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Cheshire Sphinx

Developing your Mapping Style

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Tangentially related to https://www.doomworld.com/forum/topic/100733-post-your-mapping-tips/

 

I was curious how people developed their mapping 'voice'. I'm trying to figure out how I want my maps to come across in general and I know a lot of it is practice, but I figured I'd see if anyone had any wisdom to impart.

 

By 'voice' I mean things like architecture, colors, enemy placement and things like that. The most obvious (if often lambasted) style I can think of would be Terry. You /know/ a Terry style map by looking/hearing about it. What makes a (your user name here) style map, though and how did that come about?

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I guess eventually you will find a set of Doom tropes you enjoy, you want to see more and feel comfortable with, could also come from small things like make playtesting more fun for the mapper. Take this skillsaw post for example.

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I found I really liked the way Tormentor667 constructs his corridors, you know, really wide, lights, borders about the edges, so I adopted a similar style.

I also love archways and vaults, so I tend to use slopes liberally, especially in construction of natural areas.

My maps tend somewhat toward corridors and hallways, so doors are used semi-frequently, so I make them stay open doors.

I build my map's layout and structure before populating it with monsters, but I still often design rooms around encounters.

I love traps. I use them all the time. Ambushes are my favorite, I love springing sudden opposition on the player, but I never trap them in the room so the player can decide what to do.

My secrets tend to be out of the way and are sometimes nested.

As for map layout, I like to go a nonlinear path, and I've been adopting the idea of secrets opening up more content in the map, to reward exploration.

 

Those are most of the quirks of my maps.

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1 hour ago, Cheshire Sphinx said:

I was curious how people developed their mapping 'voice'. I'm trying to figure out how I want my maps to come across in general and I know a lot of it is practice, but I figured I'd see if anyone had any wisdom to impart.

I just make what I think is fun, and have long since chosen to give no damn about what the community thinks is acceptable or not. Practice sure helps with getting ideas realized quickly, but having ideas to begin with is a different ballgame.

 

As for my preferences... I dunno where to start...

I think doors are shit in most cases, and therefore best used only when absolutely necessary, same deal with corridors, hallways, or anything. Also I build rooms only when I have an idea for what sort of gameplay I want for a room, because form determines function determines gameplay, therefore building and detailing an entire map empty, and then having to populate it after the fact, is something you'd never see me do ever. Gameplay is king, imo, and layout of rooms determines gameplay on a fundamental level.

 

Fending off biblical floods of revenants, more or less tricky and gimmicky platforming, walking on chasm-like tightropes while three cybers shoot their shit at you, mandatory two shots against cybies, setpeice fights which can have quite a bit of sustain... that's the kind of stuff I put in my maps...

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I dare say any mapper worth their salt is constantly evolving and refining their 'voice', perhaps sprinkling in elements representing where they'd like to go as a map designer overall; one example OTOH is Skillsaw's ever-refining aesthetics from Valiant to Ancient Aliens (although I prefer the gameplay of Valiant personally, ain't nothing out there touching AA for aesthetics IMO) -- his 'push forward' ambush style remains constant throughout, but the looks department is still moving.

Personally as a mapper, I'm working on more artistic contrasts in my maps (The Becoming has a fuckton of these) and subtle 'believability' (stuff like texture use to make things more realistic in non-obvious ways, or monster placements that 'feel' more like an ecosystem than a gameplay setup per se) on top of the usual suspects for improvement (less linearity, more interconnectedness, etc). This is on top of the repertoire I'm slowly low-key becoming known for (extended pistol-only play early on, mild ammo starvation, platforming -- many experiments with these in my earlier Nex Credo, for example).

In short I guess like many, I am still developing my voice via rote process of merely making more and more maps. Dunno if this answer helps.

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

I just make what I think is fun, and have long since chosen to give no damn about what the community thinks is acceptable or not. Practice sure helps with getting ideas realized quickly, but having ideas to begin with is a different ballgame.

 

Sound advice.

 

Personally I love making tech bases and jungle/wood areas, my TB's are E1 style with my own flavour of detailing. However my jungle/wood areas are something that has grown over time (10 years or so), I haven't yet really combined the 2 although that its changing (kind of) as we speak. 

 

A lot of what makes mappers stand out is there own personal tastes I guess and what they find fun to play. If the community enjoys it then that's a bonus.

 

I do think that some people only map for fame, each to there own and all that.. but I do think people will end up broken hearted being like that.

 

@Jayextee Nex credo was cool mate!

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Posted (edited)

I like to think of levels as single organic entities rather than as a series of rooms and corridors that are merely connected together for some reason.

