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madbringer
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Alright, so, I've started making my very first* map for Doom. After learning all the raw basics, reading tutorials and getting the hang of Doom Builder, I made some headway, laid out the bare-bones foundations of the level, with a general idea of what it should look and play like, experimented with some rudimentary decorations in an early section of it and came to an abrupt halt.

The reason for that being, I couldn't decide what should I actually focus on while making it. As a player, I have a good sense of game flow and difficulty; item distribution, monster placement, progression. I have a rudimentary, if currently impractical (due to personal lack of mapping experience and, admittedly, lack of creativity) grasp on what constitutes pleasing eye-candy. The problem is, it takes me way too much time to make even a single section of the level look presentable, if that.

Should I, as a complete beginner, focus on the flow and overall gameplay of the level, making sure it is at least a visceral and exciting if not pleasingly palatable experience, or shift the focus on aesthetics instead, mechanizing the processes of texture alignment and synergy, adding detail and stuff like that? I'd imagine I'd reach a point of refinement (and, probably, a very low ability ceiling) either way, just wonder which would be more efficient from an experienced mapper's point of view.

*I actually have some prior mapping experience, both in Doom and in Q1. Nothing serious, and it was years ago, when I was barely in my early teens. Might as well not have any experience at all, honestly.

Old Post 11-11-13 03:14 #
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Shadow Hog
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Focus on gameplay, I say.

Detailing should be limited to "do these textures align correctly", and if not, then either aligning them, stretching them out by splitting the linedef in the correct places, or adding SUPPORTx in between areas they don't line up well at all. That is, unless you have a clear idea of what detailing you want to do in advance (like a decorative structure on the ceiling, or breaking up hallways with long uninterrupted spans of a single texture with a computer screen here and there). You can worry about highly-detailed maps later on, when you've got a better grip on what you're doing.

Old Post 11-11-13 03:26 #
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StupidBunny
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Aesthetics doesn't have to be the same thing as detail anyway. A lot of times, a map which uses interesting architecture that makes maximal use of height variations, stairs, doors, ledges, windows and so forth can come out both more aesthetically pleasing and more fun to play than a poorly designed map with skillful use of detail.

Old Post 11-11-13 03:41 #
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madbringer
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Shadow Hog said:
Focus on gameplay, I say.

Detailing should be limited to "do these textures align correctly", and if not, then either aligning them, stretching them out by splitting the linedef in the correct places, or adding SUPPORTx in between areas they don't line up well at all. That is, unless you have a clear idea of what detailing you want to do in advance (like a decorative structure on the ceiling, or breaking up hallways with long uninterrupted spans of a single texture with a computer screen here and there). You can worry about highly-detailed maps later on, when you've got a better grip on what you're doing.



That's what I'm thinking, it's just that, well, it's 2013, almost 2014. I wouldn't want to make a map that felt like it was made in the mid-nineties and have it immediately dismissed as garbage simply on the basis of how it looks, rather than how it plays. I suppose this is as much a practical question as an egotistical one, no one likes to see their creations incessantly bashed. I have no delusions about being the "next big thing" in the world of Doom. My goals are about delivering a temporarily satisfying experience while efficiently "learning the ropes", it's just a problem of how should that be achieved from a newbie standpoint.


StupidBunny said:
Aesthetics doesn't have to be the same thing as detail anyway. A lot of times, a map which uses interesting architecture that makes maximal use of height variations, stairs, doors, ledges, windows and so forth can come out both more aesthetically pleasing and more fun to play than a poorly designed map with skillful use of detail.


Oh, I agree. I myself prefer levels that have interesting architecture and lacklustre detailing over levels with excessive detailing and lacklustre architecture simply because the architecture adds to the gameplay and the detailing "only" to the overall atmosphere and feel of it. Detailing for the sake of it is not what I would have done any which way. The bare minimum is making sure what I'm making does not evoke immediate nausea.

