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Jimmy

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Start Mapping (or How To Make a Megawad in 9 Days)

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Awesome, lots of things to learn for me!

 

I guess improving the "map-making process" is as important as making the map itself haha, especially for larger projects, so you reduce a significant amount of time on bureaucratic tasks.

 

Knowing the hotkeys for doom builder definitely helps a lot so building turns into a lot smoother experience. I didn't know some you have mentioned, especially regarding Thing placement, like Shift+L and turning off opening thing window by default - really, fuck this! lol. I still have a lot to learn to master (GZ)Doom Builder, but at least I won't build another megawad having to select each texture from the texture window >.<

Also, planning the whole thing before actually doing it definitely helps the map creating process too. I stole Dragonfly's sheet for his megawad and I did one for my own, and, holy shit, this definitely helps a lot to have a larger view of the state and features of the project. Here's my current one ( https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-2yle0wY7zz6SBIfs891idGHuaPuU5s6idT_r7_wR1o/edit?usp=sharing ), and I have also a similar creating process as you have related there. You can also focus on themes, map-types, colors, and main elements so the whole thing doesn't fall in the repetition stigma.

As for playtesting, one way I've found to speed up the bug report process was to simply take a screenshot of the moment the bug happened (like a HOM) or the area (so I can remember easily). I used to write the bugs on a paper, but that process was way too distracting for me which was hindering the testing experience.

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Dang, that is something I spectacularly failed to mention. Progress tracking is a fantastic way to enhance your workflow! You get to see at a glance how complete your project is, which is incredibly useful for me because I can't help but want to fill in the blanks. I didn't use a progress tracking document for Deathless - only the thing placement spreadsheet, which was enough to be getting on with since for me blocking out layouts and texturing are simple enough tasks on their own, but placing things can be a delicate balancing act.

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A lot of this is great mapping advice in general, especially things like remembering hotkeys and common line and sector specials, and actually using copy/paste.

 

But there are a lot of assertions about how the process should go, and while I can see that this works very well for you I'd like to point out some places where my own method differs from yours. I've finished 22 of 32 maps for nanowadmo so far, and I've been doing it at the same time as a full time job and plenty of other things demanding my free time, so I think that I am doing pretty well.

 

I personally feel that the "planning" part of all of this is overrated. I have not planned for nanowadmo at all. This was the entirety of my planning: "I think I will make the maps for Boom and use Vanilla resources." Most of my WADs are like this - I start with a loose idea, and no detailed plans. I find that my plans never survive contact with the enemy quite intact.

 

I don't subscribe to the idea that layout should come first, then texturing, and then monster placement. When I'm laying out a map, I'm doing it with visual detail and monster encounters very much in mind, and so those steps become all jumbled up for me while I'm making a map. I certainly don't agree that ALL the maps should have the layout done, and then the texturing, and then the monster placement. When speedmapping this nanowadmo, I completely finish one map before moving on to the next one. When mapping in general, I completely finish the layout and monster design in each map and do enough visual detail to have a solid idea of theme and landmarks, and then I go back over the maps later to add more visual detail and generally polish the design.

 

Also, when speedmapping, I'd really advise against doing anything involving a spreadsheet. I don't think this one is just me. For me, when it comes to monster and item balance, I pretty much just wing it. I place monsters and items for UV and then, once everything else is done, I remove some of them on medium difficulty and more of them on easy, like you. But I don't bother with counting. I also personally think that the more important part of easier difficulties isn't taking out monsters, but adding health and ammo. I'm also surprised to see placing things described as a "delicate balancing act" - it's always an intuitive process for me, and I keep playtesting and tweaking until it feels just right. Usually it doesn't take more than a half dozen or so test-and-tweak cycles before I'm satisfied.

 

If you can at all maintain the focus and motivation without a progress tracking document or any similar thing, I would recommend against it. I know that when I do detailed planning like this for any project, I spend as much time on the planning as I do on the execution - and that doesn't work very well when the primary goal is to get the project done fast.

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By all means do what works for you, of course. Having done a map a day for 20 days on the trot is certainly no small feat, and you appear to be treating the month like a series of quick speedmapping sessions one after the other, which urges you to have the map done on that day. This is completely and totally viable if you have the energy to do so. However, that's an approach I've tried, and it just hasn't worked for me - it's one I tried for my Resistance map pack, and for Jungle Spirits, and those things are still not done after friggin' years. I just lost interest. I think I struggled to figure out a precise time of day to work on the maps, and how long I should spend on them. In fairness, I also probably set my ideals too high and wanted to make fairly substantial maps in a relatively small period of time with only a fragment of the experience I have now.

 

So yeah, the purpose of this thread is for me to outline how I did everything with Deathless, and how I streamlined the process to ensure I got everything done, fast. It was pretty vigorous and it may not suit everyone, of course - definitely don't spend 16 hours straight on texturing half the set, like I did. D: But certainly having everything in distinct phases helped me to push along towards the next set of goalposts. I'm the kind of person who needs visual confirmation of progress, and having everything in one session helps with that - I drew those cute little sector numbers out first, then mapped each layout underneath them. I like to have those blank spaces that tell me "something should go here"; to actually see a void that needs filling is the best motivator for doing things that I've found. This is also why checklists and spreadsheets that tell me in big red text "this map is not balanced yet" also help me immensely. This same approach worked for me back in 2010/11 with Jenesis, and with my 43-minute "Godhood Suite" MIDI song. It's obviously gonna continue to work for me, as well, so if I can share that success with others, great!

 

I should note that when I say it took me nine days to "map" Deathless, that was nine days of solid mapping in the phases I outlined above - planning wasn't counted. I actually planned for about a week beforehand, possibly more, writing down map names, doing graphics, thinking of map concepts in my head (but not laying out anything on paper, per the rules of NaNoWADMo which were to not start doing anything related to drawing the maps out until Nov 1st) before entering into the mapping process - and despite all this I still had some degree of uncertainty in what precisely the maps would wind up like. Episode 2 was the one where I "improvised" the layouts the most as I had nothing but map names to go on, whereas Episode 1 was done with careful planning and sketching out on paper beforehand, and Episode 3 was done by simply remaking stuff I had lying around previously. I do believe it's best to have something planned beforehand, and that the more stuff you have planned out the better, otherwise you have to be in full creative motion the whole time to get stuff done, and this for me is a huge risk of burnout and frustration, like it was for me with Resistance. See how you feel at the end of NaNoWADMo, though - I'm certainly enjoying what you've been posting in the thread and it's shaping up very promisingly, so I'm rooting for you, for sure.

Edited by Jimmy

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