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RonnieJamesDiner

Point of No Return / "Back Tracking" - Public Opinion

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Hi everyone,

 

I'm currently working on a small mapset, and I'm curious what the general consensus is on maps which include a "point of no return" in their layout. I've noticed the odd comment by people here and there concerning this topic (and typically they're against this layout), but I'd love to get a broad viewpoint on it.

 

If a map has a threshold by which there is no possible way to back-track to the previous areas, is this considered wrong? Or bad level design? Is it considered annoying but still acceptable? Is it more-or-less just an aggravating tick for the rabid secret-finders? Is it overlooked if the point-of-no-return actually adds to the level, from a thematic, gameplay, or re-playability perspective? Or are most people indifferent to it?

 

Thanks in advance for your input.

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Hi there. This is more like a design trope,  as such,  not inherently good or bad. "Points of no return" could be used to add tension and weight on the player' choices,  knowing that a misstep can be their undoing, though I believe they need obvious indicators or else some frustration might kick in. You could also use it for cinematic purposes.

Personally, I prefer a large degree freedom of exploration in map layout. Thanks to Doom's gameplay many tactical and chaos capabilities, it's a perfect match! It makes the map has a sense of mystery to unravel.

I'm not much of a designer yet,  so that's my 2c. Hope it helps in some form!

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I kind of frown on points-of-no-return. Here's a compromise idea: how about a teleport somewhat near the exit, maybe in a secret, that returns the player to the earlier area? The player would have to fight past a lot of monsters to get to it, so the point-of-no-return would still serve its game-play function, and yet allow players to thoroughly explore the map, including areas they might have missed before.

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Personally, I like the idea of an open map that allows for exploration (and the sometimes unexpected movement of monsters through it can be a bonus, too). Forced backtracking can be a good thing, particularly if things change when you backtrack, but too much of that can be repetitive and annoying.

 

As far as having a point of no return, it can work, particularly if not done too early (my opinion). If possible, it would be good to telegraph that "there's no going back after you step on this teleport/go through this door/go up this lift/etc." Otherwise, it is a dynamic that can irritate people, particularly if they left a berserk pack/ammo/health/etc. to get later or missed a few secrets. Of course, I could see a good thematic reason for having it early. If there hasn't been much to explore, there's little need to telegraph that it's a point of no return.

 

I like Empyre's compromise suggestion, although you may want to make the return teleport a rather difficult to find secret (perhaps even a secret in a secret).

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I don't usually care what you do with your map, because it's your map. As long as it's playable and you're not holding it up as the absolute pinnacle, you're fine.

 

What I think of the point-of-no-return: I'm actually fine with it. I like the pressure it can put on the player by preventing them from going back to get health or ammo or whatever they left behind in the map and forcing them to work with what they have now. It's not "bad map design," because the only thing that's truly "bad map design" is that which prevents the map from being playable.

 

A "point-of-no-return" is a tool like anything else you can make in a map, like an inescapable death pit. Sure, many people don't like it, but it's an excellent tool when used well, regardless, because it's not inherently good or bad.

Honestly, I don't like backtracking. I think it's dull because you've already killed things unless you repopulate the area so the player has monsters to fight as they go.

 

Now, I think that having multiple paths to get places and many ways to go is a good thing, even if, ultimately, they allow you to get back to a point before that "point-of-no-return," because this advocates exploration and offers places to stick secrets and generally helps the flow of a map.

 

Just my thoughts on the matter, take this as you will.

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If I want to play yer map twice I'll spend longer enjoying myself before the cut-off point the second time
if I don't like it I won't play it again because of or in spite of a particular progression feature

 

edit: there's no reason to allow players who get mad about "flow" to insist that flow should exist where you don't want it to

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I'm fine either way, as long as the PONR is pretty easily indicated and isn't randomly sprung on you without notice. At least give players a chance and a warning to stop and go back for secrets/items before disallowing them.

 

Modern games do it without warning and sometimes it makes no sense, like a regular wooden door closes by itself right after you enter and you somehow can't open it or blow it apart.

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I’m Ok with backtracking and points of no return. If they’re implemented well all the more power to you.

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It's a tool like any other in your toolkit, but in my opinion it needs to be obvious what the player's getting into before they cross that boundary, or else it's poorly implemented. You need to give the player a chance to finish whatever business they need to finish before crossing that line.

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Thanks everyone.

 

On Empyre's note, I really like this idea. I noticed that antares031 implemented this a lot throughout Struggle - Antaresian Legacy. Often, it seemed, the latter sections of those maps were points-of-no-return, and then he'd slap a portal down almost right beside the exit, which took the player back to the main body of the level (for no real reason other than just in-case the player wanted to go back). This certainly feels like the best solution/compromise.

 

I appreciate all of the different thoughts, though. Getting the general feel that, like anything, if it's used in moderation and brings character to a level (such as tension), then by all means. And whenever else it is possible, leave lots and lots of room for exploration.

 

The idea I was tinkering with in my mind had to do with a level where, almost right from the beginning, the map split off into 2 separate paths that do not cross (other than visually, perhaps). But, the point was that whichever path you picked at the beginning was the one you were stuck with, essentially, and dictated what kind of experience the level was going to be for you. The concept was based on a large canyon, where path (A) is the low path, where the player treks along the canyon floor, characterized by more wide-open spaces with larger battles, pools of toxic sludge or slime, and more enemies unique to that particular path (pinky, mancubus, etc.), and then path (B) is the high-altitude route, where the player creeps along the cliffs of the canyon, characterized by more dangerously narrow ledges, less enemies (as the environment makes combat far more stressful now), platforming, and more enemies unique to that path (lost soul, cacodemon, etc.).

