the ‘Wild West’ days of mapping, where no one really knew what they were doing?
A. Well, obviously at that time, the only frame of reference the community had was that of the OST. At that time, expert+ wasn’t even in the official OSTs yet (and Freeek was still mapping in the community!) so everyone was just playing around, placing blocks and trying new things. Basically, there were no rules; you uploaded something and hoped others would have fun with it. This era was filled with really dumb stuff like vision block hand claps, stupidly fast double directionals, really dumb crouch walls that resulted in vision blocks, and mid triangles in a normal stream. Basically, every player was kinda forced to reset after every hit.
Slowly though, a meta was starting to be carved out—the term flow was coined and started to be used more frequently to describe the basic movement rule that you shouldn’t be resetting after every hit because that “feels” terrible. As time went on, people kept playing around with different patterns that had good flow, and those patterns started to be the building block for all maps to be based on. Obviously now, that flow as a premise still exists, but has been built upon to become parity. With parity we come to late 2019; this is the time when many of these coherent mapping resources are being published. (which are all excellent, might I add, and I wish I could have used them back in my new mapper days) A lot of people look back and laugh at those times, myself included, and look at the total mess. I consider myself both fortunate and unfortunate to be just on the tail end of that time to witness that part of Beat Saber history and be a part of it.
Q. You’ve got a time machine and go back to the day you started mapping. What advice do you give yourself?
A. For the love of god, never use hand claps and vision blocks—especially at the same time.
Q. If you’ve mapped for rank or are part of the ranking community, what would you say to encourage other mappers to consider going for rank with their maps?
A. I’m not going to lie or sugar coat this: mapping for ranked is one of the most daunting and push-you-to-the-edge mapping experiences you will do. However, if done with the correct mindset and with an incredibly good understanding of both mapping and the ranking criteria, it can be one of the most rewarding mapping experiences that exists within the community. Like what I mentioned before, build up a portfolio and gain that experience before you even attempt to map for rank.
There are many fantastic resources to follow as a mapper for ranked to make the experience as smooth as possible, plus a very large community very eagerly willing to provide feedback as to how to make your map fit better for ranked. It’s important that when you go for rank, you have the mindset that you are willing to change the map in whatever way, that you wanna put in the extra time to make a ranked map, and finally you wanna have as much general knowledge as possible with how ranking works. Once you get your map ranked though, it’s a great accomplishment that gives a big boost to downloads and number of ratings (of which the percentage can vary depending on how much you listen to advice during the process). My biggest advice with ranking though is this: Treat the team with respect and have fun. They are doing this all in their spare time, free of pay just because they love the game so much and want to see the rank grow. (I wanna use this opportunity to shout out the ranking team, you guys are awesome and are helping ranked flourish into a much more fun system than it was before)
Q. Do you believe that the mapping ‘meta’ is currently in a healthy state? If not, what do you feel would help to bring the ‘meta’ to a good place?
A. It honestly depends on how you play the game. If you play for rank, I feel most people there will tell you farming is terrible (unless they’re masochists), and people tend to go on long hiatuses because of how stale higher pp maps have become. Hopefully the new changes to the system will correct that, and more variety will come out of the mapping meta there. If I look at the “normie” play for the fun side of Beat Saber though, and I see creativity flourishing in mods, mapping styles, and other fun stuff. So again, it depends how you play the game.
Q. What style of maps do you most enjoy when you play Beat Saber for fun?
A. Most of the time, I’ll play just for the song, but certain mappers I’ve come to know and love often have techy dance maps that aren’t blisteringly fast and are just fun to wave your arms around. I also love to look at the maps from lighters I know just to see their latest work and maybe steal some techniques for myself 😛
Q. What else would you like the Beat Saber community to know?
A. Keep Beat Saber FUN! I think it’s everyone’s job in this community to just have fun and never take things too seriously. We should all strive to make a community that helps and supports others without being absolute dicks to each other. The community is, right now, one of the nicest ones out there, that is for sure, but any time toxicity rises, it’s our job to rise above it. I’ve come to meet and make great personal friends through this community and I consider myself blessed to be in the position I am today. I also want to make a specific shout out to the members of the noodle cult for being some of the coolest people out there and I consider all of you great friends… No matter where you sit on the Noodle alignment chart or your Jorn ratio. 😉 On a final note remember this: Cyan is a furry.
Thanks for reading! Have a question for EpicEwok? Hit them up in the comments!
The responses in this interview have been lightly edited to correct for grammar and spelling issues.