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Hellbent
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What kind of aesthetic do you go for in your maps or in maps you like to play? For me it's hard to describe. It's the je ne sais quoi I can never put my finger on. Tolkien tried to describe his love of aesthetics in languages and here is an interesting read on the topic:

http://www.telefonica.net/web2/rossko/TS01.pdf

The Lord of the Rings was “largely an essay in linguistic aesthetics” (Letters 219). In his lectures and letters he made some effort to communicate exactly what he meant
by this term and why it was of such importance to him, but he seemed to
find it difficult to convey his notions and explain his enthusiasm in terms
that were understandable to a wider audience.


I'll write more on the connection between doom aesthetic (level design) and the aesthetic Tolkien enjoyed in his invented languages and mythos, but I am leaving the house at the moment.

Last edited by Hellbent on 10-09-12 at 17:29

Old Post 10-09-12 01:54 #
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hex11
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I guess "uncluttered" would best describe it. As simple as possible while still preserving the intended atmosphere. I totally don't dig maps with tons of trim and bling-bling all over the place, and pink flamingos to trip over.

Old Post 10-09-12 07:23 #
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Alfonzo
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My preferred aesthetic is in a design that favours architectural complexity over minute detailing: a map that allows its contrasting use of textures, lighting and gemoetry to add weight, presence, and physicality to the environment, and ultimately achieve a sense of location, layout, and connectivity.

It's certainly something I can place my finger on. I've played enough maps to hone this preference precisely, and I guess one can afford to have these preferences when there are so many maps to choose from.

Old Post 10-09-12 07:53 #
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purist
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A bit of what hex11 and st.alfonzo have both said.

Broad stroke architecture, clean neat texturing, tasteful detail highlights and neat lighting effects.

I don't like layered on intricate details, obstructive objects for the sake of aesthetics or busy over complicated textures. Neither do I like bland or thoughtless texturing. Bare is OK as long as architecture or lighting is good in order to keep the atmosphere.

Old Post 10-09-12 08:14 #
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Dragonsbrethren
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Yeah, count me in as part of the clean crowd, too. You really don't need much more than the level architecture itself to make a great looking Doom map. For lighting specifically, I prefer sharp edges, high contrast, and extensive use of sector effects.

Old Post 10-09-12 10:21 #
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Khorus
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Bold, clean architecture with constant changes in height variation.

Old Post 10-09-12 11:38 #
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purist
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Add windows to my list too!

Old Post 10-09-12 12:52 #
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SFoZ911
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Khorus said:
Bold, clean architecture with constant changes in height variation.


This, plus windows and also scenery is a strong point for me in order to build a deeper atmosphere into the map.

Old Post 10-09-12 13:07 #
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fraggle
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Hellbent said:
jenesequa


http://i.imgur.com/ZMLe4.gif

Old Post 10-09-12 13:13 #
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ComicMischief
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There's no je ne sais quoi about what I like in maps - a simple sense of 'location' and 'place' will do it for me. Not so much realism, but solid and internally-consisteny; something I can get 'lost' in the little details of, even if I'm not getting lost in the map.

This doesn't mean super-detailed, but I do like every area of a map to give me a little to look at, with a nice progression from one section to the next, and ample 'landmarks' for familiarity.

Old Post 10-09-12 14:03 #
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Optimus
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While I adore super detailed maps, there are sometimes few maps that are kinda minimalistic and yet they managed to capture my attention with their architecture. Places that you remember and see in your dreams.

That's irrelevant though with my own maps (most suck, I cannot even classify) but maybe how I would like to proceed building stuff in the future.

Old Post 10-09-12 14:13 #
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Hellbent
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For me it is something I have a very hard time pinning down outside some general principles like not too big, smallish areas and effective use of contrast. But while I say I like dungeon maps I don't like all dungeon maps and they have to have a pretty specific way of being built, and a certain progression as well. The thing is, I spend so much time on these forums trying to talk about what it is I want in a map (it's really why I start so many projects--I'm trying to nail down the aesthetic I'm after--but I keep thinking other more talented mappers than I will stumble upon it, but it rarely does happen). Ultimately I need to spend more time in the editor trying to build levels with the aesthetic I like instead of trying to describe it. But, I haven't been able to do either successfully. It's almost as if what I'm striving for is just outside my reach. But it most chiefly, I think, has something to do with clever architecture and the careful arrangement of those architectural elements and their spatial distances in relation to one another.

