Map Design Best Practices

An overview of best practices for creating and customizing your Space and its Maps

General Design Principles

As we look at best practices for designing your own Gather Space, it is important to keep a few principles in mind:

  • Over emphasize the obvious - Not everyone is tech-savvy or a mind reader
    • Make it obvious where you can and can't walk (doors, walls, floors)
    • Make it obvious when you can and can't interact with an object
    • Make it obvious when you're going to be interacting with someone (See Private  Areas)

  • Create a sense of agency - Allow people to choose who,  what, and when they interact with
    • Provide enough information so that your guests know where to go and how to navigate the space, but allow them to explore 
    • Opt-in and active participation creates a better experience than passive, required interactions
    • When guiding certain interactions it is:
      • Best to lead with interest - create visual interest to naturally pull people from one screen to the next
      • OK to rely on signage to tell people which direction to go
      • Less ideal to make an obvious, single path to take with no other options

  • Understanding limitations
    • Not everyone keeps up with the most advanced hardware trends
      • Due to the nature of webRTC video connections, being connected to 25 or more people at the same time will put a good deal of strain on your computer
    • Group discussions in real life are typically best with 4 or 5 participants, according to the research
      • Visually and spatially encourage  smaller group gatherings using tables, chairs, walls, carpets.
    • Better to go directly to the source
      • You will get much better quality by linking/embedding a video than you will screensharing it! 

What's this Math?

Throughout our examples, you will see a few numbers used to determine how we recommend spaces be designed. These recommended, roughly-estimated numbers include:

  • Pixels per tile - 32 x 32
  • Maximum File Size for Backgrounds, Foregrounds, and Posters - 3MB
  • Connections/ simultaneous video chats - 25 people
  • Participants per Space - 500 People
  • Number of individual Private Space IDs - 100
  • Total area needed for one person to not be connected to anyone else - 144 tiles per person
  • Area needed to be clearly connected to at least 1 other person - 25 tiles
  • Average time spent in initial spawn area - 5 minutes


The grid in every Gather Space consists of 32 by 32 pixel squares that we refer to as tiles. When moving around a Space, your character will move  on to and occupy entire tiles.  When placing objects, they will snap to the existing grid both in the Mapmaker and Builder Mode and so designing a space in multiples of 32 pixels with particular junctions lining up with the 32 pixel grid is recommended.

In designing your own Space, you need to consider facilitating interactions as well as free movement. You can connect with and communicate with someone who is roughly 5 tiles away from you in any direction. Audio and video is most clear when 2 or less tiles away from another person with a gradual fade such that, at a distance of 6 tiles, you are no longer connected. Ideally every person should have the option to remove themselves from the conversation. Taking this into account, when you size your map,  we recommend:

  • a max of 3200 x 3200 px dimensions (or 100 x 100 tiles). 
  • background image file size should be less than 3 MB.
  • plan at least 20 and 40  available tiles per expected guest (roughly 5 by 5 tiles for a 25-tile-square per person)
  • use an odd number of tiles (to help easily divide your Rooms into smaller sections or have a centerline to focus your Rooms around)
  • size your default entry Room or area to the max rate of expected guest arrival per 5-minute interval

You don't want your space to feel so large that you could go days without running into another human, but you also want to allow for enough room such that any one person is not forced into conversation if they do not wish it. 


For a 200 person event, you would want a map that with roughly 4000 to 8000 tiles (200 people times 20 to 40 tiles per person). 

Let say you settle on 5000 tiles. You can accomplish this with:

  •  one large room map of 51 x 101 tiles (1632 x 3232 pixels) 
  •  one large room map of 51 x 51  tiles (1632 x 1632 pixel) and two smaller side room maps of 25 x 51 tiles ( 800 x 1632 pixels)
  • Or any combination thereof

You event has some arrival flexibility, but you're also having a keynote speaker at a very specific time. You decide you want to open the space roughly 30 minutes before the talk and expect that roughly half of your attendees will arrive 10 minutes before the talk. This gives a very rough estimate of 50 attendees per 5-minute interval.  You can determine the minimum size of your default entry room or greeting area in the following way:

  • 50 attendees x 25 tiles = 1250 tiles square. 
    • square root (1250) ~ 35 tiles --> Default Entry Room / Greeting Area ~35 x 35 tiles (1,120 x 1,120 pixels) 
    • Or to use easier numbers: A Default Entry Room/ Area of 25 x 50 tiles (800 x 1,600 pixels) +/- one tile to make it odd and easy to divide

These are all recommendations and are not hard and fast rules. If you find that you like to subdivide your spaces into smaller areas, you may want a larger map to accommodate the additional walls.

