I've been doing a little bit of playtesting and pondering recently, and a delve into some of the maps submitted so far for the e2 segment of the game (map12 - 20) has revealed something of an oversight regarding one of the key aspects of Doom 2 design. I'd like to touch upon this briefly as I think it's vital that mappers are made aware of it before any further attempt at an e2 map is made.
The discussion began on IRC when "sky" was noticed to be dominant in most of the maps for episode 2, and that only a couple of maps submitted so far feature it at all. This lead to talk of sandbox and open plan layouts that feature multiple standalone structures (map13, 15, 16 and 20), and eventually to the realisation that pretty much all of the maps in e2 make use of outdoor environments as a way of distinguishing the scope and feel of maps from Doom 1, and even the majority of Doom 2 e1 (map01 - 11). Here's a map by map analysis:
When I played zodiac's recent map for e2, The Slaughterhouse, I was thrown off a little bit as to me it felt more akin to map10 than anything in stock e2. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it did make me wonder what it was we should be looking for in terms of layout and structure for the episode, seeing as map10 is so unique in this regard.
And then it slapped me in the face...:
Map12 doesn't need to have an outdoor area at all. Sure it starts outdoors, and there are a couple of bonus structures, but the majority of the level is based inside one big block, and what's outside of it looks pretty poor. So why is it there? By my reckoning, it's because in providing an outdoor space the structure is transformed into a building, hilighting that id -- and not just Sandy -- were now opting for a shift in design and point of view, and wanted to make the players feel more as though they had worked their way onto Earth proper. Players were no longer limited to the corridors and confines of the starport, or the laboratories of the moon bases, and it's mirrored in the use of the sky and the ability to explore across wide open spaces, providing a new dimension to each of the maps that was previously unseen (save for e3m6).
I wonder what The Slaughterhouse might look and play like if it were given this treatment?
- Map13, 15, 16, 20:
These maps are simple to deduce. While map12 is mostly an indoor map with an extra outdoor dimension tacked on to enforce the doom 2 design, these were designed around the idea of having a sandbox style layout where players could enter into different structures in order to seek out objectives. We don't have any of these sorts of maps, yet, and I fell that we really, really should!
The presence of sky transforms many structures into buildings, much in the same way as the structure that houses the red key in American's The Underhalls appears more like a building than a geometric cut-out.
The Tenements could easily have been set indoors entirely, and for the most part it is. Romero, however, likes to make use of intersections and large hubs as a means to guide the player through the often complicated layouts that he creates. In this particular map, we see that the primary intersection (the soulsphere pillar area) features sky, and so running in any one of the openings from that position feels like entering into a building distinct from the one you've just come out of.
The second use of sky in the map to the north features a structure that, because of that sky, is made more to look like a building and less like a simple pillar that would have otherwise connected plainly to the ceiling.
The Courtyard is a little bit unique when discussing buildings and interiors/exteriors, as rather than having seperate buildings that are placed within a single, overarching outdoor environment, the map's main feature functions as the only outdoor location from which all the different encounters and ideas branch indoors. If we look at Downtown as being a monoconceptual map designed to harbour many different ideas within buildings, then The Courtyard is very much the same thing, except with those different ideas branching off from one single outdoor area. Critically, there still remains within the map that indoor/outdoor means of creating buildings from structures (yellow key door building), and emphasising that change in scope and perception from layouts previous to e2 and Doom 2.
It's similar to map12 in that it's a single structure (save for the northwest and exit buildings), but it's also more elaborate than map12. The Factory is a good example of a map that might otherwise have fit elsewhere in the game being transplanted into an outdoor environment to fit the e2 design, but just as maps 13, 15, 16 and 20 are designed to allow the outdoors become the playing field, map19 really capitalizes on the idea of moving from the outdoors into the indoors as way of creating atmosphere, and heightening tension:
We could have just started in The Citadel, but then so much would be lost. You have to enter into it instead, as you would any building, and this is something that, at least on this sort of scale (map09's circular BFG house; map02's reg key building), is again unique to e2.
I think we've seen some pretty reasonable attempts in maps like The Slaughterhouse, Hidden Lake, and Dammit!, but so far I think only Pavera's Cul-de-sac has succeeded in capturing this critical e2 quality of design. It achieves a fine balance between the interior and the exterior, turning certain structures into buildings, and granting that much needed sense of place that is so unique to Doom 2's city maps. Now, while we don't have to go back to the drawing board on this one, I invite you to consider what it was that id was trying to achieve with e2's distinct environment, and how that is represented in the maps' designs, layouts, and architecture.
Of course, I'm banking on your finding this as enjoyable process as I do, because damn: this sort of meticulous and masochistic obsession with design can only be healthy if you let it!
EDIT: Now with 10% less ramble.
Last edited by st.alfonzo on 06-24-12 at 18:32