I don't really approach level design in terms of player health or deaths. I don't really care if they finish it with no deaths, or with 50, as long as they had fun playing the level. I focus on creating interesting environments and exciting encounters, instead.
Well, Mr. Capellan, that sounds good. Very nice and civilized. So I decided to test your words against one of your maps. I chose Memento Mori 2, Map15, UV, pistol start. Keep in mind that just the other day I sailed through the first three MM2 maps on UV and the only thing really difficult was the – IMO – incomprehensible layout of Map03. I also did a UV pistol start on MM2 Map23, which was dead easy, and nothing much to look at, until the super-cheap, but well-executed instantly-rising floor trap at the blue key. I survived on my 6th try, with 2% health, and then successfully managed combat with Revvie/Mancubus traps until I reached outdoor areas crawling with Demons, Hell Knights and Arachnotrons. So that map went from dishwater dull to sheer terror in the blink of an eye. It was still nothing much to look at, but at least it had action.
Now we have your map, and your stated intent to give us nifty environments and not worry about our level of health or whether we die. So I get killed about 8,000 times at the start. :D A Pain Elemental at the beginning, lots of Chaingunners and other hitscanners, and a Caco coming in from behind me through a window to an outside area, who killed me several times, usually as I was finally finishing off the Pain Elemental and its last Lost Soul. From there, I bludgeoned my way through what seemed like armies of Revvies and Chaingunners, occasionally backed by Arachnotrons, then dropped into a giant boxy room with clear fields of fire for all the Mancubus and Chaingunners down there, but I only died about 5 times in that room. Once I got the SSG and was able to hide momentarily behind the only cover, I eventually won out. And then I saw the plasma gun on a platform and I really wanted to do a little jump-cheat because, by now, I was well-acquainted with your “friendly neighborhood axe-murderer” approach to Doom level design, and I must admit, I was hyperventilating a little. You might say I was shellshocked. However, I’d done very well at finding secrets, including the computer map, so I knew all I had to do was go around the corner and jump down from above to get it.
Ah, but little did I know that I’d soon be presented with a Caco-flood trap. Something like 32 Cacos endlessly teleporting in. And by the time I met them, I had already died at least 3 times at the red key trap – very nicely telegraphed, as you say you like to do. In many ways, this was my favorite trap. I admired the brio of it. A pure square room with every corner dropping to reveal a small platoon of imps. After getting pounded with big monsters, it was refreshing to get shredded by mere imps. Well done!
Of course, the Cacos killed me a few times. I decided to rush past them to take the lift to the plasma gun drop. I honestly thought I’d never make it, but I did, only to hear the siren shriek of Revvies off to my left, and me at 10% health, again! But I killed the Revvies on my first try, and went back to killing the Cacos, whereupon I was able to get my health back up to specs. As you say, you give enough health and ammo to complete the level, the trick for players is surviving long enough to reach it. ;D
To bring this to a close, I decided to avoid the final Archie battle. On continuous play, with a well-stocked plasma gun and rocket launcher, I’d have gone for it, but having been killed 186,000 times from a pistol start, I was content to take the easy way out. ;D
My final stats were 94% Kills, 97% Items, and 77% Secrets. It took me a staggering 48:54 to beat the level. I rank this as one of the most brutal maps I’ve ever played. In reality, it is above my skill level. I usually back down to HMP when I encounter a map like this. The architecture is functional and well-executed, and the layout is very Doom 2-style, where maps seem to be a series of objectives to be overcome, i.e., “We have Guadalcanal sewn-up, now we can prepare to invade Iwo Jima.” It’s an approach that lends itself to sudden-death traps with big monsters, as opposed to the cross-connected E1 Doom style favoring hitscanners attacking from multiple directions and a more non-linear approach to combat.
Closing comments; a truly brilliant trap map. Very polished and balanced. And much more difficult than any map I’ve made. Touche!