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phobosdeimos1
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Hi, I thought I'd make a thread for this so everyone get's a chance to read; here is an email recieved from American Mcgee after asking him about his mapping process:

Hmmm... well, for one thing a LOT of time was spent on the details. In the depths of these developments myself, Romero and the other level editors would spend 12+ hours per day strapped to our desks and cranking out map content. We were seriously fast with the tools - and there was an internal rivalry (positive) that drove a lot of the excellence - each level designer trying to outdo the other on quality, design and fun factor. I often think the lack of that rivalry and time dedication is what leads to the visual/design differences between "professional" and "non-professional" maps. Really well made maps, no matter who is making them, require time, attention to detail and a plan that leads to a clearly defined goal.
 
In terms of specific feedback... I always started my maps with a design goal in mind. It might have been abstract like "a map designed specifically for really fast and fluid deathmatch" or functional like "a map designed to convey narrative, a shipping warehouse connected to a space dock where it's clear a lot of workers died". From that design goal would come the constraints that led initial selection of textures, materials and architectural design features. A pure DM map meant fewer textures with clear highlights on edges/geometric features, clean layout built for player movement/strategy and flow built around placement of items critical to DM. A narrative-driven map meant thinking about the utility of the space, how people would work/live in that environment, what story could be told through signs, decals and lighting; a sense of progression (start, middle, end) as player moved through the space and a consistent logic to the design choices (as if they entire area had been designed by a single architecture firm and built by a single construction firm).
 
Though these spaces we build are off-world and fantastic, the design choices made need to look/feel like they've come from NASA engineers or modern architects. Tadao Ando and Ron Cobb were my two biggest inspirations when it came to clean, functional but futuristic design when we were working on the DOOM series. Ando works with materials and light in a really simple, beautiful and functional way. Cobb is the master of "functional fictions" - the creation of futuristic machines that look like they'd really work. Heavy, simple, solid stuff.
 
And yes, I paid a lot of attention to stuff like texturing. It's the little details that sell the fiction. Choose a border texture for inset lights (always inset your lights!) and stick with it whenever you put a light into a certain type of material. Same goes with steps and height transitions. Never transition from one texture to another one the same plane - always create a height break or other 'explanation' for the transition (door, light, joint, structural seam, etc). Don't do these things after the fact - choose your materials first, based on your design goal. Same as if you were constructing a real house/building. And use the materials as if they were real (i.e. don't create 1 inch thin concrete hanging overhead with no support). Don't use big, busy textures in small spaces. That's one reason I tended to prefer metal, concrete and other "real" materials - because they made more visual sense and were easy to apply constraints to.
 
For me, it always came back to that... constraints. Nothing real exists without limitations and inventions forced by constraints. Things look real because there are limits to what we can do with materials and expectations for the way things should behave. Build your maps as if the spaces and uses within them are real - and the results will feel real.
 
Hope that helps :)
 
-a

EDIT: Unbolded

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Last edited by phobosdeimos1 on 07-29-11 at 04:05

Old Post 07-27-11 04:40 #
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EarthQuake
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Wow, it was generous of him to reply with such a detailed message, and quite an interesting bit to read too. Thanks for sharing this, as it's advice that some people can actually put to use. I would have to agree with pretty much everything he said.

Old Post 07-27-11 04:55 #
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Use3D
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Awesome!

Old Post 07-27-11 05:04 #
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Xaser
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Interesting read, there -- kudos on making the contact. ;)

It's a bit odd (though not necessarily in a bad way) that he stresses use of materials in a realistic fashion so much, considering it's about a game we all know & love for its relative unrealism in map design. 'Course, his Doom 2 maps are probably the least abstract in the entire wad, and completely and totally rocked anyway. :P

Old Post 07-27-11 05:56 #
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Ultraboy94
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It's great to see the original developers still interested enough to reply to fans about a game they made 16-17 years ago. The only real information I've had on their development that I remember was from Masters of Doom.

An interesting read, even from the book I didn't quite realise the intricacies of each map.

