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geekmarine
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Here's a topic I think would be interesting to discuss. I'm sure it's been brought up before (probably by me, honestly), but I thought it'd be interesting to talk about the creative side of Doom level design rather than the technical side. How do you get your inspiration? Where do you get your ideas? How do you get past mapper's block?

For example, on a technical level, I feel pretty darn solid in level design. I can make pretty much anything I can think of, at least in vanilla Doom (haven't really messed with the extra features source ports allow). I know how to construct levels, I know how to add little details and flourishes, all that good stuff. But oftentimes, I find I struggle with the basics of coming up with a good layout. Like, I can design the hell out of a room, but then have no idea where else I want that room to lead - what's gonna go behind that door, where do those stairs go, etc. So I'll end up with a very elaborately designed room, but that's all it ever is.

The times I have completed levels, I've either drawn inspiration from existing map layouts (my Stylin' series, for example - and people said those maps looked nothing like the maps I drew inspiration from, but I feel they were still derivative), or sometimes, I'll just kinda force myself to start adding extra rooms and figure out how it all connects later.

What tips do you have for working through the general layout of a level? Where do you draw your inspirations? What do you do when you get stuck?

Old Post 05-09-14 03:37 #
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tomocean22
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Some of the best maps for me personally are maps with great flow. Maps that bring me to the same area in different circumstances. An important part of this is creating a line of sight with major (or interesting) objectives.

Look at MAP06 of Unholy Realms. Right off the bat, there is a Berserk Pack in the first room you can't reach. So that was in the back of my head the whole time, "How do I get that fscking Berserk Pack??" Right outside the first room is a blocked courtyard, and beyond that, a dramatic building blocked by a Red Key gate. This map gave me 3 major objectives in the first few minutes. Get the pack, prepare for a big fight in a courtyard, and get the Red Key for another big fight outside an important structure.

Now I was a little off-guard picking up the Red Key. I knew it would probably trigger a fight, but I was excited about getting into that courtyard, finding out how to get the Berserk, and getting past the Red Door. So I was engaged with the map, instead of simply being engaged with shooting things. With a sense of urgency in getting back to the main area, it was easier to surprise me with clever monster placement.

I guess my point is a good layout needs to be laid out around something.

Old Post 05-09-14 04:31 #
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mrthejoshmon
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I play 90's wads and gain inspiration from failed ideas, I use music to tell me what to do. I use vivid dreams, I use events in my life, I use buildings I have seen, I use my ability to zone out to create tunnel systems that are not blocky but are curved or jagged, I create a rough idea in my head and try to make it, I channel my hatred into my maps, I channel my love into my maps...

I listen to the rain to make a dark and moody map, I look into the sky to create a open map, my garden for natural maps...

Anything can inspire you, you just have to know what you are looking at, what you know of it, what it feels like, taste, smell... It's like a fine art or a delicate craft, it comes naturally through practice, patience and persistence, all you need is your mind to focus to do it...

Or at least I think that is it, probably not.

Old Post 05-09-14 04:55 #
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tomocean22
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mrthejoshmon said:
I use music to tell me what to do.


What if I only listen to depressing music?

Makes a single-room map with a single Imp clipped in a wall

MAP01, "This Imp is so sad, so very, very, sad."

Old Post 05-09-14 05:00 #
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mrthejoshmon
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tomocean22 said:
What if I only listen to depressing music?

Depressing music is great, it makes me think of long slogs against waves and waves of enemies, getting tougher and tougher... There is no hope, you will die and there is nothing you can do about it.

Or it makes me think scenes of vast devastation and death, an empty battleground with bodies still fresh in pools of blood, people dispatched in grizzly ways, ruins where once life flourished turned to brick tombs...

Either that or a really weird jokemap revolving around a lone lost soul... "so lost, oh so lost and alone..."

Old Post 05-09-14 05:15 #
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Darch
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I have a block with abstract mapping, so I usually use images or videos to get inspiration from, trying to recreate these places in Doom. These places tend to be flatter then a Doom map should be, so I try to add some extra height variation (not always successfully).

I'm playing Sunder again, which I consider a masterpiece in terms of abstract mapping, and it inspired me to try an abstract map. I did the main room, and I simply don't now where to go now. All my ideas feel like mediocre fillers to this room. I feel like ending the map as it is, ridiculously small (I tend to make small maps because of this).

I don't understand how people make a megawad out of 3 or less themes, I usually run out of ideas in the middle of a map and always change theme for the next one. And speedmapping. Those are things out of my reality right now, that I've got to learn.

