This week we sat down with Dutch mapper Light Ai for a chat about mapping, BeatKhana, the meta, and more!
Q. What inspired you to start mapping?
A. I wanted to try to make maps for the songs I liked because it was interesting to me to learn how to make something enjoyable and flow nicely. I also wanted to map some of my favourite songs. My main focus has always been to make an enjoyable map with good flow while still being at least slightly challenging.
Q. What are your preferred genres of music to map?
A. Vocaloid, “Rhythmcore”/speedcore (stuff like Camellia and Kobaryo), Jpop
Q. Are there any other things besides mapping that you’re involved with in the Beat Saber community?
A. I am the community manager for BeatKhana and I help out a lot with the tournaments we host as well as tournaments that other people host. I am also often available to contact for testplaying or feedback on maps, and I am always available for people to ask for NJS and offset values. (Editor’s note: Note Jump Speed and offset affect how fast the blocks move at you and how close to you they spawn/appear in game)
Q. Can you tell me a little bit more about BeatKhana?
A. BeatKhana! Is a tournament hub for both organizers and players. We have places to announce tournaments, find tournaments and staff, and we host our own (wacky) tournaments as well! One of which is having it’s qualifiers right now! It’s called Rumble Royale and it’s like no other tournament! In this one you play in battle royale style against 80 different players! You can find some more info about it on our site. Speaking of which, we just recently launched that and you can find it over at https://beatkhana.com/.
Q. Which of your maps are you most proud of or is your favorite?
A. I don’t really have a favourite map, but right now I would say my Iro wo ushinatta machi. I like how I used the new windows in an interesting way and some more angles that I’ve not tried before on a relatively high BPM. To me, the emphasis the patterns give is great, despite my heavy experimentation with this mapping style, and the overall feel of the map really represents the song for me.
Q. If you could go back in time and talk to yourself as a new mapper, what is the #1 piece of advice you would give?
A. Map as you like, don’t search for a mapping style but instead map how you feel like mapping and eventually you will have mapped enough to establish your own style. Use the feedback you get to perfect your mapping and don’t be afraid to change your mapping style once you’ve established one.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the single most challenging thing for a new mapper to master in order to be successful?
A. Understanding the flow of maps. It seems to go under the radar for new mappers while it’s a great tool to map efficiently and comfortably. It’s hard to master but is one of my most important tools while mapping.
Q. What style of maps do you most enjoy playing when you play for fun?
A. Either maps with high BPM and fun patterns or somewhat more calm maps that focus on having fun. I also like to play tech, as long as it fits the song.
Q. If you’ve mapped for rank what would you say to encourage other mappers to consider ranking?
A. It’s not as hard as it seems. Almost any pattern is allowed as long as you can play it, it’s all about timing mistakes, which people will help you catch. It’s more a long wait and occasional fixing than a hard process you’re constantly busy with. So don’t be afraid to push a map you’re proud of for rank. I do want to say that you should only look to rank a map if you think others will enjoy it. And try not to focus on making a high PP map. What we need are good, fun maps right now, not more high PP. (Editor’s Note: PP is Performance Points… what you get when you play ranked maps)
A. 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?
B. I don’t believe it’s in a healthy place right now. Although the meta has been shifting away from purely high speed PP to more techy maps, it seems to be creeping back to using that more techy style to create high PP again. This leads to many maps having patterns that are over-complicated for what would fit the song for the sake of a “cool” or hard pattern. The definition of tech has faded and lowered in meaning a lot. A tech map uses unusual patterns consistently to establish a representation in the map by using special movements. It isn’t simply using weird angles or patterns. Some good examples of that are Saut’s Alone and CoolingCloset’s REVIVER which are both great tech maps. I feel that a more focused approach to actual tech and representation will help bring the meta back from the place it is now, where everything seemingly needs to be a special angle which in turn makes every map feel bland and not memorable.
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. 90 degree angles is the first thing that springs to mind. In the right hands and with the right song it can be a great tool for creating an interesting flow, movement or way of emphasizing a song. But when it is used it’s seemingly used for the sake of using it, which feels wrong. This could simply be due to a lack of mapping knowledge but it could also be because of mappers forcing the usage. I recommend mappers to always experiment with these types of things but don’t do it for the sake of doing it. I also think that slight over- and under-mapping can be used effectively to convey the rhythm of a song better than recreating the rhythm one to one, but this is rarely the case.
Q. Are there any practices from “Ye Olde Days” of mapping that you’d like to see make a reappearance?
A. More simplistic maps. We seem to be lacking in maps that are simplistic but fun. Recent maps are pushing using special angles a lot and I kind of miss the simpler days of maps. A repeating pattern can feel really fun if it fits the music, and it’s also more fun to casually play.
Q. What does your mapping process look like?
A. When I am planning on having lights, I tend to start with a bit of lighting, after that I start with mapping. Most of the time I don’t time with timing notes, but when timing gets complex, I time out the part I’m just about to map for it to be easier to focus on patterns. If I’m doing lighting I tend to switch back and forth between lighting and mapping bits. I work on what I feel like working on, which helps me be creative. Because of this I often have multiple projects running for about a month and then release them in quick succession. I playtest my maps when I’m unsure about flow, want to perfectly capture a flow or the rare occasion when I’m unable to play out the mapping in my head.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like the Beat Saber community to know about you, your mapping style, or your thoughts on the game itself?
A. Map how you want to and do it for yourself. A focus on popularity will make it hard to be original. I am always open for questions about mapping that are quick to answer, especially NJS and offset choice, and for mods that are gameplay focussed. Don’t hesitate to try things out, but don’t force a mapping concept on a song that doesn’t fit it. Also, with the recent updates to Noodle Extensions, i can only recommend any interested mapper to go for it and try it out. There’s limitless possibilities in mapping with that mod!
Thanks for reading! Have a question for LightAi? Hit them up in the comments!
This interview has been lightly edited for spelling, grammar, and clarity.