How Big Should I make my Spawn Tile Area?

For information on how to size your Spawn Tile Area within your Default Entry Room/ Greeting Area to maximize your guests' experience upon first entering your Space, please click here see our article on Spawn Tiles.
Example of spawn points split between entrances. This example would accommodate a rate of 36 "simultaneous" guests.


Want to view or download all Gather objects, walls, floors, etc? Our in-house tileset is publicly available on Github. Anyone can download these tilesheets and anyone can submit their own custom tilesheets to be included on our repository by submitting pull requests. These tilesheets are designed to import straight into and be used with the map creation application called Tiled, but you can still use them if you are using any other photo editor. 

To access the files:

  1. Go to
  2. Click the green [Code] button
  3. Select Download Zip to get the zip file

Tip: For those of you who are already git-savvy, you'll find that you're allowed to clone/fork/contribute, etc.

Connecting Multiple Spaces for a 500+ Event

The first question that needs to be answered when considering a large event with more than 500 people on Gather is: 

What do I want my participants to get out of this experience?

If the answer is to watch something (like a presentation or a graduation ceremony),  you need to be aware that, though possible on Gather, you will still need to incorporate multiple technologies to make this successful. Gather simulates real-life interactions. One of those interactions, unfortunately, includes how chaotic and stressful having 500 people squeezed into the same room can be. 

If the answer is to be connected to other people and spark conversation, then the focus should be on how to encourage smaller group conversations. One way to achieve this is by intentionally creating a space with small break out rooms and conversation areas. Another way to do this for larger events is to pre-emptively split up attendance into  difference spaces.

The Design Aspect

Right now, your Gather Space is limited to a maximum peak capacity of 500 people. If you plan to have more than 500 simultaneous participants, you can design and connect multiple spaces together to accommodate a larger event. When doing so, we recommend the following tips:

  • Making each Space structurally a duplicate of the others
    • Reduce the need or desire for everyone to pile into the same space
      • Provide as many of the same amenities and tools in all of the individual Spaces as possible
      • Use the same video object to embed live streams of keynote speakers (or use synchronized tvs for pre-recorded presentations) Same object across all halls so it does not matter which space you're in - you can see the same program in all spaces
    • Have multiple break out rooms and small conversation areas to encourage smaller group interactions.

An example of a conference space with many divided rooms and tables to encourage small group conversations. 

  • Make each Space stylistically distinct such that there is no doubt which Space you are standing in
    • Using a repeated image or insignia in addition different flooring and walls 

Examples of Repeated Imagery in entry way to help Participants orient themselves
Examples of Repeated Imagery near breakout rooms to help Participants orient themselves
Examples of Repeated Imagery in the social areas to help Participants orient themselves

  • Connect the Spaces using a Hub and Spokes model
    • Use one portal from each space to a Central Hub Space located in the same location on all maps. 
    • Make the Hub an interesting social space, but not essential to your event 
    • Portal to Central Hub ideally placed in location where participants are least likely to go first
      • In below example, participants initially appear at the bottom center of the map. There are visually interesting areas to explore going up and to either side. Entrance to Central "Hub" is immediately south of where participants appear and intentionally visually convey an "exit" or departure from the space

Tip: For more info on connecting Spaces together using portals, see our article on Portal Tiles.

A diagram showing how each distinct Space is connected to the Central Hub area and allows people to move between spaces as needed. 

For reference, the above examples were created from a modified version of our Deluxe Conference Map which can comfortably host 100-500 participants on its own . Thus the above example is for an event with roughly 1,500 participants.

Image of the Deluxe Conference Map template space option that can be found when creating a new space.