Old Post 05-09-14 05:41 #
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Obsidian
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Usually I just come up with a neat idea and build around it: a lot of the speedmaps I've made follow that principle.

Old Post 05-09-14 07:01 #
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Xegethra
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I just try to think of where the level ends.

In my WAD you go through only 4 levels each with a different theme in an attempt at variety..so I thought about how those levels link together and what would be the most likely path of progression in my imagination.

You start of in a base...ok, but where in the base? A room behind the main foyer that you never see...ok cool, so it is a staff only door you are in, so behind the door you can't get through I wanted people to imagine the foyer or first rooms you might expect to see in a futuristic base. So that gives people a sense of a bigger world by giving them a blocked off door.

Then I tried to imagine what could be on level 1 of the base....so I made a computer room, which leads to a crate room, which provides stock for the military supply shop you go into. Another bit that branches off from there are some corridors that lead to the end of the level, but it is blocked off as the security gates are down and the demons haven't opened it yet. Hence why I put them on the console there, they are trying to open up the base. It is a techy sort of corridor with some exposed pipes due to the demons ripping off the wall fixtures.

Another room that comes off the crate room is a smaller corridor with some staff bed rooms for overnight shifts. These are not military bed rooms, but they are more for the scientists, technicians, cleaning staff and that sort of stuff. So I wondered where you could go next...so I put a dark corridor here that leads to a bigger crate room, and I put some decorative shutter doors there. This room has no exit through a door, the shutter door is another illusion to a bigger world, to get out you have to go through the vents to get to the blocked off exit.

And I made all my exists as lifts, that take you to different levels of the complex, I thought lifts would work better to make it feel like you are leaving the previous level for good and being taken to somewhere new.

MY level 2 resembles level 1 in it's base theme, but this more high security....you come out into a wide corridor with some fake doors (level 1 has a few fake doors too) but amongst them, some doors work. You go though another crate room which supplies another military supply shop. And branching off here comes a super computer room and a narrow corridor with some high tech work rooms. You then can see the door you need to go through but you need a key which means you have to back track a bit. You find key, back track then go into another corridor similar to the first one. Fake doors again, but real ones hiding access to the key are here. These rooms are where the offices and administration rooms are, as well as corporate/government board rooms. Once key gotten you then gain access to the super computer room, get the final protected key to another dead end corridor with fake doors...but to get through you go under the walls to the general's hidden rec room where you gain access to the sewer system and the level ends.

Then in the sewer level it is pretty straight forward....you go through sewage. Every so often you will find run down military barracks because space up top got a bit cramped. Here is where a nuclear fallout shelter sits, a hight tech sewer management complex with a big machine room in it and some sciency rooms...this is the government experiment bit. further on is more sewer and at the end of the level is the old sewer management system, disused and run down you will sometimes come across old remnants of a sewer system from before UAC came to the base...it is in one of the old systems you gain access to the final level.

The dungeons...I thought that dungeons, not only for another theme but for a likely place to actually exists there. The notion of my levels is so to be escaping to the mountains and after the sewers, a lift that takes you up to the old dungeons was an idea. So the general idea of the location isa base in the mountains, (level 1 and 2) built on top of an old base. Further down the old base and UAC base connect and intertwine in the sewers (level 3) and as the journey goes, you get to the dungeons...no involvement with UAC at all...these old cells have existed not only before the UAC base, but even the old base that UAC built on....the old base connects to the dungeons out of the builders exploration of the area....they made a lift that access there....but haven't really used them and UAC has just ignored the dungeons all together.

In the dungeon level you go though cells, courtyards and eventually the final door to the mountains. My levels aimed for a path of progression. All levels make use of fake doors and routes to give an essence of a bigger world. Like my sewer level will have blocked off sewer tunnels and the dungeons will have caged off corridors.

A bit of a long winded post, but I'm just trying to explain my idea of level progression in the level and as a whole trying to make the base somewhat believable.

Old Post 05-09-14 08:47 #
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gemini09
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^ lol, that was way too detailed.. I'm happy with what I got by map03. No need to run through 20 levels :P

Key element for mapping IMO is "continual context", as in, say you start a brand new map; you make a rectangel portraying a hallway of a say UAC base; even though the hallway only has a door on each side, you should still have an idea of what's beyond the walls (even though you don't create sectors there). Meaning, you shouldn't view an aspiring level as just a level, but rather view the entirety of the level's map as a cut-out map from a bigger picture - like a route on a GPS, if you will; outside of the route there exists a bigger world.