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Posted (edited)

Play a bunch of wads, and i mean loads so you have a clear idea of what you like. Maybe you have done that already though. Study the shit out of specific maps and mappers you like the best to try and understand how they did whatever thing it is that you liked about it, be it something architectural, a mapping trick, or some element of combat. I am constantly looking at maps from Plutonia, Scythe, Sunlust, Sunder, Valiant etc etc in the editor cause they are some of my favourite mapsets. At some point you'll begin to start combining your influences to create 'your' mapping style. I don't think it is really a conscious thing, it will come naturally eventually.

 

I don't think many mappers will have started out immediately with a clear style so some experience definitely does help. Just get some stuff built initially to the best of your ability, try not to be too precious about what you are making, and keep plugging away at it.

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It's a lot easier to have your style identified and told to you by others than it is to find it yourself.

 

Everyone has quirks in their designs that allow you to identify who made what, they do not notice these quirks themselves and thus will subconsciously put them in, if they are aware of something specific they do and try their hardest to focus on that particular aspect then it actually comes across as obnoxious and forced.

 

I feel it is harder to map in a set style than it is just map and let the style just happen.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, mrthejoshmon said:

It's a lot easier to have your style identified and told to you by others than it is to find it yourself.

 

I think this is very true. I have an idea of what my maps are like, but it's different to what other people see. 

 

For instance, I've come to realize my mapping style is built around series of stand-alone gimmicks. I've never been able to design the kind of natural flowing map Doom is so famous for, where the architecture of a level all fits together inside itself. My style is far more "you do this room, and now you do this room". I hate that I can't make organic feeling maps, and as such consider myself a rather limited mapper.

 

But on a Discord chat, I saw my mapping style described as epic macro architecture with memorable set pieces. Where I saw gimmicks, other people saw exciting encounters. It was totally different to how I see myself.

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Hmm I'm very far from being an experienced mapper, but I agree with Nine Inch Heels: The best way to find your style is to focus on what you like and then develop from it. You can make your stuff more accessible by addressing some feedback you receive, but it's not really a mandatory thing, especially when it's some stuff you really enjoy. Of course, some of it can be very general, such as fighting 5 barons behind cover with a single shotgun (where very few people would find this fun lol) but some of the stuff that people might complain isn't always wrong, so you have to always careful, I guess.

 

As for myself, I enjoy non-linearity and interesting and awkward fights with very low grinding where traps are usually activated more incidentaly (through sound-propagation or far away traps) instead of something more rough (traps with harsh lockdowns such as bars/doors where there's not much solutions to solve the setpieces). For visual style, IMO, IWADs are more than enough, and my levels have very little detailing, because I don't know how to create complex landscapes and I usually don't like to take more than 1 or 2 weeks working on map.

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@Bauul Memorable set pieces is what I like trying to create, but normally fall short of the mark. If people consider you in that category then you must be do something right.!

 

The last Angry Saint map I played, had a small well inside a courtyard, nothing special but it became a focal point for me when playing the map.

 

Reading through what everyone is saying, it seems we are our own worst critics when it comes to mapping. Fits for me tbf.

 

@Deadwing Couple of interesting points there, I normally make my levels with multiple routes as I enjoy the non-linearity myself, however wish I could just settle for iwad detail level, I would release so many more maps!

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Just build. Try new things. Make your map what you envision Doom should look like. If you cannot do that yet, keep pushing. Most important, expect people to react negatively to your early releases. Use that feedback to push yourself, and to learn things. I remember deleting so many maps before I released my first one to the public. I was lucky, because in 1997, there wasn't a very high bar set LOL.

 

Despite having released over 60 maps, I think I'm still a terrible mapper. I enjoy being creative, thats what drives me. I'll work on a layout for a month, only to delete half of it. I've always done this to myself. If I dont like the look of my map, I shit-can it and start over. I never "plan" a map, which is probably why so many of my unfinished works get deleted, but I still firmly believe that I do better with no plans.

 

I should add that "no plan" and "look of my map" does not mean no thought to gameplay. The whole time I'm working on a map, I think of how fights will be orchestrated in the areas I'm building. I often leave certain areas un-decorated, just because I'm thinking of a complex fight to take place there. Once I've added the gameplay, I might revisit certain sections and add some "eye candy" If anyone opens my maps in an editor, they'll see stuff like sector 300 inside of sector 10...no harm in re-working areas, later in the maps developement. I've never used as much details as other mappers, because I just dont think it helps any.