Last edited by madbringer on 11-11-13 at 04:16

Old Post 11-11-13 04:06 #
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StupidBunny
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Some people might be dismissive of an aesthetically lackluster level, but at the same time my experience is that a lot of people here respect a good gameplay experience when they try it (that's, in part, what a lot of the endless Romero vs Petersen debates hinge around.) I think you'll be fine in the aesthetics department as long as your textures are aligned and your texture choices employ basic common sense, so I say put your effort into making the gameplay fun, however you think that should be accomplished.

Old Post 11-11-13 04:21 #
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Rayzik
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You certainly should focus on good gameplay, but don't excuse that for skipping on consistent detail. No one wants to play a map that looks bad and plays bad.

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Old Post 11-11-13 04:26 #
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Dragonsbrethren
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Definitely focus on gameplay first. Like StupidBunny said, a lot of times a level with a decent amount of height variation and other gameplay-oriented architecture can have good aesthetics through texture choices alone.

I definitely think the minimalist approach works best when detailing a Doom map, especially when working with the stock textures. Clutter detail doesn't look good to me, and that seems to be the trap a lot of new mappers fall into. If an area looks bland, by all means add something, but don't think you have to put trim and borders and bumpy floors everywhere. Don't forget that you can detail with things, too, it doesn't always have to be sectors.

Last edited by Dragonsbrethren on 11-11-13 at 06:34

Old Post 11-11-13 05:32 #
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MegaTurtleRex
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I hate levels with detail that is easy to bump into, just go for gameplay I say.

Old Post 11-11-13 06:24 #
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Xaser
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Making an interesting, varied layout with plenty of cool things like height variation, dynamic architecture, interconnected areas (in more complex ways than just room-hallway-room), and non-orthogonal rooms can do a lot for both gameplay and visualness. Such places are going to naturally look better and be more fun to fight in than something like an empty square box or some such.

Granted, it takes lots of practice either way, and gameplay is most certainly the more important of the two, but soon you ought to be able to knock out more than one bird with those stones you're throwing.

Old Post 11-11-13 07:06 #
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Crasger
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It depends on your audience. The people playing it have different opinions.

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Old Post 11-11-13 08:20 #
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MTrop
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Focus on gameplay.

Detailing comes naturally with your familiarity with the engine and its tools. Gameplay is hard to perfect, even with lots of practice, so that should always be your focus. The pattern that is consistent with most reviews of maps and user experience in general is that a map that plays bad will ruin any experience. People will forgive a map that plays well and looks sub-par. People will not forgive a map that plays terribly, regardless of its aesthetics.

Simply put, if your goal is to entertain, your map needs to be entertaining.

Old Post 11-11-13 15:33 #
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darkreaver
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It does not matter what you focus on, first.

Focus on aestethics, then gameplay later.
Focus on gameplay, then aestethics later.

No reason to leave any of them out.

Old Post 11-11-13 16:07 #
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Enjay
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darkreaver said:
No reason to leave any of them out.

Indeed. They are not mutually exclusive.

Old Post 11-11-13 19:11 #
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Ribbiks
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+1 on team "both"

Old Post 11-11-13 19:15 #
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wesleyjohnson
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To get both, alternate.

1. Consider a theme, what the buildings are, their function.
This gives a context for the decorations, the building function, and the play.
2. What is the player is going to do (which is usually fight their way across), but can involve other factors. This decides what important rooms must be visited to complete the level.
3. Roughly lay out boxes for the important buildings and rooms. Space them according to the travel wanted. Provide passages between them and junctions where the player must decide, and where fights break out.
4. Try to design in stages. First what did nature provide. Then how were the first buildings built. What alterations were done by later inhabitants. Finally, what did the monsters do when they took over the buildings (limited by how much time they had to do it).
This makes the scene look natural, provides interest points in the detail, and gives rationalization to the back passages and alternative pathways.
5. Add some detail to the rooms according to the theme.
Add the machines, locked doors, control rooms, etc..
6. Consider where the fights will be. Consider where the monster strong points will be. Consider the alternative passages needed to give the player choices in attacking the monster strong points.
Provide some back passages and service-ways.
7. Add more detail to the buildings. Texture the walls. Adjust the doors and windows to look good in the room.
8. Break up symmetrical layouts so the doors are not always in the center of a wall.
9. Another round of second-guessing, add some niches for monsters.
Connect those niches to the back passages in some way so the player can access those areas too.
10. Do the serious detail. Add light effects. Align textures.