Key element is actually immersion. If you have a rationale behind anything, it will (most likely) be immersive. The rationale doesn't need to be realism - it can be "this would be wicked!" but mustn't come off as completely random - some unusual level elements like a lava pool in a courtyard can either trigger curiousity and enforce immersion, or it can be dull and uninteresting.

As for mapper's block, I find it's an instant cure when you nail a chick - Go For It!:P In seriousness, it's like the inspired part of the brain needs a breath of fresh air, so if you're on a schedule you could seek inspiration (motivation is a different matter), and if it's just a hobby project you could simply take a break, which I personally do in order to avoid adding shit, crap and piss to my output.

Old Post 05-09-14 16:44 #
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purist
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You could do what the Casalli's did and rip off the IWAD maps. Also, imagine your map as a rectangle where you have to fill all the space. Then connect up all your areas with passages and windows.

Old Post 05-09-14 18:19 #
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Joe667
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Posts: 569
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I recently got a spark of inspiration when I recently played Obsidian's brand-new Manin.

I used the ]Fly console cheat and flew outside. Then, taking advantage of the skulltag_data.pk3 which I have (and refuse to ditch), gave myself a grenade launcher and fired one into the still-raised starting box.



SUDDENLY, EVERYTHING WAS CLEAR.



I should make a Skulltag Multiplayer...






basketball grenade launcher mapset.







Set in differently themed levels.




Wait! Come back!

Old Post 05-10-14 20:38 #
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Cell
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Good to mention. Since I still haven't got any reputation on me getting inspiration from a random dream, I'll post it onto the forums again, for the twelfth time so far: a dream from July 2009.

I've just "befriended" with Doom Builder a little closer for about half-a-month experimenting and making a (just for then) half-done level outta random sketch from checkered exercise book I drew in 2005 (since that time and after several polishin', it became my WIP wad's, Doomep47's E2M2). I was at some relative's house and suddenly a weird vision about an aquaduct system or called so grew in my mind, I was just running back and forth with visual mode in DB, then switched to view-from-above to see many sloped waterfalls, "3D" planks over the open ductways and stuff that made the whole scenario looking like it's half a hydropower factory and half a village. A typical area that is bustling and calming at the same time.

This gave me the inspiration to do Doomep47 E2M9 (started in 2012 and getting on slowly), wearing the same name as above in italics.

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Old Post 05-10-14 21:06 #
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mrthejoshmon
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I recommend this:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?li...88E68FB6C8FA653

It has some great music to listen to whilst mapping (and they take up the majority of my music playlist!)

Old Post 05-10-14 21:14 #
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CorSair
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Mine are simply a moment of vision, which I can't keep for a long time. I could draw them... But it loses something which I can't invoke in my mind. I've learned to recall bit of that vision, and with that, I can keep going, usually.

As for direct inspiration to keep mapping, I have usually some music ready, via YT, radio, or simply what I have in my machine. Includes midis. With ears flooded with noise, next thing I do is to seek some photos, paintings and possibly blueprints of some buildings. Or seek inspiration from other games. I haven't got any now, but for long time, I have taken inspiration from Freespace and Freelancer for something in space, some old soviet-styled factory areas or a medieval castle. Of course, I keep drifting with thoughts, and can't do them immediately, skill or resources not permitting it.

Old Post 05-10-14 21:49 #
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Memfis
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gemini09 said:
Key element for mapping IMO is "continual context", as in, say you start a brand new map; you make a rectangel portraying a hallway of a say UAC base; even though the hallway only has a door on each side, you should still have an idea of what's beyond the walls (even though you don't create sectors there). Meaning, you shouldn't view an aspiring level as just a level, but rather view the entirety of the level's map as a cut-out map from a bigger picture - like a route on a GPS, if you will; outside of the route there exists a bigger world.

I think this is a very good advice. If you just come up with some room and make it, of course you will have troubles continuing. But if you imagine an environment, think a little about its overall structure, maybe even the purpose of certain elements, then the ideas will flow. And yeah, it doesn't need to be realistic, just somewhat logical.

Old Post 05-11-14 02:34 #
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gemini09
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^ really well put.

Old Post 05-11-14 17:55 #
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Vorpal
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Regarding what gemini said... it is probably my favorite thing to do while mapping, to give scenery and suggestions of "what lays beyond" the gameplay area of the map. However, then I get all curious about how the scenery areas would play if I allowed the player in there, and the process repeats from there ;-)

Old Post 05-12-14 18:31 #
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gemini09
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Hehe :)) I have a short story on that.. I had a map with a city sky texture, and down the line I figured it would be cool to be able to visit that city. It proved very impractical, so I opted to settle for a city map after the current map instead :p

Old Post 05-12-14 18:58 #
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