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MFG38

What exactly makes Doom mapping so appealing?

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So this question happened to pop into my head, and I figured it'd be a subject worth discussing.

 

Now when it comes to user-created content - mods, if you will - classic Doom is arguably one of the most modded games out there. The idgames/ database is enough evidence of this, as it alone contains 18,000+ files (not all of which are WADs, granted, but the point still stands).

 

While there are many other types of mods for Doom than just maps/mapsets, the overwhelming majority of Doom mods are indeed maps/mapsets, hence I want to focus my question exclusively on mapping. To reiterate: what exactly makes Doom mapping so appealing as to lure new people who discover Doom into giving it a spin to this day? Here are some theories of mine, some of which are admittedly more or less obvious.

 

The WAD file format: I mean obviously you have to give the WAD file format some credit. It's largely thanks to Carmack coming up with the idea in the first place that Doom is so mapping-friendly.

 

Easy-to-learn editor workflow: With Doom's 2.5D level architecture and the CAD-like workflow of (most) Doom map editors, they're easier to get a grip of as opposed to those of many 3D engines. Spaces in the Doom engine are generated in such a way that they're essentially series of 2D shapes. This, in turn, makes creating abstract architecture simpler, since you can draw shapes freely instead of molding them out of other shapes.

 

Technical curiosities of the engine: Tying in to the two points above, since Doom is a 2.5D FPS instead of being fully 3D, that might give people some incentive to dabble in Doom mapping, so as to give themselves some insight as to how the levels in the classic Doom games were crafted. Then again, the Doom engine wasn't the only 2.5D FPS game engine of its time, but maybe it's a question of accessibility, in part due to the WAD file format as well.

 

Feel free to post other theories or further discuss the ones above.

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Posted (edited)

Just throwing this out real quick: a very interesting article from Jean-Paul LeBreton, one of the level designers of Bioshock. Answers a lot about this question imo

Edited by Catpho

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The game's mechanics are also highly dependent of level design to work, so I would also add that as a factor.

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32 minutes ago, MFG38 said:

What exactly makes Doom mapping so appealing?

It's a nice creative outlet which is relatively easy to get into. It combines visuals, sounds and gameplay and turns anything you made into a "thing" that can be experienced on "multiple levels". What's not to love?

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It turned out even more appealing when you get out from mapper's block.

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It is easy to learn but hard to master. You see results quickly and that aspect is rewarding. You explore your imagination and exercise it into a visual representation. Also, monsters!

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It's uncomplicated. I can design maps in minutes, and play them seconds after changing things around. Much easier than 3D editors for other games. 

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While I don't know what lures new people to mapping; I find that the top down view of the maps remind me of the dungeons I use to make as a DM.   There's a strange beauty to a good map when you look at it.  Mapping itself is a drug, there's no better feeling creatively than when you are "in the zone" moving linedefs about, adding monsters and items and seeing your idea come to life.

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Doom gameplay is still fun. There's great tools out there for beautiful games/engines, but at the end of the day I want to make something that I want to play. Most fps shift the spectrum to slow movement and hitscan enemies, so the only way to play is "cover shooter" - and the official campaigns will be engaging enough but I certainly don't feel like there's this Great New World Of Unexplored Gameplay for mods to experiment on "cover shooter" scenarios. 

 

Also, without meticulous scripting of each AI actor's behavior, it's sortof amazing how bad modern FPS enemies behave. 

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It's not exclusive to Doom, heck, it's not exclusive to level design but the fact that you can create a unique world with your own style and imagination, your own architecture and gameplay is what I think the most appealing. Doom mapping is relatively easy if you follow guides and tutorials and the tools are very user-friendly, not to mention the plethora of custom resources that you can use to enhance and pinpoint the exact world you're trying to make. 

 

After that, it's all up to you to create a new world for the other community members to experience. 