EDIT:

These theoretical considerations reinforce what must be regarded as
a common-sense view of sound and meaning. Evidently, pure onomatopoeia (moo, cuckoo) is a case apart, but what about such strings of terms as glisten, glimmer, glitter, glow, gleam, glint, glare, all of which refer to light, or lump, bump, rump, hump, stump, mumps, which all contain the ‘ump’ syllable and refer to some kind of protuberance? It seems that we unconsciously regard these phonemes as being apt for the phenomena they relate to.


But surely we have been conditioned overtime to develop the sense that those second set of words sound like what they mean? Surely there is nothing inherent about those words that make us feel they are similar to their meaning? (the way moo and clop are for the sound cows make and the sound horse's hoofs make). I have no idea how this relates to Doom presently (except to ask the question what makes us have the particular aesthetic preferences we have in Doom or in languages?), but I am curious if there is some kind of link between Tolkien's enthusiasm for the particular aesthetic in words and languages that he tried to explain and my particular aesthetic in doom design.

Last edited by Hellbent on 10-09-12 at 17:38

Old Post 10-09-12 17:00 #
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baronofheck82
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I myself prefer a simple, clean type design, with enough detail to catch your eye without overdoing it. I also like a good challenge in terms of difficulty, but again, without overdoing it.

Old Post 10-09-12 18:15 #
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Glaice
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Traps are a specialty in my maps, be them closet or tele-ambushes.

Old Post 10-09-12 18:39 #
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Jimi
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Just something semi simple. Detail that it looks interesting, but not so much that it hinders player/monster movement.

Texturing/colors can be monochromatic, but there should be at least some little contrast spots in different color. Materials should also change realistically, so that they appear to have some depth, and not be some thin wallpapers.

Lighting I usually try to keep smooth.. if there's a texture/height change, then I might use a bigger change in the light brightness.

Old Post 10-09-12 20:55 #
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Phobus
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For me I'd say it's a lot easier to identify aesthetics that I don't like in maps that I play. My reason for saying this is that the large variety of available maps these days (of which I've played a tiny percentage, probably), with so many styles and driving ideas, is actually one of the truly great things about this community. Whether it's a wildly abstract map that uses the bare minimum of geometry, or a heavily detailed, "realistic" map, it all has value to me if it plays well enough.


As a mapper (sort-of) my ideal aesthetic is what takes the minimum amount of input for the best results. So very functional architecture and a minimalist approach to detailing is some sort of ideal. As I'm prone to go madly off tangent in either direction from one map to the next, it's hard to say I succeed in this that often.

Old Post 10-10-12 11:52 #
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Hellbent
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Phobus said:
As a mapper (sort-of) my ideal aesthetic is what takes the minimum amount of input for the best results. So very functional architecture and a minimalist approach to detailing is some sort of ideal. As I'm prone to go madly off tangent in either direction from one map to the next, it's hard to say I succeed in this that often.
Do you have any wads or know of any that you think pull it off successfully?


Edit: What if we were to make rules for wad creation in order to create a certain aesthetic in a wad "converted" from elements in language that Tolkien found aesthetically pleasing?

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

One of the examples Tolkien gives in A Secret Vice to illustrate his
invented language that has reached a “highish level of beauty” is a poem
called “The Last Ark” (MC 213-214). Students of Tolkienian linguistics
find this a particularly interesting text because it is relatively long and
Tolkien produced three different versions of the poem, each in Quenya
Elvish at a different stage of evolution. The existing literature on Tolkien’s Elvish languages is vast and I have no intention of going into the
matter in detail here, but it is enlightening to examine briefly the phonetics of this poem and deduce how Tolkien applied in practice the ideas
discussed above. For our present purposes it is sufficient to reproduce the
first two verses of the poem as it appears in A Secret Vice, with Tolkien’s
translation into English (the accents indicate long vowels):

Oilima Markirya
Man kiluva kirya ninqe
oilima ailinello lúte,
níve qímari ringa ambar
ve mainwin qaine?
man tiruva kirya ninqe
valkane wilwarindon
lúnelinqe vear
tinwelindon talalínen
vea falastane,
falma pustane,
rámali tíne,
kalma histane?

Reading the Quenya text from a viewpoint of complete semantic
ignorance one is forced to concentrate on the words’ shapes and sounds,
and what is immediately noticeable is that the majority of them end in
a vowel (the guidelines to pronunciation included in The Lord of the Rings
and The Silmarillion indicate that final vowels are always pronounced).
Additionally, in the rare cases that they end in a consonant, only /n/ and
/r/ are used. The entire poem comprises ninety-six words, of which a
mere seventeen end in a consonant.