Old Post 07-27-11 08:15 #
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Trilinear
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Very interesting, many thanks for the post.

Old Post 07-27-11 12:38 #
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Clonehunter
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Interesting. Good read, and good for him to take the time and tell us this stuff! Really Cool.

Old Post 07-27-11 14:48 #
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Vermil
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Interesting stuff.

Now all we need is Mr Petersen's mapping process.

Actually, he wrote a several page long section in the "Official Doom Survivors, Strategies and Secrets" book about his mapping process/style with comparassions to the other Doom mappers.

Last edited by Vermil on 07-27-11 at 15:46

Old Post 07-27-11 15:40 #
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Marnetmar
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Vermil said:
Interesting stuff.

Now all we need is Mr Petersen's mapping process.

Actually, he wrote a several page long section in the "Official Doom Survivors, Strategies and Secrets" book about his mapping process/style with comparassions to the other Doom mappers.



Someone needs to post it.

Old Post 07-27-11 16:37 #
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hardcore_gamer
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I can't say I fully agree with him.

Its people who DON'T limit them self's to making realistic levels that are the ones who are most likely to create something memorable in my opinion. Not to mention that the hell levels don't actually have to make sense considering that they are located in another dimensions where things can be different from our own world.

Old Post 07-27-11 23:40 #
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Gez
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hardcore_gamer said:
I can't say I fully agree with him.

Its people who DON'T limit them self's to making realistic levels that are the ones who are most likely to create something memorable in my opinion.


Themselves, not "them self's" which doesn't make sense.


And Amie didn't say to limit yourself to making realistic levels. In fact he didn't even use the word "realistic" once. He mentioned his level design being based on either an abstract or functional basis. The examples he gave included one based on gameplay ("really fast and fluid deathmatch") and another based on storytelling ("a shipping warehouse connected to a space dock where it's clear a lot of workers died").

Let's suppose for one moment that you misinterpret the latter as a call for realism. It'd be a mistake. The requirements of a narrative mean faking reality, not aping it. This is what is often referred to as "abstract design" around here: making architecture that seem reasonable, within the limitations of the map format and engine specs, even though it's pretty much rubbish. If you've ever visited a warehouse, for example, compare it with the E2M2 crate maze. Sure is different, isn't it? Of course, using a real warehouse's floor plan would result in a perfectly boring map. It would also be quickly surveyed and left, which would harm the narrative purpose of the map. A map based on a narrative design will feature obstacles and some (hopefully moderate) amount of backtracking so as to make the player observe the environment and search for clue.

Later, he mentions paying attention to detail and the choice of textures. It's not a call for realistic design; it's a call for design that seems realistic. Sure, the Doom engine lets you create surreal environments. You can perfectly create concentric rings of water and lava on the ceilings, a sky floor, and walls made alternatively of fire and wood. It might work in a Hell level, but it'll be hard to pull off. In fact, making it work would be pretty much exactly what he says: an exercise in constraints and limitations.

The idea is to create environments that look like they make sense. Which is not the same as environments which make sense. Critically observed, none of the UAC levels on Phobos, Deimos or Earth make sense in any way; but they look like they do when you play.

This echoes what he says about Cobb's machine designs: "the creation of futuristic machines that look like they'd really work" -- you don't necessarily know what the machine is supposed to do in the first place, but it looks like a machine that would do something that would be useful in the place where it is found. Look up pretty much every teleporter or time travel machine in sci-fi. None of them are realistic because, even if time travel or teleportation was theoretically possible, nobody has the slightest idea how a machine that would do that would look like. But this doesn't stop artists from designing them anyway. Look up spaceships in sci-fi series. Most of them don't make the slightest amount of sense if you coldly look at them with an engineer's eye. But in the story, they look like they'd work.

That's the idea.

Old Post 07-28-11 00:26 #
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Jimmy
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This exchange is news-worthy, I think. :P

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Old Post 07-28-11 00:31 #
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phobosdeimos1
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Gez: Yeah I picked up the same thing you did, what he says really made sense to me and actually made me look at level design in a completely different way.