You could call this stepwise refinement. The thing NOT to do is super detail a single room, and then try to add more to get gameplay.
Altering gameplay will mess with the detailing, and the pain of that restrains the effort to fix the gameplay. All major alterations must be done before the big detailing efforts. Either that or be prepared to numb yourself so you can rip things apart as you make adjustments.

Last edited by wesleyjohnson on 11-11-13 at 21:13

Old Post 11-11-13 20:53 #
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madbringer
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darkreaver said:No reason to leave any of them out.


That would be ideal, but in my case there's the major stumbling block in the form of time constraint.


wesleyjohnson said:
(...)


Thank you, that sounds like excellent advice. Reading through the points and comparing the order with how I was going about it, it would appear I was approaching it a bit ass-backward. Chaotic methodology is something I struggle with often. :/

And thanks to everyone else for the input, appreciate it. Looks like the consensus is to focus more on the gameplay aspects. Suspected it would be that way as I was writing the first post. It's not just about making an actually fully functional, complete map, though, as much as it is about efficient allocation of time in order to learn the basics and developing solid mapping muscle memory, so to speak.

Last edited by madbringer on 11-12-13 at 01:06

Old Post 11-11-13 22:51 #
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ReX
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There is a third aspect that you should also consider - map design. [Although, some may argue that it falls within the realm of game-play.] A cleverly-made map can also provide a great deal of entertainment value. Try a map named Venom by Ola Björling to see how a map gets transformed as the player advances, and by its transformation offers wonderful game-play opportunities.

Non-linearity in map design is one way to do clever things in your game. Non-linearity can be achieved by a variety of means:

1. Offering more than one path to a destination
2. Requiring back-tracking
3. Having previously inaccessible parts of the map open up as you back-track
4. Revealing parts of a map (even a linear one) that the player will visit later
5. Creating a criss-cross path through the map

Ultimately, follow the advice of real architects - let form follow function. Once you determine the type of experience you want to create from your map, simultaneously visualize your map design, game-play, and aesthetics. Then, like any work, first build a draft and then work to build a final.

Old Post 11-12-13 03:37 #
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Cell
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madbringer said:
That's what I'm thinking, it's just that, well, it's 2013, almost 2014. I wouldn't want to make a map that felt like it was made in the mid-nineties and have it immediately dismissed as garbage simply on the basis of how it looks, rather than how it plays.

Not an issue, look at Doomep47 at my creation. Was announced as a mapset to be released this year, but more likely to get out in '14.
No promo, just not to feel yourself "guilty" for being non-aesthetic.

Old Post 11-14-13 22:12 #
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Joe667
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It's kinda funny, I always implement aesthetics during the actual construction of the map, even though I know I should work on the gameplay first... XD

Old Post 11-28-13 18:01 #
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Dragonsbrethren
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Well, stop doing that. Worrying about aesthetics just slows you down in the design phase and makes you commit to keeping areas that play awfully, since you put so much effort into them.

Old Post 11-28-13 18:15 #
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Joe667
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ReX said:
Try a map named Venom by Ola Björling...




That was fun!



...To see how a map gets transformed as the player advances, and by its transformation offers wonderful game-play opportunities.




Um... what? While I appreciate the work that went into that wad I kind of think its gameplay was... well... just good.

I recommend typing IDMUS08 for this level...

Old Post 11-28-13 18:49 #
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Jayextee
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Dragonsbrethren said:
Worrying about aesthetics just slows you down in the design phase and makes you commit to keeping areas that play awfully, since you put so much effort into them.


