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Cell

Psychological aspects in designing areas

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Posted (edited)

This is something I wanted to ask for quite a time, but always forgot/never could actually get down to.

Throughout the years, the definiton "cramped" became quite often used to areas in which it was difficult to move around, but it often got confused with simply tiny areas, mostly with the ceiling at 72/80-somethings. But... does in-game the ceiling height influence gameplay? (Of course not, unless you're playing some Z-based ports with infinite height removal features).

Let's see a quite rough example...

Spoiler

What you see down below is that I made a tall, quite lit and outdoors-adjacent room...

XPRMNT_Open1.png.7f2f6badb014c6cc57df6eb3dc95f082.png

...in which your sole objective is to defeat two Cacodemons with 16 shells at your disposal. You can also equip a Green Armor and restore 25 per cent of life if needed.

XPRMNT_Open2.png.46286ba2e1601b6dcbc00a942d2eb080.png

The only thing that can alter your movement (aside the SUPPORTs by the wall) is a red pillar in the center of the room.

XPRMNT_Open3.png.980b0292266195fe000d728bc7082c52.png

Here's a shot I took with flying mode on to see how much the room actually extends upwards:

XPRMNT_Open4.png.69757c89809e76adf678fc4d706bf4de.png

Finishing the Cacos (or probably letting them live) you can progress into the next area with the lit BIGDOOR7.

 

Now, here's a twist. The following map has identical properties to the one above in width and length, and each blocking linedef - save for the door alcoves which were reduced to simple rectangles instead of arcs - is on the exact same place. Same pickups on same spot, too.

XPRMNT_Cramped1.png.6aa757357c449ec5284c2b5a9a6f67d9.png

The difference is obvious, however - it has its ceiling drastically lowered, making the entire room 108 pixels tall at its peak (the first one was 384 if I recall correctly), and it's also a bit darker.

XPRMNT_Cramped2.png.51b628bb5df6c9795cf314fcc52f97b9.png

More so, not a single hint of skies being present somewhere, giving it a "covert look". The obstacles are also made their "lowercase" versions.

XPRMNT_Cramped3.png.f3491e308329c775700fceae5802145c.png

The objective is the exact same though - kill Cacos (or not) and get into BIGDOOR7 WOODGARG.

So! My question, given you've seen and read through all the details in the Spoiler, is the following:

Can it influence your gameplay whether you're playing in a shorter room or a taller room? Is it possible that players can feel themselves bothered by a so-called "restriction" that essentially doesn't even exist? Give me your thoughts.

Edited by Cell

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2 minutes ago, Cell said:

But... does in-game the ceiling height influence gameplay? (Of course not, unless you're playing some Z-based ports with infinite height removal features).

Yes it does, even in PrBoom+

 

^rhymes

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24 minutes ago, Cell said:

Can it influence your gameplay whether you're playing in a shorter room or a taller room? Is it possible that players can feel themselves bothered by a so-called "restriction" that essentially doesn't even exist? Give me your thoughts.

 

Especially in blind a playthrough, the taller room provides more unknowns as far as typical mapping tropes are concerned (are chaingunners gonna appear in those cubbies?; is there some infinite-height fuckery above or hiding cacodemons?; will something happen with the open window?) 

Because of this, as a player, there would be the urge to hedge your gameplay against the different possibilities in a situation like that; people already pointed out that height can subtly affect gameplay in terms of raw, abstract geometry and stuff.

 

Otherwise in terms of visuals and atmosphere... maybe: I can still see it affecting my mind, and thus my playstyle at least marginally.  I feel a different level of comfort between open spaces and tight spaces irl, so I'd answer "yes" on both accounts.

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I must admit, seeing those examples now, the room with the lower ceiling indeed gives me the feeling of having less room to maneuver. It's silly of course, but it definitely looks "smaller". The only difference of course would be how high the Cacodemons can actually fly and depending on your mouselook options (playing vanilla or zdoom style) they might "hide" high up in the ceiling from time to time. Even though your vanilla autoaim shouldn't care anyway.

 

I think if you use it well, you can definitely create a vastly different feeling for an area, just by reducing the ceiling height.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting point, I've never thought about this before. I agree the room with the lower ceiling somehow feels more pressuring.

 

We should let 50 people play the first version and 50 other people play the second version, then compare the average damage taken.

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10 minutes ago, Memfis said:

We should let 50 people play the first version and 50 other people play the second version, then compare the average damage taken

 good luck finding two groups of fifty people each with a similar skill level overall. Plus good luck finding people who get hit by one of those two cacos to begin with :P

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this is pretty commonly known in architecture yes.

i definitely do things like this on purpose with these considerations.

there's all sorts of stuff like this, the often known thing is: a room seems bigger if you entered it from a small hallway.

 

being too open feels unsafe just as being too closed in feels unsafe. i use/abuse both contrasted with "safer" areas, because mood in games only has meaning through contrast and interwoven cycles.

 

humans emotionally crave shelter, whether it's from the rain/sun in real life, or from yet-unseen chaingunners in doom. walls and floors and ceilings give us an anchor to the world, to reality in a way. the opposite, an endless open void, is uncomfortable for this reason. open space gives us a sense that anything can come from anywhere, and that everyone can see us. that particular sense of discomfort, that "everyone can see me" is pretty deep rooted. you'll notice that in real life when people go to a central meeting place, they tend to gather around the edges of the space looking inward. someone in the middle of this room may feel subtly uncomfortable, a sense of, "they're all staring at me".

 

by contrast, when the walls and ceilings get too close, you begin to worry about running out of air. there is a sensation that the place could just crush you at any moment. it also gives a sense of the unknown, that you cannot see what's around the next corner, or what's above or below you. you feel trapped. it is in a sense the opposite of the previous statement about open spaces where "everyone can see me", now "nobody can see me, and therefore nobody can come help". it can be easier to get lost in a space like this, because you can't keep track of landmarks as well, and this leads to confusion. however, it also can be easier to find your way if you have less choices of where to go.

 

you may find this interesting:

 

 

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The second example definitely feels more closed in, but it's also much more aesthetically pleasing to me. I can almost guarantee I'd enjoy playing the second map more, without even considering the possibility of the cacodemons flying too high to effectively aim at in the first map.

 

<--- This aesthetic, by the way, is why I prefer the conversions in the "Best Doom Yet" even if they're really only the result of a renderer limitation. It also makes me wonder if it can explain why so many people think Doom 2's levels are inferior to Doom 1's, since they tend to have a lot more high ceilings.

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I wonder what psychological impact that may have on a player where such a room was initially tall, after the player kills some enemies the ceiling lowers to the second example and then more monsters appear.

 

Possibly nothing but "why?" afterwards.

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If you've ever seen a Doom player shift left and right in their chair to avoid an on-screen obstacle, you realize that there's things going on in player's minds beyond what is seen on the screen, and some those things are not completely logical. Doom may be one of the first games that actually caused motion sickness in a percentage of players. Claustrophobia is another of these effects. These effects occur, despite knowing fully well that it's just a bunch of sectors with properties like floor and ceiling height. It may not make a lot of sense, yet the effect going on in the player's mind is absolutely real. It's one of the reasons we like Doom so much. By building a map using simple tools, mappers get some control of all of these other psychological effects for free.

 

I don't know how much a mapper can force these effects, however. Trying to exploit such characteristics may come off as contrived, and lose the otherwise subtle cues necessary to invoke such responses. It definitely deserves some closer experimentation and observation. Interesting topic!

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