Also, if anyone doesn't know who Tadao Ando is (I didn't), google up some images of his architecture, you can see a perfect resemblance with Mcgee's techbase maps,

Also, a little idea i've had, if you've taken what he's said on board and try and be a Doom Architect but you're thinking, "It's all good and well for maps that are representing a structure built by either demons or humans, but what about when I want a map to potray a cave or completely natural area?" - the answer is be nature, think of it like Nature built it. Be nature and rough those vertices up!

HOWEVER, saying all tgis, remember it's about the result, not your method, so if you find you have a weird illogical way of mapping but it works for you, stick with it (and share with others :P)

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Old Post 07-28-11 02:58 #
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Quasar
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I am pretty sure Sandy's mapping strategy was mostly "retexture levels made by a guy who left a few months ago so that they fit with the current design goals". :P

As for his original levels, dunno.

Old Post 07-28-11 18:27 #
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Sodaholic
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I think this is why I prefer the alpha levels to the final ones, it looks like it actually has a story behind it, so it's more believable. Not to mention, it's much more atmospheric. Tom himself commented on my mod saying that it was interesting because it gave Doom a "strong sense of place".


By the way, can you please unbold the text? It hurts my eyes reading it.

Old Post 07-29-11 02:48 #
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Hellbent
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Sodaholic said:
I think this is why I prefer the alpha levels to the final ones, it looks like it actually has a story behind it, so it's more believable. Not to mention, it's much more atmospheric. Tom himself commented on my mod saying that it was interesting because it gave Doom a "strong sense of place".


By the way, can you please unbold the text? It hurts my eyes reading it.

What mod? Can you post his comments? One of the things I've been focusing on in the DTWID thread is this idea of 'sense of place' --in fact I believe I was just talking about the importance of it in my latest rant in the thread. I think the original doom levels did this well, while remaining abstract enough to capture the player's imagination and transport them into a totally new experience: a uniquely interesting, atmospheric, engaging and believable universe.

Yes, thanks for posting this Phobosdiemos1.

Old Post 07-29-11 04:03 #
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phobosdeimos1
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Thats ok Hellbent,

Also, I totally agree with you, I've really started noticing stuff in ID maps recently, something that hasn't been captured by DTWID,

After all those times The level designers where quoted to say things about how they were trying to tell a story in Doom and design the levels to make sense, I'm finally seeing it, it's a really weird enlightening feeling but they really were designing the levels to fit to the story

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Old Post 07-29-11 04:10 #
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Hellbent
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So the next question is, then, how do we design our levels in a similar way? maybe the whole problem with the project is that we are trying to build a level that could fit in the existing game, except that we're trying to make a whole episode's worth of such levels--which is just a paradox. I didn't really think this paradox would be a problem.. but maybe it is. Maybe we need a more holistic approach. Any ideas? Am I hijacking your thread at this point? :p (we can take this over to the dtwid thread if you want, although it might be nice to keep this discussion in this thread, since the dtwid thread is a bajillion miles long).

Old Post 07-29-11 04:29 #
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phobosdeimos1
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Hellbent said:
So the next question is, then, how do we design our levels in a similar way? maybe the whole problem with the project is that we are trying to build a level that could fit in the existing game, except that we're trying to make a whole episode's worth of such levels--which is just a paradox. I didn't really think this paradox would be a problem.. but maybe it is. Maybe we need a more holistic approach. Any ideas? Am I hijacking your thread at this point? :p (we can take this over to the dtwid thread if you want, although it might be nice to keep this discussion in this thread, since the dtwid thread is a bajillion miles long).


I don't know man, I stopped caring because it just started becoming a remake, which in a way is all it can ever be whilst still being able to call it 'The Way Id Did', I just didn't see that at the start and had a different idea about what the brief was

EDIT: and about the paradox, I know what you're saying,

I sometimes think of 'Needs More Detail' as the example of the best that project could be.