This, a thousand times. I've scrapped so many maps and segments because I got carried away in the aesthetics, then realised it's all clunky and cluttered and I hate it but now it's too difficult to make sweeping changes.

Gameplay, every time. Bad aesthetics can be fixed in an otherwise finished map; bad gameplay often cannot.

Old Post 11-28-13 18:56 #
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Phml
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Sound advice, but I never seem to be able to stick to it.

If I pay no attention to aesthetics, either I get bored halfway through playtesting because there's no atmosphere and so I'm not feeling it; or I complete the map, look at the amount of work it'd take to detail the entire thing, shrug and leave it as is.

So I end up starting from scratch; thinking this time, I'll just get a nice little theme going in the first room, with minimal detail, and stick to that with no additional effort. Yet inevitably, a few hours later I find myself toying endlessly with wall detail.

The latter still works better for me, because, well, that's the only way I get maps done. So if I can't change my global approach, second best option is to improve my detail process.

I try to stick to the most efficient parts of my previous maps - efficiency as in best ratio of "does what I want it to do" over "how much time it takes to build". 90° angles, 45° angles may not be the most popular thing, but personally I've noticed the time I spent doing curvy things being completely unremarkable ingame more often than I was bothered by a straight angle (and there's a lot more straight angles in all PWADs than there are Phml-made curvy things around), and sticking to simple angles make building, moving things around and rebuilding easy and fast.

I try to iterate fast, and I'm trying to get the habit of keeping every iteration of a particular piece of detail around until I'm completely sure I'm finished, so I can compare as I go. There's so many little things I discover every day that makes me map more efficiently, too; like building rooms in a vacuum and then deleting parts of a working but currently bare sector while keeping a strategically placed vertex so I can paste the aforementioned room into the base sector and join everything neatly, with no need for tedious texture rework or the inevitable oddities with overlapping linedefs, despite merging sectors. Also keeping a copy of said rooms in their own little space so I can make changes quickly, instead of having to deal in the playing area directly.

Perhaps in a way it's a manual, inefficient route to mimick prefab systems; but I find forming the mental patterns to quickly draw various doors, pillars, stairs and structures help me build faster as well as allow for more flexibility in my thought process, because I start to get an intuitive feel for the shapes. Lately I find I can design entire room visuals in my head down to line lengths and everything and have a pretty good idea of what it's going to look like, how it's going to all fit (perhaps this sounds trivial to those of you with artistic skill, but it's rather new for me).

Another benefit to caring about aesthetics as I go, to me, is while working in autopilot doing detail busywork my mind is free to wander and think about gameplay scenarios further down the line, or how the visuals can integrate with the action. There's only so much creativity you can put into something until you run out, so having those peaks and valleys in my mapping is actually beneficial, I think.

Old Post 11-28-13 20:21 #
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40oz
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I've been trying to get in the habit of sketching out cool aesthetically/visually appealing designs on paper, and using Doombuilder to draw it the most basic way humanly possible so I can test it to check things like if the player will or won't feel cramped moving around in an area of that particular scale, or if the monsters I intend to use in it will make for a good fight.

I haven't really yet gotten around to testing that idea yet but on paper that process sounds really good as I can quick decide whether something will be worth making or should be trashed before I waste any time on it.

Old Post 11-29-13 03:30 #
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Cell
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Lemme tell you that if you create a 'classic' mod for UD, the most complicated visuals structures you'll have to pain thru are either "writings" ala E3M5, or arches ala E4M6, nothing else to even start designing, 'cause it runs out of the bounds and makes your maps 2000's-like.

Old Post 11-29-13 20:24 #
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Joe667
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Dragonsbrethren said:
Well, stop doing that. Worrying about aesthetics just slows you down in the design phase and makes you commit to keeping areas that play awfully, since you put so much effort into them.


It doesn't stop me from making a well-playable map...

Old Post 11-29-13 22:43 #
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