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hardcore_gamer

How important are complex room shapes?

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I was peaking into the Doom 3 official guide and noticed that virtually all of the level layouts are almost completely boxy/rectangular. Here is an example:

 

C0hbLLx.png

 

That's a pretty far cry from the much more chaotic looking levels of classic Doom. But this makes me wonder, how important is it to have more complex and irregular shapes in your level vs just using a series of boxy rooms with lots of detail, which appears to be what most modern games are made out off? I mean now that I come to think about it, I don't think I even really noticed or thought about this until I actually saw the level layouts directly with this guide.

 

What is your opinion on this?

 

EDIT: Actually, the trend of making levels out of mostly simple shapes probably started even before the 3D area since even the somewhat more realistic looking Doom 64 arguably had less complex shapes in it's layout. Examples:

 
 

Spoiler

 

Map01

01-m1.gif

 

Map03:

 

03-m1.gif

 

Map 04

 

04-m1.gif

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by hardcore_gamer

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Some very impressive things can be created with just cuboid objects. I've seen a few map packs exemplify that. But Doom Maps go through phases in the same way as artistic movements, and the main current movement is extremely huge, very detailed geometry with custom textures and really high difficulty. Personally I prefer short and snappy with untaxing difficulty, like Scythe 1 (up to 25), WoS, and Coffee Break style; as well as DWidD things, so I can understand your idea.

 

On the other hand, I'm not sure using Doom 3 as an example is neccessarily a great plan; its the only doom I never finished, and never really enjoyed. Though I guess its certainly got its followers.

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14 minutes ago, Plusw said:

I thought about it for a while and unfortunately I chose this as my medium to express my thoughts on this.

 

But isn't the image on the left a strawmen though? Go look at the mapscreens from Doom 64 I posted in my OP. They are mostly just simple shapes but the maps overall as a whole are still pretty complex.

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Look if you want to make your maps in the shapes of realistic penises then be my guest- but don't come crying to me when it all goes tits up.

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There's nothing innately wrong with orthogonal room shapes but it will get old if that's all you ever do. You still have to make your squares interesting either way.

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10 minutes ago, Marcaek said:

You still have to make your squares interesting either way.

 

 

Boring!

 

Spoiler

image.png.de4a0672f0919cc4c846e3b7570f7171.png

 

 

alright, let's add some detail... make my squares more interesting....

 

Spoiler

image.png.e849423ec5ad8336165d306b8fb0befa.png

 

much better

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There seems to be an extreme amount of vitriol directed at new mappers when maps contain a lot of rectangular, boxy rooms. (Obviously, this is not exclusive to new mappers, but they seem to be most prone to making maps like that.) Given the amount of criticism that is leveled at designers of rectangular maps, I'm rather surprised that there haven't been more responses. (That was true when I started writing this response, but it's taken me so long that another several people have commented.)

 

The way I see it is one of the big advances in the Doom engine over Wolfenstein was the ability to use lines placed at arbitrary angles; thus, rooms could be non-orthogonal. Another big advance was the use of different heights. Given that one of Romero's tenets was that Doom levels had to be made in such a way that they couldn't have been made in Wolfenstein, that explains why the levels look "chaotic."

 

All of this being said, I don't think a well-made level has to have non-orthogonal architecture as long as it is interesting to look at and plays well. This can be accomplished through good texture use, good detailing, good flow, and engaging encounters. Those will be far more important than whether the room is a rectangle or a square or a heptagon with spikes of different lengths radiating out.

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I do rectangular areas most of the time but I add more corners to make it not uniform at sight with some texture change here and there....and not look kinda bad too

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On 11/17/2018 at 10:16 PM, hardcore_gamer said:

I was peaking into the Doom 3 official guide and noticed that virtually all of the level layouts are almost completely boxy/rectangular. Here is an example

Let's not forget that doom3's gameplay was pretty fucking slow most of the time, and if it wasn't for how stuff got spawned in plus all the shit like crates and office chairs it would have been an absolutely boring shitshow(more than it already was, that is).

 

Room layout is king when it comes to designing fights. Layout determines how things can/will move. How the room looks is largely down to what manner of detailing and lighting you do. Clearly you can make a square look detailed one way or another, but that doesn't change that it'll still "behave" like a square, play like a square, and ultimately become boring fast if it's all you have on the menu.

Edited by Nine Inch Heels

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Personally I think that if you're nitpicking over the geometry of the map versus how fun the map is to play, there's a problem - with YOU.

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Maps that tend towards more realistic feeling locations will most likely feature primarily rectangular rooms because that is the way most functional buildings are constructed in real life. Doom 3's UAC facilities were designed with functionality in mind, and structural damage was applied later to facilitate gameplay.