There are none of the brusque consonant clusters so typical of English (e.g., ngths as in strengths, or sps as in crisps), nor are there any hard,
guttural phonemes. The potentially harsh fricatives are restricted to the
soft /f/ and /v/, together with non-sounded /s/. Among the vowel phonemes in the above sample there are seventy-six higher-sounding front
vowels (such as /i/) and a mere seven lower-sounding back vowels (/o/,
/u/). Long words in the style of German or Greek are excluded; the
maximum word length in the poem is four syllables, and most have three
or less. The overall effect, therefore, is a flowing language [level] in which the
words [rooms] run smoothly together, with final vowels linking easily to initial
consonants [with rounded areas linking easily with angular ones). The sound is light and melodious thanks to the predominance of front vowels and soft consonants, the absence of harsh phonemes, and the even spacing of consonant-vowel syllables.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

So what would the logical or common-sense way of abstractly translating this be? I dunno... short stanzas could mean small rooms/areas; the preponderance of soft sounds and words ending in vowels could be indicative of non-angular, roundish design with rooms/areas that flow into each other without expanding on one area too long. Not sure what kind of texturing or lighting the poem would illicit or what kind of architecture [simple rooms, high ceilings, close quarters, contrasting architecture?]. Also, there are much more short vowel sounds than long ones--how should they respectively be translated into the map design?

How would you translate the poem into a map based on it?

Last edited by Hellbent on 10-10-12 at 15:56

Old Post 10-10-12 15:13 #
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fraggle
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It's an interesting idea. When you refer to aesthetics, are you talking about the architecture of the levels, or something else? I mean, I could conceive of a sense of "aesthetics" about gameplay for example. There's many different ways you can look at it.

One thing I like is levels that can work within the Doom engine's limitations to pull off impressive technical feats that go beyond what's normally possible. Examples would be things like the "Killer Croc" boss fight in Batman Doom, Requiem's MAP31, uac_dead.wad's overturned truck, Espi's "Suspended in Dusk", etc. I guess it's my interest in Doom's internals that makes me appreciate these things more: there's a certain sense of beauty in seeing a clever hack. That's not to say I don't appreciate levels with nice architecture and well-designed gameplay as well.

Old Post 10-10-12 18:18 #
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Hellbent
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fraggle said:
It's an interesting idea. When you refer to aesthetics, are you talking about the architecture of the levels, or something else? I mean, I could conceive of a sense of "aesthetics" about gameplay for example. There's many different ways you can look at it.
I'm mainly talking about architecture, the way a room gives a certain atmosphere and a sense of, "yes, I like how this makes me feel" more than just "that looks awesome," because it epitomizes technical mastery and looks really cool. That is fine, too, but it doesn't touch on the specific certain feeling that I'm after (which, for me, is the opposite of grandiose or epic). For me it's not so much about what looks cool, but what instills in me a specific kind of feeling. The aesthetic that pleases me specifically isn't about technical prowess, it's about creating a specific kind of feeling, and often simple architecture or design and close quarters can achieve this, and (again, I'm just talking about my personal experience and preference). Complex designs often do not generate that certain kind of feeling. I imagine it all stems from a certain nostalgia from games like Commander Keen 4 and Doom episode 1, which had relatively simple architecture and detailing and smaller rooms (than say doom 2 or a lot of modern mods).

Old Post 10-10-12 19:20 #
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myk
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fraggle said:
I mean, I could conceive of a sense of "aesthetics" about gameplay for example.
Yeah, I see that example in particular. To me the aesthetics in a map are enhanced by "performing art" elements. A map that is thrilling to play, that is absorbing through the way it plays, is appealing in the way a song may encourage one to dance. The level is not just a structure, it's a playing instrument or field. The action and movement becomes part of the aesthetics, that aren't a static thing. That's why to me level design is functional to playability and I tend to turn away from "mapping for mapping's sake" or maps designers make more for each other than directly as part of a playing experience. That is, I prefer something with the aim of extending play instead of mainly a virtual LEGO for big kids.

Old Post 10-10-12 19:34 #
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40oz
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In light of everyones desire for simple and clean maps, a rule I've been making for myself in my own mapping is to make sure every single monster, item, piece of architecture is serving a purpose, and if I place a monster somewhere, or start detailing a room "just because," then I may as well delete it because it has no reason. Every monster, or thin hallway or damaging floor is carefully placed to add difficulty to a particular battle, and every unique shaped or detailed room is there to present itself as an area thatis supposed to be recognized. And every health item or extra ammo item is there to alleviate a situation that was rather unpredictable to some degree. Even optional exploratory areas are added to space out a map from feeling too straightforward. I don't want anything to be in my maps that has no reason to be there.