 

However, this became one of my greatest concerns in trying to lay out the design of it, in that, I'm really not sure how to communicate this to the player. Without totally breaking immersion, how do I tell the player, "Hey, you can only pick one of these paths, and then you're stuck with that path for the whole level. And path A is combat-heavy, while path B is more tense/platformy"? Because, like many of you stated, I think the point-of-no-return thing would be a non-issue if it was fun, and if I could somehow figure out how to effectively communicate that decision to the player, without having to resort to some kind of ACS dialogue event with a marine NPC who gives you the lowdown on all of it - which I thought about!        

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A point of no return is fair game. Where I use them I usually add a secret way to get back to appease completists if I can.

 

Backtracking is ok but you shouldn't have boring parts in your map and if it is a timely or complex route with nothing to do it can be quite dull to backtrack or the player may get lost. Use a teleport or other short cut or add some new monsters to fight along they way.

 

Don't feel obliged to warn players about the cross roads. You could give a hint by allowing the player to see ahead or swap paths early on.

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I don't typically like this feature, but it adds difficulty and it can be done quite well.  If you think you could make it well, go for it.

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1 hour ago, wheresthebeef said:

I'm fine either way, as long as the PONR is pretty easily indicated and isn't randomly sprung on you without notice. At least give players a chance and a warning to stop and go back for secrets/items before disallowing them.

 

 

This ^^

 

I find them very annoying,  because I like to explore the map as I see fit, not as it's imposed on me.

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I hate it, sometimes I don't pick everything I left back there if I get injured and want to backtrack (IE health/armor) and cannot.

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I don't mind them, though I imagine it might be annoying to some people who aim to complete maps with 100% kills, secrets ... etc and forget to search their surroundings before crossing that point of no return, or try to go back and look for health and ammo after crossing it.

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I don't think there's an issue with a "point of no return". If people freak out because they didn't 100% the map, that's what a second playthrough is for.

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If push comes to shove you can always add a teleporter near the end for those who feel inclined to go back.

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Personally I'd say it's a "nay", but then again... perfect justice is also sparse in real life. Pop quizzes at school are a legitimate concept, so why not make something that seems unfair at first, but is actually a realistic approach? Bring it on, make them regret not thinking in advance.

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I had a vision of four different approaches. So you select one teleporter at the beginning and you are given a slightly different experience:

https://files.fm/f/2uva93hc

 

There is quite harsh starts :D I'm redoing this someday with better implementation. There is no knowledge how choosing different teleporter affects your play. This is from 2016 and may have many problems on gameplay.

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I find points of no return frustrating. If you can't backtrack, for any reason, then make it official and make it a level transition.

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On 9/2/2018 at 9:16 PM, Ex Oblivione said:

I’m Ok with backtracking and points of no return. If they’re implemented well all the more power to you.

 

Same.

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The question I always ask myself on this topic is, "Why not add a shortcut back? Is there a good reason?" Highly subjective, but there you go.

 

@OP: Having said that, the canyon setup sounds interesting. I'd say that's a good reason. :)

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On 9/2/2018 at 11:08 AM, wheresthebeef said:

I'm fine either way, as long as the PONR is pretty easily indicated and isn't randomly sprung on you without notice. At least give players a chance and a warning to stop and go back for secrets/items before disallowing them.

 

 

This.  If you're going to have a point-of-no-return, make it really bleeding obvious that that's what's happening.   I think most people's issues with them are not the overall idea, more them happening without you realizing.  

 

For example, passing through a locked door to discover a massive ominous pit is fine, because it's fairly obvious that you're not flying back out of the pit.  A door that closes behind you and won't re-open though?  That's going to make anyone's blood boil.

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The problem with a 'point of no return' is that it's typically never clear to the player that they're about to pass it. I feel like it's a widely understood thing in Doom that once the player reaches the end of a map, they should be able to backtrack and explore the map fully before the exit switch, and not letting the player do that can lead to a cheap feel-bad moment. At worst, they might just no-clip back into the map to get whatever goodies they might have missed.

 

Really, I think an exit switch works well enough as a 'point of no return'. The player is exactly aware of the fact they can't go back once they press it, so I'd personally stick with using the exit lines themselves and nothing else.

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That brings up two other annoying issues, unmarked exits and false exits.

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A "point-of-no-return" at the beginning of the map can be cool. Imagine falling into a deep pit, to begin exploring. Otherwise it conflicts with my style of gameplay. I leave powerups, knowing I can go back and get them. Unless I can't. Then, I'm forced to noclip. I don't mind cheating at times... but to have to do it sucks, as it ruins my immersion into your world. And, yeah, I'd have to cheat, because I'm not about to waste those pickups. I'd be saying: "I can't find the way back, and I'm getting annoyed looking...noclip time!"

 

That's right, I would assume that I missed the way back, never that the mapper didn't provide one. Sure, always having a way back might be realistic, but this is a game.

 

Sorry, it breaks my #1 gameplay rule: "Do not annoy the player, without a damn good reason (for the player.)" I consider it worse than an unescapable nukage pit, because, at least, the put let's me escape (by dying), and lets me go back. I can avoid the pit.

 

The "teleport back" approach provides the best of both worlds, giving you a "point of almost no return" :)

 

I'm curious: What are you trying to accomplish with the PonR?

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