Old Post 07-29-11 05:11 #
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hex11
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When I played Aliens TC the first time, which was only about 6 years ago, I got the same feelings that I originally did when playing Doom. There was a sense of place, pacing and purpose to the whole thing, and of course an actual story behind it. That's a totally different experience from playing a random wadpak or whatever.

Dark Covenant (darkcvnt.wad) also evoked similar feelings, as it has a definite sense of progressing through real locations.

Icarus: Alien Vanguard was sorta similar, since it has a very strong theme and a bit of logic to tie an otherwise random set of maps together. But it doesn't stand out quite as much as those other two.

Edit: maybe you should work on rought ideas and intermission screens first, and then the maps. Top-down approach...

Last edited by hex11 on 07-29-11 at 06:30

Old Post 07-29-11 06:19 #
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Hellbent
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@Hex1: perhaps you're right. intermission pics might really help in the logical progression department.


phobosdeimos1 said:


I don't know man, I stopped caring because it just started becoming a remake, which in a way is all it can ever be whilst still being able to call it 'The Way Id Did', I just didn't see that at the start and had a different idea about what the brief was

EDIT: and about the paradox, I know what you're saying,

I sometimes think of 'Needs More Detail' as the example of the best that project could be.


Hmm, I disagree with the underlined portion. I think the levels have improved over time and the project as a whole has come a long way and is very promising. I do not think the outcome of the project is, by default, or ipso-facto, doomed to only ever be 'just a remake'. I mean, the goal of the project is to remake doom. Maybe a better definition of what the project is aiming to do is remake the three episodes fresh, but with the added challenge of keeping in mind that the existing game does exist, and therefore we don't want to remake any existing areas or concepts that were novel to the original game. However, we do want to use motifs from the originals to keep it consistent with the look and feel of the originals. Mimicking motifs does not mean ripping off the originals or doing a cheap imitation. It requires proper judgment to understand what are motifs and what are novel concepts that should not be copied. Some example motifs from episode 1, which, for my own feeling, should be mimicked, and these are just my own personal feelings on the matter--someone else might roll their eyes at my analysis--are the following:

  • lifts that lower by proximity
  • support textures separating different textures
  • outside areas using brown144 and shadow sector
  • low 72 height ceilings (particularly where star* textures are used) as the dominant theme contrasted by adjacent sectors with high ceilings and accented by other rooms with high ceilings
  • small windows and tall windows
  • limited detail--clever use of wall textures to create atmosphere, 'detail' and most importantly, 'logical sense of place'.
  • few doors obstructing gameplay.
  • lots of clever secret areas integrated into the map in logical and atmospheric ways.
  • windows into other areas
  • certain texture combinations
  • consistent level size--this includes overall level size, time to complete a level including some backtracking, and smallish rooms and passage-ways according to the scale set forth by the makers of E1.
  • contrast in lighting

This isn't a very complete or even good list, and if it was better, perhaps the project results would be better, but it gives some idea, for me anyhow, that the project is doable in a completely compelling and satisfying way that won't feel cheap or contrived or come across as an homage, but can be an authentic reimagining of the timeless classic.

Old Post 07-29-11 07:08 #
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phobosdeimos1
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Hellbent: Yeah I see what you're saying, I just lost interest more as I slowly realised that's what it is

Old Post 07-29-11 17:33 #
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Sodaholic
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Hellbent said:
What mod? Can you post his comments?

Doom EU. Tom Hall had this to say about it:

Very cool... interesting to see DOOM with a sense of place instead of grand-sized abstraction--though that was brilliant of course!

Old Post 07-29-11 17:50 #
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Hellbent
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phobosdeimos1 said:
Hellbent: Yeah I see what you're saying, I just lost interest more as I slowly realised that's what it is
But why? For me it increases my interest in the project because I like the challenge of analyzing the maps to discern what the premise was for each episode and the respective progression of each. Like Romero said, all the maps are all right there. We just have to look at them. The only thing limiting us is our powers of observation, which seems like a silly reason to lose interest in a project or give up on it, especially since we've come so far.