Old Post 10-10-12 20:46 #
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Phobus
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Well Hellbent, I've had a bit of a think on it... I'm tempted to say my map in the NOVA alpha (MAP05) or some sections of Coils of the Twisted Tale (ZDoom, direct download link) are very purpose oriented, but have enough in them to establish a theme - more prevelant in the middle sections of the second one in particular.

Difficult to say though, as my idea of a success within that description might not mirror other peoples.

Old Post 10-10-12 20:55 #
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darkreaver
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I, too, enjoy clean cut, but grand and "solid" architecture that gives away a feeling of a "real place" (not realistic as in terms of a REAL place, with beds, cars, sleeping quarters and whatnot, I hate that..).

I also like quite busy looking maps, but not because of millions of micro-details, but from a jagged skyline, lots of height variation, clever texturing and stuff like that.

Also, maybe the most important thing, is lighting. Atmosphere. It`s a must. Maps with flat and boring lighting = no go.

And I tend to like maps with limited usage of textures, but I guess thats only because I suck at using a wide variety of textures myself without making a mess of a fucking map. I admire people who make it work (I`m looking at you, deathevo!)

Last edited by darkreaver on 10-11-12 at 01:59

Old Post 10-11-12 01:01 #
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DeathevokatioN
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For me it's height variation, light variation (darkreaver is especially great at this), interesting layouts, along with good looking clean texturing that melts into itself, that all combine to make to make a scene that is provoking and nice to look at. And something Matthias Worch described as well is another thing I really like in aesthetics; an ominous brooding feeling that you are trespassing into hostile alien territory, the feeling that you are unwelcome and not supposed to be where you are and that you are fighting against dark forces who are aware of your presence and as such they have positioned themselves where they'll be as effective as possible in taking you down.

And I'm going to second Myk's statement that gameplay plays a big part in aesthetics, because great gameplay can make you get more involved into the design of a map. I like to play through a level that feels as if it is actively trying to kill me and forces me to think while I'm playing it and having to adapt my playing style to certain situations it throws at me, while being dynamic enough for me to be able to make my own decisions in other situations and gives room to manauvre along with different ways to conquer fights (think about the first 2 levels of Curse of D'sparil which drew me into mapping the first place) whereas a level that can be completed on autopilot mostly bores me and loses aesthetic value on repeat playthroughs (for me atleast because when I'm bored my mind almost switches off and I quit).

Old Post 10-12-12 13:52 #
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TheHighestTree
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Probably "circulation": like 40oz said,everything needs to be taken into a gameplay consideration when it's being added. Even something as simple as a decorative object: does it make sense to give a player projectile cover here? what does it do to player and monster mobility? I like to consider gameplay above everything else, especially when you're gonna be recirculating through different areas on the map.

Old Post 10-18-12 03:10 #
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esselfortium
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TheHighestTree said:
Probably "circulation": like 40oz said,everything needs to be taken into a gameplay consideration when it's being added. Even something as simple as a decorative object: does it make sense to give a player projectile cover here? what does it do to player and monster mobility? I like to consider gameplay above everything else, especially when you're gonna be recirculating through different areas on the map.

If you mean decorative things like trees or torches, they only block projectiles in ZDoom, and that can be corrected for nowadays with a compatibility flag.

Old Post 10-18-12 04:29 #
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Ed
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Before I begin a map, I go into a planning phase that defines the aesthetic and almost never the actual map itself. I'll map on a room to room basis, but the global predefined aesthetic is the framework that I'll build within.

As far as what my aesthetic is? I don't really know, probably trying to recreate what I felt the first time I played Chris Lutz's 'Inferno'.

Old Post 10-18-12 07:45 #
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Obsidian
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Sadism.

Old Post 10-24-12 11:13 #
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Katamori
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"Unique."

I always look for thingy which are unique, special, unusual in some way.

This is why I couldn't find any enjoyable 1994-WAD and this is why I like for example H2H: Xmas, Dimensions of Time and Revolution!, even though the simple design.

Old Post 10-24-12 12:44 #
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savagegrant
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Aesthetics in the sense of pure looks I like Egyptian themes the most, which were done to perfection in Epic 2 and the Thysis hub of Hexen II. In the sense of level design, I like compact levels with high (but not over-the-top) detail that minimise the overall map dimensions but maximise the playing area, if that makes sense. Where dead space between walls is at a bare minimum and all areas you can see can be accessed in some ingenious way or another, often through secret lifts, 3D bridges, etc. I'm struggling to think of a level that epitomises this style (I'm very poor at remembering names you see) but some castle WADs have achieved it. If anyone can suggest any, I can confirm them.

Old Post 10-24-12 17:29 #
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