 

Also, Doom 3 does not include an automap that players can regularly look at and reference while exploring the map. Most people (I'm assuming) will respond better to an automap that has funny shapes and angles when compared to an automap that mostly consists of interconnected rectangles and squares, so this is something that many mappers (I'm assuming, I most certainly do this) keep in mind when mapping for Doom. When the game you are mapping for does not feature some form of automap that the player can easily view, the map designer probably won't worry about this nearly as much and instead focus on creating more detailed environments with more distinct landmarks to help remind players where they are.

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2 minutes ago, Dark Pulse said:

Personally I think that if you're nitpicking over the geometry of the map versus how fun the map is to play, there's a problem - with YOU.

Except map geometry and gameplay go inevitably hand in hand

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Just now, Nine Inch Heels said:

Except map geometry and gameplay go inevitably hand in hand

Those Doom 64 map examples disprove that nicely, considering how boxy they are and yet the level is still enjoyable.

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6 minutes ago, Dark Pulse said:

Those Doom 64 map examples disprove that nicely, considering how boxy they are and yet the level is still enjoyable.

Play a decent map, like Miasma, then discuss this topic again. Nobody who has ever played something good, like valiant to give another example, is gonna tell you that the shape of the rooms doesn't make a huge difference. Never mind that most other maps in Doom64 aren't actually as simple as map 01, and the reason for that is that the designers wanted their maps to not suck.

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Those Doom 64 map examples disprove that nicely, considering how boxy they are and yet the level is still enjoyable.

 

you're missing the point entirely

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Just now, Dark Pulse said:

Those Doom 64 map examples disprove that nicely, considering how boxy they are and yet the level is still enjoyable.

 

Those Doom 64 maps disprove nothing. A map that features funny shapes and angles can play like shit, and a map that features a boxy layout can play like shit. Likewise, a map that features funny shapes and angles can play really well, and a map that features a boxy layout can play really well. The geometric complexity of a map is important, but it is not true that a high geometric complexity = a high quality experience, only that one map may potentially look nicer than another. Even then, it is still possible for a boxy map to look better than a geometrically complex map.

 

A map simply needs to be well designed, whether or not that map is boxy is not a determining factor of its quality.

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1 minute ago, Skeletonpatch said:

 

Those Doom 64 maps disprove nothing. A map that features funny shapes and angles can play like shit, and a map that features a boxy layout can play like shit. Likewise, a map that features funny shapes and angles can play really well, and a map that features a boxy layout can play really well. The geometric complexity of a map is important, but it is not true that a high geometric complexity = a high quality experience, only that one map may potentially look nicer than another. Even then, it is still possible for a boxy map to look better than a geometrically complex map.

 

A map simply needs to be well designed, whether or not that map is boxy is not a determining factor of its quality.

Thank you, sir. You get it.

 

What I was "disproving" was that a map does not "need" to have curves and large open areas and highly complex geometry to be fun. A boxy map can be fun if it's cleverly thought out and made by a good hand, and as you said, it can be just as lousy if someone doesn't have the a good touch.

 

Ditto for a map that's basically curves city. It's all about the skill of the designer.

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hmm... Doom 3 was aiming for more realistic environments, which was an important aspect especially due to the moment the game was released, where the visuals were its "main" selling factor. Nowadays, of course, it doesn't work as well, and, like Nine Inch Heels said, the designers had to abuse of the "spawning" element to make the gameplay engaging. As for myself, the game gets quite boring after a while, because that kind of design ended being really predictable...

I think you can even create some engaging incidental combat with some square rooms and stuff, but in the end, when you go with some more complex shapes you can experiment much more regarding combat, without resorting to design tropes such as teleport traps or monster closets. It's not easy, though, I still struggle at doing something different than 90 degrees walls lol

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2 minutes ago, Deadwing said:

It's not easy, though, I still struggle at doing something different than 90 degrees walls lol

It's a mapper habit really.

 

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1 hour ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

Room layout is king when it comes to designing fights. Layout determines how things can/will move. How the room looks is largely down to what manner of detailing and lighting you do. Clearly you can make a square look detailed one way or another, but that doesn't change that it'll still "behave" like a square, play like a square, and ultimately become boring fast if it's all you have on the menu.

DVII 21 and 23, most of CShock 2, most of Dannae's maps in Sunlust, Hollow Icon and Pale Monument from Sunlust, Dark Dome and Suicidal Tendencies from AV, City in the Clouds, Ascending to the Stars, and Afterlife from HR, map 26 of Unholy Realms, and Impure Offering, just to name a few that come to mind immediately, are mostly or entirely built out of rectangles.  Boring?