Old Post 07-29-11 19:35 #
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ellmo
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Hellbent said:
[*] support textures separating different textures


Aso different sector heights were textures would not fit without y-offsetting.

Also there's an issue of thing decoration to address, mostly Tech Lamps, Tech columns and candles.

Also - placing a bunch of mixed health/armour bonuses adds not only to the map gameplay, but it changes the looks hugely.

I agree on every single point you made, tho'

Old Post 08-01-11 18:53 #
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Hellbent
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I am stating the aim of this project concisely for feedback on how to improve the project based on its premise. In this project we are trying to build a level that could fit into an existing episode of DooM as an added (and intended) tenth level, and we are simultaneously trying to make a whole episode's worth of such levels. What we are trying to do is recreate DooM, but the rules are to create one level to add to an existing episode, not recreate each episode. This should produce such an episode: E*M3, E*M4, E*M5, E*M6, E*M7 (and possibly E*M9).

As with all my posts/rants, feedback please! Please do not be kind--offer real criticism. Only with criticism can we grow. If it's unclear, please let me know!

Last edited by Hellbent on 08-02-11 at 20:49

Old Post 08-02-11 20:33 #
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ellmo
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Hellbent said:
The Paradox of the Project?


In all honesty I wouldn't call it a paradox, even the maps in alpha show that it's doable, we're just not in Kansas yet.


Mappers who contribute to this project absolutely NEED to get one thing straight:

In order to preserve the natural flow of an episode, we can't have 9 equal maps thown together and gradually increasing in difficulty by mere thing placement. Starter maps need to feel like they're always meant to be starter maps, same goes for boss maps and - by general consensus - secret maps as well.

If you want a map to be placed somewhere in the "middle" of the episode, you have more freedom, but if you want to make a starter map - make it worthy of an episode introduction; a Boss map? Sure, go ahead, PLAN it for a boss battle ahead of your work. You want a secret map? Think of something twisted, "gimmicky".

If mappers can build their maps so that they fit M2-M3 more than M6-M7, then it's even better - but it doesn't mean there are specific spots (other than M1, M8 and M9). People resonsible for the project will notice where it fits best, don't you worry bout that ;)

Last edited by ellmo on 08-02-11 at 21:02

Old Post 08-02-11 20:55 #
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KiiiYiiiKiiiA
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Really interesting to read. Thanks phobosdeimos.

There is a fundamental difference between "internally consistent" and "realistic". A good Doom level will always be consistent within the reality that it sets for itself, even if that reality is a long way from our own.

I think this is more what Mr. Mcgee is driving at. The way he puts it, there is a lot of overlap between Doom's "reality" and our own, which is why it works. Even simple things like using pillars to hold up an overhanging ceiling and switches that are obviously switches. Doom works because these fundamentals are consistent. You can be as unrealistic as you like as lokg as you have enough reality that the player understands the ground rules.

Last edited by KiiiYiiiKiiiA on 08-03-11 at 15:44

Old Post 08-02-11 21:04 #
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Phobus
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I've become more of a fan of abstract I think - particularly when it comes to gameplay. However, I do quite appreciate the vague sense of place a lot of maps give off, particularly in the IWADs.

What McGee has said here is pretty much a solid guide to helping create a vague sense of place in an otherwise abstract layout. Which is great!

@Hellbent: See, that's how I see the project too - we're creating more levels in the vein of E*M2-E*M7 - particularly with regards to not repeating what is already there whilst maintaining theme. For some reason quite a few of the maps present just don't give that impression though.

Old Post 08-03-11 13:18 #
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Dragonsbrethren
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ellmo said:
Also - placing a bunch of mixed health/armour bonuses adds not only to the map gameplay, but it changes the looks hugely.

Keep in mind that these were originally treasure items and their placement wasn't really changed after their purpose was. That explains things like the secret area in E1M2 that only has a few armor bonuses. You should place them like you would treasures in Wolfy.

Old Post 08-03-11 14:07 #
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