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Play lots of maps and just emulate what you find fun/aesthetically pleasing/etc. Put your own mark on it, or don't--I personally like maps that could be mistaken for something John Romero or American McGee made for the IWADs. I also try to put myself back in my shoes in the 90s, making architecture that would've wowed me then while still looking suitably Doomy.

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Some of the mapping preferences one developed might, at one point, have depended on the map editing tool one learnt with. For example, I learnt how to map using WadAuthor, which easily allowed the use of prefab polygonal sectors. This led to my preference for circular, oval, and curved sections of architecture. [Nowadays, of course, the commonly-used map editors incorporate tool to readily create polygonal sectors.]

 

Some of ones preferences also depend on how one looks at different ways to use new engine features. For example, when ZDooM introduced slopes, I realized they could be used effectively in the creation of arches and domes. Thereafter, I have tried to incorporate such features whenever appropriate.

 

The introduction of 3D sectors was another game-changer for me, allowing me to create office buildings and parking garages.

 

I believe, however, that one's "style" ought to evolve continuously, lest one one get bored of doing the same thing ad nauseam.

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59 minutes ago, ReX said:

I believe, however, that one's "style" ought to evolve continuously, lest one one get bored of doing the same thing ad nauseam.

That which does not grow dies.

 

Personally, I agree with ReX--you should continue to evolve as you progress in your mapping "career."

 

Now, if you enjoy one particular style of map and one particular style of gameplay and it makes you happy, by all means stick with it. The latest Metallica album doesn't sound like the first Metallica album in style and tone. But the most recent Slayer album basically sounds like the first Slayer album in style and tone. One way is not inherently better than the other. You have to do what works for you.

 

Which brings me to my agreement with NIH and Deadwing: make yourself happy. Don't worry about what the community thinks. If you enjoy playing what you make, you will make better levels, regardless of what the theme is of those levels.

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Wall of text time:

 

I think the first thing is to enjoy the art of mapping regardless of what the finished product is. I've been mapping for nearly 20 years and The Age of Hell is the closest I've ever come to releasing something for public consumption. That does not diminish the enjoyment I gained from making maps. Once you have fun making maps you will keep making maps and it through repeated attempts that you will discover what you like to create. I personally am quite detail focused and OBSESSED with lighting. Before i discovered UDMF I would spend hours making gradated lighting and dummy sectors to transfer light effects. These have very little impact on the actual game play but I enjoyed the process and the results made me go "ooh lovely". Dynamic lights make this quite a bit easier now so I'm more efficient but it is still a big focus for me. 

 

As for my process, I do the opposite of what @Nine Inch Heels said. My vision always starts with the architecture and I think that's just how my brain works. I also work in construction so that has an impact on how I see a the blank canvas of Doombuilder. Whether this makes for an enjoyable experience for the player remains to be seen (1st release in 1 month. eep), but I don't like working the other way. Once I have created the space I think about how best to use it. Environment and gameplay are not separable concepts so they both develop in parallel to some degree but for me, the space comes first (usually).

I will admit that I feel the same as @Bauul with regards to struggling to create the organic flow that some mappers can pull off but it is something that I have worked on and will hopefully improve on. That being said I'm also less bothered by that now. I make what I make and I like to make it. Hopefully other people enjoy playing it.

 

The last thing I will add is don't be afraid to be inspired. All work is derivative to some degree so when you play a wad that you find yourself really enjoying it or a particular fight leaves a lasting impression, stop to think about how the mapper has achieved that. Deus Vult was the first map I played that made me go "holy shit balls" along with Sunder. I just love the aesthetics of those maps even if the game play has dated somewhat. 

 

The actual last thing I will add is plan. I've only recently started sketching layouts and boy does it help. Also helps fill in the time during boring meetings. And learn to use your tools. Youtube tutorials are great. Don't know how to make portals? Can't figure out why 3D sloped floors are doing weird things? The internet will help you. 

 

Ok, done now. Promise

On 6/3/2018 at 1:42 AM, Nine Inch Heels said:

Fending off biblical floods of revenants, 

I don't remember Noah having to deal with this issue ...

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2 hours ago, Bridgeburner56 said:

I don't remember Noah having to deal with this issue ...

He had to fend off floods of arch-viles.

 

Agreed with Bauul, organic flow, like in the IWAD's, is something I find I have trouble with, so I end up constructing corridors or doors to connect rooms together. Honestly, Rigel Kentaurus (my map in MAYhem Orange) was an absolute miracle.

Since I build corridors often, I try to make them interesting, usually with traps or simple encounters or side-paths or whatever.

I also like to try to end maps with some sort of fight, sometimes small and really easy, other times massive in scope, with a hundred monsters at your throat in a 1024x1024 room.

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