 

90 degree angles are good, because of the details of how the engine handles movement they play the most smoothly.

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5 minutes ago, Cynical said:

DVII 21 and 23, most of CShock 2, most of Dannae's maps in Sunlust, Hollow Icon and Pale Monument from Sunlust, Dark Dome and Suicidal Tendencies from AV, City in the Clouds, Ascending to the Stars, and Afterlife from HR, map 26 of Unholy Realms, and Impure Offering, just to name a few that come to mind immediately, are mostly or entirely built out of rectangles.  Boring?

Most of those rooms and areas have other gameplay relevant features, such as pits, height differences, pillars, pain sectors etc yadda yadda. Building mostly out of rectangles is not the same as having just rectangular rooms with no noteworthy features, but thanks for proving my point.

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2 minutes ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

Most of those rooms and areas have other gameplay relevant features, such as pits, height differences, pillars, pain sectors etc yadda yadda. Building mostly out of rectangles is not the same as having just rectangular rooms with no noteworthy features, but thanks for proving my point.

See though, that's also being a little more specific as to what you feel the problem is.

 

What is being argued is if inherently boxy/rectangular room design is good or bad. The fact there's pits, pillars, height differences, etc. is actually secondary to that - and all would be marks of a designer who knows what they're doing.

 

If your criteria for "boxy is bad" is rectangular rooms with little to no variation in height, gameplay, mechanics, etc. I'm pretty sure virtually everyone on this board would agree with you that they suck - I know I would.

 

But if the room is that shape but has stuff like that, to me, it's still boxy/rectangular. Perhaps you'd consider it something else, but at that point, it's still stuff in a boxy room to me.

 

Hence why as I said earlier, they can still be interesting if stuff like that is included.

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2 minutes ago, Dark Pulse said:

What is being argued is if inherently boxy/rectangular room design is good or bad

What's being discussed here is layout of rooms, not detailing, not curve porn, but functionality at one of the most fundamental levels of mapping. I'm quite literally the last person to care much about how stuff looks as long as it plays well. But layout and visual design, even though they can go hand in hand, are not the same thing, and thus they're not to be confused with one another.

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Curve porn makes a major difference in terms of layout, though.  The lines of sight behave differently, and even before considering how the Doom engine reacts on non-90 degree walls, movement and flow behave differently.

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5 minutes ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

What's being discussed here is layout of rooms, not detailing, not curve porn, but functionality at one of the most fundamental levels of mapping. I'm quite literally the last person to care much about how stuff looks as long as it plays well. But layout and visual design, even though they can go hand in hand, are not the same thing, and thus they're not to be confused with one another.

To which I say that really in the end it doesn't matter if it's boxy or curves. Obviously it feels more realistic (depending on the setting) with one or the other - even the original Doom had that phase; it's why Tom Hall got kicked out, because his levels seemed too boring and realistic due to how most modern buildings are basically squares or rectangles themselves. For buildings, you generally want some boxiness; for outdoor areas, if you do boxes you're in for a bad time.

 

A good level will have good flow, possibly some trackback and crossing over, and as you said, good visual design. In fact, a good level shouldn't even really make you think about how boxy it is (or isn't). It should be just fun to play, and really, each mapper has their own set of priorities as to how much to invest in that. Romero's set of rules is famous and is what gives Techbase its look, and likewise, Sandy Petersen didn't care so much about the aesthetics but the gameplay was just as sharp in a different way, and the crop of elite PWAD mappers have their own identifiable tricks of the trade.

 

So it just boils down to how good the mapper is. A good mapper can make a box amazingly fun; a crap one can make a map that looks amazing but just plays like total garbage. Gothic99, anyone?

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2 minutes ago, Dark Pulse said:

To which I say that really in the end it doesn't matter if it's boxy or curves.

I am not talking about stylistic approach, I am talking about the layout - the general shape of rooms and areas. I do not care if it's curves or 90°/45° angles that's being used, what I care about is the difference between rooms that only have basically 4 sides and rooms that have - at a very fundamental level - a more complex shape, even if that shape is made from 90° walls. A "S-piece" or a "L-piece" in tetris are more complex than a cube in tetris, they behave differently, and that is what layout is all about.

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1 hour ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

Let's not forget that doom3's gameplay was pretty fucking slow most of the time

 

It didn't help that the game was so dark, it was much more closely related to survival horror than run-and-gun demon slaughtering (and least that's how I saw it).

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Since you guys are talking about layout, at what point does a room not count as being just a box anymore? If a room is shaped like a box but has some small secondary rooms attached to it, is the room no longer a box or do those small secondary areas just count as their own rooms?

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