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I think part of it is that the Doom engine and its related tools are "good enough" for many first-person mapping ideas, especially when it comes to source ports.  Not that it's mediocre - not in the slightest.  It's just that it gets the job done well enough to hold its position.

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It's for mostly 3 reasons:

 

1. It's not that hard to get into Doom mapping because the tools are easy to learn compared to 3D engines. Even Quake which came out right after Doom 2 is an order of magnitude harder to map for.

 

2. Doom's level design is so abstract that it's possible to create levels that look at least serviceable even if you aren't an expert level designer.

 

3. The gameplay is timeless and doesn't require much context or story which means Doom lends itself well to being used to make user created content.

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Posted (edited)

I've always been... "Creative"... And Doom has been a long standing passion of mine, it is the only logical conclusion that I would begin mapping for it when I finally got the tools (mapped for literally anything I could do, spent ages perfecting "maps" on Worms World Party like a moron back in the day)

 

It's also convenient talented people took to making incredible tools for it that were easy to use and other talented folks took to making tutorials for them, very user friendly tools and tutorials are the lifeblood of mapping communities.

 

edit: just noticed this was OT, nevermind

Edited by mrthejoshmon

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Speaking as someone who briefly was interested in mapping for Quake and decided it was too complicated for the amount of free time I had, Doom is very straightforward. Essentially, mapping in Doom is:

 

1. Make a shape (this can be as simple as a triangle or as complicated as you want to make it).

2. Define the height of the floor and the height of the ceiling.

3. Connect that shape to another shape (of arbitrary shape and dimension).

4. Repeat 1-3.

 

(Yes, I know I'm ignoring texturing and things.)

 

From these simple beginnings, you can learn more advanced techniques that will allow you to make a range of levels and satisfy your innate creativity. And there's already a large crowd of people with similar interest in mapping for Doom from whom you can get feedback and inspiration.

 

So, for me, it comes down to:

 

  1. Mapping for Doom is straightforward to get started, but with enough complexity to keep you learning and growing without becoming bored.
  2. Mapping for Doom allows you to quickly create something for yourself or others to enjoy, and you can make these things as simple or complex as you want. With source ports and new mapping formats, you can even go beyond the original engine and more fully bring to life what's in your mind's eye.
  3. There's already a group with similar interests from which you can learn and with whom you can share your creations.

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If I feel like fighting 500 cyberdemons in a large square room I can load up Dombuilder 2 and make it a reality. It’s that simple.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, "easy to learn, difficult (I'd say & nigh-on impossible) to master" sorta nails it for single soundbyte explanations. Also:

- Very high ceiling for difficulty levels but even light gameplay can be engaging.

- Extremely well balanced dmg & hp values throughout both the sp & mp experiences (the inability of most mod-monsters & many mod guns to fit comfortably into the original roster highlights how well the original was done in this aspect).

- The "high-tech setting assaulted by theology" was & is highly original, and very well pulled off.

- Doom level design taps into the same vein that made shaping landscapes in Minecraft so popular - you can sketch out pretty epic stuff quick without having to worry about the multilayered execution of every square foot (e.g. normal/albedo/occlusion/specular -maps).

- Though limited, lighting is effective and extremely easy compared to true 3D engines.

- The game's OG status + continued relevance & active community is a powerful combo.

- The path from having a spatial idea to having test-ready results is very short.

- The path from having constructed an area you'd like to test/preview and actually testing/previewing it, is ridiculously short, allowing you to maintain your creative momentum without the challenges of render-times & lengthy boot-ups, with all the creative withering that brings with it.

Edited by Soundblock

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I would also like to add that Doom's community is actually active. Quake's community technically still exists, but only just.

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Open up DB2. Make a triangle. Insert a point into that triangle and drag it out into a square. Rinse and repeat until you have a complex shape that you'd be comfortable

to fit about 40 Pain elementals and 10 Archviles. 

 

It's not 3D. It's 2.5D, That's the appeal. It's easy to use.

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